From Dacorum at War 1987 Exhibition handbook
Dacorum Museum Advisory committee
… although things were not easy in the LDV at first. They had no real weapons and any that were in existence at the start of the war had to be handed in to the police. The volunteers had to drill using chestnut paling stakes.
It was not long (summer 1940), before the LDV was renamed the Home Guard and the men were issued with uniforms. Training books, rifles and ammunition then gradually began to filter through from County Hall at Hertford.
Doris (Sygrave, secretary to C.O.) remembers that it was in the autumn of 1940 that there was the first fear of an enemy attack on Hemel Hempstead. She recalls the incident with amusement, although as she says it was quite terrifying at the time.
“I was in the dining room “office” when I received a telephone call that parachutes were dropping North East of Hemel Hempstead. The Colonel handed me a revolver and told me to shoot any ‘Huns’ in sight, whilst he made a call-out of all troops. The cook at the house, an elderly woman, went hysterical and the parlour maid fainted.”
“It turned out to have been a false alarm. The Brocks Firework Company, who had their factory on the outskirts of town at what is now Woodhall Farm, were experimenting with what was called pyrotechnic trials. These looked very like parachutes, but as I learned later were used to drop articles to troops behind enemy lines.”
In December 1942, the C.O. Major F. Yeats-Brown was promoted to Acting Lieutenant Colonel and was posted to India. Out in India he did not forget his friends in the home Guard and sent back food parcels. They contained much sought after wartime luxuries, a pound of butter and two pounds of marmalade.
It was in the latter days of the Home Guard that Doris remembers another amusing incident. Some boys unearthed some of the Home Guard’s Molotov cocktails (phosphorus bombs) and threw them into the River Gade setting it alight. She remembers:
“This caused pandemonium. The river was excellent for trout fishing and many fish were killed. The fire brigade was called out and it was learned that an elderly gentleman had found one of the bomb bottles that had not exploded, thought it contained hair oil and had taken it home. I had to find out where he lived and stop another disaster.”
The stand down of the Home Guard in 1944 came as something of a surprise to Doris. The first she knew of it was on a BBC news bulletin on the wireless.
To mark her service with the LDV and Home Guard she was presented with a solid silver salver which was inscribed and bore the actual signatures of all the officers. It is a gift Doris still treasures greatly and as she says: “As long as I live, I shall remember with great affection the many friends I made in the LDV/Home Guard days. They were all good to me sharing any luxuries and inviting me to spend weekends with their families. They were indeed days of sharing and giving.”
Hertfordshire Local Studies Library, WW2 Yellow Folder 1