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The threat of a gas attack was at the forefront of our minds

PUBLISHED: 16:25 04 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:34 02 July 2010

Not from outer space: How to repel a gas attack with police tuition.

Not from outer space: How to repel a gas attack with police tuition.

Derek James

No the aliens hadn't landed and although the people in this picture look rather amused, the message was deadly serious.

No the aliens hadn't landed and although the people in this picture look rather amused, the message was deadly serious.

This sums up the way it was in Norwich of 70 years ago, and the rest of the country.

We were at war and the threat of a gas attack from Nazi Germany was uppermost in most minds.

The people had been issued with gas masks and this picture shows a police officer giving a little tuition to civil defence folk.

And although it caused some smiles and puzzled expressions, people were worried sick as gas masks were issued to everyone.

How would they cope if there had been a gas attack?

Nobody was sure what horrors the war would bring.

Many police officers left the city to join the armed forces at the start of the war in 1939 leaving the rest to work closely with the voluntary and other organisations to defend and keep law and order in the city.

And it was the war which strengthened the bond between the police and the public. The force was supported by large numbers of War Reserve Constables and hundreds of specials.

And when the bombs dropped, causing death and destruction across the city, the police along with the rest of the civil defence organisations were there to help.

The main picture appears in Maurice Morson's excellent book A Force Remembered telling the story of the Norwich City Police Force.

The other picture, of members of the Norwich City Engineer's department ready for action, was taken by crack Norwich war photographer George Swain who often risked his own life to take pictures of the city on fire.

Thank you for all your memories of life in the city and county during the Second World War which I shall be looking at over the coming months as we turn the clock back seven decades.

A special service remembering all those who lost their lives during the first air raids of 1940 will be held at St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich, on Friday July 9 - 70 years to the day after the first attack which claimed more than 27 lives. Watch this space for all the details and names of the victims.

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