The Home Guard

The National Picture

On 14 May 1940 Sir Anthony Eden who was Secretary of State for War made a broadcast appealing for men to join a new home defence force.

The new force was initially named the Local Defence Force but Winston Churchill is reported to have felt that the name was not dynamic enough and the force were soon known as the Home Guard.

Volunteers were accepted from men who were either too young / too old to join the armed services or who were in reserved occupations. The age limits set were 17 to 65 although I practice many of the volunteers were younger or older.

Whilst most men were inexperienced there was a sprinkling of older men with experience of fighting in the first world war. This group of men tended to provide the bulk of the Officers and NCO's although clergymen and other people with leadership experience often assumed command.

What did Eastern Essex Do?

Eastern Essex was in the frontline as one of the three potential landing zones in the event of an invasion and Essex People rallied to the call to volunteer.

This area was covered by the Crouch Section of the 2nd Essex Brigade of Home Guard under the command of Captain Bright.

The structure of the Home Guard divided Essex into companies and then into platoons.

The Platoon Commander was the equivalent of a Lieutenant in the services.

The Section Commander was the equivalent of a Sergeant.

The Squad Commander was the equivalent of a Corporal

The local structure is listed below

No 4 Platoon - Commander Lt G B Booth

Althorne Section Commander Lt H  Slade DSO MC

Sections at

Burnham on Crouch  and  Althorne  

No 5 Platoon - Commander J B Herbert MC

Sections at Southminster, Dengie/Asheldham and Tillingham

No 6 Platoon - Commander Sgt J Parker

Deputy  Sgt J Watts

Sections at Bradwell on Sea,St Lawrence, Steeple and Mayland

No 7 Platoon - Commander Lt Bowen

Sections at Purleigh, Cold Norton, North Fambridge, Latchingdon and Mundon


 Crouch Patrol

Commander Major R A Howell

Deputy Captain H Sabiston

Base- Battle HQ 31 High Street, Burnham on Crouch

The Crouch patrol was unique to the Home Guard in that Home Guard troops were actually based in the River.

There was a worry that seaplane borne troops may land on the Crouch as pat of a general landing. The Home guard commandeered some private yachts which were fitted with machine guns and moored at various points in the River Crouch. They were manned on a 24 hour basis by members of the Crouch patrol until the middle of 1941 when the responsibility was undertaken by the RASC Motor Boat Section.

3 Boats were stationed at Fambridge , 2 Boats at Bridgemarsh Island and Three at Burnham on Crouch.

The men involved in the Home Guard were a mixture of experienced former servicemen who were too old to serve in the war, young men under 18 years of age and people in reserved occupations.

Examples of this in practice were Captain Bright who had a distinguished record in World War 1 and there were no fewer than two MC holders on his staff whilst the Section Commander at Purleigh was the local vicar - Rev J P Smith

Each Section was further divided into Groups that would have one leader and about 5 men.

The instruction was that the men would patrol in pairs and one of which would have a cycle. In the event of seeing paratroopers or enemy troops the patrol with a cycle would ride to the nearest telephone and raise the alert by contacting his section leader or other suitable person.

Initially the Home Guard was armed with locally available weapons but they quickly were issued with arms although normally these were old stock that the regular armed service did not require.

In most cases the standard arm was a service rifle although in this area some Home guards were trained in the use of machine guns, sticky bombs and anti tank guns.

The most popular post in the district was at Bradwell was a cafe at Bradwell Waterside that was warm in winter with toilet facilities and a ready supply of tea.