The Home Guard totalled about 1,700,000 men at its peak, and locally the guard came under the Mid West, No. 4 Clwydian Range Sector and No.5, Dee Valley, Cambrian Sub-District. We all remember the favourite line from the TV series when the German Submarine Captain asks for the soldiers’ name, and the inept, Captain Mainwaring, shouts “Don’t tell him Pike.” (Mold Home Guard did have a soldier called Pike) Well was it really like this in the Home Guard, or, would the ‘Dad’s Army’ really have proved a match for the battle-hardened, highly trained, German Troops who would have been involved in the invasion of Britain? The Guard, was originally called the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), or alternatively ‘Look, Duck and Vanish’ , ‘Long Dentured Veterans’ or ‘Last Desperate Venture’. In one recorded case, a solitary patroller spotted a suspicious character in the middle of a field, challenged him, and having received no reply fired, only to find he had shot a scarecrow.
It was the responsibility of the Lord Lieutenant of the County, (Rear-Admiral Rafe Grenville Rowley-Conwy, C.M.G. for Flintshire), who in conjunction with the General Officer Commanding, which was either Lieutenant General Robert Hadden HAINING, General Sir Henry Cholmondeley JACKSON, or General Sir Robert GORDON-FINLAYSON, to establish Battalions. By the end of 1940, the Home Guard comprised of 1,200 battalions, 5,000 companies and 25,000 platoons. Operating throughout the majority of the War, the Home Guard were formally stood down on 3 December 1944 and finally disbanded on 31 December 1945. For its primary defensive role, each section was to be trained and equipped to operate as a single, largely independent ‘battle platoon’, with an operational establishment of between 25 and 30 men at any one time. Although as volunteers, men would also have full-time jobs, therefore the numbers of volunteers in each section would be around twice the proposed establishment. In the event of an invasion, the Home Guard battle platoons in a town would have been under the overall control of an Army military commander. They would maintain contact with that commander by a designated ‘runner’ (no Home Guard units were issued with wireless sets until 1942), who would usually be a motorbike owner. Otherwise, the battle platoon was static and would defend a defined local area and report on enemy activity in that area. It was neither equipped nor expected to join up with the mobile forces of the regular army. Each Home Guard unit would be required to establish and prepare a local strongpoint. ‘Civilians’ (non-Home Guard) would be cleared from the area if possible, and the aim of the unit was to defend that strongpoint for as long as possible. It might be forced to retreat towards a neighbouring strongpoint but would not surrender so long as ammunition held out. Most towns of any size would have a number of such Home Guard units, each defending its own strongpoint and providing ‘defence in depth’. These ideally would be sited to offer supporting fire to cover one another and to control road access through the town from all directions. Each battle platoon was intended to have a headquarters section; commander, second in command, runner, and at least one marksman ‘sniper’ with an M1917 Enfield rifle. The fighting force of the platoon was to consist of three squads of around 8 men, each squad having a three-man automatic weapons group (usually with one either of a BAR or Lewis.
gun) and a rifle/bomb group armed with M1917 rifles, grenades and sticky-bombs, and a Thompson or Sten sub-machine gun if possible. Men without rifles should all have shotguns, if available. The basic tactical principle was ‘aggressive defence’; fire would be held until the enemy were within the defensive perimeter of the town in force and they would then be attacked with concentrated firepower of bombs, grenades, shotguns and automatic weapons (as much as possible from above and from the rear), with the object of forcing them into cover close by. Retreating enemy forces would then be counterattacked (again preferably from the rear), the automatic weapons group of each squad providing covering fire while the bombing group attacked with grenades, submachine guns and shotguns. As many Germans as possible should be killed, and no prisoners would be taken. Whether any platoon was fully equipped or capable of meeting these primary objectives is a debatable point.
In addition to the standard Home Guard, upwards of 600 special units were formed which in the event of the German’s invading, would conduct a guerrilla style war from secret locations which included underground bunkers, and caves.
The Home Guard was governed by the Regulations for the Home Guard and as volunteers, members did not receive payment. However, in August 1940 Lord Croft, Under Secretary of State for War, announced in the House of Lords that it had been decided that members of the Home Guard travelling to and from duty and rifle ranges would do so at the public expense.
When the Home Guard as a volunteer organisation was initially formed, it had its own rank structure, with its officers not holding a King’s Commission. In November 1940, the decision was made to bring the Home Guard structure in line with the Regular Army excluding privates, who continued to be known as ‘Volunteer’ until early 1942. In 1940, along with the structure revision, officers were granted Commissions but were to be subordinate to regular officers of a similar rank.
The list of Battalions is taken from the following Archive webpage.
The 4th Battalion Flintshire Home Guard had their headquarters in Mold, with the Battalion affiliated to the Royal Welch Fusiliers and whose cap badge they wore. The Battalion was formed in May 1940, by the re-designation of the Local Defence Volunteer Company (LDV). It was made up of platoons of men in reserved occupations, those over or under age to serve in the armed forces. The details of each man was recorded on the pictured individual record card.
Guard members wore an army style khaki uniform and initially were equipped with a few WWI rifles. The general public were asked to provide any weapons they possessed and there is even a mention of the guard being issued with pikes. These were returned to the owner at the cessation of hostilities, see the 23rd November 1945 Flintshire County Herald article at the end of this paper.Guard members wore an army style khaki uniform and initially were equipped with a few WWI rifles. The general public were asked to provide any weapons they possessed and there is even a mention of the guard being issued with pikes. These were returned to the owner at the cessation of hostilities, see the 23rd November 1945 Flintshire County Herald article at the end of this paper.
Members of the Home Guard, irrespective of rank, were eventually issued with a standard set of equipment and were required to sign the pictured receipt.
Details were then entered onto the master clothing register.
In the event of individuals transferring from one company to another the following form was completed.
The master register forms the basis of our review of ‘C’ Company of the 4th Flintshire Battalion, the headquarters of which was in Mold. The entries are detailed on the associated excel spreadsheet. What this doesn’t allow us to do, is to identify the strength and makeup of the unit at any given time. Overall there are 410 names listed on the register and associated documents, comprising of the following ranks.
The men were divided across 11 sections with the Battalion Head Quarters in the Mold Drill Hall. The largest section being number 1, with 30 men under the command of a two Second Lieutenants, two Sergeants and two Lance Corporals. While the bulk of men are listed as having Mold addresses (287), the balance with a few exceptions are, as can be seen from the following table, from nearby villages.
In addition to those listed above a number of factories, including the Rhydymwyn Valley Site, had their own detachments of Home Guard. The Guard attracted its recruits from all elements of the community. The O.C. of ‘C’ Company 4th Battalion was Major Humphrey Llewellyn Jones, a solicitor and County Coroner. Dr Roger Edwards M.B.E., a former Flintshire High Sheriff of Pendre House was a Captain; Henry George Harley of the renowned Harley’s Garage served as a private, as did Gerald Kendrick the farmer & milkman of The Park, Ernie Barkworth the fish dealer of Wrexham Street, and fruiterer William Summerton, while David Williams of Llwyn y Glyn, Denbigh Road, the former co-owner of Alyn Tin Plate Works, only rated the single stripe of a Lance Corporal. Major Llewellyn’s son, John Humphrey Jones, also served in the Mold Home Guard before in 1942, enlisting in the Royal Navy. John subsequently qualified as a solicitor and worked initially in the family firm of Llewellyn Jones & Co.
The first picture is of Humphrey Llewelyn Jones during World War I and the second is of him leading the Mold Company down Mold High Street.
Meanwhile recruitment continued apace with the Flintshire County Herald of 27th February 1942 contained the following article. This was specifically aimed at those too young to serve in the regular forces.
‘YOUTHS NOT IN ANY ORGANISATION – PANELS APPOINTED TO INTERVIEW THEM.
The recent registrations of youths (16-18) in Flintshire totalled 938 of whom 29 recorded that they belonged to voluntary youth organisations registered with the County Youth Committee, 18 as belonging to church organisations, 25 as serving with the A.R.P. or N.F.S., 148 with the A.T.C., and 220 with the Home Guard. Those described as unattached to any organisation numbered 502—over 50 percent. Less than 20 per cent of the youths registering belong to any form of evening class. These figures of membership of youth organisations may have to be revised as it appears that some of the youths do belong to organisations but have not disclosed the fact, probably because they did not understand the question on the form. Some guilds and young people’s societies are not yet recognised by the County Youth Committee, but negotiations small panels of not more than three people in their own localities.’
To ensure that the Guard would be combat ready, major and minor exercises were carried out on a regular basis. When major exercises were planned, ‘members of the general public were warned that there would be unusual explosions and noises and that there will be no cause for alarm. The public were asked to facilitate the movements of the Home Guard in every way.’ To test their readiness these exercises often saw Battalions pitted against each other. One such exercise was reported in the 5th September 1941 edition of the Flintshire County Herald.
‘VISITORS AID THE “ENEMY.” Parachutists, aided by Quislings and two talkative women, holidaymakers, made a determined attack, on Sunday afternoon, on key points including the vital road junctions strongly defended by Home Guard detachments. The realism was heightened by the fact that Home Guards of two rival neighbouring towns on the coast were pitting their strength against each other. Town “T” were the invading parachutists, while town “A” were the defenders. The attackers, supplied with information passed on by Quislings, adopted the ruse of ignoring the beaches and landed in the hills several miles to the north of their objectives. Fifth columnists failed on the whole to find chinks in the defence, but two women visitors enjoying the mountain air unwittingly did what the “keep mum” posters had continually warned them not to do. They gave away a detachment of defenders when a party of parachutists innocently asked “Have you seen any soldiers about?” The women were not invasion minded. One of them pointed: “Yes,” she said, “they are in the barn over there.” These defenders were captured and shot. The parachutists, who never came within a mile of the suburbs of the town, were all rounded up. “They did it very cleverly, but ran into trouble,” said the senior officer supervising the manoeuvres. “We have learned valuable lessons to-day.” DAWN RAID BY “FISHERMEN.” Enemy agents in the guise of a fishing party succeeded by a neat trick in outwitting the Home Guard and disrupting communications at the start of invasion exercises held in another North Wale town. In this well-planned raid at dawn, which was directed against a bridge, the fishing party arrived at the quay by motor launch and left the beach carrying a stretcher on which lay one of the party who was supposed to be seriously ill. At the approach to the bridge they were challenged by the Home Guard, who doubted their identities and suspected their story that they were taking the sick man to hospital. The ‘Fishermen” were arrested, but the guardroom was at the other end of bridge and the guards neglected to search either the stretcher or the suspects before escorting them across. They were revealed as the enemy when there was a series of explosions and the bridge was presumed to have been severely damaged. All branches of the defence organisation were called out and on the whole they functioned efficiently. The umpires, however, found room for helpful criticism. For instance, it was pointed out that three ambulances, first aid parties and casualty services congregated in an exposed position when attending to casualties during the “raid” when one bomb could have destroyed them all. In each area it was noted that many civilians were without their gas masks, despite warning notices that tear gas would be used, and as a result a number of unnecessary casualties were caused.’
Apart from battle readiness, home guardsmen were also expected to retain a certain level of fitness and not to be medically unfit. Sadly those not meeting these standards would receive the following letter.
Failure to obey orders were likely to see you discharged, or in the case of you failing to attend when ordered to do so, you could find yourself in front of the local magistrates.
On the 13th November 1942 the Flintshire County Herald detailed one case.
‘FAILED TO ATTEND HOME GUARD DRILLS. BAGILLT MAN FINED A SERIOUS OFFENCE, SAYS MAYOR. Said to have failed to attend Home Guard drills. Pte. William Humphreys (17), of 5, Neston View, Bagillt, was summoned at Flint Sessions on Tuesday for failing to attend drills at Bagillt. He pleaded guilty. Inspector Williams said Humphreys failed to attend drill on Sept. 22nd although he had been notified by registered post three days previously. The defendant made no attempt to attend the drills, and he (the Inspector) asked that a severe penalty be imposed so that it would act as a deterrent to defendant and others. It was the duty of everybody to do all they could to help win the war. Major G. Ll. Brown, of Flint. officer Commanding the, 4th Flintshire Battalion Home Guard, said Humphreys was enrolled on Aug. 16, 1940, and difficulty had been experienced in getting him to attend to his duties. On his instructions a registered letter was sent to the defendant on Sept 19th requesting him to attend a drill, but he did not do so. Witness later wrote to defendant asking for an explanation, but he received no reply. Sergt. R. J. Bowen. 3, Gadlys Lane, Bagillt, said defendant had not attended a drill since February. Lieut. John Wynne, Newlands, Bagillt, also corroborated. The defendant, in evidence, admitted-receiving two letters from Major Brown. P.C. Cecil Jones said that defendant told him that he had been working twelve hours a day and that when he went to the Home Guard headquarters nobody took any notice of him, so he went away and had not been since. Defendant told the Bench that from September of last year to March last he had worked in South Wales. Sergt. Bowen went to South Wales to collect his Home Guard clothing, but he could not give the officer them because they were at Bagillt. After coming back to Bagillt he worked for a time at Helsby, working 87 hours a week, and since April he had been gardening in the district, and had also worked for himself in a field for 12 hours a day. He did not go to the drills because Lieut. Wynne told him that no matter how long he worked he would still be liable to attend drills. Recalled. Lieut. Wynne said that while defendant attended drills fairly regularly at firsts he had not attended any since April of this year. The Mayor said the case was a very serious one; defendant had tried to evade his duty. They had seriously thought of sending him to prison, but taking into account his age they had decided to fine him £6 and he would have to pay 16s 2d costs. He would be given two months to pay. They were giving him a final warning attending the Home Guard and the Bench hoped that others who neglected their duties would take heed of the warning.’
It would appear that while this was an isolated case it certainly wasn’t the last. The Flintshire County Herald of the 18th February 1944 reported on another case with the headline.
‘TREATED ORDERS WITH CONTEMPT. RHOSESMOR HOME GUARD FINED.
At Northop Sessions on Thursday, Idris Rogers, Bodawen, Wern, Rhosesmor, a member of the Home Guard, was summoned for being absent from duty on January 6th without reasonable excuse. Supt. C. J Humphreys said that this was a serious offence against Home Guard regulations. Defendant had treated orders with contempt. Lieut. Norman R. Evans said he served Rogers with notice to parade on that day and issued a further order later for another day, but both notices were ignored. The Chairman said it was the first case of its kind in that Court, and the Bench were taking a lenient view this time. Defendant would be fined £3.’
On completion of service, a letter of thanks was presented to each member and in addition they may also have been eligible for the ‘Defence Medal.’
While the Home Guard was a male organisation, ladies groups contributed towards the comfort of the Guard by providing knitted items such as gloves and balaclava’s.
For obvious secrecy reasons the activities of the Home Guard were not often publicised, contemporary newspapers did report on non-military matters and to close this article we will look at a few of these.
13th September 1940 Flintshire County Herald
‘MOLD NATIONAL PRAYER. The King’s call to National Prayer was observed at Mold Parish Church, Where there were large congregations at both the morning and evening services, which were conducted by the Vicar, the Rev. R. Mackenzie Williams. Members of the local Home Guard attended the morning service, which was interrupted by the sounding of the air raid warning. The Vicar announced that those wishing to leave could do so, but only the Home Guard and A.R.P. personnel required for civil defence purposes left to take up their posts. The majority of the congregation remained and the service continued. Special prayers were offered and hymns sung at both services, the organist being Dr. Middleton.’
21st September 1940 Rhos Herald
‘Home Guard Story. The other evening a young Home Guard was on duty “somewhere in Wales” In the dark he was approached by someone who thought to take a rise out of him “Who goes there!” he challenged. “Major Moses,” replied the man. This is where I test him, thought the young sentry, and he called out: “Advance Major Moses, and give the Ten Commandments as a proof of your identity!’
5th February 1941 Liverpool Daily Post‘THE HOME GUARD’S DUTY HOURS —PROBLEM FOR MOLD BENCH The question as to whether a Home Guard is always on duty was debated by Mr. J. Kerfoot Roberts, a Holywell solicitor, at Mold Sessions yesterday. He was defending Sergeant Llewellyn Glyn Williams, of Lead Mills, Mold, a Home Guard employed such in a whole-time capacity in protecting a factory. He was seen by a special constable in field carrying a Winchester rifle, and he was summoned for not having gun licence in respect of the rifle. The special constable agreed that Sergeant Williams was in uniform at the time, and also that the Winchester rifle had been issued to him during a recent emergency. Mr. Kerfoot Roberts pointed out to the bench that the Winchester was issued to Sergeant Williams, as was the ammunition for it, and that a Home Guard, like a policeman, was always duty. The Chairman (Mr. W. B. Yates) wanted toknow if Sergeant Williams was actually on duty at the time he was in the field with the rifle, and Mr. Kerfoot Roberts replied that Home Guard in uniform was always on duty. If he saw an enemy soldier drop by parachute, he could not say to himself. “I will not shoot this man, because I am not on duty.” Williams was fined 10s and costs, Superintendent Humphreys contending a Home Guard was only on duty when called out.’
8th August 1941 Flintshire County Herald
‘GOD HELP HITLER IF HE TRIES TO LAND HERE’ SAYS HOME GUARD COMMISSIONER “If the invader does come, or tries to do so, I don’t think he will get very far, and I am certain that the spirit of the people will be the spirit of the very best of the countries that met him yet, and God help him if he tries to set foot here.” Said General Sir William Bartholomew, a Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence at a Home Guard sports day……………..’
30th January 1942 Flintshire County Herald
‘Funeral of Mr. R.Yarnell-Davles. MANY SERVICES AND BODIES REPRESENTED. The funeral of the Chief Constable of Flintshire, the late Mr. Robert Yarnell-Davies 0.B.E., whose death occurred on Wednesday, took place at Mold Cemetery on Monday and was very large attended The internment was preceded by a service at St. Mary’s Parish Church, Mold, to where the coffin was taken Sunday night. The large church was filled to its utmost capacity. The service was conducted by the Vicar (Rev. Mackenzie Williams), the Rev. Canon Vaughan, the Rev. David Thomas (Vicar of Holywell), the Rev. Evan Jones and the Rev. D. G. L. Rees (curates at Mold).…………… CoL Barton (Area Commandant Home Guard……………….. The Coroner of Flintshire (Mr. Humphry Llewelyn Jones), wore the uniform of an officer of the Home Guard, was also present as Clerk to the Flint Bench of Magistrates……….. A contingent of the Home Guard was present under Lieut.-Col. Elliot.’
21st May 1943 Flintshire County Herald
‘HOME GUARD PARADE. The Lixwm Home Guard (Company) travelled by special bus to Mold on Sunday, under the command of Major Roberts, and during a parade the Salute was taken by Rear Admiral Rowley Conwy.’
23rd November 1945 Flintshire County Herald
‘HOME GUARD CLAIMS FOR SHOT GUNS. All persons who have not yet reclaimed shotguns or other weapons which were loaned to the Home Guard at any period since May 1940, either directly or through the Police, must submit their claims in writing to the undermentioned address not later than the 30th November, 1945. No claims for either the return of weapons or for compensation for loss will be entertained under any circumstances unless received at the address given below by the last post on 30th November, 1945.
The Secretary. Denbighshire and Flintshire TA Association Territorial Offices, Earl Road. Mold. 14th November. 1945.’
30th May 1946 North Wales Weekly News.
‘Defence Medal for Home Guard. Ex-members of Home Guard units qualify for the Defence Medal if they served during the period May 14. 1940. and December 31. 1944. The minimum qualifying period being three years. If a member did not complete three years’ service he is not entitled to the medal. If he served less than three years and was then called to the Navy. Army or Air Force for full-time service, both periods of service will count in the matter of qualification. An official form of application for the Defence Medal (Army form B 2068) is obtainable at post offices. The completed forms should be sent to the secretary of the Territorial Association concerned: in the case of the counties of Anglesey. Caernarvonshire. Denbighshire and Flintshire to the secretary, Cambria T.A. Associations. The Barracks. Caernarvon. This does not apply to those who joined the regular forces after serving in the Home Guard; they must make their applications through the units in which they last served.’
Our thanks go to the grandson of Major Humphrey Llewellyn Jones, Peter Humphrey Jones, for the provision of the register and other documents. These will now be passed onto the Royal Welch Fusiliers for placement in their archive.
If anyone has any further information, pictures or documents related to any member of Mold Home Guard, we would like to hear from you. It would be our intention to issue an update on individuals at a later date. Equally, if you spot any errors in the information please let us know and it will be corrected.
David Rowe 18th February 2022
“The personnel details on the ‘excel spreadsheet’ have been extracted from the Clothing Register of the 4th Flints. Battalion, ‘C’ Company, Home Guard based in Mold. The background on the Home Guard will be found in Mold & District Civic Society’s website. The spreadsheet is fully searchable by pressing ‘enable editing’ button and then searching on individual columns, name, address, town or rank. The original register does not necessarily have details in every column and as all entries are handwritten some are indecipherable. In these cases I have put a question mark in the relevant column. If you have any difficulty in accessing the records or spot any errors I have made in the transcription please send me a PM and I will assist or correct as necessary. David Rowe.”
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