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Frank Howcroft - The Diary of an Air Raid Warden - November 1940
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Bolton ARP Handbook


Nov 1 1940

An “alert” sounded at 20-03 hours and after a preliminary patrol I met the other wardens at our meeting place. It was rather dark, but not pitch black. The heavy rain of recent days had stopped so that was a good job. It was very quiet locally although there was some activity in the Liverpool district. We stayed out for a while then went into our meeting place. We had not been there many minutes when “Raiders Passed” sounded at 20-56.

Nov 5 1940

Having had a respite of a few days free from any warnings we were interrupted in our sleep at 00-50. I hastily dressed and went out into the street, whistling as I walked. Darkness covered the earth, and fog made visibility worse still. Anyway, we managed to make contact, but there were only three arrivals in all, sickness and night work and overtime accounted for this. It was cold and bleak listening for aircraft, so after a time we repaired to our meeting place and lit the stove. It seemed a bad night for bombing owing to the blackness, and any bombing would have to be haphazard. No aircraft came our way and we were glad to hear the “Raiders Passed” signal at 01-35 hours. We immediately dispersed and went home to renew our disturbed rest. At 21-28 hours an “alert” sounded but there was nothing doing, the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 21-43.

Nov 6 1940

The sirens sounded the “alert” at 04-45. Once again all was quiet and we were aroused from sleep for the purpose of awakening others. We were glad to hear the “Raiders Passed” signal at 05-22 hours.

Nov 8 1940

The sirens sounded the action warning at 11-15 but two bombs had been dropped before the sirens were heard. The raid was of short duration, the “Raiders Passed” sounding at 11-30 hours. Another “alert” at 19-55. As I was on post duty, I could not carry out my customary initial patrol. We have another warden out of commission. R.Hubberstey having been admitted to hospital as a scarlet fever suspect. All was quiet, and “Raiders Passed” sounded at 20-53 hours.

Nov 9 1940

At 15-40 hours an “alert” sounded but I could not go on duty at once and before I was ready to do so the “Raiders Passed” signal went at 15-55. Heavy rain was falling all the time.

Another “alert” sounded at 19-37 and I went out at once. The rain was still falling, not having abated for many hours. A bad day for flying. I should imagine. We did not hear any aircraft nor bombing. We had not long to wait before the sirens released us from duty at 19-53 hours, so we immediately returned home to get dry. Out again into the driving rain at 22-20. I had just retired for the night (as I hoped) but was very soon out and about. As soon as we all made contact and could hear no aircraft about, we went to our rendezvous and lit the stove and lamp and waited the signal to go home. This came at 23-15 hours and we were not again disturbed.

Nov 10 1940

The sirens had us on duty again at 20-20 hours. The wardens all met at the rendezvous and as everything was quiet we went inside and lit the stove and lamp. Whilst inside the rain began to fall and it looks as though we shall have to get used to wet weather now. When the “Raiders Passed” signal sounded at just after 21-00 hours it was raining hard so we made for home at once.

Nov 12 1940

An “alert” sounded at 20-45 hours and I was outside as soon as possible. The rain, which had been falling heavily all day, had temporarily ceased, and in its place was a strong biting wind. It seemed to us impossible flying weather, but the sirens sounded and we must therefore turn out. We did not hear any aircraft about so we went into our rendezvous and lit up. Soon the stove was cheering us with its warm glow and it is good to think that we have such a place to shelter from the elements. The sirens freed us from duty at 21-20 hours.

Nov 14 1940

At 22-45 hours an “alert” sounded and I came downstairs at once and went out to do my usual patrol. Three wardens only came on duty. The moon was brilliant and targets could be easily spotted. It was cold too, with more than a suspicion of frost, and we had continually to keep on the move for warmth. For a time all was quiet, and we thought we should soon be having a quick getaway. Then a plane was heard flying Southward and all at once four great crashes rent the air as the bombs hit the earth. Then all went quiet again, so we went to our meeting place and lit the lamp and stove. We also put the kettle on the stove in order to brew tea. The kettle was almost on the boil and the tea already in the jug when the sirens sounded “Raiders Passed” at 23-57. We immediately left for home without a drink.

Nov 15 1940

Another “alert” sounded at 04-23. Again we met as usual and all was quiet. We re-lit our stove and put on the kettle again, and sat waiting for the water to boil. This had not happened when the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 04-55, so we waited until it did, and we had a drink of hot tea and were satisfied. We did not want to be frustrated for a second time. There was a further “alert” at 14-05 hours but, as is usual in daylight, the raid was of short duration, the “Raiders Passed” sounding at 14-50. The sirens sounded at 21-45 and coincided with a heavy downpour of rain. As the length of this alert was only ten minutes, “Raiders Passed” sounding at 21-55. I wonder if our fighters have contacted the Hun, given him battle, and brought him down.

Nov 18 1940

After two nights of uninterrupted sleep the sirens caused a rude awakening at the early time of 03-20 hours. I hastily dressed and went outside only to return at once for an extra coat as there was a heavy downpour of rain. What an awakening. Anyway, I went round the area to whistle the “alert”, and then contacted Messrs Brabin and Chadwick. No other turned up. We soon went into our rendezvous and soon the stove was burning merrily, and we sat down, all very glad to be under cover and not far away from any point of the area. We did hear a plane overhead, but it passed on and we heard nothing further. A few minutes after 04-00 hours the “Raiders Passed” sounded so we dispersed and returned to our homes in the still pouring rain. The sirens sounded the “alert” at 21-15. This was rather strange as the raid was in progress, having previously been off for over an hour. After patrolling the area we contacted, and it was not long before the Bosche arrived. Soon, big guns helped him on his way, and he flew towards Manchester where we saw flashes lighting up the sky momentarily. There was also some activity in the Warrington direction. When all went quiet we went into our rendezvous for a drink of tea, and while thus pleasantly employed the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 22-05, so we all drank up, put out the lamp and stove, and went home. We were not left long in peace however, for at 22-34 we were again on duty. It was quite light outside, the moon having risen to full brilliance. There was an aircraft overhead, but he was at a great height. Nothing occurred on this occasion, and before we had thought of going into our rendezvous the sirens sounded again at 22-49 so we immediately set a course for home to await the next call.

Nov 19 1940

As was expected Jerry came again but a few hours had elapsed before the sirens awakened us at 06-22. It was a glorious morning. The moon was very bright and threw into relief a host of small clouds, and the scene looked very beautiful indeed. But somewhere in that sky, death lurked seeking victims. The Hun passed right overhead and soon the “AA” barrage was seen in action in the Southwest direction. It must have been too hot, for the aircraft came back and flew away Eastwards. Shortly afterwards the “Raiders Passed” signal sounded at 07-07 hours. The sirens sounded the “alert” at 19-22 and at once I went out to patrol the area. On my way round I noticed several houses where the blackout was not conforming to regulations, so the occupants had to be informed. As soon as we made contact trouble began in the Southwest district. It appeared that a fire had been started, but if so, it was soon got under control. The Hun were soon chased out however, and the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 20-00hours. We then left for home, but before arrival there the “alert” sounded again at 20-10. Jerry must have double backed on his tracks, and it was left to us to go round the area again serenading the neighbours with our whistles. Once again we made contact at the rendezvous and kept a lookout for a time. It was dark as the moon had not yet risen. We went inside our meeting place and stayed until we heard the “Raiders Passed” at 20-55. The Bosche seems very persistent tonight for we were called again at 21-30. Once again round the area, and then to our contact point. This time Jerry was nearer and we saw many flashes lighting up the sky. Towards the East big guns let fly at him and he answered with a heavy calibre bomb. There was aerial activity in several quarters simultaneously. When all went quiet we retired to our shelter and sat beside the stove and had a cup of tea. It was not as dark this time, as the moon had risen and we were able to see our way about better than on previous “alerts” this evening. At 22.55 hours we heard the “Raiders Passed” sound, so we made for home expecting to receive another call to duty. We had not long to wait before being on duty again as the familiar wailing sirens screamed out their message at 23-22 hours. Although it was expected I had gone to bed, and therefore I had to dress hastily and get outside. A cold wind was blowing and we made contact at the rendezvous. Messrs Brabin and Harker turned out and we stayed together until the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 23-58. Mr. Shirres should have been on duty but failed to put in an appearance. During this “alert” the sky was often lit up by bomb and gun flashes. This is the fourth time this evening and Jerry has been operating N.S.E.W. but has not given us a taste of his load, not that we want it. When I arrived home I went straight to renew my broken rest wondering if we should have any further interruptions.

Nov 20 1940

Sure enough we did. We were rudely awakened at 02-35 hours and after dressing as quickly as I could I hurried round the area whistling as I went. The wind was much keener making it bitterly cold. Before I got to our meeting place I heard a stick of bombs fall to the Eastward, and not very far away either. Mr. Harker soon arrived, and we watched out for a time, but nothing further occurred, and all went quiet. We went into our shelter and lit up and began to get a little warmer. About 03-10 we heard a “Raiders Passed” signal so we left for home. We had made a mistake, as it must have been from another town, carried on the strong wind. As our local sirens had not been too good all the previous evening we thought it was ours that sounded rendered faint by an adverse wind. Once we got home our own sirens sounded at 03-30, but I was already in bed, and from that time on we were not again disturbed. Thus ended a spell in which many Bosche aircraft had been overhead, coming and going. A daylight “alert” sounded at 16-42 hours. It did not last very long. Perhaps Jerry was reconnoitering for later devilish work. “Raiders Passed” sounded at 17-20. The “alert” sounded at 22-55 hours. As I was in bed I had to dress hastily and patrol the area and make contact with the other wardens. Messrs McCann and Chadwick soon put in an appearance and it was their turn for the duration of the raid. I soon left them in order to get to bed, as I had missed a lot of sleep during the two previous nights. I heard there was abundant gunfire in the Manchester district. This raid lasted an hour as the “Raiders Passed” sounded at almost midnight.

Nov 21 1940

At 21-15 the “alert” sounded, and at once I went out into the street to add to the warning on my whistle. It was raining and in addition was a Stygian blackness. It was scarcely possible to see the outlines of the house roofs against the sky. A few flares were dropped towards the Southwest. Shortly after we made contact a plane flew right overhead. The rain became worse, so we sought a little comfort near our oil stove. We were still there talking when the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 21-45 so we immediately dispersed and went home. During this “alert” a few torches were to be seen, the first day of the new regulation allowing to be used during a raid warning.

Nov 22 1940

The usual “alert” sounded at 20-35 and lasted until 21-22. There was not much doing. We did hear a plane over and saw a few flashes in the sky, but nothing happened locally. We made contact as usual. Wardens Chadwick, Brabin and myself put in an appearance. It was a much better night than the previous. The stars were out so visibility was a bit better, and it was not raining. We patrolled part of the area and found it necessary to admonish several people whose blackout did not conform to regulations. Whilst returning from this patrol we heard the sirens sound “Raiders Passed”.

Nov 23 1940

At 03-47 hours another “alert” sounded and I had to dress in a hurry and get out. Owing to the indisposition of Mr. Shirres (suffering from lumbago) I did his duty. I met Mr. Harker at our rendezvous and as there was nothing at all doing, we went into our shelter to light up. We put the kettle on the stove but before it had time to boil the sirens sounded “Raiders Passed” at 04-10. The sirens sounded again about 04-28 but as I had not returned to bed I was soon out and about. Once again Jerry must have turned back on his tracks in order to prove himself a nuisance. A cold wind was blowing and as there was no activity it didn't seem worthwhile to look out just for the sake of getting cold. So we went to sit near the oil stove and once again we put the kettle to boil, but as previously, the signal “Raiders Passed” sounded before it had chance to boil. This occurred at 04-48, so we at once returned to our homes, and we were not again disturbed. A warning sounded a few minutes after 20-00 hours but we did not hear it. The sirens must have been faint as many people knew nothing about a raid until the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 20-25.

Nov 26 1940

After a few nights immune from the sirens, they called us to duty at 21-50 hours. Wardens Brabin, Chadwick and myself reported for duty. The night was rather dark, and it was cold too. No aircraft came to trouble us, so we repaired to our shelter and put the kettle on the stove, and made a drink of tea. As soon as it was ready the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 23-10. So we drank up and went home. We must be now near the 150 mark and have not yet been put to the test.

Nov 28 1940

The sirens heralded yet another “alert” at 19-37 hours. The length of this raid easily exceeded all others, for we were not released from duty until 03-55 hours 29/11/40, a period of eight hours eighteen minutes. Besides being the longest it was also the most intense. The Hun at his worst. After the initial patrol I met Mr. Chadwick and as no other warden appeared for several hours, it was left to us to hold the fort, as it were. As soon as we met Jerry was at his dirty work. From our point of vantage operations took place in a huge semi circle from East to South and South to West. The intended bombing was on Merseyside for it went on incessantly hour after hour, and, however much it is to be regretted, considerable damage must have been done. It cannot be otherwise. All night long, bomb flashes, parachute flares, “AA” guns searchlights, and all the requirements of aerial war were put into the duel. The “AA” barrage was terrific, and it would have done us good to have seen one or more descend in flames. There was no moon, the flares made up for its absence. It was cold standing doing nothing at all but watch, and it is not nice to watch a town of our own being devastated, so we retired to our shelter after about two hours and had an acceptable cup of tea. After that we patrolled the area for a time, then back to see the combat. The Bosche was coming in waves, unloading his merchandise and sheering off. It looked as though Warrington was being treated like Coventry was a fortnight ago. At half past ten in the evening, we still had no relief, and as we were hungry we retired for supper, leaving a note to that effect at our post. We returned about eleven and shortly after that Mr. Harker arrived for duty, thus releasing Mr. Chadwick, but he would not go home, and he stayed on duty till well after two o'clock. The aerial activity had not in any way ceased or slackened. East, West, South, each had its visitation, and each district replied with interest. It has been estimated that there were from 200 to 300 planes over, but not one did we see held in the beams of the searchlights. About 03-30 hours things got a little quieter, and when I looked out a little later, there was nothing at all. The “AA” guns had ceased, the searchlights were switched off, and there were no aircraft about. Then quite suddenly came the belated “Raiders Passed” and without more ado we retired homewards, I to sleep the sleep of the just. Before Mr. Chadwick left us something fell with a metal clang somewhere very near, which we thought was a piece of shrapnel. It was too dark to investigate, and looking for shrapnel is not our job.

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