History of Lydd Home Guard

What with Trump posturing about nuclear armament and then Russia invading the Ukraine, the thought of an invasion from foreign troops has seemed more of a reality in the past few years than it has in decades. In this tense time, CommunityAd looks back at the history of the Lydd Home Guard.

 

The Second World War brought a lot of anxiety about a potential German invasion. Paranoia was rife about neighbours and friends turning out to be German spies and informants, and everyone was cautioned to be vigilant and on call to do their bit for their country in any way possible. In Romney Marsh this anxiety was heightened as any invasion was likely to target the Kent coast through its proximity to Europe, and Romney Marsh would have been a prime landing site for any invading German forces.

 

The government quickly worked to protect England as best it could, sanctioning the building of thousands of concrete pillboxes to help support the coastal defences and encouraging towns and villages to form their own defence squads, known as the Local Defence Volunteers. These volunteers were armed and trained to defend their homes and repel any potential invaders, but accounts vary wildly about the efficacy of these groups.

 

The LDV were later renamed the Home Guard, a moniker which instantly conjures up the antics and adventures of the British sitcom Dad’s Army, which follows the volunteers in the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea. The show helped perpetuate the image of old doddery men and callow youths prepared to defend their country with nothing more than broom handles and an official armband, and while there are some stories of the Home Guard using props that seem pulled straight from a scene in the most absurd of sitcoms – potatoes studded with razor blades, golf clubs, and pieces of piping – there are also accounts of the Home Guard as a well-oiled, incredibly professional machine with many of its members able-bodied and capable. There were plenty of men who were in “reserved occupations” which allowed them to avoid the draft and join the Home Guard instead.

 

The Home Guard was operational from 1940 to 1944. Romney Marsh’s Home Guard was made up of four platoons – Brenzett and Brookland, Dymchurch, Lydd, and New Romney. Together they formed part of No.1 Battalion, Kent Home Guard, which had its headquarters in Ashford.

 

The photo above, kindly provided by John Pearce, shows a section of the Lydd Home Guard in 1942. Back row left to right: Tom Stickells and unknown. Middle row; John Longford, Ron Smithers, Jim Noakes, Alf Manning, Ted Cooper, Bill Sims, Mick Broad, Ray Button, Nelson Batchelor. Front row: Cyril Reeves, George Cullen, Albert Flisher, Charlie Elderkin, Jack Pope, Reg Browning, Reg Adams.

by Alice Smales

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