CHAPTER 20 TRANSPORT

One of the most difficult Services to organise was the Transport Service. No whole-time supervisory personnel were provided under the Government's scheme, with the result that either each head of Service (unpaid of course) had to organise his own transport separately, or some individual had to be found who would undertake voluntarily to organise four hundred vehicles and drivers for the whole of A.R.P., A.F.S. and ancillary Services. The one who volunteered for this Service had a rough time.

Initially it was expected by the Government that all vehicles would be provided on a voluntary and unpaid basis. This, however, was soon found to be impracticable and authority was then given, (but not until after the war had commenced), for the requisition of a limited number of vehicles. Requisitioned vehicles were expensive, however, as the hire charges laid down would soon have paid for the vehicles without any change of ownership taking place, and it was then decided that vehicles could be purchased at prices not exceeding those laid down from time to time by the Ministry of Home Security. These prices were so low that the only vehicles available were old crocks, and thousands or pounds must have been wasted in London Region by the purchase of such vehicles, simply because no other vehicles could be bought at the authorised prices.

It was not until late 1943 and early 1944 that a few new vehicles were made available to us and, in the meantime, the expenditure on maintenance of the second-hand vehicles previously purchased would have more than paid for complete new vehicles several times over. Originally, the Government apparently expected that drivers would be part-time volunteers but this became obviously impracticable when, at the outbreak of war, people were required to be available at any hour of day or night. Accordingly, whole-time drivers were recruited in the various Services, and their training fell into two parts: on the one hand, they required training as drivers-or at least testing to ensure that they could already drive-and, on the other hand, training in their appropriate Service, whether it were Ambulance or Stretcher Bearer.

Free driving licences were provided subject to the proviso that the driver gave an undertaking that he would not use his driving licence except for ARP work. Free insurance was also provided and, for maintenance of vehicles, the Council set up its own Maintenance Section under the Borough Engineer's Department. Our A.R.P. Transport Headquarters was located at the Winn's Avenue School and for some months a reserve of vehicles was held at that place in order to supplement any deficiencies which might arise owing to breakdown of vehicles or illness of drivers at the various District Centres.

When the first cut in Civil Defence Services took place, Transport Headquarters was abolished and all remaining vehicles were dispersed over the ten Districts, the Chief Transport Officer from then onwards operating from his own Council Office. No transport was provided for C.D. Headquarters - an obvious gap in the official scheme - and we were reduced to using Ambulance Service or Stretcher Bearer vehicles to provide for Headquarters needs. It was not until 1942 that we were able to obtain approval for two Staff cars and for the provision of a team of drivers to deal with these two cars and with the C.D. Canteens which had been in existence for some two years previously. At that stage, we had four canteens, two staff cars and three emergency feeding vans and, for these nine vehicles, we were allowed nine drivers, which meant that allowing for one of the nine drivers to be away on leave or rest we were provided with four drivers on duty for nine vehicles to be serviced.

Even these nine drivers were not provided with uniforms and we were only able to issue C.D. uniforms to them because they were enrolled as part-timers in one of the other C.D. Services. That the Transport Service played its part well was shown by the tact that despite its deficiencies in respect of quality of vehicles we always had vehicles and drivers available when an Incident occurred - which only shows what improvisation, faith and tenacity can do!

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