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The Welney Website

Welney Home Guard

page created 31st July 2010, amended/updated Thursday, 31 March 2011
Home Guard armband
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7th norfolk armlet In the summer of 1940 the UK Secretary of State for War, Mr Anthony Eden, broadcast a message on the BBC Home Service calling for "men of all ages who wish to do something for the defence of the country" to join a new organisation, the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). Any man wishing to do so had to contact a local police station.

Within 24 hours, a quarter-of-a-million men had registered, and within weeks it was almost one-and-a-quarter-million. Unfortunately, there wasn't, initially, any real 'organisation' to join.

A couple of months after it's formation, the LDV became the Home Guard (HG) (at the instigation of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill). After a while, the volunteers were issued with uniforms, thin cotton two-piece army "denims" on which they wore an armband (as top right). Later (1941?) the much heavier standard battledress as worn by the regular army became available, worn with a Home Guard armlet sewn on at shoulder level, below which may have been a badge denoting the County Batalion (as photo on left). Cap badges seem to vary, none at all at first, later probably a County one.  Eventually they received some weapons too.

Typicaly, in rural areas the Home Guard was organised into (or affiliated to) County Battalions which were sub-divided into Companies, then Platoons, and finally into parish Sections. Also typically, there was often conflict between the needs of farming and attending HG training sessions.

This was all comically portrayed, albeit often satirically, in the delightful BBC TV series Dad's Army, in which the fictitious Warlmington-on-Sea Home Guard was led by the local Bank Manager. In Welney in the fens it was the local Schoolmaster Mr Charles Ray who became leader; whether he simply assumed command as did Warlmington's bank manager, or was offically appointed, I know not, but I assume the latter.

We do know though from an account by ex-Welneyite Raymond James, that Mr. Ray was a Captain in the Welney Home Guard in May 1941. (Audrey James said her father-in-law  Ernie James refered to a "Major Wray" being in the Home Guard in February 1941. I think Captain is much more likely to be the correct rank, and Ray was definitely his surname.)

Welney's Home Guard unit is likely to have been part of the 7th Norfolk Regiment, indicated by the 7 NK markings on the sleeve photo above left. A Home Guard unit based at Christchurch which also and covered Tipps End and Lakes End would probably have been one of the Cambridgeshire units, possibly 3rd Isle of Ely. More details of that unit can be found on the Fenvillages website run by Anne Jackson.
During 1943, the threat to the UK of invasion by German forces diminished and interest in the Home Guard declined. In November 1944 the Home Guard was "stood-down" (and officialy disbanded at the end of 1945?). The men were not given any medals, but were allowed to keep their boots and battledress.
 © Welney Website, 2010
Welney's  Home Guard has sometimes been confused with another volunteer group, Civil Defence, possibly because Mr Ray seems to have been in charge of both; but they were quite different organisations. See link on right.

If you can provide any further details or photos of any of Welney's wartime services, please contact the Webmaster using link bottom right. Thanks.
Related pages on this website
Aircraft crashes during WW2
Raymond James - WW2 memories
Welney Fire Brigade in WW2
Welney Civil Defence
Related External websites
BBC History in-death  - Home Guard
Fenvillages (Three Holes & around)
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