The BBC series “Dad’s Army” (1968-77) allowed the work of the Home Guard to remain in the public’s consciousness long after the volunteers stood down at the end of WW2. The new film will remind us of the affection felt for the original series and its characters in the fictional “Walmington-on-Sea.”
Amusing as the comedy series was, the situation in 1940 was no laughing matter. Britain was under serious threat of invasion by the Germans. On the night of May 14th, 1940, Anthony Eden made his first speech as Secretary of State for War. Part of his speech was asking for volunteers for the LDV:
‘We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain who are British subjects, between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five, to come forward now and offer their services in order to make assurance [that an invasion would be repelled] doubly sure. The name of the new force which is now to be raised will be the Local Defence Volunteers. This name describes its duties in three words. You will not be paid, but you will receive uniforms and will be armed. In order to volunteer, what you have to do is give your name at your local police station, and then, when we want you, we will let you know…’
By August Winston Churchill had changed the name from “Local Defence Volunteers” to “The Home Guard” because he thought the original name was uninspirational and cumbersome. The well known comedian Tommy Trinder had also nicknamed the LDV, rather unfairly, “Look, Duck and Vanish”.
The photographs below show the “Rhyl Railway Home Guard” (also including Crosville employees). There was also the “Rhyl Town Home Guard” and the “Rhyl Post Office Home Guard”. This must have represented quite a number of men in the town. Nationally, 750,000 men had volunteered within a month of Eden’s speech and over a million by the end of June.
The men consisted of those who were too old, too young, unfit or ineligible for the regular army. Also included were those involved in reserved occupations. This description is from the Imperial War Museums website:
“The Home Guard was at first a rag-tag militia, with scarce and often make-do uniforms and weaponry. Yet it evolved into a well-equipped and well-trained army of 1.7 million men. Men of the Home Guard were not only readied for invasion, but also performed other roles including bomb disposal and manning anti-aircraft and coastal artillery. Over the course of the war 1,206 men of the Home Guard were killed on duty or died of wounds.”
Memories of local people include manoeuvres being carried out on the Cob and also apparently in Caerwys, where they gathered at the Picadilly. One little story involves an Officer in charge of men during manoeuvres on the Cob. As the evening wore on the Officer was reminded by the men about the need to be back in town for last orders. The march back into town was doubled as drill practice. Whilst marching down Kinmel Street a lady (who’d obviously got the wrong idea) shouted after them “Where are you off for boys?” “Egypt” replied the Officer. “Oh, God Bless you” replied the lady (just before the men fell out to retire to a local hostelry).
As always, your comments or reminiscences are very welcome.