From 1936 National Defence Companies formed throughout the UK. Often based close to Territorial Army units, they attracted volunteers who (like members of the Home Guard) were really past the age for military service. In 1939 the 81st Defence Group formed in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire and were employed guarding airfields and other sites that were liable to be attacked. During 1940 the Group metamorphosised into the 6th (Home Defence) Battalion of the Dorset Regiment. Again like the Home Guard, it soon began attracting men who were too young for military service. The Battalion’s three rifle companies were scattered around Wiltshire and Hampshire while Battalion Headquarters was at the Drill Hall in Salisbury. The young recruits were based at Bemerton and were later redesignated the 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion.
The 6th Battalion later became the 30th Battalion and moved to Portland, from where it supplied drafts of trained soldiers to other Dorset units. After the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942 they were despatched to Algiers and Tunisia and then, via Philippeville, to Sicily, where they remained as garrison troops for six months. They were then posted to garrison Gibraltar, where they spent the rest of the war.
Meanwhile, in September 1941 the 70th Battalion’s Headquarters moved to Bournemouth while its companies guarded RAF Ibsley, RAF Hurn, RAF Warmwell and the cliffs at Canford. Later they were based around Portsmouth with Battalion Headquarters in Southampton and one company at Gosport. In late 1942 the 70th were redesignated the 9th Battalion and moved to Colchester, where their commanding officer was Lieutenant-Colonel Bob Goff, who had won an MC in France in 1918 and an OBE commanding a company of the 2nd Battalion in France in 1940. Sent to Northern Ireland, the 9th became a very efficient and well-trained battalion and, early in 1944, they returned to England to be the Demonstration Battalion at the Army’s School of Infantry at Barnard Castle in Yorkshire. Later they moved to Sheringham in Norfolk, where they trained recruits to the Dorset and Royal Norfolk Regiments. One of their officers was David Croft, one of the creators and writers of Dad’s Army. A fine battalion, the 9th were never used in battle.