The Hertfordshire Home Guard
Hertfordshire Home Guard Living History Group was formed in 2012 and is a tribute to the Hertfordshire Home Guard, who answered Anthony Eden's call in May 1940.
Prior to the outbreak of the War, the government had not planned a volunteer home defence army but with the impending fall of France in June 1940, the population had other ideas. With the imminence of invasion, groups of armed men had already started to patrol the countryside, Hertfordshire included.
It was obvious that the best way to harness this enthusiasm was to legitimise the force with the creation of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). On 14 May 1940, Anthony Eden called for 'men of all ages who wish to do something for the defence of their country...to take the opportunity for which so many of you have been waiting'. Many volunteers were in reserved occupations (munitions workers, farmers, etc), were physically unfit or too old (over 41 years old) to join the regular army.
Having created 'a new army out of nothingness', the LDV was initially poorly equipped, lacking uniforms and weapons. In many cases, during the early days, the only uniform item was an armband and the only weapons being shotguns. In addition, there were no HQ staffs or base locations and little money to organise them. Old soldiers and retired officers, many of them decorated Great War veterans, provided some military knowledge and backbone but the LDV relied heavily on the 'natural leaders of the community' for its local energy.
By the end of July 1940, around 1.5 million men had volunteered for service, reflecting the seriousness of the invasion threat in summer 1940. However, it was not until 1941 that the force was properly equipped and organised, as well as being subject to military discipline.
The LDV became known as the 'Home Guard' when Winston Churchill, on 27 July 1940, casually used the name during a radio broadcast. The name was immediately popular with both the public and volunteers and it stuck, with new armbands and badges reflecting the change of name being promptly issued. The majority of the Home Guard Detachments proudly wore the cap badge of the county regiment.
The force was made up of local detachments, with their task being to guard nearby key points. They mainly patrolled after work and at night. Some detachments, such as the Home Guard volunteers provided a large detachment to guard the vital factories. Others, Home Guardsmen, manned Royal Artillery anti-aircraft batteries along to thicken up the defence against enemy bombers.
In the event of invasion, the Home Guard would have been called out to occupy their static defensive positions that General Ironside, Commander-in-chief Home Forces, had developed to check the expected German landings. In battle, the Home Guard were to hold or delay the enemy on the beaches or on inland defensive lines, while regular troops, released from static defences into mobile columns, would counter-attack.
The Home Guard defences were an important part of the defensive scheme.
In the summer of 1940, it just as well that the Nation's defences were not tested, as patriotic enthusiasm alone, with little weapons and equipment to back it up would probably not have been enough. If, however, Hitler had persisted in his plan to invade Britain rather than turning east to Russia in 1941, the fully organised, trained and equipped Hertfordshire Home Guard would have given a good account of itself.
The aims of the Hertfordshire Home Guard Living History Group are:-
To pay tribute to the men and women who volunteered their time and effort to help protect this country from an expected/imminent invasion force and to keep alive the memory of the largest volunteer army in history.
The Hertfordshire Home Guard researches the history of the Home Guard in Hertfordshire and takes part in 1940's events. We also take part in drill and weapons training which helps us better portray life on wartime Britain.
We attend School visits in Hertfordshire where local school children experience a little of what life was like during the dark days of the Second World War.
We also provide displays and demonstrations at living history events and venues throughout Hertfordshire and beyond.
Initially Local Defence Volunteers as they were originally known had little more than armbands and field service caps. Our members can demonstrate periods of the Home Guard's history, from early LDV civilian dress of May 1940, through the Denim Days up to the full Battle Dress which was in use until the stand down in 1944.
If you would like to find out more about becoming a member of the Hertfordshire Home Guard, please email us at the address below for further details.
If you have any information about the Hertfordshire Home Guard we would like to hear from you. You may have some old documents, books or even photographs which could be scanned and sent via email. We are also interested in any items of Home Guard equipment.
If you can help us or if you live in the Hertfordshire and surrounding area and are interested in joining the Hertfordshire Home Guard please contact us.
Like other history groups, we get invited to various 1940 themed events around the county/country at weekends. These can be at steam railways, museums or other places where the organisers want to add some history and fun to their event.
We go to about 10 events each year - this can sometimes be as many as 2 per month - but members can choose to attend as many or as few as they like.
Most re-enactment/living history groups have members with sufficient collections to mount static displays or sufficient numbers of members to act a scenario as part of an event.
As a group, we have been working together since 2012, though many of our members are experienced at this hobby and have been doing it for a few years longer.
With our experience and our collections, we are able to mount displays where we can inter-act with members of the public/visitors. We can find this makes more lasting impression on those visiting the event.
If you look in our photo gallery, you can see some of what we have to offer.
As a living history group, we get invited to many events each year. If you look at our Events Page you will see what we have been invited to, and where our members may be going.
If you can help us or if you live in the Hertfordshire and surrounding area and are interested in joining please contact us.
Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Our recruitment book is still open
We welcome all new members including spouses, partners and family members to the Hertfordshire Home Guard and to participate in the events which we attend.
Should your require further information, speak to one of our members at any of the events that we are attending.
A warm welcome will be given to you and your family to join in.