THESE young people were too young to fight in the Second World War, but they were determined to help the war effort.

They were some of the Civil Defence Messengers in Oxford who were paid 2s 6d a month to deliver emergency messages on their bikes or motorbikes in the event of an air raid.

The photograph comes from Pat Duffy, of Benmead Road, Kidlington, who was a member of the group covering Headington and Cowley.

He writes: “At the sound of air raid alerts, especially at night, we would have to report to an allocated warden post on our bikes.

“My post was H82 outside a thatched cottage where another messenger, Renee Whittington, lived.

“It was off Between Towns Road at Cowley by the Coronation Lamp, the turnaround point for No 1 buses.”

Mr Duffy believes the picture was taken at East Oxford School and that it was the first time the newly-formed group was photographed.

He tells me: “Sadly, many of them are no longer with us, but it would be nice to hear from any survivors. I joined soon after the picture was taken, after being persuaded by the two lads in the top row on the right, Ken Hicks and the late Denis Cantell. Tom Haines is first left in the front row.”

The messengers met regularly at Donnington School for instruction, and their training included one potentially hazardous exercise.

Mr Duffy tells me: “Near Temple Cowley swimming pool, there was a short row of old cottages which were vacant at the time.

“We would go into the cottages to experience using gas masks, and the rooms would be filled with a mixture of the current known gases we were likely to encounter!”

That wasn’t the only danger the messengers faced – one of the buildings they used was at risk of collapsing.

Mr Duffy recalls: “A room we used on the top floor of a building at The Plain had to have the area beside the front windows cordoned off. If you leaned on the sill, the wall swayed.”

There were six messenger groups in Oxford, all with 25 or 30 members aged between 15 and 18.

“We were all volunteers, the lads waiting for call-up and the vast majority of girls persuaded to enlist by the redoubtable Ivy Perkins.”

Mrs Perkins – known as Mrs P – worked in the accounts department at GR Cooper, the ironmongers in St Ebbe’s, and was passionate about the messengers.

She ran one of the messenger groups in the premises at The Plain and as the threat of German air raids and invasion receded, she turned the building into a youth club.

Mr Duffy recalls: “She spent her own money on equipment after receiving compensation for being knocked down by a ‘Queen Mary’ lorry which had been carrying crashed aircraft to Cowley. We had the run of the whole building so there was ample space for billiards, table tennis and a canteen as well as a reading room and card schools.”

Under Mrs Perkins’s guidance, members started a model aircraft club called the Oxford Meteors and had their first experience of overseas travel with a visit to Holland.

pDo you recognise yourself or anyone else in the picture above? Write and let me know.