Category Archives: Home Front

1915 Sentimental Postcard

This week’s postcard takes a sentimental tone, with this image from the First World War:The verse on the front of the card reads:

Together in Thought

I look into your eyes and say,

Though from you I must go away,

Yet with you, dear, my heart will stay,

Until we meet again some day.

The photograph is clearly a studio shot, complete with studio props as the soldier is actually wearing the 1888 style leather bandolier, which was largely obsolete by this period:The postcard was sent in 1915, as witnessed by the postmark on the rear:The message is not the clearest, being written in pencil and subject to a hundred years of wear, but as best I can make out it reads:

Aug 19th 1915

Dear Agnes

Just a line hoping you’re all well as its leave time at present, I am just packing up to go to Swindon. I am going on ahead to the advance party so I shall be travelling all night as it is at the other side of London. All the others are coming on Friday. I was hoping to see you on Saturday but it cannot be helped. Tell old Wilson he is going to be with us as soon as ???? Best wishes your Harry.

It is always nice to get a postcard which has been used and helps tie down an exact date. These sentimental cards were hugely popular, but are largely ignored by collectors today- I rather like them as they reflect the senders emotions and feelings towards their loved ones in a way that often does not come across from other images and accounts.

ARP Cigarette Cards (Part 3)

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.skm_c45817021416010-copyCard 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.skm_c45817021416012-copy-6Card 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.skm_c45817021416010-copy-9

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.skm_c45817021416012-copy-7Card 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.skm_c45817021416012-copy-5Card 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.skm_c45817021416012-copyCard 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.skm_c45817021416012Card 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.skm_c45817021416012-copy-copyCard 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.skm_c45817021416012-copy-8Card 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.skm_c45817021416010

ARP Cigarette Cards (Part 1)

We have looked at cigarette cards in the past on the blog, and how obsessively they were collected by many in the interwar period. Manufacturers were always looking for new topics to cover on their cards, and in the late 1930s ARP procedures became a very popular subject, no doubt with tacit approval from government who were keen that as many British subjects as possible were aware of what they could do to help themselves in the case of an attack on the civilian population. One of the most common sets was produced by Wills and although I have only thirty of the fifty cards, we are going to take a look at them in detail. Due to the number of cards, this will be split over three posts, each looking at just ten of the cards, the text accompanying each comes from the rear of the card.

Card 1   Choosing your Refuge Room

The picture shows the rooms which should be chosen in typical houses as air raid refuge rooms. A cellar or basement is best of all. In a small house where there is no cellar of basement, the ground floor will be safest, because top floors are always to be avoided on account of the risk from small incendiary bombs. The fewer windows in external walls in a refuge room, the better, and a room of which the window is flanked by a building or a strong wall is more advantageous than one having a completely exposed window.skm_c45817021416021-copy-7Card 2 Rendering your refuge room gas-proof

The red arrows in the picture show the danger points at which gas may enter; these must be sealed as instructed below. Cracks in ceilings and walls should be filled in with putty or pasted over with paper. Cracks between floorboards, round the skirting or where pipes pass through the walls should be filled in with pulp made of sodden newspaper. All ventilators and fireplaces should be stopped up with paper or rags. Windows should be wedged firmly to keep them tight, the frames sealed around with gummed strip or paper, and any broken panes boarded in or pasted over with strong paper. The cracks round doors should be covered with stout paper and the keyhole plugged.skm_c45817021416021-copy-8Card 3 Making a door gas-proof

A carpet or blanket should be fixed over the door opening as shown in the illustration. This should be kept wet and at least twelve inches allowed to trail on the floor. Such an arrangement reduces the risk of gas when the door is opened for use. In addition, if there is a large crevice under the door, a wooden strip covered in felt should be nailed to the floor to make a gas proof joint. The keyhole and all cracks must be stopped up.skm_c45817021416021-copy-9Card 4 Window protection

This illustration shows three methods of preventing fragments of glass flying round a room when the window is damaged by a bomb explosion. (A) By two layers of transparent wrapping material gummed all over the inside of the glass. This admits light. (B) By mosquito netting gummed to the glass. (C) By stout paper pasted on the glass. Should the glass eb completely shattered, then attach by means of thumbscrews to the inside of the window, a frame (D) in which there are two thicknesses of blanket with ½ in. mesh wire netting on each side. Another simple method is represented by a curtain (E) which is let down and fixed around the edges by strips of wood nailed to the window frame.skm_c45817021416021-copyCard 5 Window protection against blast.

Ordinary blast may be shattered by the blast effects of high explosive bombs, but there are various substitutes for ordinary glass that are more resistant. The left hand panes in the picture are of a specially strengthened glass and the right-hand panes are of non-inflammable transparent celluloid 1/10 in. thick reinforced on the inside by ½ in. mesh wire netting. Both offer considerable resistance to blast pressure, although they may be penetrated by steel splinters form bombs. If this should occur, the holes and cracks in the damaged pane should at once be pasted over with stout paper to make the pane gas-proof.skm_c45817021416021Card 6 Types of splinter-proof wall

In the event of an air raid, steel splinters and fragments form high explosive bombs may cause many casualties. It is therefore important to take protective measures against such fragments. The picture shows three types of wall (including methods of improvisation) which will afford protection. The first (right) is brick 13 ½ inch thick. The second (centre) consists of broken brick, rubble or shingle 2 ft. thick between corrugated iron sheets. The third (left) consists of these materials in boxes.skm_c45817021416021-copy-2Card 7 Protecting your windows- a sandbag defence

Walls of sandbags or sacks filled with earth, sand etc., are the best protection for window openings of refuge rooms on the ground floor. The picture shows how this should be done. Walls should be 2ft 6in thick at the top and should overlap the window opening by at least 12 in all round; the base should be wider to prevent the wall collapsing. Such a wall will keep out splinters from high explosive bombs and protect the glass of the window from being shattered by blast. The window must still be sealed against gas.skm_c45817021416021-copy-3Card 8 Equipping your refuge room (A)

Having chosen your refuge room and rendered it gas-proof, you should furnish it with the following articles: Table and chairs. Gum and paper for sealing windows and cracks. Tinned food and a tin to contain bread etc. Plates, cups, knives, forks etc. Books, writing materials, cards etc. to pass the time with. Wireless set, gramophone, etc.skm_c45817021416021-copy-4Card 9 Equipping your refuge room (B)

In addition to those listed on Card No 8. your refuge room should also contain the following articles: Washstand and basin, towels, soap etc. Plenty of drinking water in jugs for drinking, washing, fire-fighting etc. Chamber pots, toilet paper, disinfectant. A simple hand pump for fire-fighting. A box of sand with a shovel. Overcoats, rugs etc. for warmth. Mattress to lie on. Gum boots and mackintosh to go out in after a raid.skm_c45817021416021-copy-5Card 10 A garden dug-out

The picture shows a dug-out which is gas-proof and will give protection from blast and splinters from high explosive bombs. The excavation is in the form of a trench 7 ft. deep and 6 ft. wide at the top and 4 ft. wide at the bottom. The earth sides are supported by corrugated iron sheets held in place by uprights as shown in the picture. The roof consists of corrugated iron sheets resting on wooden joists laid across the excavation. Inside the entrance is an air lock formed by 2 gas curtains. Outside the dugout, steps lead down from one side to the entrance.skm_c45817021416021-copy-6

RAF Comfort’s Committee Voluntary Worker’s Badge

The range of different enamelled home front lapel badges form the Second World War is astonishing with badges issued for olunteer workers, the ARP, nursing and many more areas of voluntary service. Tonight we are looking at a small pin badge for the RAF Comforts committee:imageThis badge has an RAF eagle in the centre, with a light blue band around saying ‘RAF Comforts Committee’ and the title ‘volunary worker’ in a scroll beneath. The back of the badge has a pin fastening and a maker’s mark indicating it was manufactured by Thomas Frattorini the largest badge maker in the country:imageThe following excellent description comes from a collector on Flickr, called Stuart- Sadly I do not have a full name to afford him the full credit he deserves:

The Royal Air Force Comforts Committee (RAF Comforts Committee) was formed by the Air Council in October 1939 to determine the type and quantities of ‘knitted comforts’ required for the RAF as well as arrange for their collection, storage and distribution through their depots. Local knitting parties or groups were organised mainly by the Women’s Institute (WI) and the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) according to guidance issued by the Committee. Anyone who could knit was roped into these knitting parties and that included many men too (it was commonplace back then for men to be competent knitters). Groups needed to be registered with the Comforts Committee to ensure they got supplies of free wool and badges/certificates. As the war drew to a close in 1945, knitted comforts were also made for needy children in the liberated countries and distributed by the Red Cross.

The main forms of knitted RAF Comforts were mittens, pullovers (preferably with polo necks), woollen helmets (balaclavas) and gum-boot stockings (of oiled wool). Other items such as ordinary socks and gloves were knitted in smaller quantities as required by the RAF and only to supplement regulation uniform issues. The official colour was a grey/blue but by 1941 there was a shortage of wool as it was required in ever increasing quantities and so wool of many shades of blue and sometimes other colours were supplied for the knitted comforts. The RAF had issued a standard book containing instructions for knitting parties with approved patterns.captureThis badge issued by the RAF Comforts Committee was given free to each registered local knitting party but only the first badge (usually the party leader), additional badges required were supplied according to the amount of work done by an individual and at the cost of 1/- (one shilling) each, accompanied by the certificate. All this would have been monitored by the Comforts Committee.

Barbara Longley knitted for the Comforts Committee as a child:

I used to knit for the Royal Air Force Comforts Committee. They’d send 2lb of wool, from Berkeley Square in London, with a pattern book to make pullovers, scarves, helmets, gloves and socks. When I’d knitted the garments I used to send them to London and back would come another 2lb of wool. I’ve still got my RAF Comforts badge and personal message from Marshall of the RAF.comforts

Wartime Criminal Summons Documents

Last year I picked up a small archive of paperwork relating to the various misdemeanours of on Lawrence McHugh of Oldham who has left a collection of documents relating to his frequent appearances before the magistrates bench in Oldham in the 1940s. Mr McHugh seems to have been something of a petty criminal and chancer, who despite frequent fines and short spells in prison still kept returning with new petty crimes. Tonight we are considering a couple of documents from that archive that relate to peculiarly wartime crimes.

The first of these two summons dates from 1944 when Lawrence McHugh was summoned to court on a charge of leaving his employer, The Chamber Colliery Company, without permission:skmbt_c36417011209121_0001British Industry was suffering a labour shortage by the middle of the war and the government realised they needed to restrict the movement of labour to prevent people moving away in unpopular industries. In 1941 an Essential Work order was introduced as explained by the July 1943 issue of Labor Review:

The Essential Work (General Provisions) Order was adopted on March 15, 1941. Its purpose is to prevent loss in production through unnecessary turnover of labor or absenteeism. Employees in a schedules enterprise may not leave their employment except under special conditions, employers may not dismiss them except for serious misconduct, and the employees receive guaranteed time-rate minimum wages. At the beginning of May 1943, essential-work orders covered approximately 8,000,000 men and women.

In 1943 the powers of this act were extended further and were enforceable by law, and it was this that Lawrence McHugh had fallen foul of.

The second summons dates to after the war, in 1949, but relates to the continuation of wartime rationing:skmbt_c36417011209120_0001Reading between the lines of the summons it appears that Mr McHugh was involved in black market ration book dealings. There was a flourishing trade in unwanted, forged and stolen ration books and coupons throughout the war and until rationing was finally abandoned in 1954. Sometimes this was nothing more sinister than an informal arrangement between friends as recalled by AW Morgan:

Our neighbour managed to get meat from a butcher in exchange for surplus eggs and my mother exchanged some of my “sweet” coupons for “sugar” coupons from another neighbour and thereby was able to build up a stock for jam making when fruit was plentiful.

At the other extreme were large and organised criminal rackets.

A Last Appeal to Reason Propaganda Leaflet

On the night of the 10th/11th August 1940 German bombers dropped an unusual load on the people of Britain- propaganda leaflets. These leaflets were entitled ‘A Last Appeal to Reason’ and were a translation of a speech given by the Fuhrer to the Reichstag calling for peace. The speech was printed on a tabloid sized four page newspaper, in a dense piece of text covering all pages:

1 2 2a 3

As ever click these images for larger sized copies if you want to read it in more detail. It is hard to assess the impact of this leaflet- during my research into the leaflet I find myself repeatedly being directed to revisionist history sites telling us that this was a sign of Hitler’s good intentions and that there were numerous plots on the British side to ensure the war continued (these sites often add an anti-Semitic slant to the history as well). I would argue that the leaflet was a pragmatic approach from the Nazis who were planning the invasion of Russia and wished to avoid a battle on two fronts. If the leaflet worked and encouraged peace they could concentrate on the upcoming battle with communist Russia and if not they had not lost anything.

The British response is related by Lee Richards in his book “Whispers of War: Underground Rumour-Mongering in the Second World War”:

Sefton Delmer, the future head and mastermind of British black propaganda, was just about to make his debut broadcast to Germany on the BBC when he heard the Fuhrer’s “last appeal to reason”. Spontaneously, without governmental approval, Dlemer tersely rejected any notion of a compromise peace. “Herr Hitler,” Delmer announced, “you have on occasion in the past consulted me as to the mood of the British public. So permit me to render your Excellency this little service once again tonight. Let me tell you what we here in England think of this appeal of yours to what you are pleased to call out reason and common sense. Herr Fuhrer and Reichskanzler, we hurl it right back at you, right in your evil smelling teeth…” The unofficial rejection upset a few Members of Parliament but Delmer’s attitude was indicative of a new mindset in the country.

John Smith found one of these leaflets and offers the contemporary British perspective from the ordinary man on the leaflets:

A couple of months after the bus incident I was visiting Ramsey, a small village about four miles from Harwich, and found a German leaflet in the Hedgerow, which in all probability had been dropped by a bomber returning from an air raid on London. The leaflet, was double A3 size and had close type on all four sides. It was an excellent piece of crafted propaganda and quite likely had the hand of Josef Goebbels in its preparation and the making of the German case. There were no lies, but the manipulation of the facts stood truth on its head.

Clearly then the leaflet was considered as more of a joke than having any great impact on the British who found them- indeed elaborate newsreel pieces were filmed of people cutting up the leaflets to use as toilet paper! In this photograph a member of the Civil Defence services can be seen reading and laughing at the content of these leaflets:last-appeal-to-reasonToday these leaflets seem to be quite scarce, with copies only turning up occasionally when they had been saved as a souvenir. I paid a few pence for my copy but I have heard of examples selling for three figure sums!

Triple Entente Souvenir China

It always amazes me the weird and wonderful events our ancestors felt worthy of commemorating in souvenir form. As well as the usual things such as Royal births, marriages and public occasions like the Great Exhibition they also produced souvenirs for political and military events. The wealth of WW1 related china being good examples we have looked at before. Tonight we are adding another, slightly different piece of commemorative china to that story. Rather than commemorating the outbreak of war, this little transfer decorated pot celebrates the diplomatic alliance between the three great allied powers of Europe; France, Russia and Great Britain:imageThis is a cheap white vase, standing about 3” high, the transfer decoration on the front consists of three shields; on bearing the French flag, one the Union Flag and one the two headed Imperial Russian eagle. A scroll beneath reads ‘The Triple Entente’:imageThe Triple Entente was a complicated series of treaties in the run up to the Great War for mutual assistance in case of German aggression, simply the treaties were as follows:

Franco Russian Alliance, 1894 (France & Russia)

Entente Cordiale, 1904 (France and Great Britain)

Anglo Russian Convention 1907 (Great Britain and Russia)

The alliance was not necessarily a military one, but did provide a ‘moral obligation’ for each country to support the other in time of war. The system of alliances created a house of cards that only needed a trigger point to pull Europe apart. This was to come in 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Serbia. Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia; Serbia turned to its ally Russia for support. The French than had to support Russia, this in turn brought Germany in to uphold their treaty obligations with Austro-Hungary. Germany enacted their Schlieffen Plan and invaded France, however this violated Belgian neutrality that Britain had agreed to uphold in the London Treaty of 1839 and so brought Britain and the Empire into the conflict…Yes it’s complicated and I have missed a lot out but I hope this gets over the bare bones of the outbreak of the Great War!