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Dad's Army was a comedy sitcom of the greatest class, but what is the truth behind the hilarious comedy? 

Our Darkest Hour

It is 1940; the Nazis have swept through Europe leaving a trail of death and destruction. The British and French armies have been defeated at Dunkirk. Britain stands alone against the Nazis. Hitler is across the channel waiting for the time to invade. This is Britain’s Darkest Hour. Desperate times call for desperate measures and this is why on the 14th May 1940 Anthony Eden gave a radio broadcast to the nation. He urged men between the ages of 17-65 (who had not been drafted into the army for what ever reason) to go down to their local Police station and sign up for the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers) Although the ages were meant to be between 17 and 65 there were several people reported signing up aged well into their eighties. The desperation of the situation bought the patriotic side in many people and by the end of the fist day of recruiting 250,000 men had volunteered for the LDV. The LDV generally had no uniform. If a platoon was lucky they would get a denim battle dress, most platoons only had an armband with ‘LDV’ written on it.

 

A Change of Name 

 

After only about a month and a half of being know as the LDV, Winston Churchill changed the LDV’s name to the Home Guard. This was meant to sound more impressive and to scare the Nazis into abandoning their invasion. With the change of the name also came a better uniform. This new uniform consisted of a green denim battle dress and a green armband with Home Guard written on it. This made the members of the Home Guard feel more important because they at least looked like a normal soldier. Eventually the Home Guard was also equipped with steel helmets and Great Coats.

 

The Job of the Home Guard

The Home Guard had many responsibilities when protecting Britain from invasion. This jobs consisted of: manning aircraft batteries to shoot down the Luftwaffer planes; patrolling waterways (canals, lakes, rivers), railway stations, coastlines, factories and aerodromes; clearing up debris after an air raid; searching through the rubble after an air raid looking for survivors; offering assistance to the real army; building of defence lines including anti-tank mines and barbed wire along the beech; placement of obstacles in fields to stop Luftwaffer planes landing; blacking out or removing signposts; guarding Buckingham Palace (the palace had its own special Home Guard); checking I.D. cards; and also bomb

 

disposal. 

 

 Weaponry

At the beginning the LDV had no kind of weaponry. Recruits were told to bring anything that could be used as a weapon. The commonly used weapon was a broom handle with a kitchen knife tied to one end. Recruits bought many things to use as weapons varying from a spade to a World War I Lee Enfield rifle. In some Home Guard platoons they even had to resort to carrying around bags of pepper to throw in the enemies eyes. It didn’t take long for Churchill to realise that armed like this the LDV would have no hope against the well-armed German army. As a result of this Churchill asked the public to hand in any firearms that they might have so that they could be used by the Home Guard. However as the war went on the Home Guard became equipped with more modern and better weapons. Some platoons even got hold of Lewis Machine guns and the reasonably newly developed American Thompson Machine Gun (nicknamed the Tommy Gun). The Home Guard were also
 
trained in sabotage and high explosives. When America joined the war they made a very generous donation of 500,000 300 American rifles.

 

Triumphs and Disasters    

Although the incompetence of the Home Guard was considered very funny it did have a serious element. While the Home Guard was in service a total of 1206 members were killed and 557 seriously wounded, and this was without an invasion. There was also a story about a young child who was shot by a Home Guard soldier. The boy was cycling home when he went pass a Home Guard checkpoint. The soldier on guard shouted for the boy to stop, the boy didn’t, he shouted gain, yet again the boy didn’t stop. The soldier fired a warning shot into the ground, the bullet ricocheted off the ground and hit the boy in the head. The reason the boy didn’t stop, he was deaf. Another sad story is a Home Guard soldier was cleaning his rifle in the kitchen. He wife was also there standing and talking to him. When the soldier was cleaning his rifle he had forgotten to unload the weapon and put the safety catch on. While cleaning around the trigger he accidentally set the gun off. He shot his wife dead. There has also been some funny stories about the Home Guard, a man was arrested by Home Guard soldiers because the women whose house he was staying at had reported him being a German spy because he didn’t flush the toilet. There were also some successes for the Home Guard. A Home Guard soldier managed to shoot down a Luftwaffer plane using only his rifle. It has also been found out that Hitler feared the British Home Guard and feared they could provide fierce resistance and halt the German advance. 

 

           

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