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15 October 2014
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I was in the Home Guard

by Barnsley Archives and Local Studies

Contributed by 
Barnsley Archives and Local Studies
People in story: 
Henry Arch
Location of story: 
Cudworth, Yorkshire
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 April 2005

"This story was submitted to the People's War site by the Barnsley Archives and Local Studies Department on behalf of Henry Arch and has been added to the site with his/her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions."
I joined the Home Guard in April 1943, I was asked to join the ARP, but I didn’t like getting up on buildings.

The Home Guard had to meet at the Pond School Major Callahan was in charge. We were attached to the Yorks and Lancs. Everyone dressed as though in the regular army, we were expecting Britain to be invaded so it was just like the regular army. We did not have any guns.

We had to learn to detonate grenades with 4-second fuses, I was nervous but I did it. We did our training on rifles, sten guns and digging trenches at Grimethorpe on the fields as well as at the rifle ranges.

I worked in the pits from being 14 years of age. Lord Haw Haw broadcast that a pit with 7 chimneys was going to be bombed; Monckton was the only one in Yorkshire. I was working nights at the time. A plane came down at Brierley, we went up to see it on the bikes.

Near the end of the war we were told that we were going to have live gunfire practise in trenches at Grimethorpe, we couldn’t understand it, as it was so close to the end of the war. We trained with Sten guns for close fire.

I didn’t want to go into the Home Guard as we worked shifts, a lot of them long ones, but we got into it as it was so interesting. We did first aid, PE and had boxing tournaments.

We used to get paid for doing the Home Guard, 1/6 for a night shift and 1/- for a day duty. We had to go for 3 days on Home Guard duty. One bloke had to go to court for not attending duty. The Judge said £25 or one month in Armley Prison. He chose prison but he was only in one day and didn’t like it so telephone his mother to pay.

We once went walking round Barnsley with full gear on, it was a big parade for a Home Guard General. We had to carry No. 3 rifles. The next day I couldn’t straighten my arm for carrying it!

At one time we were put on standby as German ships got close to Scotland and they were firing. Everyone was on alert. Glad nothing happened as we had nothing until lease lend from America. That only happen after Pearl Harbour. We even got the soldiers and chocolate then.

Soldiers who had come back from Dunkirk were billeted in Cudworth, at St George’s Hall and the Village Hall.

I was born in Charles Street and lived there all my life until I came in here.

We all had to register at 18 in Royston. I started on nights, 7½ hours we had to work. During the war you could work as many hours overtime as you wanted.

On VE night in Charles Street we had a dance and a tea party. George Brooks had a radiogram and he brought it out into the street, everyone was out. At the pit everyone got a luxury box of food. There was bacon and allsorts in it, it was a godsend.

Everyone had ration books, it took 26 coupons for a suit and then it had to be 18” bottoms and single breast jackets. It was coupons for everything. It was hard times, coming home from work and not having proper food, even for 2 years after the war.

After the war Cudworth Industrial Football Team won the 1946 League, we never lost a match. We played Old Town United in the final; we played for 2 hours and couldn’t decide who had won so we shared the cup.

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