The Women's Voluntary Service for Air Raid Precautions was established in 1938 by Lady Stella Reading (1894-1971). The Air Raid Precautions Act of 1937 had made local authorities responsible for preparing for the effects of war on Britain's civilian population. The Women's Voluntary Service worked closely with local authorities and the Home Office.
Women were encouraged to take part in A.R.P. work, and many thousands of women also volunteered for the Auxiliary Fire Service and later for the National Fire Service. The Fire Brigades Act of 1938 established five grades of women officers, up to Senior Area Officer, and Home Office staff included a Chief Woman Fire Officer. It was not until Equal Opportunities legislation in the 1970s that women again started joining the fire services
Right: "ARP WOMEN WANTED", lithograph, 1939, by Pat Keely (died 1970); copyright © Imperial War Museum, from 'Posters of Conflict - The Visual Culture of Public Information and Counter Information', reference IWM PST 13885, and courtesy of VADS.