It is always nice to get photographs that show something a bit unusual, and tonight we have a lovely pair of images showing the Home Guard training. The first image shows them involved in some sort of crab running:The instructor in the centre is carrying some large flags and his ‘Home Guard’ armband is clearly visible:The men are all simply dressed in battledress, with field service caps. Quite what they are doing is not clear and it perhaps appears to be some sort of training in how to move stealthily in a crouched position:A group of other soldiers looks on from the side lines:The second photograph is less ambiguous and shows men practicing throwing hand grenades:They have just let go and the practice grenades can be seen in mid-air, whilst the men are in the process of taking cover on the ground:It was essential to practice throwing dummy grenades to prevent accidents when live grenades were used and to build confidence with the weapon, a Home Guard circular from Bridlington lamented:
From recent observations it would appear that instruction in all types of grenades held on charge has in some cases been badly neglected and some NCOs and men appear to be pretty scared when asked to handle dummies.
Robert Nosworthy instructed the home guard in the use of hand grenades in London:
To tell you the truth, I think it was one of the most dangerous things I could have ever thought about doing, because of these squads that were sent down to me from various places, parts of London, had never even handles a dummy bomb. And a lot of them were larking about, and you had to come down on them pretty stiff. And we didn’t have a lot of actual accidents, but we had very near misses…In a lot of cases, the idiots would pull the pin out beforehand, and a lot of that sort of business, and I’d have to chuck the bomb over quick, and all dive down. They hadn’t the slightest idea. But some were very good.
One of the commercially produced Home Guard training manuals of the time gave the following instructions:
How to Throw. Grenades are thrown with the same arm action as that of an over-arm bowler at cricket. This enables you to propel them with a high trajectory, which is suitable for their purpose of attacking over obstacles such as barricades. As they are meant entirely for close-quarters fighting, there is no point in trying to throw them very far; it is much more important to get accuracy than length of throw.
It is important that every man should learn to throw the grenade with the movement which comes most natural to him. He must cultivate a free natural body swing rather than any set of drilled movements. During grenade practice you must make a point of accurately observing where the grenade falls. You will practice throwing over a high wire, and from behind cover, both standing and in a lying position. You will throw into circles marked on the ground, always remembering that you are throwing at an enemy who is behind cover.
Only one man will throw at a time. No man will throw without a direct order: grenades will never be thrown from man to man. No man will attempt to catch a grenade: no man will pick up a grenade which has been thrown, until ordered to do so.
These instructions must be rigidly obeyed, in order that, from the very start, you will instinctively learn to treat grenades with respect. There is no need to be nervous with a grenade, however, as long as you understand it.