Dad’s Army 1914. The National Guard.

On the 16th December 1914 the formation of the National Guard was announced in the press. An often overlooked formation. They won no VCs, or Battle Honours. I do not think there is a Memorial to them either.

Here is a brief history of Britain’s first Dad’s Army.

The chief founder was the Lord Mayor of London Sir Charles Johnston Bart. He has the title of “Founder of the National Guard”. The military adviser was Colonel R. K. Ridgeway, V.C., C.B. Members had to be 40 or over, pay an annual subscription and supply their own arms and uniforms. One member, Thomas Nalty, had been awarded the “China” Medal in 1860.

Francis Bannerman of New York provided Springfield Rifles for use by the National Guard, until Lee-Enfields could be spared.

The regiment’s first route march took place on the 23rd January 1915. On the 20th March they were inspected by King George V in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Over 2000 Officers and men were reviewed. That Easter they held manoeuvres at Brighton. In May they started digging trenches in Essex as part of London’s defences. Their camp there remained in existence and use until the end of October 1918.

In June 1915 they were informed that they could be accepted for serves overseas as an entrenching battalion for a limited time. However, French turned them down.

Rodolph Fane de Salis provide the site for their rifle range at Virginia Water.

On the 3rd November 1915 Kitchener inspected 1.800 men of the guard at Waterloo Barracks.

In 1916 the Guard became the 4th 5th and 6th Battalions of the London Volunteer Regiment. Easter manoeuvres took place as in 1915 at Brighton. French, as Commander in Chief Home Forces, reviewed the Guard as part of the London Volunteers, at Horse Guards Parade on the 16th June.  The Guard takes over duties from regular troops, including guarding of German Prisoners of War. The firepower of the guards is also increased. They have access (sole use?) to The Machine Gun School at Bucklesbury. An officer of the Guard also managed to serve in France. Platoon Commander J. F. D. Bowden was attached to the “Le Combat a la Baionette” where he taught Russians in the use the bayonet.

1917. Numbers had declined because officers and men had joined the regulars. Although their by now normal duties continued and a Railway Station Section was formed.  The Railway Section served at Victoria , Euston , King’s Cross, St Pancras and Waterloo Stations. Mainly insuring soldiers got on the right trains at the right times.

In 1918. January 300 men of the Guard were at the Service for Intercession on behalf of the Nation and Empire at St Pauls. In August men from the 4th, 5th, and 6th, Battalion’s  were at camp at Tadworth.

Although never called upon to serve overseas the men of the National Guard remained at their posts and on guard during the Zeppelin and Gotha Air Raids, and I am sure they would have held their ground in defence of London should the need have arisen.

Author Peter Anderson