How would the Home Guard have actually fared?

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Gerard, Dec 17, 2007.

  1. Christos

    Christos Discharged

    Hey, you mentioned RSM Humphreys, and the fact that he was decorated for saving lives when a recruit dropped a live one in a slit trench....

    Was he the individual that actually threw something on top of it and LAY DOWN ON IT until the thing exploded?....I have heard of a training incident somewhere in Britian....the ground was muddy so it muffled the blast, as did the body of the Servicman concerned, with a sheet of corrugated iron?...Im not exactly sure what he put between him and the grenade, but it could not have been very substantial, due to the time factor involved..

    Just wondering if this RSM you speak of was that man....
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Brian can you remember which Guards Regiment he was in?
    I remember you telling me of him when I visited, should of asked you then but the boys were distracting me.
    Just checked my Grenadiers History of the Great War and can only find a Humphrey of the 1st Bn being awarded a MM. Was he from the Coldstream?
  3. freebird

    freebird Senior Member

    Ah!...nice ever mentions Monty's divisions...and you served in that one?...what a beaty of a coincidence!...thanks for the correction, I did actually get that piece of info from an old BBC documentary of the "World at War"....they must have assumed that the Ironsides" was stll unready after Dunkirk...shows you how wrong even the experts can be...

    I think the 3rd was probablythe only British division with full equip, from some of the shipment sent by the USA. The Canadian 1st had most of its eqip., and the 2nd had all of its equip, as it hadn't been embarked to France. The British split up their eqip, so that each of the 14 reg. divisions had somewhere around half of their TO&E, by dividing up what was on hand so that each would have at least some artillery etc. The 12 territorial divisions were only semi-trained had some obsolete WWI artillery (if any) and were of marginal combat readiness in July 1940.

    I believe Sapper is right, the C in C of home defence (Brooke) was very impressed with Monty's actions in France, he had full confidence in him. The idea probably was to have Monty's division at full strength, as they would probably be in the lead of any counter-attack on a German landing.

    (Once more into the breach!)
  4. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Sorry lads, I do not know the regiment he was in. He was a Regimental Sgt Major and I was an OR. We used to talk for hours about battles of long ago, and all genuine, for he had all the campaign medals that go with it.

    While we were at what is now "Stings" Elizabethan Manor (Our convalescent home) I used to get twenty Players cigarettes a week for making his bed.

    I was told this record of the grenade incident. He was taking a group of recruits in throwing grenades in a pit, over the top of a semi circle of upright railway sleepers. The nervous recruit dropped the grenade and panicked. The RSM knocked the panicking lad out with one blow, picked up the grenade and threw it safely over the top. I cannot recall what the award was, though I did read it at the time.

    What was sad, that the RSM had no family and wanted me to have his medals....He died unknown to me, and I never got them, and I never forgot that....

    Memory is an odd thing, I am able to recall damn near everything that took place in Battle... But due to my near death some 30 years ago, some blocks of memory are gone for ever....For the life of me i CANNOT GET THEM BACK!

    The rest are like photos, as clear and sharp as a picture.
    RSM Humphries! Bless him" Now I am not sure if I have the Humphrey's spelt the correct way?
  5. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Coming late to this, but British anti-invasion plans have always been an interest of mine...

    First of all, the details of the FJ's opertions as planned for Sealion. Hitler's first plans - made while Student was recovering from his head injuries from Holland - were that the FJ would only be used to take coastal defences and batteries on the right and left flanks of the invasion beachead...i.e. similar to their operations against Eben Emael and others. The rest of the FJ and airlanding divisions were relegated to the General reserve for Sealion.
    There were a number of reasons for this -
    The LW had from battlefield losses or later write-offs lost over 200 Ju52s in the Low Countries to add to the 180 lost in Norway; that was over half the Ju 52 fleet as of the late spring of 1940.
    Also, Rotterdam and the Hague had taught the Germans that dropping paratroops far behind enemy lines to take and HOLD objective pending relief eventually turned ALL focus of a campaign onto that relief. They didn't want to drop troops into Kent in great numbers...for THEN the whole focus of the landings would simply be to dash to the relief of the FJ!
    Student had a senior officer dash to lobby for extra ops, and a number of airfields CLOSE to the beachead were identified that they could take - but far smaller ops than the failed raids in Holland on similar and the costly ops in Norway.

    As for the Home Guard - let's face it, the whole idea wasn't for the Home Guard to STOP the Germans, it was to "sponge" up and slow down the Wehrmacht as it marched across Kent and Sussex, and to give the regular Army time to formate on the GHQ and London Stop Lines. And that's about all. However, it should be noted that in a few months over 3,000 assorted pillboxes and obstacles were created in the South of England...

    However, by 1941 the story was VERY different; the Home Guard had had a year of dedicated training and were starting to share "specialised" duties with regular forces. Gradually they came to take over about 65% of the UK's coastal batteries, releasing RA and RN personnel for othjer duties. They guarded POW camps, industrial sites, marshalling yards etc. - and eventually also filled about 50% of the files in AA Command in the last two years of the war IIRC. ALSO...week by week their originally makeshift defences at road junctions etc. became highly developed emplacements as good as any Flanders' strongpoints of WWI! From which they'd have stood a far better chance of resisting attack than they would have done a year earlier!

    Regarding the availability of regular and organised forces in the UK - as well as the fast-re-equiping British Army - it was back up on establishemnt of artillery by the middle of August, far sooner than anyone expected - and the Canadian First Infantry division....there was a second Canadian infantry division training in the UK, and the beginnings of a Canadian armoured division IIRC....AND one badly-remembered and recorded Australian infantry division in the Home Counties!
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  6. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The Home Guard would have put up a spirited resistance. But having seen action against the German Paras, I know they would have been quickly swept away. Sadly!
  7. spidge


    Coming late to this, but British anti-invasion plans have always been an interest of mine...

    AND one badly-remembered and recorded Australian infantry division in the Home Counties!

    Can you elaborate on the above as I was under the impression that there were only two brigades?

    One coming from Australia and one raised in the UK.


  8. Tonym

    Tonym WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The answer to the initial question is no, the Home Guard would not have stood a chance. I think that most of you are forgetting one thing that I am sure Adolf Hitler and probably most of his cronies had not – ‘The British Spirit’. Hitler would have been aware that he was not facing just the Home Guard he would have been facing the British People as a whole whose primary object would have been to defend their homeland at whatever cost. There was no Vichy France element in Britain; some of our Southern Landed Gentry may have been prepared to open their doors to these uninvited trespassers but not the general population. I personally believe that he would have got no further than London.

    Bearing in mind that the primary target would have been London the resistance, I am sure, would have been sufficient to delay his progress and during this time the Northern Counties would not have been just sitting waiting for him to arrive and I am sure the British Government had plans to defend London at least so what would have been waiting for him beyond London if he had been successful? Had he been successful he would then have had to pour troops into England to combat this resistance knowing full well that Russia was at his back door so he chickened out and we all know the rest.

    Also, whatever your political persuasion, Winston Churchill was there – the right man at the right time.
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    RAF pilots do not reffer to them very favourably in Forgotten Voices of the Battle of Britain
  10. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Sapper, I'd guess the one thing they'd never run up against would be the FJ. The two sets of plans for the FJ involvement both gave the FJ very small - then only slightly bigger - roles in the invasion, and in both sets they were more likely to come up aginst regulars than the Home Guard.

    Geoff, in the VERY few references I've seen, they're referred to as "divisions"...probaly from their full roster designation, but both of them were indeed only brigades...BUT given that the NEXT most-organised/trained unit that Churchill referred to after the Canadian !st Division was the Ulster Home Guard, I think even Australian brigades were porbably expected in Whitehall to do better that the Ulster Home Guard...
  11. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Regarding people falling on dropped grenades.... Major A.G. Kempster of 145th regt RAC fell on a grenade whilest training at Penthievre near Bone (Annaba) in Algeria on the 21st Aug 1943 thus saving the lives of assorted OR's in the trench at the time - one OR was slighly injured.
    Major Kempster was award a posthumous George Cross

    Another escapade was at the Battle School in Barnard Castle when Trooper Frank Alison dropped his grenade in the slit trench - never in the field of cross country running have 28 men ran so fast or so far inside 11 seconds - Trooper Frank retired as Chief Inspector Frank of the Staffordshire police !
  12. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    In 1942 , at the age of 19, I found myself living in a small village near Luton named Houghton Regis.

    I was waiting to be called up and, in the meantime, I was an ARP Warden in the local Civil Defence.

    We trained regularly with the local Home Guard and in turn the Home Guard received training from regular army instructors.

    Despite the inference that might be drawn from the beautifully written Dad's Army (I confess to loving every episode) the ethos of the Home Guard and the Civil Defence was based on a 100% desire to protect the UK from a possible invasion and we all took it very seriously.

    We trained using Molotov Cocktails (bottles filled with petrol and with a crude rag wick stuffed into the neck of the bottle) and we also received training at the local rifle range.

    I am convinced that had we been put to the test we would have aquitted ourselves with honour.

    "They don't like it uppem !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

  13. ChrisM

    ChrisM Member


    My late brother (who must have followed exactly the same path as you up the Italian penisula with his 25-pounder) confirmed in a memoir exactly what you say with regard to contemporary attitudes. Unfortunately he never expressed an opinion as to how he thought they would have performed if put to the test; but he mentioned the great apprehension that was felt throughout the summer of 1940, about what would happen if "they came". It must have been a consolation to be actively trying to do something positive about the situation.

    During the first months, the threat was real and the atmosphere deadly serious......... but, in retrospect, now has elements of a pantomime scenario, with the relevant episodes of Dad's Army and similar productions seeming remarkably true to life............

    .......Over the months - and now years - the platoon had evolved from a motley band of enthusiastic, but unskilled, volunteers into a highly trained, effective infantry unit.......

    His memories of a West Midlands HG unit are onlne, here.

  14. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    It's always nice to get confirmation from one's contempories so thanks for letting us see your late brother's quotes. I have also had a look at the website for which you gave a link and compliment whoever is responsible for an excellent site.

    Going only slightly off-thread (which is unusual for me, I usually go completely off-thread !) there was a little bit of Dad's Army in a piece I previously posted to do with my service at Whitby in Yorkshire. in 1942
    Quite apart from our training we were also called upon to man pillboxes along the coast against the always threatening German invasion of England. Despite our best intentions we could never take this very seriously particularly when we found ourselves manning a pill box on a deserted strip of the coast outside Whitby armed with only a Lee Enfield rifle and five rounds of ammunition
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  15. jeffbubble

    jeffbubble Senior Member

  16. jeffbubble

    jeffbubble Senior Member

    201820190422_18100142_0152.jpg Issued to 5th Cumberland Battalion Home Guard Workington]
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  17. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    I've always thought this too. I think combat veterans of WWI who where in the 40s would have put up a ferocious fight. They'd probably be in an especially foul mood as well after what they went though against the Germans the last time around.
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  18. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    One would assume it would have been a terrible slaughter
  19. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    According to: Home Guard (United Kingdom) - Wikipedia

    The Nazi’s would have “shot them out of hand” since “armed irregulars deserve no quarter

    Ultimately, though, I don't think that the Nazi's could ever have succeeded in invading the UK, and had they even managed to cross the Channel in some measure of force, early enough, before ever greater opposed forces were built up, defeating the Royal Navy and RAF en-route, the bedraggled invaders would then have been beaten by all sorts of resistance, including the valuable contribution of the Home Guard.

    Incidentally, there's a wide genre of "invasion literature" though the wiki here:Invasion literature - Wikipedia

    ...currently, seems to mostly omit coverage during WW2 and has that the genre was most "popular in the period between 1871 and the First World War (1914–1918)."

    There is perhaps though another wiki entirely devoted to the hypothetical invasions of Britain WW2 and plenty of post WW2 literature on hypotheticals and what-if's etc, though the popularity of the idea of Britain being invaded as light reading material in the UK, I guess, was less, during WW2 itself, perhaps there were German WW2 novels, in which they hypothesised their success.

    This episode of the BBC's "In Our time" (audio approx 45 mins): BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Riddle of the Sands

    "The Riddle of the Sands. Melvyn Bragg discusses the prescient thriller 'The Riddle of the Sands' and the decline Anglo-German relations before the First World War. Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the prescient thriller 'The Riddle of the Sands' about the decline Anglo-German relations before the First World War."

    Covers the origin of the invasion genre in depth. And the popularity of the subject matter in there is said to have spawned German versions of the same.

    The plot of: The Battle of Dorking - Wikipedia

    Publication date 1871. - recounts "the final days before and during the invasion of Britain."

    And has (spoiler ;-) "The story ends with the conquest of Britain and its conversion into a heavily-taxed province of the invading empire. The British Empire is broken up, with only Gibraltar and Malta being kept by the victorious Germans. Canada and the West Indies are ceded to the United States, whilst Australia, India and Ireland are all granted independence, with Ireland entering a lengthy civil war as a result."

    So one possible result of such a pre-WW1 invasion, that people in WW2 already could read, suggesting that fighting such tyranny and resisting to the maximum extent, was preferable therefore to anything else.

    "We Shall Fight on the Beaches is the name commonly given to this speech Sir Winston Churchill delivered to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940. The second of three major speeches given around the period of the Battle of France, with the others designated as the Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat Speech of 13 May, and the This was Their Finest Hour speech of 18 June. In this speech, Churchill had to describe a great military disaster, and warn of an immanent invasion attempt by Nazi Germany. While also maintaining public confidence in the face of a potential French surrender."
  20. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

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