Home Service 1939 - 1940

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The period from embodiment was a particularly busy one; existing men to be better kitted out, a significant number of new recruits to be absorbed, arrangements made for billeting and headquarters facilities and transport to be organised.

As can be seen from the War Diaries, the Battalions performed various duties in the context of; home security, protection of ammunition depots and deliveries, and guarding vulnerable points, while at the same time attempting to train men at various stages of military knowledge. The Militia, who had been first recruited nationally in June 1939, were allocated to the Brigade and were generally kept as separate Companies until their training was at a comparable level to the rest of the troops. Particular mention is made of them carrying out basic shooting classifications.

Although no specific mention is made of them, the Orderly Rooms and Quartermasters' Stores must have been very busy with the myriad administrative details to be handled as part of the business of setting up new units from scratch - here, in particular, is where the "old Soldiers" and retired Officers brought back to help in the task would have been most useful, with their additional role of guardians of the Regimental Esprit de Corps and Regimental traditions, which are such a part of the foundations of a British Army unit.

Investigations have been made, without a lot of success, as to why a guard was provided for some time at Windlestone Hall - which was a satellite Prisoner of War Camp to the installation at Harperley - Camp Number 93. It has not yet been possible to ascertain why such a Camp was needed so early in the War. While it eventually was used to house enemy Officers and, despite the denials of Government, German Red Cross Nurses it is not clear at all who the inmates, if any, were in September 1939. The file on the Camp at The National Archives at Kew was studied, but was of no assistance, with the correspondence being largely concerned with a much later stage of the War and with internees and their access to specialised courses.

The War Diaries spell out where the Battalions were based - largely using local Drill Halls as billets - and the Engineer Company War Diary gives a picture of the amount of building and improvement works which had to be undertaken to improve the habitability of the various premises.

Shooting practice and classifications took place largely at the Whitburn Ranges - as it was for the author during his service with the Northumbrian Volunteers in the early 1970s. Arguably, if you could produce a good score in the face of that chilly onshore wind you could do it anywhere!


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More Information

British Expeditionary Force April - June 1940
Defending against Invasion June - October 1940
Iceland Garrison October 1940 - December 1941
Home Service and Winter Warfare Training 1942 - 1943
Pre-Invasion Training 1943 - 1944
Normandy 1944