Twentieth century warfare increasingly involved the civilian populace as military targets. At the advent of WWII, Civil Defence responded to the bomber threat of air warfare with an organization called Air Raid Precautions (ARP). This special unit guarded “the very heart and citadel of the city’s strength―its men, women and children” (Front Line, 39). Amongst many other duties, rescue parties from the ARP were sent to the site of every bomb-fall to release the buried and care for the injured (Front Line, 39).
Calling the rescue worker of the ARP the new technician of the blitz, the book Front Line outlines the dangerous duty that members of this special unit undertook on a daily basis.
A member of the ARP….
learned how to tunnel through shifting masses of rubble on unstable
footings, using whatever head-support he could find….He learned to
be very delicate with his big hands, for if he could not withdraw a
lump of brick-and-mortar without disturbing by a hair’s breadth
the broken timber beside it he might bring the tons of stuff above
down upon him…His was the most laborious of all the tasks of
civil defence. He had been known to keep straining away at a
difficult piece of rescue for seventeen hours on end. His work had
also its special risks. Underground his fate was always poised
precariously over his head. Above ground he often worked under a
tottering wall and lacked the time to deal with it. What couldn’t be
shored must be ignored. In basements there might be water from
broken pipes, rising steadily towards the roof as the parties struggled
to get in and release someone, or to get out with him. Gas often leaked
from fractured mains or household pipes; it might make any enclosed
space into an immediately fatal trap. And so often there was fire, to give
the rescuers minutes instead of hours, and threaten them as they hurried.
|My grandfather's ARP hatpin over maple leaf on "Front Line," a book dedicated to British civil defence in WWII|
Front Line: The Official Story of the Civil Defense of
. Britain Toronto:
& Sons, 1943.