The Home Guard was a key part of the defence of the United Kingdom during the Second World War, and was a much more effective force than its popular image might suggest. Cullen's work looks at the entire history of the Home Guard, from its formation in the dark days of 1940 through its development into a professional force and up to its eventual dissolution in 1944.
Cullen covers a wide range of topics, from the very practical to the politically theoretical. There are thus discussions of the tensions between those who saw the Home Guard as a politically revolutionary force with the potential to transform British society and those who saw it as yet another example of the volunteer tradition (some tracing it back as far as the Anglo-Saxons, others looking at the volunteer forces of the Napoleonic period for a more convincing historical precedent. This was more than just a theoretical argument, with veterans of the Spanish Civil War setting up a famous Home Guard training centre where they passed on their experiences and attempted to impart their political views.
Cullen also looks at the development of tactical plans for the use of the Home Guard, as it became an increasingly professional unit, and the increasing use of Home Guard members on anti-aircraft duties. The development of the Home Guard after the real invasion threat was over is interesting, as are the sections on the Home Guard on the Isle of Man and in Northern Ireland.
This is a fascinating examination of one of the best known British forces of the Second World War, looking at areas that are often skipped over, and giving a well balanced view of a Home Guard that at its peak was an efficient and increasingly professional military unit.
Part I - Background
1 - Defending these Shores
Part II - The Home Guard and the Defence of the UK, 1940-44
2 - Time of Crisis; May 1940-June 1941
3 - The Long Haul; June 1941-December 1944
Part III: Old Men, Young Men and Women - the People in Arms
4 - Playing Fields and Factory Yards
5 - Celtic Defenders
6 - Home Guard Lives
Part IV: Equipping the Home Guard
7 - Rifles to Rockets
8 - Cloth Caps and Steel Helmets
Part V: Understanding and Remembering the Home Guard
9 - 'It All Happened Before'
10 - Gone but not Forgotten
Author: Stephen M. Cullen
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military