CHAPTER 2 COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE

General

It was obvious from the beginning of the Civil Defence Organisation that communications would play a vital part. Primarily, of course, telephones would be used to the extent that they could be provided and could be maintained in spite of raids, but in addition we had a number of messengers who took the messages from incidents to the telephoning point and between Districts and Headquarters in "lull" periods.

District Centre Telephones

Recognising the value of telephones and also the importance of having a flexible scheme, we had little or nothing in the way of private wires, (i.e., lines which operated between two telephones without any dialling and without passing through the Exchange switchboard), but, instead, concentrated on exchange lines and made provision for two lines at each of our District Centres: one to be reserved solely for calls to and from C.D. Headquarters, and the other to be used for communication with the Wardens Posts in that District. (On the line reserved for H.Q. an extension was provided to the First Aid Post so that the First Aid Post could also have direct contact with Headquarters as occasion required.)

This provided a greater flexibility than direct lines as, if one line were knocked-out, calls could be put through on the other line whether for Headquarters or for Wardens Posts. In order to provide continuance of service if a complete Telephone Exchange were wrecked, the two lines at each District Centre were on different Exchanges, one line being on its appropriate Exchange and the other running from a different Telephone Exchange. The relaying of messages from one Post to another also provided a further alternative in the event of telephones breaking down, and this was used in exercises to a much greater extent than, fortunately, ever became necessary in actual raiding conditions. On very few occasions were any lines out of action and generally, in these cases, alternative telephones were brought into use. Twice, however, we had to use messengers or to relay messages from one WarŽdens Post to the next and so to District Centre or H.Q.

C.D. Headquarters Telephones

At C.D. Headquarters ten Exchange lines were proŽvided, each being reserved for calls in connection with one of the ten Districts. No other calls were made on these lines and they were equipped with headgear receivers so that the Report Centre telephonists would have both hands free for dealing with message pads and forms on which they took down information received from the Districts.

Wardens Posts

In addition to the lines at C.D. H.Q., C.D. S.H.Q. and District Centres we had an Exchange line at each of our 58 Wardens Posts.

Administrative

Apart from the operational lines, C.D. H.Q. Report Staff also manned a switchboard connecting the various sections of the C.D. Administrative Office and certain outside premises.

Total Telephones

Ultimately our telephone equipment comprised:-

 
Exchange lines
Extensions
At Wardens Posts
58
10
At District Centres
20
2
At S.H.Q
8
At C.D. H.Q.
For Use to Districts
10
General
5
23
Extensions to outside
Group 7
1
N.F.S
1
Police
1
Home Guard (55th Essex & 8th C. of L.)
2
Rest Centre Control
1
S.H.Q
2
 
 
101
43

It will be observed that through our switchboard contact could be established with and between N.F.S., Police and Home Guard (55th Essex and 8th City of London). This was arranged in connection with Invasion Defence measures and provided a common point of contact for all interested services.

Staffing of Report Centre Telephones

The staffing of ten Districts and Headquarters was in itself a considerable problem with the number of personnel at our disposal and, in addition, for a long period, we also manned Shadow Headquarters with whole-time telephonists. The original establishment of whole-time personnel authorised was 102 but this was later cut to 51. After two telephonists - one on duty and one off - had been allocated to each District Centre, there were only 30 left for Headquarters and Shadow Headquarters and these numbers in turn were diminished by wastage which the Ministry of Labour found themselves unable to replace in the latter part of the War.

The whole-time personnel were, however, reinforced by part-timers in the evening and at week-ends and throughout the whole of our experience at no time were we let down by our Communications Service. Even when dealing with reports of damage to their own homes or relatives the Report Clerks never faltered-the job went on!

Staffing of "Shadow" Headquarters Premises

Shadow Headquarters was originally manned day and night by whole-time and part-time personnel but, later, day and night by part-timers only. During raid periods messages received at Headquarters were in every case transmitted by Headquarters in turn to Shadow Headquarters so that, if Headquarters were put out of action, Shadow Headquarters would be in a position to carry on with full information as to the disposition of the services. Each District Centre and Wardens Post also arranged for alternative premises with another teleŽphone, (frequently a private householder's residence), which could be used as their "Shadow" premises if their own were put out of action.

Messengers

The Messenger Service was part of Communications and the authorised establishment consisted of 20 per cent, whole-timers and 80 per cent, part-timers, although we were never able to recruit the full proportion of part-timers. The total establishment was 90, of which generally we had some 40 to 50 part-timers and between 12 and 18 whole-timers. The Messengers played an important part and although most of them were young and some of them were injured on the job, they saw to it that the messages got through.

Incident Records

In addition to the purely Communications functions of this Service, the Communications Officer and her staff were responsible for the compilation and preŽservation of the records of all messages in connection with each Incident. It will be realised that this was no light job when it is mentioned that there were approximately 1,300 incidents recorded in connection with which an average of from 20 to 30 messages for each incident would probably be a conservative estimate, the numbers varying from one message for an extinguished Incendiary Bomb to as many as 477 in the case of one particular Rocket.

Invasion Defence Service Records

The H.Q. Communications Section also made itself responsible for the Card Indices recording all volunteers under the I.D.S. The Cards contained the name and address of every person who volunteered and, in addition, recorded under "Service" sections the persons who had volunteered for each particular section, which in some cases meant three or four cards for one volunteer.

Assistance to Town Hall

In addition to the normal Service activities and to the record work referred to, assistance was also rendered to the Town Hall Departments on certain routine clerical work. Considerable help was given in this way from time to time. Very importantly also a large amount of record work was undertaken and arrangements made for the sending out of the Municipal Ambulances to accident and maternity cases and for ordinary bookings.

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