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- Gerry Chester
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- 12 November 2003
Chapter One - Service with the Home Guard
It may be asked, "How possibly can service in the Home Guard be connected to that with the North Irish Horse?" A reasonable question but, if it hadn't happened, the writer's wearing the Cap Badge of the NIH would not have come to pass
After the fall of France, in 1940, the invasion of Britain by German forces became a distinct possibility. Responding to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill's stirring speech to "Fight on the Beaches etc." there came into being the L.D.V. (Local Defence Volunteers). Some months later, the name of the organisation was changed to that of the Home Guard. Unlike, as it was portrayed in the BBC's enjoyable Dad's Army, service by the volunteers was taken very seriously.
Initially little was available by way of equipment. Thus the early days saw men of all ages in civilian clothes, learning basic arms drill with wooden rifles. Slowly the shortage of equipment lessened. By the time I enrolled, in the autumn, even some uniform items had become available including forage caps, but without badges to wear on them.
The unit was based in St. Hilary's Church Hall, home of the 15th Wallasey Boy Scouts. (I was Scoutmaster of the troop for some years after war's end). Our duties consisted primarily of manning road blocks, looking for German parachutists from atop Church Towers, and drill, drill, drill. The latter took place in adjoining Harrison Park gifted several years earlier, by the Harrison shipping line owners.
Towards the end of the year, news came that Home Guard units would be affiliated with a regular Army Regiment, that of the county in which they were located. As Wallasey was then in the county, Cheshire Regiment cap badges were issued, being the first of the five worn by this writer during WW II.
The Cheshire Regiment, a regular battalion, was raised in 1689 and, as the Duke of Norfolk's Regiment a volunteer battalion, the 22nd Foot in 1751. It has earned an impressive number of Battle Honours, commencing as far back as the Seven Years War. The Castle, Chester, is home to the Regiment.
1942 saw the giving of, albeit modest, subsistance allowances and deliveries of more and more equipment, early May seeing the arrival of a single Bren gun. Later in the month I was ordered, along with three others, to go the HQ of the South-West Lancashire Regiment, near Warrington, for one week of infantry training. While there. I learnt three things. How to strip and reassemble a Bren gun. That one does not salute Regimental Sgt. Majors. My previously held desire, to join an infantry unit, no longer existed.
By September it became obvious, to avoid any chance of being conscripted as a foot soldier, I must volunteer. At the Recruiting Depot in Liverpool, enticed by a poster of a black-bereted soldier, I signed up. Thus the first phase, unknowingly taken towards service with the North Irish Horse, came to an end.
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