Thursday, 14 May 2015

Don’t Tell ‘Em, Pike!

May 14th 1940 – 75 years ago today – the Local Defence Volunteers [Home Guard] was founded. Most of us now only know about these men through the great Croft & Perry series “Dad’s Army”

dads army cast

These were men who were too young or too old to join the army, or in reserved occupations and only able to volunteer after work. Despite Walmington-on-Sea only having one ‘youngster’ – Pike – more than half of those in the HG were under the age of 30.


What I had not realised was just how many men joined up– 1.8 million!! Of these, over 1600 were killed whilst on duty, on one way or another. Local Home Guard commanders initially received little guidance from the War Office as to training and it was left to them to develop their own tactics that were relevant to their own locality. However, with little professional support, a man in the Home Guard was four times as likely to die in an accident during training than a regular soldier.

SONY DSC1000 medals were awarded for gallantry – four posthumously. Three to men who threw themselves onto misthrown grenades, thus saving the life of their comrades, and one for a man who went repeatedly into a gas-filled cellar to rescue the unconscious people inside. He was eventually fatally overcome by the fumes.

Though seen as not ‘real soldiers', the Home Guard did valuable work. By acting as sentries, patrolling the countryside etc. they relieved the regular army to do other work. A special ‘Auxiliary Unit’ was created to fight behind enemy lines should an invasion occur. They would have lived and fought out of secret bases in the countryside. Their job would have been to sabotage anything that might have been of use to Nazi invaders. Their knowledge of the local terrain would have been a valuable asset in any fight against the Nazis. 

Churchill said of this force "Such a force is of the highest value and importance. A country where every street and every village bristles with resolute, armed men is a country against which the tactics that destroyed the Dutch will not succeed…a country so defended would not be liable to be overthrown."

dads army 2016

Filming has started in Bridlington for the new Dad’s Army film. I blogged about it here, and more cast details are here. It looks like it should be good. Ian(Pike)Lavender is there, now as a Brigadier, and loads of other great actors. It is due to be released in February 2016.


  1. My Dad was in the Home Guard aged 16. He became friendly with the sergeant who took him home to meet his family. The family included his 14 year old daughter Doris who later became my mum... So in a way I owe my existence to the Home Guard! Dad said that although he probably joined because it was exciting, all of the HG young and old were absolutely determined to defend their community and country to the death if necessary. They risked their lives every night out during the blitz in Liverpool and then went to work the next day as usual.
    We have a lot to be grateful to them for.

    1. We do indeed - thanks for sharing the great story of your parent's romance!!

  2. I love this post. It gives a little insight into what my maternal grandad did in Stalybridge, Manchester. At the time he was a tinsmith so I guess this was an important job at the time. I don't know any more about him and his war effort.


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