In case of air raid, run like hell

This week in Prince George history, March 11-17:

March 12, 1942: Local organizers of the city's first air raid drill were looking to improve on a successful test of the city's readiness.

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"Men responsible for the organization back of Prince George's first trial blackout are interested today in constructive criticism than in praise for their efforts," Citizen staff wrote in an editorial. "Suggest to them that our blackout was a near-perfect success and they will politely agree that volunteers and the public generally co-operated well, but they will remind you there are many details to be changed."

Local Air Raid Precaution (ARP) officials had already begun plans to improve and hold another trial. The blackout drill had been held on March 4.

"The CNR steam whistle and police car siren were not sufficient to warn the entire district, it was pointed out," The Citizen reported.

Authorities are considering the installation of a public address system "broadcasting a recording of a real air siren" could be helpful.

"It is a splendid sign, indeed, when leaders in war time refuse to be satisfied with anything short of perfection," The Citizen editorial opined.

The swift response of volunteer firefighters, "some having to come long distances," was praised by Fire Chief D.G. Fraser.

"Reports were received at the fire hall of pedestrians failing to extinguish cigarettes during the test," The Citizen reported. "A cigarette can be seen for more than 10 miles from the air."

Local doctors, nurses and St. John Ambulance crews were also praised for quick response.

"Frank Clark and Alex Moffat as ambulance driver, together with Miss F. Simms and Miss Mary Zimaro as nurses did valuable service with 'casualties,'" The Citizen reported.

Prince George citizens were commended for keeping the phone lines clear for emergency calls as well.

The reason for the air raid preparations in Prince George was the entry of Japan into the war in December 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbour. The war would come closer to Prince George in the next few months when the Japanese occupied the islands of Kiska and Attu in the Aleutians in early June 1942.

While Kiska Island is nearly 3,400 kilometres from Prince Rupert and almost 4,000 km from Prince George - well outside the range of Japanese bombers at the time - attacks by dive bombers launched from Japanese aircraft carriers in the Pacific were a real possibility.

With that in mind, the March 12, 1942 edition of The Citizen had some helpful hints about what to do in an air raid:

What to do in case of an air raid:

1. As soon as bombs start dropping, run like hell. It doesn't matter where -as long as you run like hell.

2. Take advantage of opportunities afforded you when air-raid sirens sound the attack warning. For example (a) if in a bakery, grab a pie or cake, (b) if in the liquor store, grab a bottle, (c) if in a theatre, grab a blonde.

3. If you find an unexploded bomb, always pick it up and shake it. The firing pin may be stuck. If this doesn't work, heave it in the furnace. The fire brigade will come later and take care of things.

4. If an incendiary bomb is found burning in a building, throw gasoline on it. You can't put it out anyway, so you may as well have a little fun. (a) if no gasoline is available, throw a bucket of water on it and lie down -you're dead. (b) The properties of a bomb free hydrogen from the water, causing rapid combustion. In fact, it will explode with a helluva crash.

5. Always get excited and holler bloody murder - it will add to the fun and confusion and scare the kiddies.

6. Drink heavily, eat onions, Limburger cheese, etc. before entering a crowded air-raid shelter. This will make you very unpopular with the crowd in your immediate vicinity, eliminating any unnecessary discomfiture which would prevail if people crowded too closely.

7. If you should be the victim of a direct hit, don't go to pieces. Be still and you will not be noticed.

8. Knock the air-raid warden (out) if he tells you what to do. They always save the best seats for themselves and their friends anyway.

It's good to see that even in wartime, people had a sense of humour.

To explore 100 years of local history yourself, visit the Prince George Citizen archives online at: pgc.cc/PGCarchive. The Prince George Citizen online archives are maintained by the Prince George Public Library.

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