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The History Group

Leader:  Jane Harris - history@ashbyu3a.co.uk - phone 01530 838025

Any U3A member is welcome at our meetings.

All meetings with speakers will be held at Packington Memorial Hall.
Doors open for Packington meetings at 2pm, with a start as soon as possible after that, hopefully by 2.10pm.

Details of visits will be advised closer to the time.
The following dates have been arranged, but may be subject to changes which will be announced on a rolling monthly basis.

Future programme
DateTimeVenueSpeaker & SubjectDetails

Thu 26th MayTBANewstead Abbey.Self drive visit. Note date change. Details to follow
Thu 23rd Jun2:15 pmPackington Village Hall.Mark Pacey -'Family History'
Wed 27th JulTBABerkeley Castle.Coach trip. Note date change. Details to follow
Thu 25th Aug2:15 pmPackington Village Hall.Dr Ian Hambling - 'Cornishware'
Thu 22nd Sep2:15 pmBosworth Fields.Self drive visit. Details to follow
Thu 27th Oct2:15 pmPackington Village Hall.Yogi Godwin - 'Victorian values and enlightenment'
Thu 24th Nov2:15 pmPackington Village Hall.David Oakley - 'Green grow the lilacs'

Thursday 28th April. Dad’s Army by Jed Jaggard

27 attendees. Jed gave an enthralling canter through the origins and development of the Home Guard, with some very interesting exhibits for us to handle.

The origins of a national defence force, raised from local populations, can be found in the raising of various militia or yeomanry regiments on a local basis, often for the purpose of maintaining public order. The Trained Bands of Elizabethan times seem to be the first of this type of force to be organised on a national scale. This was formalised in 1908 with the creation of the Territorial Force, as the U.K's. reinforcements for the Army in times of crisis.

However, as these were men of an age and fitness group that could be ordered overseas for combat, the idea was transformed in the run up to WWII to make use of those who were not suitable for combat to act as a sort of local volunteer force to help the authorities in the event of localised incursions. It was thought that, with the springing up of local, independently organised, vigilante style groups sometimes armed with shotguns and other weapons, things could quickly get out of hand. So a general call went out for men to join a nationally organised force. Initially the authorities thought they might get up to 10,000 volunteers. They got 250,000!

This quicky evolved into the Local Defence Volunteers, and it was seen increasingly that they should be equipped to put up a fight of sorts in the event of an actual invasion, and possible occupation. The average age of these turned out to be 36, with the oldest 86.

As the War developed, so the LDV (soon to become The Home Guard) was equipped with better and better kit. Many and varied were the actual resources, from local boating clubs acting as water born patrols (advancing on the enemy at 4 mph!) to roller skates and knives taped to broom handles.

But they eventually received standard army weapons and books on how to kill invaders. Some units, made up of ex-Regular soldiers, were even readied to go into bunkers in the event of invasion and pop up behind an advancing army. These were in some ways the forerunners of the Commando units. Jed outlined for us one spectacular commando raid during the War on St Nazaire. It earned the Commandos 5 VC’s, but the cost was enormous, losing 179 dead out of 612, with 215 captured.

Jed handed round examples of weaponry, such as a Lee-Enfield rifle, a Tommy gun and a Sten gun, with hand grenades, booklets and photos, and badges from various units. These latter included women in the later stages of the War.

The Home Guard was stood down in 1944, and every member received a special letter from the King, and two medals.

One questioner asked whether there had been any assessment of what would happen in the event of an invasion. War-gaming suggests that the Germans would have got no further than a line roughly from Bristol to the Wash, as the Royal Navy was still functional, and they could not be resupplied.

One wonders.

A really entertaining and informative talk on a piece of history that just touches on our own generation but is history for those who come after us.

Earlier history meeting