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Posts Tagged ‘air raid wardens’

I recently received what I have been calling “my latest treasure box.” In it, I received a large amount of family memorabilia, much of which had probably not seen the light of day in at least 20 years. One of the items in it was a pad containing the same form over and over, with a piece of carbon paper behind each form, and a second form behind each piece of carbon, to create a duplicate. This is what the form looks like:

Cincinnati Wardens Report Book

Cincinnati Citizens' Defense Corps Warden's Incident Report Book and accompanying handwritten note, both in possession of author.

The handwritten note pictured with the pad was found inside of it. The note is in my grandfather’s handwriting.  I had no idea that he had volunteered to do this until I opened the box and reviewed the contents. I posted the scan on a genealogy site, and got some responses from researchers who had a female relative that volunteered to sit in a tower watching for planes that might be coming to raid New England during WWII, as according to them, some areas of New England were considered prime targets for German air attacks. One of them suggested that this was a report pad for an Air Raid Warden, and that since Procter & Gamble is based in Cincinnati and was making items for the war, perhaps Cincinnati was also considered a top possible target.

Meanwhile, I looked for information on my own about all of this. I couldn’t really find anything online about the Cincinnati branch, so I focused in on searching for the Citizens’ Defense Corps without specifying a place. I found a small informational book that was published by the Office of Civilian Defense, a branch of the US government at the time, and had been scanned online – U. S. Citizens Defense Corps. It appears to be framed as a recruiting tool, describing the different tasks and qualifications for each role in the Corps. This is some of what it has to say about Air Raid Wardens:

The Air Raid Wardens are to many people the personal representatives of Civilian Defense. They are not policemen and do not have police powers, but usually function as part of the police force and with its help.

An Air Raid Warden’s post is organized to serve a unit of 500 people. It is accessible and plainly marked. Since at least one person is always on duty, four Air Raid Wardens usually are assigned to each post.

The Air Raid Warden’s duties include: (1) Observing lights showing during a black-out and warning occupants of the building; (2) directing persons in the streets to shelter;  (3) reporting to the Control Center any fallen bombs; (4) reporting fires to the Control Center and assisting in fighting incendiary bombs as soon as they fall; (5) detecting and reporting to the Control Center the presence of gas; (6) administering elementary first aid; (7) assisting victims in damaged buildings; (8) to set an example of cool efficiency under all conditions.

The booklet also says that a lot of training was required to qualify for the position – 10 hours of first aid; 3 hours of fire defense; 5 hours of gas defense; 5 “general” hours; and 2 hours of drills. I wondered, after reading the booklet, if perhaps the note stuck in the pad was from one of the classes my grandfather took.

My grandfather never served a day of military service in his life. But I already knew from a newspaper clipping the family had saved, and a candid photo that a photographer had taken and then sold to my grandfather, that my grandfather was heavily involved in selling war bonds, which fit well with the grandfather I knew, someone who had been involved in the financial industry the entire time I knew him. But my grandfather is definitely not the first person I would have thought of as volunteering to go around a city identifying what type of bomb had been dropped, getting people to safety, and tending to the injured. So far I have not determined whether the Citizens’ Defense Corps records survive and if so, who holds them. The pad and note meant enough to my grandfather to hold on to until he died, but whether he completed his Air Raid Warden training and served as a lookout over the city he so loved, I don’t know for sure, although his having the pad suggests that perhaps he did. However, just the fact that he volunteered to do so illustrates a theme I find over and over in my research, both with relatives I knew and people far distant in time – each record, each story, each photograph only tells a tiny snippet of the full life of an individual.

I had been meaning to write this post since I scanned the pad, and I was inspired to do so this evening by Corn and Cotton’s post, Maritime Monday: Liberty Ships.

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