This is the first properly researched account of the post-war Home Guard in any county and it also incorporates very full details of the national picture.
From early 1948 to the autumn of 1951, the question of whether the Home Guard should be raised anew in peacetime was under constant consideration in the face of the real fear that Soviet forces might invade Europe. Whilst the Labour government’s policy was that in peacetime a Home Guard could be planned for but not actually raised, as soon as the Conservatives were returned to power in October 1951, the new force was raised and came into being in April 1952.
If Britain had been invaded, the Home Guard’s duties would have included keeping roads open for the passage of counter-attack forces, securing RAF radar stations and other key points and assistance to the Civil Defence services. Yet very many fewer men volunteered than had been planned for; in Hertfordshire the picture was even worse than in the country as a whole. Still, the new battalions organised training exercises, including one codenamed ‘Lumbago’ which drew unfavourable comment in the national press as a seeming jibe at the men ‘past the first bloom of youth’ who were the main targets of recruitment drives. In other exercises ‘major battles’ were fought near Sandridge and Codicote, with the role of the enemy being played by army cadets. Ultimately, though, it made sense to reduce the force to ‘cadre’ battalions – slimmed-down frameworks which would be ready to absorb large numbers of men if and when the crisis came.
As he had back in 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill took a close personal interest in the Home Guard and frequently voiced his support for their role in the defence of Britain. Indeed, it was only when he stepped down in 1955 that the Home Guard’s raison d’être could be openly questioned: within two years it had been disbanded.
This is the first properly researched account of the post-war Home Guard in any county and it also incorporates very full details of the national picture. An appendix details the weapons used by the force, and all commissioned officers in the Hertfordshire battalions are also listed.
Colonel J.D. Sainsbury was commissioned in the Royal Artillery during National Service, which he spent with a field regiment in Germany. After retiring from a career at the Bank of England, he then spent twenty years as a historical consultant and archivist in the Honours and Awards Branch of the Military Secretary’s Department of the MoD. As a Territorial Army officer he served in local field artillery units and in a variety of staff jobs, until retiring in 2000. He was appointed OBE (Military Division) in the 1997 New Year Honours. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1991 for his work preserving and recording the history of military units raised in Hertfordshire.
ISBN 978-0-948527-10-4; ebruary 2008, 120pp; Paperback