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Home Guard

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Hitler did , in fact, declare them to be civilians and if captured they would be executed summarily. Old Boy
Just confirming what Old Boy stated, this tells us what German radio had to say on the matter: https://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/J6GeneralInformatonWarning.htm

Whilst as Old Boy states the two men in the photo could not have been members of the organisation called the "Home Guard", formed in 1940, they could well have been involved with earlier local defence units which operated in the Great War, usually known as "Volunteers" or similar. (I have a picture of the Knowle and Dorridge unit which can be seen online here.)

Chris
 

Blacksmith

master brummie
Dear Blacksmith,

Some years ago I tried to trace my late Dad's Home Guard service details so as to claim his Defence Medal but I was unable to glean enough information to do so.

I believe that he served in 31st Warwickshire Birmingham Battalion, possibly "A" company in P30 Unit ( whatever that may have been ), though some or all of this may not be accurate.

As a lad in the early 1950's, I recall my Dad pointing out a decrepit old building at the top of Harborne Lane, near to the Bristol Road in Selly Oak, which he said was his Drill Hall. Again, this was a long time ago and my memory may not be too good on places.

My Dad's name was George Collins who lived in Selly Oak and I know that he worked for the Midland Red Bus Company but never recall him mentioning the City Transport.

If you could kindly find the time to check your records, I would be very greatful for any information that you turn up.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Selly Oak boy.
Hi Selly Oak Boy

I'm very sorry I have been so late in replying to this. I have checked 31st Battalion 'A' Company, P 30 Unit, but I can't find a G Collins. The only references to the surname Collins that I can find are Pte. Collins F.J. and Pte. Collins H.

However, there is a Pte. Collins, G.E. in 'C' Company, P 39 Unit. Also, there is another possibility, Pte. Collins, G.M. in 'D' Company, P 26 Unit. Could either of these be him?

Get back to me if you want me to check the 32nd Battalion, with his initials, if known
 

Old Boy

master brummie
Hi All,

Further to my post at 48 Chris14 is quite right. I now find that I have a book which tells me all about The Volunteers in WW1. They were indeed similar to the Home Guard but were, at first, not recognised by the government and had to provide their own gear etc. The Army Council finally recognised them in 1915 but they still did not receive financial help.. They were used for guarding factories etc but in July 1917 the government finally took them over and thery became part of the Territorial Army. They received more extensive training and in 1918 sections of them were used for coast defence work on the east coast. Had the war not ended in November 1918 it was expected that some would have ended up going abroad.

Old Boy
 

Selly Oak boy.

knowlegable brummie
Hello Blacksmith and many thanks for replying to my post.

I don't think that any of the Collins's in 31st Battalion is my Dad, for he was George Joseph.

I would be extremely pleased if you would find the time to research the 32nd Battalion for me.

Is the Harborne Lane Drill Hall information any use in identifying the Unit he was part of ?

Thanking you again in anticipation.

Selly Oak boy.


Hi Selly Oak Boy

I'm very sorry I have been so late in replying to this. I have checked 31st Battalion 'A' Company, P 30 Unit, but I can't find a G Collins. The only references to the surname Collins that I can find are Pte. Collins F.J. and Pte. Collins H.

However, there is a Pte. Collins, G.E. in 'C' Company, P 39 Unit. Also, there is another possibility, Pte. Collins, G.M. in 'D' Company, P 26 Unit. Could either of these be him?

Get back to me if you want me to check the 32nd Battalion, with his initials, if known
 

Blacksmith

master brummie
Hi Selly Oak Boy

I've looked through the 32nd Battalion but I can't find him there either.

Going back to your original post where you said you believed he served in 31st Warwickshire Birmingham Battalion, possibly "A" company in P30 Unit , that is very precise, so the information must have come from somewhere, because 31st, A and P30 all link together. Now, what I am wondering is whether there is a typing error in the book because I mentioned a Pte F J Collins. As F and G are right next to each other on a keyboard I wonder if it is a misprint and FJ should read GJ. It's a possibility.

I wonder if it's possible to get the service record for FJ Collins to check it out.

I'm sorry I can't be of further help, but good luck in your research.
 

Selly Oak boy.

knowlegable brummie
Hello Ray and yet again thanks for your efforts.

Sadly few records survived for the Home Guard and it looks as though I've come across that brick wall again. I'm not sure where to go with this now, so will ponder on it for a while.

As ever, I'm open to suggestions from any quarter which could prove to be helpful.

Regards,

Chris.

Hi Selly Oak Boy

I've looked through the 32nd Battalion but I can't find him there either.

Going back to your original post where you said you believed he served in 31st Warwickshire Birmingham Battalion, possibly "A" company in P30 Unit , that is very precise, so the information must have come from somewhere, because 31st, A and P30 all link together. Now, what I am wondering is whether there is a typing error in the book because I mentioned a Pte F J Collins. As F and G are right next to each other on a keyboard I wonder if it is a misprint and FJ should read GJ. It's a possibility.

I wonder if it's possible to get the service record for FJ Collins to check it out.

I'm sorry I can't be of further help, but good luck in your research.
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
So near and yet so far, Chris! It looks as though you have come close to striking very lucky.

I am not aware of any reasonably accessible resources which list all the members of a Home Guard unit apart from these commemorative publications which appeared in 1945/46. The trouble is that only a minority of HG units created such a record and, of them, only a minority provided a list of the entire membership. Added to that of course any list would have been a snapshot, probably taken at the time of stand down in December 1944. Every unit would have had throughout its life many other members who came and went: a few of these would have been men who retired through age or poor health, but the vast majority would have been young men who served before being called up. These men seem to be rarely recorded.

There may well be lists of men in other units tucked away in the archives of local libraries or even in private collections. Finding them is of course a problem. Perhaps you stand a better chance than most with a unit like the BCT one. I assume that there will be BCT records in the Birmingham Central Library archive and I suppose there must be just a chance that these will include wartime activities.

You mention the fact that your father might not have worked for BCT. I don't know anything about the BCT unit and Blacksmith's book obviously contains further information. But if the membership of railway HG units is anything to go by - they sometimes had members of more than one railway company within them - it is possible that the BCT unit's membership could have included Midland Red employees.

Blacksmith's suggestion of a possible typing error sounds a very sensible one. Another similar possibility is the misreading of an original manuscript record. Much depends on how firm your information is about the specific unit which you think your father served in and also whether he was definitely still serving in late 1944.

Good luck with your further investigation and please let us know as and when you make progress.

Chris
 

gensec

knowlegable brummie
Whilst we are talking about Home Guard Battalions, I did put in a request to the Army Personnel Office in Glasgow to see if I could find any records for my father, George Millward. The cost was £30 and a very nice lady rang me back and said that none of the records were indexed, so they would have to be searched manually and even then they may not come up with any more information than I could provide myself. I decided that at £30 it was not worth it.

Jackie
 

Arkrite

master brummie
When you think about the military's obsession with pieces of paper in triplicate the Home Guard really was the exception. Quarter Masters required all sorts of names numbers and lists before they let any thing out of their stores. However did the Home Guard get issued with its uniforms ,arms, ammunition in fact anything with such sloppy record keeping. There is something very British make do and mend about the Home Guard all through its short life. Even its cursory dismissal by the government would have gone unnoticed if it was not for the local population making its thanks known.
My father was in the H.G. before call up but I have no idea where other than he was a railwayman in the general area of Walsall. The Officers had their names recorded but the Other Ranks were never thought worth the paper and ink.
I know members of some Units were issued with certificates of sevice but was there ever recognition on a national scale. Were members eligable for the Defense Medal ? If not a lapel button would not of have been out of order considering all of the hours H.G. members gave.
 

gensec

knowlegable brummie
View attachment 56047Luckily we have a copy of my father's certificates, he had two. This is one of them.

Jackie

Moderator comment: image regrettably lost during Forum hacking.
 
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ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
A nice memento, gensec. The good thing about such documents is that they are an accurate record of a person's period of service. Why two certificates? Are they identical? If they are, your father may have served in two different units and his information was therefore duplicated.

One or two points arising out of Arkrite's post.

It seems that whilst the Home Guard was largely immune from bureaucracy in its first desperate days, red tape quite soon caught up with it. There is a summary of the situation on a website page here, including much contemporary comment. It must have been a nightmare for those trying to keep a clear view of the priorities.

I'm sure that the record of all members of a HG unit was carefully maintained - no doubt in triplicate! - together with much other information. The question is, how many of these records were held centrally/nationally and how many by individual zones, areas and units. Some of the centrally held records, such as the list of officers, have tended to survive and in the case of the 1941 Officers' List have even been published. But the vast majority of the locally held material, including complete membership lists, was junked after standdown, no doubt with a sense of relief. What survived was saved by accident or by individuals out of a sense of history and perhaps sentiment. But there is precious little of it.

I believe that official recognition was due to every Home Guard member with a minimum length of service. It was in the form of a certificate of the type which gensec has posted. If a HG man (or woman) did not receive one this would have been either due to a relatively short period of service or an administrative oversight, of which I'm sure there were many examples. Individuals could also receive other commendations for particular services. And units themselves would obviously have received thanks from their superiors. But the whole thing did fizzle out and there was some bitterness at the time about, as Arkrite rightly describes it, "the cursory dismissal by the government".

Individual Home Guards were eligible for the Defence Medal, provided that their service was not less than three years.

Chris
 

Aidan

master brummie
The Defence Medal was awarded for non-operational service. This type of service in the UK included those service personnel working in headquarters, on training bases and airfields and members of the Home Guard. Home Guard service counts between the dates of 14 May 1940 and 31 December 1944. The Defence Medal was also awarded for non-operational service overseas, for example in India or South Africa.

The table below shows the qualifying time required depending on the area served.

Area Time required
UK 1080 days
Overseas non-operational 360 days
Overseas non-operational in an area deemed to be closely threatened or subject to air attack 180 days
https://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/Veterans/Medals/DefenceMedal.htm

Medal
The obverse of the medal (shown here) shows the uncrowned head of King George VI. The reverse bears the Royal Crown resting on an oak tree, flanked by two lions above the words 'The Defence Medal', with the date 1939 top left and 1945 top right.

Ribbon
Flame coloured in the centre flanked by stripes of green to symbolise enemy attacks on Britain's green and pleasant land, with narrow black stripes to represent the black-out. - isn't that wonderfully symbolic?
 

Selly Oak boy.

knowlegable brummie
Thanks for your comments and suggestion Chris.

I think that I shall try the Central Library and possibly Selly Oak branch to see if any records are held, when I get the chance, though I won't hold my breath.

If I have any luck, I'll post my findings here.

Thanks again to all who have offered advice.

Chris.

So near and yet so far, Chris! It looks as though you have come close to striking very lucky. I am not aware of any reasonably accessible resources which ..........
 
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Selly Oak boy.

knowlegable brummie
The mystery deepens.

Having spent some hours trawling tinterwebnet, I've come across 2 other vague references to the Home Guard in Selly Oak.

Firstly, on a site named RootsChat.com, I spotted a quote from a book called "The Home Guard of Britain", by Charles Graves, published in 1943 by Hutchinson, which mentions that the 27th Battalion had responsibility for the Selly Oak area.

Secondly, after following various tenuous links, I found another reference stating that it was the 49th Battalion that covered the Selly Oak area.

Confused am I ?

I discovered that this 1943 book is available on Amazon, but too dear to justify purchase on the off-chance that it may help me out. So, if anyone has access to a copy, I would be pleased if they could clarify this point for me.

Lastly, if anyone can shed any light on the history of either the 27th and/or 49th Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalions of The Home Guard I shall be grateful.

Thanks in anticipation.

Chris.
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Chris,

You were probably sensible to save your money. The book in question is full of fascinating information but the bit about the 27th Battalion is pretty sketchy. Part of the book is devoted to reports from miscellaneous Home Guard units, battalions down to platoons, but I imagine that the submissions were patchy and the compiler no doubt edited and condensed. I attach a scan of what it said about the 27th.

The book appeared in early March 1943. It is clear therefore that up to at least late 1942 the 27th had a responsibility for Selly Oak. A reliable source of information which gives the area of responsibility for each of the many Birmingham battalions (but as at an unspecified date which is nevertheless probably late in the war) is: https://www.home-guard.org.uk/hg/struc.html

That list shows the 27th by that time having a responsibility for Kings Norton whereas Selly Oak falls within the scope of the 49th. You have probably found it already but https://www.49th.co.uk/Updatables/FromSoldieringToSport.pdf gives some information on the history of this latter Battalion as well as its later reincarnation as a rifle club. I do not know enough about the area to know whether the information on this site confirms the Selly Oak aspect and I should be interested in your opinion.

The history of the Birmingham Home Guard seems to have been one of evolution. The first 10 battalions are described here: https://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/DotherReminiscences59BirminghamBattnsstaffshg.htm. By February 1941 that 10 had expanded to 26 (the 21st-46th Warwickshire (Birmingham) battalions. Thereafter there were clearly further changes in areas of responsibility and also the creation of whole new battalions. So unfortunately there is so far no clear answer to your question: the 27th obviously had a responsibility for Selly Oak early on; it may have retained some part of that area later; and it appears that the 49th, after its later creation, took over some or most of the responsibility.

It would be very interesting and helpful if your own research in Birmingham libraries throws more light on all this.

Chris
 
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Arkrite

master brummie
Thank you Chris for your reply. I often think the Home Front was, to a great extent, taken for granted. Now with hindsight we can realise the danger and sacrifice many ordinary folk faced .Back then it was just business as usual. My Father joined the Home Guard, enlisted into the South Staffs then transferred to the Royal Engineers. He spent most of his war training other soldiers, on rescure work and finally ended doing what he did in civvy street on the Longmoor Military Railway.The chemicals in the new type of explosive s put him in hospital for four months before the doctors realised the cause. Dad never went abroard, he was never asked and believed strongly in never volunteering.His railway work with the REs meant he was often in docks and marshalling yards when bombs were falling. But it was the Home Front and Hitlers Hordes were not waiting around the corner. . Finaly at wars end and demob within sight they finally offered him further promotion if he would stay on and go to Germany to help rebuild the railways. Not being of a military turn of mind he declined the offer and returned home to Walsall.For his efforts, just like thousands of others, he recieved the Defence Medal and the Victory Medal. Medals as Dad said came up with the rations.
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks for that interesting information, Arkrite.

You mentioned Walsall in an earlier post and I wonder if that was where your father did his Home Guard service. If so it was very likely in the (large) Battalion resonsible for that area, the 27th Staffordshire (Walsall) Battalion. I collected a bit of information about it on this website page.

Chris
 
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