Canvey Island’s civil defence sirens – used to warn residents of air raids in WWII, potential nuclear bombs in the Cold War, and flood emergencies since the North Sea Floods of 1953, remained installed and frequently tested until around 2014. It is not entirely clear if this siren was from WWII, but even if this was a post-war replacement its design and sound would have been of the same heritage.
Of the same design as the haunting sirens of World War Two, it is quite hard to believe that this simple piece of technology capable of producing a very loud and distinctive sound still stands at the southern end of Rattwick Drive, in the Leigh Beck of Canvey Island. It survives in Rattwick Drive storage compound belonging to the Environment Agency. For whatever reason, this siren escaped removal when numerous sirens throughout the area were declared obsolete by councils in favour of a text message flood warning service – arguably far less effective yet cheaper to maintain. The posts which it stands on appear to be inscribed with a possible date of 1969, which could be the era the siren and posts were erected, although clear inspection was not possible and this cannot be verified. If the siren was a post-war replacement and not a WWII original, it would have served as a flood warning siren as well as probably a nuclear emergency siren prior to 1991.
Below you can see a great video covering the wider story of civil defence sirens and their obsolescence across Essex and beyond, produced by the excellent historian and documentary maker Mark Felton local to the county:
In our video below, you can see us testing out a smaller hand siren of a compact design at Gravesend Cold War Bunker, belonging to Thames Defence Heritage: