The Home Guard is often characterised as being poorly equipped and fairly amateur in nature. Whilst there were shades of this in the early days, within very short order the men of most units had weapons and a set of equipment that, if not up to frontline infantry standard, was at least practical and useful for the roles envisaged for these men. The home guard was expected to fight mostly in the local area around their homes, as such they would not need to carry as much equipment as a regular soldier, with just the basics to allow them to survive for 24 hours in the field. This month’s impression depicts a member of the home guard on exercise with a full set of equipment and rifle:
This soldier is a member of the Wyke Home guard, a small village outside Bradford, and as such he has the letters WR for West Riding and the unit number of ‘2’ on the sleeve of his battledress blouse, together with a shoulder title reading ‘Home Guard’ he is equipped with a P14 rifle. Although less common in the Home Guard than the P17, the .303 version of this World War One rifle was widely used by many second line units such as the Royal Navy, RAF and the Home Guard. Although seen by many at the time as an obsolete weapon, it was in fact of a more modern design that the SMLE service rifle in service with the Army at the time and was arguably a superior weapon due to its smooth action and aperture rear sight.
The equipment worn consists of two of the squarish webbing pouches issued exclusively to the home guard. These are worn on a leather 1903 pattern belt, with a webbing sleeve which has two angled buckles slid on to sit at the back. This allows a pair of 1937 pattern straps to be attached to create a complete set. The bayonet is carried in a leather 1939 pattern frog, again just slid onto the belt. The water bottle is carried in a leather ‘general service’ cradle slung over the shoulder, with the respirator in a Mk V haversack slung over the other. The home guard haversack is a canvas back on a shoulder strap, but it can be worn high on the back like this by looping the shoulder strap under the armpits and around the back- it is not the most stable method of carriage in the world and if there is any weight in the haversack it would be very uncomfortable. Luckily most Home Guard haversacks would have carried little more than a cardigan, spare socks and a few rations. Headgear is the same Mk II steel helmet used by all the armed forces at this period. The equipment is rounded out by a pair of leather anklets worn over the ammunition boots, these are in a dark brown in contrast to the black of the boots.