Emergency services

old photo of firemen with vehicles


The 2,000 officers and men of the Liverpool City Police played a major role in Liverpool's blitz defences. About 400 special constables assisted them. Eleven policemen were killed during the raids, and many received medals for saving lives and property.

As well as their usual duties, police officers took charge of every blitz incident. They helped to rescue people and to put out fires. They controlled traffic and cleared whole areas until bomb disposal squads could make unexploded bombs safe.

The Chief Constable, Herbert Winstanley, was in control of the Police, the Fire Brigade and ARP: civil defence. Hundreds of police instructors helped with local ARP training in gas drill, bomb drill and fire-fighting.

ARP and rescue services

Liverpool's survival during the Blitz owed a great deal to its thousands of Air Raid Precautions (ARP) or civil defence volunteers.

The city's civil defence services were set up by the Town Clerk. They were armies of volunteers, mostly part-time and unpaid, who assisted the regular emergency services. Their aim was to save lives and minimise the effects of enemy air attack. In Liverpool they were split into ten divisions, each with its own control. The main control centre was at the new Police Training School, Mather Avenue, Allerton.

2 ARP wardens helping injured old lady - copy; Trustees of the Imperial War Museum

Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London. (HU36162) Imperial War Museum images may not be copied without the permission of the Imperial War Museum

The first level of civil defence was provided by:

  • air raid (ARP) wardens
  • the Civil Defence Cadet Corps (later the Messenger Service)
  • first aid teams
  • rescue parties
  • fire watching parties
  • fire fighting parties

Fire services

The Liverpool Fire Brigade, the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Liverpool Salvage Corps were in the front line of rescue work during the Blitz. Although short of men and supplies, they were greatly assisted by volunteer fireguards and firewatchers. Over 100 other fire brigades from as far as the Midlands and London also helped with crews and equipment when needed.

The 'fire bobbies', as they were called, worked heroically in very dangerous and difficult conditions. Forty were killed and many more injured whilst on duty. Men from the Liverpool Fire Brigade and Auxiliary Fire Service received a number of medals for bravery and for saving lives.

  • Liverpool Fire Brigade was a police brigade, under the Chief Constable of Liverpool. It had about 250 men, including 50 policemen trained as auxiliary firemen
  • The Auxiliary Fire Service had about 2,000 full-time and over 3,000 part-time firemen

Medical, relief and welfare

The staff of the city's hospitals, and of the recently established emergency hospitals, worked throughout the Blitz to cope with casualties. Several hospitals were bombed, and many staff killed or injured.

The Liverpool Ambulance Service, boosted by auxiliary ambulances driven by volunteers, also played a front-line role during the Blitz.

Liverpool Corporation set up a very efficient billeting service to find temporary homes for people whose houses had been destroyed by bombing. After the May Blitz, however, almost 10,000 people had to be found accommodation outside the city.

Among other services catering for people whose homes had been destroyed by bombing were:

  • Rest centres run by the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS)
  • Mobile canteens run by the WVS, providing hot drinks and snacks to people in blitzed areas.