Thursday, August 07, 2008



Keen fans of the television series “Dad’s Army” enjoyed a bumper weekend of viewing, celebrating 40 years since the series was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Who could have imagined such a topic as the Home Guard could still make people laugh after so many years.

Although the story lines delivered by the well known actors were funny, those who actually served in World War II’s real Dad’s Army - or Home Guard as it was known - can tell you that there was indeed an humour and poignancy of reality (and often humour) running through each story-line.

The BBC television programmes ran between 1968 and 1977, logging up 80 episodes in total, plus a radio series, feature film and a stage show. The series regularly gained audiences of 18 million viewers during the 1970s.

For those who don’t know, the British Home Guard usually consisted of local volunteers who, because of being too old for military service or younger members already in reserved occupations, were ineligible for military service. Dad’s Army starred several veterans of British film, television and stage, including Arthur Lowe (1915–82) John Le Messurier (1912–83), Arnold Ridley 1896–1984) and John Laurie (1897–1980). Relative youngsters in the regular cast were Ian Lavender and Clive Dunn, both of whom took part in the recent celebrations.

Throughout Britain, Home Guard units proliferated and the late Mrs Phyl Baker was more than generous in contributing photographs and recollections of Brentwood’s Home Guard wartime memories to local authors and journalists. She commented:

“We were living in Brentwood during the war and my husband Jack was working for Marconi in Chelmsford at the time. The firm turned all their energies and manpower into manufacturing for the war effort. Jack joined the local Home Guard up at South Weald and after a full day’s work, came home, changed, had a quick supper and was off again to attend to his Home Guard duties.

“This picture shows them all with proper uniforms and rifles but in the beginning they had very little military equipment – it was really make do and mend with odd pieces of uniform and supplies. They had perpetual drilling, grenade and gun training. They were called out when Brentwood was bombed and often had to guard anti-aircraft sites, turn up at local military bases and were called upon to provide support to the regular soldiers.

“So, although the Home Guard boys weren’t on active fighting duty overseas, they worked very hard in their own villages. They often help supervise some of the prisoner-of-war camps that existed around Brentwood and HGs were greatly valued for their contribution throughout the duration of the war.”