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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
Norfolk Adult Education Service
People in story: 
Ben Stimpson
Location of story: 
Norfolk
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A3837936
Contributed on: 
28 March 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Ann Redgrave of Norfolk Adult Education’s reminiscence team on behalf of the late Ben Stimpson and has been added to the site with the permission of his relatives who fully understand the site’s terms and conditions.

The Home Guard in Norfolk was formed in April 1940 after France fell. It started by being village units, which were put together in platoons, companies and battalions. I was in charge at Salle at first. I suppose I had about 100 men in that platoon. They were under a company with HQ at Swannington under Major Winch, part of a battalion based at Dereham under Colonel Barclay. Reepham was in the same company, but a separate platoon, part of No. 1 Battalion. We then went to 13th Battalion, based at Sheringham under Colonel Spurrell. I was then a company commander consisting of the platoon I had, plus Saxthorpe, Booton, Cawston and Haveringland. Conscription of a sort came in — you had to be in something, and most came into the Home Guard. It was a very peculiar organisation, just like ‘Dad’s Army’. I had a Corporal Jones, who used to give my children chocolate and cut my hair. There were several officers who had fought in the First World War. The 13th was the last battalion formed in Norfolk. The area reached from Saxthorpe to Swanton Morley and Attleborough to Foulsham. It took in Haveringland airfield, Swanton Morley, Oulton and Foulsham airfields. Plus Attlebridge and Swannington. We were responsible for the defence of those airfields and the surrounding towns and villages. By this time we were getting fairly well equipped. We had a Lewis gun, a machine gun or two, rifles and ammunition, Tommy guns, bombards and grenades. I had an ammunition store in my garden.

Liaison with the regular army was splendid. Any unit moving into the area was a great help, especially in the early days when we were completely untrained. Those who had fought before had forgotten a lot of it, but some of us were lucky that we had been in the OTC more recently. I think we were a fairly efficient force. Considering that it was conscripted there was still a voluntary element and you couldn’t do anything about it if a man didn’t come on parade. I had a chap in Cawston platoon who wouldn’t come. One Thursday when Colonel Gurney was in London and I was in charge I sent an armed escort and WD car to arrest this chap. They eventually got him into the car, but the car had a puncture. After a time we got him to HQ and I talked to him. He wasn’t in very good shape when he went home — but he wasn’t manhandled except in the car, because he wouldn’t come. Well, a few weeks later a letter arrived at HQ from a Norwich solicitor for laying hands on him. This went on until one Saturday when I saw the Colonel who carried some weight in the county. It turned out that the solicitor was Colonel Gurney’s family solicitor, so he rang him up, and we never heard any more about it. Being unable to enforce discipline was one of the drawbacks of the Home Guard. We went as far as we dared, but that was not far.

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