The big screen reboot of classic BBC sitcom Dad's Army has had mixed reviews but the film has reignited interest in the improvised band of volunteers that made up Britain's Home Guard during the Second World War.
Initially named Local Defence Volunteers, or LDV, the Home Guard was composed of local volunteers who were ineligible for military service, either by being in professions that were exempt from conscription, or by being too old (hence the nickname "Dad's Army"). The Home Guard helped to protect coastal areas and key sites such as airfields and factories from 1940 until 1944. Their main role was to act as "an armed police constabulary", slowing down the advance of the enemy in the event of an invasion. However, they did engage in combat situations, manning anti-aircraft weapons. They have been credited with shooting down numerous Luftwaffe aircraft and V-1 flying bombs.
IBTimes UK looks back at the real life Dad's Army in these vintage photographs of the Home Guard going about their duties during the war. 22 June 1940: A member of the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers – forerunner of the Home Guards) in instructed on how to fire a rifle at the National Shooting Centre in Bisley, Surrey Keystone/Getty Images Circa 1940: Men from the London Transport Board's own Home Guard learn to fire a machine gun Hulton Archive/Getty Images A veteran sergeant in the Dorking Home Guard cleans his Tommy gun at the dining room table, before going on parade, 1 December 1940 Imperial War Museum Circa 1942: Members of the Home Guard, the home defence division of the British Army, display an array of weaponry Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images 31 July 1940: Members of the Home Guard train their racing pigeons as messengers, in Blackburn, Lancashire Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images 31 July 1940: Members of the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers – later called the Home Guard) in the north west of England train racing pigeons to carry messages from outposts on the moors to Home Guard HQ Fox Photos/Getty Images A Leicestershire Home Guard anti-tank section capture their first "Nazi" Whippet tank during a training exercise Imperial War Museum 4 September 1941: Sergeant Gander, a 60-year-old bus driver and member of the 14th Sussex-Hove Battalion Home Guard, demonstrates his ability to balance a 130lb barbell on his head Fox Photos/Getty Images 20 September 1941: The total weight of the men and the weights borne by the physical training instructor to the local Home Guard is 39 stone (248kg). He himself weighs just over 11 stone (70kg) and is 60 years of age Fox Photos/Getty Images 15 october 1940: Two men of the Auxiliary Fire Service watch Home Guardsman Joe Price, a blacksmith by trade, bending an iron bar with his teeth Maeers/Getty Images January 1942: Home Guards smear green paint on each other during a camouflage training course at Fieldcraft School in South-Eastern Command Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images Circa 1942: General Montgomery meets a camouflaged Home Guard on a tactical training course in South Eastern Command Fox Photos/Getty Images 1 November 1942: A sniper from the 25th Battalion London Home Guard demonstrates the use of camouflage with sacking dyed green and brown Horace Abrahams/Getty Images Circa 1942: A member of the 25th Battalion of the London Home Guard gives a camouflage demonstration using strips of old wallpaper Keystone/Getty Images 7 October 1942: Armed London cabbies with camouflaged taxis take part in an anti-invasion exercise. Their job was to resist 'invading Germans' who had established a bridgehead in Southend and were advancing on London through Epping Forest Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images 19 September 1940: Members of a Home Guard unit attached to the St Martin's Preserving Company factory in Berkshire, train with an improvised armoured car Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images Home Guard bayonet instructor Corporal Charles Batchelor thrusts his bayonet firmly into a hanging sack (representing the enemy) during a training exercise in an English village Imperial War Museum Sir Winston Churchill inspects the House of Commons Home Guard in Spencer's Yard, London, 13 May 1942 Topical Press Agency/Getty Images Circa 1941: Two members of the Home Guard, armed with Thompson sub-machine or 'Tommy' guns, take part in training at a rifle range in Western Command, circa 1941 Keystone/Getty Images 1940: Commandant Nichols reviews the men of the No 1 Company, E Battalion, of Manchester's Home Guard Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images 12 September 1940: German airmen, who parachuted from a Heinkel HE-111 bomber that was shot down in the Battle of Britain, are marched off by the Home Guard in Goodwood, Sussex Fox Photos/Getty Images August 1940: The wreckage of a German Dornier bomber aircraft brought down in the south London area by rifle fire from the local Home Guard Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images 4 September 1940: Three soldiers of the Home Guard pose with a wrecked Messerschmitt (believed to be one of Goering's Yellow Nose squadron) shot down over south-east England during the Battle of Britain. The man on the right points to the seven victory 'notches' on the aeroplane's tail Central Press/Getty Images 8 September 1940: A Home Guard soldier stands beside the wing of a German Junkers 88 bomber which crashed near Kentish Town, north London Fox Photos/Getty Images 1940: A Home Guardsman in a makeshift tank Central Press/Getty Images 7 September 1940: Members of the Home Guard help residents to remove furniture from their homes after air raids in the East End of London A. J. O'Brien/Fox Photos/Getty Images 10 July 1942: A platoon of Special Service commandos formed from the ranks of bus drivers and conductors of the London Transport Home Guard advance through a smoke screen with bayonets fixed during a training exercise Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images Circa 1941: The Post Office Home Guard and the London Midland Scottish Home Guard carry out a mock invasion of the City of London Keystone/Getty Images Circa 1941: Members of the Home Guard at a training camp learn how to assemble a Tommy gun Fox Photos/Getty Images Home Guard soldiers on motorcycles with sidecars fitted with Lewis guns during an exercise near Exeter, 10 August 1941 Imperial War Museum 29 July 1941: A one-man anti-gas ambulance and resuscitator, designed and made for use by the Home Guard Fox Photos/Getty Images 19 April 1941: Lord Redesdale (right), wearing his Home Guard uniform, chats to a guest outside St Bartholomew the Great Church in Smithfield, London, following the wedding of his daughter Unity Mitford to Andrew Cavendish George W. Hales/Fox Photos/Getty Images Circa 1940: Members of the Home Guard River Patrol on the Thames at Teddington Lock Fox Photos/Getty Images 1941: Members of the Home Guard are given plane-spotting training, using models, charts and blackboard diagrams Fox Photos/Getty Images