Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, October 24, 2021

They Don't like it Up 'em

Hello Historians, Sorry to have been so absent in content these last few weeks, but a lot has been going on. Due to that reason I've not got anything prepared, so today I'm going to have a quick chat about this picture:

We're obviously looking at a Home Guardsman, armed with a improvised pike made out of a length of steel tubing and a 1907 bayonet. You're all giggling and thinking of Dads Army aren't you? Stuff like 'wow, what good would that be in a modern fight?'

Well lets consider. First off, I like Dad's Army, its a good comedy. However it has tarnished the reputation of the Home Guard forever. Whenever you talk about the Home Guard you can see Dad's Army inserting itself into the conversation like a 400lb Gorilla. Indeed, it seems that any Home Guard related product has to include reference to the show to be accepted by the public. Images like the above, at first glance, seem to re-enforce the concepts laid out in that show. But look closer.

First off the Home Guard was filled with old men, right? Wrong. Average age of the Home Guard was 40, which looks about right for the bloke in the above picture. But what about the wider situation? Well here's F Platoon, 8th Essex Home Guard (chosen because the Corporal above is from the 8th Essex Home Guard battalion, although we don't know what platoon):

Looks to be a good collection of blokes in their 40s and 50s, doesn't it? Now consider what was happening 22 years previously to the Home Guard being formed. The First World War. If you look on the picture that started this rant you'll see the gentlemen's medal ribbons. This particular collection is known as 'Pip, Squeak & Wilfred'. They're the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the British Victory Medal. This clearly puts the bloke as having Served as a soldier in the BEF from the outbreak of the war. What happened next we don't know, but I would venture there's a good chance he picked up fair old whack of experience of fighting, and you've just given him a length of 55 inch pipe with a 17 inch bayonet on the end, and asked him to defend his home and wife.

I don't think people appreciate exactly how massive the 1907 Bayonet actually is. Here we see my 1907 (and my 1888 pattern) on my chair to give some kind of size comparison.

Now, before you continue mocking the concept of a croft pike, whom will he be up against? A German Fallschirmjager armed with a pistol until he can get to his weapon canister, and whose to say the local Home Guard might not get there first? Now I'm boo no means saying that leaving the Home Guardsman without a rifle is a good idea, it's not. But it's not as ridiculous as many suggest. Equally, as Essex is not in the front lines most at risk of invasion, so it makes a bit more sense when you consider that any Fallschirmjager carrying planes would have to have flown through the RAF first, which is not likely to be a pleasant experience. It also makes sense for Britain to issue weapons to those who are likely to be in the front line first, for example those on the south coast. 

Another picture of the Essex Home guard, from the same area as all the other pictures.


Finally I would argue that even Home Guard units quipped with Croft pikes were not entirely defenceless. Rifle and firearm ownership in the UK was much higher than it is today. Take for example the Cambridgeshire Home Guard. Eden's call to arms summoning the Home Guard was broadcast on the Tuesday. The same night a fully armed guard of ten men was posted on the local telephone exchange. That Guard was maintained until the Saturday when it was relieved by regular troops. 

And keep in mind, there is one part of Dad's Army they got right in the film. The scene in the police station, following Eden's address announcing the formation of the Home Guard. The sheer willingness of the population to step forward and do their duty. Originally it was expected that a total of 500,000 might join up. In reality, within seven days they had 250,000, and within two months 1.5 million people signed up. The Home Guard would go on to provide an active part of the defence of the UK, as well as assisting with Internal security, they also gave large amounts of manpower to assist in the Anti-air and coastal artillery roles.


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