Hello Chris.HOME GUARD WORKING PATTERNS
Annie Murray, I promised to give you some hints about likely patterns of working for Home Guard members who were Cadburys employees. Sorry for the delay but the whole subject is an even more complicated one than I originally thought. To do it justice would be quite a lengthy research exercise and even then, in the absence of detailed documentary evidence including personal Cadburys memoirs, would involve almost entirely "likelihoods" and "typicallys" rather than "definites". I don't think there exists anywhere a well-researched and authoritative summary of this aspect of the Home Guard. So I shall just have to give you a few fragments of information which may (or may well not!) be sufficient for your purposes. If any aspect of them is not, please follow up with more specific questions.
The Home Guard was a huge operation involving around 1.7 million men (and a number of women), all of them allocated to more than 1000 Battalions around the country, each of which would have been split into Companies, Platoons and Sections. The responsibility of each Battalion would have been to undertake, first, very specific, regular functions including the guarding of Vulnerable Points (buildings, bridges, railway sidings, road junctions, factories, power stations etc., etc., etc.) and general observation, patrolling and reporting. No doubt every single unit had a slightly different set of circumstances to cope with. And the second responsibility was to ensure that the Battalion was as proficient and well-trained as possible for whatever might face them: this was done by intensive training, throughout the years of the Home Guard's existence.
Most Battalions were responsible for a defined geographical area and undertook normal general service, infantry duties. Some Companies and Platoons comprised entirely the employees of organisations such as factories and were part of the local Battalion. Their duty was, first and foremost, to defend the factory premises and facilities.
In a large city like Birmingham many of these subunits were part of a Battalion which comprised entirely a number of factory units, spread over a wider geographical area. In Birmingham there were several Battalions of this type. One of these Birmingham battalions was the 45th Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion which was made up of a number of factory units in one area of central Birmingham. A history of this Battalion was published in 1945 ("The History of the 45th Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion Home Guard" by E. D. Barclay) and was until, fairly recently, as rare as hen's teeth and about as expensive. Fortunately in recent years it has been republished by The Naval and Military Press and is available at a reasonable price. It's a very good review of how a number of these factory units were organised and ran. It's a shame that Cadburys is not amongst them but one can't have everything! And of course a factory and site like Cadburys are different from those of an engineering company in a central Birmingham side street. But perhaps you can read across quite a lot of the principles which emerge.
The service lasted for four and a half years and during that period policies changed and with those changes came different duties and patterns of working for units and for the individuals within them. This included the role of factory units although their main responsibility, of defending their employer's facilities, remained unchanged. At the very beginning, in the summer of 1940, patterns of working were very intense, perhaps taking up almost every minute of a man's spare time. My own father (responsible for a general service platoon) wrote about the first couple of months: "We make the most of every available minute and arrange parades every night, but as the same men turn up every time we drop to three parades per week and get satisfactory attendances". (Home Guard membership was entirely voluntary up until the beginning of 1942). At that time it was all about performing basic observation duties - "We have been mounting Night Guards in our stable guardroom since 12th June. One N.C.O. and six men per night, each man doing one night in six. Two hours at dusk and dawn on O. P. duty, the remaining hours on patrol or sentry-go" - and frantic, intensive training to remind Great War veterans of what they used to know and to instruct youngsters and others from scratch. "We work on musketry, loading and sighting, field work and the parade ground, the duties of sentries, and then more musketry".
And a bit later:
".....Night guards have become more active. The guard report book tells of many things: of quiet nights and exciting nights, of planes overhead, of bombs and heavy flak, incendiaries and fires, flares from the air and from the ground, suspicious light flashes and signals and of hours spent in investigation, often without result; of patrols contacting searchlight units, neighbouring detachments and Civil Defence. It tells of long night watches, frequently without sleep and in an atmosphere polluted by a smoky stove ........ It does not report, however, the full day's work done yesterday or the full day's work which will commence when the guard is dismissed and at a pressure only known to those who took part in the post-Dunkirk industrial drive......" (I have a lot more like this on a fairly typical first six months as everything broadened and intensified).
As things settled down into 1941 I can imagine a pattern having emerged within a factory unit of every Sunday being devoted to parades, drill, general training and exercises, all supplemented by perhaps two or three evenings a week of training and/or overnight guarding duties.
Obviously the usual Home Guard routine of evening training sessions would not be appropriate for those on shift work in factories and there is evidence that the evening sessions were sometimes transferred to a morning so that men who had been on the night shift could still receive appropriate training.
I am not sure how responsibilities within a factory for firewatching - especially in 1940/41 - overlapped with Home Guard duties and the extent to which they ran in parallel.
At the beginning of 1942 things became more formalised. At that point conscription was introduced and with it came clear statements of minimum hours to be served. Every Home Guard was obliged to serve at least 48 hours every four weeks. Western Command (responsible for the Home Guard in much of the western part of the country including Birmingham and the West Midlands) also issued an order which stipulated that a minimum proportion of this total (about one third) should be devoted to training. I suspect that all this might well have been a formalisation of what had become a fairly typical working pattern over the previous 18 months.
Sorry that these are just fragments but I hope that they'll give you some indication of what life must have been like. Like you I am always astonished at the extent to which men of this generation managed, somehow or other, to balance the needs of their work, their families and their voluntary service in an organisation like the Home Guard. (I have even read stories of men combining HG and ARP duties). I'm old enough to have had a glimpse of all this myself but had no understanding of the pressure which my own father was under at the time, especially in the earlier days. How on earth did they all do it?