Soon after joining World War Two, the British Isles needed to face threatening reality of invasion by powerful German forces. This led not only to the evacuation of children overseas, but also a radio announcement on the BBC's Home Service dated 14 May 1940. The Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, requested help from British citizens willing to join a new force to ensure the nations safety. Although unprepared for such an overwhelming response, improvisations rapidly formed a part time army of Local Defence Volunteers
Winston Churchill had earlier recognised how the fitness demanded for armed troops dismissed a huge number of keen middle aged volunteers, including experienced WWI veterans. Many held reserved occupations, but if offered a part time unpaid defensive role, he readily expecting upward 150,000 men could greatly help strengthen armed forces stretched across coastal defenses forming the Home Front.
The eventual broadcast immediately attracted interest, seeing numbers rapidly climb nearer 1,500,000 by end of June. Although dubbed by age and so wittily characterised by a Dad's Army series, broadened opportunity allowed others a chance of at least feeling they could play some significant official role. Initially just issued with LDV armbands, uniforms did freely follow, unlike a very limited supply of crude weaponry. Nevertheless the war time Prime Minister ensured they were given various tactical military training, also feeling need to rename the LDV on 4th July into a more inspiringly titled Home Guard.
Huthwaite therefore became a training ground for two similar looking trainee soldier forces. Separately they each marched to perform military exercises and square bashing discipline upon the open market place. Both trained using wooden or makeshift weapons, their ranking indistinguishable by carefree youngsters playfully following outdoor activities. Some children would recognised relatives or neighbours, identifying Huthwaite Home Guard platoons from Sutton-in-Ashfield battalions. Difference otherwise appeared when fully disciplined Sherwood Forester recruits were those finally issued a real Lee-Enfield rifle or Tommy gun.
Home Guard battalions covering our rural Nottinghamshire district may not have been as well equipped as those in key areas elsewhere, although some were possibly armed using privately owned shotguns. Coal mining and hosiery manufacturing were the two big industries in Huthwaite, and along with farming, both companies claimed reserved occupations that importantly supported the war efforts. A significant number did choose to enlist for full time service, but most continued work while adding a uniformed part-time role.
Shooting practise did form part of their defensive training, as clearly shown by these photos of the two competition winning Huthwaite Platoons.
A New Hucknall Colliery Home Guard platoon display their Muschamp Cup, awarded by their colliery executive. Mrs E Wallace supplied this family held clipping that remembers brother Hedley amongst those named. He's stood behind pit manager W. Thorpe.
Mr John Nowell adds proof the CWS factory presented a Home Guard, by also giving names dated 1941.
The later platoon of 1943 exposes far younger faces, and realises fact that joining the local Home Guard from minimum age of 16 years achieved suitable training prior army enlistment on reaching 17 years old.
Two photographs capturing the same 1943 Huthwaite platoon after winning a battalion shooting match on the past Huthwaite Road CWS factory sports ground. Clearer picture below sent by Robert Holland does allow reading off the board to give full title. Their numbered Battalion and Platoon would suggest unknown total size could have presented a significantly strong local force before all members of the national Home Guard received final instructions to "stand down" in December 1944.
Written 04 Aug 12 Revised 19 Aug 14 © by Gary Elliott