As the country faced the prospect of war there was no shortage of volunteers to take up the posts of defenders in Darwen. The perceived threat of massive air raids had prompted the need for an efficient service to deal with Air Raid Precautions and the associated threat of increased fire damage to property generated the Auxiliary Fire Service to complement the National Fire Service. The Emergency Powers(Defence Act) of 1938 had set things in motion, then in response to a lack of manpower in the army the Military Training Act of April 1939 made it a requirement that all single males between the age of 20 and 22 would do 6 months military training. The National Service (Armed Forces) Act of 3rd September 1939 required all males aged 18-41 to register so that conscription to the Armed Forces could be arranged. It would be 1941 before 40 year olds started receiving their registration cards. By the end of 1939 1.5 million men had been conscripted into the Armed Forces with 1.1 million of them going to the Army and the rest were divided between the Navy and the RAF.
***You can click on each image to enlarge it***
The 1939 Register was completed by 29th September 1939 along the same lines as the National Census in England and Wales. Those blacked out would be less than 100 years old and possibly still alive.
What this shows is that Britain feared that hoards of German aircraft were likely to swarm over this country dropping High Explosive Bombs and Poisonous Gas. On the 3rd September 1939, the National Service (Armed Forces) Act introduced conscription for all males aged 18-41.
The Government had sent out Civil Defence leaflets throughout 1939 to prepare people for the worst. Darwen prepared its own booklet full of information to help residents.
Many of those now recruited into Civil Defence Duties such as the Air Raid Precautions wardens or ARP had fought in the First World War – such as John Charles Hoy.
The favourite call for the ARP Warden was “Put that light out”. All windows had to be blacked out and people used blinds, thick curtains or paint to do the trick.
Training of Auxiliary Fire Service personnel was started at Darwen Fire Station in Autumn 1939.
The Auxiliary Fire Service was set up to supplement the normal Fire Service.
The AFS had their own equipment which included this fire engine.
Most AFS units only had these trailer pumps in a fetching wartime grey.
St John Ambulance men were wanted to serve in the First Aid Posts and act as ambulance drivers.
Gas masks were given out to people in September 1939 and you were supposed to carry it with you everywhere – Joan Page has hers in the cardboard box on her deckchair.
This was the only service where there was an even balance of genders.
Everybody on the 1939 Register had an Identity Card with instructions to carry it about your person. ARP Wardens or the Police could stop you at any time and ask to see yours.
The first and only Darwen fatality of the War in 1939 that we have been able to find was Chief Petty Officer Norman Slinger Atkinson who had joined the Royal Navy in 1915.
Norman was killed in a railway accident and died from multiple injuries in the RM Hospital in Deal. He was buried in Portsmouth (Milton) Cemetery.