Civil Defence in WWII

The Air Raid Precaution Service

The Air Raid Precaution Warden’s Service, or the  ARP as it became known, was founded in 1937, two years before the start of World War Two. The ARP was a national organisation set up by the Government. In 1938 they produced the Air Raid Precautions Handbook, which was a guide for all ARP wardens to use.

ARP wardens were local volunteers who had been recruited to protect their local area. When war broke out in 1939, the ARP were responsible for ensuring that air raid precautions, such as observing the blackout were enforced. The ARP would be on duty during air raids, which would mean being outdoors in danger whilst people were sheltering.


Have a look at these two pages from the Air Raid Precautions Handbook, page one and page two. It gives a strict set of instructions that the volunteers had to follow. Here is a short extract:


In time of War, an Air Raid Warden should regard himself first and foremost as a member of the public trained to be a leader of his fellow citizens and, with them and for them, do the right thing in any emergency. The keynotes of his conduct should be courage and presence of mind.

Now have a look at this document, which is an extract from an ARP Wardens Minute and log book. The log book recorded any incidents occurring during an air raid. Try to read it aloud. It might be difficult to read it all because it is handwritten. There is also a transcript of the document.


Discussion Ideas 

The volunteer wardens had to be outside and possibly without shelter during an Air Raid.

  • What do you think drove people to volunteer for such a role?
  • Do you think people would do the same during peace time?
  • What modern-day volunteer roles can you think of that people take on that could be dangerous?

What were the main duties of the ARP wardens? List the ones you can find in the document.

  • Are there any that surprise you?
  • Which ones might you find difficult to do?


Activity Ideas

What might it have felt like to be on duty during an air raid? Write a first-hand account of a night spent manning your post during a bombing raid, imagining you are an ARP warden. What might you have seen? Smelt? Heard? How did you feel?


Design a poster aimed at recruiting volunteers to the ARP. Many war time posters had a slogan - a catchy or clever phrase which people would remember. Invent your own slogan for your poster. Have a look at some examples of war time posters to help you out:


'Lend your pennies to your Country' poster

Womens Land Army recruitment poster

'Waste littler, paste Hitler' poster

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