Home Front Activities: Air Raid Sirens

Home Front Activities: Air Raid Sirens

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During the Second World War the British government was constantly monitoring the success of its various policies concerning the Home Front. The government was also aware of the possibility that it might be necessary to introduce legislation to deal with any emerging problems.

It is December 1941. You have been asked to write a report on Air Raid Sirens. This is to be divided into two sections.

Things you should consider include:

(a) When did the Air Raid Wardens first arrange for the sounding of sirens.

(b) Why did Air Raid Wardens sound the sirens more than once?

Things you should consider include:

(a) Should the policy concerning people doing important war work be changed? Is it right to force the workers to stay in the factories until the Luftwaffe were immediately overhead.

(b) What punishments should be imposed on workers who left the factories before the second siren sounded?

Built during the Cold War era from 1952 to 1957 (second generation) by Chrysler, its power plant contained a newly designed FirePower Hemi V8 engine with a displacement of 331 cubic inches (5.42 l) and producing 180 horsepower (130 kW). [1]

They are 12 feet (3.7 m) long, built atop a quarter section of a Dodge truck chassis rail, and weigh an estimated 3 short tons (2.7 t). Its six horns are each 3 feet (91 cm) long. The siren has an output of 138 dB(C) (30,000 watts), and can be heard as far as 25 miles (40 km) away.

In 1952, the cost of a Chrysler Air-raid Siren was $5,500 [1] (equivalent to $53,601 in 2020). The United States government helped buy sirens for selected state and county law enforcement agencies. In Los Angeles County, six were placed around key locations of populated areas, and another ten were sold to other government agencies in the state of California. These "Big Red Whistles" (as they were nicknamed) only saw testing use. Some were located so remotely that they deteriorated due to lack of maintenance.

The main purpose of the siren was to warn the public in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The operator's job was to start the engine and bring it up to operating speed, then to pull and release the transmission handle to start the wailing signal generation. The Chrysler air raid siren produced the loudest sound ever achieved by an air raid siren. [1]

Some sirens are still located above buildings and watchtowers. Many are rusted, and in some cases, the salvage value is less than the cost to remove them. A majority have been moved to museums, and some have been restored to fully functioning condition. [ citation needed ]


Eastern Europe

In 1939-1940, eastern Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Bessarabia were invaded and annexed into the Soviet Union proper. The Soviets lowered the local standard of living and disrupted and destroyed the prevailing socioeconomic structure. Local currencies were still legal tender but so was the Russian ruble. The occupying Russian soldiers were paid in rubles and the established exchange rate inflated the ruble by as much as 2000 to 3000 per cent. Overvaluing made the average Russian soldier extremely rich. This huge influx of rubles started a wave of inflation that natives did not notice at first. Eventually shortages were caused by Soviet purchasing agents that fanned out through the newly occupied nations, buying up wholesale goods in warehouses and the production of local factories.

Goods produced locally were shipped to Russia instead of resupplying the local market. Russian propaganda stated the goal was to raise the ordinary working person's standard of living. Prices were frozen, and wages raised by as much as ten times. Merchants and factory owners declared bankruptcy and went out of business. Shortages of food and other necessities introduced growing inflation, a black market, and discontent among the population. These deliberate Soviet policies raised the cost of living but not the actual standard of living. Once annexation was complete, local stores and industries were nationalized, their former owners arrested, stripped of their possessions, including their accumulated rubles, and shipped to the gulags of Siberia. Workers still employed were then paid in rubles. [1]


On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, conquering it in six weeks, as the Soviets invaded the eastern areas. During the German occupation there were two distinct uprisings in Warsaw, one by Jews in 1943, the other by Poles in 1944. Rutherford (2007) looks at the Wartheland region in a study of efforts to "Germanize" areas of western Poland. There were four major deportation operations between December 1939 and March 1941. Action taken against non-Jewish Poles was linked to the Nazis' later policy of Jewish annihilation.

Jews in Warsaw Ghetto: 1943

The first took place in an entity, less than two square miles in area, which the Germans carved out of the city and called "Ghetto Warschau." Into the thus created Ghetto, around which they built high walls, the Germans crowded 550,000 Polish Jews, many from the Polish provinces. At first, people were able to go in and out of the Ghetto, but soon the Ghetto's border became an "iron curtain." Unless on official business, Jews could not leave it, and non-Jews, including Germans, could not enter. Entry points were guarded by German soldiers. Because of extreme conditions and hunger, mortality in the Ghetto was high. Additionally, in 1942 the Germans moved 400,000 to Treblinka where they were gassed on arrival. When, on April 19, 1943, the Ghetto Uprising commenced, the population of the Ghetto had dwindled to 60,000 individuals. In the following three weeks virtually all died as the Germans fought to put down the uprising and systematically destroyed the buildings in the Ghetto. [2]

Warsaw Uprising of 1944

The uprising by Poles, ordered by the government in exile in London, began on August 1, 1944. The Polish underground "Home Army," seeing that the Soviets had reached the eastern bank of the Vistula, sought to liberate Warsaw. However, Stalin had his own group of Communist leaders for the new Poland and did not want the Home Army or its leaders (based in London) to control Warsaw. So he halted the Soviet offensive. The Germans suppressed the rebellion ruthlessly. During the ensuing 63 days, 250,000 Poles in the Home Army surrendered to the Germans. After the Germans forced all the surviving population to leave the city, Hitler ordered that any buildings left standing be dynamited and 98% of buildings in Warsaw were destroyed. [3]


Public opinion strongly supported the war, and the level of sacrifice was high. The war was a "people's war" that enlarged democratic aspirations and produced promises of a postwar welfare state.


In mid-1940 the R.A.F. was called on to fight the Battle of Britain but it had suffered serious losses. It lost 458 aircraft—more than current production—in France and was hard pressed. In order to speed output the government decided to concentrate on only five models in order to optimize output. They were Wellingtons, Whitley Vs, Blenheims, Hurricanes and Spitfires. They received extraordinary priority. Covering the supply of materials and equipment and even made it possible to divert from other types the necessary parts, equipments, materials and manufacturing resources. Labour was moved from other aircraft work to factories engaged on the specified types. Cost was not an object. The delivery of new fighters rose from 256 in April to 467 in September — more than enough to cover the losses — and Fighter Command emerged triumphantly from the Battle of Britain in October with more aircraft than it had possessed at the beginning. [4]


Most women who volunteered before the war went into civil defense or the Women's Land Army. The main civil defense services were Air Raid Precautions (ARP), the fire service and Women's Voluntary Services (WVS). 144,000 served with the emergency casualty services, Initially, the women mainly carried out clerical work, but their roles expanded to meet demand, and female pump crews became commonplace.

By September 1943 over 450,000 women were in service (9.4%). Several First World War services were revived in 1938-39: the Army's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the Women's Royal Naval Service (Wrens), and the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (Waafs). Commissions were for the first time given to women, and women were brought under regular military disciplinary law. The ATS was the largest. Its 200,000 women in 1943 were in eighty different military specialties ("trades"). In the skilled division included 3,000 clerical personnel, 9,000 technical, 3,000 communications, and 4,000 cooks in the nonskilled trades were 30,000 hospital orderlies and 15,000 drivers. Some 57,000 ATS served in combat units in air defense and antiaircraft units based well behind the lines (so they could not be captured). They could load and aim the guns, but a man had to pull the final trigger.

Conscription for all women was introduced in 1941 for women of 21 in that year. They had to join the armed forces or the land army or be assigned other war work. [5] The services greatly expanded their nursing corps the RAFNS had 21,300 nurses in the Royal Air Force.

The WVS was the largest of these organizations, with over one million members. Typical WVS activities included organizing evacuations, shelters, clothing exchanges and mobile canteens. [6] The Women's Land Army/Scottish Land Army was reformed in 1938 so that women could be trained in agricultural work, leaving male workers free to go to war. Most WLA members were young women from the towns and cities. Annice Gibbs, who worked for the WLA Timber Corps, remembers an encounter with Italian prisoners of war (POWs). "After our training, we soon got used to heavy work, such as lifting pit-props and cutting them into various lengths for the coal mines."

Working women

With the onset of war, everything changed. If husbands joined the armed forces, or were sent away to do vital civilian work, mothers often ran the home alone - and had to get used to going out to work, as well. Young single women, often away from home for the first time, might be billeted miles from their families.

Flexible working hours, nurseries and other arrangements soon became commonplace to accommodate the needs of working women with children. Before long, women made up one third of the total workforce in the metal and chemical industries, as well as in shipbuilding and vehicle manufacture.

They worked on the railways, canals and on buses. Women built Waterloo Bridge in London.


Food, clothing, petrol, leather and other such items were rationed. Access to luxuries was severely restricted, though there was also a small black market trading illegally in controlled items. Families with a bit of land grew victory gardens (small home vegetable gardens), to supply themselves with food. Farmers converted to high value food products, especially grains, and reduced the output of meat.


From very early in the war it was thought that the major cities of Britain, especially London, would come under air attack, which did happen. Some children were sent to Canada. Millions of children and some mothers were evacuated from London and other major cities when the war began, but they often filtered back. When the bombing began in September 1940 they evacuated again. The discovery of the poor health and hygiene of evacuees was a shock to Britons, and helped prepare the way for the Beveridge Plan. [7] Children were only evacuated if they're parents agreed but in some cases they didn't have choice. The children were only allowed to take a few things with them including a gas mask, books, money, clothes, ration book and some small toys.

Belfast during the war

Belfast was a key industrial city during World War Two. Britain relied on her to produce ships, tanks, shorts, aircraft, engineering works, arms, uniforms, parachutes and a host of other industrial goods to help the war effort. As a result of this unemployment was dramatically reduced in Belfast, as there was more demand for industrial goods. However, being a key industrial city during World War Two also made Belfast a target for German bombing missions. Belfast was poorly defended during World War Two. There were only 24 anti aircraft guns in the city for example. The Northern Ireland government under Richard Dawson Bates (Minister for Home Affairs) had prepared poorly. They believed that Germany would not attack Belfast as it was too far away and they would have to fly over Britain in the process. When Germany invaded France on 10 May 1940 this changed dramatically as German bombers no longer had to fly over British soil to access Belfast. The fire brigade was inadequate, there were no public air raid shelters as the Northern Ireland government was reluctant to spend money on them and there were no searchlights in the city, which made shooting down enemy bombers all the more difficult. After seeing the Blitz in Britain the Northern Ireland government started building some air raid shelters. The Luftwaffe in early 1941 carried out some reconnaissance missions and photographed the city. During April 1941 Belfast was attacked. The docks and industrial areas were targeted and many bombs were dropped on the working class areas of East Belfast where over a thousand were killed and hundreds were seriously injured. The Northern Ireland government requested help from the south, which dispatched several fire brigades. Many Belfast people left the city afraid of future attacks. The bombings revealed the terrible slum conditions to the middle-class people who entered the working class areas to help the injured. As such, these people were from middle and upper-class backgrounds and would never have usually frequented working class areas of Belfast. Middle-class people having seen the conditions the poor lived in Belfast helped hasten the advent of the Welfare State following the war. In May 1941, Germans dropped bombs and incendiary devices on the docks and Harland and Wolff shipyards and as a result Harland and Wolff closed for six months. Those not involved in the rebuilding of the docks were put out of work during this time and that increased the troubles of the poor people of Belfast even further. Apart from the numbers dead, the Belfast blitz seen half of Belfast houses destroyed. Approximately twenty millions pounds worth of damage was caused. The Northern Ireland government was criticized heavily for its lack of preparation. The criticism forced the resignation of Prime Minister J.M. Andrews. The bombing raids continued until the invasion of Russia. The American army also came during the war and set up bases around Northern Ireland, which led to a boost to local economies and excitement to those at home. While the war brought great employment and economic prosperity to Belfast, it also brought great human suffering, destruction and death to Belfast too.

Soviet Union

After rapid German advances in the early months of the war reaching the city of Moscow, the bulk of Soviet industry and agriculture was either destroyed or in German hands. But in one of the greatest logistics feats of the war, thousands of factories were moved beyond the Ural Mountains along with well over a million workers. In general the tools, dies and machines were moved, along with the blueprints and skilled engineers.

The whole of the remaining Soviet territory become dedicated to the war effort. Conditions were severe. In Leningrad, under German siege, over a million died of starvation and disease. Many factory workers were teenagers, women and old people.

Despite harsh conditions, the war led to a spike in Soviet nationalism and unity. Soviet propaganda toned down socialist and anti-religious rhetoric of the past as the people now rallied by a belief of protecting their motherland against hated German invaders. Ethnic minorities thought to be collaborators were forcibly removed into exile.

Religion, which was previously shunned, became an acceptable part of society.


The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was welcomed by many Ukrainians at first the OUN even attempted to establish a government under German auspices. Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946) considered Ukraine a strategically important region that should be occupied through capturing the hearts and minds of the Ukrainians. According to Rosenberg, everything should have been done to make the Ukrainians view the Germans as liberators. Though he presented his views on different occasions, Adolf Hitler's anti-Slavic racial views prevailed and overrode strategic considerations, leading to a harsh occupation. Very soon the realization that Nazi policies were brutal toward all the Ukrainians, and not only the Jews and Communists, drove most Ukrainians into opposition to the Nazis. Germany forced many Ukrainians to work within the so-called Reichskommissariat Ukraine (RKU) on tasks such as agriculture, road and railway building, and the construction of fortifications. The German authorities soon faced a serious local labor shortage, especially among skilled workers, as a result of Soviet evacuations before the invasion, the ongoing murder of the Jewish population, and the brutal recruitment, arrest, and deportation of other groups, usually with the cooperation of the local civilian, military, and police authorities. The pool of labor was further reduced as the Germans lost territory in the later stages of the conflict. Nazi administrator Fritz Sauckel's labor recruitment measures strained relations with local officials responsible for selecting the deportees, leading to bribery and corruption. The Kiev area was the main focus for recruitment and deportation, while conditions in the Vinnitsa region of central Ukraine typified the interaction of the various factors.

In Ukraine, Belarus, and western Russia the first stage of partisan development, from 1941 to the fall of 1942, was uncoordinated and resulted in a great many losses. The second stage, late 1942 to 1944, was better coordinated partisan groups were better defined, and relatively large-scale operations were carried out, often in cooperation with the Red Army. Organized leadership and cadres were created, various forms of actions (diversions, sabotage, direct attacks, and so on) were developed, and the Germans carried out punitive activities against the partisans. In all, more than 1.3 million partisans took part in actions in the enemy's rear in 6,200 units, and more than 300,000 received decorations for their actions. The OUN created a nationalist partisan fighting force, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) many Ukrainians also joined the Soviet partisans and fought in the Soviet Army against the Germans. After World War II, the OUN and the UPA continued a hopeless guerrilla struggle against Soviet rule until 1953. The devastation caused by the war included major destruction in over 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages.

United States


China suffered the second highest amount of casualties of the entire war. Civilians in the occupied territories had to endure many large-scale slaughters. Tens of thousands died when Nationalist troops broke the levees of the Yangtze to stop the Japanese advance after the loss of the capital, Nanking. Millions more Chinese died because of famine during the war.

Millions of Chinese moved to the Western regions of China to avoid Japanese invasion. Cities like Kunming ballooned with new arrivals. Entire factories and universities were often taken along for the journey. Japan captured major coastal cities like Shanghai early in the war cutting the rest of China off from its chief source of finance and industry.

The city of Chongqing became the most frequently bombed city in history. [8]

Though China received massive military and economic aid from the United States, much of it flown "over the Hump" (over the Himalayan mountains from India) China did not have sufficient infrastructure to use the aid to properly arm or even feed its military forces. Much of the aid was also lost to corruption and extreme inefficiency.

Communist forces led by Mao were generally more successful at getting support or killing opponents than Nationalists. They were based mainly in Northern China, and built up their strength to battle with the Nationalists as soon as the Japanese were gone.

In occupied territories under Japanese control, civilians were treated harshly.


Germany had not fully mobilized in 1939, nor even in 1941. Not until 1943 under Albert Speer did Germany finally redirect its entire economy and manpower to war production.


Although Germany had about twice the population of Britain (80 million versus 40 million), it had to use far more labour to provide food and energy. Britain imported food and employed only a million people (5% of labour force) on farms, while Germany used 11 million (27%). For Germany to build its twelve synthetic oil plants with a capacity of 3.3 million tons a year required 2.4 million tons of structural steel and 7.5 million man-days of labour Britain brought in all its oil from Iraq, Persia and North America. To overcome this problem Germany employed millions of forced laborers and POWs by 1944 they had brought in more than five million civilian workers and nearly two million prisoners of war—a total of 7.13 million foreign workers. The workers were unwilling and inefficient, and many died in air raids. [9]


For the first part of the war, there were surprisingly few restrictions on civilian activities. Most goods were freely available in the early years of the war. Rationing in Germany was introduced in 1939, slightly later than it was in Britain, because Hitler was at first convinced that it would affect public support of the war if a strict rationing program was introduced. The Nazi popularity was in fact partially due to the fact that Germany under the Nazis was relatively prosperous, and Hitler did not want to lose popularity or faith. Hitler felt that food and other shortages had been a major factor in destroying civilian morale during World War I which led to the overthrow of the Kaiser in 1918. However, when the war began to go against the Germans in Russia and the Allied bombing effort began to affect domestic production, this changed and a very severe rationing program had to be introduced. The system gave extra rations for men involved in heavy industry, and lower rations for Jews and Poles in the areas occupied by Germany, but not to the Rhineland Poles.

The points system

Walter Felscher recalls: For every person, there were rationing cards for general foodstuffs, meats, fats (such as butter, margarine and oil) and tobacco products distributed every other month. The cards were printed on strong paper, containing numerous small "Marken" subdivisions printed with their value – for example, from "5 g Butter" to "100 g Butter". Every acquisition of rationed goods required an appropriate "Marken", and if a person wished to eat a certain soup at a restaurant, the waiter would take out a pair of scissors and cut off the required items to make the soup and amounts listed on the menu. In the evenings, shop-owners would spend an hour at least gluing the collected "Marken" onto large sheets of paper which they then had to hand in to the appropriate authorities. also created a cut in the amount of rationed bread, meat and fat. [10]


Women were idealized by Nazi ideology and work was not felt to be appropriate for them. Children were expected to go to houses collecting materials for the production of war equipment. The Germans brought in millions of coerced workers, called Arbeitseinsatz from the countries they occupied, along with prisoners of war.


Japanese Rice Supply
Year 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
Domestic production 9,928 9,862 10,324 9,107 8,245 9,999 9,422 8,784 6,445
Imports 2,173 2,546 1,634 1,860 2,517 2,581 1,183 874 268
All rice 12,101 12,408 11,958 10,967 10,762 12,580 10,605 9,658 6,713


The American aerial bombing of a total of 65 Japanese cities too from 400,000 to 600,000 civilian lives. That comprises over 100,000 in Tokyo alone, over 200,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, and 80,000-150,000 civilian deaths in the battle of Okina­wa. In addition civilian death among settlers who died attempting to re­turn to Japan from Manchuria in the winter of 1945 were probably around 100,000. Total Japanese military fatalities between 1937 and 1945 were 2.1 million most came in the last year of the war and were caused by starvation or severe malnutrition in garrisons cut off from supplies. [12]

Trove of WWII documents found in crawl space reveal importance of air raid wardens

Inside a crawl space within Glenn and Lori Stockton's home is a window into the history of World War II Bremerton. It appears their home was a training spot for air raid wardens, workers who lived on every block in the city and trained to ensure all was dark in the event of an air assault on Bremerton. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

BREMERTON — Following a long day in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard's electrical shop and a quick dinner, Dwight Carson would don a white helmet and head back out for a patrol around the block, his daughter recalled.

Carson had been deputized as what was known as an air raid warden in the Westpark neighborhood (now Bay Vista) during World War II. He was a part of a vast network that served as the eyes and ears of the city's civilian defense force — and more. He ensured his cul-de-sac was pitch black in case of aerial attack. But he could also render first aid and fight fires when necessary. He even had the power to make arrests of suspected saboteurs.

"They were more than air raid wardens," his daughter, Marva Carson Connelly, said.

Recently, a Manette couple uncovered a trove of air raid warden history in a crawl space under their home. They found stacks of wartime leaflets, paperwork and other documentation necessary to administer the air raid warden's critical role.

Glenn and Lori Stockton just discovered training and job materials for air wardens in the crawl space of their home, more than 70 years after the war's end. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

"it's just fascinating stuff," said Glenn Stockton, who with his wife, Lori, plan to find a home for the artifacts at local history museums.

The Stocktons don't live in your traditional home. Their Ironsides Avenue residence was born in 1942 as a fire hall. They live on a top floor developed after the fire station closed.

But buried deep under the station's former engine bays was a trip to the past: a time when the city feared a Pearl Harbor-style attack was imminent a time when air raid wardens were the city's block-by-block guardians.

“Without hysteria or dramatics, grim-faced leaders of all phases of community life put aside their regular business today to give their full attention toward perfection of defense organizations and invited citizens to do their bit by enlisting in the nation’s cause,” a Dec. 8, 1941, article in the Bremerton Daily News Searchlight read.

Overnight following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the city was fortified. Barrage balloons encircled the city, held by long cables that could entangle enemy planes. Thick smoke screens would imperil their view. Even nets were erected at Rich Passage so ferries could come and go but enemy submarines could not.

Glenn Stockton looks at a World War II pamphlet he found in his home. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

City residents got used to air raid sirens, and the wardens ensured everyone heeded their calls.

"It would jar you loose at first," Carson Connelly said of the sirens. "But after a year or so, you got used to it."

As Bremerton, a quaint town of 15,000, ballooned to more than 80,000 during the war, air wardens helped keep the peace. But they were trained for the worst, the documents found reveal.

"Already our enemy may be devising newer and deadlier bombs!" a brochure entitled "FACTS about fighting fire bombs," reads. "Remember that fire (not the bomb) is the chief danger and a jet of water is still the best weapon."

The Stocktons even found identification tags that could be tied to victims after the aerial attack that never came. The tags included boxes marked "Catholic," "Protestant" and "Jewish" — perhaps to alert the correct clergy to administer last rites or other religious services.

Air wardens who were selected following the attack on Pearl Harbor had a sign to be placed in their window, letting the neighborhood know of their designation. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

The documents, which include testing materials and certificates for successful air raid warden candidates, also reveal the way the belligerents of the second world war increasingly attacked civilian targets. The air raid wardens were prepped for the prospect of a toxic gas attack, for instance.

"The development of air forces and fast-moving armored units makes it possible to strike at military objectives far from the battlefield front," one instruction paper notes. ". Especially areas of great importance such as supply, railway and repair centers."

"People were obviously tremendously prepared for whatever came," Stockton said.

Air raid wardens posted signs in their windows declaring themselves to the neighborhoods they served. It was a post that required an outgoing, unreserved individual. Marilyn Roberts recalled her grandfather, Shippy Brinton Lent, watched an area around Sixth Street near where Noah's Ark Restaurant is now.

Glenn and Lori Stockton recently discovered training and job materials for air wardens tapped to lead the neighborhood response to an aerial attack at their home in Bremerton. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

“He was just always civic-minded,” Roberts said of Lent, the city's retired fire chief, Marine veteran and the first of many in a line of Lents in Bremerton. “He liked to keep busy and liked being around people.”

Air raid wardens were even vested with powers of arrest "even though they have no police authority," according to the documents. And those documents helped instill a sense of duty — a dignity — into the position.

"An air raid warden is not a Doctor, or a Policeman, or a Fireman, but he may be called on to perform the duties of any of these," a training paper says. "He has a position of leadership and trust that demands his best."

Glenn and Lori Stockton's home is a former fire station on Ironsides Avenue in Bremerton. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

The mystery of the air raid sirens

"It's a neat thing to look at," says Claire Bryden, referring to the air raid siren near the corner of Dundas St. W. and Shaw St., a remnant of Toronto's age of atomic anxiety. The sturdy, horn-shaped siren rests on a rusting column on the property of Bellwoods Centres for Community Living.

Few of these Cold War relics, which would alert the population to an imminent nuclear attack, remain in Toronto. One siren resides atop the York Quay Centre at Harbourfront. Others, like the one on Ward's Island, disappear when buildings get new roofs.

Today, no one claims ownership of the surviving sirens. Call the City of Toronto and they refer you to the province. Call the province and they refer you to the Department of National Defence. Call the Department of National Defence and they refer you to . the city.

But Claire Bryden is happy to take possession of the one at Dundas and Shaw. Bryden is executive-director of the Bellwoods Centres, which provide homes for people with physical disabilities. The air raid siren, overlooked for decades, suddenly became of interest during construction of a new building. Because it was in the middle of the Bellwoods Park House property, which straddles old Garrison Creek (now flowing through an underground culvert), the siren had to be moved or removed altogether. A new public path, part of a Discovery Walk daytime urban trail from Fort York to Christie Pits, will go through the property right where the siren was.

What to do with the towering artifact? "Rather than throw it away, we decided it's a piece of historical memorabilia," says Bryden, who recalls air-raid-siren practice in her childhood. "It gives character, and we don't see too many around."

Happily, the architect for the new building, David Warne, an associate at Levitt Goodman Architects Ltd., was of similar mind. He thought the air raid siren should be cleaned up and preserved as a piece of urban archaeology. "At the corner of the property, it could be something of a landmark," he says. "Lots of people are fascinated by older technologies, dead tech, a romanticized idea of the industrial era. It's a piece of history that's interesting."

It took Warne about a week of calling department after department to find out who – nobody, it turns out – was responsible for disconnected sirens. "I called the City of Toronto Office of Emergency Management and they sent me to Emergency Management Ontario, who sent me to Public Safety Canada, and they sent me to DND, who got me the name of a captain. He was in charge of air raid sirens all over Canada. He seemed like an older gentleman who had been around at the time.

"He asked me to describe the thing, and when I did, he said, `Oh, that's where that one was,' and proceeded to tell me that in the '70s they swept Ontario of all of these, and this one flew under the radar. They missed it because trees surrounded it.

"I asked him if it was `hot,' and he said it had been disconnected. I asked if we could keep it there, and he said, `I don't care.'

"We wanted to do it, because it's such a beautiful object and takes the story all the way around."

Andrew Burtch, an historian at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa who's writing his PhD dissertation on civil defence in Canada post-1945, tells the beginning of the story. After World War II, an increasingly aggressive Soviet Union was causing anxiety in Western Europe and North America, and talk turned to evacuating cities in case of an atomic attack. As a 1956 U.S. report on evacuation warned, fearfully: "There is only one way to survive under nuclear attack: Don't be there . to stay will be suicide."

Canada decided to develop a "passive defence system," loosely based on the model Londoners used during the blitz – warning systems, volunteer rescue and firefighting.

The three levels of government agreed to take responsibility for civil defence. But, says Burtch, "municipal governments didn't attend the 1951 co-ordinating meeting, and it created a long and public dispute on where responsibility for survival lay. Each side pointed to the other as being responsible."

Civil defence was chaotic and controversial in Toronto in the 1950s. The federal government delivered sirens to Toronto in 1952, but they gathered dust in storage for four or five years, because the city refused to pay for installation, insisting it was a federal and provincial responsibility.

In 1954, a city controller suggested that instead of air raid sirens, two light aircraft rigged with loudspeakers be sent up as a warning system in the event of an attack. Civic leaders were further incensed later that year when a defence official said Toronto was not one of the "vital points" in Canada to be defended if the country was invaded.

In 1956, the civil defence organization still hadn't erected the sirens, but it did spend $400 for teacups and saucers for refreshments for volunteers who might appreciate some refreshments after a night's training. (In 1959, Canada had 279,320 civilian volunteers drawn from the Legion, veterans and other community groups. "Everybody wanted uniforms and helmets," Burtch says. "They wanted to be recognized. But most typically they got an armband.")

When the sirens were finally installed, many were defective – a problem with the wiring. And in 1959, the question of the need for an air raid siren on the Toronto Islands was raised. "Where on earth would the residents go?" the mayor of Leaside asked. A 1961 Canada-wide air raid drill led many Torontonians to complain they couldn't hear the sirens others griped that the sirens woke their children.

"By 1967 civil defence was fighting for its life," says Burtch. Then, in the 1970s, the threat of a nuclear attack began to decline, and with the development of new technologies – high-speed missiles and the like – the usefulness of a warning system diminished. Practical warning time went from three to five hours in the 1950s to less than 15 minutes in the missile age, Burtch notes.

Responsibility for remaining air raid sirens – some of which are listed in The Siren Archive website ( – is as murky now as it was in the beginning.


"The province owned the air raid sirens," says a city hall official.

"Public Safety Canada might be a source of information – that's all I can tell you," says someone at the province.

"The sirens were owned by the cities," says a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence.

From the Archives: The 1942 Battle of L.A.

Following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, war jitters swept the Southland. By February 1942, air-raid sirens, searchlights and anti-aircraft guns filled Los Angeles. Blackouts and drills were common.

Then on Feb. 23, 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced and shelled oil installations at Ellwood, north of Santa Barbara.

In a Feb. 24, 1992, Los Angeles Times article, Jack Smith reported what happened next:

It was on the night of Feb. 25, 1942, that Los Angeles experienced the Great Los Angeles Air Raid. It was a night when everyone’s fears apparently were realizedJapan had brought the war to mainland America, and Los Angeles was the target.…

The Great Air Raid began at 2:25 a.m. on that clear moonlit night when the U.S. Army announced the approach of hostile aircraft, and the city’s air raid warning system went into action for the first time in the war.

Suddenly, the night was torn by sirens. Searchlights swept the sky. Gun crews at army posts along the coastline began pumping ack-ack into the moonlight. (In the entire episode, 1,433 rounds would be fired.) …

Thousands of volunteer air-raid wardens tumbled from their beds and grabbed their boots and helmets--those who had helmets — and rushed into the night. Tens of thousands of citizens, awakened by the screech of sirens and the popping of shells, jumped out of bed and, heedless of blackout regulations, began snapping on lights. It was pandemonium. …

Although no bombs were dropped, the city did not escape its baptism of fire without casualties, including five fatalities. Three residents were killed in automobile accidents as cars dashed wildly about in the blackout. Two others died of heart attacks.

Motorcycle officers B. H. McLean, left, and Bobby Clark guard a roped-off zone on Maple Street in Santa Monica while a dud shell is dug up. This photo appeared in the Feb. 26, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

Mrs. Bess Landis holds a handful of anti-aircrat shell fragments that she gathered from around a hole made in her yard when a shell struck. This photo appeared in the Feb. 26, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

March 11, 1942: Display of shapnel from the anti-aircraft barrage, picked up in Inglewood by Riege Ardanaz. Photo published in The Times on March 12, 1942.

(Al Humphreys / Los Angeles Times)

Feb. 25, 1942: Lt. L.E. Richards holds a 19-pound anti-aircraft dud that was dug up from near the intersection of Ayers and Patricia Avenues.

Feb. 25, 1942: Hugh Landis, who lives on the 1700 block of W. 43 Place, points to holes made in his car by fragments of an anti-aircraft shell that hit nearby.

W. M. Breslin, from left, Dan Games and David Parker hold a hat full of anti-aircraft shell remains that fell onto the California Shipyard in Los Angeles Harbor. This photo appeared in the Feb. 26, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

Several persons were injured hurrying to their various posts. A radio announcer ran into an awning and suffered a gash over one eye. A police officer kicked in the window of a lighted Hollywood store and cut his right leg.

The toll among air-raid wardens was especially high. (They were said to have acted with valor throughout.) One fell from a wall while looking into a lighted apartment and broke a leg. Another jumped a 3-foot fence to reach a lighted house and sprained an ankle. Another fell down his own front stairs and broke an arm.

There was scattered structural damage caused by antiaircraft shells that failed to explode in air but did so when they struck the ground, demolishing a garage here, a patio there, and blowing out a tire on a parked automobile.

Exultation was in the air. The city had met its first taste of war with valor. It was exhilarating. But exultation turned to embarrassment the next day when the Secretary of the Navy said there had been no air raid. No enemy planes. It was just a case of jitters.

Embarrassment turned to outrage. The army was accused of shooting up an empty sky. The sheriff was particularly embarrassed. He had valiantly helped the FBI round up several Japanese nurserymen and gardeners who were supposedly caught in the act of signaling the enemy aviators.

The Secretary of War tried to save face by saying that while there were no enemy aircraft in the air, it was believed that 15 commercial planes flown by “enemy agents” had crossed the city. Though no one believed this gross canard, most agreed with the secretary that “it is better to be too alert than not alert enough.”

At war’s end, an Army document explained what had happened: (1) numerous weather balloons had been released over the area that night. They carried lights for tracking purposes, and these “lighted balloons” were mistaken for enemy aircraft (2) shell bursts illuminated by searchlights were mistaken by ground crews for enemy aircraft.

The Japanese, after the war, declared that they had flown no airplanes over Los Angeles on that date. All the same, it was a glorious night, and I commend its memory to those who think Los Angeles has no history.

On Feb. 26, 1942, the Los Angeles Times published a photo page that included a retouched version of the above searchlight photo and seven other images. The retouched version is the iconic image seen worldwide.

Back in 2011, I viewed the two negatives. The non-retouched negative is very flat, the focus is soft and it looks underexposed. Although I could not tell if the negative was the original or a copy negative made from a print, it definitely showed the original scene before a print was retouched.

The second negative is a copy negative from a retouched print. Certain details, such as the white spots around the searchlights’ convergence, are exactly the same in both negatives. In the retouched version, many light beams were lightened and widened with white paint, while other beams were eliminated.

In the 1940s, it was common for newspapers to use artists to retouch images because of poor reproduction. The retouching was needed to reproduce this image. But I wish the retouching had been more faithful to the original.

The Los Angeles Times published another retouched version of the image on Oct. 29, 1945. The white spots near the convergence of the searchlights are larger than in the 1942 version. This print is in the Los Angeles Times’ library and in poor condition.

Additional images are in the March 9, 1942, Life magazine. On page 22 is another photograph of searchlights from the night of the Battle of L.A. On page 19 is a story on the Japanese submarine attack on Feb. 23, 1942. On page 24 is a story on the removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast.

In addition, the Los Angeles Examiner archive at the University of Southern California has a couple of additional searchlight photos taken on Feb. 25, 1942.

This post originally was published March 10, 2011, with an update on Feb. 25, 2012.

Children's Experiences during WW2

During World War Two people at home took on different roles to help the war effort. Adults did jobs they wouldn't have done before the war. Some became ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Wardens, performing vital duties outdoors when air raid sirens had sounded. Many women became part of the Women's Land Army, doing manual work such as farm jobs, while labourers were in the services.

Children were also expected to contribute to the war effort. The photograph below shows schoolboys in Gotham, Nottinghamshire knitting clothes. During the war people knitted clothing for soldiers and children were proud of making socks or scarves to be sent to soldiers.

Children were also encouraged to help recycle materials that were in short supply to make equipment needed for the war. Many aluminium items were called in for recycling so that they could be used to make aircraft! The photograph below shows metal gathered during Northampton Salvage Week.

The Blitz of Belfast 1941

At the beginning of World War Two, Belfast’s leaders believed that the city would be safe from aerial bombing because of its distance from London, however the Blitz of Belfast 1941 was to prove them wrong. However, the German invasion of France in the spring of 1940 made it possible for bombers flying from French bases to reach the city.

Belfast became a prime target for bombing. It contained some of the most vital industries to the war effort, such as Harland Wolff shipyards, which employed 35,000 people and manufactured destroyers, minesweepers and aircraft carriers. Belfast’s dock was central to these industries - it was the last port before the journey to America, making it the key destination for American supplies during the war.

30 November 1940 saw the first Luftwaffe reconnaissance flight over the city.

The first known Luftwaffe reconnaissance flight over Belfast was on 30 November 1940. The flights provided the Germans with photographs of the city’s layout, detailing the location of factories and anti-aircraft guns. There were only 22 anti-aircraft guns defending Belfast, compared to 100 AA guns in Liverpool.

Air Raid Damage in the United Kingdom

This lack of defence was due to the government’s belief that North Ireland was too far for the Luftwaffe to be reached by the Luftwaffe.

There was also an attitude of complacency among the city’s population. Since the start of the war air raid sirens had gone off 22 times, but each one had been a false alarm. They paid less attention to blackouts as well and built only 200 air raid shelters for the whole city.

However, the peace wasn’t to last long. On 7 April 1941 the Luftwaffe launched its first attack. While most bombers headed towards Scotland, eight planes travelled to Belfast to test the defences in the city. They dropped 800 incendiary bombs which acted as markers for the other planes.

The raid destroyed many of the homes located near to factories and thirteen people in total were killed. The incendiary bombs also destroyed timber yards such and Harland and Wolff dockyards.

Before the next raid - known as the ‘Easter Raid - many of Belfast’s citizens took to the surrounding hills for safety at night time.

Around 56,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in the Easter Raid, which saw 150 bombers descend on the city. The government asked the Republic of Ireland to help the city after that raid, such was the extent of the damage.

The night of 4 May saw the next attack. More than 250 bombers attacked the city, dropping a total of 230 tons of bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs. The historic Royal Avenue was damaged and aircraft factories were put out of commission for three months. The raid killed more than 200 people and destroyed a shelter, burying those inside under rubble.

Shortly after this, Hitler suspended the aerial bombing of Britain to focus on the upcoming invasion of Russia. It gave Belfast the opportunity to rebuild the docks and factories.

Home Front Activities: Air Raid Sirens - History

Isoroku Yamamoto was a Japanese Naval Officer which was born at April 4th, 1884 in Nagaoka, Niigata and he died at the age of 59.

All over Japan, rationing had been taking place during World War Two. Rationing is when food is controlled by the government.

In Japan, the government decided that the remaining food had to be shared because during World War Two there was not enough supplies. Food coming into Japan was stopped because ships carrying resources were being destroyed and what was left was given to the soldiers fighting the war.

During World War Two ,Japanese ate vegetables, sugar, seafood, dairy goods, and rice .Rations for adults included only 1.3 to 1.8 ounces of meat and 1.8 ounces of fish a day, and every Japanese person received a ration book during the war containing stamps that could be used for certain items, stamps could buy the food or water. If they had no more stamps you couldn't buy anything in the next month. After 1944, even in the school fields they changed them in to farms where they grew sweet potatoes ,they ate every part of the sweet potato ,and for the protein, they ate beetles, beetle larvae, every insects found on the farm ,although they ate like this, there was still not enough foods, and in the end ,the rations were rarely distributed.

After 1944, even in the school fields they changed them in to farms where they grew sweet potatoes ,they ate every part of the sweet potato. For the protein, they ate beetles, beetle larvae, every insect found on the farm ,although they ate like this, there was still not enough food, and in the end ,the rations were rarely distributed.

Daily Lives:

In December 1943 Japanese Ministry of Education first evacuation kids, they let kids go to live with their family, and by the end of the war, 1, 303, 200 children had been.

The Japanese making farm every day just because they wanted more food for themself, they ate the insect, and sweet potatoes, they couldn't had enough food for every day.

The government used propaganda heavily and planned in minute detail regarding the mobilization of manpower, identification of critical choke points, food supplies, logistics, air raid shelters, and the evacuation of children and civilians from the targeted cities. Food supplies were very tight before the heavy bombing began in fall 1944, then grew to the crisis.

All of the powers used lessons from their experiences on the home front during World War I. Their success in mobilizing economic output was a major factor in supporting combat operations. Among morale-boosting activities that also benefited combat efforts, the home front engaged in a variety of scrap drives for materials crucial to the war effort such as metal, rubber, and rags. Such drives helped strengthen civilian morale and support for the war effort. Each country tried to suppress rumors, which typically were negative or defeatist.

Pearl harbour has been partially avenged by a smashing united states naval victory in the first place of a great and continuing pacific battle.

Reasons of the war in 1931-1941 the world war between Britain France and America vs Japan and Germany had started.

Home defense

In some destroyed cities, the government let the children move first, and incendiary kill 80,000 people, and likely more than 100,000.

On July 26, 1945, the president of the United States proposed a peace agreement to Japan, asked them to surrender, told them the consequences of their continued resistance, and then obtained the consent of the then president of China.

On August 6, 1945, at 9:15 am, the atomic bomb code named "little boy" was dropped in Hiroshima, Japan's seventh largest city. The atomic bomb was so powerful that nearly half of the city disappeared.

Propaganda was like newspaper was spread out something which is false to mislead the people.

During World War II, the Japanese government didn't tell people not to ask men to join the army, they didn't tell people how to continue to attack, keep calm and move on.

However, there is don't need propaganda in Japan, because the Japanese government already know that citizens are definitely.

The 'home front' covers the activities of the civilians in a nation at war. World War II was a total war homeland production became even more invaluable to both the Allied and Axis powers. Life on the home front during World War II was a significant part of the war effort for all participants and had a major impact on the outcome of the war.

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