A for Air Raid Precautions

This was growing too fast for just leaving it as a "Card of the Day", so we now have this new blog post, "A for Air Raid Precautions". This increased space will allow us to eventually display a single card of all the back versions, list all the titles of the standard version, reveal the truth about the shortened Irish issue of forty cards, plus discover which two cards were not included in the Churchman medium sized set of forty-eight cards, and re-discover the fact that there was not just one version of those cards, but three. 

We can also add some background to the production of the set, using contemporary military manuals and sources.. 

Now the first ever write up for this set appears on the front cover of the London Cigarette Card Company`s “Cigarette Card News”, Volume 5, No.39 - copy dated September 1938. This starts by saying : 

In view of the extreme national importance of the subject, the issue by Messrs. W.D. & H.O. Wills, Ltd., of a series of cards dealing with Air-Raid Precautions carries more than the interest usually attached to the issue of a new set, however good. The series deals with every aspect of the subject; the use of suitable appliance for dealing with gas and incendiary bombs, construction of refuges, decontamination work, the protection of windows and doors against gas, splinters, etc., and much other information. This is, we believe the first series ever to receive official notice by one of H.M. Ministers; it is certainly worthy of the distinction.”

I think that there is something else very important about this set, for it is proof that cigarette cards were definitely regarded as a great way of getting information across to the general public. If not, this set would have not been issued, it would have been printed a series of posters, or a book. Another proof of its usefulness is the way that it was issued by more than one cigarette company in different regional areas, Churchman in Ipswich and East Anglia, Wills of Bristol and the West, Mitchell in Glasgow and Scotland, Ogdens of Liverpool and the North West. 

The set order : 

The album states right on the front cover that it is "to contain a Series of Cigarette cards of National Importance", and it was so important that several manufacturers issued it, in the hope that all smokers would get to have it. It also had a fairly long run, being issued until January 1939 - when it was replaced in the packets by "Garden Flowers by Sudell". I have to say I do think that is a strange choice, as the war got ever closer, if it had been vegetables it would have been better because you could have eaten them when shop bought food ran out. 

This listing uses the numbers of the standard sized sets. The (C) suffix is the numbers of the large sized Churchman cards, which differ, and lack two of the cards. And the (WI) suffix are the numbers of the cards that Wills issued in Ireland - or they will be when I get them done. 

The set started with preparations, and the first nine cards spoke of making a suitable room to serve as a refuge. The titles of these are :

  • 1 Choosing Your Refuge Room (C1)

  • 2 Rendering Your Refuge Room Gas-Proof (C2)

  • 3 Making a Door Gas-Proof (C3)

  • 4 Window Protection (C4)

  • 5 Window Protection against Blast (C5)

  • 6 Types of Splinter-Proof Wall (C6)

  • 7 Protecting Your Windows--A Sandbag Defence (C7)

  • 8 Equipping Your Refuge Room--(A) (C8)

  • 9 Equipping Your Refuge Room--(B) (C9)

The biggest fear, as these cards show, was that poison gas would be released on the British public, but it never was. 

The cards then move on to home dug outdoor shelters, in the garden, and closes with what looks like the interior of a submarine, which is "a ventilated gas proof shelter". However in the Churchman version there is just the one card, of the garden dug-out; both the others were not included. 

  • 10 A Garden Dug-Out (C10)

  • 11 A Ventilated Gas-Proof Shelter 

  • 12 A Gas-Proof Balloon Shelter (French Type)

The next cards deal with things that it was hoped any home owner or resident could easily manage to do in order to tackle a range of emergencies before the wardens arrived. It was also thought that seeing them tackled so easily, and in an illustrated manner, would give the householder confidence that they could indeed do these things. Chief amongst these was fighting incendiary bombs, which were indeed designed to start fires; these had an explosive charge inside the casing and that would burst either in the air or once it hit the ground, setting light to a flammable material inside the bomb. You can see how it comes through the window and lands on the carpet. If things did get out of hand there were card showing how to operate fire pumps, or, failing that, forming a human chain with buckets of water.  I am not sure why they featured the mechanised equipment, unless it was to show what would eventually arrive. 

  • 13 Incendiary Bomb and Its Effect (Fire started in room) (C11)

  • 14 Incendiary Bomb Cooling Down (Preliminary Fire Extinguishing with Jet from Stirrup Hand Pump) (C12)

  • 15 Control of Incendiary Bomb (Pouring on Sand from Scoop) (C13)

  • 16 Removal of Incendiary Bomb with Scoop and Hoe (C14)

  • 17 Extinction of Incendiary Bomb (Transferring the bomb to the Redhill Container) - (C15)

  • 18 The Stirrup Hand Pump (C16)

  • 19 Two-Men Portable Manual Fire-Pump in Action (C17)

  • 20 A Chain of Buckets (C18)

  • 21 Light Trailer Fire-Pump (C19)

  • 22 Light Trailer Fire-Pump in Action (C20)

  • 23 Medium Trailer Fire-Pump (C21)

  • 24 Medium Trailer Fire-Pump in Action (C22)

  • 25 Emergency Heavy Pump Unit (C23)

  • 26 Hose-Laying Lorry (C24)

After that the set slides into rubber, respirators, or gas masks, including how to fit them, anti gas suits, and clothing.

  • 27 The Civilian Respirator (C25)

  • 28 The Civilian Respirator--How to Adjust It (C26)

  • 29 The Civilian Respirator--How to Remove It (C27)

  • 30 The Civilian Duty Respirator (C28)

  • 31 The Service Respirator (C29)

  • 32 A Heavy Anti-Gas Suit (C30)

  • 33 Rubber Clothing (C31)

The next part shows the power of connection, and of volunteering, especially amongst the general public, that is why we have cards such as "Air Raid Wardens and a Civilian Volunteer Despatch Rider", but also owner drivers, a first aid party, ordinary people packing respirators, the various crew and helpers of a mobile gas van, contamination workers in training. And that section closes by showing the A.R.P. badge, which was made of hallmarked silver, which ensured that the wearer would be instantly recognised as an official. The card tells us that to get the badge you only needed to serve for a month at either first aid/medical, rescue/demolition, decontamination, air raid wardenry, or as a gas detection officer - and also be deemed an efficient member of your squad. It then says that "women volunteers are presented with a brooch carrying the badge". These brooches are far scarcer than the man`s version, by the way. You can read more about this badge at WW2 Civil Defence/ARP which is a fascinating site on every page. 

  • 34 Air Raid Wardens and Civilian Volunteer Despatch-Rider (C32)

  • 35 Volunteer Mobile Corps (Owner Drivers) (C33)

  • 36 A First Aid Party (C34)

  • 37 Supply Depot for Respirators (C35)

  • 38 Mobile Gas Vans (C36)

  • 39 Civilian Anti-Gas School (C37)

  • 40 Testing for Gas Contamination (C38)

  • 41 Decontamination Workers in Training (C39)

  • 42 Air Raid Precautions Badge (C40)

And lastly we have the defence of the Country, simply explained.

  • 43 Representation of Air Defence Control Room (C41)

  • 44 Pilots Running to Machines (Interceptor Fighters) to Take Off (C42)

  • 45 Gloucester Gauntlet Interceptor Fighters (C43)

  • 46 Representation of Balloon Barrage for Defence of London (C44)

  • 47 Anti-Aircraft Searchlight (C45)

  • 48 Anti-Aircraft Sound Locator (C46)

  • 49 Height Finder (C47)

  • 50 Anti-Aircraft Gun (C48)

The Issuers : 

So to the card listings : and some of these sets are already shown online as cards of the day and in the newsletter, which is why some of them are in bold type. Clicking those will lead you to more information about that specific issue, rather than about the set in general. However the list of versions will remain here so that they are easier to compare.



The next trio of makers are all standard sized cards, and here is a comparison of them.  

Hignett Mitchell Ogdens ARP




  • Standard sized set of 50 cards, home issue (1938) 



  • Standard sized set of 50 cards, home issue (1938) 


The photo for this next comparison is still under construction. 


W.D. & H.O. WILLS 

  • standard sized set of 50 cards, home issue (August 1938)  https://csgb.co.uk/cardoftheday/2022-12-12

  • standard sized set of 50 cards,  export issue to Channel Islands and Malta (July 1938)

  • standard sized set of 50 cards, export issue to Ireland (no issue date recorded)