The 1939 pattern leather equipment set has always interested me, but it was only this week that I finally picked up my first piece, a 1939 pattern bayonet frog. The 1939 pattern leather equipment set was designed in a weekend at the start of World War Two when it was realised that, as in the Great War, there was insufficient cotton webbing production capacity to meet the country’s need but surplus capacity in the leather industry. The 1939 pattern set is a virtual copy of the 1937 pattern webbing set, but in leather. As can be seen the bayonet frog is identical in design to its webbing equivalent, with only a few minor changes to accommodate the manufacture in a thicker and less flexible material:The two loops that retain the scabbard stud are the same as on the webbing frog:However instead of being sewn to the rest of the frog they are secured by eight brass hose rivets:The top loop to prevent the handle of the bayonet from moving around is again replicated in leather:These frogs were one of the most used elements of the 1939 pattern set as they were adopted by the Home Guard for use with their bayonets. As the Home Guard was heavily equipped with American P17 rifles, the American bayonet and scabbard were frequently placed in the frog. However as the American design lacked a frog stud they were held in purely by friction and were far less secure than when used with English bayonets! Here a Home Guardsman can be seen clearly wearing a bayonet in a frog, the stiffness of which suggests it is the leather 1939 pattern example:
By the summer of 1944, following the Normandy Landings, it was clear that the threat of invasion to the British Isles was over. With the danger now over, and with rapidly escalating costs of conducting the war, the War office quickly moved to disband the Home Guard. Whilst there was discussion in the press at the time about the award of a dedicated medal to members of the Home Guard, the government settled for the simpler (and cheaper) option of issuing them with a certificate in recognition of their service. The debate in the House of Commons explained who was eligible for the certificate:
Sir Douglas Hacking asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is his intention to have issued to each member of the Home Guard on disbandment a certificate similar to those issued to the Army after the last war.
Sir J. Grigg: As my right hon. Friend will have seen from the newspapers, His Majesty The King has graciously signified his wish that a certificate signed by His Majesty should be issued to all serving members of the Home Guard and to ex-members who apply for it. Issue of these certificates to Territorial Army Associations will commence shortly.
Dr. Edith Summerskill: Will women be open to receive these certificates?
Sir J. Grigg: I do not think they are members of the Home Guard, but I would rather like notice of that Question.
The certificate is a piece of pre-printed foolscap with the Home Guardsman’s name and details of service typed on:This example is for a Ralph Tegg who served from 9th July 1940 to 31st December 1944. Units received blank certificates from the War Office with instructions to type on first and last names, without rank, and dates of service and then hand them out in OHMS envelopes to save postage. As might be expected, these instructions were not always followed to the letter and hand written examples and certificates with ranks on are not uncommon. The back of the certificate has a stamp indicating that his length of service had been checked and agreed on the 10th February 1945:A number of parades were organised at the stand down to pay tribute to the contribution of the Home Guard, this report on a large parade in London comes from the Daily Mail:Joe Carley took part in the parade in Manchester:
At the Gorton Town Hall, we met many old colleagues and after steel helmets had been issued we boarded special double-decker buses which took us to the region of Central Station and we joined hundreds of Home Guards who were lined up in three ranks in a street called, I think, Windmill Street. We had an extremely long and boring wait in drab surroundings under a persistent, and at times heavy, fall of rain……this was the end. No more training, no more lectures, no more demonstrations, no more Sunday morning parades, no more manning, guards, piquets or patrols, no more manoeuvres, weapon training or drills – it was all at an end as far as we were concerned.”
“Eventually we were called to attention, orders were barked, the band struck up and we moved out into Peter Street, then marching via Mount Street, Albert Square, Cross Street, King Street, Spring Gardens, Charlotte Street, George Street and thus past the saluting base on the blitzed site. Immediately following the band, were a number of officers in a compact phalanx followed by the Home Guards (A.A. Section) marching in sixes. I was on the extreme outer edge of my particular line. On the command ‘eyes left’ ….I realised the fact that the lines were not, I am afraid, as straight as they might be – I noticed a few ‘bulges’ here and there.”
“We then passed along Market Street, where to my surprise, part of the parade turned along High Street, Cannon Street, Deansgate to tack themselves on the rear of the columns which had proceeded directly along Market Street. In spite of the earlier rain, there had been comparatively large crowds in the vicinity of the saluting base and at spots in the earlier part of the route, but as we proceeded along Deansgate on the final stages, there were but few people about, and they took little or no notice of the Home Guard Farewell, but sauntered the pavements, looked in shop windows etc. and only occasionally cast superficial glances in the direction of the representatives of England’s ‘cheap’ Army.”
Whilst the history of the Home Guard in World War Two is well known, what is often forgotten is that in the 1950s the Home Guard was reformed in December 1951 to provide a force to combat a predicted invasion of 20,000 Soviet paratroopers. The aim was to recruit 170,000 men in the first year, but in the end only 23,288 had joined by November 1952. The men were issued battledress, basic webbing and blue berets. They were armed with Lee-Enfield rifles, Sten, Bren and Vickers guns and PIAT and 2” mortars. Tonight we are looking at a rubber stamp from the offices of one of these new Home Guard companies:The stamp is made of brass, with a black painted wooden handle, on the front of the stamp is the crown and ‘S O’ mark of the Stationery Office:Amongst other duties, from 1822 onwards, all stationery orders for government departments were placed through the HMSO who placed large orders through tenders and open competition. The idea being to secure the best price possible for the Government, military and public services. The base of the stamp is made of rubber with an adjustable date:The range of dates in the stamp confirms it dates from after WW2 and thus to the reformation of the Home Guard. This stamp would originally have been used to mark any publications or passes issued by the unit and these oval stamps are commonly seen on period documents. Originally they were stamped most frequently with purple ink, however as I don’t have access to this black will have to suffice:As can be seen, this stamp was used by the Sale Company of the 1st Cheshire Home Guard Battalion. The post war Home Guard was very short lived, being fully disbanded in July 1957 so this is an unusual survivor.
In an era when all men wore lounge suits in civilian life, lapel badges were common ways of identifying one’s affiliations- military, political or social. The collecting of Home Front lapel badges is an area of militaria that is growing rapidly. Often made of bright enamel and looking as good as the day they were made, lapel badges do not take up much room and are a fascinating niche area. Sadly I have very few of these, but tonight we are looking at one example from my collection. The ‘HG’ or Home Guard lapel badge is a very common badge and consists of a blue oval with gold ‘HG’ letters, all surmounted by a King’s crown:The rear of the badge has a standard ‘half moon’ fitting to allow it to be passed through a button hole on a lapel:These badges seem to have been entirely unofficial, but the large numbers available suggests they were produced in quantity and I would imagine they would have been purchased by local Home Guard units for distribution to their men. The badges served a number of functions; they helped to identify members to one another out of uniform, helped foster a sense of camaraderie and showed others that they were not shirking their obligations in wartime.
The prices for wartime lapel badges vary greatly, badges like this one which are very common fetch a couple of pounds whilst rarer locally produced badges for a factory fireguard or a local initiative can fetch far more.
During the Second World War the Royal Navy used a variety of methods for acquiring enough suitable men to train as officers. Whilst initially successful, the rapid expansion of coastal forces and landing craft required ever greater numbers of junior officers and the force was competing with both the RAF and the Army for the best candidates. The Royal Navy recruited from public schools, yachtsmen, grammar school boys and even raised up men from the ratings. One pool of potential officers the navy wished to exploit were those Grammar School boys not yet old enough to join the navy, but willing to serve in the Home Guard or a cadet force until such time as they came of age. Sam Kilburn was one of these:
“…one day I saw a notice in the Post Office advertising a scheme called the Youth Entry scheme for joining the Navy. I immediately got the forms filled them in and sent them off. Some weeks later I got a letter and a travel warrant and was told to report to Darlington for a set of interviews lasting three days and if successful it would mean that I could go into the Navy as an Officer Cadet. I was successful and was put on reserve until I was seventeen and was given a badge to sew on my Home Guard Uniform”
The badge itself is a dark blue felt disc, embroidered in red:As can be seen the design is a laurel wreath, with RNYE and the naval crown within it. The back of the badge has a backing of tan cloth:The badge was worn by members of the Sea Cadets, Home Guard or Air Cadets before they were called up on the sleeve of their cadet’s uniform. The potential officer candidate then continued his youth service until he was of age to join the RN. The scheme was advantageous for the Navy as they got the pick of the brightest young men, whilst the candidates were guaranteed a chance to become and officer and thus avoided the random chance of conscription, where they might end up in the Army, RAF or even down the mines as a Bevin Boy. I have searched n vain for a period photograph showing a young man wearing one of these badges, but if anyone does have one please let me know.
A few nice finds today, again the cold seemed to have kept many of the dealers away. Nevertheless I am pleased with these little additions to my collection…
Mug Commemorating the Outbreak of War
Commemorative china from the First World War turns up fairly regularly, items from the Second World War seem to be harder to come across, so I was pleased to find this one (especially for £1!). The mug is made of white china, approximately 6” high, and has a transfer design on the front with the flags of Great Britain, France and Poland and the motto ‘Allied Front For Freedom’:On the rear is the date of the outbreak of the Second World War, 3rd September 1939:I imagine this mug must have been turned out in the first few months, if not weeks, of the Second World War. Souvenir manufacturers were quick to respond to events and their businesses depended on getting stock out as quickly as possible before the event they were commemorating faded from current news.
NAAFI Collar Dog
Throughout the Second World War the NAAFI provided food and drink to soldiers, sailors and airmen. Although civilians, members of the NAAFI wore the same uniform as the armed force they were attached to, but with distinctive insignia to identify who they were. The more senior members of the NAAFI attached to the Army often wore the same service dress as officers and as such had bronzed collar dogs on their lapels. This little badge is one such example:It is secured by a cotter pin to the rear, passing through two lugs. The badge itself has a winged anchor, with NAAFI across the centre and the full title of ‘Navy, Army and Air Forces Institute’ in the ring around it, all surmounted by a king’s crown.
Home Guard Photograph
I always like photographs, they are cheap, don’t take up much space and are full of interesting period details. Today’s pickup is one of the best I have picked up in a while. It depicts a Home Guard section:As can be seen the men are a mixture of those too old for regular service and boys too young to be called up yet. They wear the Duke of Wellingtons Regiment cap badge:Therefore these men are local to myself in the West Riding of Yorkshire. They are wearing 37 pattern battledress, but haven’t been issued Home Guard shoulder titles yet, so have the old Home Guard armbands sewn to their left sleeves:
They are each wearing 1903 pattern leather belts:And leather anklets:There is some sort of insignia on their arms above the Home Guard armbands and the corporal’s rank stripes, but unfortunately the angle is such that we can’t see what it is:The man front and centre appears to be the officer as he has a shirt and tie and a bronzed cap badge:I am guessing the photograph was taken at a local cricket ground based on the benches behind, however there is unfortunately not enough information to identify the location any further than this.