Catalogue description Air Raid Precautions Department, Ministry of Home Security, Civil Defence and Common Services Department and Emergency Planning Department

Details of Division within HO
Reference: Division within HO
Title: Air Raid Precautions Department, Ministry of Home Security, Civil Defence and Common Services Department and Emergency Planning Department

Records of the Ministry of Home Security, which lasted the duration of the Second World War, and of Home Office departments dealing with similar security and emergency measures, such as the Air Raid Precautions Department, Civil Defence and Common Services Department and Emergency Planning Department.

Records concerning air raid precautions are in HO 186, HO 208, HO 211 and HO 216; of air raid shelters in HO 200 and HO 205; of the Chief Engineer's Department in HO 197; of civil defence in HO 207, HO 312, HO 322, HO 357 and HO 403; of finance in HO 194; of fire services in London, in HO 209; concerning home security reports in HO 202 and HO 203; concerning Intelligence in HO 199, HO 201, HO 315 and HO 402; of internal notices in HO 333; of the regions in HO 204 and HO 206; of the Research and Experiments Department in HO 191, HO 192, HO 193, HO 195, HO 196, HO 198, HO 210, HO 212, HO 216 and HO 217; and of the UK Warning and Monitoring Organisation in HO 393.

War Legislation (WL Symbol Series) files: HO 513.

Date: 1925-1987
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Home Office, Air Raid Precautions Department, 1935-1939

Home Office, Civil Defence Department, 1945-1968

Ministry of Home Security, 1939-1945

Ministry of Home Security, Air Raid Precautions Department, 1939-1945

Ministry of Home Security, Air Raid Precautions Department, Research and Experiments Branch, 1939-1940

Ministry of Home Security, Research and Experiments Department, 1940-1945

Physical description: 35 series
Administrative / biographical background:

Air Raid Precautions Department

The department was formed in March 1935 to supervise civil defence measures throughout the UK, as recommended by two Air Raid Precautions Committees of the Committee of Imperial Defence: the Ministerial Committee on Policy and the Official Committee on Organisation. These committees were dissolved in July 1936 and the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Department became the central civil defence authority. In Dec 1937 the department was charged with the duty of approving schemes prepared by local authorities under the Air Raid Precautions Act 1937. In Oct 1938 general responsibility for civil defence, subject to the statutory authority of the Home Secretary, was committed to the Lord Privy Seal, who took charge of the ARP Department, which lost its planning role. The department dealt with the current administration of ARP measures while the Lord Privy Seal's Office moved into the Home Office to undertake the planning and co-ordination of civil defence.

The ARP Department had two main branches: a Deputy Under-Secretary's (administrative) and an Inspector General's (technical).

The Deputy Under-Secretary's Branch had two divisions, J Division (approval of statutory schemes) and L Division (planning the protection of public utilities and, and doing secretarial work for the Committee of Imperial Defence committees and the Heads of Divisions Council). The branch dealt with current ARP measures, legislation, parliamentary and establishment matters.

The Inspector General's Branch had three divisions: Training and Technical Division; Supply Division; and Chief Inspector's Division, responsible for the regional inspectorate. The branch dealt with the organisation, training and inspection of local authority civil defence units.

Common service divisions existed outside these branches, including the Chief Medical Adviser, Chief Technical Adviser, Chief Intelligence Officer, Chief Instructor and Establishment Division.

In Jan 1939 O Division was formed (air raid shelters), and the Chief Technical Adviser's Branch became the Chief Engineer's Branch. In Feb 1939 a Research and Experiments Branch was established; in April twelve regional commissioners were appointed.

Ministry of Home Security

The Ministry of Home Security was established on the outbreak of war in Sept 1939 by an order under the Ministers of the Crown (Emergency Appointments) Act 1939, which transferred to the Minister the statutory powers of the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Lord Privy Seal. Sir John Anderson, former Lord Privy Seal, was appointed Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security. His new department was formed from the Lord Privy Seal's Office and the Home Office ARP Department, but also recruited staff from other government departments and local authorities. It also took over the Industrial Air Raid Precautions Division of the Air Ministry.

The Ministry's functions fell into two main categories: co-ordination of civil defence services provided by other departments; and direction of its own central and regional services and local authority civil defence services. They included the approval of ARP schemes and oversight of local authority civil defence services, provision of shelters, issue of air raid warnings (from 1943), supply of ARP equipment and co-ordination and supervision of the civil defence regional organisation, which included the Civil Defence Rescue Service, Air Raid Warden Service, Fire Guard Service, Shelter Service, Women's Voluntary Service and the Civil Defence Reserve.

Regional civil defence offices under 12 regional commissioners were responsible for the co-ordination and, after May 1940, direction of local authority services. Regional war rooms collected information concerning raids and transmitted it to the central Home Security War Room.

In 1939 the Ministry was organised in five divisions: Air Raid Precautions Department; Fire and Police Services Division; Public Relations and Civil Defence Personnel Division; Regional Organisation Division and the Home Security War Room; and the Inspector General's Department. There were also a Supplies Directorate, Finance Division, Chief Engineer's Department, Intelligence Branch, Key Points Intelligence Directorate and a Research and Experiments Department which included a Fire Research Division, Technical Intelligence Division and Bomb Census Field Organisation, and Camouflage Directorate. The Ministry was dissolved in May 1945, its residual functions going to the Home Office.

Ministry of Home Security, Research and Experiments Department

In Jan 1939 Dr R E Stradling was appointed as the Home Office's Chief Adviser on Research and Experiment, and in February a Research and Experiments Branch was created within the ARP Department. The Chief Adviser was responsible for supervising and co-ordinating research and experimental work carried out on behalf of the ARP Department, and for advising on structural precautions matters to other government departments, local authorities, industry and the public.

The branch was a directorate of research, functioning with committees dealing with different fields of research. In May 1939 the Lord Privy Seal set up a Civil Defence Research Committee to advise on a programme of research and experiment. It conducted its work through many sub-committees and panels. In June 1940 the branch became a department with HQ at Princes Risborough. It consisted of 6 sections including a Technical Intelligence Section. By March 1942 3 more sections were formed, including a Fire Research Division. The Civil Defence Camouflage Establishment was part of the department from May 1940 to Feb 1941, when it became the Camouflage Directorate at Leamington. On the dissolution of the Ministry in May 1945 the department was split between the Air Ministry, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Ministry of Works.

Civil Defence Department

The functions and structure of the UK's post-war civil defence organisation were established by the Civil Defence Act 1948, and administered by the Home Office Civil Defence Department. This Department initially consisted of J1 and J2 Divisions (Administration); P Division (Planning); O Division (Shelters), originally created by the Ministry of Home Security; Q Division (Equipment and Transport), which evolved from the Ministry of Home Security; Q1, Q2 and Q3 Divisions; Training Branch; and Intelligence Branch.

During the 1950s, P Division was divided into P1 and P2 Divisions (1951); Training Branch became T Division (1954); O and Q Divisions were merged to form a single O/Q Division (1955); and to J1 and J2 was added J3 Division. In 1961, the Department was re-organised into five 'G' Divisions, which in turn became 'A' Divisions in 1962. Much of the co-ordination and execution of inter-departmental civil defence planning was undertaken by the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff (CDJPS) from 1948 until 1955, when it was reconstituted as the Civil Defence Planning Committee within the Cabinet Committee structure.

Following a decision to reduce substantially the scale of civil defence operations and organisation, the Civil Defence Department was subsumed into the Civil Defence and Common Services Department in 1968, before its responsibilities were taken over by F6 Division of the Police Department in 1970. F6 Division was transferred into the newly-formed Fire and Emergency Planning Department in 1984, and was re-named the Emergency Planning (or EP) Division in July 1989.

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