Bomb disposal for beginners

The 2 lb. magnesium bomb does not explode, its only object being to start a fire. It will probably penetrate no further than the attic or an upper floor, setting light to anything within a few feet. Vast numbers of these light bombs can be carried by a single aeroplane, and many more fires started than could be dealt with by fire brigades. Householders, with a little training and equipment, can deal with the incendiary bombs and so protect their homes and defeat the enemy’s object.

Image from a 1938 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.The intense heat and smoke from such a bomb and the fire which it will have started make close approach impossible until the atmosphere has been cooled down and the fire partly extinguished. This is done with a jet of water from a hose not less than 30 feet long. The stirrup hand pump (illustrated) is recommended for this purpose. The girl in the picture is kneeling, as smoke is not so thick close to the ground. Note Redhill container in foreground.

Image from a 1938 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.In this picture the girl has taken sand from the container and is pouring it on to the bomb with a long-handled scoop. Sand does not extinguish the magnesium bomb, but it controls it and reduces the heat, thus allowing near approach. Note the Redhill container placed on its side in such a way that full scoopfuls of sand can easily be withdrawn. After the first scoopful of sand has been placed on the bomb, the glare and heat are greatly reduced.

Image from a 1938 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.Removal of incendiary bomb with scoop and hoe. The long-handled scoop illustrated is necessary in dealing with incendiary bombs. It is made in two sections, the scoop on one end and the hoe on the other, and when joined together is 7 feet long. In the picture it is separated, the hoe being used to draw the bomb into the scoop, which is made strong enough to withstand the heat of a burning bomb.

Image from a 1938 cigarette card by W.D. & H.O. Wills.The burning bomb is here being transferred from the scoop into the Redhill container, which can then be carried out of the house. The container is made strong enough to hold a burning magnesium bomb indefinitely, and is so designed that the heat of the bomb will not injure the hand of the person by whom it is carried.
‘Air Raid Precautions’ cigarette cards, 1938.

As easy as that. Like putting the rubbish out. I wonder if anyone actually did this? It looks like a pre-war theory developed by someone who had never been in an air raid and it’s more likely to endanger lives than save them. How do you fight a fire in an attic where the only ventilation is the hole punched in the roof by two pounds of flaming magnesium? And what if you get clobbered by one (or more) of the other bombs from the “vast” number carried by “a single aeroplane”?

When the real action started I believe civilians were advised to head for the nearest shelter when the siren sounded and not get in the way of the professionals.

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