Fire Watcher Impression

In August 1941 Fire Guards were set up as part of the warden system. Their role was to observe bombs as they fell and deal with incendiary bombs as quickly as possible in order to prevent small fires building to larger conflagrations. By May 1942 it became compulsory for every civilian not otherwise engaged in civil defence activities to take on fire guard duties. Businesses were also required to set up fire watchers using their employees and rotas were set up to ensure all workers had to take their turn after their shift watching for incendiaries. This month’s impression shows one of these workers, at a light engineering company, taking his turn as a fire watcher. 

This worker is wearing the blue overalls he would usually wear for work but has added several items for his evening’s duty. He has drawn a pair of wellington boots from the company’s stores, together with a black Mk II civil defence helmet. He wears a Fire Guard armlet on his sleeve to show his duty. He is equipped with a civil duty gas mask in its rough cotton haversack. 

  1. Civil Duty respirator and haversack 
  2. Fire Guard arm band 
  3. Blue cotton overalls 
  4. Wellington boots 
  5. Black Mk II civilian helmet 

Margaret Snowball was one of those who took part in the Fire Watching scheme: 

Once a fortnight, Norma and I had to go into an upstairs room in the building opposite to where we worked. We spent the time from when we closed the office until 9.30pm to ensure that if there were any incendiary bombs dropped during an air raid, we would be on hand to put them out. Thankfully, we never had to put our skills with a stirrup pump to the test. We had all the gear in this room, the pump, the water buckets, axes and tin hats. I was very glad we were not put to the test, because I not very much faith in myself in being able to cope with a stirrup pump. We had been given tuition on how they worked, but I had never actually handled one. Mary, another colleague, who lived out of town, was excused this duty as the last buses left town at 9.30pm. Trams didn’t stop until an hour later. 

The men who worked in neighbouring offices and shops did the fire watching duty from 9.30 pm till morning. They were able to sleep if there were no air raids

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