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15 October 2014
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Dads’ Army’s Minders!

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Patricia Brown
Location of story: 
Grantham, Lincolnshire
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
21 September 2005

This contribution to People’s War was received by the Action Desk at BBC Radio Cleveland and submitted to the website by Jane Tombling, with the permission and on behalf of Patricia Brown.

When I left school at 16 I began working for firm of solicitors as a clerk; replacing a man who had been called up. One of the firm’s clients’ was the local munitions factory (British Marco) and it was one of their Managers who as a Major in the Home Guard invited me to join their Intelligence Section which was based at the Old Barracks in Grantham. This in fact was the base for the county’s Home Guard including their Intelligence Unit of which I became part. There were 12 of us, all women except for one — he was an unfit young farmer — ineligible for the armed services.

We all had to sign the Official Secrets Act and were issued with maps, a lot of information which would have enabled us, should the situation ever have arisen to identify German Forces insignia, regiments and platoons; enemy aircraft and any other information we needed should we have been called upon to interrogate Prisoners of War. All the equipment and literature that we were issued with had to be kept under lock and key at home and could be mentioned to no one. We learnt to map read and read a situation - such as where enemy parachutists had been landed - and deploy the armed Home Guard via the Signals Unit which was manned mostly by women, they were also based at Grantham Barracks. Our area of coverage was approximately a 20 mile radius of Grantham.

An important part of the work we were trained to undertake, should the need have ever arisen, was the interrogation of the enemy should they be captured by the Home Guard. It would have been at such a time when our knowledge of German ranks would have come into their own as obviously the only information they were at liberty to pass on was “Name, Rank & Number”.

One thing which held us apart from the Home Guard or indeed any other part of the allied forces was that with the exception of the sole male in our team of a dozen in the Intelligence Unit no uniforms were issued to we women! Instead the eleven women of which I was one, were issued with badges which were made to resemble wood bearing the initials HG. We felt it belittled our roles and reduced our authority somewhat indeed the only HG badges issued were those given to women — the men all had their uniforms which held them apart from other civilians.

Just before the end of the war in 1945 the message came through that after all that time, (I had spent three years as part of the Home Guard Intelligence Unit) we women were to be issued with uniforms. Imagine our disappointment when the much desired uniforms failed to materialise because the end of the war in Europe heralded the disbanding of the Home Guard!!

To celebrate the Home Guard’s disbandment, Grantham held a march past the Mayor but we eleven women were not allowed to participate as we had no uniform in which to march!! Instead a piece of pavement was roped off for we women of the Home Guard to stand in. We decided unanimously to boycott it and left the space empty. Not being there, I never knew whether our male colleague marched and offered his salute to the Mayor of Grantham.

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