Journal Volume 3 2000

They Answered the Call (continued/1)

First ever air raid in Britain ( air raids on London showed that local authorities were unprepared for this development in warfare.  They had great difficulties in trying to cater for the needs of the civil population affected by this new type of warfare, but from their experiences evolved the idea of civil defence or protection from air raids, which later became Air Raid Precautions or A.R.P., but the conflict ended before anything was done on this matter.

In the 1930’s, Germany embarked on a policy of militarisation following the election to office of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and began to expand her territorial boundaries and break the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, without opposition from France and Britain. Some measures were introduced in Britain to protect the civil population from the threat of air raids which it was expected would be part of the coming war. These A.R.P. schemes were partly funded by the British Government and were aimed at protecting the civil population from the perceived dangers of:

          • Air Raids
          • Poison Gas

Many people still remembered the wide spread use of poison gas in the First World War and the way it still effected those ex-servicemen exposed to the various gases used during that conflict. A steady stream of books and films in which poison gas was featured as the principal weapon of war, convinced people that this was how wars would be waged in the future; and massive resources were allocated to the production of gas masks, anti-gas creams, the development of decontamination equipment, and the planning of the necessary drills and procedures to be followed. Ironically, poison gas was not used in World War 2 as a weapon of war and instead was used in German concentration camps during the Holocaust to exterminate upwards of 6 million people of the Jewish faith.

InAnderson air raid shelter Ireland, Military Intelligence estimated in 1936 that war in Europe was likely towards the end of the decade, and the Government sent a number of officers to observe British A.R.P. developments and to report back as necessary.

Generally speaking, people in Britain and Ireland were convinced that expenditure on A.R.P. measures was a waste of money, as it was felt that the money could be used in other areas, such as fighting tuberculosis. This attitude was due to the belief that the politicians would resolve international problems without the need to go to war.

In Britain one of the organisations to become pioneers in the training of people in A.R.P. matters and to prepare for war was the St. John Ambulance Brigade.


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