Monday, 20 October 2014

Crieff’s “ Dad’s Army “ – the Home Guard of World War 2






Crieff Home Guard


After the onset of WW 2 , the safety of small towns  such as Crieff was in the hands of  what was termed  the LDVF – the Local Defence Force Volunteer This somewhat cumbersome title  was  changed  on the 9th of August 1940 to the Home Guard . The BBC series  Dad’s Army ran from 1968 to 1977 with a number of well known “ vintage “ actors of the time including  Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring ( pronounced Manner - ing ! )  , John Le Mesurier as Sergeant Wilson, Clive Dunn as Corporal Jones  and a host of others . This  sit com was based very much on the belief  that the Home Guard  was  made  of bumbling  incompetents  who were either  retired  or were in reserved  occupations .My own father  who was employed in the general office of  a large steel manufacturing company in the West of Scotland fell into  the latter category and I know how  seriously they took their task in their contribution to the Nations defence .


I have in my possession a document entitled  “Diary of the 3rd Perthshire Bn ( Battalion ) H.G  ( Home Guard) “ and sub titled “ Historical Notes- December 1944 “ . On the basis that the document is  some seventy years old , I am of the belief that I can disclose  some of its contents  without danger of being to The Tower  for High Treason !
In addition to the Diary , I had  the privilege of  interviewing a  local Crieff man , the late Johnnie Brough , as part of an Open University Oral History course I was undertaking back in the 1990s . Johnnie had  suffered a disability as a result of polio as a child  and  was rejected  for army service . He opted  to join the Home Guard and  some of the  tales he related were perhaps not suitable  for  inclusion in the  official Diary !   
I have  chosen , nevertheless , to select some exerts  from the Diary which perhaps  reflect what it was really like  to be in the Crieff and neighbouring areas Home Guard away back in those  far off days . This part of Strathearn was a busy   place with numerous regiments  based in and around Crieff including a Free Polish Army Unit at the  Hydro which had been commandeered  for military use , the RASC in the Taylor’s Institute School ( the school had  been moved in with Crieff Primary )  . After that came a Battalion of the Enniskillen Fusiliers,  a Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment as well as a Battalion of th Cameronians . There were troops at the Market Park where the Canteen was located as well as Nissan Huts erected at the Bridgend .   A prisoner of war  camp was located at Cultybraggan for German soldiers whilst in Crieff ,  Italian prisoners of war were housed .
In May and June  1940 the LDVF was raised in this part of Strathearn  and was termed “No. 3 Company, No. 9 Group LDVF “ which was later to become the “ 3rd Perthshire Battalion Home Guard “.The Auchterarder Platoon covered Auchterarder , Strathallan ,Duppplin and Dunning and Gask and Aberuthven .It was under the leadership of JC McIntyre assisted  by N McLaren , Sir JD Roberts , ADC Main and GA Buchanan , Across the Strath in Crieff the initial set up was led  by DW Crighton and the three Crieff sections  by RJB Sellar, JM Scrimgeour and SDW Stewart . In addition there were  three other sections  based at Amulree Madderty and Trinity College 
( Glenalmond ) .

By all accounts the local Home Guard  were well set up in terms of arms and equipment but initially this was not the case . According to Johnnie Brough all they had  were pikestaffs – long tubes of steel with a pin stuck in the end . The only rifles they had were Lee Enfield relics from World War 1 supplied by Morrison’s’ Academy OTC ( Officer Training Corps ) ! They seemed , however, to be very much involved in routine training and participation in combined  exercises  with the regular army. The Diary  mentions a number of incidents which no doubt raided  the blood  pressure of the elderly  members of the platoon . In the early days of the war the Home Guard / LDVF investigated a report of parachutists in the hills behind Glenalmond . This  turned out  to be the RAF practicing the dropping of supplies  by parachute ! In 1941 the  Strathallan Platoon turned  out  to search for a parachutist in the immediate  vicinity after a  number of  reports  were received . It turned out to be a false alarm as the culprit  was not a human being  but a stray barrage balloon !

To keep the men on their toes regular exercises were held in the area . The Diary  recounts a particular one in March 1942 : “ Exercise ‘Pongo’ saw B Company attack A Company at Findo Gask Aerodrome in which rapid reinforcing was attempted  by mobile Platoons against a threat  by paratroops . An engagement at the edge of the aerodrome resulted in a useful lesson being learned “ What the lesson was  it does  not  state  but I am sure it was all worthwhile !
A somewhat more bizarre tale was told to me by Johnnie Brough : “ I can remember something big was happening and two Divisions came down from the North of Scotland . They sent us to Gask School on Saturday and Sunday .We had sandwiches  and our dixies .We tried  to cook on the stove in the class room  but it would have taken a year to brew up and cook . One of the boys said there were lots of bricks lying outside  so we  went out and built  fire . We took some coals from the head mistresses room and piled on the logs . Black out or no black out , we all had our tea outside . What a night ! At the same time we had been told to keep our eyes on the road passed the House of Gask which crosses the bridge  where the main road  to Perth goes . We blackened our faces and hid behind the hedge . A bloke on a bike came along and one of the lads jumped out . The poor man got such a fright that he leapt from his bike into  a ditch . “ A thought it was a ******* ghost ! “ , he blurted out  . I think he had had a wee drink or two ! “

How  many men were involved in the Home Guard during the War ? The Diary tells  us that 1944 there were 207 men serving in  Crieff, 116 in Auchterarder and some 664 in the other parts of the  district to the east of Crieff. Interestingly , the Comrie and St Fillans areas appear to have  been attached  to a different Battalion than that of Crieff.

I ran a blog in July 2012  concerning , the oldest member of Crieff Home Guard , Alexander “ Snacks “ Taylor which makes  fascinating reading :

Alexander Taylor was seventy-seven when war broke out. Despite his age he managed to enlist and in doing so succeeded in becoming the oldest person in uniform in the British forces

Taylor had  served in the Boer War as well as WW1 and lived with his  family in the Drill Hall in Meadow Place where  he was employed as an instructor . After this  he moved  to Mitchell Street and  became  a tobacconist in High Street where Boots the Chemist is now located .

In conclusion  let  me list those  mentioned in the Diary who received Certificates of Commendation  for Good  Service in the Crieff Home Guard 
.
Major ADC Main   1944, Lieut A Dow 1942, Sgt W Shand 1944, Sgt Gilfillan 1943, Sgt S Christie 1944, Sgt J Clark 1944, Sgt J Ferguson 1944, Sgt R Murdoch  1944, Sgt T Rintoul 1944 and Private J Urquhart 1944.


1 comment:

  1. Searching for any information on my father George Drummond living in Perth said to be in the Home Guard but not sure where

    ReplyDelete