The volunteers of the Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) ensured Brandon was protected as best could be from enemy bombing. This included spotting for enemy aircraft and sounding the siren on the police station, reporting location of any bombing, casualties and damage, assisting in putting out fires, ensuring the town was ‘blacked out’ in hours of darkness, sending messages within various groups – Red Cross, Home Guard, etc; on sighting enemy aircraft above. Below are a few details of Brandon’s A.R.P.
In March 1938 the following people were recommended to be Brandon’s Air Raid Wardens …
- Rodney C Rought-Rought -Heath House, Brandon
- Cecil E Osborne – 51, High Street
- John Mills – 74, High Street
- Stanley R Hunt – 53, High Street
- Isaac F Mills – 120, London Road
- Frank R Green – 91, London Road
- William B Wood – 80, London Road
- Frederick G Carter – 6, Church End
- Alexander J Rolph – 137, London Road
- Cyril J Hammond – 222, London Road
Then in May that same year, further names were added …
- William Arthur Brearley – The Avenue, Brandon
- Percy Steggles – Thetford Road
- A Gascoigne – Thetford Road
- Sidney Chapman – Flint Hall, Brandon
- Charles Harvey – 122, London Road
- Edward Elmer – Mill Hill, Thetford Road
- Bert Kidd – 2, Manor Road, Brandon
- Stanley Lingwood – Manor Road
- Head Warden = Herbert Edwards, The Flintknappers Inn, Brandon
July 1938, saw more men added …
- Edward W Stebbing
- Richard B Clarke
- Harry Ernest Boughen
- Victor Robert Edwards
On the night of 9th/10th August 1939, between midnight and 4am, the whole of West Suffolk was blacked out. It seems the R.A.F. then flew above the county to assess the quality of ‘black out’ in the towns and villages. Then, later that month a huge A.R.P. exercise was carried out in Brandon. This was reported by a local newspaper …
THE GREAT BLACKOUT FOR THE R.A.F. EXERCISES – Following the huge Air Raid Precautions event taken across the region, Brandon was given a verdict of “very satisfactory” by all five umpires for responding so well to the four ‘incidents’ undertaken in the town, and particular praised was directed to Mr R.J. Woodrow who is the Parish Organiser. The exercises centred around a scenario where fictional enemy aircraft were intercepted by the R.A.F. and dumped their bomb loads on the town to escape quickly.
At the 1st incident was umpire Mr J Moore and he handed the A.R.P. wardens a sealed envelope with instructions that a wall had collapsed and had caused two casualties. This was the result of a High Explosive bomb exploding at the rear of the Flintknappers and this was simulated by the release of fireworks to simulate the explosion. The utility squads extracted the casualties.
At the 2nd incident a non-persistent gas bomb had exploded at the home of Mr H Mills and had caused four casualties suffering from the effects of gas inhalation. Here the umpire was Captain W.B. Wood.
The 3rd incident saw an incendiary bomb landing on a house and setting fire to the entire row of houses along Rattlers Road, and this was simulated by setting fire to a heap of bramble wood. The Brandon Fire Brigade, led by Captain B Olley, who were very quick on the scene and extinguished the fire, although three casualties had to be attended to. The umpire was Mr C Holmes.
The 4th incident centred a house near the Maltings that had been struck by a High Explosive bomb and been demolished. Again the utility squads attended and rescued three casualties from the debris. The umpire was Mr J Miles, and the medical umpire was Dr E.V. Beaumont.
There were twelve ‘casualties’, who taken from the scene by Brandon Ambulance, Messrs Lingwood with their lorry, which was driven by Mr C Field, and various private cars, including those belonging to Messrs Holmes & Sons, Mr S Chapman and Mr Wentworth-Smith.
Leading the response to the incidents were the A.R.P. wardens who held their Headquarters at the Flintknappers Hotel. Chief Warden – Mr H Edwards, Parish Organiser – Mr R.J. Woodrow. The Red Cross Headquarters was positioned at the Paget Hall and was led by Mrs Wentworth-Smith and Mr Edwards, and the Utility Squad, led by Mr F Holmes, held its Headquarters at Mr F Froud’s shop. Also involved were twelve Special Constables, led by Dept. Section Leader B.A.M. Lingwood, who were on duty from 11.30pm to ensure that all lights were extinguished and the black out was observed across the town. Police Sergeant Adams and Police Constable Smith were also on duty throughout the exercise. Captain J.A. Whitaker travelled the Brandon district, including Lakenheath and Elveden, to observe the black out outside of the town.
The Parish Council members attended the ‘incidents’ by special invitation and later sat at the Paget Hall where the Chairman, Mr H Lingwood, congratulated all concerned on the smoothness of the exercise.
Incidentally, Thetford did not take an active part of this huge exercise that was undertaken across the region.
Air raid siren
In November 1939, it was announced that Brandon’s air raid siren, located on top of the fire station on George Street, would be tested on the first Sunday of each month to ensure it was in good working order. The test commenced with the sounding of a steady note – for thirty seconds; followed immediately by not more than twenty five seconds of the ‘Action Warning Signal’. It concluded with a steady note for one minute. Brandon’s first siren test took place in December and the siren was situated on the roof of the Police Station, along London Road.
ANOTHER A.R.P. EXERCISE
In April 1940, another large scale A.R.P. exercise was carried out in Brandon. Three top West Suffolk A.R.P. officials were in attendance.
- Mr Reginald J. Woodrow, Brandon Parish A.R.P. Organiser and his staff held their Headquarters at the club room in the Flintknappers. Also assisting in carrying out the exercise were Mr Herbert Edwards (Chief Warden), Mrs H Wentworth-Smith (Women’s Red Cross) and Mr B Olley (men’s Red Cross), and the latter held their Headquarters in the Old School House. Police Sergeant J.A. Adams and Police Constable L Johnson were on duty throughout. The exercise was to see how reporting of incidents was undertaken and observing the treatment of casualties.
- 1st incident – at the Fox and Hounds pub, Thetford Road. Two casualties reported, caused by anti-aircraft splinters.
- 2nd incident – at the back of the Ram Hotel where a high explosive bomb had detonated and caused five casualties.
- 3rd incident – an unexploded bomb had been reported in ground just west of Mile End, Brandon.
After the exercise, Mr Creese (County Organiser A.R.P.) claimed he was very impressed with the common sense and co-ordination of those involved and Dr Roger (County Medical Officer) said the First Aid given was excellent. They were both pleased with the spirit of the A.R.P. in Brandon.