IN THE WAR AGAINST HITLERISM
BEING AN ACCOUNT
OF THE CIVIL DEFENCE SEVICES AND A.R.P.
IN STROUD AND NAILSWORTH
With a Preface by General Sir Hugh Elles, K.C.B., K.C.M.G.’
A Foreword by Bramwell Hudson, Esq., J.P.
And 34 Illustrations
“Your path of duty has been the way to glory
and amidst the glorious records of the war
the story of Civil Defense will take a high
H.M. THE KING
THE STROUD (Urban and Rural) AND NAILSWORTH (Urban)
R.D.C. Chambers, John Street, Stroud
The first week of the war saw the arrival of 1,200 evacuees from Birmingham, the opening of public air raid shelters, the sandbagging of selected public buildings, the closure of cinemas, and the black-out, while ‘most people carried respirators, and there was a general air of expectancy.’
‘On Friday, November 10th, the first Preliminary Air Raid Warning, known as the “Yellow Warning,” was received at 11.20 a.m. Yellow Warnings were confidential warnings for A.R.P. Control, and were not for issue to the public, so that no sirens were sounded. On this occasion the warning message was passed up to a meeting of the R.D.C. Committee, that happened to be sitting, as several of the members were engaged in A.R.P. A year later, when the number of “Yellows” received amounted to an average of three a day, nobody would have even troubled to inform the Committee, but on this occasion (the first for this Area) the members picked up their respirators and left. (It is reported that the staff spent the rest of the morning gazing through windows at the sky watching for the approach of a German armada!)’
‘On May 14th the Local Defence Volunteers (afterwards the Home Guard) were formed; and many Civil Defence members, who had some knowledge of firearms, were enrolled on the understanding that they would be sent back to the Civil Defence job for which they had been trained, with the additional advantage that, as enlistment in the L.D.V. gave them Military status, they would be issued with arms and ammunition with which to defend their posts in the event of a landing by parachutists, or any other emergency calling for the use of lethal weapons. The difficulties of belonging to more than one service were many. In some sectors Civil Defence members were not accepted…’
‘It was on June 26th, 1940, that for the first time A.R.P. Control log referred to “planes (presumably enemy) passing over…” Within a very few months the sound of “planes passing over” was to become an almost nightly experience…
A certain nervousness was abroad during these early days of bombing as may be judged from the following extract from a letter to the A.R.P. County Organiser written by the Sub-Controller:- “Bisley church steeple appears to be a landmark for German aeroplanes. It is reported from the Wardens and other inhabitants, that they notice the German aeroplanes invariably make for the steeple, and then alter course for other places.” A comforting thought was that the Germans were unlikely to bomb their own landmarks. (Is this the first record of an advantage of living in Bisley?)…
On July 25th a German bomber was brought down at Oakridge as the result of Anti-Aircraft fire and collision with a Hurricane Fighter which, unfortunately, crashed in flames killing the pilot… The German crew of four baled out and caused quite a manhunt in the district. A large number of Home Guards turned out to help in the search, including the Miserden Company by the ringing of church bells, and three of the crew were captured. The body of the fourth, whose parachute had failed to open, was found by the Home Guard in Oldhills Wood.’
‘On August 28th Area 8 had its first bomb. One fell in a field near Cranham Mill, Painswick, and caused no damage. Another, a 250 kilo incendiary bomb, fell 500 yards from Harescombe Post Office, but was not found for three days when Captain Smart dug it out.
Other bombs continued to fall in the country around Area 8, but the only casualties reported to Division 3 Control were two rabbits and an owl at Tetbury and a pony and a rabbit at Cirencester…
During the few Red Warnings the people of Stroud were still being directed to take shelter, but traffic was no longer being stopped.’
In Stroud, notices in the press were at this time urging people to carry their respirators, but not on their faces – although on Fridays the policeman on duty at Town Time was to be seen wearing his…
Painswick has three or four H.E. and oil incendiary bombs in the surrounding country on September 5th. The only damage was twelve days later when the Royal Engineers exploded a delayed action bomb – the ceiling in two houses collapsed and windows in four other houses were broken.
There were eighty-five Preliminary Warnings and six Red Warnings during September…
On the night of October 21st an unexploded Anti-Aircraft shell penetrated a house at Painswick. After passing through a roof, the shell pierced a marble-topped dressing table, a gas stove and a bag of onions and finally came to rest in the concrete floor of the passage. At the time it was thought that it was an unexploded bomb and the house was evacuated accordingly. The following day P.C. Handley, a Painswick policeman, without reporting his intentions to anyone, borrowed a spade and dug out the shell which he then carried to the Police Station, and with a broad grin on his face, placed it on the Guard Room table. The Police Station is still there.
During the night of October 27th approximately twenty-five 1-kilo incendiary bombs fell in the Forest Green Sector. One large incendiary bomb fell in the Forest Green Sector. One large incendiary bomb fell through a galvanized roof of Messrs. Harry Grist and Co’s. flock mill, causing no casualties, but damaging one machine and some flock by fire. All the other bombs dropped in fields and gardens over a fairly wide area and did no damage.
There were seventy-seven Preliminary Warnings, but only one Red Warning in Area 8 during October.
On November 14th, 1940, Coventry received its historically heavy raid. Enemy planes passed over Stroud on their way to Coventry continuously for several hours…
Towards the end of the month and in early December Bristol was raided several times. The only enemy action in Area 8 was seven or eight incendiary bombs dropped in a field at Stonehouse and one in a paddock at France Lynch.
During November there were eighty-eight Preliminary Warnings, the record for the war, and seven Red Warnings.
Throughout December Germ an planes were overhead nearly every night and there were several small incidents in the area.
On December 6th two H.E. bombs (one delayed action) dropped at Selsley and about £100 worth of damage was done to windows, greenhouses and ceilings.
On December 11th fifteen incendiary bombs fell on Overtown Farm, Cranham, when slight damage was done to the roof of an outbuilding. The following night about twenty incendiary bombs fell in Cowcombe Woods, Chalford.
During December the number of Preliminary Warnings fell to forty-seven, but thee was an increase in Red Warnings to the number of ten.
With the New Year there was considerable action in the Stroud and Nailsworth Districts, but it was by no means all enemy action. It is true that the number of Air Raid Warnings was high during the first half of the year. Indeed, March, April and May were record months for Red Warnings and the Sirens were sounded no less that forty-five times. The length of the warnings was too long; in one case seven hours, and in several cases from five to six hours, and almost entirely at night…
The reason for the number of warnings received was, of course, the passing over of the enemy bombers, from their bases in Germany and France to South Wales, the Midlands, Bristol and Plymouth, all of which were heavily bombed during the year.
In response to the Minister of Home Security’s broadcast appeal for fire watchers, nearly 2,000 volunteers had enrolled in this Area by early in the year.
At the end of 1940 it had been decided to form a Defence Committee, consisting of two members of each of the three Councils, for the purpose of co-ordinating all the after-raid duties of Local Authorities…
Efforts were being made to make the population incendiary bomb-minded, and on January 6th, at a public meeting called by the Stroud and District Chamber of Trade, Mr. J. Gough, the Fire Chief, presented a scheme for fire watching in the town.
This Scheme, which was adopted by the traders present, hoped to recruit a hundred volunteer fire watchers, who would be trained by the Fire Brigade, and who would take turns of duty about every fourth night.
Stirrup pumps were also on sale by the Local Authorities and nearly a thousand were purchased by rate-payers… Later…a large number of pumps were issued free on loan.
On January 17th a large H.E. bomb exploded at Gypsy Lane, Minchinhampton, causing a crater 30 ft. across and 20 ft. deep. There were no casualties and only minor damage to bungalows and farm buildings.
At the end of the month it was decided that fire-watchers and fighters be enrolled in the A.R.P. Organisation…
During January, 1941, there were thirty-four Preliminary Air Raid Warnings and eight Red Warnings.
The number of Preliminary Air Raid Warnings for February, 1941, was thirty-five, and there were six Red Warnings.
March… Preliminary Air Raid Warnings rose to sixty-two and Red Warnings to thirteen.
At 12.30 a.m. on the morning of April 11th four H.E. bombs were dropped on Tunley Farm and the adjoining King’s House Farm. The latter house was damaged, but nothing approaching the extent that might have been expected… The farmer, who at the time was asleep in an armchair, stated that he did not hear the bomb, but was awakened by the china falling off the mantelpiece. (It was understood that the beer was homebrewed)… There were no casualties except for a few poultry. A pond was enlarged by another bomb and the fourth damaged an orchard.
During April the Preliminary Warnings fell to thirty-eight, but there was a slight increase of Red Warnings, the number being fourteen…
On May 8th a Home Security Circular was published on the duties of the Local Authority under invasion conditions.
The number of Preliminary Warnings went up to fifty and the eighteen Red Warnings received was the highest figure for the war.
With the beginning of June, 1941, the first enemy action in Division 3 since April took place – two H.E. bombs were dropped at Wotton-under-Edge and a thousand incendiary bombs in fields between Standish Church and Little Haresfield. There were, during the month, other incidents in Division 3 of which the most serious was in Painswick.
About ten minutes after the 99th Red Warning had been received at Stroud, in the early morning of Sunday, June 15th, eight H.E. bombs dropped at ten minutes past one o’clock in and around Painswick. Poultry Court, a house in Friday Street and a house in Tibbiwell Lane received direct hits. Two persons, both evacuees, were killed. Ten persons were injured and of these three were taken to Stroud Hospital. Twenty-nine persons were rendered homeless. Four houses were completely demolished and seven others seriously damaged and partly demolished. Thirty-five houses were slightly damaged.
The telephone service was badly affected from the start so that considerable difficulty was experienced in getting messages through to A.R.P. Control. It was an extremely dark night which made the finding of the demolished buildings unbelievably difficult…
The homeless were billeted by mid-day. The Stroud Gas Company arrived quickly on the scene and had their mains mended in time for the cooking of Sunday dinners. Most of the first-aid repair to houses was completed before night. Furniture was salvaged from the damaged buildings and even from those houses that received direct hits. From the Friday Street crater some £60 in cash – much of it in single notes and coin – was recovered.
Assistance was given in the general clearing up by the Military, the Gloucester County Council and the Stroud Urban Council, as well as by the A.R.P. Rescue Service and the Stroud Rural District Council.
Painswick’s Communal Feeding Centre did invaluable work in feeding the homeless and the many workers who had been drafted into the village…
Both the Painswick Company and the Stroud Company of the Home Guard helped the Police and Special Constables in controlling the traffic and sight-seers.
In the evening Mr. Robert Perkins, M.P., visited Painswick and inspected the damage and talked with the homeless and those who had been helping all day – many from fifteen to twenty hours.
During June there was a sharp drop in the number of Air Raid Warnings. Preliminary Warnings were down to seventeen and Red Warnings to nine.
July was a quiet month and no incidents occurred in Division 3. There was a further drop in Warnings to eleven Preliminary and six Red. Indeed, July 1941, almost saw the end of enemy action in this part of England… Apart from April, July and August of 1942, the sirens were to sound only twenty-two more times up to the end of the war against Hitlerism.
Enemy action or no enemy action, there was no let-up on precautionary measures…it was not until August that Local Authorities were urged to take elaborate precautions against invasion, and ordered to set up Invasion Committees. The Ministry of Home Security issued a pamphlet entitled “Advising the Public in the event of Invasion.”
Early in August, 1941, it was expected the enemy would try to burn our growing crops by the use of incendiary “leaves.” A warning was sent to 250 farmers… The farmers enrolled 662 persons for crop fire-fighting and watching, and he Defence Committee sold them 45 and a half dozen fire-fighting besoms. Unfortunately, harvest-time proved to be one of the wettest for many years and the Committee was blamed for spoiling the weather.
On August 25th was held the first meeting of the District Invasion Committee…
On the night of December 23rd, the new A.R.P. Control Room, which had been specially constructed in the Stroud Rural District Council’s garage, was manned for the first time.
THREE YEARS OF EXPECTANCY
1942 This period of three years, of which 1942 was the first year, was a period of waiting. Waiting for what? First, for the blitz and invasion which never came. Secondly, for the Second Front which seemed as if it would never come. But if this was a period of waiting, the waiting was not done with folded arms. Indeed, three services had yet to be formed – the Fire Guard, the House-wives’ Service abd the Civil Defence Messenger Service. If it were possible to take a reading of the maximum amount of human effort expended outside working hours by the population of this country, any one of these three years would, in all probability, far outstrip the first two and a half years of war added together… And it should be remembered that all this service, both voluntary and “directed,” was done, if not entirely without a grouse, then almost entirely without any encouragement from the enemy. Even in the first of these three years at present under review there were six months without so much as an Air Raid Warning.
1943 By January of 1943 there was no less than 5,500 Fire Guards in the Area, but there were to be only eight Red Warnings to brighten their lives through the whole year.
1944 Each of the first six months of the year had one Red Warning, but during the second half of the year there were not even any Preliminary Warnings.
On March 28th a 1,000 kilo parachute bomb dropped in a field just over the boundary in the Tetbury Area. There was considerable blast effect, but owing to the almost complete absence of buildings there was but slight damage.
On May 15th two more bombs dropped just over the border in the Tetbury Area. Both bombs fell in fields…
For the past many months large numbers of American troops had been stationed around Stroud…
During July and August when the menace of “flying bombs” was at its height, ten Wardens went as reinforcements to Richmond, Surrey.
THE CLOSING MONTHS
1945 Relaxation and standing down had been the order of the day for three months and this policy was intensified with 1945. There had been no Air Raid Warning for six months and, as a matter of fact, Stroud was never to hear the sirens sounded again during the war except for the monthly test…
May 2nd was the “Appointed Day.” On that day the Government decided that the Civil Defence organisation was no longer needed for the purpose of the war.
CIVIL DEFENCE FAREWELL PARADE
The glow of burning Bristol o’er the hill…
Th’unusual sound of guns near where we dwell,
The sudden winking flash of bursting shell;
The search-light glares, the falling flares, the sense
Of menace in the circling plane’s suspense;
When dooming – dooming – Nazi planes flew by
With loads of death for other towns near-by.
The sudden siren’s eerie wail,
The hurried dash through rain or snow or gale…
The Civic Leader of our ancient shire
Spoke words of thanks which made our hearts inspire;
And thanks to God, that our dear friendly town
Had been preserved ‘neath danger’s threat’ning frown…
The second half of the book looks back at the various committees and plans that were formed and issued during the conflict:
THE PARISH INVASION COMMITTEE
In August 1941, the Stroud Rural District Council set up the following Parish Invasion Committees and appointed the Chairmen of each:-
Randwick and Whiteshill
Thrupp and Brimscombe
On September 18th, 1941, the Chairmen of the Parish Invasion Committees were called to a meeting under the Chairmanship of Mr. Bramwell Hudson. For the next nine months regular monthly meetings were held and then less frequently until March, 1943, when it was felt every possible eventuality had been considered and all necessary arrangements to meet invasion made…
Some idea of the work undertaken by all Invasion Committees appears in the chapters on Anti-Invasion Schemes and War Books.
In March, 1941, a booklet was issued: “If the Blitz Comes to Stroud and Nailsworth – How You should Act”; a list was drawn up for Repair Squads, who would move into action after heavy raids. Here is the list:
43 Bricklayers 26 Plumbers 268 Carpenters 6 Slaters 88 Electricians 22 Tilers 216 Engineers 20 Timbermen 318 Fitters 30 Welders 6 Main layers 43 Pipe joiners 1189 Various
Local Authorities were responsible for the repair of houses damaged by enemy action. Large stocks od repair materials were held by the three local Councils. These stocks included such things as roofing felt, laths, galvanised iron, iron piping, nails and paint. There were also stocks of tools, ladders, wheelbarrows and the like.
The Councils also held large stocks of pipes and cement for the repair of roads.
Arrangements were also made for the salvage and storage of furniture that might have had to be removed from bombed houses… Numerous large barns and other buildings were, by kind permission of some twenty-five farmers, earmarked for the storage of furniture and an aeroplane hanger (a relic of the Great War) was requisitioned.
Arrangements were made for the salvage of commodities from any damaged shops in the area… Every shop in Stroud, Nailsworth and Stonehouse was asked to make arrangements for alternative premises to which their stock could be moved. Returns filled in by the majority of traders showed that in 1941 there was estimated to be no less than 1,100 tons of goods in Stroud shopping centre alone, and beside this, the Ministry of Food had 1,300 tons of food in the town, and the Admiralty and the Office of Works and Buildings large stores of equipment. Plans were worked out as to how many men and lorries it would take to move any particular stock. The Home Guard volunteered to supply the men, and arrangements were ready for the issue to them of salvage armlets and entrance permits. Messrs Gopsil Brown offered the use of some thousand corn sacks, and there was a large store of sandbags, for packing the commodities.
The Surveyors of the three Councils were in charge of the salvage of building material from houses damaged too badly for repair.
The Civil Defence Transport Officer…had earmarked…ninety-one lorries and vans that he could call upon. Unofficially, there were a further seven cattle lorries and eight cars with farm trailers available.
A scheme was also organised by the Transport Officer whereby the general public would have made available their cars for the purpose of moving the homeless… Some sixty-seven cars were listed…
Some twenty-one buildings in the Area were earmarked as Emergency Mortuaries and nine of the larger factories also offered buildings for this purpose… Five motor vans, by kind permission of the Stroud Laundry, Co., were earmarked as mortuary vans. Quantities of sheets, towels, buckets, bandages, labels, screens and coffins were held…
If the water supply had been cut off by enemy action then the districts affected would have been supplied temporarily by the Stroud Brewery Company’s two 720 gallon beer lorries… A further 3,000 gallons could have been carried at a time in sundry tanks…
If the shopping centre of Stroud had been badly damaged , Shopping Booths would have been set up …
Under instructions from the Ministry of Food arrangements for eight Emergency Cooking Centres were made… These Centres would only have been used if the Utility Services had broken down through severe enemy action and it had been impossible for cooking to be done at home. Eight ladies…volunteered to take charge…
The following equipment and food was stored ready for use:-
16 boilers 2 ranges 6 insulated containers 8 mechanical can openers 2,000 dessert spoons 2,000 half pint mugs 2,200 knives 200 forks 400 tea bags 8 50lb. cases of tea 16 cases of 28ibs of sugar 388 tins of biscuits 93 cases of 48’s pork and beans 194 cases of 24’s vegetable stew 24 cases of 48 14 and a half ounce condensed milk 8 cases of 24’s rice pudding 8 7-ib tins of cocoa 20 cases of 56ib margarine 26 cases of beef hash 9 cases of 12 3-ibs. meat roll 6 cases 48 1-ib meat roll.
The District Invasion Committee was required to make schemes to meet two eventualities – one, in case the whole area was isolated by the invading enemy from the Regional organisation and, two, in case the town of Stroud was cut off from the Rural District and from Nailsworth…
Offers of equipment included:-
660 bicycles 105 portable coppers 726 wheelbarrows 118 pairs of binoculars 1,972 spades 94 tents 830 ladders 356 bedpans 177 primus stoves 1,143 blankets 1,657 buckets 1,055 hot water bottles
The card that was to be hung up read as follows:-
The first thing is to believe that Invasion will come
The second thing is to realise what we shall be up against. Invasion will probably start with the biggest air raids ever known. Gas will be used…Air-borne troops may be dropped all over the country-side…
The third thing is to prepare for invasion.
The fourth thing is to know quite certainly what your Defence Committee is doing to prepare for Invasion
The fifth thing is to keep fit…Stand firm…
One code word only was to be used and this code word – was Rallyho! On hearing this code word men were instructed to report to one of the following Rallying Points…
The Western National ‘Bus Company’s Canteen, London Road, Stroud
The British Restaurant, Thrupp
The British Restaurant, Dudbridge
The British Restaurant, Stonehouse
The British Restaurant, Nailsworth
Messrs. Fibrecrete’s Canteen, Chalford…
Arrangements were made for transport of both men and tools, and in case motor transport broke down it had been ascertained that there were (anyway on paper if not in stable) 468 horses and two donkeys that could have been used for haulage purposes. Both the donkeys were at Nailsworth.