home guard, evacuation, fire watchers and air raid wardens

Posted: November 27th, 2013






Thesis statement

The invasion preparation techniques and strategies of the Britons managed to save many people in that war as compared to the First World War.


Introduces the importance of the sub units started during the Second World War in order to assist in the protection of the nation and the whole empire

Home Guard

Reveals a short history of the home guard unit explains the unit’s significance and gives my opinion on the unit


He contents reveal some major evacuations done during the warring period and my opinion on the evacuation process.


This part reveals the significance of the firewatchers, who were obligated to fire watch, and my opinion of the firewatchers.

Air Raid Wardens

This part reveals the obligation of the air raid wardens and my opinion on this unit.


This part concludes by analyzing the significance of these units set up in the Second World War and the repercussions if they would not have been set up.

Home Guard, Evacuation, Fire Watchers and Air Raid Wardens


As the Second World War got more and more critical, the British army needed as much help as it could get in order to protect the British territory. According to the BBC report, Germans were surprised as “Britain, although apparently defeated and certainly painfully exposed and isolated, did not surrender” (Cruickshank, 2011). This took place in 1940. In the same year, mini-sectors such as the firewatchers, home guard and air raid wardens came into existence in order to aide in protecting the nation against invasion from the Germans and their allies. Most of the people who volunteered in these protection services were not qualified to enter the main military service, but they could be of help to the country. Other strategies such as evacuation of the people were put in place in order to make sure that the country kept as many people safe as it could. The invasion preparation techniques and strategies of the Britons managed to save many people in that war as compared to the First World War.

Home Guard

This unit of defending the nation was initially known as the Local Defense Volunteers (LDV). It was mocked and given the name ‘Look, Duck, Vanish’ by the people; thereafter, the name was changed to ‘Home Guard’. This unit had approximately 1.5 million volunteers and it was active from 1940 to 1944 (Summerfield & Corinna 50). This unit of defense was also known as the ‘Dad’s Army’ because it comprised of people who could not qualify to be in the army due to their age. It was in charge of the airfields, explosive stores, the factories and most importantly, the coastal areas of the country.

Initially, the role of the home guards was to observe and report the movements of the enemy. However, their roles changed to being more aggressive by engaging with well-trained troops. Despite this, they only had little training and they used firearms that were only found in the museum together with shotguns and pitchfolks. With no uniform but an armband stating LDV, the volunteers would carry out their patrols using bicycles, horses or even on foot. As time progressed, some volunteers started using armored cars.

Due to the adequate training and the need for it, the conveyor of the vision to start sub-military units, Tom Wintringham started a private training place in Osterly Park on the outskirts of London. Later in 1943, this unit started being given the proper training and equipment. As the unit advanced, it allowed the women to take part in the defense. However, this was after the women had formed such units as the Amazon Defense Corps and the Women’s Home Defense.

After the war was over, the unit continued taking part in some activities in order to release the regular army men and they continued to man guard posts. A National Service Act, which was put in place to allow compulsory enrolment where units were below potency, was created in 1942. The volunteer level was changed to the private level. This matched the regular army level. In my opinion, the home guards played a major role in the protection of the nation. The military service would not have protected its country full without the help of the home guards.


The evacuation process was meant to save the people in the military and urban areas from docks (military targets) and bombings (ground or aerial). The 1935 operation managed the safe evacuation of more than 3.5 million people. This population mainly consisted of children since they were considered to be facing the highest risk. More evacuations took place in June 1940 in the East and South of the country. This is because the seaborne invasion was expected during this period in these areas. Other evacuation plans took place from the United Kingdom to other parts of the empire.

In order for this evacuation to be effective, it started before the declaration of the war. The evacuation started taking place on 1 September 1939, two days before the war. During that time, the priority was given to the rich and the people of higher class going down the social ladder. They boarded trains and headed to the rural areas. Approximately 100,000 children were evacuated during the 1940 evacuation. However, this number rose to 200,000 children by July the same year. Forty percent of the people in Kent were evacuated while 30,000 and 25,000 people arrived from continental Europe and Channel Islands respectively (Summerfield & Corinna 62).

The evacuation process lasted until the year 1944 where 1.5 million people were evacuated. However, this evacuation process stopped after that period. By this time, the war was ending. This evacuation process saved many lives. The population of London was reduced to almost 25% through the combined efforts of both the private and state efforts. This reduction minimized the war casualties and deaths. The bombings were everywhere and so the evacuation process had reduced the population in the urban areas. It had also increased the chances of survival of both the children and women. In most evacuation processes, the priority was given to the children, the sick, the women and those who had already lost their homes. In my opinion, the evacuation process prevented the death of many civilians during this period. If this step could not have been taken, the death toll in that war would have been larger.

Fire Watchers

The bombings were increasing and the military people were already occupied with fighting the war and defending the country. As earlier mentioned, the home guards were in-charge of keeping watch over the designated areas. The bombs were starting fires, which needed to be put off before doing further damage (Barrow, 2011). This brought the formation of the firewatchers. The main duty of the firewatchers was to look out for incendiaries and extinguish them in time so that a fire could not spread.

In September 1940, a law was created which demanded that the factories be allocated specific people who could look out for incendiary bombs. These assigned employees would work even outside the working hours. The incendiary bombs were very small and would be dropped in hundreds at a go. Due to the impact, they started fires through ignition. The people who looked out for these fires had a stirrup pump, a bucket of water and a bucket of sand. These were used to put off the fires thus preventing further damage. In my opinion, the prevention of large fires using the firewatchers played a major role in reducing the amount of damage and destruction incurred during the war.

Air Raid Wardens

The air raid wardens were from the organization known as the Air Raid Precaution. They walked on the streets at night ensuring that it was completely dark (Summerfield and Corinna 75). Any light noted from any building was turned off by the owner after the warden had ordered the turning off. If there were any troublemakers, the wardens reported them to the police. It was the duty of the wardens to patrol the streets during the air raids. This also included dousing incendiary bombs with sandbags if need be.

During the war, the air raid wardens were approximately 1.4 million. These wardens wore an armlet and a set of overalls. A steel helmet of black color was also worn on the head. Some wardens went beyond the call of duty and did some humanitarian acts, which were awarded such medals as the George Cross Medal. In my opinion, the street watching played a major role in controlling the civilian actions and behaviors. The local force would not have been effective on its own.


These units and strategies were put in place in order to assist in the fighting of the war and the defending of the state. This is because the military service was not effective on its own. The home guards, firewatchers, air raid wardens and the evacuation program boosted the security in Britain even at a time when they were recovering from German’s military blow.




















Works Cited

Barrow, Mandy. Britain since the 1930s: World War 2 Jobs. 2011. Web. 31 October 2011. http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/homework/war/jobs.html

Cruickshank, Dan. The German Threat to Britain in World War Two. 21 June 2011. Web. 31 October 2011. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/invasion_ww2_01.shtml>

Summerfield, Penny & Corinna Peniston-Bird. Contesting Home Defence: Men, Women, and the Home Guard in the Second World War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007. Print.

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