Air Raid Sirens

The purpose of the air raid siren was to warn of an approaching attack, allowing people to take cover. All nations employed some sort of system and they generally consisted of a dual tone warning, followed by a single tone to denote that the threat had passed. The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) were responsible for seeing that people would act accordingly on hearing the warning siren. In urban areas, sirens were installed at height, to maximise their coverage. These main sirens were electrically powered and operated from central control rooms, which were advised of the pending threat via the military.



In addition to the main sirens (and in areas of lesser population) the warning was given via portable hand-cranked devices, examples of which are shown below. In extreme circumstances, the alert could be issued by either the police or ARP via their whistle! Following the end of World War Two, the main sirens were retained and integrated into the Three-Minute Warning, to be used in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. An example could be seen in the corner of Chalkwell Park ( Near Southend-on-Sea, Essex) until shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Likewise, the Civil Defence retained their portable sirens for the same purpose. Each nation preferring a different design of hand-operated siren.
British Hand-cranked Portable Air-raid Siren. Although found on a variety of different mountings, the siren design remained constant. By utilising what appears to be a carry handle on the top, the shutters on the front could be open and closed in order to create the dual tone. The faster the crank handle is turned, the louder the siren. Although described as portable, it was very bulky.



German Hand-cranked Portable Air-raid Siren. The principle of operation is similar to its British counterpart, although it does offer a greater degree of portability than its British counterpart. The dual tone was created by operating the lever shown towards the top of the third image.





French Hand-cranked Air-raid Siren. This example was produced under the German occupation.

To hear air raid sirens, click here.

To read about Air-Raid Shelters, click here.

Please note: This page has been created in order to provide supplemental information. The items shown here do not form part of our collection.

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