Malcolm Atkin  Military Research

To The Last Man: the Home Guard in War and Popular Culture

by Malcolm Atkin

The history of the Home Guard has been hugely distorted  by popular myth, largely as a result of the popular TV series Dad's Army.  But the real Home Guard was no comedy organization of bumbling pensioners.

Discussion of how 'successful' the Home Guard might have been in stopping any invasion in 1940-1 misses the essential point that they were not expected to win any battles. Instead they were expected to sacrifice themselves to buy valuable time for the field army to regroup and counter-attack. They accepted this suicidal role with cheerful good humour and this formed the basis of later myth.

Thereafter,  the Home Guard took on  increasing responsibilities for anti-aircraft and coastal artillery defences. The head of Anti-Aircraft Command admitted  that it could not have functioned without them. They also had an important role in bomb disposal.  

During the war, the image of the Home Guard was carefully managed but was already creating its own myths. In particular the chaos of the early months began to be emphasised as a source of pride in the national spirit and to provide a contrast with later professionalism.  In the post-war period, the myth began to overtake reality and has had both a fundamental impact on the nature of research into the Home Guard and its specialist Auxiliary Units.

This publication continues the re-examination of the relationship of the Home Guard to the Auxiliary Units, and disects their image in popular culture. it also reassesses  the scheme for the  private donation of arms  from the USA, which illustrated the differing visions of national defence between gun enthusiasts in the USA and the British governemnt.  The role of women in the Home Guard is also explained in the context of contemporary tensions regarding the place of women in combat.  Also included is a study of the  near-forgotten 1950s Home Guard.

Cover 100dpi

220 pages (+ index) and 30 plates.

ISBN 978-1-52674-593-4

published in June  2019

by Pen & Sword.


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©  Copyright  Malcolm Atkin 2017.