History of the Home Guard

London Taxi Battalion, Home Guard.

People would laugh if they were told that "Allo Allo" was an accurate portrayal of the French Resistance yet they don't think twice when comparing the Home Guard to the TV series "Dad's Army".

On 14th May, 1940, the Government broadcast a message asking for volunteers for the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers). On 23rd August, 1940, Winston Churchill changed the name of the LDV to the Home Guard.

The Home Guard was formed when there was a real risk of invasion. Most men who could fight were already in the forces, those that were left were either too young, too old, or in reserved occupations (those jobs vital to the war effort). The men who volunteered to join the Home Guard at this time were expected to fight an invasion of crack German troops with nothing more than a collection of old shotguns and pieces of gas pipe with bayonets welded on the end!

The government was expecting 150,000 men to volunteer for the Home Guard. Within the first month, 750,000 men had volunteered, and by the end of June, 1940, the total number of volunteers was over one million. The number of men in the Home Guard did not fall below one million until they were stood down in December 1944. The Home Guard was disbanded on 31st December,1945.

The Home Guard was formed with the intention of delaying an enemy invasion force for as long as possible and to give the Government and the regular army time to form a front line from which the enemy invasion could be repelled. When they were first formed, the Home Guard were expected to fight highly trained, well armed, German troops using nothing but shotguns, air rifles, old hunting rifles, museum pieces, bayonets, knives and pieces of gaspipe with knives or bayonets welded on the end.

The Home Guard was eventually issued with more conventional weapons, but these had their problems. Most weapons were either World War One weapons or they were American or Canadian weapons. The British infantry rifle of WWI, the .303" SMLE was issued to the Home Guard. American P14 and P17 rifles were also supplied. The P14 and P17 looked almost identical, the only real difference being that the P14 took the SMLE .303" ammunition whilst the P17 took the American .30" (30-06) ammunition. To prevent accidents, the P17 had a red band painted on it to identify the 30-06 calibre.

On 20th May 1941, the 1st anniversary of the Home Guard, they were given the honour and privilege of mounting guard at Buckingham Palace. This honour was bestowed upon the Home Guard again on 20th May 1943. There are some regiments that have been in existence for hundreds of years that have not had this honour yet a unit that was in existence for only 4½ years was asked to mount guard twice, something that would not be asked of a group of geriatrics, incompetents and immature men as "Dad's Army" has portrayed them.

Home Guard camouflage training