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Frank Howcroft - The Diary of an Air Raid Warden - January 1941
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Jan 1 1941

An “alert” on the first day of the New Year. This sounded at 13-40. The sky was rather clear but we did not spot any aircraft. Mr. Brabin, Mr. Chadwick and myself turned out, but as expected the “alert” did not last long, “Raiders Passed” sounding at 14-02. I wonder if the Bosche has started the year as he means to go on. Another “alert” sounded at 21-50 hours just as I was about to fill in a voluntary hour at the post. I had to go and cry off after the sirens had sounded. As I was leaving the post there was an aircraft flying very low but he passed on his way. We had rather a good turn out of wardens. Mr. Brabin and myself were on duty for the whole of the raid and the others left us to carry on a little before midnight. We went out oftener than usual as a keener look out for incendiary bombs is needed, now that the Hun, having failed to blast the people into submission is trying to burn us out. It was very cold out and we were glad to be able to sit in front of the fire when we heard no aircraft in the vicinity. It was very quiet all the time and we did not see many flares dropping or “AA” shells bursting, but now and again the drone of an engine was heard overhead, and as long as he was knocking about, we had to help on the alert. This went on until 01-54 when the “Raiders Passed” sounded, so we hastily beat a retreat and went home to bed, hoping to remain undisturbed.

Jan 2 1941

This was not to be, however, for we heard another warning at 05-50, so of course we had to hastily dress and patrol the area again, whistling as we went. Our fire had gone out but it still radiated a little warmth, so we made the best of it. After a while we re-kindled it and as soon as it was nicely going the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 06-20, so once again we made for home, and were not again disturbed.

Jan 3 1941

About 15-20 an “alert” sounded and lasted until 16-05. Another “alert” went at 19-10 and after the usual patrol with the whistle I made contact at our rendezvous. There was nothing doing at all, and we did not see any flares or the bursting of “AA” shells. No aircraft came our way, so we were not surprised to hear the “Raiders Passed” about 20-00 hours. Jerry is being a nuisance. Another warning at 21-44. The usual whistling patrol, then meeting at our place of contact. Nothing was seen or heard, however, and at 21-58 the “Raiders Passed” sounded so we immediately made for home, as the weather was very cold.

Jan 4 1941

Just after midnight another “alert” sounded (00-18). I had to get out of bed, hastily dress and get out. As before all was quiet, and the “Raiders Passed” signal sounded at 00-50.

At 13-46 an “alert” sounded and lasted until 14-34. It was cold outside, and no other wardens turned up on this occasion.

Jan 5 1941

At 01-52 the sirens sounded and I had to be awakened. It was not pleasant to leave a warm bed and go out in the bitter cold. Still, duty must be done, so off I went to patrol the area. I had no sooner made contact with Mr. Brabin than the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 02-05. On occasions like these one does not know whether to return to bed or stand by in expectancy of another alert. At 18-33 the “alert” sounded and at once I went out and did the usual whistling patrol. Shortly after we made contact either gunfire or bombs (perhaps both) were heard coming from the Manchester area. We did not see any flashes on earth or in the sky. Perhaps that was because visibility was not good. We did not hear any aircraft about, and were not surprised to hear the “Raiders Passed” sound at 19-10.

Jan 9 1941

After a few days free from any warning the familiar wail of the sirens had us out on duty At 19-37 hours. After the usual patrol of our own areas we made contact at our rendezvous. It was not long before Jerry was heard and soon several flashes were noticed in the direction of Manchester. The guns gave him a warm welcome, without hitting him. On two occasions we saw glares in the sky, but as they did not last long we came to the conclusion that they must have been parachute flares and not fires. There was heavy cloud at the time and it was difficult to distinguish one from the other. We did not make much use of our hideout as we expected trouble locally, and it soon came but not in our sector. Several bombs fell in the district near the station and it did considerable property damage and blew out a lot of windows. A little later on we witnessed incendiary bombs spluttering about half a mile from our vantage point. At that we set about making preparations for action as we expected our turn next. We got ready a stirrup pump, water and sand, and were soon awaiting events. However we were left alone. Towards the North of the town we noticed for the first time a twin beamed searchlight which did not sweep the skies but kept stationary. About 23-30 we were invited into a neighbour's house for a welcome drink of hot coffee. Just after midnight we left Wardens Harker and Shirres to carry on while the remainder went home to stand by. At 01-20 the “Raiders Passed” sounded and ended our most (local) eventful raid.

Jan 10 1941

Jerry was soon on the job again. An “alert” lasted from about 09-15 to 09-45.

Another daylight “alert” from 15-15 to just before 16-00 hours.

Jan 11 1941

The sirens sounded an “alert” at 11-19 hours. The “Raiders Passed” went about 11-45.

Jan 12 1941

An “alert” at 12-58 hours interrupted my dinner. I went round the area and met others at the rendezvous. An aeroplane thought to be a Hun, had been observed at a great height, flying towards Liverpool. At 13-18 the “Raiders Passed” sounded so we dispersed.

Jan 13 1941

I had just recommenced my interrupted dinner when the sirens sounded another “alert” at 13-26. Again we turned out, but nothing happened, so it was another case of waiting for the sirens. These released us from duty at 13-50 hours.

Jan 16 1941

After a few days respite the call to duty came at 03-28. Arising from a warm bed and out into the cold frosty air is no joke but still, we could fare worse. The moon was full and property was visible for miles around. As soon as we had patrolled the area and met at our contact point, a Hun plane was heard, but no bombs were dropped and no gunfire to give him welcome. Besides myself wardens Brabin and Harker turned out and when the aircraft went out of earshot we repaired to our hideout and boosted up our dying fire. We soon had a kettle full of boiling water and made some tea to which we did full justice. Now and again we each went out to see if anything was happening in the air, but always with a negative result. The noise of an aeroplane was heard at intervals and we came to the conclusion that it was a lone marauding machine, just to keep us on the alert. When the “Raiders Passed” sounded at 05-10 we at once made for home and in my case went immediately to bed.

Jan 18 1941

An “alert” sounded about 12-10 but only lasted for a few minutes, “Raiders Passed” sounding at 12-22. Snow was falling at the time adding to what had already fallen during the night.


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