Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grandads Army

Colonel Montmorency who was in Calcutta in ninety-two
Emerged from his retirement for the War
He wasn't very pleased with all he heard and all he saw
But whatever he felt, he tightened his belt and organised a Corps

Poor Colonel Montmorency thought considering all the wars he'd fought
The Home Guard was his job to do or die
But after days and weeks and years, bravely drying his many tears
He wrote the following letter to the Minister of Supply

Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
Or failing that, a hand grenade will do
We've got some ammunition, in a rather damp condition
And Major Huss has a arquebus that was used at Waterloo

With the Vicar's stirrup pump, a pitchfork and a stave
It's rather hard to guard an aerodrome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home

From Could you please oblige us with a bren gun by Noel Coward

In order to sign up and serve in the first world war, a man had to be between eighteen and thirty-nine. The same rules existed at the start of the second world war, so very few men could serve in both. There are, however many exceptions. Naturally the maximum age limit didn't apply to men already in the army, so nearly all the senior officers in the second war had been junior officers in the first. This applied to both sides. The German General; Heinz Guderian, had suffered in the trenches and developed the concept of mobile warfare, blitzkreig to prevent another trench stalemate. And many merchant seamen form the second war had seen navy service, both Royal and Merchant during the first.

So what of the rest ?

It may seem incredible to us today, but many of those who had seen the horrors of one war were willing to sign up again, if anyone would have them. You see, the television programme Dads Army is closer to the truth that you think. If you are living within the old County Durham boundaries then you might be able to find out for yourself, because the County Durham records of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), which later became the Home Guard have been made available on-line by the National Archives.

I've mentioned my grandfather before, and of how he was a regular soldier, wounded at Ypres in 1915 and how he ended up serving, first in the Tyne-Tees Coastal Defence force, and later the Army Service Corps and how he made his home in Sunderland. Sadly his army records are among the many lost what the warehouse was bombed in 1940, but I recently found his LDV enrolment papers from June 1940.

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