The Safety of a Nation

Unit of the 44th Lancashire (Flixton) Home Guard taken at the Drill Hall on Flixton Road.

The 44th Lancashire (Flixton) Home Guard taken at the Drill Hall on Flixton Road, c.1940s. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL9108.

Home Guard            

On 14 May 1940, the British government, fearing a German invasion, made an urgent appeal on the radio for volunteers to join a part-time army called the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). The appeal was aimed at men who were ineligible or unfit to serve in the military, and those whose daytime jobs were necessary to keep the country running. By the end of July 1940, 1.5 million men had enrolled and the LDV was given the more inspiring name of ‘Home Guard’.  

The Home Guard was launched without designated funding or proper management and, for a while, the men found themselves without adequate uniforms or equipment. However, by the end of 1940, the Home Guard had developed into a well-trained and efficient force of 1.7 million men. 

James Ernest Hulme, a volunteer in the Sale Home Guard and who also worked at Mawe’s Nursery, wrote:  

'When war broke out, all my pals joined up and I wanted to go with them. Twice I volunteered but I was refused as my job was a reserve occupation. I heard on the wireless about the Home Guard being set up and I joined it straight away. At first, we had no rifles and we had to drill with broom handles, but afterwards we were given American rifles.' 

Stretford Home Guard

Officers and NCOs of 'D' Company (Stretford) Home Guard, 44th Lancashire Battalion, Longford Park, 1945. Home Guard battalions were formed on an area basis, usually covering towns or districts.  The 44th Lancashire Battalion Home Guard covered Stretford, Urmston, Flixton, and Davyhulme. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL0869.

Sale Home Guard

Sale Home Guard, c.1940s. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL9067.

Dainewell Sentry

The Dainewell Sentry. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. LHC/866.

The Dainewell Sentry was a magazine written by members of the Sale Home Guard and named after their Headquarters at Dainewell Farm, in Carrington. The magazine was first published in November 1940 and continued until October 1944. It contained 'facts, theories, careful news, humour and tragedy. A potted human history of a devoted group of Sale men'.

Women’s Home Defence (WHD)

The Women’s Home Defence (WHD) was an unofficial group formed under the direction of prominent MP, Edith Summerhill. Its 30,000 members were taught rifle training and took part in military training with local Home Guard units.

In April 1943, the government announced that women would be able to enrol in the Home Guard, however, they would not be permitted to carry or train with weapons. In addition, their choice of role would be limited to typist, driver, telephonist, or cook. While female members were not issued clothing uniforms, they were identified by their distinctive brooches, which bore the initials ‘HG’.  

'Housewives! WVS needs your help!'

Government poster: 'Housewives! WVS needs your help!’ Women's Voluntary Service (publisher/sponsor), Unknown (artist), 1938. Released by the Imperial War Museum.

Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS)

The Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) was established in June 1938, at the request of the Home Office. Originally established to support Air Raid Precautions, the WVS went above and beyond the call of duty to serve and protect their communities. With Lady Reading as their Founder and Chair, women from all walks of life came together and, by September 1939, the group was comprised of over 165,000 members.

The WVS played a key role in the evacuation of children: from arranging receptions at railway stations to providing refreshments and administering practical advice. They also managed complications that might arise from their location. For example, when Altrincham was faced with the possibility of receiving 1,500 evacuated children that ‘may arrive in such a condition that they could not be billeted’, WVS members organised to clean and clothe each child before they went on to their foster parents. During the Blitz, the WVS set up rest centres to provide shelter, food, sanitation, and welfare assistance to those made homeless by German bombs. Throughout the war, they were further responsible for a wide variety of additional services and support: including making bandages and knitting garments for servicemen, managing the deployment of service canteens to stricken areas, running fundraising campaigns, and coordinating Inquiry Points to track missing persons following bomb attacks. 

 WVS march past at Longford Park, Stretford, led by Divisional Organiser, Lady Robinson, during  War Weapons week.

WVS march past at Longford Park, Stretford led by Divisional Organiser, Lady Robinson, during War Weapons week, May 1941. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL2800.

The New WVS tea van parked behind Stretford Town Hall

The new WVS tea van parked behind Stretford Town Hall, 1942. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL2768.

Womens Voluntary Service inspection at Delamere Road School, Flixton

WVS Inspection at Delamere School, Flixton, c.1940. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL8122.

Land girls working in Urmston Cemetery

Land Girls working in Urmston Cemetery, c.1940s. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL1155. 

Women's Land Army

The Women’s Land Army (WLA) was set-up during the First World War, with the aim of supporting farmers with domestic food production. With the prospect of war looming once again, the organisation sprang back into life in June 1939. Women throughout the country were asked to volunteer for agricultural work and, by 1941, there were 20,000 ‘land girls’ 

In December 1941, the government passed a National Service Act which meant that women could be conscripted for war work. At first this covered unmarried women or childless widows, aged 20 to 30, but this was soon expanded to include both older and younger women. By 1944, the WLA had 80,000 recruits.  

‘Her work starts at 7.30 in the morning and ends at 5.30 in the afternoon. The morning is mostly spent feeding the pigs and poultry and helping cook the dinner for the men. In the afternoon she feeds her charges again and does any other farm jobs she is asked to do. Every Thursday she cleans out the henhouses, and every Friday takes a long broom and sweeps the cobbled yard.’ 

- The routine of Altrincham resident Barbara Vaughan, who worked on Oak Farm in Ringway. Manchester Evening News, 8 July 1947.  

These photographs show land girls in Urmston working in the fields and digging over land in Urmston Cemetery so that it could be used to grow food. 

Land girls in Urmston Cemetery

Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref TL1156.

Land girls in Urmston Meadows

Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. TL1158.

Members of the WLA were also used by W.J. Haves and Sons, to deliver milk from their dairy in Flixton.

Minutes of Urmston's Health and Housing Committee

Minutes of Urmston's Health and Housing Committee, 28 December 1943. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. URM/1/1/1/18.

Voluntary Land Club (VLC)

The Voluntary Land Club was formed, following an appeal for voluntary helpers in the fields by the Minister of Agriculture in 1939. Each day the Altrincham Land Club sent out 70–80 volunteers to work on the farms in Cheshire, where they learnt a variety of farm jobs including hedging, fruit picking, silage making, hay stacking and harvesting. Following German air raids, volunteers were also responsible for filling in craters left by bombs.  

Like so many other groups and wartime initiatives, the club’s motto was designed to appeal to the public’s conscience by asking the question, ‘Who will serve?’ 

Altrincham Voluntary Land Club

Bryan Titchett at Sowersby near Preston, September 1940. Mr Titchett was a member of the Altrincham Voluntary Club. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. LHC/1806.

Altrincham Voluntary Land Club

Bryan Titchett at Stuarts Farm, St Michael on Wyre, c.1940s. Trafford Local Studies Collection, cat. ref. LHC/1806.

Sources 

David Eastwood, Air Raid Precautions in Altrincham, 1936 to 1942  

Vicky Masterson and Karen Cliff, Stretford An Illustrated History (published by Breedon Books, 2002) 

Ashton and Sale History Society Newsletter No 21, Guns, greenhouses and Home Guard: Memories of James Ernest Hulme 

Don Bayliss, Altrincham: A History (Willow Publishing, 1992) 

Trafford Lifetimes 

Amanda Mason, ‘What was the Women’s Land Army?’ 2018 < https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-was-the-womens-land-army> [accessed 4 March 2020] 

Juliet Gardiner, Wartime Britain 1939-1945, (Headline Publishing Group, 2016) 

Royal Voluntary Service https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/about-us/our-history  

Amanda Mason, ‘What to do during an Air Raid’ https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-to-do-during-an-air-raid  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stella_Isaacs,_Marchioness_of_Reading#/media/File:Housewives!_Wvs_Needs_Your_Help!_Art.IWMPST19869.jpg 

IWM Staff, ‘The Real Dad’s Army’ https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-real-dads-army 

 


The Safety of a Nation