Finally the government decided that they could acknowledge that the risk of Britain being invaded had disappeared. The Home Guard were now ‘stood down’, although they were not completely disbanded until after the war ended.
First formed as the ‘Local Defence Volunteers’, they were an emergency measure to help organise the civilian population’s response to the apparently imminent threat of invasion in 1940. They were swiftly renamed the ‘Home Guard’ at the insistence of Winston Churchill and gradually received better training, equipment and a recognised role within the military establishment.
The risk of invasion had become negligible even by 1942 but the Home Guard had continued to be a very active organisation. The possibility of German parachutists mounting disruptive raids had been contemplated during the D-Day planning, and the Home Guard were recognised as a useful first response and means of alerting the regular Army.
It transpired that the Home Guard never saw action against the enemy in the conventional sense. However the men who volunteered were never far from the reality of war on the home front, especially in those areas that suffered bombing.
Richard Brown, living in Ipswich, was just one of tens of thousands of men who spent almost the entire war engaged in a second life, alongside their ordinary work, committed to both the Home Guard and the Air Raid Precaution service. They were justifiably proud of what they did:
3 December 1944
It’s been a rather impressive day I suppose. Wasn’t aware of it at first, merely went along to parade as I’ve done many times but by now I’ve come to the conclusion we must have been appreciated by somebody.
We paraded at 0845 hr and marched to the Regent Cinema, the whole battalion, where the miniature shooting cup was presented to the winning team, B Company, and the shield for the stretcher-bearing competition to the sector winners, our platoon.
Major Howes, our CO addressed us and so did Gen Deeds. I was pleased they spoke plainly and appreciatively but with no fuss and without ladling out absurd compliments. The 9th Battalion went to the Odeon.
Following that we marched to the park and formed up as a Battalion on the grass before the Mansion, eventually marching away following the 9th to the march past at the Cornhill where Gen Deeds took the salute. We went along Crown Street to Hyde Park Corner, along Westgate Street, Carr Street and so up St Helen’s. Five bands played us along at various points.
Can’t say much of what I saw at the saluting base. Like the others, I suppose, I was concentrating on marching, listening to orders and keeping position.
In London representatives from all units in the country, 7,000 of them, marched past the King. We sent Foster, a good bloke.
I suppose we did do a job of work. We were ready if needed for active service and in a negative sort of way we did it when, around invasion time, we did those pickets and guards. They released a great many full-time soldiers who would have had to do the job in our place and enabled the Army to concentrate wholly on their part of the war.
So now it’s all over, although only being stood down we are not disbanded and are liable to recall at any moment.
There are 1,631 on the strength of our battalion, in addition 245 went to the Forces, and I suppose the 9th had similar strength, and I also guess that our platoon wasn’t far off being the keenest and most conscientious of the lot. We turned out at almost full strength today, thirty-five out of under forty.
Now we concentrate wholly on ARP duties. We started the one-night-in- six rota on Thursday. Six nights will seem a helluva gap but I guess we won’t complain. We all turn out at trouble.