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Friday, 16 September 2011

Dad's Army

My father in the Home Guard
The mobilising of civilians to defend our country included the formation of organisations such as the Civil Defence, the Land Army and the Home Guard. My father was just old enough to serve in the First World War at the age of 18. Being born in 1900, it was the last year of the war and thankfully he did not fight in the trenches in France. He did, however, serve in the cavalry regiment. By the time the Second World War broke out he was too old to be called up but he was proud to serve in the Home Guard, first as a sergeant and later as a second lieutenant. .

Initially the Home Guard had no uniforms but gradually they were kitted out and issued with weapons. I still have his leather-covered baton which all army officers had to carry with them. I also have a small pocket book in which Father wrote down in meticulous detail other aspects of weapon training including how to strip down and reassemble a Bren Gun, a procedure I was to experience some years later when doing my National Service.

Before they were armed I remember my father and his Home Guard soldiers carrying out team-building exercises to somehow simulate warfare practices. They gathered two teams either side of a small river. One team would use pitchforks to throw discarded sugar beet from the fields over the river to try and attack the other team. Sounds just the sort of thing that could have been scripted for the Dad's Army sitcom from the 1970s.

How my father relished his 'Dad's Army'. I remember him proudly demonstrating how to fire a 303 rifle in the living room, followed by cleaning the barrel with a 'pull-through' (wadding on the end of a cord). A final inspection looking up the barrel led to him swinging the rifle towards the ceiling and smashing through the glass light fitting.

Silence was followed by him saying,

"I never liked that light fitting anyway."

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