by Laura Reeves
My favourite thing about working with collections is that you never quite know what objects you will come across, and sometimes an object really strikes you as something special. Whilst accessioning donations at the Museum of Norwich, I was lucky enough to have one of those WOW moments.
One of our donations was an Air Raid Warden’s first aid kit.
The first aid kit contained 27 different pieces and a Warden’s Report Form. This object wowed me for two reasons. Firstly, I have been working in Collections Management for 7 months now and in that time I have built up a strong adoration for a nicely packed box, and this first aid kit is a fine example of efficient use of space. Secondly, my Great Grandpa was an Air Raid Warden in the Midlands and I’ve never known much about his role, and this box uncovers some details about Air Raid Wardens’ work.
ARP wardens did an awful lot more than enforce the Blackout and issue gas masks. Wardens had posts set up in purpose built facilities or they would use houses, shops or other offices – each post would then be split into sectors, and three to six wardens would be responsible for each sector. In these sectors wardens would sound air raid sirens, marshal people into the shelters and watch out for any bombs falling in their sector. This work would be carried out during air raids and was therefore very dangerous as they would be at risk from bombs, shrapnel and falling masonry.
ARP wardens had to be local to their sector, because they needed to know a huge amount of detail about the people living there. Wardens needed to know how many people lived in each house, where they all slept and what their air raid precautions were, so should the worst happen, they would know who to look for in amongst the rubble and where they were most likely to be. Wardens would always be first on scene. They were required to administer first aid for minor casualties, put out small fires and organise the emergency response.
First aid kits like these were owned by air raid wardens, but also families during the war as advised by the Home Office. They were designed to help people cope with injuries before ambulances were able to arrive, they contained bandages, safety pins, tweezers, iodine and an array of burn dressings. There was a variety of these kits available, and many were issued by “Boots”. Each bandage is labelled with clear instructions on how to treat patients.
This kit was donated alongside a Wardens Report Form, these were used to feedback information to their posts, and they were vital for saving lives and protecting important buildings from damage. This form provides details of an air raid that took place on 12th August 1944 on the Cromer Road and Reepham Road junction. The attack took place at 3:37am and claimed one casualty who died from shock.
This donation was a real privilege to document, it demonstrates the power of museum collections to open up opportunities for conversations and personal discovery. Everyone has a story to tell and museums have an important role in protecting these for the future.