The Home Guard

The Home Guard began life as the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) and was raised in 1940 in the face of impending invasion by the Germans following their victories in Europe. It stood down in 1944 following the Allies' successful invasion of Europe, before being formally disbanded in 1945. It comprised 1.5 million members and drew from those in the population who were not eligible for active service due to either being too young or old for call up, or were employed in a reserved occupation. The concept of the Home Guard was to hamper any invasion while the regular forces were able to prepare a more effective response. Following the downgrading of the invasion threat in 1941, the Home Guard replaced the regular forces in manning the coastal defences (batteries and the like), thus freeing up the regular Army for more offensive operations.

Anthony Eden called in a radio broadcast for all men between the ages of 17 and 65 who were not already in regular military service to enlist in the LDV by reporting to their local police station. The broadcast unleashed an enthusiastic response with 250,000 signing up in the first seven days alone! The Home Guard was partitioned into military districts which were already in place and used by the regular army; each district was further sub-divided under the supervision of a General Staff Officer. For example, the London sector followed the lines of the police districts in the capital. The Privy Council officially recognised the LDV on May 17th 1940, while making provision that the volunteers were to be unpaid and that any commissions held within the organisation were separate to and without any power of command over the regular forces.

LDV armbands. Top GPO, bottom LMS.
Shoulder title of the Home Guard.

This, however, proved to more difficult than first envisaged as the 1937 Firearms Act, for example, effectively neutered the fledgling organisation as it forbade the ownership and use of automatic guns by the civilian population. Churchill pushed for a more official role for the LDV and this was achieved by the end of July,1940 when the LDV was officially re-named as the Home Guard.

To discover more about the small arms of the Home Guard, click here.

To learn about the Womens Home Guard, click here.

To view a genuine film about the Home Guard, click here.

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