Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The People's Army: Home Guard in Scotland 1940-1944

Mention the Home Guard to anyone and the answer you receive will invariably involve Dad's Army. A few years ago it might have been the answer I gave. But behind the comedy show there lies a true story that was almost as fascinating and at time amusing as the exploits of Pike, Fraser, Jones and co.

I've been particularly fascinated by the Home Guard for quite a while, and have a number of books on the subject. What has been lacking has been a book describing how the Home Guard was organised and operated in Scotland.

Brian Osborne's book The People's Army: Home Guard in Scotland 1940-1944 more than adequately fills this gap. From the earliest beginnings of the days following Anthony Eden's call for volunteers, to the closing days and "stand down" in 1944, this book covers almost every aspect of the Home Guard story.

Each chapter covers either a separate period in the short life of the Home Guard, or a particular facet of the organisation, such as weaponry and equipment, or the little-known effort the Home Guard made in the field of anti-aircraft batteries. These chapters cover all the information I knew a little about, while at the same time bringing to light new information and stories. One in particular stands out - that of a High Court judge in Edinburgh finding himself on patrol with the man who had been facing him in the dock the previous week! Stories like this stop this book from being just a dry history of the Home Guard; they add meat to the bare bones of the story and make this book the better for it.

Scotland it seems is particularly lucky, and this story could perhaps not have been told about any other part of Britain: we are lucky in that an officer in Scottish Command instructed each area to compile a "regimental history" of its service. These were then collated and are now held by the National Library of Scotland. (A set of documents I might make a point of requesting on my next visit!)

If you have an interest in Scotland's military history, or just in the Home Guard, I would recommend this book.

Click here to buy direct from the publisher.

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