The Decontamination Service was one of those "Cinderella" services in respect of which Region recognised the necessity but refused to accept the responsibility. Acting on the pre-war recommendation of the Government, the work was allocated to the Cleansing Department and, when war broke out, the service was at full strength of 112 men, all fully trained, and "stand-by squads" were put into operation immediately, both day and night. After the first few months the Government refused to accept any financial responsibility for such arrangements and, there-after, the service was reorganised on a purely voluntary part-time basis. At no period, however, from the outbreak of war was there less than one squad on duty either by night or by day whenever the normal work of the Cleansing Department was not proceeding.

Although the needs of the Decontamination Service were particularly arduous, a Service which required young, hardy and muscular personnel found itself limited for its recruitment, (under the arrangements imposed by the Government), to a class of men which had already been combed for the Armed Forces and Industry and, by the removal of the younger and more active members, consisted largely of older men. They, however, did their best, and if they had been called upon to do any decontamination work would have given an excellent account of themselves. Training was given, (principally by members of the Cleansing Department staff who had qualified as Instructors), both during official working hours and periods of stand-by duty, but the frequent changes in personnel, by reason of men being called up or leaving the service, meant that at any one time there was seldom more than about 80 per cent, fully trained and it was impossible to keep up the authorised establishment of 112 men.

The decontamination of roads, buildings and their contents was the primary function of the service, but in addition they were expected to staff the Laundry established for the decontamination of protective clothing of the Civil Defence Services and Armed Forces, etc., and to supervise the decontamination of civilian clothing under arrangements made with a local laundry where special equipment was supplied and installed. Another responsibility was the provision and maintenance of the Gas Detector Boards of which 421 were provided throughout the town. Although, fortunately, the men of the service had no actual decontamination work to do except for training purposes, they were, however, used for the clearing-up after oil bombs and for phosphorus splashes when phosphorus incendiary bombs were dropped in the Borough.

In addition, they were used for the clearance of debris from the roads during H.E. or F.B. attacks in order to provide easier access for other services and, from March 1943, provided the staff for maintaining and operating the Mortuary Van.

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