Friends of Coughton Court were treated recently to a very entertaining and informative talk by Ray Sturdy about "The Real Dad’s Army".
Ray began by giving the background to the formation of the civilian Force. He said that the reason for Dad’s Army was Hitler, who was told by HM Government that if Poland were invaded, we would react.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to meet Hitler and came home believing that it was going to be “Peace in our time”. We all know what happened next and in September 1939 we found ourselves once again at war with Germany.
Our expeditionary force was driven back to the beaches of Dunkirk. 334,000 men waited there to be rescued by a flotilla of “little ships”.
Great Britain stood alone whilst the Germans looked across the Channel planning their invasion, having decided already which of our Stately Homes would be allocated to members of their High Command. Interestingly, quarters for the Speaker of the House Commons were ear-marked for Coughton Court.
It seemed that we were defenceless, when Anthony Eden put out a call for men between the ages of 17 and 64 to come forward to join a force of Local Defence Volunteers or, as the comedians of the day soon christened them, “Look, Duck and Vanish”. Eden had hoped to get 250,000 volunteers. In fact 1.6 million responded to the call. They reported for duty in the evenings after a day’s work and at weekends to learn the basics of soldiering. If they were on duty at night, they were still expected to go to work the next morning. They improvised weapons using broom handles and kitchen knives and Molotov Cocktails, and were told to learn jiu-jitsu. They practised skirmishes against the regular army, sometimes out-performing them. Their first uniform was an armband and when real uniforms arrived they were all size Extra Extra Large!
After Churchill visited them and told them that they were an army and should be renamed the Home Guard and that he would be their Commander in Chief, recruitment shot up by another 300,000.
Ray’s talk was packed with lots of details of life for the general population and for the Home Guard in particular, especially of their efforts during the Blitz.
Many of the audience had experience of fathers in the Home Guard and there was a lively question and reminiscence session after Ray’s talk which could have gone on for hours. It was a very enjoyable evening.
The Friends meet on the third Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm in the restaurant of Coughton Court. For further details see the website: friendsofcoughtoncourt.btck.co.uk