Category Archives: Home Guard

Home Guard Anti-Aircraft Commemorative Certificate

It is often forgotten that the Home Guard had a front line role to play in the defence of Britain during the Second World War. As well as patrolling their local area, the Home Guard were increasingly used to man fixed anti-aircraft sites to free up fitter men for more mobile and front line roles. The weapons manned consisted of both traditional artillery pieces and rocket projectors known as Z Batteries. Like much of the Home Guard’s work, this job has gone largely un recognised and indeed at the time all the men got was a small card expressing the thanks of General Pile, head of Anti-Aircraft Command:This little card is a rare survivor and has printed at the top the black bow on red background of the command’s formation patch:For more information on the badge please look here. One Home guard member who served on Z-Batteries has left us this account:

I was working on electrical repairs in the many textile mills and engineering factories and foundries in the area when I was conscripted into the home guard.

Not the usual infantry but a newly formed Anti-aircraft battery firing rockets. These were new weapons in addition to the many conventional 3.75 AA guns in the area. These new rocket projectors were to be manned and operated by the Home Guard.

The individual rocket projectiles were made of strong sheet metal welded into the shape of a pipe about six feet long and four inches in diameter. In the last foot of length at the business end was a high explosive AA shell, with a fuse in the nose cone, operated by air pressure at any selected height. This was adjusted with a special spanner before the rocket was loaded onto the launcher (projector). There were four stabilising tail fins (quite sharp to the touch) at the rear end. There were eight rockets, each loaded by hand on to their own guide rails on the projector. It was like handling a heavy awkward length of household rainwater pipe, and you had to slide it up the guide rails, then pull it back on to the electrical firing contacts. There were eight projectors in a battery… For the first few times we trained on dummy machines with dummy rounds in the Huddersfield Territorials’ drill hall. We practised loading the rockets correctly and aiming the projectors by means of two-man teams operating large hand wheels whilst standing on either side of the roofed over platform. One man controlled the bearing read off on a dial marked in degrees, indicated by a pointer. The elevation was similarly controlled and set by the number two man on the other side of the platform. Communication was by earphone and microphone to each other and from the Control Centre… Then we went operational. Duty at a battery three nights a week. We carried on practising with the dummy rounds but the real ones were stored in a bunker near each projector, which were about 30 yards apart. We never fired in anger, though we stood by with enemy planes overhead several times. The reason was that the area for miles around was residential and to fire over the houses would have caused a lot of damage as the empty metal rocket fuel containers fell from the sky on to the rooftops…

We did practice live fire once. It was a glorious ‘summer’ day in November and we were taken by train and lorry to Hornsea on the North Yorkshire coast. Each platoon went in turn to the projectors lined up on the cliff top and loaded live rockets (I was worried about my fingers) and fired a salvo into the sky over the sea. I was never more scared in my life. Great 30 foot long sheets of flame past our heads and a roar like an express train in a tunnel, and the flimsy metal structure of the platform of the projector shaking and resonating; and us too shocked and deaf to hear the commands to check for misfires and turn to a neutral bearing.


ARP Cigarette Cards (Part 2)

Tonight we are looking at the next ten cards in the Air Raid Precautions set of Will’s cigarette cards, you can see the first post here.

Card 21 Light Trailer Fire-Pump

Under Fire Precautions schemes, the Home office is issuing to many local authorities light trailer fire-pumps of the type illustrated. This pump has the great advantage of being easily manœuvred; not only can it be towed behind any motor car, but it is also light enough to be manhandled. It is capable of delivering two useful fire-fighting streams of water, and can deliver 120 gallons per minute at a pressure of 80lb to the square inch. The pump unit can be unshipped from its chassis and carried to any convenient position where water is availableskm_c45817021416010-copy-6Card 22 Light Trailer Fire-Pump in Action

Air Raid Precautions schemes will include ample provision for emergency fire-fighting. The home Office is issuing to many local authorities light trailer fire-pumps, described on Card No. 21. The pump is here shown in action; it has been unshipped from the chassis on which it is usually carried for towing purposes, and is taking a supply of water from a garden pond, to which it has been carried by hand. The light trailer fire-pump can also work from a street mains supply, and is capable of delivering two useful fire-fighting streams of water.skm_c45817021416010-copy-5Card 23 Medium Trailer Fire-Pump

Medium trailer motor fire-pumps will be an important feature in emergency fire-brigade measures. These pumps are towed behind private cars or commercial vans ( in which the fire-men and additional fire-fighting gear may be carried), and can be manhandled over rough ground or debris impassable to ordinary fire-engines or motor cars. A pump of this type will give four good fire-fighting streams of water at high pressure.skm_c45817021416010-copy-4Card 24 Medium Trailer Fire-Pump in Action

Any scheme of Air Raid Precautions must include the provision of a great number of special fire-fighting appliances. Pumping units of the type illustrated will be required in large numbers for use under air raid conditions. They are specially designed for trailing behind motor cars or light lorries. Crews of 4 or 5 trained firemen are required to man these fire-pumps, which are capable of delivering two or more streams of water at high pressure on to a fire.skm_c45817021416010-copy-3Card 25 Emergency Heavy Pump Unit

The illustration shows a high-powered emergency fire-pump, carrying a telescopic ladder. This unit, which has been designed by the Home Office, is capable of delivering over 1,000 gallons of water a minute at high pressure, and is able to supply a number of good fire-fighting streams. There is accommodation on the unit for both crew and necessary fire-fighting gear. The chassis on which the pump is mounted is extremely mobile, and can be manœuvred in a very small space.skm_c45817021416010-copy-2Card 26 Hose-Laying Lorry

For laying long lines of delivery hose, such as may be necessary at large fires for the purpose of utilising distant water supplies, a special motor appliance is used. The lengths of hose contained in the appliance are joined together and specially packed as shown in the illustration, so that they pay out in one or more continuous lines as the appliance is driven ahead.skm_c45817021416010-copy-8Card 27 The Civilian Respirator

This respirator consists of a face-piece, to which is attached by means of a rubber band a metal box containing filters which absorb all known war gases. The face-piece is held in position by means of web straps fitting around the head. When the respirator is properly fitted and the straps adjusted, it completely protects the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs. The strap should be pinned at the right tension, so that the respirator can be slipped on in an instant. This respirator will be issued free to the public.skm_c45817021416010-copy-7Card 28 The Civilian Respirator- How to Adjust it

Great care must be taken to see that the respirator is correctly fitted and adjusted, in order that a supply of pure air, quite free from gas, is ensured for breathing. The respirator is made so that if fits closely round the face, and is provided with adjustable straps to hold it in the correct position. It is important that the respirator be tried on and the straps properly adjusted to the requirements of the wearer (see picture), so that it may be put on at a moment’s notice.skm_c45817021416012-copy-2Card 29 The Civilian Respirator- How to Remove it

The pictures shows the RIGHT way to take off a Civilian Respirator. This should be done by slipping the head harness forward from the back of the head. It is important that the respirator should be taken off in this way. The WRONG way to take it off is by taking hold of the metal box containing the filters and pulling the face-piece off by the chin. By this method there is a danger of bending and cracking the transparent window. If this window is cracked, the respirator is useless.skm_c45817021416012-copy-4Card 30 The Civilian Duty Respirator

This respirator is of stronger construction than the civilian respirator and is intended for those who might have to work in the presence of gas and could not go to a gas-protected refuge room. The respirator protects the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs against all known war-gasses. The face-piece is of moulded rubber, and the eye-pieces are of strong glass. There is an outlet valve opposite the nose; the protuberance at the side of the face-piece can be used to fit a microphone for speaking on the telephone.skm_c45817021416012-copy-3

Home Guard Cape

During 1940 British manufacturing was being stretched to its limits, both by the sheer volume of goods required, but also due to loss of capacity by enemy action. Priority for items such as clothing had to go to the regular forces, second line units like the Home Guard were a long way down the pecking order and various substitutes were provided that were unique to the force. Some of these substitute items were to remain in inventory throughout the war, others were to be quickly replaced when supplies of the original item were restored to normal levels. In the latter category was a garment unique to the Home Guard; the cape:

imageMy thanks go to Andy Dixon for helping me add this one to the collection. The Home Guard Cape was a replacement for the greatcoat which was in short supply in late 1940 after air raids had severely disrupted the clothing industry in the East End of London. The Home Guard needed an over-garment to cover their thin denim uniforms which were insufficient to keep the wearer warm on cold nights and it was suggested that an ‘Austrian Pattern’ cape be produced which would be simpler to manufacture than the service greatcoat. On 16th October 1940 500,000 capes were ordered, with delivery starting in November 1940. The cape is made of the same serge as the battledress, with five large buttons up the front:imageInside the top half of the cape is lined with shirting material:imageAnd two straps are sewn in to allow the cape to be attached to the shoulders:imageThis then allowed the cape to be opened and slung back out of the way:skmbt_c36417010509030_0001-copyThis hardly seems practical as the cape trails near the ground and would get very muddy very quickly! Two pockets are provided inside the cape:imageAnd a button and button loop are provided down the edges:imageThese allow the cape to be buttoned into rudimentary sleeves, as seen in this photograph of an officer inspecting a Home Guardsman:skmbt_c36417010509030_0001The capes came in five sizes and each originally had a manufacturer’s label sewn in, sadly my example has lost its original label, although the outline of the stitching where it was attached can be seen:imageThe War Office instructed that ranks were to be worn in the usual positions- easy enough for officers with their rank on shoulders, but much harder for NCOs- where about exactly should sergeants stripes or a Warrant Officer’s sleeve batch be sewn?

It is fair to say the capes were never popular, and as early as September 1941 moves were made to get rid of them and replace them with standard greatcoats. Although a buyer was sought for the surplus capes none could be found and they soldiered on until the War Office relented and made them obsolete in November 1942, supplies of greatcoats being sufficient by this point. These capes were quickly disposed of with little sadness, today therefore they are a rare and unusual piece of Home Guard uniform and when the opportunity came to add one to my collection I couldn’t turn it down!

Home Guard Anklets

The regular British Army used webbing anklets throughout the Second World War. When the Home Guard was formed it was clear they would need something similar, however webbing production was stretched and there was not sufficient capacity to rapidly equip this new force in the quantities needed. As it did so often, the government turned to the leather industry to fill the gap; this industry having the spare capacity and skills necessary to produce leather anklets. By 13th August 1940 stocks of the anklets were ready and these started being distributed to units on 28th August. Production was very rapid with a quarter of a million pairs issued by the 3rd September and by January 1941 1.6 million pairs were produced and distributed.

The leather anklets were clearly an almost direct copy of the army webbing design:imageThere were however manufacturing differences as seen on this ‘pair’ which are not actually a pair as they show differing construction methods. Both are made from an artificially grained leather, a deep brown in colour:imageAs first issued these anklets would have been very light in colour, but this was found, via exercises with the RAF, to be impracticable in the field. Some companies, especially those with Rifle Regiment parent units, dyed their anklets black and at least one unit dyed them sage green! Officially however they were to be brown and the 7th Herts received orders belts and anklets should be darkened to a medium brown colour. The anklets themselves were supplied in three different sizes to fit different leg sizes.

These anklets have the same brass buckles to fasten them as webbing anklets, however one pair has them secured by a combination of stitching and a single brass rivet:imageThe other just uses brass rivets:imageBoth sets have leather straps attached to the main body of the anklet but again one is sewn:imageWhilst the other is riveted:imageDespite these differences I suspect no one much minded when they were issued a pair how they had been made, and this set looks to have been together a long time as they both have considerable deformation along the bottom edge from wear:imageStocks of both leather and webbing anklets were supplied to Home Guard units depending on supply, generally speaking units seem to have issued officers with web anklets and other ranks with leather ones, here members of the Broadway Home Guard can be seen wearing the leather anklets:home_guard

Leather Other Services Water Bottle Carrier

Back in 2014 we considered the webbing Other Services Water bottle Carrier (here), we mentioned then that this carrier replaced an earlier leather example. Since writing that post I have found just such a leather water bottle carrier and that is the subject of tonight’s post. A comparison between the two shows how similar the two designs are ( please note the bottle shown here is missing its wool cover):imageMade of leather, this water bottle carrier was introduced to replace an earlier and almost identical carrier that differed only in having a canvas central section to the cross strap. The carrier is made of brown leather, with a cradle that passes below the bottle and around it in two positions:

imageThe components are secured by brass hose rivets:imageWith the strap attaching to the main carrier through two large metal rings:imageThe length of the strap is adjustable with a small roller buckle:imageThese carriers were on general issue to all troops that did not have one of the typical webbing sets, i.e. those not equipped with 08 or later 37 pattern webbing. When the webbing ‘OS’ carriers came into service the leather examples were issued to the Home Guard, here the central figure in an anti-invasion exercise taking place in York in November 1941 can be seen to wear the water bottle slung over his shoulder:The_Home_Guard_1939-45_H15191Interestingly a black leather version of the carrier exists and this appears to have been for St John’s Ambulance use. The basic design of carrier was remarkable long lived, being used in various guises from the turn of the twentieth century into the 1950s. Due to the simplicity of the design, variations can also be seen having been produced and issued in India to local troops, indeed the basic design is so simple that I have in the past made my own replica of the version with a central canvas section to the cross strap.

1939 Pattern Bayonet Frog

The 1939 pattern leather equipment set has always interested me, but it was only this week that I finally picked up my first piece, a 1939 pattern bayonet frog. The 1939 pattern leather equipment set was designed in a weekend at the start of World War Two when it was realised that, as in the Great War, there was insufficient cotton webbing production capacity to meet the country’s need but surplus capacity in the leather industry. The 1939 pattern set is a virtual copy of the 1937 pattern webbing set, but in leather. As can be seen the bayonet frog is identical in design to its webbing equivalent, with only a few minor changes to accommodate the manufacture in a thicker and less flexible material:imageThe two loops that retain the scabbard stud are the same as on the webbing frog:imageHowever instead of being sewn to the rest of the frog they are secured by eight brass hose rivets:imageThe top loop to prevent the handle of the bayonet from moving around is again replicated in leather:imageThese frogs were one of the most used elements of the 1939 pattern set as they were adopted by the Home Guard for use with their bayonets. As the Home Guard was heavily equipped with American P17 rifles, the American bayonet and scabbard were frequently placed in the frog. However as the American design lacked a frog stud they were held in purely by friction and were far less secure than when used with English bayonets! Here a Home Guardsman can be seen clearly wearing a bayonet in a frog, the stiffness of which suggests it is the leather 1939 pattern example:124943841

Home Guard Certificate

By the summer of 1944, following the Normandy Landings, it was clear that the threat of invasion to the British Isles was over. With the danger now over, and with rapidly escalating costs of conducting the war, the War office quickly moved to disband the Home Guard. Whilst there was discussion in the press at the time about the award of a dedicated medal to members of the Home Guard, the government settled for the simpler (and cheaper) option of issuing them with a certificate in recognition of their service. The debate in the House of Commons explained who was eligible for the certificate:

Sir Douglas Hacking asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is his intention to have issued to each member of the Home Guard on disbandment a certificate similar to those issued to the Army after the last war.

Sir J. Grigg: As my right hon. Friend will have seen from the newspapers, His Majesty The King has graciously signified his wish that a certificate signed by His Majesty should be issued to all serving members of the Home Guard and to ex-members who apply for it. Issue of these certificates to Territorial Army Associations will commence shortly.

Dr. Edith Summerskill: Will women be open to receive these certificates?

Sir J. Grigg: I do not think they are members of the Home Guard, but I would rather like notice of that Question.

The certificate is a piece of pre-printed foolscap with the Home Guardsman’s name and details of service typed on:SKMBT_C36415102716010_0001This example is for a Ralph Tegg who served from 9th July 1940 to 31st December 1944. Units received blank certificates from the War Office with instructions to type on first and last names, without rank, and dates of service and then hand them out in OHMS envelopes to save postage. As might be expected, these instructions were not always followed to the letter and hand written examples and certificates with ranks on are not uncommon. The back of the certificate has a stamp indicating that his length of service had been checked and agreed on the 10th February 1945:SKMBT_C36415102716011_0001A number of parades were organised at the stand down to pay tribute to the contribution of the Home Guard, this report on a large parade in London comes from the Daily Mail:Fetch - CopyJoe Carley took part in the parade in Manchester:

At the Gorton Town Hall, we met many old colleagues and after steel helmets had been issued we boarded special double-decker buses which took us to the region of Central Station and we joined hundreds of Home Guards who were lined up in three ranks in a street called, I think, Windmill Street. We had an extremely long and boring wait in drab surroundings under a persistent, and at times heavy, fall of rain……this was the end. No more training, no more lectures, no more demonstrations, no more Sunday morning parades, no more manning, guards, piquets or patrols, no more manoeuvres, weapon training or drills – it was all at an end as far as we were concerned.”

“Eventually we were called to attention, orders were barked, the band struck up and we moved out into Peter Street, then marching via Mount Street, Albert Square, Cross Street, King Street, Spring Gardens, Charlotte Street, George Street and thus past the saluting base on the blitzed site. Immediately following the band, were a number of officers in a compact phalanx followed by the Home Guards (A.A. Section) marching in sixes. I was on the extreme outer edge of my particular line. On the command ‘eyes left’ ….I realised the fact that the lines were not, I am afraid, as straight as they might be – I noticed a few ‘bulges’ here and there.”

“We then passed along Market Street, where to my surprise, part of the parade turned along High Street, Cannon Street, Deansgate to tack themselves on the rear of the columns which had proceeded directly along Market Street. In spite of the earlier rain, there had been comparatively large crowds in the vicinity of the saluting base and at spots in the earlier part of the route, but as we proceeded along Deansgate on the final stages, there were but few people about, and they took little or no notice of the Home Guard Farewell, but sauntered the pavements, looked in shop windows etc. and only occasionally cast superficial glances in the direction of the representatives of England’s ‘cheap’ Army.”Home_Guards_1944