CHAPTER 11 INVASION DEFENCE SERVICE

In April 1942, the London Regional Commissioners decided to form within London Region an Invasion Defence Service somewhat on the lines of the Invasion Defence Service which had already been organised in the Provincial areas. The Controller was invited to be the Invasion Defence Officer for Walthamstow and with the consent of the Emergency Committee accepted the invitation. It was decided that, so far as possible, the Invasion Defence Service should be grafted on to the ordinary Civil Defence Service and its ancillary services and, at each level, the two schemes were linked as closely as possible.

In the course of organising the Invasion Defence Service, Civil Defence District Officers and Post Area Officers were given similar positions in the I.D.S. but in addition to our own C.D. personnel some 5,700 people were enrolled specifically for I.D.S. work. The types of duties were very varied and recruits were organised to deal with fire-fighting, digging of trenches, erection of protective works, first-aid assistance on a street basis, assistance with evacuation, helping with emergency feeding, circulation of infor¬mation to the public and provision of gas-cleansing facilities in each street. A tremendous amount of work was involved, both at Headquarters and at District, Post and Street levels but the people concerned, at all stages, rendered most willing assistance and although, fortunately, the scheme was not required to be brought into operation, there is no doubt that had the need arisen the exist¬ence of the Invasion Defence Service would have meant a great deal to Walthamstow.

London Region were very diffident about allowing any expenditure except on postage and stationery and, as usual, matters had to be arranged either on the basis of a voluntary contribution or in some other unofficial way. The experiences in Belgium and France in 1940 had shown what a tremendous handicap to the Defenders movements of refugees on a large scale could be, and the Government's general approach to the question of Invasion Defence was a policy of " Stand Firm " in consequence of which various official pronouncements were made insisting that, if Invasion took place, the civilian population should remain in their ordinary place of residence and should not attempt to rush from one part of the Country to another.

During the Invasion Defence preparations, close liaison was maintained with the Home Guard, Police and National Fire Service, and amongst the most pleasant memories of a difficult time were those of the relationships which were established at various levels by Civil Defence and I.D.S. with their opposite numbers in the other three Services. Towards this end, and contributing considerably to the happy result, we established joint courses at Headquarters and District level which representatives of all the Services were invited to attend and at which each Service lectured on different aspects of its own Service insofar as they concerned Invasion Defence and the liaison which would be necessary between the different Services.

Various difficult points had to be cleared up in regard to movement of Civil Defence Services, more particularly as it was envisaged that the Anti-Tank Line Barrier (along Wadham Road and the Arterial Road) might have to be closed. Provision had to be made in such circumstancs for the passage of C.D. Services from one side of the Barrier to another and arrangements also had to be made so that, if necessary, a Sub-Control could be established at Selwyn Avenue School. This Sub-Control would, in certain circumstances, become a self-controlled unit and would take over the administration of all the I.D.S. Services north of the Tank Barrier.

In this connection various Heads of Services and Deputies were detailed to take up their posts at this Sub-Control, leaving the remainder of the Town to be organised and controlled from the Town Hall. In certain eventualities such as breakdown of communications, the Invasion Defence Officer would have assumed the same powers in respect of his area as the Regional Commissioner would be expected to assume in respect of London, i.e. the full powers of Government. In March, 1944, a large-scale exercise was conducted on paper in the Assembly Hall with a view to deciding what steps were necessary to strengthen the organisation in the event of Crash Raiding taking place such as might accompany Invasion of this country or, alternatively, an Invasion of Europe by this country.

A number of useful lessons were learnt from this exercise and various modifications made in our operational methods. Looking back it is amazing to see how varied were the matters which Invasion Defence touched, for they included not only the items mentioned above in regard to the recruits, but also the handling of emergency drinking water supplies, road repairs, public utility services, the possibility of Commando raids and the reporting of any suspicious movements, provision of animal feeding stuffs, provision of emergency food stores, the suppression of information likely to be of use to the enemy: all these and many more came within the ambit of the Invasion Defence Service.

It was so obvious to us from the beginning that Invasion Defence could only be organised by using the existing Civil Defence. W.V.S. and Fire Guard Organisation, that throughout we worked on the basis of expanding the existing organisations and, in the Booklet which was issued, it was indicated that in the event of necessity requiring the use of the Invasion Defence Scheme, the whole of the Services concerned would automatically be placed on a combined basis and organised as one Invasion Defence Service under the control of the Invasion Defence Officer.

Fortunately, the I.D.S. was never called upon to operate but the thousands who volunteered and the hundreds who performed many hours of work in connection with I.D.S. had the satisfaction of knowing that they had done their best to prepare to assist Walthamstow if required.

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