Protect, Educate & Aid

A National Emergency Services Armband

During the Second World War (1939 -1945), thousands of Australian civilians joined the special organisations that formed to support the war effort at home. Armbands were worn by these volunteers to identify them as members of these organisations, such as the Australian Women’s Land Army, the Australian Comforts Fund, Voluntary Aid Detachment, or the National Emergency Services of N.S.W. (NES).  The armband pictured here was worn by volunteers in the NES, which was formed ‘to protect, educate and provide aid on the home front’. It especially aimed to protect civilians against aerial attacks on home soil.

During the War, more than 115,000 Australians volunteered with the NES, nearly half of these as wardens.  Wardens were expected to be on call day and night to maintain air raid sirens and shelters, monitor blackouts, oversee practice drills, and staff the NES Control Centre. Wardens played an important role in fostering morale and the preparedness of civilians during what was a time of public uncertainty and anxiety.

The National Emergency Service created a special instruction booklet for distribution to households. It explained that while an air attack was not expected, the possibility should not be ignored and that it was important to be prepared for such an attack. It strongly encouraged members of the public to attend training sessions and called for ‘every man and woman to join up with the Service’.

Armbands like this one identified to the public who was an NES warden. Being so clearly marked helped members of the public to follow another directive in the booklet: ‘Assist your Warden by carrying out his instructions’.