Citizens at war

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Our citizens at war

Along with other communities the residents of Sprowston played a role in the First World War. In many cases the women folk took on jobs normally fulfilled by the men who were now in the armed forces. Even those who did not take on these roles would frequently be busy fundraising or making items of clothing for those serving at the front, soldiers’ comforts as they were called.

The Second World War was to again bring about the replacement of much of the male labour by female within manufacturing and transport. This war was to be "total war" unlike the First World War the civilian population became targets in bombing raids known as the Blitz. Many civilians were to volunteer for groups to fulfil specific duties necessary during this onslaught.

Air Raid Wardens

Initially there was the ARP wardens which was soon re-formed as the Civil Defence their initial job of making sure the blackout was observed rapidly extended. During air raids they would shepherd the public into the shelters before patrolling the streets reporting to HQ bombings and dealing with incendiary devices and would call if necessary the Auxiliary Fire Service, Rescue Parties and First Aid Parties to deal with casualties.

First Aid Posts

The provision of first aid facilities came within the readmit of Civil Defence who set up static posts where members of the public who if injured could either go or be taken to for medical attention. Where these were in Sprowston is a matter of conjecture although it is reported that one existed at St Cuthbert's Church or the vicarage and one was sited at the Barnard's factory on Salhouse Road. This system of taking casualties to these posts was quite sufficient except for large scale incidents. To get over this as with many areas Sprowston had a dedicated mobile first aid post which could attend any of the larger incidents. To distinguish the personnel associated with these mobile first aid posts, their black helmets had the initials F A P in white although the doctors had white helmets lettered in black which while they were out in the field making identification easy. We are lucky to have a number of images of the Sprowston FAP doing a training exercise at Moreton Hall near Lenwade. Unfortunately, the quality is not particularly good as they are frames taken from a cine film made by Clifford Blyth. The Sprowston mobile unit was led by Dr Rudolph Carlson a local GP assisted by his brother.

Auxiliary Fire Service

This was a gain an organisation based on volunteers who frequently had other full-time occupations. Originally purely local it was impossible to to assist in another area as there was no standard fittings countrywide. This was quickly addressed and the AFS became the National Fire Service, whilst volunteers the government had the right of secondment and some Sprowston people found themselves as firemen in the large cities.

Local Defence Volunteers

Originally set up with this name it soon became changed to the Home Guard. As the original name implied everyone was a volunteer, many were too old to be conscripted but had full-time jobs. Other members were in reserved occupations but the small number were those not yet old enough to be called up. One of our late residents has left us with a vivid picture of the local platoon which is well worth a read.

Women's Voluntary Service

Once again a totally voluntary organisation who provided invaluable help during World War II and beyond. Its main aim originally was to make everybody aware of the potential hazards of the coming war. This remit changed dramatically as soon as war started organising evacuations and distributing aid to victims of the bombing. In this same vein they took over from the ARP the job of locating citizens who had been displaced by bombing. For soldiers and volunteers in the other services there was the always a welcome sight of a Women's Voluntary Service tea wagon dispensing drink and food as necessary.

Women's Institute

This institution carried on with the same principles as when it was formed in 1915. In the Second World War everything went into a form of overdrive. Always famous for their jam making the production of this commodity reached epic proportions. Their skills in cooking and needlework put them in a good position to instruct in the art of make do and mend and preserving fruit and vegetables. As with WVS their countrywide network made it easy for them to arrange the distribution and placement of the child evacuees from the large cities.

Boy Scouts and Girl Guides

These as well as members of the Boys Brigade and other organisations were able to contribute to the war effort. The older Scouts would often be used as messengers between the other organisations. From the recollections of one resident he found it quite exciting pedalling into a recently bombed city to deliver a message to HQ. No guides have come forward to say they did this but gave assistance to residents requiring help.