Rattling the Air Raid Warning.
What do a WWII warden and a football frantic have in common? They both need to make noise, really loud noise.
On our last trip to England, we found two wooden vintage rattles at two different shops. We were told that each was used during English traditional football (soccer) games to cheer on the teams or dispute the officials’ calls. However, upon closer examination, we found that one of the rattles was older and used by the Air Raid Precaution Wardens during WWII.
The larger of the two rattles is composed of wood and metal. It is impressed with a 3 letter mark and 1942, indicating its manufactured date. Upon investigation, we found out that the ARP Wardens would have used the rattle to warn the general public of a gas attack by whipping the rattle in a circular fashion, causing a sharp pop as the gear released the wooden strip. It’s certainly loud enough to wake a neighborhood.
Air raids and the fear of gas attacks were real concerns since the zeppelins first dropped bombs in WWI. During the build up to WWII, the British government began to make plans to protect the civilians on the home front. The rattles were part of the equipment issued to ARP Wardens. Upon hearing the rattle, the public knew to put on their gas masks and wait for the all clear. In case of a gas attack, the plan was to decontaminate those under attack and give first aid. The ARP Wardens were the first responders.
The smaller of the two rattles is all wood and painted and most definitely used at a football match. The larger ARP Wardens rattle may have also seen some football action, since, thankfully, the Germans did not use gas attacks on the home front.
Think about these as Father’s Day gift ideas! And stop by the store and give them a shake. They may just be what your dad needs during football season or scaring away the birds from his garden.