Recollections of The Homefront in Lancashire


Last updated: 25 May 2017

The darkest days were the end of May and the beginning of June 1940 -- the collapse of Belgium, evacuation of the BEF at Dunkirk, surrender of France and the Nazi occupation of Holland/Denmark/Norway. I think that just about everyone knew that things were really grave in the last week of May and the first week of June, 1940. The reins of government had changed hands -- Neville Chamberlain was out and Winston Churchill was the new Prime Minister. The country now pinned its hopes on Churchill as the person who would lead us through the war -- Britain was alone -- what was next? -- talk of invasion was commonplace.

Britain was not completely alone -- countries throughout the British Empire and Commonwealth sent large numbers of soldiers, sailors and airmen to defend the mother country. Among the early forces to arrive in Britain were units from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and the West Indies. There were also substantial numbers of Free French, Poles, Czechs, et al. who came to serve in Britain after the fall of their own countries and the evacuation of Dunkirk. Many of these fighting men were organized into their own units and fought with distinction and valor throughout the war. There were even Americans who joined the RAF as volunteer fighter aircraft pilots who, as members of the special "Eagle Squadrons", distinguished themselves flying Spitfires and Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain, some becoming famous aces and many losing their lives. Some of these American pilots stayed in the RAF after the Battle of Britain - others later transferred to the USAAF. All of these fighting men, and women, contributed mightily to the Allied cause throughout the war.

The national Government was concerned about the morale of the people during the dark days of 1940/41. The Prime Minister (Winston Churchill) delivered his famous inspirational speeches in Parliament -- the BBC and the newspapers gave them the widest dissemination. Local Government leaders exerted a lot of effort to boost the morale of the public too. They published and distributed inspirational fliers and notices at Schools, Churches, organizational meetings, etc. and in the local newspapers.

Nazi Radio Propaganda broadcasting, using British broadcasters, began in late 1939. It wasn't long before "Lord Haw Haw" (William Joyce) became a notorious figure of wireless broadcasts throughout Britain. There were actually several British ex-patriots with various political and personal motivations who broadcast for the Germans during the war including some members of the armed forces who had been captured by the Germans (mostly during the fighting in France and Crete) and a couple of women. Not all of these were heard on the Bremen/Hamburg broadcasts to Britain, being used instead for propaganda broadcasts to British Commonwealth nations, the United States and various English speaking neutral countries. British ex-patriot propaganda broadcasters -- Joyce in particular -- were listened too quite extensively throughout Britain, starting in 1939 and until the end of the war. Most people found the broadcasts humorous and entertaining although many took them seriously and were alarmed by them. The hard news presentations were generally factual, quite accurate and often "scooped" the BBC in announcing important wartime events. The propaganda commentary was wickedly clever and aimed at demoralizing the British Home Front -- mostly seeking to foment public unrest, distrust of the British Government, a sense of hoplessness in opposing the Nazi war machine -- and anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Letters from captured British soldiers were frequently read at the conclusion of the broadcasts which generated a substantial listening audience. Broadcast reception was usually very good in Britain -- at least in the Manchester area where we lived -- we received the Bremen frequency clearly. My father and I used to listen to the broadcasts most evenings in the early years of the war -- with some amusement and mostly curiosity -- we were never unduly affected or disturbed by any broadcast that I can remember.

The Local Defence Volunteer (LDV) organization -- modeled after the regular British Army -- was formed by the Government in early 1940 after Dunkirk and shortly thereafter was renamed the Home Guard (HG). The part-time volunteer members were mostly men between the ages of 17 and 65 who were either too old for regular military service or were employed in essential war effort jobs. They were trained to defend against enemy invaders, assist in Civil Defence, guard essential buildings and installations and patrol key road and rail centers. My father's generation were mostly veterans of WWI and therefor too old for military service. Most of them eagerly joined the LDV as soon as it was formed or, like some of my uncles, signed up for service with Civil Defence. My father joined the Burnley (LDV) Home Guard soon after its formation in 1940.

LDV (later HG) Volunteers

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