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Stamford the Home Front-1940-Air Raid Precautions

Chris Hunt

 

In the mid 1930’s cities and towns across the country prepared their Civil Defence in case there was another World War. Stamford was no exception and so once war was declared with Germany on September 3rd 1939 preparations for home defence were in an advanced stage. By 1940 trained volunteers were in place with comprehensive plans to deal with air raids which might bring high explosives, incendiary devises and gas attacks to the town.

Before the War the German Luftwaffe were preparing maps and aerial photographs of military and strategic sites for a future bombing campaign against Britain. Some were taken by German military intelligence from German civilian and commercial aircraft. Sets were provided to bomber crews to assist them in finding primary and secondary targets. Over 150 English Cities and Towns were covered. Stamford was one of them.

There were three electric Air Raid Sirens; at the Town Hall, the Police Station and at Messrs Blackstone & Co.’s works on Ryhall Road. In addition there were two Steam Air Raid Sirens, one at Messrs Miles & Sons’ timber merchants in the L.M.S Railway station yard and the other at Williamson Cliff Ltd’s brick and tile works on Little Casterton Road. The action warning was a fluctuating or warbling blast on the electric sirens and short sharp blasts by the steam sirens, each of two minutes’ duration. If needed this could be supplemented by wardens’ whistles. Once the raiders were passed there would be a two minute continuous blast on all sirens. For the presence of gas, hand rattles would be used with hand bells for cancellation of the gas warning.

The nerve centre for the whole operation was the Stamford Report Centre which at the start of the War was in the basement at the rear of the Town Hall. Its function was to receive and collate reports from wardens and others to ensure as complete a picture as possible of damage in the event of an air raid on the Town.  The centre needed to know the place where the bombs had hit, number of casualties and the damage sustained. The centre would then decide actions needed and co-ordinate the work of the A.R.P. services.

The centre was run by an Officer in charge, a Deputy Officer and a number of telephonists; clerks (plotting and records), chart writers, indoor messengers and outdoor messengers.

The centre was manned twenty fours hours a day, although during the week between 9.00am and 5.00pm and on Saturdays between 9.00am and 1.00pm the Town Clerk’s department took over the responsibility. Outside of these hours in the week watches were timed between 8.00am and 9.00am, 5.00pm to 8.00pm, 8.00pm to 11.00pm and 11.00pm to 8.00am. On Saturday: 1.00pm to 5.00pm, 5.00pm to 8.00pm, 8.00pm to 11.00pm and 11.00pm to 8.00am. On Sunday: 8.00am to 10.00am, 10.00am to 1.00pm, 1.00pm to 5.00pm, 5.00pm to 8.00pm, 8.00pm to 11.00pm and 11.00pm to 08.00am.

The planning was meticulous. A Light Rescue Party was based around the employees of Messrs E.Ireson & Sons builders of St Paul’s Street and a Heavy Rescue Party based from the yard of Messrs Bowman & Sons builders on Cherry Holt Lane. As for the Public Utilities, repairs to the mains were undertaken by the relevant company; Electricity (Urban Electricity Supply Co), Water (Burghley Estate) and Gas (The Stamford and St Martin’s – Stamford Baron – Gaslight and Coke Company).

The Air Raid Wardens in the Town were split into nineteen sectors each when fully staffed would have six wardens with a Senior Warden in charge, each sector covered a specific part of the town. Each sector was allocated to one of four posts; Post No 1 was based in the Town Hall, Post No 2 at the A.R.P. Stores on Empingham Road, Post No 3 at the Police Station on North Street and Post No 4 at the Church Lads’ Club on St Pauls’ Street. Each post had a Head Warden who reported to a Chief Warden who had overall control in the Town and who was assisted by an Officer responsible for Records, Organisation and Training.

The number of Special Constables was increased with the Town being split into four sections each with its own headquarters, the north section was based at the Police Station, the south section was based at the Burghley Estate Office, the east section at The Pantiles on St Paul’s Street and the west section based at the Waiting Rooms in Red Lion Square. Each section had a Section Commander and a Section Leader who reported to the Superintendent of the Borough Police Force.

In addition to the Stamford Fire Brigade who were based on Scotgate there were two Auxiliary Fire Service Sub-Stations, one at Fancourt’s Garage on St Paul’s Street and the other at Cross’s Garage in St Martin’s. As well as Leading Firemen they had Auxiliary Firemen, Patrol Officers, Telephonists, Messengers and Engineers.

There was a great fear that gas would be used against the general public and people were advised how to deal with Tear Gas, Nose Gases, Lung Gases, and Blister Gases. For decontamination the Borough Surveyor’s Department was responsible to cleanse the streets and if Blister Gas was used two squads were created to deal with the injuries. Three Cleansing Stations were set up, one for A.R.P. male personnel on Empingham Road, A.R.P. female personnel at St George’s Home on Ryhall Road, this was also to be used by uninjured members of the public, and the third for injured members of the public was based at the Stamford Infirmary Fever Blocks.

Additional casualty services with First Aid Points were provided at the High School in Park Lane and at the St John’s Ambulance Station on East Street and First Aid Parties at the Church Lads Club on St Paul’s Street, Phillip’s Yard on Water Street and at the St John’s Ambulance Station. In addition there was a Mobile First Aid Post at the Infirmary and St George’s Home was designated as a Civil Defence Hospital.

In the event of people being bombed out of their houses the Fane School on Green Lane was designated for the homeless.

In addition of there were the Stamford Division of the St John’s Ambulance and the Stamford V.A.D. (The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was a voluntary organization providing field nursing services, mainly in hospitals) of the British Red Cross. The Women’s Voluntary Service provided women to carry out clerical work, to deal with the Welfare of Evacuated Children, provide Hospital Supply Workers, Evacuation Receptionists, Storekeepers, Canteen Workers, Trained Nurses, Assistant Nurses, Nursing Auxiliaries, Ambulance Attendants, Ambulance Drivers, Mobile Van Drivers, Car Drivers and First Aid Party Drivers.

An important part of the local planning was the provision of Public Air Raid shelters. There were nine in all with a total capacity to take 825 people; they were located at the Scotgate Inn at No 5 Scotgate (100 people), Alderman J.S.Prior’s house at No 2 Broad Street (50 people), Messrs Parrish’s shop at No 45 Broad Street (50 people), Messrs Thomas and Sons at No 11 Broad Street (200 people), Messrs Middleton’s shop at No 1 & 2 St Paul’s Street (50 people), the Old County Club at 27A St Mary’s Street (50 people), Mr Haynes’s house at No 16 All Saints Place (75 people), J.Woods & Son’s shop at No 10 Ironmonger Street (50 people) and the Bull and Swan Inn at No 25 High Street, St Martin’s (200 people). These were sited in the cellars of the above properties. Local builders – Bowman and Sons – making alterations, for instance, to the cellars of the Bull and Swan. Of course other people used the cellars of their own properties for family and friends.

In addition of course there were the Anderson shelters which were given free to householders who earned less than £250 per year and those with higher incomes were charged £7 0s 0d. They were made up from fourteen curved and straight galvanised corrugated steel panels which were bolted together and designed to be semi sunk into the ground. The other type of shelter was the Morrison shelter, officially termed Table (Morrison) Indoor Shelter which had a cage-like construction and came in 359 parts and had three tools supplied with the pack. Those Air Raid Shelters that were made of brick and concrete were dangerous as near by blasts made them unstable as they had a potential to implode, unlike the Anderson Shelters. Air Raid Shelters were also provided by firms for their staff who were involved in War Work and shops used their cellars for staff and customers alike.

The Borough Surveyor was still drawing up plans for public Air Raid Shelters and in August 1940 plans were signed off by local builders.

Gas masks were made available from the Town Hall. There were three kinds; a Baby Anti Gas Helmet which was supplied when the baby was born, this was normally exchanged for a small child’s respirator at about 18 months, these were suitable usually until the child got to four or five years of age when it was then replaced with an ordinary civilian respirator.

Over a thousand people volunteered to assist in Civil Defence at the start of the war including a large number of women. Stamford physically survived the war virtually unscathed, other than two lone bombers who dropped bombs on the town; the planning was however in place if it had been a different story.