Britain's Home Guard

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Episode 6 of 20

Duration: 29 minutes

Melvyn Bragg, accompanied by a vintage mobile cinema, travels across the country, to show incredible footage preserved by the British Film Institute and other national and regional film archives, to tell the history of modern Britain.

This episode comes from at Osterley Park in Middlesex, the site of the first Home Guard training school, to look back to the Second World War and a time when millions of ordinary men were prepared to die for their country.

Home Guard recruit Robert Brown comes face to face with his father as a Home Guard Company Commander; Dad's Army creator Jimmy Perry explains why he signed up to the Home Guard; and Ken Chambers shares us his own extraordinary stories from his time in the Home Guard, some of which could have been taken straight from Dad's Army.

  • Key films for Britain's Home Guard

    Key films for Britain's Home Guard

    The BFI has a series of great films related to this episode which you can view on their Reel History website by clicking the link below.

    Britain's Home Guard - BFI episode page
  • My dad, the Home Guard company commander

    My dad, the Home Guard company commander

    Robert Brown joined us to talk about his father George, who was the Company Commander of the Thornton Home Guard. Major George Brown is fourth from the left in the front row of this picture.

    Robert was able to see his dad in action because the Thornton Home Guard featured in a film that was shown in the cinema, which is held by the Yorkshire Film Archive.

    Robert tells Melvyn that the experience of seeing his father alive and well in the film was emotional and brought back some very happy memories. Robert also saw himself and his brother James in the film.

    View the Thornton Home Guard film on the Yorkshire Film Archive website
  • The diary of a Home Guard volunteer

    The diary of a Home Guard volunteer

    This is an extract taken from the diary of Ken Chambers who joined the Home Guard at the age of 17 in 1940. He was an office boy but he was determined to do his bit.

    On one of his first nights guarding a local reservoir he mistook members of the regular army for invading Germans and shot at them.

    Thankfully he was not a great marksman and no one was injured.

  • The real Dad's Army by the creator of the classic comedy

    The real Dad's Army by the creator of the classic comedy

    One of the creators of Dad's Army, Jimmy Perry, joined Melvyn. The picture here is of Jimmy in his Home Guard uniform.

    Jimmy joined the Home Guard aged 16. He wanted to stop the Germans and his mother told him that if they invaded his father could end up in a concentration camp.

    When he joined, veterans of World War One taught him and he absolutely loved it.

    Jimmy says that the work they did was very dangerous and that the Home Guard soon became an efficient guerrilla organisation - nothing like his famous television series.

    Dad's Army on the BBC comedy guide
  • Joining the Home Guard at just 14

    Joining the Home Guard at just 14

    Former vice-chairman of the Conservative Party Sir James Spicer joined the Home Guard when he was just 14. He is on the left in the picture which was taken in 1943.

    Sir James said that what was shown in our key film 'Procedures in the event of enemy attack’ was a real possibility.

    Sir James says that he knew he had a job to do, he was ready to do it and he was ready to die if he had to, even at such a young age.

  • Increased responsibility for the Home Guard

    Increased responsibility for the Home Guard

    Bill Horn was trained in heavy weaponry as more Home Guard members used this equipment to free up regular Army soldiers to fight on the frontline.

    Large numbers of the Home Guard were trained to defend our coastlines at all costs.

    Bill said that he joined the Home Guard to fight for the future and there would be no future if an invasion had taken place.

    Bill says the films he saw in he cinema transported him back to June 1940.

  • What happens if the enemy attacks?

    What happens if the enemy attacks?

    One of the key films we use in this episode is called 'Procedures in the Event of an Enemy Attack'.

    It is believed it was produced in 1941, and shows drills in a fictional town called Onebridge that the Home Guard were trained in, and what they should do if the Germans invaded.

    The film is held by Screen Archive South East.

    Moving History: 'Procedures in the Event of an Enemy Attack'

Credits

Presenter
Melvyn Bragg
Participant
Jimmy Perry
Series Producer
Dympna Jackson
Executive Producer
Ruth Pitt

Broadcasts

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