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The Home Guard in South Cheshire

by audlemhistory

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Frank Goodwin
Location of story: 
Coole Pilate near Nantwich Cheshire
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
21 September 2005

Coole Pilate Platoon 1 Home Guard D company

We formed in June 1940 after a broadcast by Anthony Eden calling for volunteers, to be called Local Defence Volunteers. After a few months they were known as the Home Guard. Members of the Coole Pilate Platoon went on Guard Duty on Coole Pilate canal bridge, the highest spot around. 4 men were on duty every night with an NCO in charge. Shelter was provided for the 2 men off duty in the first few weeks by a horse-box. This was situated in the field on the Audlem side of the bridge.
One night in the early part of the war, a lone German bomber must have got off target and split up from the other planes. He had dropped some bombs near Crewe and flew over Coole Pilate. One of the men on guard came running down the road shouting ‘come on lads the Germans are coming’ but nothing further happened.
To block the road if there was an invasion, the Nantwich side of the bridge was supplied with four stout girders. Holes were drilled in the run up to the bridge about 18” to 24” deep. The girders just fitted in and were a formidable obstacle. On several occasions Officers came round to inspect and to time how long it took the squad on duty to put the girders in place. The holes had wooden caps to cover them when not in use.
The next shelter provided for the duty squad was a refined hen cote. This was placed in a field belonging to Coole Hall farm (Nantwich side of the bridge). As time went on with no invasion and Hitler making for Russia, our guard duty was centred in a cottage on the road going towards The Hall o’Coole. We were there a few months and then we were ordered to go to Hack Green Radar Station to reinforce the R A F Regiment. We stayed there for quite a few months. HQ for the Coole Pilate platoon was Heatley Farm, then owned by a farmer called Whittaker. He had a farm bailiff named Arrowsmith who had been in WW1. He became the platoon commander with a man named Gardiner as No. 2. Drill was done in the farmyard and an ammunition hut was put up in the field across the road. Members of the Home Guard were expected to attend twice weekly, one night of 2 hours and Sunday mornings. This was of course on top of the Guard Duty.
There were NCO classes on Thursdays, in the evening, held in Nantwich, in the old town Hall in Welsh Row. Petrol was allowed to be able to attend. There was also an Officers Training class which was held at Whitewell House, on the Crewe Rd. just out of Nantwich.
Arrowsmith left and Gardiner took command with Frank Furber 2nd in command. Then a few months later Gardiner had to move and Frank Furber became commander with myself as No 2.
To begin with the Home Guard did not have much issued. Boots to start with, then an armlet with LDV on. Bits of uniform filtered through, tunic, trousers and then overcoats. We were also issued with army type gas masks, which were tried out in an unused room at the Goldsmith farm at Burleydam. The room was filled with gas and we had to stay in there for a required time to thoroughly test them.
There was another canal bridge ¼ to ½ a mile further down towards Audlem. (It was taken down in the 1970s). A machine gun emplacement had been dug with barbed wire surrounding it. The work was carried out by troops from Czechoslovakia. It was ready for a gun to be installed facing Nantwich.
Eventually every man was issued with a rifle. They came from America and had been used in WW1 by the American troops. They were delivered to the police Station and had to be cleaned because they were full of grease. This took quite some time to do for 4 platoons of 30 men each!
There were 3 Rifle ranges, Moss Hall, Wilkesley and Hatherton. Hatherton eventually became an hand grenade throwing area (live grenades).
NCOs were in time issued with Sten guns which were like the Tommy gun but not so well made. Also the Browning Automatic Rifle was issued, one per platoon.
The first Company Commander was an ex Royal Flying Corps Officer named Boston. He lived at Hatherton House.

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