IT WAS a team of brave volunteers was formed in 1937 with the primary responsibility of helping out in the aftermath of a major emergency such as enemy bombing or, later, a nuclear attack.

The Air Raid Precautions services (ARP) owed much of its existence to the deep concerns of the government during the lead-up to the conflict with Germany.

Soon after war was declared the ARP became Civil Defence General Services and the volunteers were trained for the important work that was to come.

Much of the pre-war planning was based on the idea that enemy bombing raids would cause such immense casualties that there would be insufficient manpower to bury the dead and that there would even be such a shortage of wood to make coffins that bodies would be disposed of in huge pits covered in lime.

READ MORE: Pictures taken at Marwell Zoo through the years

Whitehall predicted a Doomsday scenario in which millions of civilians would be turned into psychiatric cases by the bombing, overwhelming the hospitals and making it impossible for victims of blasts and burns to be treated. As it turned out Hampshire folk, like the rest of the country, were far more resilient in the face of enemy bombing.

Buildings may have been razed to the ground but the determination and spirit of the people were not broken by the devastation.

Southampton’s Civil Defence Services was at the forefront of the Home Front during the war, a role that was recognised by mayor Councillor J C Dyas when peace returned in 1945.

“None of us will ever forget the days and nights during which Southampton was subjected to aerial bombardment,’’ said the mayor at the time.

Civil Defence

Civil Defence Corps giving a demonstration on how to wear a gas mask.

“Days and nights when, at the first wail of the siren or the crack of the guns, hundreds of you men and women stood by your posts, trained and ready to combat, as far as was in your power, the terrific onslaught of the enemy.’’

The group became The Civil Defence Corps in 1948 and throughout the 1950s it regularly supported the emergency services that had been so vital during the Second World War.

Across the city were various control rooms, depots, shelters and training areas including at Bassett Green Road, Somerset Avenue, Kent Road, Shirley recreation ground, Deepdene, Golf Course Road and Upper Deacon Road.

Civil defence Exercise Samaritan. 25th aug 1951. © THE SOUTHERN DAILY ECHO ARCHIVES. Ref 9929

The Civil Defence Corps on an exercise in 1951.

Despite having more than 330,000 members nationally in 1956, the organisation’s role gradually declined and the number of volunteers dwindled.

In 1968 the government decided that the Civil Defence units no longer had a part to play in modern times. It signalled the end of years of dedicated service for numerous volunteers across the country, including many hundreds of Hampshire people.

The swansong of the Civil Defence Corps in Southampton was at the Civic Centre in May, 1968, when more than 100 volunteers attended a reception to mark the final day of the force.