Recruits answered the call to stand guard and protect home and hearth

Home Guard recruits brush up on their rifle skills
Home Guard recruits brush up on their rifle skills

This week we take a look at the early days of Tring’s very own Dad’s Army.

In May 1940 a call went out for men to enrol in a new citizen’s army, to be known as Local Defence Volunteers.

According to King George VI in a broadcast to he nation, they would be “Ready to use whatever weapons could be found and to stand against the invader in every village and every town”.

By the beginning of July, a Hertfordshire Zone had been created and the 7th Herts Local Defence Volunteers came into being, under the command of Captain George McDonald Brown M.C. with headquarters at 41, High Street, Tring – now the offices of estate agents Brown and Merry, Estate Agents).

The earliest tasks were concerned with petrol and road blocks.

At night, petrol pumps had to be immobilised and L.D.V. units were responsible for seeing that this was done.

Road blocks came in two categories – military, which were officially constructed on main routes, and those put together by the LDV, using whatever was available, such as derelict cars, timber and agricultural machinery in various stages of dilapidation.

There did exist some “very secret” road maps, which only showed some red markings where road blocks should not be placed!

‘Dannert’, or concertina wire, laid in a U-shape on roads, was supposed to be effective to stop tanks, but whether it ever worked is not known.

When air raid warnings were received, road blocks and posts had to be manned.

There were instructions, but things were complicated.

A sentry was satisfied if a motorist could show a National Identity Card, or Army Form, but problems were reported when army officers asked the volunteers to produce their own identification.

What’s more, no instructions were issued about challenging pedestrians.

During July 1940, some denim suits had been issued for the volunteers, but mostly the only identification was the LDV armband, worn with both civilian clothes and uniform.

Battalion Order No. 13 required that everything possible should be done to maintain smartness and ‘a soldierly atmosphere’, and all ranks should be properly dressed.

But even those who had managed to acquire a denim suit found they fitted badly and were mostly too large.

Not until November 1940 were the dreaded denims replaced with uniforms.

However, boots were issued, but this time the problems were the difficulty in obtaining the right sizes, repairs and the general practice of wearing them at all times, despite orders to the contrary.

Gradually the functions and duties of the Local Defence Volunteers evolved into a regular military force, instead of just reacting to events. Winter Lectures started in November 1940, and training began early in 1941.

In March, the Home Guard was put on a proper military formation, and the Hertfordshire Home Guard was affiliated to the Hertfordshire Regiment, whose colonel-in chief was Her Majesty the Queen.

Source: Tring & District’s Home Guard in World War II, published by Tring & District Local History & Museum Society, £2.50.