Hopefully this tutorial will help you to find resources that will provide an insight into your ancestor’s wartime service.
Along with most records, documents and materials relating to the Second World War, Home
Guard records are predominantly held by the Ministry of Defence at this time. Collections relating to some individual units and battalions can be found through other sources, such as the Forces War Records database and the National Archives. Forces War Records currently holds three collections relating to the
• Home Guard Auxiliary Units 1939-1945 (not strictly Home Guard, the name was used as a cover)
The collection overviews summarise the role of these units, what information can be found on them and from which sources it was taken. Generally, you will find the following details for each person mentioned in our Home
• Home Guard Service Number
• National Registration Number
• Date Home Guard service began
Home Guard Auxiliary Units have previously been covered in Issue 1 of Forces War Records Magazine. The Auxiliary Units were not, in fact, made up of ‘Local Defence Volunteers ’, to borrow the original government name for the Home Guard, but were instead composed of specially trained and equipped personnel charged with waging a government sanctioned, uniformed guerrilla war against the invading Germans from behind enemy lines. The Home Guard, by comparison, was a second line of defence against invasion, intended to support the Regular and Territorial Army units by delaying the advance of German units. The Auxiliary Units were nominally attached to three Home Guard battalions,
201 (Scotland), 202 (Northern England) and 203 (Southern England), to disguise their purpose, and thus are included in this tutorial.
Outside of the Forces War Records collections, one of the most prolific sources for Home Guard information is of course the National Archives at Kew.
Under reference WO199, you will find hundreds of Home Guard related documents, including unit histories, war diaries, muster instructions, regulations, defence schemes, all sorts really. It is well worth a look, particularly for the unit histories, which will give you an idea of the day-to-day running of the unit. Home Guard units were not required to write these unit histories, but as many of the officers were First World War veterans, they were used to the task and did so anyway. Details on the Home Guard Auxiliary Units can also be found under the same reference.
The best source for real, meaty information on the Home Guard however, as previously mentioned, is the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry currently holds the original Army Forms filled in and signed on enlistment into the Home Guard/LDV and is one of the better ‘jumping off points’ to start your search, as it will provide the very basic information and is, with a few exceptions, just about the ONLY place this information exists, certainly for the other ranks.
We explained how to contact the Ministry of Defence to order Second World War records in the
‘Five Minute Tutorial’ in Issue 2 of Forces War Records Magazine, then you’ll just need to look for the header ‘Home Guard or Regular Service’. For a £30.00 fee, provided you can produce proof that you are related to the Home Guard serviceman you are looking for, a search will be carried out.
A more far-flung resource might include your local regiment’s museum, since the Home Guard came under territorial organisation, and as such counted as a regimental battalion, so it is very much worth contacting them to see what they have. In some cases this might include photographs and documents. For general historical interest, The Home Guard website gives a very good breakdown of the history of the unit and its forebear, the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), as well as the equipment members used, the organisation, structure and so on.
As always, best of luck with your research, and remember, our Customer Support staff are always on hand should you need any further advice or help.