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George V Government Despatch Box, 1935
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George V Government Despatch Box, 1935

Measurements: 46cm (18in) x 31cm (12in) x 15cm (6in)



Following the 1860‘s design of a ministerial despatch box the present example, is constructed of pine and covered in stained ram’s skin embossed with the cypher of George V and the title ‘Home Office (A.R.P. Dept)’. Fitted with a lock to the front and hinges and handle at the top to guarantee that the box is locked before being carried, the interior stamped with the maker’s details of  John Peck & Son, 7 Nelson Square, Southwark, S.E.1, manufacturers to H.M. Stationery Office.

The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Department was created at the Home Office in 1935 to put into effect Britain’s passive air defence in the advent of European war. Its architects were a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence chaired by the Lord Privy Seal, Sir John Anderson (later 1st Viscount Waverly). Interestingly, Anderson was the person Churchill named in 1945 should he and his deputy Anthony Eden be killed as the man the King should call upon to succeed as prime minister. The rise of Hitler and the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in April 1937 hastened plans for the building of air raid shelters, issuance of gas masks, evacuations of people and blackout requirements. The same month the Air Raid Wardens' Service was created which aimed to seek some 800,000 volunteers. On 1 January 1938, the Air Raid Precautions Act came into force which decentralized ARP arrangements and forced local authorities to begin creating their own ARP services.