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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Harwich Home Guard

by Harwich Society

Contributed by 
Harwich Society
People in story: 
Ian Wood
Location of story: 
Harwich, Essex
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A2836154
Contributed on: 
14 July 2004

My father was a corporal in the Home Guard, who had their base at All Saints Church, at the top of Laurel Avenue. They used to have a dummy mortar up their, and a gun that they used to fire. I remember that they hey used to fire towards Long Meadow, about 200 yards away. In order to make sure that no one got hurt, a man used to stand in the field with two flags. If the field was clear, he would wave a green flag. The guard would then fire, go down to collect the “shell” and fire it again. If there were dog walkers or the like in the area, the man would wave his red flag, and firing would be suspended. I remember they had a big exercise once, and had something like the inside of a Christmas cracker with which they made the bang noises. They were rushing about telling people to lie down dead in the street.

My dad had a friend called Jock who seemed able to get just about anything for dad when we ran low of things like tea.

My dad had a workshop with a treadle fret machine in. I remember a Czech soldier came round to see it, and made some beautiful items with it. In particular I remember he made a really intricate cigarette box, with drawers that came up when the lid opened.

I also remember that there was a Prisoner of War camp up the coast at the place where they later filmed “Hi di Hi”. The German prisoners there used to be marched up through the town to the Church for services. There were only a couple of Home Guard troops guarding them all on the way. One Christmas they made a beautiful crib for the service. It all got stopped though; I suppose that someone worried about the security!

There was one time when we got hold of some old fuel tanks; they must have been about six foot long. We cut a hole in the top, and put some concrete in the base. We then scrambled and clambered our way through the coastal defences, and went canoeing along the beach!

Just up the road from us was a garage. During the raids, we used to hide in the maintenance pits, and pull a wooden cover over us. In hindsight, hiding near so much petrol probably wasn’t the best idea in the world.

One final thing I remember was standing with my dad and the garage owner, and watching a doodlebug fly over Harwich. The engines cut out when it got over us, and it ended up in field near Little Oakley.

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