11th November 1939: Special Constables in the Second World War

If this was this day 21 years ago the war would be over. As it is, it has not begun.

This morning Harding and I were sworn in as “Specials” before old General Towsey. We all swore to obey our King etc. The General said “Jolly good luck, men” and that was all. We each received a warrant card, but no helmets or other equipment.

Little Tovell is now determined to leave [the Museum], and has given notice she will go next Friday. I shall miss her.

Eric's diary entry highlights the lack of equipment available for those appointed as Special Constables in the first months of the war. In a letter to his cousin, dated 7th December 1939, he describes his duties:

I and two of the Attendants have been sworn in as "Specials", and have to do the best we can to attend [at the Castle air raid shelters when the alarm sounds]. We are considered to be on 24-hour duty, and cannot leave the town without the permission of the Chief Constable. Of course, we don't get paid, not even for going round last thing at night to see that all is well trying lights and keys etc, but there it is.

The whole thing is rather a nuisance, as we have been given to understand that if anything goes wrong during an alarm so that anybody gets hurt, it will be our responsibility. We also have to see that the main gates are kept clear of parked cars, which is no mean job on a dark night. There have been frequent "yellow" warnings up until recently, which lasted well on into the night, with the result that its best to go to bed with your clothes on more often than not.

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