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The Home Guard

On the 14th May 1940, the Local Defence Volunteers force was created to protect Britain from invasion. They later became known as the Home Guard and were nicknamed ‘Dad’s Army’.

By the end of July, 1.5 million men had volunteered to join the Home Guard. They were either too old to join the regular army or hadn’t been called up to fight as they were needed in a reserved occupation to keep the country running 

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Nearly all of them worked at other jobs by day. In their spare time, they either trained for combat or guarded important sites such as: railways, bridges and factories. At night they patrolled fields in which the German gliders or paratroopers might land.

As they had little equipment, the public were invited to give them their shotguns and pistols – within a few months over 20,000 weapons were handed in.

To help protect the country from any invasion they also:
  • set barriers to hold up their progress, including barbed wire along the beaches of the south coast;
  • floated huge barrage balloons over important targets to prevent German bombers from flying low;
Barrage balloons over London during World War II
  • built concrete pill boxes (fortified huts) to house guns to fire at the enemy – most were hidden amongst bushes or disguised as normal buildings like shops;
Pill-Box, Type F/W22, Harrington, Cumberland
  • placed huge blocks of stone on roads to stop any tanks from travelling on them;
  • stopped church bells being rung except in an invasion to warn people;
  • took down road signs and street name plates to confuse an invading army;

  • dumped disused cars and lorries across large, flat fields to prevent enemy gliders landing on them with troops.
Members of the part-time Observer Corps watched the skies and telephoned news of enemy aircraft to RAF headquarters. The invention of radar allowed approaching planes to be spotted even earlier using radio signals.