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The Croydon Home Guard is regarded as having comprised the following Battalions:
58th Surrey (Purley), 59th Surrey (Addington), 61st Surrey (Norwood), 62nd Surrey (Norbury), 31st London (Streatham), 32nd Surrey (Factory) and 33rd Surrey (Corporation).

In the immediate post-war years, Croydon Corporation issued a commemorative book entitled "Croydon in the Second World War" by W.C. Berwick Sayers. Within it was a section, invaluable to Home Guard historians and to local and family history researchers, giving a summary of Home Guard activities in the area between 1940 and 1944. In the interest of preserving this material and making it accessible to a wider, 21st century audience, this page contains a transcript of the author's description and the four accompanying images.
A full acknowledgement is given at the foot of the page.


On Tuesday, May 14th, 1940, Mr. Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for War, broadcast an appeal which resulted in the most dramatic response in the history of volunteer citizen armies. Germany had struck in the West; in four days, Holland had fallen, largely through inadequate defence against violent aerial bombardment and innumerable parachutists; Belgium was again invaded; soon the B.E.F. would make its desperate but brilliant evacuation, and France was to fall.

Mr. Eden called for an army of unpaid, part-time volunteers to defend their homes, and to face the threat of imminent invasion. The response in the Croydon area was immediate. Throughout the country applicants poured to the appointed stations, and, in a few days, half a million, and in a few weeks, one and three-quarter millions were functioning as an organization of local forces, self-created, without recourse to the aid of the Army, and with only general directions from the War Office.

The task of organizing this great Force in the "Z" Metropolitan Zone (comprising Croydon, Beddington and Wallington, Coulsdon and Purley, Warlingham and Streatham), was entrusted on May 20th to Major Norman C. Gillett, a retired officer of the Royal Tank Corps, lately D.A.A.G., 1st Armoured Division. He immediately decided to concentrate his first attention on the defence of the open country and approaches south and east of Croydon, which he constituted in the following areas:
I. Purley Sub-zone:
under Captain Bruce Humfrey, J.P., I.A. (retired), later Chairman of the Croydon County Bench, a battalion of three Company groups, West, Central and East, in a half circle ranging round Croydon.

II. Addington Sub-zone:
a double group east of Croydon, and including Shirley, under Captain E. B. Loveluck, late of the Indian Staff College.

III. Coulsdon Sub-zone:
a double group south of Purley, and including most of Kenley, under Captain R. H. Hudson, retired.

IV. Warlingham Group:
 covering south-eastern approaches, under Captain Ambrose Keevil, M.C., late Munster Fusiliers.
The principal organizers received only an area, some bundles of application forms, the promise of fifty rifles per group, and authority to recruit three men per rifle on a brief question and answer basis. With eager helpers, however, they worked day and night, during the rest of May, in surveying their areas, marking out sectors, fixing observation posts, rendezvous and patrol areas, perusing applications, calling up, interviewing and enrolling applicants, selecting, appointing and instructing platoon and section commanders, obtaining and equipping suitable headquarters, concerting tactical, defensive and training measures, collecting such little uniform and equipment as they could, and making contact with police, civil defence services and local military organizations and neighbouring formations.

So the movement started without documentary authority or instruction, or any recruiting, administrative and training staff, accommodation, supplies, transport or finance. The general idea was to form as many groups of three men as possible. Of these, No. 1 was rifleman and in charge, with the prime duty of offence, No. 2 was handyman, observer and support, while No. 3 was runner, preferably with car or cycle, and the prime duty of communications. This provided all the elements of an observation post, guard or patrol, with three reliefs, and ready security for rifle, bolt and ammunition. The formula which remained the keynote of the service was, "See, tell, hit" with constant observation for the expected airborne enemy, immediate report back, and instant attack upon any landing.

Meanwhile, Major Gillett was gathering the nucleus of his Zone H.Q. staff, first at 5, Friends Road, and later at 4, Fell Road. This included Mr. Frank Harwood, M.C. (late R.A.), and Major S. R. Docking, T.D., an ever-young Croydon veteran who had commanded the Croydon column of the S.E. Mounted Brigade Transport and Supply Column, A.S.C. in the 1914-18 war. Major Gillett negotiated contacts and boundaries with neighbouring Zones, formed special "Factory" and "Utility" units, and tackled the question of the "back areas". For these, at that time, there were neither arms nor the prospect of them. Their provisional role was to supply unarmed bodies to support the police, and they were organized under the general supervision of Brigadier-General Hanbury in four areas (Croydon Central, Norwood, Norbury and Streatham).

By the end of May, this spate of activity had evolved a great organization, prepared to give a serious account of itself, and keeping constant watch and ward from the outset. From May 25th, observation posts were manned nightly; on May 26th arms, ammunition and uniform were drawn and parades held; on May 31st a general "stand-to" found Croydon's new defences tested and tried. The original preparations for invasion from the air were being supplemented by preparations to meet a hostile advance on land; and such offensive weapons as could be issued, begged, borrowed or invented were being brought into use and position, with ready aid from engineers, scientists and veterans, whose experience enriched the new Force.


The pace of activity and growth in the first few weeks was too rapid to be maintained by the original pioneers, who all had their personal business and domestic cares as well as public responsibilities. Once the organization was actively functioning they looked for others, well-fitted and with time available to give to work which demanded every ounce of energy. Major Gillett was fortunate enough to find Major-General N. G. Anderson, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., ready to take over command of the Zone and to give all his wise counsel and experienced guidance to all leaders and ranks.

The Purley Battalion (Z1), was gradually re-organized under the command of Captain Haine, V.C., giving up the Sanderstead Company, and taking in the South Croydon Company under Councillor Berners Price, and the Coulsdon Sub-zone.
The Addington Sub-zone was enlarged into a Battalion (Z2), taking in the Sanderstead Company and the Warlingham Group, under Mr. H. Pierce, J.P.; this Battalion contained the only mounted section and patrol.
The back areas were now gradually being armed, in four Battalions, Croydon, Norwood, Norbury and Streatham (Z3, Z4, Z5 and Z6).
The central group of factories was formed into a Battalion (Z7), first under Mr. C. Renton-Coomber, and then under Councillor (now Alderman) Basil Monk, while ...
The enrolled details of Corporation services in Croydon became a Municipal Battalion (Z8), under Mr. H. F. Hughes, D.C.M.

Gradually, the authorities realised that this great infant force was worthy of more encouragement in men, money and material. The original annual allowance of 2/6 (12.5p) per man was increased by more noticeable grants, a paid whole-time administrative assistant was sanctioned for each battalion, to which a clerk was added later, and the Zone obtained a Weapons Instructor in Sgt. (later C.S.-M.) Coombs. Marksmanship was diligently practised, both at Bisley and on local ranges, with the original rifles, and afterwards with automatic weapons.

The Prime Minister, with his flair for the bon mot, gave the Local Defence Volunteers their new neat, though possibly less precise designation of "The Home Guard." On August 15th, 1940, the Home Guard of the Croydon and Purley Battalions and Factory units helped long into the first tragic night of aerial bombardment; after which, as raids continued, they did yeoman work and earned commendation. Time after time, invasion seemed inevitable, but still nothing happened.

(Webmaster note: Active Home Guard involvement in the defence against enemy attack of course continued and included daytime raids.  Three days later, on Sunday, August 18th, Kenley Aerodrome was subject to a heavy attack which involved significant loss of life including that of William Battle of the 58th Surrey (Purley) Battalion.)

Apart from those who gradually departed in the Field Army, it is remarkable how very few volunteers fell out. Men engaged in guard duty or training, after a hard day at their civilian work, without greatcoats on wet, cold winter nights, without helmets in the midst of raids, were animated by no mere burst of enthusiasm, but by a constant sense of urgent and desperate need.

Many names could be mentioned of those who helped for varying periods, for example, Lieut.-General Sir Douglas Brownrigg, K.C.B., late Adjutant-General to the B.E.F., who acted as General Anderson's assistant for some time, but the Zone's achievements were attained by the combined efforts of those thousands whom it is impossible to name individually.

Until April, 1941, the "citizen army" aspect was maintained by a complete absence of ranks, save those derived from earlier Army service. All were simple volunteers, exercising such authority as was inherent in the particular job undertaken by each. In April, however, the War Office decided to bring the civilian army into line with the Field Army by conferring ranks to accompany special appointments. These were not automatically higher rank, as for example, Major-General Anderson, who became a Colonel, H.G.  Medical Officers were appointed, and the Bishop of Croydon became Zone Chaplain, but without pay or allowance of any rank.


In May or June, 1940, anyone would have ridiculed a prophecy that twelve months would elapse without invasion, but the miracle happened, and when, on June 22nd, 1941, Hitler attacked Russia, the Home Guard felt able for the first time, to develop long-term training and organization. Collective, intensive, specialist and staff training in Battalions, in Zones, pools and courses, and away at special schools and with Regular Units were the dominant notes of the second year. The Home Guard had been instituted and it had found its feet; now it was getting fit and ready for whatever form of attack the enemy might make. Changes in personnel occurred steadily, but merely as individual enlistments, promotions and retirements. Arms and equipment continued to arrive, but never quickly enough for the men.
For the greater number, training meant weapon training, field exercises, street fighting and unarmed combat. As to the first, the awkward journey to Bisley was no longer necessary, practice took place at Worms Heath, Tillingdown and Marlpit Lane. Demonstrations were given and zest fostered by competitions between units, while physical fitness was toned up by route marches. The "State" and other cinemas became centres of military education by means of the screen.

Appropriate courses took the commanders, from section N.C.O.s and platoon officers upward, further afield to London and Dorking, and into contact with officers from other zones, near and far. Within the Zone, Lieut.-Colonel Keevil, as Assistant Zone Commander, formed first a Zone Instructional Centre, and then instituted special lectures, tours, tactical exercise without troops and conferences, with the ideal of lively and efficient cohesion. Fieldcraft and camouflage were studied and practised, while at Zone H.Q. and in Battalions, intelligence and signal sections were formed. Battle organization was learned and practised in liaison with Field Army units, neighbouring Home Guard, police, and civil defence services. Of particular interest, too, was the formation of the Whitgift Intelligence Section, which was, in effect, a Staff College for boys of both the Whitgift Schools.

By the end of the second year the Home Guard role had advanced from preparing to tackle parachutists to undertaking the primary defence of our islands, thus freeing the Field Army for duty elsewhere. The policy of conscription had been sanctioned, but not put into operation; the right to resign had been taken away; all service was still unpaid, but necessary expenses were refunded. The Home Guard was accepted as an integral part of the armed forces of the Crown, with H.M. the King as Colonel-in-Chief.


Throughout the year 1942-43 the Home Guard continued to operate on the same lines as before, though, with the develop­ment of the war effort, changes in role, personnel and organiza­tion inevitably occurred.

Although, by the summer of 1942, the danger of invasion had receded, the Home Guard became a defence force to an even greater extent against the real danger of diversionary attacks. Thus it freed the Regular Army for tasks further afield. So far, such attacks were coming only from greatly reduced air assaults, and the Home Guard took over anti-aircraft defence and raised batteries which quickly went into action, notably in the London area. To cope with its increased responsibilities, the Home Guard's mechanized transport and signal services were augmented and developed.

In May, Major-General Anderson, who had so admirably commanded the Zone since July, 1940, retired and was succeeded by Colonel Keevil as Zone Commander, with Lieut.-Colonel Harwood as Deputy. Thus, two of the original organizers of May, 1940, reached command of the area in two years. From its early days, the Zone was fortunate in finding within its own borders, born commanders who, like most of its personnel, succeeded in performing arduous military duties while pur­suing civil occupations; there was therefore no need to bring in senior commanders from the Regular Army.

Other changes gradually occurred, because of the calling-up of younger men and the death or retirement of older ones, and unfortunately because of casualties on duty, in raids or on ranges. Particularly regretted was the death of Lieut.-Colonel Harold Webster, the universally respected and loved C.O. of the 61st (Norwood) Battalion, and Parks Superintendent of Croydon. Substantially, however, the earliest volunteers continued to carry the main burden with the welcome and steady influx of young recruits already well versed and trained in arms. This last was due to one of the features of the third year of the war. This was the creation of Youth Forces and their expanding influence on boys and girls; the gap between Scouts and Guides on one hand and the Services on the other being bridged now not only by the O.T.C. and Cadet Corps of the great schools, but also by the national pre-Service bodies, the A.T.C., Sea Cadets, Army Cadet Force, G.T.C. and W.J.A.C., which now flourished in the district and, on the male side, proved valuable training schools for the Home Guard as well as the Services. In this year, too, the strong desire of many women to serve at last obtained recognition and the Zone Headquarters and Battalions all received contingents of women volunteers who were often anxious to do much more than the duties assigned to them.

A fitting climax to the year came with the King's inspection of local contingents in Hyde Park, the Prime Minister's broadcast tribute from Washington and the stirring anniversary parades on "Home Guard Sunday"! throughout the Zone, whose title had now been changed to "Sector" and which had at last obtained a more fitting Headquarters in Poplar Walk.

May 16th, 1943, was celebrated throughout the country as "Home Guard Sunday," it being the third anniversary of the inauguration of Local Defence Volunteers. In the morning, each Battalion in the "Z"' Metropolitan District prepared an independent programme. These consisted mainly of route marches, and one of the most spectacular was that of the 33rd Battalion at Duppas Hill. The officers and men marched from Fairfield, and the salute was taken by the Commanding Officer (Lieut.-Colonel H. F. Hughes) and Councillor Engineer Rear-Admiral Harrison. The column was headed by the band of the Whitgift J.T.C. The spectators saw mock operations, including a "gas attack."

A service was held in the afternoon at the Grand Theatre. The address was given by the Rev. W. C. Lee, Senior Chaplain to the Forces, and Colonel Keevil read the Lessons. The parade, led by Lieut.-Colonel Harwood (Assistant Sector Commander) and Major Waller (Sector Training Officer) included the 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 58th, 59th, 60th, 61st and 62nd Surrey Battalions and detachments from six neighbouring battalions. They marched from Fairfield, led by the band of the 1st Leicesters. Colonel Keevil took the salute at the Town Hall.

1943 and 1944, D DAY, DOODLES and STAND DOWN

Still long months passed of tense waiting, with two minor blitzes; during one of which died Lieut.-Colonel Frank Harwood, Deputy Sector Commander, to whose constant zeal "Z" Sector had owed as much as to anyone in four years of strain.

When "D" Day came the Sector had secretly for weeks been under special orders, but had to adapt itself, and did so readily to duties never contemplated. No armed German at this time reached our shores or skies, but the H.G. A.A. batteries did yeoman service against the flying bomb, and were not content with the duties assigned to them. Time and again they insisted on taking over from regular gunners, worn out by strenuous duty. The battalions with no live targets often found scope for valuable constructive, instead of destructive, service. Wherever homes were wrecked in "Z" sector, the worst hit area of all, Home Guards were at once on the spot rendering first aid to the stricken dwellings. In one of these homes was Major N. C. Gillett, the original organizer and Zone commander of the L.D.V., who succumbed as a result of this last blow after many years of fine public service.

When the Field Army reached Germany the Cabinet decided that the Home Guard had fulfilled its mission and should now "stand down" to release its members' time and energy for other pressing tasks. Amid much conflict of views as to the wisdom and manner of doing this, the final orders came through. Crowds witnessed the final stirring sector parade march past the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey and other distinguished visitors at Croydon Town Hall on November 26th, 1944, and a week later each battalion held its own parade among its friends with vale­dictory messages of thanks.

There is, unfortunately, no space for the names of upwards of thirty thousand who served, but the following were the main units and final commanders:

  "Z" Sector Commander ... Colonel Ambrose Keevil, C.B.E., M.C
  Deputy Commander ... Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Chapman
  Battalion Commanders:
     58th Surrey (Purley) ... Lieut.-Colonel R. L. Haine, V.C., M.C.
     59th Surrey (Addington) ... Lieut.-Colonel H. E. Pierce, J.P.
     60th Surrey (Croydon) ... Lieut.-Colonel G. H. Ward, O.B.E.
     61st Surrey (Norwood) ... Lieut.-Colonel F. L. Walker
     62nd Surrey (Norbury) ... Lieut.-Colonel M. S. Richardson
     31st London (Streatham) ... Lieut.-Colonel J. C. W. Grieg
     32nd Surrey (Factory) ... Lieut.-Colonel Basil Monk, M.B.E., J.P.
     33rd Surrey (Corporation) ... Lieut.-Colonel H. F. Hughes, D.C.M.


is gratefully made to
the author (W.C. Berwick Sayers) and the publisher (Croydon Corporation) of "Croydon in the Second World War", and to their successors, whose specific permission  for the reproduction of this material has been impossible to obtain because of the passage of time. The entirely non-commercial purpose of this website is simply to commemorate the service of all members of the Home Guard and to add to our knowledge of their activities in 1940-1944. Nevertheless, if anyone feels that their rights have been unreasonably infringed, they are asked to contact the webmaster who will take immediate and appropriate remedial action.
Grateful acknowledgement is similarly to made to Will Ward for having brought this publication to the attention of staffshomeguard.





x182, November 2021