London, December 3rd 1944

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Most Home Guard units held a stand-down parade in late 1944. A mention of that of the 32nd (Aldridge) Battalion, South Staffordshire Home Guard is contained in another part of this website.

The national parade, invoving many thousands of members representing forces throughout the country, took place in Central London before H.M. The King on Sunday, 3rd December 1944. A description of this huge parade, written by a member of the 32nd (Aldridge) Battalion who participated in it, is also contained elsewhere in this site. On that day too, the King issued a special message and broadcast a generous tribute to all Home Guards.

Here is another description of the London parade, the view of an onlooker in London clearly moved by the occasion, which appeared in a contemporary magazine.



Great crowds lined London's bomb-scarred streets on the grey Sunday afternoon of December 3rd 1944 to honour the farewell parade of Britain's Home Guard, who for over four years had held themselves ready to repel any invader. Grace Herbert of the Daily Express here gives her impression of marchers and spectators on this moving occasion.

They marched through Hyde Park, sere and leafless in the typical December weather, saluted the King, their Colonel-in-Chief, went off down Piccadilly to the Circus, up Regent Street, turned left along Oxford Street to Marble Arch, went by Tyburn Gate, then down through the Park again to the Ring Road to disperse, officially for ever...... unless called on for some fateful emergency.

A spectator can stand only at one place along a route, see one aspect of a marching man's face, one set of expressions - I felt a strange, unusual wish to cry. Why? These were ordinary men, our grocers, bank managers, husbands, sons. Men we see every day.

But for this day they were uplifted into something different. They wore greatcoats and tin hats, some carried new rifles, others had last-war rifles. Some wore new boots which were hurting them; some were young - very young; some were old - though not too old. Men of 70 walked beside boys of 17. And they were comrades. It was the comradeship, not the militancy, of this procession which made me want to cry.

I stood near the dais where the King, the Queen and the two Princesses were to take the salute. The Royal Standard curled in a soft breeze. People crowded the roof tops of the Dorchester Hotel and the houses of Stanhope Gate just behind. Park Lane was still.

In the middle distance we heard a low cheering. Five grey horses of the Metropolitan Police came into view. Behind them bobbed the khaki tin hats of our voluntary army. Several of us stood on park seats so that we could see both them and the King and Queen, and the Princesses. The King wore Field Marshal's uniform; the Queen, a black fur coat, a black hat, and fox fur.

With them on the saluting dais were Sir James Grigg, War Secretary, in a plain black coat, and General Sir Harold Franklyn, Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces. The Irish Guards band, stationed opposite the dais, played "Colonel Bogey".  Princess Margaret whispered to Elizabeth. They strained forward past their mother and father to see the men advancing.

The King raised his hand to the salute as men of the London district marched past. Then came the anti-aircraft gunners; then the Eastern Command contingent. For 45 minutes they marched by, 29 contingents, 11 Home Guard bands. The crowd cheered and clapped. Nearly every person in that crowd was looking out for somebody they knew in the parade.

It was an amazingly large, good-natured crowd. But it did not cheer loud and long. One woman said: "We are still at war!" Which seemed to sum up the general feeling. There were many Home Guards in the crowd, both in and out of uniform. And they made remarks like these: "Well, it shows the war's nearing its end." "Our job's done." "We won't forget the friends we've made in a hurry." "Fancy every one of those 7,000 men wearing his own socks." "Now I remember when we only had sticks." "Now mum'll have me back on her hands." "Old Home Guards never die..." The last line passed. The police closed in. It was over.

There is also a 32nd Battn. eye-witness's account of this event elsewhere in this site. To read the King's address and broadcast, see here. For all references to stand-down parades within this website, please use the Search facility.

Grateful acknowledgent is made to the Daily Express and to Mick Ackrill.