Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

VE Day The Home Guard

The Home Guard

Home Guard marching past Council House

Home Guard marching past saluting base at the Council House

On 14 May, 1940 the Secretary for War, Anthony Eden, broadcast a national appeal for the foundation of the Local Defence Volunteers, which, three months later, at Winston Churchill request had become known as the Home Guard the intention was to create a part-time civilian army to defend any invasion in the area in which they lived.

Post Office Home Guard

Post Office Home Guard

Within a few days 30,000 men had volunteered in Birmingham and although initially, they were held together by little more than their own enthusiasm, organisation was quickly tightened up and the Home Guard began to establish itself as a co-ordinated team with shape and character. Enrolments in Birmingham took place in local police stations and Lieut. Colonel E.D. Barclay, Commanding Officer of the 45th Warwks Battalion noted on the first day he believed he had more than double the necessary number of enrolment forms, and numbers volunteering were so great that a further supply was needed the following day. There were over 400 volunteers in a matter of days at his post at Canterbury Road Police Station, Perry Barr.

Home Guard bayonet practice

Home Guard at bayonet practice

In February, 1941 Commissions were granted to Home Guard Officers and in the following month Warrant and Non-Commissioned ranks were introduced. 1942 and 1943 fighting efficiency was greatly increased by the supply of Anti-Tank Weapons and on 10 February, 1942 compulsion was introduced placing members under an obligation to carry out a specific period of training.

Towards the end of 1941 many factories began to form units drawn from their personnel, initially for the purpose of protecting their own factories. But this was soon abandoned and factory units with sector defence plans. Well known factory units included H.P. Sauce Ltd., Norton Motors Ltd., Ansells Brewery and the Birmingham Gazette.

Home Guard training at Redditch

Home Guard in training

A Birmingham Battalion led the country in 1942 by forming the First Women Auxiliary and eventually in April, 1943 the War Office gave official sanction to the formation of a national Women Auxiliary.

Council Departments and Birmingham industry played a prominent role in the Home Guard. For example-the 31st/32nd Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalions were composed entirely of Transport Department Personnel.

The Home Guard in Birmingham at one time reached a total of 53,000. Its stand-down was finally announced when all danger of invasion had passed and a great parade through the central streets of the city took place on Sunday 3 December, 1944.

'Lest We Forget' Exhibition