Joan Maw, Air Raid Warden

On the 28th October 1940 the Luftwaffe bombed the city of York. The A.R.P. report of this raid states that Miss Joan Maw of No.41 Elmfield Avenue was commended for ‘special comment’.

Census records of 1939 show that Joan Maw was only 19 years old at the time of this raid. She was living with her parents, William and Hannah, a building contractor and ‘unpaid domestic duties’ respectively. At the time of the census, Joan was a clerk at one of the city’s chocolate manufacturers. 

1939 Census Records of the Maw family at 41 Elmfield Avenue.

The city’s mortuary superintendent, Mr. E. Sykes, wrote a letter to Mr Cooke at the A.R.P. Offices to express his “warm appreciation of the help and assistance received from the personnel of the A.R.P. who helped with the two fatal cases”. Sykes particularly singled out a number of unnamed women for praise: “to the lady driver of the Ambulance” and “lady attendant” (who was, presumably, Joan Maw).

Letter from E. Sykes, York’s Mortuary Superintendent giving praise for the conduct of two female A.R.P. wardens. Image: York City Archives.

Joan’s role as a part-time A.R.P. warden is worthy of special note. Being a young female, she contradicts a popular myth – perhaps constructed through popular TV programmes and films after the War, such as Dad’s Army – that A.R.P. wardens were male and older members of the community, with female roles on the Home Front during the war centred around traditional realms of nursing, childcare, and secretarial work. Joan’s activities as an A.R.P. warden – as well as her commendation for her action in this raid, which illustrate her abilities in the role – help challenge such assumptions. 


Raids Over York is a collaborative heritage project that commemorates the 80th anniversaries of the 11 air raids over York during the Second World War (1939-45) through new research, interactive media, and a series of public, celebratory events.