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The Dorset Home Guard

  • Army Reserve
    Army Reserve
  • Home Guard Exercise
    Home Guard Exercise
  • Bridport area home guard at Netherbury
    Bridport area home guard at Netherbury
  • Churchill Reviewing The Home Guard
    Churchill Reviewing The Home Guard
  • Home Guard Parade
    Home Guard Parade
  • Stop Lines
    Stop Lines

Prior to the outbreak of the War, the government had not planned a volunteer home defence army but with the impending fall of France in June 1940, the population had other ideas. With the imminence of invasion, groups of armed men had already started to patrol the countryside, Dorset included. It was obvious that the best way to harness this enthusiasm was to legitimise the force with the creation of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). On 14 May 1940, Anthony Eden called for 'men of all ages who wish to do something for the defence of their take the opportunity for which so many of you have been waiting'. Many volunteers were in reserved occupations (munitions workers, farmers, etc), were physically unfit or too old (over 41 years old) to join the regular army.

Having created 'a new army out of nothingness', the LDV was initially poorly equipped, lacking uniforms and weapons. In many cases, during the early days, the only uniform item was an armband and the only weapons being shotguns. In addition, there were no HQ staffs or base locations and little money to organise them. Old soldiers and retired officers, many of them decorated Great War veterans, provided some military knowledge and backbone but the LDV relied heavily on the 'natural leaders of the community' for its local energy. By the end of July 1940, around 1.5 million men had volunteered for service, reflecting the seriousness of the invasion threat in summer 1940. However, it was not until 1941 that the force was properly equipped and organised, as well as being subject to military discipline.

The LDV became known as the 'Home Guard' when Winston Churchill, on 27 July 1940, casually used the name during a radio broadcast. The name was immediately popular with both the public and volunteers and it stuck, with new armbands and badges reflecting the change of name being promptly issued. The majority of the Home Guard Detachments proudly wore the cap badge of the county regiment.

The force was made up of local detachments, with their task being to guard nearby key points. They mainly patrolled after work and at night. Some detachments, such as the Home Guard volunteers of the Whiteways Torpedo works near Weymouth, provided a large detachment to guard the vital factories. Others, Home Guardsmen, manned Royal Artillery anti-aircraft batteries along the coast to thicken up the defence against enemy bombers. See below for an order of battle of the Dorset Home Guard battalions.

In the event of invasion, the Home Guard would have been called out to occupy their static defensive positions that General Ironside, Commander-in-chief Home Forces, had developed to check the expected German landings. In battle, the Home Guard were to hold or delay the enemy on the beaches or on inland defensive lines, while regular troops, released from static defences into mobile columns, would counter-attack. The Home Guard defences around Blandford were a particularly important part of the defensive scheme.

In the summer of 1940, it just as well that the Nation's defences were not tested, as patriotic enthusiasm alone, with little weapons and equipment to back it up would probably not have been enough. If, however, Hitler had persisted in his plan to invade Britain rather than turning east to Russia in 1941, the fully organised, trained and equipped Dorset Home Guard would have given a good account of itself.