Military, WW2

Decisive or Desperate? The Brilliant Inventions of the Home Guard

The Home Guard, also known as the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), was a volunteer force created in the United Kingdom during World War II to help defend against the threat of invasion. Many members of the Home Guard were civilians who were too old to join the army. Some were too young, or not fit enough to join the regular armed forces.

In addition to their traditional roles of patrolling and guarding, members of the Home Guard also developed a number of innovative inventions and adaptations to help them defend their local communities.

Home Guard Inventions

Some of the notable inventions from the HG include:

Flame Fougasse:

This was a simple incendiary weapon made from a large can filled with gasoline, tar, or oil. This was then placed in a shallow trench and ignited when enemy troops approached. The resulting flames could create a wall of fire that would be difficult for the enemy to pass through.

Sticky Bombs:

Sticky bombs were developed by the Home Guard as a way to disable enemy vehicles. They were essentially small bombs wrapped in a sticky substance, which allowed them to be attached to tanks or other vehicles, where they would then explode and cause damage.

Molotov Cocktails:

Molotov cocktails were essentially bottles filled with gasoline or other flammable liquids. They had a rag stuffed into the top to create a fuse. When thrown, the bottle would shatter on impact. This in turn speeded the liquid and igniting it with the rag, creating a small firebomb.

Home Guard
Home Guard soldiers with a Blacker Bombard mortar. This was designed to stop German Tanks!

Improvised Weapons:

Members of the Home Guard also developed a range of improvised weapons, including spears made from broom handles and bayonets, and slingshots made from bicycle inner tubes!

These inventions and adaptations allowed the Home Guard to contribute significantly to the war effort, even with limited resources and training. They demonstrated the resourcefulness and ingenuity of ordinary citizens in the face of adversity.

Dads Army

The Home Guard played an important role in the defence of the United Kingdom during World War II. Although they were initially regarded as a “Dad’s Army” of older men and those considered unfit for active service, they were eventually recognized as a vital component of the country’s defence strategy.

The Home Guard’s primary role was to defend against a possible invasion by German forces, and they were responsible for guarding key locations such as bridges, roads, and airfields. They also had a secondary role in maintaining public order in the event of an enemy attack or air raid.

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Although the Home Guard was not a professional military force and lacked the training, weapons, and equipment of the regular armed forces, they made a significant contribution to the war effort. They acted as a deterrent against enemy infiltration and sabotage and provided valuable intelligence to the military authorities.

Home Guard
A proud member of the Montgomeryshire Home Guard. Their nickname was Dads Army?

In addition to their defensive role, the HG also supported the war effort in other ways, such as providing labour for essential tasks such as construction, farming, and firefighting.

Overall, the HG was effective in its role as a defensive force, and its members showed great bravery and dedication in the face of the enemy. While they were not a decisive factor in the outcome of the war, they played an important part in the overall defence of the United Kingdom. They helped to maintain morale on the home front.

A Serious Business

Like any organisation involved in active service, the HG experienced accidents and mishaps during World War II.

Friendly Fire Incidents:

There were several incidents where HG units accidentally fired on friendly forces, mistaking them for enemy troops. In one notable case, a Home Guard unit in Scotland fired on a British army unit during a training exercise, causing several casualties. In another a local Doctor was mistakenly shot whilst in his car.

Explosives Accidents:

The Home Guard frequently used explosives in their activities, such as to create barriers or destroy enemy equipment. However, there were several accidents where explosives detonated prematurely, causing injuries and damage to property.

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In one case, a Home Guard unit in Cornwall accidentally blew up a tractor while attempting to destroy a German aircraft that had crashed nearby.

Vehicle Accidents:

The Home Guard used a variety of vehicles, including cars, trucks, and motorcycles. However many of their members had limited driving experience. There were several incidents where Home Guard vehicles were involved in accidents, including collisions with other vehicles, trees, or buildings. In another incident a Home Guard unit managed to crash into the local police commissioners car!

Home Guard
Beaverette II reconnaissance vehicles being used by the Home Guard. They managed to crash a lot!

Accidental Shootings:

There were also several incidents where Home Guard members accidentally discharged their weapons, causing injuries or damage to property. In one case, a HG member in Wales accidentally shot his neighbour’s dog, mistaking it for a German spy!

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While these accidents were unfortunate, they were also a reminder of the challenges faced by the Home Guard in carrying out their duties. Despite these setbacks, the HG remained committed to their mission and played an important role in the defence of the United Kingdom during World War II.

The Lighter Side

While the Home Guard was a serious organization dedicated to defending their country during the war, there are also many amusing and entertaining stories associated with their activities.

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“Operation Holey Jumper”:

In one incident, a HG unit stationed near a railway bridge became convinced that German paratroopers were planning to land in the area. To thwart the enemy, they decided to remove several planks from the bridge to prevent a landing.

Home Guard
No laughing matter. Did the Home Guard create more problems than the enemy?

However, they did not consider the possibility of an approaching train. When one did arrive, the driver saw the missing planks and hit the emergency brake. The train ground to a halt, and the Home Guard had to scramble to replace the missing planks before they were discovered. A very close call!

The Only Bomb They Ever Dropped:

In another incident, a Home Guard unit was practicing throwing grenades when one of the grenades became stuck in a tree. The unit tried various methods to dislodge the grenade, but nothing worked.

Eventually, they decided to leave it there, and the grenade remained in the tree for the duration of the war, earning the nickname “the only bomb they ever dropped.”

The Dambusters and the Pig:

During a training exercise, a Home Guard unit was using a replica of the Mohne Dam in Germany as a target. As they were preparing to make their attack, a farmer drove a pig across the target area, forcing the unit to abort their mission.

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The incident became known as “the Dambusters and the pig” and was later immortalized in a cartoon by the artist David Langdon.

These stories illustrate the humour and resourcefulness of the Home Guard, even in the face of challenging circumstances. While they took their duties seriously, they also found ways to lighten the mood and inject some fun into their activities.