|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 3rd July, 1942, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Volunteers Save Rushden A.R.P. Test
Residents Deputise for Missing “Patients”
Fire Guards Participate in Realistic Exercise
Several Rushden people who expected to spend Sunday morning in a normal quiet manner found themselves on stretchers or speeding cars and ambulances to the A.R.P. First Aid Post, where doctors and nurses were soon bending over them. Called from their homes or approached in the street, they were sporting volunteers who managed to save the town’s big A.R.P. exercise from disruption.
According to Civil Defence officials who described the affair as disgraceful “-sixty youths belonging to a Rushden organisation were expected to take part in the exercise as “patients.” Only seven turned up, and at some of the locations umpires and A.R.P. personnel could do nothing until substitutes had been found.
Soon, seven incidents were staged, including 80 casualties, and for the first time sections of the Fire Guard were invited to co-operate. No call, however, was made on the N.F.S.
The siren was assumed to have sounded at 9 a.m., and the “bombing” began about half an hour later.
One of the two major incidents occurred in the vicinity of the High-street railway bridge, which was supposed to have been blown up, causing casualties on both sides and creating approach problems for the A.R.P. parties.
This formidable item provided the Rescue Squad with its big scene the lowering of a man, strapped to a stretcher, from the outside balcony of the Royal Theatre. Before the man could be rescued the wall had to be shored-up as it was supposed to be in danger of collapse. Ladder-men found the casualty and gave him some attention before the stretcher, steadied by ropes, was taken down to the street by two Rescue Squad men who were on ladders placed close together.
A somewhat similar plot was staged near the “Oakley Arms,” where the road was closed by a bomb crater, the hostelry was an urgent case for the rescue squads, and further casualties were littered around the houses. Here there was a long wait for first-aid and rescue parties, and the wardens had a lot of “nursing” to do.
The Fire Guard operated at the junction of Purvis-road and Highfield-road and at the corner of Essex-road and Park-road. Practice incendiaries were used and bonfires provided further tests, one of them containing a hidden incendiary bomb which rather upset calculations.
At the corner of Wymington-road and High-street South a bomb was presumed to have blocked a culvert, and there were two stretcher cases among the casualties. A First Aid Party man was commended for using his handkerchief to improvise a bandage.
Near the junction of Oswald-road and Newton-road the umpire collected small boys to act as casualties. Other incidents were staged in Cromwell-road (at Messrs. Wm. Green and Son’s factory), Hayway and Coronation-avenue.
The First Aid Post in Moor-road was kept busy for about 90 minutes; gas, electricity and water services had men standing by, and within ten minutes of the supposed bombing the W.V.S. had opened the official rest centre at the B.W.T.A. Hall and prepared all the beds.
Calls were made on A.R.P. squads from Higham Ferrers, Irthlingborough and Wellingborough.
Several county and district officials watching the morning’s events, which culminated in a friendly but thorough inquiry at the B.W.T.A. Hall under the chairmanship of Mr. F. Jennings, Divisional A.R.P. Officer. On the platform also were Brigadier-General Gage (County Liaison Officer), Capt. J. M. Bailey, M.C., M.B.E. (Rushden A.R.P. Officer), Mr. Malcolm Boyd (Chief Warden), Dr. D. G. Greenfield and Dr. R. W. Davies.
In the course of the umpire’s reports it was emphasized that the Fire Guards had no axes. Mr. Jennings said that a Fire Guard should have an axe, hammer or some other tool with him when he entered a building. He also pointed out the importance of giving first attention to buildings when incendiaries fall of going through the top floor whenever there was a doubt.
Mr. Boyd announced that axes were being supplied to the Fire Guard as soon as possible.
Remarking that, generally speaking, the first aid work was extremely good, Mr. Jennings said he had put in one or two difficult cases because he had so many competition teams in the area.
Dr. Greenfield said the First Aid Post worked smoothly and well but lacked information as to how many casualties were likely to arrive.
Referring to the absence of the youths who were expected to act as casualties, Dr. Greenfield declared: “It is a very disgraceful thing to happen, and I hope somebody is going to take very strong measures about it. I suppose they are volunteers and belong to a voluntary organisation, but they are not fit to belong to any organisation if this is how they conduct themselves.”
Capt. Bailey said he was sure that suitable action would be taken. There could be no possible doubt whatever that orders were given and received. He had a written acknowledgment of his request for the boys, and 60 were expected, but only seven turned up. On all other occasions the people asked to help had turned up and they had had more patients than were required.
After some criticism of the message arrangements Capt. Bailey summed up: “Broadly speaking, it was a good “do.” Everybody stood up to it very well indeed.”
Special thanks were expressed to the last-minute volunteers.