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Home Guard

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Who knows? Right side of the city. Could have been an exercise (which would have necessitated refreshment)...

Chris
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
It would be wrong to let today pass without remembering that it is the 80th anniversary of the evening when Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for War in Churchill's new government, addressed the nation on the BBC and announced the establishment of the Home Guard (or of the Local Defence Volunteers as it was called until Churchill gave it a better title).

Eden.jpg

The German onslaught on Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France had been in progress for just four days and the start of the withdrawal to Dunkirk was imminent.

This is what he said:

"I want to speak to you to-night about the form of warfare which the Germans have been employing so extensively against Holland and Belgium - namely, the dropping of troops by parachute behind the main defensive lines. Let me say at once that the danger to us from this particular menace, although it undoubtedly exists, should not be exaggerated. We have made preparations to meet it already.

"Let me describe to you the system under which these parachute raids are carried out. The troops arrive by aeroplane - but let it be remembered that any such aeroplane seeking to penetrate here would have to do so in the teeth of the Anti-Aircraft defences of this country. If such penetration is effected, the parachutists are then dropped, it may be by day, it may be by night. These troops are specially armed, equipped, and some of them have undergone specialised training. Their function is to seize important points, such as aerodromes, power stations, villages, railway junctions and telephone exchanges, either for the purpose of destroying them at once, or of holding them until the arrival of reinforcements. The purpose of the parachute attack is to disorganise and confuse, as a preparation for the landing of troops by aircraft.

"The success of such an attack depends on speed. Consequently, the measures to defeat such an attack must be prompt and rapid. It is upon this basis that our plans have been laid. You will not expect me to tell you, or the enemy, what our plans are, but we are confident that they will be effective. However, in order to leave nothing to chance and to supplement, from sources as yet untapped, the means of defence already arranged, we are going to ask you to help us, in a manner which I know will be welcome to thousands of you. Since the war began the Government have received countless enquiries from all over the Kingdom from men of all ages who are for one reason or another not at present engaged in military service, and who wish to do something for the defence of the country.

"Now is your opportunity. We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain who are British subjects, between the ages of 17 and 65, to come forward now and offer their service in order to make assurance doubly sure. The name of the new force which is now to be raised will be the "Local Defence Volunteers". This name, Local Defence Volunteers, describes its duties in three words. It must be understood that this is, so to speak, a spare-time job, so there will be no need for any volunteer to abandon his present occupation.

"Part-time members of existing civil defence organisations should ask their officers' advice before registering under the scheme. Men who will ultimately become due for calling up under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act may join temporarily, and will be released to join the Army when they are required to serve. Now a word to those who propose to volunteer. When on duty you will form part of the Armed Forces, and your period of service will be for the duration of the war. You will not be paid, but you will receive uniform and will be armed. You will be entrusted with certain vital duties, for which reasonable fitness and a knowledge of firearms are necessary. These duties will not require you to live away from your homes. In order to volunteer, what you have to do is to give in your name at your local police station; and then, as and when we want you, we will let you know.


"This appeal is directed chiefly to those who live in small towns, villages and less densely inhabited suburban areas. I must warn you that, for certain military reasons, there will be some localities where the numbers required will be small, and others where your services will not be required at all. Here then is the opportunity for which so many of you have been waiting. Your loyal help, added to the arrangements which already exist, will make and keep our country safe."


Chris
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Sorry, not exactly Birmingham but in case any members of the Forum have associations with Cannock, Hednesford, Bridgtown and adjoining areas (up to the Brownhills boundary) I have recently put online a detailed history of the Cannock Home Guard, published in 1945 and a fairly rare publication. It mentions many places and individuals and may be worth a delve. It can be seen here: http://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/DotherReminiscences175A13StaffsCannock.htm

The image below is of the Battalion C.O., Lt.-Col. H. Vivian Mander. (His demeanour, shooting stick, cigarette holder and Military Cross ribbon perhaps makes him differ more than a little from the popular view of a Home Guard officer!)

Chris

img003w750crop.jpg
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
In case followers of this thread haven't noticed it, there's a thread with an Home Guard angle here:

All about the Birmingham Foden family, part of whom farmed at Mill Green Farm off the Chester Road, near to Little Aston and Stonnall, in the 1940s. Arthur Edgar Foden, the farmer, died in a tragic accident on the farm (details still unclear) between 1942 and 1944. He had been a good friend of the local HG and three of his sons served in the local unit. The farm even hosted an HG artillery training school and firing range.

Chris
 

SandyBrook

knowlegable brummie
Hi, i've been pointed towards this area as I was talking about my father and a photo of the Rover A coy home Guard Unit, he was a member from June 1941 until December 1944 and while looking through family history bits and bobs I came across the programme from a "stand down" dinner at the Imperial Hotel, Birmingham on Dec 16 1944, The programme has been autographed and I thought others might like to see it in case they recognise any names. As far as I know Dad worked at the Rover factory in Clay Lane, South Yardley but he was moved to the factory at Drakelow for a while.h-guard-lh.jpgh-guard-rh.jpg
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Even though SandyBrook has posted (correctly) here, could anyone wishing to comment on his information please do so for the time being in the dedicated thread, here: https://birminghamhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?threads/rover-a-coy-home-guard-1941.52157/ (We may combine threads later).

Pedrocut - thanks for that. Some of the names look familiar. (In fact I think I was at school with the son of one of them, Sgt. Arblaster!) Intend to incorporate this info into the HG website in due course (with ack., of course).

Pete - the basic unit of HG organisation was the Battalion, almost invariably commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel. It comprised anything between 1000 and 2000 men (and a few women) and was divided into Companies each commanded by a Major. Further down the line were Captains, Lieutenants and Second Lieutenants; and NCOs. Battalions were responsible to groupings (whose names changed during the war), variously called Area/Zone/Garrison/Sector and their commanders were usually of Colonel rank. Further up the line of Staff Officers of that type came more elevated ranks still but at what point such men were still officially Home Guard or or were co-opted serving Army officers or Army Council members, I don't know.

Chris
 

mw0njm.

A Brummie Dude
Even though SandyBrook has posted (correctly) here, could anyone wishing to comment on his information please do so for the time being in the dedicated thread, here: https://birminghamhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?threads/rover-a-coy-home-guard-1941.52157/ (We may combine threads later).

Pedrocut - thanks for that. Some of the names look familiar. (In fact I think I was at school with the son of one of them, Sgt. Arblaster!) Intend to incorporate this info into the HG website in due course (with ack., of course).

Pete - the basic unit of HG organisation was the Battalion, invariably commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel. It comprised anything between 1000 and 2000 men (and a few women) and was divided into Companies each commanded by a Major. Further down the line were Captains, Lieutenants and Second Lieutenants; and NCOs. Battalions were responsible to Area/Zone commanders, usually of Colonel rank. Further up the line of Staff Officers of that type came more elevated ranks still but at what point such men were still officially Home Guard or or were co-opted serving Army officers or Army Council members, I don't know.

Chris
Thanks for your reply Chris.
 

Attachments

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks for that, Pedrocut. Have you by any chance found the letter from "Captain, Home Guard" which sparked this off?

(This soldier's letter gives a suggestion of the bitterness felt by some of the "D-Day Dodgers" in Italy whose suffering, they felt, was forgotten about at home - or at least given much lower priority - after D-Day)

Chris
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
Thanks for that, Pedrocut. Have you by any chance found the letter from "Captain, Home Guard" which sparked this off?

(This soldier's letter gives a suggestion of the bitterness felt by some of the "D-Day Dodgers" in Italy whose suffering, they felt, was forgotten about at home - or at least given much lower priority - after D-Day)

Chris
I will check it out.
 

Pedrocut

Master Barmmie
I can’t find the actual letter or article that caused the backlash, but there are many responses from members of the Home Guard. Many echo the one that said that the best reward is peace and prosperity to all alike.

Later in December a letter to the paper indicates that the suggestion came from someone calling himself "Home Guard Captain" and others. The clip in the previous post seems to suggest that the Captain was joined by a Major from Worcester.

One interesting claim is that 75% of the first enrolments were veterans of the last war.
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks for trying, Pedrocut. I'm sure there was a degree of Mainwaring-like pomposity amongst a few in the Home Guard, particularly amongst those, unlike Mainwaring, for whom HG service recalled their own past glories. And felt that the personal sacrifices made by them in THIS war were worthy of public acclaim. It's just a pity that the odd one was tempted to go into print on the subject! And then there was the reaction, from those who had a more realistic view of the contribution made by the service - even though every single one of them would still have known that, in the early couple of years, he might well have to lay down his life; and that in the course of the war, he would have contributed a voluntary effort counted in thousands of hours. Both things worthy of public appreciation.

I have a tiny bit of sympathy for those who had an over-egged view of their contribution, although we can of course chuckle at them now, with Capt. Mainwaring in mind. There was a strong feeling in HG circles in the second half of 1944 as things were winding down that they were being "dumped", unappreciated, unacknowledged, and about to be forgotten. The Captain (and the Major) would almost certainly have been Great War veterans, knowing what it was all about, and would, we hope, have been able to keep things in some sort of proportion, even if they had expressed themselves clumsily. And for all we know the Captain might even have had a son serving in Italy rather closer to the Enemy than where Mr Millward admits (a bit uncomfortably) to be standing and would have been the last to intend any insult to the Armed Forces!

In fact, the Home Guard did have its own moment of glory with public parades everywhere on Sunday December 3rd 1944, including the centre of Birmingham. After that, oblivion. Until Dad's Army!

Chris
 

Annie Murray

knowlegable brummie
Did anyone have a relative in the Cadburys Home Guard Unit? Also does anyone know the times that shifts began and ended. Did anyone ever get any sleep?! All best wishes, Annie
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Annie, do you mean Cadbury's normal working shifts or out-of-hours Home Guard shifts?

(There will be no information surviving on the pattern of duty of the Cadbury's Home Guard units but I can provide more general information on typical HG service hours).

Chris
 
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