The steel ‘brodie’ style helmet worn by Civil Defence Mortuary Volunteers is believed to be one of only three survivors.
The role of the Civilian War Deaths groups is not well documented. However, it appears that, in the early days of the war, all local authorities were instructed to implement schemes to deal with the fallout from enemy bombing. High numbers of fatalities were envisioned.
In particular, volunteers were sought from local undertakers, mortuaries and cemeteries to move bodies and prepare makeshift mortuaries and hearses (typically just vehicles adapted for the purpose). The initials CWD appeared on vehicles and helmets similar to those worn by ARP wardens. Some were black with white lettering, while others with black lettering on a white ground are assumed to be for supervisors.
Handful of survivors
The helmet in Sworders’ Out of the Ordinary auction on February 7 is one of a handful of survivors that emanate from the Hull area. The industrial East Yorkshire city was one of the worst bombed UK cities in the war with 1200 deaths and 3000 injured in 82 separate air raids.
Black with white lettering, it is impressed with the date 1939 and the maker’s mark RO & Co and the name M West added to the strap.
Such a rare survivor is expected to bring £500-800 at the saleroom in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex.