Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Discovering my grandfather: Sepia Saturday 162

I have gone with the 'men in hats or uniform' theme this week and actually trying to uncover some of the puzzles behind the photograph has been very interesting.


Thomas Welch and friends



The man on the right was my grandfather, and this photograph was taken during the Second World War, sometime in the early 1940s I would guess, when he was in his early 40s. I knew that he did something in London during the blitz, but I never really knew what. However, there were a few clues in the photo.



The first clue is the letters on the cuff of the uniform; ARP. This stood for 'Air Raid Precautions' and was an organisation set up just prior to the outbreak of WW2 with the aim of protecting civilians from the dangers of air raids. They were responsible for issuing gas masks, air raid shelters and managing and enforcing the 'blackout'. Volunteer air raid wardens were recruited to do this, and at first I thought that this was what my grandfather had done. However, when I looked for photos of ARP wardens the unforms didn't look quite the same.
 
Clue number two came from the hat. Wardens had tin hats, but this one looked rather different.
 

 
 
 
 
Further investigation lead me to this:
 
 
This is the uniform from the St John's Ambulance and you can see my grandfather sporting a uniform very similar to that of 1950. During WW2 The St John's Ambulance volunteers acted as ARP ambulance attendants, and their job was to aid casualties, search for survivors and remove dead bodies.
 
What struck me from the photo was that despite this gruesome job, they all look quite cheerful and they look impecably smart! No sign of a high visabilty jacket anywhere! My grandfather did take this role quite seriously and he would have done this in evenings, after doing his day job as a postman.


 

21 comments:

Mike Burnett said...

I see you've also gone for the "History of British Uniforms" approach - the modern outfits are probably higher performing, but they lack any style or character.

The Pink Geranium or Jan's Place said...

I love how you researched all these details, great post for sure!

Jan

Wendy said...

Good for you following the clues to learn more about your grandfather. Even though their job had its gruesome side, finding survivors had to be rewarding. They deserved to be proud, and the picture shows it.

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Nice sleuthing. Great photos. Now I'm interested in the St. Johns Ambulance.

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Now I'm interested in the St. John Ambulance. Nice sleuthing work.

Karen said...

What an important contribution to the war effort! Great post.

Postcardy said...

Good job in discovering his job!

Boobook said...

A fascinating bit of research. Great photo for the family to have.

Joan said...

I am always fascinated to learn about the activities that our involved the folks who went before us. You brought an added sense of dedication and honor to this picture with your following of the "clues.:

Peter said...

Great post! was the ARP part of the Home Guard?

Lovely's Blot said...

I think it was the other way round Peter. The Home guard was part of the ARP. My father was in the Home guard and he always told me that there was a lot of rivalry between them and the ARP wardens.

Bob Scotney said...

The Home Guard and the ARP (Air Raid Police, known as Air Raid Wardens) were separate organisations and in many place 'rivals' - Check out Youtube for TV's Dad's Army show.
It's quite feasible that a member of the St John's Ambulance could also have an ARP role.

Gill Edwards said...

great piece of detective work there. What a terrible job they had to do and how brave they must have been. He looked very smart indeed, thanks for sharing such a lovely story.

Gill x

Brett Payne said...

Introduce a tin hat and it would have been very "Dad's Army." I presume postmen were one of the reserved occupations during the war? Wonderful photo.

Lovely's Blot said...

I don't know whether all postmen were reserved occupations. I think my mother said that at the outbreak of the war my grandfather was too old to sign up.

Eugenia O'Neal said...

Great detective work! They do look impeccably turned out!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

This is so interesting! I have never thought about anybody having that particular job before. They all look happy and healthy, and you did a great job of investigating the story.

Thanks!

Kathy M.

Karen S. said...

What wonderful research and how it paid off for you! Great photos too!

Alan Burnett said...

I do enjoy reading about this type of photographic detective work. It is a great initial photograph and a fine write up for it.

anyjazz said...

Good research from small details. I enjoyed following you through it.

Chairman Bill said...

Ain't that Cpl. Jones on the left in the lower picture?