Home Guard (United Kingdom)
initially "Local Defence Volunteers"
Home Guard post at Admiralty Arch in central London, 21 June 1940.
|Active||14 May 1940 – 3 December 1944|
|Role||Defence from invasion|
|Disbanded||31 December 1945|
The Home Guard (initially "Local Defence Volunteers" or LDV) was a defence organisation of the British Army during the Second World War. Operational from 1940 until 1944, the Home Guard was composed of 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those too young or too old to join the services, or those in reserved occupations–hence the nickname "Dad's Army". Their role was to act as a secondary defence force, in case of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany and their allies. They were to try to slow down the advance of the enemy, even by a few hours in order to give the regular troops time to regroup. The Home Guard continued to guard the coastal areas of the United Kingdom and other important places such as airfields, factories and explosives stores until late 1944 when they were stood down, and finally disbanded in December 1945.
- 1 History
- 2 Equipment and training
- 3 Uniform
- 4 Foreign nationals
- 5 Social impact
- 6 Representations
- 7 Home Guard honours
- 8 Notable Home Guards
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
There was a Home Guard during the First World War (the Volunteer Training Corps) although this was not on the same scale as its Second World War successor. The origins of the Second World War Home Guard can be traced to Captain Tom Wintringham, who returned from the Spanish Civil War and wrote a book entitled How to Reform the Army. In the book, as well as a large number of regular army reforms, Wintringham called for the creation of 12 divisions similar in composition to that of the International Brigades which had been formed in Spain during the conflict; the divisions would be raised through a process of voluntary enlistment targeting ex-servicemen and youths. Despite great interest by the War Office in the book's assertion that 'security is possible', Wintringham's call to train 100,000 men immediately was not implemented.
When Britain declared war on Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939, debates began in official circles about the possible ways in which the German military might launch an invasion of Britain; in the first week of the conflict numerous diplomatic and intelligence reports seemed to indicate that there was the possibility of an imminent German amphibious assault. Many government ministers and senior army officials including the Commander in Chief Home Forces, General Walter Kirke, believed that the threat of invasion was greatly exaggerated and were sceptical but others were not, including Winston Churchill the newly installed First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill argued that some form of home defence force should be raised from members of the population who were ineligible to serve in the regular forces but wished to serve their country; in a letter he wrote to Samuel Hoare, the Lord Privy Seal on 8 October 1939, Churchill called for a Home Guard force of 500,000 men over the age of 40 to be formed. At the same time that government officials were debating the need for a home defence force, such a force was actually being formed without any official encouragement; in Essex, men not eligible for call-up into the armed forces were coming forward to join the self-styled 'Legion of Frontiersmen'. Officials were soon informed of the development of the legion, with the Adjutant-General, Sir Robert Gordon-Finlayson, arguing that the government should encourage the development of more unofficial organisations. However, the fear of invasion quickly dissipated as it became evident that the German military was not in a position to launch an invasion of Britain, and official enthusiasm for home defence forces waned, and the legion appears to have dissolved itself at the same time.
The Battle of France began on 10 May 1940, with the Wehrmacht launching an invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands and France; by 20 May, German forces had reached the English Channel and on 28 May, the Belgian Army surrendered. The combination of the large-scale combined operations mounted by the Wehrmacht during the invasion of Norway in April, and the prospect that much of the Channel coast would soon be occupied made the prospect of a German invasion of the British Isles alarmingly real. Fears of an invasion grew rapidly, spurred on by reports in both the press and from official government bodies, of a fifth column operating in Britain which would aid an invasion by German airborne forces. The government soon found itself under increasing pressure to intern suspect aliens to prevent the formation of a fifth column and to allow the population to take up arms to defend themselves against an invasion. Calls for some form of home defence force soon began to be heard from the press and from private individuals as the government began to intern German and Austrian citizens in the country. The press baron Lord Kemsley privately proposed to the War Office that rifle clubs be formed to form the nucleus of a home defence force, and Josiah Wedgwood, a Labour MP, wrote to the prime minister asking that the entire adult population be trained in the use of arms and given weapons to defend themselves. Similar calls appeared in newspaper columns; in the 12 May issue of the Sunday Express a brigadier called on the government to issue free arms licences and permits to buy ammunition to men possessing small arms, and on the same day the Sunday Pictorial asked if the government had considered training golfers in rifle shooting to eliminate stray parachutists.
These calls alarmed government and senior military officials, who worried about the prospect of the population forming private defence forces that the army would not be able to control, and in mid-May the Home Office issued a press release on the matter; it was the task of the army to deal with enemy parachutists, as any civilians who carried weapons and fired on German troops were likely to be executed if captured. Private defence forces soon began to be formed throughout the country, placing the government in an awkward position; these private forces, which the army might not be able to control, could well inhibit the attempts by the army during an invasion, yet to ignore the calls for a home defence force to be set up would be politically problematic. An officially sponsored home defence force would allow the government greater control and also allow for greater security around vulnerable areas such as munitions factories and airfields, but there was some confusion over who would form and control the force, with separate plans drawn up by the War Office and General Headquarters Home Forces under General Kirke. The government and senior military officials rapidly compared plans and by 13 May had worked out an improvised plan for a home defence force, to be called the Local Defence Volunteers, but the rush to complete a plan and announce it to the public had led to a number of administrative and logistical problems, such as how the volunteers in the new force would be armed, which would cause problems as the force evolved. However, on the evening of 14 May 1940 the Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, gave a radio broadcast announcing the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers and called for volunteers to join the force.
In the radio announcement, Eden called on men between the ages of 17 and 65 in Britain, who were not in military service but wished to defend their country against an invasion, to enroll in the LDV at their local police station. The announcement was met with a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the population, with 250,000 volunteers attempting to sign up in the first seven days; by July this number increased to 1.5 million. As volunteers and social groups such as cricket clubs began forming their own units, dubbed 'the parashots' by the press, the War Office continued to lay down the administrative and logistical foundations for the organisation. In telegrams to the Lord Lieutenants of each county, it was explained that LDV units would operate in pre-defined military areas already used by the regular army, with a General Staff Officer coordinating with civilian regional commissioners to divide these areas into smaller zones; in London this was organised on the basis of police districts. On 17 May the LDV achieved official legal status when the Privy Council issued the Defence (Local Defence Volunteers) Order in Council, and orders were issued from the War Office to regular army headquarters throughout Britain explaining the status of LDV units; volunteers would be divided into sections, platoons and companies but would not be paid and leaders of units would not hold commissions or have the power to command regular forces.
However, implementation of the legislation proved to be extremely difficult, particularly as the primary focus of the War Office and General Headquarters Home Forces was on Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk between 27 May and 4 June. This apparent lack of focus led to many LDV members becoming impatient, particularly when it was announced that volunteers would only receive armbands printed with 'L.D.V.' on them until proper uniforms could be manufactured and there was no mention of weapons being issued to units; this impatience often led to units conducting their own patrols without official permission, often led by men who had previously served in the armed forces. The presence of many veterans, and the appointment of ex-officers as commanders of LDV units, only worsened the situation, with many believing that they did not require training before being issued weapons; this led to numerous complaints being received by the War Office and the press, and many ex-senior officers attempting to use their influence to obtain weapons or permission to begin patrolling. The issue of weapons to LDV units was particularly problematic for the War Office, as it was recognised that the re-arming and re-equipping of the regular forces would have to take precedence over the LDV. Instead, the War Office issued instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails and emergency orders were placed for First World War vintage Ross rifles from Canada and Pattern 14 and M1917 rifles from the United States. In the absence of proper weapons, many LDV units broke into museums and appropriated whatever weapons could be found, or equipped themselves with private weapons such as shotguns. The British Government, with the passing of the 1937 Firearms Act, effectively removed from private hands and destroyed many of such weapons that but three years later could have then been used, in the hands of their original owners, to defend the country.
Another problem that was encountered as the LDV was organised was the definition of the role the organisation was to play. In the eyes of the War Office and the army, the LDV was to act as 'an armed police constabulary' which in the event of an invasion was to observe German troop movements, convey information to the regular forces and guard places of strategic or tactical importance. The War Office believed that the LDV would act best in such a passive role because of its lack of training, weapons and proper equipment. However such a role clashed with the expectations of LDV commanders and members, who believed that the organisation would be best suited to an active role, attacking and harassing German forces. This clash led to morale problems and even more complaints to the press and the War Office from LDV members who were opposed to, as they saw it, the government leaving them defenceless and placing them in a non-combatant role. Complaints about the role of the LDV, as well as continuing problems encountered by the War Office in its attempts to clothe and arm the LDV, led the government to respond to public pressure in August, redefining the role of the LDV to include delaying and obstructing German forces through any means possible. At the same time Winston Churchill, who had assumed the position of prime minister in May, became involved in the matter after being alerted to the problems, obtaining a summary of the current LDV position from the War Office on 22 June. After reviewing the summary, Churchill wrote to Eden stating that, in his opinion, one of the main causes of disciplinary and morale problems stemmed from the uninspiring title of the LDV and suggesting that it be renamed as the 'Home Guard'. Despite resistance from Eden and other government officials, who noted that one million 'LDV' armbands had already been printed and the cost of printing another million 'Home Guard' armbands would be excessive, Churchill would not be dissuaded; on 22 July the LDV was officially renamed the Home Guard.
The Home Guard had a number of secret roles. This included sabotage units who would disable factories and petrol installations following invasion. Members were also recruited into the commando teams of the Auxiliary Units, an extremely secretive force of more highly trained guerrilla units who would act in support of the regular army during any military campaign to resist invasion,
The Home Guard did not, initially, admit women to its ranks. Some women formed their own groups like the Amazon Defence Corps. In December 1941, a more organised but still unofficial Women's Home Defence (WHD) was formed under the direction of Dr Edith Summerskill, Labour MP for Fulham West. WHD members were taught weapons training and basic military training. Limited female involvement was permitted later on the understanding that these would be in traditional female support roles and not in any way seen as combatants. Auxiliary Units however may have had female members in both support and combat roles, although records are scarce.
Later years and disbandment
Even once the threat of invasion had passed, the Home Guard remained in existence manning guard posts and performing other duties to free up regular troops for duties overseas. In 1942 the National Service Act allowed for compulsory enrolment where units were below strength. At this time, the lowest rank within the Home Guard, 'volunteer', was renamed to 'private' to match the regular army usage.
It is a common fallacy that the Home Guard never fired a shot in anger during the whole of the Second World War. In fact individual Home Guardsmen helped man anti-aircraft guns as far back as the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940. By 1943 the Home Guard operated its own dedicated batteries of anti-aircraft guns and rockets plus coastal defence artillery as well as engaging German planes with their machine guns. They are credited with shooting down numerous Luftwaffe aircraft and the V-1 flying bombs which followed them in the summer of 1944. The Home Guard's first official kill was shot down on Tyneside in 1943. The Home Guard in Northern Ireland also took part in gun battles with the IRA.
However following the successful landings in France and the drive towards Germany by the Allies, the Home Guard were formally stood down on 3 December 1944 and finally disbanded on 31 December 1945. Male members were rewarded with a certificate, bearing the words:
If he had served more than three years and requested it, a member would be awarded the Defence Medal. It would not be until 1945 that women who had helped as auxiliaries were recognised with their own certificate.
The 1951-1957 revival
Not long after the Home Guard had been disbanded, suggestions began to be made that it be revived in the face of a new threat from the Soviet Union. The first official step was a paper by the Director of Military Operations (DMO) in November 1948, which was later incorporated into an Executive Committee of the Army Council (ECAC) report. Suggested roles included countering Communist inspired insurrection as well as guarding vulnerable points and anti-invasion duties. In May 1949, a parliamentary Home Guard Working Party was established to consider the issues raised, which resulted in a further report being completed in August 1950. Although preliminary planning started, such as the identification of suitable battalion commanders, nothing concrete was done due to financial constraints. It was not until Winston Churchill again become prime minister and Minister of Defence in the general election of October 1951 that preparations to revive the Home Guard began in earnest. Churchill predicted that there could be an assault on Britain by "twenty thousand or so" Soviet paratroopers (an assessment of this risk was not requested until March 1953, the outcome of which was that "...the Chiefs of Staff believe that the Russians would not contemplate such a step - with or without atomic bombardment..."). The speech from the throne on 6 November 1951 included the intention to "take the necessary measures... to re-establish the Home Guard". While the required legislation was in passage through parliament, the Chiefs-of-Staff produced yet another report, outlining the final form that the new Home Guard should take. The force would consist of two categories of battalions; 162 would be "Category A" which would recruit 60% of their projected wartime strength, while 397 "Category B" battalions would be established on an en cadre basis, a skeleton staff of trained officers and NCOs which could be expanded in a crisis. The majority of the Category A battalions would be in the south and east of England. The Home Guard Act 1951 received Royal Assent on 7 December. Enrolment started on 2 April 1952. The aim was to recruit 170,000 men in the first year, but by November 1952, only 23,288 had been enrolled, with a further 20,623 men who had joined a "Reserve Roll" (initially called the "Supernumerary Register") for enrolment in an emergency.
Uniform consisted of standard battledress and a dark blue beret as worn by the Royal Army Service Corps. Scottish battalions wore a Balmoral bonnet. A helmet and greatcoat were provided, along with "basic pouches" but no haversack. No waterproofs, water bottle or entrenching tool were issued. Small arms issued to the Home Guard were the Lee–Enfield rifle, both the No 1 Mk III and the more modern No 4 Mk I versions. The Sten sub-machine gun was provided for NCOs and the Bren gun was the section automatic weapon. Support weapons were the obsolescent PIAT anti-tank projector, the Vickers medium machine gun and the 2-inch mortar. A detachment of the Home Guard led the British Army section of the State Procession at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.
There was much criticism of the cost of the Home Guard, especially the full-time officers, as all the battalions had a paid adjutant and quartermaster whose workload was quite limited, especially in Category B units. Accordingly, on 20 December 1955, it was announced that there would be a "reorganisation on a reserve basis". The essence of this was all battalions would be reduced to a cadre basis, and paid staff would have to effect this change before resigning their commissions or transferring to the Reserve Roll by 1 April 1956. A certificate of thanks was issued to those who had served in an active role. Even these reforms were not enough and on 26 June 1957, John Hare, the Secretary of State for War, announced in parliament that the Home Guard would be disbanded on 31 July, making a saving of £100,000 in that year.
The Home Service Force, 1982-1993
At the height of the Cold War, the Home Service Force was established in 1982, starting with four "pilot companies". Recruitment began in earnest in 1984 and was open to ex-servicemen who could not meet Territorial Army (TA) training requirements. It was envisaged that this force, a company in every Territorial battalion, would be used to guard strategic points against sabotage from enemy special forces in the event of war. The disbandment of the force commenced in 1992, as a part of the "peace dividend".
Equipment and training
Initially the LDV were poorly armed, since the regular forces had priority for weapons and equipment. The LDV's original role had largely been to observe and report enemy movements, but it swiftly changed to a more aggressive role. Nevertheless, they would have been expected to fight well-trained and equipped troops, despite having only negligible training and only weapons such as pitchforks and shotguns (a solid ammunition for shotguns was developed for this purpose) or firearms that belonged in museums. Patrols were carried out on foot, by bicycle, even on horseback and often without uniforms, although all volunteers wore an armband that said "LDV". There were also river patrols using the private craft of members. Many officers from the First World War used their Webley Mk VI .455 revolvers. There were also numerous private attempts to produce armoured vehicles by adding steel plates to cars or lorries, often armed with machine guns. These improvised vehicles included the Armadillo armoured truck, the Bison mobile pillbox, and the Bedford OXA armoured car (some of these makeshift vehicles were also operated by RAF units for aerodrome defense). Some even had access to armoured cars, though these were makes no longer in service with the regular army.
Ex-Communist and Spanish Civil War veteran Tom Wintringham, a journalist and key advocate of the LDV and later the Home Guard, opened a private training camp for the LDV at Osterley Park, outside London, in early July 1940. Wintringham's training methods were mainly based on his experience in the International Brigades in Spain. Those who had fought alongside him in Spain trained volunteers in anti-tank warfare and demolitions. Bert "Yank" Levy was one of the chief trainers, and his lectures became the source for a book on guerrilla warfare.[not in citation given]
The U.S. National Rifle Association collected and shipped large numbers of privately donated rifles for use by the Home Guard. These were collected and destroyed after the war. Within a few months they were issued proper uniforms and equipment, as the immediate needs of the regular forces were satisfied. After September 1940 the army began to take charge of the Home Guard training in Osterley, and Wintringham and his associates were gradually sidelined. Wintringham resigned in April 1941. Ironically, despite his support of the Home Guard, Wintringham was never allowed to join the organisation himself because of a policy barring membership by communists and fascists.
It was not until 1943 that they were a properly trained and equipped force. They were frequently equipped with improvised weapons, or non-standard ones purchased by the government from abroad. For example, large numbers of M1917 Enfield rifles were purchased for the use of the Home Guard. These used the .30-06 Springfield cartridge – an American 0.30 inch round which was a totally different type of ammunition from the 0.303 round used by the British Lee–Enfield rifle. A 2-inch-wide (51 mm) red band was painted around the fore end of the stock as a warning since a 0.303 round would load but jam the rifle. That the similar-in-appearance P14 rifle was supplied to the Home Guard, in 0.303 calibre that took the British round, only added to the confusion.
The Home Guard inherited weapons that the regular army no longer required, such as the Blacker Bombard anti-tank weapon, and weapons they no longer desired, such as the Sticky bomb. Their arsenal also included weapons that could be produced cheaply without consuming materials that were needed to produce armaments for the regular units such as the Northover Projector, a blackpowder-powered mortar; the No. 76 Special Incendiary Grenade, a glass bottle filled with highly flammable material and the Smith gun, a small artillery gun that could be towed by a car. They also used Lend-Lease Thompson submachine guns and American Browning automatic rifles.
By late 1940, the Home Guard had amassed 847,000 rifles, 47,000 shotguns and 49,000 machine guns of various kinds. However, as there were more than 1,682,000 volunteers at the time, this meant that 739,000 men were without a weapon. There was little improvement in June 1941 when Churchill wrote to the War Office saying that "every man must have a weapon of some sort, be it only a mace or a pike." The civil servants took Churchill at his word and ordered 250,000 pikes from the Ministry of Aircraft Production, each consisting of a long steel tube with an obsolete bayonet welded to the end. When the first of these reached the Home Guard, there was uproar and it is thought that none was actually issued to Home Guardsmen. Captain Godfrey Nicholson MP, spoke for Home Guardsmen when he said in the House of Commons that the provision of pikes, "if not meant as a joke, was an insult". Lord Croft, the Under-Secretary of State for War, could have blamed the fiasco on Churchill, but defended the decision, saying that the pike was "a most effective and silent weapon"; his name was attached to the affair thereafter. The problem began to be solved when the first mass-produced Sten submachine guns entered service early in 1942.
The use of German paratroopers in Rotterdam, where Fallschirmjäger landed in a football stadium and then hijacked private transport to make their way to the city centre, demonstrated that nowhere was safe. Worse still, the airborne abduction attempt on the Dutch royal family had failed only because the Dutch had possessed detailed plans of the operation well in advance. To counter the threat of an airborne assault, the Home Guard manned observation posts where soldiers spent every night until almost the end of the war continuously watching the skies, and initially armed with shotguns.
To spread word in the event of an invasion, the Home Guard set up a relatively simple code to warn their compatriots. For instance, the word 'Cromwell' indicated that a paratrooper invasion was imminent, and 'Oliver' meant that the invasion had commenced. Additionally, the Home Guard arranged to use church bells as a call-to-arms for the rest of the LDV. This led to a series of complex rules governing who had keys to bell towers, and the ringing of church bells was forbidden at all other times.
On 22 May 1940, eight days after the formation of the LDV, it was announced by the War Office that 250,000 field service caps were to be distributed as the first part of the uniform of the new force and that khaki brassards or "armlets" were being manufactured, each carrying the letters "LDV" in black. In the meantime, LDV units improvised their own brassards with whatever materials were available; local Women's Voluntary Service branches were often asked to produce these, sometimes using old puttees donated by veterans. The British Army used loose-fitting work clothes called "Overalls, Denim" which were made of khaki-coloured cotton twill fabric and consisted of a short jacket or "blouse" and trousers. They were cut to the same style as, and designed to be worn over, the 1938 pattern Battle Dress. It was announced that 90,000 sets of denim overalls would be released from military stores at once and that more would be issued as soon as they could be manufactured. On 25 June, Anthony Eden announced in the House of Commons that LDV uniform was intended "to consist of one suit of overalls of design similar to that of battle dress, a field service cap, and an armlet bearing the letters 'L.D.V.'". On 30 July 1940, Eden further announced that the Home Guard (as the LDV had been renamed) would be issued with military boots as supplies became available.
The issue of uniforms proceeded slowly owing to shortages and the need to re-equip and enlarge the army following the fall of France. On 14 August, Eden announced that the supply of material to make the denim overalls was insufficient and that regular battle dress would be released to the Home Guard as an interim measure. By the end of 1940, the Cabinet had approved the expenditure of £1 million for the supply of battle dress to the whole force. On 20 August 1940, it was further announced that blankets were being issued and that the intention was to provide the Home Guard with greatcoats; however, as winter approached there were many complaints from Home Guardsmen who had to patrol or stand sentry without the benefit of a uniform overcoat. Therefore, a large cape made of heavy serge fabric was hastily designed and issued in the interim. There was no prospect of being able to provide sufficient sets of the 1937 Pattern Web Equipment (including belt, ammunition pouches and a haversack) to the Home Guard, so a simplified equipment set made from leather and canvas was produced. Particularly unpopular were the awkward leather "anklets" which were issued in place of the webbing gaiters worn by the army. The lack of provision of steel helmets was keenly felt, especially by those Home Guardsmen required to be on guard duty during the Blitz when the risk of being hit by a shell splinter was high; this situation was only gradually rectified.
In Northern Ireland the provincial government had placed the LDV under the control of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The police held large stocks of black cloth in reserve, for use by the Ulster Special Constabulary in the event of large-scale civil insurgency. This black cloth was quickly made up into uniforms in the style of the denim overalls by the many clothing factories in the province. The Ulster Home Guard kept their black uniforms until Battle Dress began to be issued in April 1941.
Between 50 and 60 US citizens living in London formed the 'American Squadron' commanded by General Wade H. Hayes. The US ambassador in London, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., claimed that this could cause, in the event of invasion, all citizens of the then still-neutral US living in London to be liable to be shot by the invading Germans as francs-tireurs.
Anthony Eden summarised the raising and equipping of the British Home Guard during a debate in the House of Commons in November 1940, when he was Secretary of State for War; "No one will claim for the Home Guard that it is a miracle of organisation ... but many would claim that it is a miracle of improvisation, and in that way it does express the particular genius of our people. If it has succeeded, as I think it has, it has been due to the spirit of the land and of the men in the Home Guard."
Noël Coward wrote a song in 1943, "Could You Please Oblige Us with a Bren Gun?" that pokes fun at the disorder and shortage of supplies and equipment that were common in the Home Guard, and indeed all of Britain, during the war.
The Home Guard also played a significant part in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1943 film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. In it, the lead character, a career soldier who had retired from the active list, joins the Home Guard and rises to a leadership position in it.
The 1943 British film Get Cracking starred George Formby as a Home Guard lance corporal who is constantly losing and winning back his stripe. Formby's platoon is involved in rivalry with the Home Guard sections of the local villages Major Wallop and Minor Wallop. At the end of the film Formby is promoted to sergeant after inventing a secret weapon – a home-made tank.
The Home Guard was immortalised in the British television comedy Dad's Army (1968–1977), which followed the formation and running of a platoon in the fictional south coast town of Walmington-on-Sea, and is widely regarded as having kept the efforts of the Home Guard in the public consciousness. Dad's Army is a BBC television sitcom about the British Home Guard during the Second World War. It was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and broadcast on BBC television from 1968 to 1977. The sitcom ran for 9 series and 80 episodes in total, plus a radio version based on the television scripts, a feature film and a stage show. The series regularly gained audiences of 18 million viewers and is still repeated worldwide. In turning the popular impression of the Home Guard into a comedy organisation, the series put off a great many veterans from telling their stories and distorted research into the Home Guard for many years.
The Home Guard consisted of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, either owing to age or by being in professions that were exempt from conscription (Dad's Army deals almost exclusively with the former), and as such the series mainly featured older British actors, including Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Arnold Ridley and John Laurie. Among relative youngsters in the regular cast were Ian Lavender, Clive Dunn (who played the elderly Jones), Frank Williams, James Beck (who died suddenly during production of the programme's sixth series in 1973) and Bill Pertwee. In 2004, Dad's Army was voted into fourth place in a BBC poll to find Britain's Best Sitcom. It had been placed 13th in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000 and voted for by industry professionals. The series has influenced popular culture in the United Kingdom, with the series' catchphrases and characters being well known. It highlighted a forgotten aspect of defence during the Second World War. The Radio Times magazine listed Captain Mainwaring's "You stupid boy!" among the 25 greatest put-downs on TV. A film featuring Bill Nighy, Sir Michael Gambon, Toby Jones and Sir Tom Courtenay was released in 2016.
In the last of his 'Old Sam' series of monologues, Stanley Holloway wrote of the protagonist of the series, Sam, attempting to join the army at the outbreak of war in 1939. In the series, Sam is a serviceman who fought at the Battle of Waterloo and in the First World War as an adult. In the monologue dealing with World War II Sam is sent to the Home Guard instead of the front line, much to his bemusement, and whilst there finds that his stories of glory are debunked by another character who turns out to be the Duke of Wellington with whom he fought at Battle of Waterloo.
The Home Guard appears in a scene in the film Hope and Glory (1987) when a unit shoots down a wayward barrage balloon and in the 2003 "War Games" episode of the British detective series Foyle's War, which is set in Hastings during World War II. In 2010, an episode of the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures featured Clyde Langer being transported back to the British coast during WW2, and featured the Home Guard.
Home Guard honours
|Awarded to the
|2||George Cross (GC)||Both Posthumous|
|24||Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)||Military Division|
|129||Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)||Military Division|
|396||Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)||Military Division|
|13||George Medal (GM)|
|408||British Empire Medal (BEM)||Military Division|
|1||British Empire Medal (BEM)||Civil Division|
|1||Military Medal (MM)|
|?||Defence Medal (United Kingdom)|
|1||Mentioned in Despatches|
|58||King's Commendation for Brave Conduct||2 were Posthumous|
Notable Home Guards
- Tony Benn, Labour politician (Bromyard and Oxted Home Guard), pre-enlistment in RAF
- Zulfiqar Ali Bukhari, Urdu broadcaster and first director-general of Radio Pakistan (BBC Home Guard)
- Cecil Day-Lewis, poet and later Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom (Musbury Home Guard)
- George Formby, actor, singer-songwriter and comedian (Blackpool Home Guard, Corporal Despatch Rider)
- John Laurie, actor notably in Dad's Army (Paddington Home Guard)
- C S Lewis, writer (Oxford Home Guard)
- Sir Patrick Moore, astronomer and broadcaster (East Grinstead Home Guard)
- Patrick Munro, Conservative politician and former Scotland rugby union football international (Private, 1st County of London HG Battalion, killed in training accident at Westminster - the only MP to die on duty in the Home Guard).
- George Orwell, author and journalist (Sergeant, Greenwich Home Guard)
- Jimmy Perry, scriptwriter, (Barnes and Watford Home Guard)
- Felix Powell, songwriter (Peacehaven Home Guard - committed suicide on duty)
- Arnold Ridley, another Dad's Army actor (Caterham Home Guard) 
- Frank Whitcombe, England rugby union international (Sergeant, Wibsey Home Guard)
- Armia Krajowa, the dominant Polish resistance movement in World War II German-occupied Poland
- Auxiliary Units, a British "stay behind" undercover force of 1940
- Black Brigades, one of the Fascist paramilitary groups operating in the Italian Social Republic during the final years of World War II
- Canadian Rangers, a group in Canada that functions like the Home Guard
- Dad's Army, (1968–1977), a long running British sitcom based on a platoon in the Home Guard
- Military history of the United Kingdom during World War II
- State defense forces, non-federal military forces in the United States of America that operate in various states, similar to the Home Guard
- Volkssturm, German national militia of the last months of World War II
- Volunteer Defence Corps, Australian Home Guard
- Volunteer Fighting Corps, armed civil defense units planned in 1945 in the Empire of Japan
- Volunteer Training Corps (World War I), the British voluntary home defence force of World War I
- Macksey, Kenneth, Beda Fomm: The Classic Victory, p. 35. Ballantine, New York, 1971.
- DiNardo, Richard. Germany and the Axis Powers: From Coalition to Collapse. University Press Of Kansas. p. 39. ISBN 0-7006-1412-5.
- Wintringham, p.74
- MacKenzie, pp. 18–19
- MacKenzie, p. 19
- MacKenzie, pp. 19–20
- MacKenzie, p. 20
- MacKenzie, pp. 21–22
- MacKenzie, p. 23
- MacKenzie, pp. 24–25
- MacKenzie, p. 26
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Home Guard (United Kingdom).|
- Clarke, D.M. (2011). "Arming the British Home Guard, 1940–1944". Cranfield University.
- "The Home Guard Training Manual" by John Langdon Davies
- Photos of UK World War 2 Invasion Defences
- 23rd Sussex Home Guard British Re-Enactment Group
- The Home Guard
- Stonehouse (Gloucestershire) Home Guard Training – early WW2
- BBC History Home Guard pages
- Wartime defence found A spigot mortar emplacement
- The story of a typical Home Guard Battalion and information on other units
- "Pitsford Home Guard". Major Living History And Research Group in Northamptonshire. Period photos, information, and recreations, with original uniforms and equipment of the Northamptonshire Home Guard in World War II
- Coventry Home Guard Photos and Memorabilia
- Revealed: the real Dad's Army University of Manchester study.
- Glamorgan Home Guard Living History Group Living History Group in South Wales
- Home Guard operating in Bures, Suffolk
- Meldreth Home Guard Meldreth Home Guard: photographs and transcription of Home Guard diary
- Parashots Enrol – news item about volunteering for the LDV. (Newsreel). British Pathé. 20 May 1940. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
- Britain's Citizen Army – news item about the duties of the Home Guard. (Newsreel). British Pathé. 1 August 1940. Retrieved 8 March 2010.
Home Guard inspected by General Sir Henry Parnall; procedure on seeing a parachutist. Fiery speech "Your Motto is: kill the Boche!"