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15 October 2014
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Girls in the Home Guardicon for Recommended story

by cambslibs

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Freda Radford nee Thurmott, Elizabeth Radford nee Juggins, Nacy Murden nee Ratcliffe, Daphne Sobus nee Ratcliffe
Location of story: 
St. Ives, Huntingdonshire
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 May 2005

Officially, there were never any women in the Home Guard. The Home Guard was formed to resist enemy invasion and in line with the Government and militatry policy, women were not allowed in 'front line' or combat duties. It was already felt that there were enough voluntary organisations that women could join, including Women's Voluntary Services and Civil Defence. Even though they were not supposed to do so, some units decided to allow women to do administrative duties within their unit.
Later it was felt that there was a need in some situations for women to assist members of the Home Guard. In 1942 the Women's Home Guard Auxilliaries were formed, and women were able to work with the Home Guard. The only uniform that they were supplied with was a bakelite brooch about two inches in diameter with the initials H.G. on it. The Headquarters of the Intelligence Section of the 2nd Battallion of Huntingdonshire were in St Ives. The leaders were Colonel Wilson, Captain Green, Lieutenant Hill and Sergeant Ratcliffe; the latter organised a group of girls including his two daughters, to undertake communications duties. One member still has her badge.
We dealt with telephone and wireless equipment from about1942-1944 and we were based in Colonel Wilson's house. We took part in night time exercise.Seeing well respected business men from the town, crawling along ditches, in camouflage with blackened faces, was disconcerting. One member recalls crawling in the meadows with a radio on her back, and getting such a fright, when she crawled up against a cow lying down. We were told that if the enemy came we had to destroy all papers at Headquarters, and retreat over the bridge, which would be blown up. There was no order in place to go another way if necessary.
We used to drill every so often. One member of the team dealt with correspondence for Captain Green and took out of date codes ,home, to be burnt.
We met and worked in office premises in the town : on one occasion being sent to different parts of the building to practise sending messages to one another. We were all about seventeen years old so we whiled away the time sending messages, chatting about our lives and the films we had seen. This was picked up by Wyton Aerodrome ( about 3 miles away) who thought the messages were sent, in code, by enemy agents. We were very severely reprimanded.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were, perhaps, too young to appreciate the full significance of how serious the situation was for our country.
We have not been able to contact other members of the group.
Nancy Murden nee Radcliffe, now living in St Ives
Daphne Sobus nee Ratcliffe, now living in St Ives
Elizabeth Radford nee Juggins, now living in New Zealand
Freda Radford nee Thurmott, now living in Inverness

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