The Home Guard were organised as Britains Home Front Defence force. Originally called the ‘Local Defence Volunteers’, they started off as being armed with no more than pitch-forks and personally-owned shotguns and rifles. However, after the Regular Army had been re-equipped due to leaving large amounts being at Dunkirk, the Home Guard began to receive more ‘sophisticated’ weaponry, including the Vickers MG.
Army Council Instruction No. 653 issued on 24 June 1940 announced the formation and the requirements for service. This is shown in full below.
With the development of the Local Defence Volunteers, and the eventual formation of the Home Guard, a new set of regulations was issued and notified by Army Council Instruction No. 924 of 1940.
In August 1940, after the formation of the Home Guard, Army Council Instruction 1003 notified that officers and men who were entitled to wear their uniforms for previous service (for some reason) were not permitted to do so when on Home Guard duties.
To start with, they were armed with the US-made Colt-Vickers M1915 in .30 M1906 but as more 303-inch Mk. I guns became available, they also received these.
Training for the Home Guard was often centralised to ensure that permanent staff and regular soldiers weren’t travelling to individual units all around the country. The Schools were central and regional, distributed by Commands.
No. 1 War Office School for Instructors
A school established to train instructors that would then disseminate the training to smaller units. It included one Vickers machine gun in .303-inch by late 1941.
In 1942, this became the General Headquarters Home Guard School. It still included just the one Vickers MG but it was now the .300-inch M1915 Colt-made Vickers supplied through the lend-lease arrangements.
District and Regional Schools
Northern Ireland District Tactical and Home Guard School
Working alongside the District Tactical School was a Home Guard Wing for the Ulster Home Guard. There was also a travelling wing to visit troops. The School contained a range of Home Guard weapons, including the Northover Projector, the Spigot Mortar and the Vickers machine gun, .303-inch Mk. I. It would instruct 110 soldiers at any one time.
By November 1942, each Command (a regional military area) established a Command Weapon Training School and these included a Home Guard Wing. Within the Home Guard Wing, there were three Model 1915 Vickers machine guns. The School also included regular troops but these were not taught the Vickers.
Somerset Home Guard
It would appear that the Paulton Platoon of No. 3 (Temple Cloud) Company of the Somerset Home Guard had two Vickers MGs at their disposal. The photograph of the platoon in September 1944 shows these and they appear to be Mk I guns rather than the M1915, as can be seen by the long tangent sight bar, the muzzle attachment and Mk IV tripod.
Pamphlets and Instructions
The Home Guard often issued their own material for instruction, either through official channels or commercially. Copies of those held in the VMGCRA archive are available here.
- Lockyear, 1941a
- Lockyear, 1941b
- The National Archives, WO 24/943, War Establishments 1942 January to June.
- The National Archives, WO 24/945, War Establishments 1942 October to December.
- The National Archives, WO 293/25, Army Council Instructions 1940.
- Puttnam, 1940c
- Wilson, 2004