When Anthony Eden made his broadcast on 14th May 1940 calling for all men between the ages of 17 and 65 to enroll in the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) within 24 hours of the broadcast, 250,000 men had put down their names to join. At its peak in March 1943 the Home Guard had numbered over 1,700,000 men and never fell below 1 million until the Home Guard was disbanded.
During the Second World War, the Home Guard would lose 1,200+ members while on duty. These members perished during air raids or died from the injuries they sustained.
The nickname "Dad’s Army" was due to the average age of the local volunteers who signed up for The Home Guard, who were ineligible for military service, usually because of their age.
Following the successful D-Day landings in France and the drive towards Germany by the Allies, the Home Guard were formally stood down on 3rd December 1944, with a stand down parade of 7,000 men in London. From this date, the Home Guard became an inactive reserve unit and was finally disbanded on 31st December 1945.
H.M. The King Broadcasts To The Nation On The Stand-down of the Home Guard - December 3rd 1944.
Over four years ago, in May 1940, our country was in mortal danger. The most powerful army the world had ever seen had forced its way to within a few miles of our coast. From day to day we were threatened with invasion.
In those days our Army had been gravely weakened. A call went out for men to enrol themselves in a new citizen army, the Local Defence Volunteers, ready to use whatever weapons could be found and to stand against the invader in every village and every town. Throughout Britain and Northern Ireland, the nation answered that summons, as free men will always answer when freedom is in danger. From fields and hills, from factories and mills, from shops and offices, men of every age and every calling came forward to train themselves for battle….
In July 1940, the Local Defence Volunteers became the Home Guard. During those four years of continuing anxiety that civilian army grew in strength; under the competent administration of the Territorial Army Associations, it soon became a well-equipped and capable force, able to take over many duties from regular soldiers preparing to go overseas. I believe it is the voluntary spirit which has always made the Home Guard so splendid and so powerful a comradeship of arms. The hope that this comradeship will endure was strong in me this afternoon while many thousand of you marched past me in one of the most impressive and memorable parades that I have ever seen.
For most of you – and, I must add, for your wives too – your service in the Home Guard has not been easy. I know what it has meant, especially for older men. Some of you have stood for many hours on the gun sites, in desolate fields or wind-swept beaches. Many of you, after a long and hard day’s work, scarcely had time for food before you changed into uniforms for the evening parade. Some of you had to bicycle for long distances to the drill hall or the rifle range.
It was well known to the enemy that if he came to any part of our land, he would be meet determined opposition, at every point in his advance, from men who had good weapons and, better still, knew how to use them. In that way the existence of the Home Guard helped much to ward off the danger of invasion. Then, too, our own plans for campaigns in many parts of the world depended on having a great citizen force to help in the defence of the homeland. As anti-aircraft and coastal gunners, sentries at vulnerable points, units for dealing with unexploded bombs, and in many other ways, the Home Guard have played a full part in the defence of their country…
But you have gained something for yourselves. You have discovered in yourselves new capabilities. You have found how men of all kinds of homes and many different occupations can work together in a great cause, and how happy they can be with each other. That is a memory and a knowledge which may help us all in the many peace-time problems that we shall have to tackle before long.
I am very proud of what the Home Guard has done and I give my heartfelt thanks to you all. Officers, non-commissioned offers, and men, you have served your country with steadfast devotion. I know that your country will not forget that service. - Broadcast to the Home Guard by HRH King George VI
Finding Your Home Guard Ancestor.
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
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.
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.