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Home Guards

by rayleighlibrary

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Arthur Brady
Location of story: 
Woolwich London
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 October 2004

Home Guards

Everyone knows about the funny side of the Home Guard through watching episodes of ‘Dad’s Army’ which have been shown from time to time on the BBC T.V. Although these volunteers were considered to be comical, some of whom were too young or too old to enlist in the ‘proper army, they were all intentioned, often well trained, once the equipment was available, and really keen. I’m not sure that today’s youth would be as committed as these would-be soldiers were at that time.

My two friends, Charlie Buss and Pete Morley, both aged 17 joined the home guard when we worked together at Siemens Brothers in Woolwich. I was waiting to enter the Royal Navy as I told in another story in this series of World War 2 memories. At weekends the raining became more serious and my mates were in a patrol trying to break into Woolwich Arsenal, thereby testing out the capabilities of their own Home Guard army who would be defending the factory.

The Woolwich Arsenal wall had an extremely high wall all along its perimeter. This was some 20 feet high and was topped with barbed wire. It was formidable! The main gate was enormous and it had been in place since 1820. Other gates, known as the second, third etc. were not quite so big although all of them would have kept most marauders out.

My colleague, Charlie Buss, being a Corporal, was bringing up the rear of the file of Home Guards when they went Indian file fashion past the main gate. When he was almost past it, it opened and an arm came out and quietly pulled him in. The gate closed and the rest of the patrol proceeded with one man, their Corporal short.

This was described to me on Monday morning when Charlie returned to work. He could see the funny side of it and he went on to say that even though, technically he was a prisoner, the Arsenal crew were good to him taking him to the canteen for a meal.

I recounted this tale to my brother, who was ten years, my senior, when I got home from work. It became even more humorous when my brother, who was a member of the Arsenal home Guard, told me that it was he who had yanked Charlie through the gate and supplied his dinner at the canteen.

On another occasion, because the outside Home Guard couldn’t invade the Arsenal, which covered a very large area down to the River Thames, the full-time regular Scots Guards were invited to try. Their plan was to board a barge in the river and land from that side as it had no wall to surmount. What they had overlooked was that the Arsenal possessed the world’s largest floating crane, magnetic grabs and all. The barge, being made of metal was an easy thing to lock on to by the crane when the occupants, still in the barge, was lifted bodily out of the water – another failed attempt!

Although they caused a lot of laughs, at that very serious time the men did a lot of useful work guarding the bridges, coasts etc. thereby relieving regular soldiers who were able to get on with the job of winning the war.

Submitted by
Arthur Brady

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