The Home Guard

Memories of Home Guard Service 1941-1944

Peter Henman

I joined the Horne Guard in January 1941 at the old 23rd London Headquarters at Clapham Junction. The battalion title was the 29th London HG and was badged Queen's Royal Regiment.

Initial training was mainly drill and bayonet fighting, I was posted to B Company commanded by a Major Berry with a platoon sergeant named Hunt, later commissioned. It is only in latter years I realised that many of the volunteers had medal ribbons, some from the Boer War and many from the First World War, India and Afghanistan etc.

After training we carried out various guard duties in the Battersea area, mainly the railway bridge over the Thames in Lombard Road, other locations were an electricity sub-station on Lavender Hill and Mark Mayhew Flour Factory, Battersea Church Road. We were on duty every seven days, various Saturdays or Sundays were spent learning street fighting on old bombsites or being taken by train to Pirbright for target practice. Our arms consisted of P14 or P17 and Browning automatic rifles; later additions were Spigot Mortars, northover projectors and eventually Thompson sub-machine guns (AI Capone eat your heart out!!) Personal weapons were kept at home but no ammunition.

I lived in Earlsfield, Wandsworth and well remember cycling to Clapham Junction and horne again after duty, and then changing to go to work at the Bank of England. Woe betide you if you were late at the Bank!

In 1942 we were asked to volunteer to train for anti-aircraft command and to transfer to the Royal Artillery. Many younger members of the Horne Guard transferred for training. Some were chosen to go to heavy batteries which were springing up all over the place, and used 3.7 guns. One such battery was on Clapham Common. I was posted for training to Battersea Park where a new anti aircraft weapon was based. These were 3 inch unrotating rockets and called Z Batteries, each gun park contained 64 projectors which in turn fired 2 rockets, each with a ceiling of 20,000 feet, plus. After further training I spent some months in the Radar plotting room and well remember tracing a little white light across the plot table when enemy aircraft were raiding London.

On a number of occasions we were taken to Portsmouth in order to fire rockets out over the Solent. I believe the site was on Southsea Common and, in fact, had one hundred and twenty eight projectors. I also took holiday from work to go for a weeks training at Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex. The rockets in Battersea were fired in anger on a number of occasions. The battery had a number of casualties one night when a rocket failed to leave the projector and exploded, killing its crew and causing wounds to other personnel. As far as I know there is no memorial to those men or, in fact, to the men of the Horne Guard who served on this gunsite.

On park duties were carried out every fourth night, we manned the guns from 20.00 hours in the evening until stand-down at 0600 hours. Personally I had to travel by tram from Earlsfield to Battersea and after a hectic night the conductor would often not take the fare.

Horne Guard Anti-Aircraft crews were stood down in December 1944.

HG No 649 Bdr P Henman



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