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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

The Homeguard – Hemyock Residents Remember WWII

The Headquarters of the Hemyock Homeguard were at the Milk Factory. This page contains memories of the Home Guard or "Dads' Army." It is an extract from the book Memories of War. Other pages in this series:

Introduction; Wartime Life; Homeguard; Farming; POWs; Aircraft; Evacuees; Memories; War Carpenter

Contents of this page:


Hemyock was a small and peaceful village. Most people were employed in the local area, many in agriculture. Everyone knew everyone else, practically anything could be bought or mended in the village. With the outbreak of war life began to change. Daily work and life still continued despite the fact that Hemyock was surrounded by airfields and army camps.

The Homeguard ("Dad's Army")

The Hemyock Headquarters for the Home Guard were down at the Milk Factory. This was a good centre as many of the members of the Home Guard worked down at the Factory where they were engaged in important war work of helping to feed the nation as due to the submarine blockade the country had to become virtually self-sufficient. Dried milk, research into drying eggs and the very important project of producing Compo Rations for the troops (milk powder, mixed with tea) were being undertaken at the Factory during the war.

Together with the Factory workers, Hemyock farmers and various other people engaged in Reserved Occupations (those that were so important at home that they could not be spared to go and fight the enemy), or those who were too old, or who were medically unfit formed the members of this important home defence force. At first they were very short of uniforms and equipment such as guns. As elsewhere in the country, many Hemyockians can still remember the local Home Guard drilling with broomsticks in lieu of rifles during the early war years. By 1940, there were 1,300,000 members of the Home Guard nationally.

A wartime photo of the Hemyock Home Guard shows 43 Home Guard members. Although very few of the Home Guard still survive their descendants and relatives still live in the village today.

Enemy Planes

Searchlights swept around the sky as enemy raider planes penetrated the coastal defences. Hemyock was sited on the way to several West Country and Welsh targets – Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol, Cardiff and South Wales, and of course the many West Country airfields to name but a few. Many people remember the drone of the enemy aircraft passing overhead on their bombing raids. Their drone was very different from that of the Allied planes. They remember too, warning sirens howling in the distance across the night air. Members of the Hemyock Home Guard helped to man the local searchlights up at the top of Pencross and above Tedburrow, these formed part of the national chain that swept through the night skies to pick out any enemy aircraft or parachutists for the anti-aircraft guns to target.

The Home Guard patrolled the village boundaries, manned the local lookout posts around the hills. If England had been invaded these men would have formed an important part of the Home Defence. They would go up to the lookout posts in groups of 3 or 4 to keep watch for any enemy parachutists or planes, they covered right up to Culmstock Beacon. They also took turns guarding the White Ball Tunnel. Leonard Manley can remember his father setting off for look out duty. They used to set off on his Uncle Shire's motorbike, a 1932 Triumph to investigate any suspicious circumstances, these duties sometimes taking them via Mr Radford's, the Publican at the Railway Inn (Catherine Wheel), much to the disgust of his mother!

Under the Military Training Act of June 1939 all men aged 20-21 had to register. In September 1939 this was extended to include all men aged 18-41 By October one million men were under intensive military training. Hemyock men registered in Exeter, but as only a certain number could be trained at once many were not actually allowed to join active military service until much later in the war. Whilst awaiting their call up many worked in Civil jobs vitally important to the war effort by day and spent all their spare time in the Home Guard. Their initial training and experience in the Home Guard stood them in very good stead when they were finally called up. Part of the training included learning how to shoot. Mr Brian Redwood's father would be chartered to take them out by bus for shooting practice at the firing ranges.

Other pages in this series:

Introduction; Wartime Life; Homeguard; Farming; POWs; Aircraft; Evacuees; Memories; War Carpenter

Hemyock's Memories of War – the Book

The memories were published originally in 1995 as a 65 page, A4 booklet, illustrated with many photographs. All profits went to the Royal British Legion.

The text has been extensively re-edited and republished in Amazon Kindle format, in aid of Hemyock's Blackdown Support Group charity, it is equivalent to about 115 A5 pages. The photographs have been made into online slideshows.

The complete WWII "Box Set," Hemyock Memories Volume 5, contains all the WWII volumes 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 covering life during World War II 1939-45. These Memories of WWII Kindle books contain eyewitness accounts by residents of Hemyock, of their life during WWII, both serving overseas and on the "Home Front."

Links to video slideshows

For convenience, the photos have been arranged in four groups, forming four slide shows, each lasting about four minutes. The slide shows have been uploaded as 1080p HD. This means that they can be viewed using most types of computer or mobile devices and at any of the resolutions supported by YouTube. Contact us for a DVD version of these slideshows, or versions in other formats.

Links to the Amazon Kindle pages:

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