View Full Version : The Home Guard

Paul Francis
10-07-2011, 13:28


This organisations was originally known as the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). The Secretary State for War, Anthony Eden, first announced the existence of the new organisation in his broadcast to the nation on 14 May 1940. He asked for large numbers of men, who were British subjects between the ages of 15 and 65, to come forward and offer their services. The LDV was then renamed in July of that year, becoming 'Home Guard' (HG), after the Prime Minister in a public speech had announced his preference for the new title.

LDV/HG battalions were attached, or affiliated to the local TA Association and regiment. The original organisation was on a company basis, but within a couple of months of the broadcast, the country was organised largely on a zone basis.

A number of units came into being which involved personnel, whose civilian employment placed them on a different footing from the general service battalions, regardless of the fact that they lived and worked in a battalion area. Examples include government departments such as the Civil Service, and the Post Office, and also large ‘essential’ factory workers.

The protection of local vulnerable points such as waterworks, reservoirs, power, and pumping stations, could be provided by a guard formed by personnel from the local general service HG platoon, or from the establishment itself if there were enough employees to form a static unit.

As the LDV was in the process of formation, the United Kingdom was divided into a number zones, based on county. These were further sub-divided into a number of areas which were the responsibility of an equal number of companies – operationally sub-divided into platoons, sections and squads – which were grouped together to form the administrative battalions.

The organisation as laid down in ACI 924 of 1940 was as follows:

• Zone
• Group
• Battalion
• Company
• Platoon
• Section
• Squad.

One of the first tasks involving the LDV, was administration of petrol, and road blocks. The immobilisation of petrol pumps at night was compulsory, and the LDV units were responsible for seeing that these instructions were carried out.

There were two types of road block, those erected by the military authorities on major roads, and those of the LDV. At first these were manned nightly, and on receipt of an air-raid warning. Road blocks were often used as an Home Guard Observation Post (OP); it was to be manned from sunset to one hour after sunrise.

In March 1940 the HG organisation became a proper military formation, with the allotment of permanent staff at Battalion HQ, and Liaison Regiments – formally known as GHQ Reconnaissance Groups – being attached to the HG by GHQ. The following month the King's Commission was granted, in place of the commission previously established by the Lord Lieutenant of the County, to Commanding Officers of Battalions and of Companies.

When serving with other Forces, officers of the HG took rank and procedure below officers of corresponding rank of the Regular, Reserve, or Auxiliary Forces.

Spigot Mortars were first introduced to HG units in April 1942; other weapons used included the following:

• 'Molotov bottles' (manufacture stopped by order dated 6 March 1941)
• AW Bomb, or Grenade, Self Igniting Phosphorus
• American rifles .300-inch P.17, 1917 pattern
• Browning automatic rifles, and machine-guns
• Thomson sub-machine-gun – from May 1941
• Mill's 36M grenade – from May 1941
• No.68 ATk grenade
• ST grenade
• No.73 ATk grenade ('Thermos') – from December 1941
• Bakelite anti-personnel grenade – from December 1941
• No.68 ATk grenade – from December 1941
• Smith 3-inch gun – from 1942
• Sten Machine Carbine – from September 1942
• Hawkins ATk No.75 grenade – from August 1943.

In framing the defence of a tract of countryside, the HG relied on the Defended Locality (DL). This was designed to prevent consolidation of ground covered by enemy mechanised units. Each strong point was chosen to cover roads and bridges etc, with satellite outposts supported by road blocks. Outer perimeter defences were sited close to a DL, the whole area being dominated by a 'Keep' (such as a battle headquarters) which would be the final point of resistance.

An Eastern Command Order, dated 30 October 1941 stated that the training of women as unofficial Home Guards had not been authorised by the War Office. Nevertheless women did play an invaluable part in the Home Guard throughout its existence, but it took another War Office memorandum, in April 1943, to place female assistance within the HG on an official footing. Women between the ages of 18 and 65 were eligible for enrolment. The scheme was entirely voluntary, no uniform or equipment was supplied, but a badge in the form of a brooch was issued. Each woman was provided with a certificate stating that she was authorised to follow the ‘Armed Forces of the Crown’. At first they were called 'Women Auxiliaries' but in February 1944 this term changed to 'Nominated Women', and in June the title was changed again, this time to 'Women HG Auxiliaries'.

Hertfordshire Zone

The Hertfordshire Zone initially came under the higher organisation known as 11th Corps Area , under the command of Colonel E C N Philips, with a headquarters initially at 19 North Crescent, Hertford. It later moved to the Drill Hall, Port Hill.

The Hertfordshire companies were given unique identification numbers – this was not true of some other counties e.g. Caernarvonshire. The 7th Hertfordshire Battalion commanded by Captain G M Brown had its headquarters at 41 High Street, Tring.

The Hertfordshire Zone was sub-divided into two group areas in March 1941:

▪ No.1 Group (West) HQ, at 'Ferndale', 50 Luton Road, Harpenden (5th, 7th, 8th, 9th & 10th Battalions
▪ No.2 Group (East) HQ.

In August 1941 the title East Anglia Area (South) – formally 11th Corps Area – was replaced by East Central Area, and later still it became East Central District. On 1 February 1942, Hertfordshire Zone became the Herts Sub-Area.

East Central District formed part of Army structure of Eastern Command, which included the traditional nine counties. Of these, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire formed the East Central District. The latter was sub-divided into four Sub-Areas, which in June 1943 became Sub-Districts. These were:

▪ Buckinghamshire
▪ Northamptonshire
▪ Hertfordshire
▪ Bedfordshire & Huntingdonshire (combined).

The ever-increasing number of new battalions forming soon required a reshuffle and Central Group was formed in October 1942. The organisation then became:

▪ Eastern Group (Colonel W J Woodcock); 1st, 3rd, 11th and 12th Battalions
▪ Central Group (Colonel R W West); 2nd, 4th, 5th, 13th, 14th and 15th Battalions
▪ Western Group (Colonel P de Soissons); 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th Battalions,
HQ at Cromwell House, Upper Highway, Hunton Bridge, Kings Langley.

The missing one is the 6th Hertfordshire Battalion which was under the administration of the London District, as its area fell within the outer defence line of London.
On 12 December 1942 the Home Guard School, Tring, which had become Western Group School, was transferred to 'The Limes'. Bridge Road, Hunton Bridge.

February 1943 the designation ‘Group’ was replaced by 'Sector'.

Static Home Guard Units

Post Office Battalions

The Post Office formed upwards of 60 battalions, primarily for the defence of Post Office plant and services, and also for recruiting and training of telephonists for operating emergency exchanges. All Post Office Battalions formed part of an independent force with its own command structure, the basic operation unit being the sections attached to general service HG battalions.

Within the area covered by 7th Hertfordshire Battalion, the Post Office Force consisted of No.19 Platoon of 'E' Luton Company, 6th (34 GPO) Cambridgeshire Battalion. The distribution was as follows:

▪ No.1 Section Hemel Hempstead
▪ No.2 Section Berkhamsted
▪ No.3 Section Tring.

A Post Office Home Guard Training School was located at Dyrham Park, Barnet while other schools were located at:

Osterley Park Dollis Hill
Sandy Frinton-on-Sea
Dorking – No.1 GHQ School
Onibury – No.3 GHQ School

Railway Units

The scheme adopted for the administration of the ‘Railway’ formations was similar to that of the Post Office, except for shape and disposition of the area in which they functioned –this being the property of the railway. For example, all HG personnel, of the London Midland and Scottish (LMS) Railway were attached to a single zone, extending from London to Glasgow, with Battalion Commands at suitable points along the line.

This was known as the LMS Zone and the part of its length running through the area within the responsibility of 7th Hertfordshire Battalion HG, was commanded by Colonel G S Hussey. His headquarters were at The Grove, Chandler’s Cross near Watford, the wartime offices of the railway company, and formerly the home of the Earl of Clarendon.

As with the Post Office, Railway HG units were attached for operational purposes to local general service battalions. Unfortunately companies, platoons and sections then found themselves distributed through many miles of country, owing to the way they were stretched along the railway line – although restricted to a very narrow band.

In the 7th Herts Battalion area there were railway sections at Boxmoor, Berkhamsted, and Tring Stations; these came under No.7 Platoon of 'G' Company, 10th Herts Battalion, with headquarters at Watford Junction. The latter was part of No.5 Platoon, 3 Railway Company, Euston Battalion within the LMS Zone.

London Passenger Transport Units

The other attached unit located within the area of responsibility of the 7th Hertfordshire Battalion, was the London Passenger Transport Platoon at Boxmoor, the Tring Bus Garage, and the Two Waters Bus Garage at Durrants Hill, Hemel Hempstead. This unit came under the command of Lieutenant (later Captain) A Chapman.

Composed chiefly of bus crews and their vehicles, they were regarded as a valuable transport reserve, which would have been drawn upon for operational work if the requirement arose.

Factory Units – Metropolitan-Vickers

So-called static or factory HG units were formed by major manufacturing companies and civil organisations for the close defence of their own buildings, and to organise the internal system to prevent sabotage. The only obligation of these units was to guard their own premises, but most units took a broader view of their duties and responsibilities.

The Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company Ltd of Trafford Park Manchester formed a work's LDV company made up of employees. It was known as 'R' Company, Manchester Regiment to which it was affiliated, and was further sub-divided into a number of works units.

Very soon the Trafford Park force had been elevated to the status of a battalion, initially called 'R' Battalion, but then became part of the 45th County of Lancaster Battalion, Home Guard. Half of the establishment of 'C' Company was made up of works personnel from the various plants.

There were four platoons:

▪ No.9 West Works (aircraft factory) – made up of three sections
▪ No.10 Metrovick 'A'
▪ No.11 Metrovick Main Works – made up of eight sections 'A' to 'H'
▪ No.12 North Works.

Treasury Battalions

At the same time as the LDVs were being created, the Treasury quickly authorised Government Departments in London, to form units for the close defence of their buildings. The response was forthcoming, and for administration purposes they were formed into a battalion known as the 35th County of London. The numbers of all ranks soon rose to almost six thousand, and the decision was taken to split it into three battalions. Two would be formed in Whitehall, and the third should embrace all offices outside.

Battalion strength was 1,600 me who were armed with rifles, Sten guns and Thomson sub-machine-guns, Lewis guns, Bren, and Browning machine-guns, together with sub-artillery weapons issued to every Home Guard battalion.

The battalion, although a so-called static unit, it was given a definite operational Area in the centre of London. This lay between Whitehall in the west and the City in the east, making the defence of Hungerford and Waterloo bridges their responsibility.

One of the three battalions was the 2nd City of London (Civil Service) Battalion which came into existence on 17 May 1941. A headquarters was established in Somerset House, the former headquarters of the Civil Service Rifles. Eight companies were formed:

▪ A Air Ministry
▪ B HM Customs and Excise
▪ C Ministry of Information
▪ D Postal Censorship
▪ E Ministry of War Transport and Economic Welfare
▪ F & G Ministry of Supply
▪ H Headquarters Company.

Post-World War II

The post WWII Home Guard was raised under the Home Guard Act, 1951 On the outbreak of war it would:

• Provide support for the civil authorities in their locality
• Provide guards for the protection of key points against sabotage in the initial stages of the emergency
• Defend their own battalion localities if necessary.

The HG was organised in battalions on a reserve basis. There were volunteer active cadres normally consisting of sector commanders, battalion commanders and two others per battalion. Members were required to give full-time service when the platoon or other part of the HG to which they belonged was mustered for the purpose of resisting an actual attack by a foreign power or of taking part in the measures for dealing with the effects of such an attack.

Members of the active cadres were enrolled for a period of two years which could be extended in one year increments.

20-03-2012, 15:10
I am struggling to find information on the structure of the Lindsey Home Guard, apart from the work by norwichpaul. Can someone point me in the right direction, please??