Preparing for war 1939 and 1940.


The station was predictably very active in September 1939 following the declaration of war. However when one looks at the daily station reports at this time it is apparent that measures had already been set in place in anticipation of an outbreak of war. The records suggest the station was well prepared as this entry on 3rd September shows: "In preparation of war all necessary action taken. Station Defence Scheme brought into operation. Provision of Anti Sabotage Guard by a detachment (2 platoons) of the 5/16th.Foot who arrived 31.08.39. A.A machine gun posts also manned by this detachment. Cypher Staff (already formed) in operation".

Below are further entries for the following days.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declares war on Germany on 3rd September 1939


June 1940. A wartime snapshot - the station steps up defences.

Following on from the Dunkirk Evacuation May 26th -  June 4th 1940 the station responded with some additional security arrangements. The daily records for June 1940 (shown below) illustrate just how seriously the prospect of an enemy attack was taken in the first year of the war. Given the high visibility of the two sheds and the gas plant RAF Cardington could have been a likely target. Surprisingly the station and Bedford escaped almost unscathed throughout the war but the threat of an aeriel attack was always present.

There was already a significant number of air raid shelters in place at the start of the war (90 at Sept 1939). However the Dunkirk retreat raised the prospect of a more aggressive enemy attack. The M Balloon Unit returned to Cardington and it is reported that other returning servicemen were given temporary accommodation in the sheds.


Turning to the extract above we can see that on June 8th work commenced on 11 additional air raid shelters. Each shelter housed up to 50 people so shelter was provided for an extra 550 personnel. Moving on to June 16th work commenced on camouflaging the two sheds - this immense task was completed on July 30th. It has been documented that the sides of the buildings were painted to resemble houses.


The only remaining pillbox which stands in front of the two sheds.

On the 17th June 1940 we see that work began to build 6 pill boxes. These were completed on the 30th. One has survived. Shown left are the remains of a pill box which stands by the roadside on the edge of the field in front of the two sheds.

During the month the station received 17 telephone air raid warnings.

Website compiled by Jane Harvey. February 2022.