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Experiences of War : Civilian Life : Civilians preparing for war

The rise to power of the German Nationalist Socialist Party (the Nazis) and the belligerence of Imperial Japan in the Pacific area in the 1930s was seen by some people as likely to lead to war. While many political leaders in Britain and Australia did not rate this probability very highly, a perceptive group of South Australian civilians was convinced that conflict was inevitable, and they determined to prepare for it.

The inaugural meeting of the South Australian Defence Society was convened by Natalia Davies on 25 February 1933. Miss Davies addressed the meeting on 'the necessity of preparing for warfare on civilians by securing gas-masks and building fortifications'. From 1939 the Defence Society conducted classes for the public on topics including first aid, the use of civilian respirators, how to identify poisonous gases, fire prevention and shooting practice.

The society also assisted in preparing people for duty as Air Raid Precaution (A.R.P.) wardens. Lucy Lockett Ayers kept a detailed record of her time as an A.R.P. warden. In her diary entry for 9 December 1941, Lucy expressed some reluctance to enrol in the service,

Every inclination I have is against this idea and I hate it, but my conscience prompts me, and has done so for some time, to make some kind of effort towards helping to win the war, and although I can't think of anything I should hate less, neither can I think of anything I would rather do. I don't want to join the Red Cross or Comforts Funds, I don't want to sew or pack or do clerical work and I have no training for anything else.

But a poem she wrote in January 1945 suggests the time she had spent as an ARP warden had given her a great deal of satisfaction,

Have you seen "sister Susie" since she joined the A.R.P.?
She was a Red Cross worker, and then a V.S.D.
But they gave no scope for talent,
So she firmly turned them down,
And now patrols the streets all day,
The saviour of the town.

Once war broke out, the activities pioneered by the Defence Society were taken over on a formal basis by state authorities, such as the Civil Defence Department, with Defence Society members contributing to services such as 'roof watching'.

Air raid precautions : black-out instructions
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Air raid precautions handbook : extracts
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B.G. Francis and D. M. Shepley, two enlisted Savings Ba
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Certificate of appreciation: Civil Defence Force
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Defence Society
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Defence Society members practice shooting at Carrick Hi
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Defence Society Rifle Officer Collier practices shootin
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Defence Society roof watchers climb into position
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Duncan Building, Franklin Street
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Female roof watcher in asbestos hood and gloves for fir
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Gas detection card
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Gas mask
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