Civil Defence Armbands

Britain’s Civil Defence services continued in existence after the end of the Second World War, with a new emphasis on supporting the civilian population if war came from the Soviet Union. Emphasis also changed to add the threat of atomic warfare to the existing need to deal with the aftermath of a conventional bombing raid. As the 1950s dawned, armbands were produced in their millions to be issued to Civil Defence personnel in the event of war. Very few of these armbands were ever actually used and in the last twenty years huge quantities have come onto the collectors’ market for pocket money prices- indeed one of the armbands below was purchased by myself for 50p when I was 12 years old! They are a little pricier today, but most examples can still be bought for a few pounds. I now have examples of four different armbands:

The quality of the embroidery on these armbands is excellent and they are certainly far superior to the armbands used during World War II. As well as the plain ‘Civil Defence Corps’ armband, examples can be found with lettering beneath reading ‘Warden’, ‘Welfare’, ‘Rescue’, ‘Headquarters’, ‘Casualty Collection’ (this armband is on a white background rather than yellow) and ‘Ambulance’. I have also seen a very rare armband that was used for parties decontaminating food, but I cannot remember the exact wording on that particular armband.

The armbands can be found embroidered with both King’s and Queen’s crowns on them:

Both patterns are dated in the early to mid 1950s so the older pattern seems to have continued in manufacture even after Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne. The rear of the armbands is stamped with details of manufacturer, year and a stores code, usually in purple ink:

The armbands were something of a departure for the British, being adjusted with a white metal buckle- previous arm bands had either been of a single size, or used press studs to alter the size.

Although they did not see much service, these armbands are a great little area of collecting and assuming that both crowns were produced for all the titles listed above, that makes at least 16 different armbands to collect. Some are very cheap, others more expensive but it would be a fun project to track all the variants down.

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