One of Churchill’s first acts as Prime Minister was the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers (later the Home Guard). Its original purpose was to defeat enemy parachutists and ‘fifth columnists. At first the Home Guard lacked guns and sometimes uniforms. After Dunkirk the threat of invasion saw the Home Guard involved in anti-invasion measures: taking down signposts and railway signs and removing other evidence of place names to confuse invaders.
Along with battalions of the regular army the Home Guard was part of the three lines of defence around London in the event of invasion , the second of which went through Enfield. Each line was to be defended to the last man.
Locally an appeal for volunteers brought a good response. The volunteers were assigned to six battalions the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th of the Middlesex Home Guard. Their first job was to provide protection for waterworks, gas and electricity installations, factories and other important sites. They controlled road junctions at Edmonton Green, Angel Road Viaduct and Picketts Lock.
Later in the war Home Guard members helped man anti-aircraft guns and joined Civil Defence rescue teams.
The image of the Home Guard forever fixed in the public mind is that of ‘Dad’s Army’ with the pompous Captain Mainwaring and the ‘stupid boy ‘ Pike and the bunch of doddery old men who made up the rest of the Walmington on Sea company. The reality was not always too far from the fiction. The original officers in the Home Guard were often the old, retired officer class still fighting the Great War. Men were trained in traditional drill and trench warfare rather than the guerilla tactics that would have been needed in the event of an invasion. Some younger men who had fought in the Spanish Civil War were turned down as being politically suspect.
This changed as the war continued. Younger officers with more current ideas on warfare were appointed and training became more realistic with mock battles being held in bombed out parts of the capital.
The Home Guard was officially stood down in November 1944. Final parades were held a few weeks later when the men marched past their commanding officers for the last time.