Website of the Laceby History Group

Laceby Air Raid Warning System (1941 - 1943)

What on the face of it appeared a simple system of air raid warnings operated in Laceby.

The telephone rang in the brick built stable at the back of Jack Stanley's shop down Grimsby Road. The Air Raid Warden on duty lifted the black ear-piece and listened to a message from Grimsby. After taking down the warning of an impending air raid the Warden would nudge his young duty messenger boy into life. Together they went through the stable doors to wind up the warning siren. A dreadful cacophony then hit the Laceby air. The two people would wind up the siren, let go the handle which free-wheeled, wind it up again and so on, to give that weird wailing sound the memory of which can still bring a chill to some people's hearts. This siren was later replaced by an electrically driven one sited on top of the Temperance Hall, which had previously been at Blundell Park, Grimsby.

The messenger leapt on his bike to alert more Wardens in case they had failed to hear the siren. Each Warden when alerted either by an urgent knocking on his door or by stones thrown at his bedroom window in the case of a night raid, would in turn, jump on his bike and pedal fast to his designated area of duty in Laceby or surrounding district. There he would check his armband clearly marked AIR RAID WARDEN, check the First Aid contents of his white shoulder bag, check his torch, his spare torch batteries and his whistle. His torch would be masked to a slit to it couldn't be seen by enemy aircraft at 20,000 ft. These precautions taken he would then proceed to patrol his area mainly watching for illegal lights showing, bomb damage or shrapnel damage and generally checking the security of his area.

Finding something amiss, the Warden would send his duty messenger boy back to the Air Raid Warden's Post to report the Warden's message and alert emergency services. Anything other than a fire engine, which was housed next door to Orpington House, had to be applied for from Grimsby.

Fire Watchers, who were armed with a torch, a bucket of water and a stirrup pump, were on duty at key sites in the village as soon as they heard the siren or were called by messenger. They mainly congregated in the doorway of Perry Herrick's draper's shop in The Square where they had a good view of the main roads and also of the searchlights sweeping across the sky above Grimsby looking for Jerry. Meanwhile, back at the Post, messages, Wardens and boys had been back and forth doing their bit in the watching, patrolling and reporting system. The coke fire was stoked and the kettle boiling for the seemingly endless cups of tea which were required during a busy night.

Daylight raids were few; it was mostly night-time when Jerry struck and the sonorous tones of a patrolling Warden could be heard saying, "Put that light out" to some poor unfortunate nipping out to the lav at the bottom of the garden, perhaps in a high old state of nerves. The school, being the Rest Centre, would be manned for possible victims of bomb damage to houses and awaiting clearance to return to their homes. Blankets were stored for this emergency. The Temperance Hall was the First Aid Centre and Casualty Clearing Station although no casualties were reported as having gone through it! Sister Lena Daubney stuck to her post though, which shows that Laceby was ready to protect itself and had taken all aspects into account when the prospect of war came upon them.

An emergency food store was kept above Anderson's butcher's shop and would have kept village people alive for approximately one month should we for any reason be cut off from fresh food supplies. That store consisted of tins of dried milk, sugar, flour, margarine, dried egg and tins of bully beef. It was under the control of the Ministry of Food and was regularly inspected by Mr. F. Pye, an architect. Some of the Wardens who voluntarily gave up many of their nights and a lot of their spare time to train and protect Laceby during this time were:-

Bill Curtis - the farmer

Bill Donner - landworker

Horace Keal - joiner / undertaker

Cyril Leeson - blacksmith

Tommy Lewis - joiner

Edgar Lee - shopowner

Percy Parker - decorator

Harry Pawson - wheel wright / undertaker

George Pawson - decorator

Richard Rowson - headteacher

Willie Sykes - farmworker

Fred Ward - civil servant, Senior Warden in Charge

George Wilson - market gardener

Thankfully their whistles were seldom blown in anger!

Amongst their bike-riding messengers were:-

John Anderson - called up into the Royal Signals

Vernon Brookes - called up as a Bevin Boy then the Army

Derrick Deighton - called up into the RAF

Henry Ludlam - called up into the Navy

Fred Parker - called up into the Merchant Navy

George Payne - called up into the Paratroops

George Robinson - called up into the Navy

David Wilson - called up into the RAF

Herbert Wilson - called up as a Bevin Boy

Dick Waterman - called up into the REME

One dark night the Warden was called out to Aylesby where in Dunham's Lane Mr. Dunham's thatched cottage was reported damaged and the occupant in difficulties. The duty Warden, Mr. George Wilson, along with his messenger and full First Aid kit pedalled hard to the scene. On arrival he shouted up to the bedroom to Mr. Dunham, "Are you alright?" Back came the reply, "I can't get down the stairs but I'm alright", from Mr. Dunham. "Well", said the Warden, "seeing as you're alright we'll leave you there til it's light and fetch you in the morning"

While waiting for a call-out duty Wardens occupied their time in one of four different ways. The first was making tea, the second was checking equipment and the third was playing darts. The fourth? Well, Mrs. Stanley's domestic water arrangements were such that required frequent pumping of water up to her storage tank in the loft and the Wardens said that job gave them a bit of exercise.

Their lot wasn't always a happy one but the thing that stays in the memory is that they were there at their post, ready and willing if needed.

by Brenda Anderson