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Home Guard - notes

Coal Office ARP Post
Left: the coal office at Rushden Station

Boards across the doors (top) APR Post (below) Rushden Homeguard
Home Guard

Rushden Echo & Argus, 30th May 1941, transcribed by Kay Collins

Presentation—Mr. C. K. Woods, boot manufacturer, was the recipient of a case, containing a fountain pen and table cigarette lighter, presented by the members of No. 2 Platoon of the Rushden Home Guard “A” Company upon his retirement from the position of Platoon Commander. Mr. Woods, who is still a member of the Home Guard, was one of the first to join in Rushden and was given command of No. 2 Platoon, which he formed. During the last war he served in Mesopotamia from 1915-19, being mentioned in dispatches.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 18th July, 1941, transcribed by Gill Hollis

All They Got Was Armlets
Capt. Allebone on Early Trials of Home Guard

In a talk on the Home Guard at Tuesday’s meeting of the Rushden Rotary Club, Rotarian Arthur Allebone, J.P., C.C., Captain of the Rushden “E” Company, paid tributes to the loyal work of the men during the winter, when they were very short of equipment.

When the call was first made for Local Defence Volunteers, he said, the Government expected that about half-a-million men would volunteer, but when the force was built up there were about a million and a half men. This large number were without equipment and almost without organisation – all they got was armlets. When the name of the organisation was changed to “Home Guard” all these armbands were valueless.

At that time, in more vulnerable areas, farm workers laboured in the fields with old firearms and ammunition at hand. Then equipment began to dribble in – uniform which was too thin to wear on its own and too thick to wear over other clothes, and small quantities of rifles.

Winter Problem

The men had to be kept interested throughout the winter, and it was for this reason that a number of classes were evolved. The old soldiers did a great deal to keep the interest of the younger ones going.

There were few now who could not give a very reasonable account of themselves; many had proved this by a shooting match which was held recently. Every man down to a lance-corporal was capable of handling a unit of men who would deal very effectively with parachutists.

During the winter courses many men were given new confidence when they addressed sections on what they had learned. Some of them had never spoken before, and they had learned something very useful for leadership. They were worthy of the uniform they were wearing and of the job they were doing.

The meeting was held at the “Green Dragon,” Higham Ferrers. Rotarian O. L. Ash proposed a vote of thanks, and the chair was taken by the president, Rotarian J. J. Page.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 26th September 1941, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Still Doing His Bit
Rushden Home Guard a Burma Veteran

Rushden Home Guard B Company has as one of its volunteers seventy-five-year-old Mr. George Jolley, who has one of the best Service records in the country.

Mr Jolley
This portrait of Mr Jolley is taken from a group which shows him with veteran colleagues of his regiment.
Vol. Jolley, who lives at 68, Shirley-road, Rushden, served in the Burma campaign of 1889, in the South African War of 1900, and in the last war as Sergeant-Major of the Rushden “Gurkhas.”

He joined the Army “under age” when he was nineteen years old, and after training in Ireland went with the Devon Regt. to India, where he served about eight years, taking part in the Burma Campaign. He then left the Army and returned home, but when the Boer War broke out, being on the reserve, was called to help his country again. This was not enough for Mr. Jolley, however, and when that campaign was over he joined the Rushden Volunteers, predecessors to the Territorials. Our photograph shows him in the Volunteer uniform.

When the last war broke out Mr. Jolley was over age, but he put his military experience to good use by training the Home Defence Volunteers, and now he is on the headquarters staff of the Rushden Home Guard doing just a bit more for his country. He has three medals, among them the Burma Medal.

He went through all campaigns without being once wounded, although he says he has had many narrow escapes.

A native of Huntingdonshire, he came to Rushden after his period of regular service and was employed in the boot trade, working for Messrs. William Green and Son (Grenson), Ltd., until he retired six years ago. He has a wife and four children, among them a son who lost an arm in the last war.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 19th December, 1941, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Men Still Evading National Service
Lieut. Weale’s Criticism at Rushden
Home Guard Supper

There were still men in Rushden who were not facing up to the emergency, declared Lieut. A. F. Weale at a Home Guard supper in the Windmill Club. If they were going to win the war – as he was sure they would – they must have 100 per cent. enthusiasm.

“I shall not be satisfied,” Lieut. Weale added, “until I know that every man in this town who is capable of national service is doing it.”

The supper was for the 19th and 21st Platoons of “E” Company, and Lieut. A. H. Sargent presided.

In proposing “The Services” Flight-Lieut. A. H. Whitton, of the A.T.C., promised full co-operation between the junior airmen and the junior Home Guard section which is to be formed. The Army, he said, was giving a brilliant show in Libya.

Major Sir Rouse Boughton, who replied, said the Navy had had a nasty knock, but there was nothing like an angry British sailor, to say nothing of the Americans, and the Japs were going to know all about it. It was a great satisfaction to the men of the regular Army to know that when they were away they would leave behind them a well-equipped Home Guard.

County’s Best

The chairman proposed “The Commanding Officer,” and Lieut.-Col. V. H. Sykes, in reply, said he was hoping to produce the best battalion in the county – one to which they would be proud to belong.

Proposing a toast to the 19th and 21st Platoons, Lieut. A. J. Sturgess recalled the time when not a man boasted a cap and when the only thing they had to defend themselves with was the armband they wore.

Lieut. H. Clayton proposed “The Visitors” and Lieut. W. Edwards responded. The chairman thanked the caterers, club and entertainers, and Mr. A. E. Haddon, president of the Windmill Club, spoke in acknowledgment.

The principal artistes, Mr. C. Bunning (vocalist) Mr. Tom White (concertina), and Mr. Archie Tear (conjuror), were assisted by members of the Home Guard. Sergt. F. Robinson acted as M.C., and the general arrangements were made by D.R. A. J. H. Shortland and a committee.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 19th December, 1941, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Men Still Evading National Service
Lieut. Weale's Criticism at Rushden
Home Guard Supper

There were still men in Rushden who were not facing up to the emergency, declared Lieut. A. F. Weale at a Home Guard supper in the Windmill Club. If they were going to win the war - as he was sure they would - they must have 100 per cent. enthusiasm.

"I shall not be satisfied," Lieut. Weale added, "until I know that every man in this town who is capable of national service is doing it."

The supper was for the 19th and 21st Platoons of "E" Company, and Lieut. A. H. Sargent presided.
[click here a longer report]

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 26th December, 1941, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Rushden Home Guard Parade — Maj.-Gen. Sir John Brown Takes Salute

Rushden was privileged on Saturday afternoon to see the first full parade of the 8th Northamptonshire Battalion, Home Guard. Full use was made of the occasion, the battalion carrying out a recruiting march in the presence of Lieut.-General Sir John Brown, who took the salute as the men swung by to the music of a military band.

The considerable strength of the battalion was apparent when the companies lined up at Spencer Park. Lt.-Col. V. H. Sykes was in command, with Capt. and Adjt. H. W. Attley second in command. A band in khaki led the way, a popular chaplain beating the big drum, and halfway down the column the combined Rushden Town and Rushden Temperance Bands, under Bandmasters M. J. Roberts and T. Young, reinforced the music, several of their members wearing Home Guard uniform.

A route of about 1½ miles was chosen, the approach stage taking in Washbrook-road, Wellingborough-road, Church-street and High-street. At the foot of Station-approach the military band detached itself and took up position at the saluting base, where Sir John Brown, wearing mufti, was accompanied by several officers of the Home Guard.

Christmas shopping crowds had turned aside to watch the parade, and many more people were near the railway bridge to see the salute given in very good style. The battalion marched on to Higham Ferrers to make a stir in the borough and receive… (words missing)… by several officers of the Home Guard including the local Commander (Col. P. Lester Reid) and the Zone Staff Officer (Major T. C. Shillito).

Taking the salute
Maj.-Gen. Sir John Brown Taking the Salute from the Home Guard

Such a parade, with youngsters graduating for the modern Army marching among veterans of the last war, could not fail in its effect as a record of the times or in its appeal for universal action. It revealed less of the technique and equipment which in less than 18 months have brought the Home Guard into strong fighting order, but it displayed the spirit and discipline of the battalion in a manner which must have pleased all who watched or participated.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 7th August, 1942, transcribed by Gill Hollis

New Men for Home Guard - How They Joined Up at Rushden

Many men who have just signed along the dotted line are waiting to begin training in the Rushden Companies of the Home Guard. Though for various reasons they did not join in the days of voluntary service, they appear to have accepted their obligations quite cheerfully, and it is the intention of the Home Guard authorities to make them feel that there is no distinction of treatment between the old hands and the new.

An “Echo and Argus” representative was given the opportunity to see the reception of these recruits at the Rushden Drill Hall in Victoria-road. It was the fourth consecutive evening for enrolments on the new basis, and all the men reporting were between 32 and 37 years old. Passed on by the Ministry of Labour as being available for service, they had been given eight days’ notice either to present themselves or appeal on medical or other grounds. Their employers also had been notified.

Taking a Measure

Along one side of the large room were tables at which, with the assistance of Home Guard personnel, the arrivals filled up the official forms. At a top table the men were interviewed in pairs, and on the other side of the hall they were measured for uniforms, caps and boots. More than 20 officers, N.C.O.s and men staffed the establishment, and the whole business of reception was carried out quickly and well.

Busiest of all was the interviewing captain, with whom sat a lieutenant and a subaltern. The idea was to give the newcomers all necessary information – about the unit they would join, the three compulsory parades each week, when to call for uniform and when the first parade would be – to note their reactions, invite questions and deal with any points put forward.

Most of the men were of very good type physically and otherwise and gave the impression that they were already absorbing the military atmosphere. Many had neither question nor objection to raise, and when a case was put forward for an officer’s consideration it was usually in reference to long or awkward working hours.

Busy Workers

One man said he worked 64 hours a week; others for various reasons would find it difficult to parade at the hours which suited the majority. In such cases concessions were offered in the form of special times for parading.

A man who said he was liable to illness in winter weather was advised to mention his case at once if he felt any ill effects of his training. One spoke of his wife’s ill-health.

One refused to enrol, declaring that if there was any pay attached to it “it would be different.” This man was told firmly but politely that he need say no more. He will be referred back to the Ministry of Labour and may soon discover that he is in no position to please himself.

And so, taking the new step seriously but revealing an under-current of good humour by sundry mutual nods and winks, the file of men passed through. The officers were pleased. They had met some useful-looking men, and they believed they had given them the right sort of reception – one which would be the first step to general goodwill.

The Rushden Echo, 4th June, 1943, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Home Guard’s Anniversary
Rushden Sees Impressive March and Display
K.O. for “Tank”

Home Guards of the 8th N.N. Battalion brought the social side of the Rushden Area Wings for Victory Week to an inspiring conclusion on Saturday evening. Their march through Rushden and demonstration at the Hall Grounds was a deferred celebration of the Home Guard’s third anniversary and, like every other feature of the week’s programme, it captured the public imagination and response.

The B, E, and F Companies with stretcher-bearers, marching from Spencer Park, found that Rushden had taken an early tea in order to see them. The children had brought their flags out again, and almost the whole route was walled with people and brightened with colour. For the first time the battalion’s own band, supplied by G Company from the Wollaston district, appeared in the town to head the parade, which numbered 550 officers and men and earned general praise for smartness. Helmets were worn and emphasised what was proved in the subsequent display – that the battalion is indeed in fighting trim.

“People’s Army”

Thousands of people closed in behind the men and swarmed into the park, which was cut into two by a rope barrier, giving the Home Guard an ideal stretch of partly wooded rising ground in which to operate, and the public a wide front from which to observe.

The principal officers in attendance were Col. Fulton, Training Officer No. 3 Sector, and Lieut-Col. V. H. Sykes, officer commanding the battalion, with Major Cameron as representative of the U.S.A.

Major A. D. Denton was in charge of the demonstration, and Capt. Ronald Fox, the Liaison Officer (who has since left to take up a commission in the R.A.O.C.), supplied a facile and up-to-the-moment commentary through the microphone.

Capt. Fox promptly welcomed the public on behalf of Lieut.-Col. Sykes and other officers, and congratulated the Rushden area on its Wings Week success. Referring to the Home Guard’s anniversary, he said he was sure he could offer the people’s congratulations to the officers and men.

“The Home Guard is your army,” he said. “It is a very cheap army to maintain – its members are not paid; but quite a lot of money is spent on uniforms, ammunition and equipment.”

Varied Equipment

Home Guard 3rd anniversary
A few flashes by the Home Guard during the third anniversary celebration of the
well-trained 8th N.N. Battalion at Rushden Hall last Saturday.
The display consisted entirely of training with which the battalion is already familiar. There was no “window-dressing,” yet squads from the three companies held the crowd closely interested for an hour.

A battle platoon (about 30 strong) opened with elementary arms drill and cracked off a few rounds of rifle fire in close formation – a form of anti-aircraft action which has already been used by Home Guards in this country.

The second part of the display introduced the Home Guard weapons, and the public, though now familiar with the noises these produce, must have been surprised at the variety of the equipment. There were exercises with the Lewis light machine gun, the Browning heavy machine gun (which is brought into action in about 17 seconds), the Sten gun (which fired live ammunition, the range being short), and with Mills and anti-tank bombs fired from rifles.

A Heavy Mortar

Then came the “gas-pipe” projectors – breech-loading mortars which spat self-igniting phosphorus bombs over the turf. The spigot mortar, heaviest artillery of the Home Guard, and weighing 360 lb., fired practice bombs with reduced charges and to the crowd’s delight knocked out a distant target in the shape of a tank whose swastika emblem must have inspired the gunners to give of their best.

Hand bombs of the “sticky” type were used with equally convincing effect, and the display concluded amid noise and smoke with a tactical exercise in which a battle platoon, using natural cover and smoke screens, outflanked an “enemy” strong point.

A spontaneous round of applause rewarded the Home Guard at the close. Arms and ammunition were afterwards inspected by the public.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 29th September, 1944, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Home Guard Show Their Paces

  The Home Guard looked anything but dormant on Saturday when a large and widely-dispersed 8th Northamptonshire Battalion, commanded by Lt.-Col. V. H. Sykes, held a tournament at Rushden.

  Though the Battalion has had many competitive activities in the past, this was the first full-scale tournament, and in the keenness, efficiency and good humour of all taking part it appeared to sum up the painstaking and loyal work of the last few years.

  A fine arena was roped-out at the Intermediate School playing field and a few patriotic decorations brightened the scene.  Hundreds of men were competing and there were hundreds of spectators.  The succession of events was maintained without pause – often two or three were going on simultaneously – and the Battalion Band played at frequent intervals.

  Seven Companies were in rivalry, and a searching programme of twelve events confronted them.  The result was a triumph of consistency, because E Company, Rushden, under Major A. Allebone, though taking the championship quite easily with a total of 189½ points out of a possible 240, supplied the winning team in only one event – the first aid – whereas three events were won by C Company, Earls Barton.

Capable Cooks

  One surprise for the visitors was to see Home Guard cooks making jam rolls.  Working in teams of three, they mixed the ingredients on the spot, made fires in small brick ovens, and kept the pots going until the finished products were ready for inspection by Mrs. Hastings, head cook of the Rushden School Canteen, and Mrs. Headland, supervisor of the British Restaurant.

  One jam roll escaped from its cloth and was said to resemble a haggis, while the water in every pot underwent an inexplicable change of colour, but in spite of these misadventures Mrs. Headland was able to declare – “If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, they should all have a prize.”

  Marching by compass was one of the chief novelties.  The men were swathed in capes so that to all intents and purposes they were walking in darkness, with only a prismatic compass to guide them.  Bearings and distances were announced for the four stages of a journey which several men accomplished with a surprising degree of accuracy.

  Men loaded rifles blindfolded, threw dummy hand grenades, pitched tents, treated “casualties,” and ran about with guns and mortars.  The signallers ran out 100 yards of cable and sent messages by field telephone.  Smart battle and arms drills were seen, and the obstacle race involved scaling an awkwardly laden lorry, crawling under tarpaulin and netting, walking a plank and shinning along a pole.

The Winners

  Winning teams in the events counting towards the championship were as follows:-

first aid practice
First Aid practice
  Loading rifles blindfolded and throwing Mills hand grenades: C Company, Earls Barton (Sgt. Chambers, L/Cpl. Bates, L/Cpl. Vorley, Ptes A. Ward, Johnson, Bailey and James.)

  Tent pitching: G Company, Wollaston and Irchester (Cpl. Smith, Cpl. Cross, Ptes. Lovell, Wyant, Green and Rice).

  Miniature rifle range competition: D Company, Bozeat (L/Cpl. Edwards, Ptes. Pettit, B. Drage and R. Drage); 2nd prize medals B Company, Rushden (Sgt. Bailey, Cpl. Wright, Pte. Brown, Pte. Partridge).

  Squad battle drill: D Company, Bozeat (Sgt. Hunt, Cpl. Ellis, Ptes. S. Lovell, S. Swann, E. Stock, L. Taylor, E. Terril and Underwood).

  Squad arms drill and bayonet training: B Company, Rushden (Sgt. A. G. Allen, Ptes. T. B. Wright, H. S. Groom, F. W. Rice, W. Salisbury, F. G. Wagstaff and D. Townsend).

  Marching by compass: C Company, Earls Barton (Sgt. C. E. Jefferson and L/Cpl. W. Hooper).

  Squad obstacle crossing: A Company, Raunds (Cpl. Attley, l/Cpl. Gilbert, Ptes. Davis, Chapman, Conningham and Adams).

  First aid: E Company, Rushden (Cpl. White, L/Cpl Richardson, Ptes. Benford, Newell and Underwood).

  L.M.G. advanced handling: B Company, Rushden (L/Cpl. A. Mitchell, Ptes. Hirons and Martin).

  Cooks: F Company, Higham Ferrers (Ptes. C. Garratt, C. Thacker and Burditt).

  Signals: D Company, Bozeat (Sgt. H. E. Drage, Cpl. F. Smart and Pte. C. J. Drage).

  Spigot mortar: C Company, Earls Barton (Cpl. Sharp, Ptes. K. Arch, J. Wesley, C. Pell and C. Winsham).

  Companies won the following points in these events: E 189½, B 156, A 130, G 127½, C 125, D 124½, F 88½.

  A tug-of-war was won by A Company, Raunds (Lt. Farrington, Cpl. Attley, Cpl. Wright, L/Cpl. Gilbert, Pte. Conningham, Pte. Craddock, Sgt. Mayes, Pte. Chapman and Sgt. Parnwell).

  Best individual scores in the miniature rifle range competition were: 1 Pte. Drage (Bozeat), 2 Lt.-Col. V. H. Sykes, equal 3 Sgt. Parker, Cpl. Wright and Pte. Brown.

  The Battalion ambulance competition had been won in advance by E Company, with F Company second.

  Prizes in connection with a theoretical course for junior officers were taken by Lts. A. E. Barker, W. S. Coles, E. F. Crawford-Smith, J. P. Kay and W. J. Wells.

High Standard

  Presenting the fine array of prizes, the Sub-District Commander, Col. J. D. Wyatt, M.C., said the events of the day all went to show what a high standard of training the 8th Battalion had achieved and that during the last four years a great deal of hard work had been put in by all the Companies.  He congratulated Lt.-Col. Sykes and all others.

  “The biggest contribution,” he said, “that a fighting unit brings to the battlefield is the individual standard of skill at arms of all its members.  I am sure this Battalion has every right to be proud of the standard it has achieved.”

  Col. Wyatt, Col. Lester Reid (Zone Adviser), Col. Helps (Sector Commander) and all the judges were thanked by Lt.-Col. Sykes.


  A surprise followed when Lt.-Col. Sykes announced that some months ago at Irchester a man dropped a live grenade which in a very short space of time would have done a great amount of damage but for Company Sergeant-Major Bassett, who by skilful and very quick action obviated any loss of life or injury.

  C.S.M. Bassett was then called forward and received rounds of applause as Col. Wyatt presented him with the Army Certificate of Meritorious Service.

  The chief judges for the tournament were Col. R. P. A. Helps, O.B.E., M.C., Col. J. D. Fulton, D.S.O., M.C., and Lt.-Col. V. H. Sykes.  They were assisted by six of the Company Commanders, Majors Denton (B), Richardson (C), Pyrah (D), Allebone (E), Bletsoe (F), and Reynolds (G), with Major Davies, M.O., Capt. Gibbard, Capt. Warren, Lts. Wells, Webster, Rogers, Sargent and Allen.  C.S.M. Bassett, C.S.M. Falkenham, Sgt. Knight, Mrs. Hastings and Mrs. Headland.

  Major R. K. Green carried out social duties, Capt. F. W. Summerlin put over a very helpful microphone commentary, Capt. F. E. Brown was the recorder, and Capt. And Adjt. R. Whyte (Gordon Highlanders) played a leading part in the organising work, Major Horrell (A Company) was unavoidably absent.

  All the prizes were generously given by the Rushden and District Boot Manufacturers’ Association.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 24th November, 1944

Their Last Parade - Home Guards to March Through Rushden

  A parade to mark the standing-down of the 8th Northamptonshire Home Guard will be held at Rushden on Sunday morning, December 3rd.

  Col. Helps, as Sector Commander, will inspect the battalion in Spencer Park at 11.30 and may say a few words in appreciation of their service.  Then, with Lt.-Col. V. H. Sykes at the head, the battalion will march through High-street to Rushden Hall, giving a salute to Col. Helps en route – possibly at the War Memorial.

  Before dismissing his men at the Hall grounds Col. Sykes will give them a brief message of thanks.

General’s Thanks

  A message from General Anderson, G.O.C. Eastern Command and formerly Commander of the 1st Army in North Africa, was received by the officers of the 8th Northamptonshire Home Guard Battalion at their last social evening before the suspension of duty.

  Meeting for dinner at the Hind Hotel, Wellingborough, the officers had as guests Col. Sotheby, Col. Helps (Sector Commander) and Col. Fulton (Training Officer).   Lt.-General Sir John Brown, who had been invited, was kept away by another engagement.

  General Anderson’s message praised the battalion for a “magnificent” job through the difficult early years and in helping the invasion of Europe by making it possible for all regular troops to be employed.  The General added: “You and your battalion have earned the best thanks of the nation.  I am proud to have commanded you all.”

  Col. Sotheby proposed “The Battalion” and Col. Sykes (Commanding Officer) replied.  Major Green gave “The Guests” and Cols. Helps and Fulton responded.  The battalion’s own officers provided a musical entertainment.

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