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Defending the East End

Air raid shelters
Air Raid Precautions staff and the Emergency Services
Auxiliary Fire Service and Rescue Teams
The blackout, barrage balloons and gun batteries
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Air Raid Precautions staff and the Emergency Services

Protecting the city

Upton Cross School ARP Post
View full size imageUpton Cross School ARP Post, East Ham. 
London was divided into manageable areas to look out for unexploded bombs and bomb damage:

  • Each borough was divided into districts under the command of a Chief Air Warden.
  • Districts were split into different posts.
  • Posts were sub-divided into six or more sectors.
  • Sectors had 3-6 ARP wardens serving under a Senior Warden.
  • Each warden patrolled an area covering several streets.

Warden's duties

Air-raid warden
View full size imageAir-raid warden.
The wardens had to report to their posts where and when a bomb had exploded. After reporting, the warden would return to the scene to look after the wounded before the emergency services of the Civil Defence arrived.

While waiting for members of the Civil Defence, the warden would attempt to put out any small fires and direct people who were made homeless to the nearest rest centre. A good warden could attend to minor fires and injuries without needing to alert Civil Defence.


A warden's week

Southwark Air Raid Precautions  Mobile First Aid Unit.
View full size imageSouthwark Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Mobile First Aid Unit, c. 1940.
ARP workers offically worked 72 hours per week, but often they were much longer. Full-timers were paid £3 5 shillings (£3.25) a week for men and £2 3 shillings and 6 pence (£2.17) for women. One in six wardens were women.

This picture shows the members of the Southwark ARP Mobile First Aid Unit. The photograph was taken by Mr. J. A. Pester who is standing in the centre.

American ambulance used for the transport of air-raid victims at Queen Mary's
View full size imageAmbulance at Queen Mary's Hospital.

As well as ARP staff, ambulances, doctors, nurses and stretcher-bearers all attended the scene of an incident to help and treat those trapped or wounded by bomb blasts.

This photograph is of two nurses at Queen Mary's Hospital with an American-made ambulance that was used to transport the injured.

First-aid posts

First aid post at Bermondsey Central Baths during the Second World War.
View full size imageFirst aid post at Bermondsey Central Baths, 1939.
Injured people would usually be taken to hospitals throughout London. But they could also be sent to first-aid posts that were set up in each borough.

Before the war the government had made plans for such centres, believing that any enemy bombing campaign would result in hundreds of thousands of casualties.

These fears turned out to be unfounded and wounded people did not overwhelm the medical facilities. Nevertheless, the first aid posts were an important back up to London's existing medical infrastructure.


Find out more
StoriesDocklands and the Blitz
London in the firing line
StoriesThe 20th-century port
The changing fortunes of Docklands and the port
GalleriesGrowing up in the Blitz
Children in London during the second world war.
Fact fileWinston Churchill
Wartime Prime Minister
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