Although very simple, the stirrup pump was a key piece of equipment in fighting incendiary bombs during World War II. The stirrup pump was a little hand operated water pump that could be used with buckets of water to fight fires. It consisted of a tube that was placed in the water, a foot rest to hold the pump steady and a handle that was worked up and down to draw the water up:The base of the pump is fitted with a pierced metal filter that prevents grit and debris being drawn into the pump and fouling it:A large handle is fitted to the top of the pump:This can be pulled upwards, creating a vacuum that draws water into the pump:Pushing this down forces the water back out through this nozzle:Originally a thirty foot rubber tube was attached here that could be used to fight fires. To keep the pump steady, a foot rest is fitted to the side of the pump, this part was on the outside of the bucket of water and the user held it steady with their foot:The main tube that was in the bucket of water is protected by a sleeve of a hard rubber that prevents the inner tube from getting crushed:The stirrup pump was recommended to Fire Guards in their handbook as an ideal way to fight small fires caused by incendiary bombs:It could be used by teams of one, two, or ideally three persons:The handbook also gave some instructions on how to care for the pump and actively encouraged owners to use them in civilian life for purposes such as washing windows in order to ensure they were familiar with its operation:Here we see the pumps being manufactured:And used on an ARP training exercise:
Anticipating large numbers of civilian casualties, the Government began stockpiling large quantities of medical supplies to treat those injured in the aftermath of aerial bombing in the months leading up to the outbreak of World War Two. These medical supplies were marked up as being the property of the Air Raid Precautions Department and ranged from shell dressings to bandages and tourniquets. We have looked at a number of these items on the blog over the year and tonight we have an example of a triangular bandage to look at:A triangular bandage is exactly what it sounds like, a large piece of triangular shaped cloth that could be used for a variety of different things, but predominantly as a sling or to immobilise a fractured limb. These bandages were compressed to remove all the air so that they did not take up much room in a first aid box, wrapped in blue sugar paper and then had a label applied around the outside with details of their contents. A cloth tab is included on this packet to allow it to be quickly ripped open in an emergency. The front of the packet indicates the contents and that it was manufactured by R Bailey & Son of Stockport:The rear dates this bandage to March 1939 and shows that it was procured by the Air Raid Precautions Department of the Home Office:These bandages were used for training as well as for actual incidents and one small boy recalls their use during one exercise when he played a casualty:
A group of us boys were taken along Stone Road and placed in front gardens as casualties. I had a large label hung round my neck that said “broken right arm”. The exercise started and rescue workers came: my arm was splinted then placed in a large triangular bandage hung from my neck. I was then taken to the “Casualty Clearing Station” on the Common. When the exercise was over, our reward was a cup of tea and a bun at the big green refreshments van.
There were many uses for a triangular bandage, as indicated here in an article from the 1940 edition of First Aid Journal:
In the run up to World War Two British companies were quick to take advantage of the growing worry about air raids and produced a wide variety of goods that householders could buy to help protect themselves, their loved ones and their property in the event of bombing. This page from the Daily Mail in early 1939 shows some of the products advertised to the general public as being needed if the bombers came:Many of these products would be of limited use when bombs finally came, but first aid kits were a sensible purchase and although advertised as for ‘ARP’ use, they were also functional for more general accidents round the home. One such first aid kit was the ‘First Aid outfit number 4, which came in a stout cardboard box:A large label was pasted to the front with details of the boxes title, manufacturer etc.:Inside was a variety of first aid supplies:And the underside of the lid had some basic first aid instructions. These have been tailored slightly for ARP use by including advise on treating gas casualties:I am unsure if all the contents of this box are original, or how complete it is, but I suspect it is at least representative of what the outfit originally contained. Amongst other items, the box contains cotton wool, crepe and triangular bandages, a box of Elastoplast brand adhesive plasters, pins, a tin of Vaseline, an eye bath and a thermometer:There is also a small vial of insect repellent which I suspect is not original to the box, but is period so was probably added by the original purchaser.
A wide variety of first aid kits were sold to households in this period, at varying prices and with different contents. Some were far smaller than this set, with just a few bandages and slings, others were far more comprehensive and contained many more items. They were usually sold based on the size of household they were purportedly designed for, but often the retail price was a more pressing factor and a poor family with many children, if they could afford a first aid kit, would have purchased the cheaper sets regardless of the fact that they were marketed as being for a smaller number of people.
One of the most common wartime badges to find today is the humble silver Air Raid Precaution (ARP) badge:This badge was produced in huge quantities, by February 1938 801,000 had been delivered to local authorities! The badge was designed to allow the public to quickly see who had been trained as an ARP Warden, even whilst in civilian clothes. Sir John Anderson explained the purpose of the badge in a parliamentary answer in 1939:
The air-raid precautions badge is intended as a recognition of the obligations undertaken by persons who volunteer for local authorities’ and other air-raid precautions services and persons who take special courses of training in order to enable them to carry out their normal duties under war time conditions are not, merely by reason of their having undergone such training, eligible for the badge.
The design of the badge itself was devised by the sculptor Eric Gill and was produced by the Royal Mint. The badge came in two versions, one with a pin back for women and one with a lapel back for men, this is an example of the latter:Note the hallmarks at the bottom of the badge, this indicates it was produced in 1938. The badges were issued in coloured boxes- red for the lapel fitting and blue for the pin back version. Once they were issued many complained the badges were too big and commercial companies started producing smaller versions for private purchase. This again caused some debate in the house, Sir John Anderson:
I am aware that miniatures of the A.R.P. badge are on sale in various quarters. No official permission has been given for such reproductions of the badge, but I am advised that their manufacture or sale does not contravene the law as it at present stands. In those instances which have come to notice, steps have been taken to enlist the co-operation of the vendors with a view to ensuring as far as practicable that miniatures are supplied only to persons who can furnish evidence that they are entitled to wear the official badge. I am considering whether any further action is desirable.
In 1940 the badge switched from silver to base metal and in 1941 the badge was authorised for wear as a cap badge. Production finally ceased in 1943.
The government made a point of explaining in one of its ARP manuals that the badge alone was not a symbol of authority, and ARP wardens needed to be issued with a card from the local council to show their position to allow them to enter abandoned buildings etc. legally, the badge alone was not considered suitable proof. It is unclear if there was much misuse of these badges, but some local authorities did number the rear of the badges and keep a register of who had which badge.
In this early recruitment poster, the badge can clearly be seen:
Part of the standard equipment issued to each ARP warden during the Second World War was a police-style whistle:These whistles were used to re-inforce an air raid warning- sharp blasts being blown on them until people had realised a raid was imminent and taken shelter- on a still day they could be heard up to a mile away. The government’s official pamphlet ‘Air Raid Warnings’ from 1939 explained:
When air raids are threatened, warning will be given in towns by sirens, or hooters which will be sounded in some places by short blasts and in others by a warbling note, changing every few seconds. The warnings may be given by the police or air-raid wardens blowing short blasts on whistles.
The whistle itself is made from brass that was then chrome plated- in this case a lot of the plating has worn away over the years leaving the base metal showing through. The letters ‘ARP’ are engraved onto the body of the whistle:Like most of these whistles, this one was made by the most common manufacturer, J Hudson and Co. A ring is provided on the end to attach the whistle to a lanyard:Most ARP wardens used plaited white lanyards, more senior staff received yellow examples to show their rank. The noise from the whistle came through two vents near the mouth piece:The tone of this whistle is distinctly different from that of a standard metropolitan whistle (I had to try them out, for academic reasons of course), being far less shrill and strident. I cannot be certain, but I suspect this different tone was deliberate so it was clear that when the whistle was sounded it wasn’t a police officer looking for assistance.
When these whistles were first issued there was some friction between the Home Office and the Treasury. The Home Office wanted every ARP warden to have their own whistle, but the Treasury felt this was too expensive and that wardens should share. In the end the Home office won, on the grounds of hygiene and each warden was issued with his or her own whistle.
It was not just in the UK that the ARP used whistles, this newspaper clipping comes from Australia and indicates the signals that country expected its wardens to use:Finally we end with the quintessential photo of an ARP warden blowing on his whistle:
We come to our third and final post on the Will’s ARP cigarette cards, looking at another ten examples form this set. I have now managed to add a full set in the album to my collection so we may come back later and look at the other twenty cards in due course.
Card 31- The Service Respirator
This is the respirator designed for the fighting services. It will also be used by members of the civil Air Raid Precautions services who might have strenuous duties to perform in heavy gas concentrations. This respirator gives the same protection as the Civilian Respirator but for a longer period. It is designed so that the weight of the container portion is carried in the haversack on the chest, and the special face-piece allows heavy and accurate work to be performed without difficulty.Card 32- A Heavy Anti-Gas Suit
The illustration shows member of a decontamination squad in oilskin suits, rubber boots and respirators; a hood is also worn, but this is not shown in the picture. This equipment will give complete protection against the liquid or vapour of mustard or other persistent gases. It is essential to have squads of men trained to work in this equipment so that they can deal with and effectively neutralise any contamination which may have taken place. Owing to the fact that no air can get into the suits, men cannot work in them for very long periods of time.Card 33- Rubber Clothing
During an air raid the safety of the citizen may depend to considerable extent on his knowledge of how to behave. Splashings from the liquid liberated form certain gas bombs, or subsequent contact with it, produce a serious blistering of the skin. The Government provides each individual with a respirator which is complete protection for the eyes, throat and lungs. Prudent persons, if forced to go out of doors during raids, should provide themselves, in addition, with rubber or oilskin coats and hats, and rubber boots.
Card 34-Air Raid Wardens and Civilian Volunteer Despatch Rider
Air raid wardens are volunteers enrolled by the local authority. They are specially trained to advise their fellow citizens on Air Raid Precautions and to act as reporting agents of bomb damage. In the event of an air raid, they would be stationed at “warden’s posts”, perhaps a quarter of a mile apart, or less. The picture shows wardens handing reports to a volunteer despatch-rider. All wear steel helmets and Civilian Duty Respirators. The wardens are also wearing armlets. Note the shading device on the lamp of the motor cycle.Card 35- Volunteer Mobile Corps (Owner Drivers)
Patriotic owners of private cars throughout the country have offered their services and their cars free to local authorities engaged on schemes of Air Raid Precautions. Such action has materially helped in providing the necessary transport required for Air Raid Precautions services in many towns and urban districts. This picture shows the drivers of some fifty cars running to their vehicles during a practice alarm at a well-known seaside resort. From their place of assembly, these cars were driven to various strategic points in the town, including the Fire Stations and Police Stations, whence their services were utilized as required, in accordance with a pre-arranged plan.Card 36- A First Aid Party
The picture shows the four members of a first aid party running with a stretcher to a place where casualties have occurred. As gas has been used, they are wearing a light suit of protective clothing, with gum boots and Service Respirators. The scheme of Air Raid Precautions provides for the establishment of first aid posts in large numbers, so that they will be within easy access of any casualty. Such posts will be equipped to deal with minor injuries and casualties due to non-persistent gases.Card 37- Supply Depot for Respirators
This subject shows the examination of respirators at one of London’s Regional Supply Depots, of which there are now three in existence to serve the needs of the Metropolis. Ten similar Regional Supply Depots are being constructed in the provinces. Respirators, after being suitably packed for long storage at these Depots, are then to be moved to store centres. Each store centre is expected to house about 30,000 to 40,000 respirators, and its location is to be determined after consultation with local authorities. In the event of an emergency, respirators would be unpacked at the store centres, prepared for use, and issued to the public through distributing depots which would each handle about 4,000 respirators.Card 38- Mobile Gas Vans
Home Office mobile gas vans, two of which are illustrated, are used for the testing of respirators and for the purpose of training men and women under the conditions of an actual gas attack. The vans are so built that a gas cloud can be put up in the body of the van; the white canopies at the back are airlocks to prevent the escape of the gas when the door of the van itself is opened. The picture shows a group undergoing training at Hendon Police College; the respirator in use is the service type.Card 39- Civilian Anti-Gas School
The Civilian Anti-Gas Schools are provided by the Home Office. The first to be inaugurated is at Eastwood Park, Falfield, Glos., while there is another at The Hawkhills Easingwold, near York. The Schools train anti-gas instructors for the public service, for local authorities and others. Sixty students are taken at a time, and the course lasts two weeks. The picture shows postal workers undergoing training. Those on the left, wearing oilskin coats and Civilian Duty Respirators are women telephonists. The men on the right are being fitted with Service Respirators before going into the gas chamber.Card 40- Testing for Gas Contamination
The picture shows a member of a Decontamination Squad using an instrument for detecting if the ground has been contaminated with mustard gas. The instrument is painted at the end with a special paint which, when brought into contact with mustard gas, will turn a different colour. The man is shown wearing protective clothing and his Service Respirator, but as he is working after the raid is over, he is not wearing his steel helmet.
Tonight we are looking at the next ten cards in the Air Raid Precautions set of Will’s cigarette cards, you can see the first post here.
Card 21 Light Trailer Fire-Pump
Under Fire Precautions schemes, the Home office is issuing to many local authorities light trailer fire-pumps of the type illustrated. This pump has the great advantage of being easily manœuvred; not only can it be towed behind any motor car, but it is also light enough to be manhandled. It is capable of delivering two useful fire-fighting streams of water, and can deliver 120 gallons per minute at a pressure of 80lb to the square inch. The pump unit can be unshipped from its chassis and carried to any convenient position where water is availableCard 22 Light Trailer Fire-Pump in Action
Air Raid Precautions schemes will include ample provision for emergency fire-fighting. The home Office is issuing to many local authorities light trailer fire-pumps, described on Card No. 21. The pump is here shown in action; it has been unshipped from the chassis on which it is usually carried for towing purposes, and is taking a supply of water from a garden pond, to which it has been carried by hand. The light trailer fire-pump can also work from a street mains supply, and is capable of delivering two useful fire-fighting streams of water.Card 23 Medium Trailer Fire-Pump
Medium trailer motor fire-pumps will be an important feature in emergency fire-brigade measures. These pumps are towed behind private cars or commercial vans ( in which the fire-men and additional fire-fighting gear may be carried), and can be manhandled over rough ground or debris impassable to ordinary fire-engines or motor cars. A pump of this type will give four good fire-fighting streams of water at high pressure.Card 24 Medium Trailer Fire-Pump in Action
Any scheme of Air Raid Precautions must include the provision of a great number of special fire-fighting appliances. Pumping units of the type illustrated will be required in large numbers for use under air raid conditions. They are specially designed for trailing behind motor cars or light lorries. Crews of 4 or 5 trained firemen are required to man these fire-pumps, which are capable of delivering two or more streams of water at high pressure on to a fire.Card 25 Emergency Heavy Pump Unit
The illustration shows a high-powered emergency fire-pump, carrying a telescopic ladder. This unit, which has been designed by the Home Office, is capable of delivering over 1,000 gallons of water a minute at high pressure, and is able to supply a number of good fire-fighting streams. There is accommodation on the unit for both crew and necessary fire-fighting gear. The chassis on which the pump is mounted is extremely mobile, and can be manœuvred in a very small space.Card 26 Hose-Laying Lorry
For laying long lines of delivery hose, such as may be necessary at large fires for the purpose of utilising distant water supplies, a special motor appliance is used. The lengths of hose contained in the appliance are joined together and specially packed as shown in the illustration, so that they pay out in one or more continuous lines as the appliance is driven ahead.Card 27 The Civilian Respirator
This respirator consists of a face-piece, to which is attached by means of a rubber band a metal box containing filters which absorb all known war gases. The face-piece is held in position by means of web straps fitting around the head. When the respirator is properly fitted and the straps adjusted, it completely protects the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs. The strap should be pinned at the right tension, so that the respirator can be slipped on in an instant. This respirator will be issued free to the public.Card 28 The Civilian Respirator- How to Adjust it
Great care must be taken to see that the respirator is correctly fitted and adjusted, in order that a supply of pure air, quite free from gas, is ensured for breathing. The respirator is made so that if fits closely round the face, and is provided with adjustable straps to hold it in the correct position. It is important that the respirator be tried on and the straps properly adjusted to the requirements of the wearer (see picture), so that it may be put on at a moment’s notice.Card 29 The Civilian Respirator- How to Remove it
The pictures shows the RIGHT way to take off a Civilian Respirator. This should be done by slipping the head harness forward from the back of the head. It is important that the respirator should be taken off in this way. The WRONG way to take it off is by taking hold of the metal box containing the filters and pulling the face-piece off by the chin. By this method there is a danger of bending and cracking the transparent window. If this window is cracked, the respirator is useless.Card 30 The Civilian Duty Respirator
This respirator is of stronger construction than the civilian respirator and is intended for those who might have to work in the presence of gas and could not go to a gas-protected refuge room. The respirator protects the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs against all known war-gasses. The face-piece is of moulded rubber, and the eye-pieces are of strong glass. There is an outlet valve opposite the nose; the protuberance at the side of the face-piece can be used to fit a microphone for speaking on the telephone.