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Home Guard in Caterham


Contributed by 
People in story: 
Major F. Marden
Location of story: 
Caterham, Surrey
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 November 2003

‘C’ Company 9th Surrey (Oxted) Bn Home Guard in Caterham by Major F. Marden (1899-1993)

I joined the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers) in September 1940. A fortnight later it became the Home Guard and I found myself running Layhams Garage, seeing to the Agricultural work and doing Home Guard duties. I joined because Roy Cranmer had been given the job of forming a mobile platoon. I was the 9th member but we soon got up to about 20 with Roy Cranmer as Officer and Mr. Moore as Sergeant. We were issued with the first rifles in the battalion, which we believed must have seen service in India, but no ammunition.

As I was the only one that had seen army service, Cranmer instructed me to take the platoon on Sunday morning onto the Caterham School playing fields. Cranmer and Moore joined the ranks for the occasion. I think we had a good morning but after 20 years I had an awful time trying to remember on which foot to give the word of command for the various movements.

About 6 months later, Cranmer was promoted Adjutant and I was promoted to Platoon Officer, operating from Croydon Road and taking our instructions from Battalion HQ. We received ACIs (Army Council Instructions) from the War Office, some of which didn't really concern us.

By this time we had 2 Browning Automatic rifles as well as Tommy Guns and ordinary rifles. I had two Ford 1/2-ton open trucks on which I mounted tripods to take the Brownings. We were keen if nothing else!

About a year later, Battalion wanted us made up into a Company (mobile). We had a platoon drafted to us from ‘A’ Company Caterham and we became ‘C’ Company, with Company HQ at Layhams garage. I became Major with Franklyn-Adams (ex Captain, Artillery Rifles) my Command, Harvey and Boag as platoon officers. John Palmer was CSM and we had the usual NCO.’s …and I was given a Secretary, Mrs. Harvey. We had bunks fitted up in the Garage for those on night duty.
By now we had about 3 army 15 cwt 4x4 trucks in the Battalion and new motorcycles. One of our jobs was to organize dispatch riders and run a rota. Also I had to find two mechanics to service the Army bikes and lorries according to ACIs. We once had a Regular Army inspector around to check up, with 3 Privates. The inspector was a cousin of mine.

We had 120 square miles to operate in and our fellows had to know all of it. We came under direct control of the C.O. We had some tough training at Beddlestone Farm every night for a week with the Canadians, under live ammo. We had several all night stunts and one particular exercise started on a Saturday afternoon 3.30p.m. and lasted 24 hours. We had the job of fighting the Battalion and putting out of action anything we thought necessary. There are a lot of bridges in our area, electricity supply stations, stations, signal boxes, tunnels, council offices, and various Home Guard Company offices. We were all very tired when the exercise was over. At that time, we had a full-time Army Adjutant attached to our Company and he was the only one who had the campaign we had worked out.

Four weeks before D-Day we had to work in uniform, and have our rifles etc., with us. Every night we had a list where everyone would be the next day. On top of all this, we had to spend one Saturday afternoon at Old Surrey Hall with the HQ staff. During the last 3 months we had to arrange for a dispatch rider to call on all Company Headquarters, at varying times.

One night up on Woldingham Ridge, I saw 6 Doodlebugs in the air at one time. They were coming over the Ridge, just clearing the trees.
December 1944 we had been warned we were to be "stood down", which got me a bit worried as we had lot of full-bore armour, Bakelite hand grenades and glass phosphorous bombs to dispose of. On Sunday morning we went up to Woldingham range and for about 3 hours we were pumping this ammo out with 2 Vickers machine guns and rifles and still had some left. We also exploded the Bakelite bombs. The following Saturday we took all the phosphorous bombs down to the chalk pit on the Oxted road, put them in the sand (thousands of them) and then fired at them at about 25 yards, using up the rest of our ammo and getting rid of the phosphorus bombs at the same time. The smoke clouds ensuing were like the Torry Canyon going up. We had the Oxted Police and Fire Engine along, but at that time they could do nothing about it, as we were still Home Guard.

When we finally "stood down" all H. Q. staff and Co. Commanders had an evening I will never forget at our Battalion Commander's house - Old Surrey Hall - where drink was poured over our heads. At dinner we ate off solid silver plates and drank out of solid gold goblets. As I drove home, I was very much the worse for wear.

Contributed by Mrs Anne Bailey

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