CHAPTER 3 GENERAL ORGANISATIONAL MATTERS

Walthamstow Council took strong exception to the proposal that any Air Raid Precautions Scheme for the Borough must be prepared by the County Council and, together with other Local Authorities similarly situated, made approaches to the Home Office A.R.P. Department urging that we should be given the right to prepare our own schemes. This was refused despite persistent pressure but, ultimately, a conference of County Council representatives and Local Authority, representatives took place at which a formula was agreed whereby two Committees would be set up by the County Council, one for the metro¬politan part of Essex and the other dealing with outer Essex.

The Special Committee for the metropolitan portion consisted of representatives of the County Council and the nine Local Authorities in S.W. Essex and they appointed a Sub-Committee comprising two County Councillors and one representative of the Borough and Urban Districts. Councillor F. Foster, J.P., and Alderman A. Green represented the County Alderman A. G. Bottomley of Walthamstow was appointed to represent the Boroughs and Urban Dis¬tricts. On his transfer to the South Eastern Region in 1941 he was succeeded by Alderman Ross Wyld of Walthamstow. It was agreed that the Local Authorities in the area covered by that particular Committee (the Group 7 area) should have right of direct access to Government Departments and London Region and the right to take action on any circulars issued by Government Departments, submitting their actions subsequently for endorsement by this Special Committee. Provided that their actions were in accordance with the terms of the circulars they would be automatically endorsed and the County would accept the financial implications arising there from.

Although, therefore, the County remained officially the Scheme-Making authority and exercised co-ordinating functions, the Boroughs and Urban Districts in the Group 7 area were, in practice largely autonomous. That the scheme worked so smoothly as it did was in large part due to the personality and tactfulness of the Chairman of the Committee - Councillor Foster - and of Mr. J. P. Jamieson, the Clerk.

We had, of course, to operate within the broad lines laid down by the Government Departments and were conditioned by the general structure which provided for a Civil Defence organisation which was divided broadly into three categories:-

(i) Civil Defence General Services (the oldA.R.P. Services)
(ii) Ancillary Services (e.g., W.V.S. Mobile Canteens, Rest Centres, etc.)
(iii) Fire Guard (originally Street Fire Parties).

At the beginning we had to decide whether we would endeavour to control everything from Headquarters.
There would obviously be advantages in so doing as we could thereby ensure the maximum of standardisation but it had to be recognised that it would involve an undue burden on a Headquarters which, on the operational side, was manned by part-timers in the sense that Council Officers had other functions to perform in connection with their normal work and could not devote the whole of their time to Civil Defence matters.

On the other hand a decentralised system would ensure the maximum speed of operation - provided that the personnel could be trained in that way - together with a minimum load on Headquarters during the raid periods.
After full consideration, it was finally decided that a decentralised system should be operated and, after considering the merits of five districts as compared with ten districts, it was decided to adopt ten as the basis.

Although this involved an increased number of depots it meant that we would require smaller accommodation in a greater number of places which, as we desired to use school premises, was an advantage for it was much easier to take a small part of several schools than a large part of fewer schools.

In addition an increase in the number of depots reduced the distance which any member of the public had to travel before reaching a depot or first aid post. It also, and very importantly, reduced the distance between Wardens Posts and their District Headquarters, which was a matter of concern if telephone communications broke down.

Finally, we decided upon the premises for ten District Centres, eight of them to be sited at schools (Districts A to H), and the remaining two (where no schools were easily available) to be in the same buildings as the First Aid Posts at Districts J & K. (In lettering the Districts we omitted the letter I as it might be confused with the figure 1.)

Coincidentally with the decision to have ten Districts we decided we would also need a First Aid Post in each District, and this caused us some difficulty. Adaptations of schools were estimated to cost up to £3,000 per school and after such alterations we would have had merely an "adapted building" with all its disadvantages as compared with a new building which could be designed to give the facilities required.

The arrangements for decentralisation were not received with favour by "higher authority" and at various times Regional Officers, Senior Regional Officers, Chief Administrative Officers and Regional Commissioners visited Walthamstow in, we felt, a critical mood. On each occasion, however, we were able to demonstrate by the speed of operation of our services that the scheme would work satisfactorily and, ultimately, although we did not receive official approval, the official opposition died away. The Civil Defence Services were generally divided by us among ten Districts, and originally we had in each District, under the control of the District Warden, acting as Depot Superintendent and, in effect, Area Sub-Controller:

From time to time cuts took place in the whole-time services which reduced the numbers allocated to each District but, until January 1945, we were able to maintain ten District Centres and First Aid Posts although, latterly, with depleted services.

Each of the ten First Aid Posts was manned by men and women under the control of a District First Aid Superintendent and attached to each First Aid Post were two or more doctors who reported when an incident occurred, and frequently " on siren " without waiting for an incident.

When the Street Fire Parties and, later, the Fire Guard came into being it was decided that they also should be operated on a decentralised system, and the Parties were grouped in their respective Districts and placed under the control of the Deputy District Warden, as District Fire Party Officer and. later, under a Head Fire Guard, assisted by Senior Fire Guards at each Wardens Post.

In addition, for administrative purposes as distinct from operational, the Fire Parties in each District selected from among their number a representative (with a deputy) to a Central Advisory Committee, which was formed to assist and advise C.D. Headquarters on Fire Party matters.

Among the ancillary services which were never given proper official recognition by the Government Departments concerned, were:-

One of the major problems of the Organisation was the mixing of whole-time and part-time personnel. Throughout the existence of Civil Defence we insisted that the whole-time and part-time personnel should be regarded as equal. They were therefore, equally eligible for any promotions which might take place and equally liable for training.

The organisation of a Service which comprised at one time 1,900 whole-timers and 1,900 part-timers produced some problems in regard to discipline. Throughout five years we were fortunate, however, in the scarcity of cases of serious trouble, and among those few which we decided to take to Court we obtained something like 80% of convictions.

The best discipline, however, was self-imposed bv the personnel who recognised that they had a job of real work to do, that without some discipline no service could operate effectively and that it rested with themselves very largely to make the Service efficient and disciplined.

Part I - General

Part IIa - The Services

Part IIb - The Services

Part III - The Story of the Raids

Part IV - Flying Bombs & Rockets

Part V - To the Unknown Citizen