Government to Publicize Air Raid Precautions


Medicine Today and Tomorrow October 1937

Government to Publicize Air Raid Precautions

THIS autumn will see a big publicity campaign waged by the Home Office to popularize air raid precautions. For, truth to tell, the public has proved very apathetic to the whole business. In the spring there was launched a grandiose scheme for air raid wardens, special firemen, and what not, but few areas have found the necessary personnel volunteering to carry through the plans, and notoriously Tory districts are as apathetic as those less well disposed to the present Government.

And no wonder. An expert in these matters, with the object of stressing the need for precautions, has described only too clearly what the future air raid will be like, pointing out that it is admitted that if we are attacked, a certain number of bombers will get through our defence and reach and bomb their objective with an accuracy that has been highly developed since the last war.

Attacking squadrons will contain thirty or more machines, he says. Several of these squadrons will carry out an attack, and they will come over in waves. Where a particular target is being attacked, these machines may drop their bombs individually, but where towns or cities are the objective, it is expected that all the machines in a squadron will release their bombs at a given signal from their squadron leader.

The first wave of machines will probably drop high explosives, which will cause considerable damage to gas-proof shelters; the second wave will drop incendiary bombs, which will cause many fires; and these two methods will probably force a good many people to leave their shelters owing to damage or fires. The third wave will then drop gas bombs, and in the confusion many may become gassed.

High-explosive bombs, weighing up to 500 Ibs., may cause damage in three ways. The first is by fragmentation, the splinters doing considerable damage to material and persons in the vicinity. The second is by blast, consisting of a tremendous blast of air thrown outwards by the explosion of the bomb, followed by an inward rush of air to fill up the vacuum. This will cause considerable damage in the vicinity, as well as breaking glass over a wide area. The third is penetration, achieved by the use of an armour-piercing nose attached to the bomb, with or without the use of a delayed fuse. This type will produce the maximum amount of damage to buildings.

To obtain adequate protection from a direct hit by a 5OO-lb. high-explosive bomb, it is necessary to have from 12 to 15 feet of reinforced concrete, or, in the case of underground shelters, they must be 60 to 70 feet below the surface.

As bombs dropped from a height do not come straight down, but at an angle according to the height of the machine, and may strike the side of an otherwise protected building, it will be realized that it is impossible to obtain complete protection in the case of direct hits by high-explosive bombs.

To guard against splinters and blast at a distance of 50 feet from the point of explosion, it has been found that it requires:—

  • 1 1/2 inches of mild steel plate, or
  • 13 1/2 inches of solid brick wall, or
  • 15 1/2inches of cavity wall, or
  • 12 inches of reinforced concrete, or
  • 30 inches of sand, earth, or coal.

Incendiary bombs are usually small, and they ignite and burn fiercely on coming into contact with buildings, etc., the 2-lb. bomb burning for from 7 to 10 minutes.

There is at present no known method of extinguishing these bombs.

Water should never be thrown on them, as it may cause an explosion, and even when covered with sand, the bombs will continue to burn, as they generate oxygen.

A small incendiary bomb will penetrate an ordinary roof and probably burn out on the top floor, but, in the case of heavy bombs, they will burn through most floors fairly easily.

To keep out the small bombs of from two to three pounds 5 inches of reinforced concrete will be required.

When the experts are so frank about the ghastly effects of aerial warfare, can it be wondered that the people as a whole refuse to show any enthusiasm for “precautions” that to them seem fantastic, and to prefer a peace programme that will preclude the possibility of such horrors ever happening ?

T’he report of the first researches of the Cambridge scientists, exposing the futility of the air raid precautions recommended as adequate by the present Government, created a sensation.

A second report is almost ready, and exclusive first publication of this will be made in an early issue of “Medicine Today & Tomorrow.”

Three main storage depots in London for gas masks have now been stocked with nine million gas masks for use in emergency. Ten other depots are to be established in the provinces in such centres as Manchester, Liverpool, Tyneside, and Nottingham, which will absorb the present output of two million masks a month. They will be distributed when the time arrives by the local air raid wardens.