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The Civil Defence Corps (CDC) was a civilian volunteer organisation established in Great Britain in 1949 to take control in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. It was stood down in Great Britain in 1968, although the Isle of Man Civil Defence Corps is still active. Civil defence corps also still exist in the Republic of Ireland, Australia (renamed the State Emergency Service in 1975) and New Zealand.


Although under the authority of the Home Office, with a centralised administrative establishment, the corps was administered locally by Corps Authorities. In general every county was a Corps Authority, as were most county boroughs in England and Wales and large burghs in Scotland. The CDC was never established in Northern Ireland. Each Corps Authority established its own Division of the corps.

Each division was divided into several sections:

  • Headquarters Section, responsible for staffing control centres and divided into three sub-sections.
    • Intelligence and Operations Sub-Section, responsible for recording and analysing information and preparing instructions.
    • Signal Sub-Section, responsible for installing, operating and maintaining communications systems.
    • Scientific and Reconnaissance Sub-Section, responsible for advising controllers on scientific and technical aspects of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, and providing reconnaissance parties (especially to monitor nuclear fallout).
  • Warden Section, responsible for local reconnaissance and reporting, and leadership, organisation, guidance and control of the public.
  • Rescue Section, responsible for rescue operations, demolition and debris clearance.
  • Ambulance and First Aid Section, built around peacetime local ambulance services. This section did not exist in Scotland, where the Scottish Ambulance Service was expected to perform ambulance functions and specialist casualty wardens of the Warden Section to perform first aid functions.
    • Ambulance Sub-Section, responsible for the operation of ambulances to transport casualties to Forward Medical Aid Units (FMAU).[1]
    • First Aid Sub-Section, responsible for basic first aid at the scene and the removal of casualties by stretcher to ambulances.
  • Welfare Section, responsible for the welfare of those rendered homeless and/or deprived of normal facilities, including evacuation, accommodation, feeding, sanitation, clothing, nursing, information etc.

In London the City of London and London boroughs were Corps Authorities, but their divisions only had Headquarters, Warden and Welfare Sections. The London County Council organised the Rescue and Ambulance and First Aid Sections centrally and also shared responsibility for the Welfare Sections.

Uniforms and insignia[]

Members of the corps were issued with dark blue battledress and berets. A system of horizontal bars and point-down chevrons was used to indicate rank.

Rank Insignia Intelligence & Operations Sub-Section Signal Sub-Section Scientific & Recce Sub-Section Warden Section Rescue Section Welfare Section Ambulance Sub-Section First Aid Sub-Section
Two wide bars with one narrow bar between Division Chief Officer Chief Warden Chief Rescue Officer Chief Welfare Section Officer Chief Ambulance Officer
Two wide bars Senior Staff Officer Senior Signal Officer Senior Scientific Intelligence Officer Deputy Chief Warden Deputy Chief Rescue Officer Deputy Chief Welfare Section Officer Deputy Chief Ambulance Officer
One wide bar with two narrow bars above Column Rescue Officer Column Ambulance Officer
One wide bar with one narrow bar above Assistant Chief Warden Deputy Column Rescue Officer Deputy Column Ambulance Officer
One wide bar Staff Officer (Operations)
Staff Officer (Intelligence)
Sector Staff Officer
Signal Officer Scientific Intelligence Officer
Reconnaissance Officer
Sector Warden Company Rescue Officer Assistant Chief Welfare Section Officer Company Ambulance Officer Company First Aid Officer
Three narrow bars Deputy Sector Warden Deputy Company Rescue Officer Senior Welfare Section Officer Deputy Company Ambulance Officer Deputy Company First Aid Officer
Two narrow bars Post Warden Platoon Rescue Officer Platoon Ambulance Officer Platoon First Aid Officer
One narrow bar Signalmaster Deputy Post Warden Deputy Platoon Rescue Officer Welfare Section Officer Deputy Platoon Ambulance Officer Deputy Platoon First Aid Officer
Three chevrons Operations Clerk
Intelligence Clerk
Signal Clerk
Field Cable Party Leader
Reconnaissance Party Leader Senior Warden Rescue Party Leader Welfare Section Detachment Leader Ambulance Detachment Leader First Aid Party Leader
Two chevrons Deputy Rescue Party Leader Deputy Ambulance Detachment Leader Deputy First Aid Party Leader
One chevron

Industrial Civil Defence Service[]

The Industrial Civil Defence Service was a similar organisation to the Civil Defence Corps, but separate from it. Every industrial or commercial undertaking which employed two hundred or more people could form a civil defence unit to protect its own property and staff. These units were organised in a similar way to the Civil Defence Corps, with Headquarters, Warden, Rescue, First Aid and Fire Guard Sections. The Fire Guard Section manned fire points and smaller fire appliances. Each unit had its own control post, and groups of units could form a group control post. Group control posts and control posts in larger factories had the status of warden posts in their own right, whereas smaller units answered to their local Civil Defence Corps warden post.

See also[]


  1. A mobile unit provided by the local National Health Service hospital and each staffed by four doctors, four nurses and thirty-six nursing auxiliaries, as well as administrative staff.


  • Home Office/Scottish Home Department, Civil Defence Pocket Book No.3: General Information, HMSO: London, 1960

External links[]

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