‘Who do you think you are kidding, Mr. Hitler?’: So Long, Dad’s Army, 75 Years Ago
On 31 December 1945, with Hitler long gone and Tojo under Allied custody, the final, skeletonized units of the British Home Guard were formally disbanded.
Initially founded as the Local Defence Volunteers, or LDV, on 14 May 1940, the force took on a new urgency and
meaning after Dunkirk when it became seen as very real insurance against a looming German invasion (Unternehmen Seelöwe) that never left port. From motley beginnings, they grew to a peak strength of 1.6 million men and boys.
Their most common tasking was in guarding downed Luftwaffe aircraft and UXO, and rounding up German aircrews that hit the silk over the British Isles.
They did, reportedly, down at least one Dornier with “concentrated rifle fire.”
One of the most popular arms in the Home Guard, at least after 1941, was the M1917 “American Enfield,” with a whopping 500,000 transferred, replacing the sorry state of affairs the lads began with that included everything from old fowling pieces and Napoleanic War relics to homemade pikes and fireplace pokers.
The December 1945 disbandment was quiet and without much ceremony. The closest that Dad’s Army came to a public farewell was when a massed 7,000-man force paraded through Hyde Park the year prior as the operations were increasingly being drawn down.
Service was unpaid, although men who completed three years with the Home Guard could petition for a Defense Medal in recognition of their, wholly voluntary, service.
Most were simply mustered out with a handshake, a bit of kit they were able to squirrel away as a memento, and a certificate that read simply:
In the years when our Country was in mortal danger, (name) who served (dates) gave generously of his time and powers to make himself ready for her defence by force of arms and with his life if need be. George R.I.