The Cambridge Home Guard
by Dave Homewood

"Your Country Needs YOU!"
July 1941 to September 1941


July 1941
With half of 1941 now past, the Cambridge Home Guard had steadily built up to an efficient fighting unit. And as they progressed, the Waikato Independent newspaper ensured that the members were kept up to date with what was happening in the Home Guard in other towns. On the 7th of July the paper included several reports. To summarise, they included the story that “B” Company of the Timaru Home Guard had been given an unexpected honour when General Sir Guy Williams, who had arrived from Britain to advise the New Zealand Government on defence, stopped his car at their roadblock and gave them an impromptu address. He talked about the progress of the Home Guard in Britain.


A Rendezvous

A Company of the Home Guard not far from Cambridge was on parade, and prior to an “attack” on a “strategically-defended” hilltop, was lectured by the company commander, who made frequent use of the word “rendezvous.” At the conclusion of the talk the lecturer asked for questions in order that no man might be in doubt of what was required of him. There was a moment’s silence, and then “What’s a rendezvous?” asked a plaintiff voice. A gale of laughter prevented an effective reply. “You know,” said the inquirer, sotto voce, “that’s a word I always skip in books.” The meeting-place was then explained to him. “Oh! I know, that’s where we had lunch.” said the enlightened one in smilingly thanking his informant for a true “appreciation of the situation.”

Reported in the
Waikato Independent,
30th of June 1941

Also reported was the Te Kuiti Home Guard was raising a Mounted Troop to provide a swift mobile attacking force on horses, necessary in the hilly King Country.

At Te Aroha, the Home Guard had finished constructing their miniature rifle range, so the battalion could practice their shooting. Further north a mock battle took place at the famous Bombay Hills when the Bombay and Ararimu units dug trenches on the northern slope of Trigg Hill and took up positions. They were ‘attacked’ by members of the Waiau Pa, Karaka, Drury and Ramarama units. After just over an hour the attackers had taken the trench positions.

One of the reports which may well have made many Cambridge members jealous was that of the Pio Pio Company from the Waitomo Battalion, who had paraded the previous weekend in full battledress for the first time. The Cambridge unit still lacked uniforms, apart form the Machine-gun Section who'd had their own made. Meanwhile at Matamata, the town’s three companies of troops had marched in a ceremonial parade on the Sunday.

On Monday July 14th, the newspaper reported that the Tauranga Home Guard now had a total of 1644 members, the Rotorua Home Guard had 1637, Whakatane had 1605 members, Opotiki had enrolled 533 men, and the Taupo Home Guard now had 345 members in its ranks.

Meanwhile in Cambridge, calculations were being made for the distribution to its various units of the £1500 recently raised for the Home Guard.

A speaker was reported as saying “The obligation of the cost of the Home Guard rests solely with local bodies, and none of this money will be used except for special purposes.”

On Wednesday the 16th of July, the Cambridge Borough Council received a letter from the Home Guard Committee in response to  a bill from the council for the use of the Town Hall by the Home Guard. The Council was asking for £32. The Home Guard were not prepared to pay this, as the council had been charging at the full rental rate of £2 per week for 16 weeks.

However it had already been decided that the Council would only charge the Home Guard for the use of the lights, and the unit should have only incurred a fee of 5/- (five shillings) a night. The council agreed that in the time being they will only charge for the lighting ‘until circumstances necessitated an alteration.’

Also on the 16th, over a hundred men of the Headquarters Company had come one step closer to their Home Guard uniforms when the Quartermaster Sam Boulton measured them up. This followed an order from Dominion Headquarters, so each man could be classified for one of the standard sizes that the uniforms came in. Members of ‘A’ Company were to be measured at their next evening parade. It was stressed that there had been no actual indication of when the uniforms might arrive.

On July 21st an announcement was made by Colonel Max Aldred V.D., Home Guard commander for the Auckland district, that the New Zealand Government was proposing the regular Army would take over control of the Home Guard. Aldred also said that now the New Zealand Home Guard would now be allotted a definite part in the country’s defence. He said the proposal would mean all reasonably fit men in the Home Guard would come under Army control, and ammunition and supplies should become more readily available.

However, two days later the Minister for National Service, the Hon. Robert Semple said that Aldred’s announcement was nonsense. He said, “I want people to take no notice of the individual who has published this. He had no right to publish it. What was said is not official, the public should take absolutely no notice of it.” Semple indicated that the idea was still being thought out, and the public would be made aware of the real plans as soon as they were formalised. Semple’s statement and his attack on Colonel Aldred prompted some heated replies from various Home Guard officials towards the Minister over his treatment of Aldred and his attitude towards the Home Guard.

On the 25th, Robert Semple again made a statement in the press about the affair, saying that he had no personal grievance with Aldred, and merely resented the fact the he had made public this information which the Colonel had been given in confidence. Semple said that Aldred had been given the information by General Young, the Dominion Commander of the Home Guard, and had been told it was to be kept in the strictest confidence till the War Cabinet had discussed the matter, and an official statement had been prepared. He stated that Col. Aldred had let down General Young and the Government, and Semple took exception to this. He said, “To think that I would do anything to injure the Home Guard is ridiculous. Along with General Young, I travelled this country for four months, night and day, to organise the Home Guard, and it is unlikely that I would attempt to do anything to destroy the organisation I assisted to create, and which, in my opinion, is essential to the safety of the country.” He then concluded, “As far as I am concerned, this matter is closed.” He reiterated that a statement would be forthcoming soon, and asked all Home Guardsmen to be patient while the War Cabinet made its decisions.

On the same day a statement was released by Colonel Aldred that read. “In my anxiety to allay the growing dissatisfaction among Home Guardsmen regarding their future, it would appear that I inadvertently disclosed certain information that General Young, Dominion Commander, considers should have been regarded as confidential. This being so, I express regret. Until such time as full details of future policy are made known, I appeal to all guardsmen to carry out their training wholeheartedly as heretofore. The issues at stake are too serious to allow personal feeling to enter into the matter.”

Meanwhile in the Cambridge area, Lieutenant-Colonel R.D. MacFarlane announced that a further advance in training was about to take place for members of the No. 4 (Hamilton) Military Area with a large supply of .303 ammunition would be made available with regular ammo re-supplies now to take place each month. He also stated that many hundreds of practice hand grenades were soon to be issued to also advance training. He added that boots would be issued to the Home Guard as soon as factories could complete their orders.

“A” Company’s evening parade on Thursday 24th of July saw 127 men in attendance. They were measured for uniform sizes at the Drill Hall. Following the measuring of troops, a lecture was given by Major Frederick Kingsford about reconnaissance patrols. They then began planning an exercise to take place between ‘A’ Company and Headquarters Company at Maungatautari the following Sunday.

The acting-Prime Minister, the Hon. Walter Nash, announced on the evening of the 31st of July that plans had been finalised for the re-organisation of the Home Guard. He said that the control of the Home Guard would be passed from the Minister of National Service to the Minister of Defence. Nash said the Home Guard would be organised into two divisions. Division I would consist of approximately 50, 000 men of all ranks who were fit for combat duties. These men would be trained and fully equipped as soon as possible. Division II would be made up from the remaining members who had a reasonable standard of physical fitness, and this division would act as a reserve.

Nash also said that the War Cabinet had also fixed the scale of uniforms and equipment for the Home Guard. He said each member of Division I would be issued with battle dress, a field service cap, a greatcoat, boots, web equipment and two armbands as soon as possible.

He added that for the present time, Division II would only be issued with armbands. Another great advancement that he announced was the Government was to raise the capitation grant supplied to units to pay for equipment from four shillings per man to one pound per year, which would now be paid quarterly. And furthermore, Home Guard officers would from this time on hold commissioned rank, just like regular Armed Forces officers. The Home Guard was now a real army.
August 1941
On the 1st of August 1941, the New Zealand Army officially took over the running and organisation of the Home Guard. The new regulations that had been announced by acting-Prime Minister Walter Nash now came into being. With the re-organisation of the Home Guard, the Waikato Independent stated on Monday the 4th of August that the War Cabinet had “laid it down that the object of the force is to augment the local defences of New Zealand by providing static defence of localities, protecting vulnerable and key points, and by giving timely notice of enemy movement to superior military organisation.”



The Te Kuiti aerodrome was raided by hostile parachute troops and dive bombers on a recent Sunday morning and defensive operations were successfully carried out by the Te Kuiti company of the Home Guard.
   As the Te Kuiti troops approached the aerodrome it was seen that the ‘enemy’ aeroplanes were having difficulty in getting off the ground – due, it is understood, to the frosty morning and the disinclination of the engines to co-operate.
   The enemy aeroplanes, however, once in the air, caused considerable casualties among the approaching formations of Guardsmen and valuable lessons were learnt at this stage in the art of taking cover.
   The Te Kuiti Company showed determination in getting defensive posts established and by the time the parachute troops descended the defence had little difficulty in rounding them up. Better tactics would also have provided for the dropping also of parachute troops on the perimeter round the ‘drome in which case the Te Kuiti troops would have been in a hazardous position.

Reported in the
Waikato Independent,
7th of April 1941


The newspaper continued, “Particular emphasis is laid on the fact that the Home Guard is assigned a definite role in the defence plans of the country and that its value lies, not in individual action by its members, but in proper co-ordination with other parts of military organisation under the command of the appropriate military authority.” It seemed that at last the Home Guard was beginning to be taken seriously by the powers-that-be.

The weekend before this report had seen an interesting Home Guard exercise take place in the Tamahere district. Designed to train members of the Tamahere Platoon, a country unit belonging to the Cambridge Battalion, 90% of the platoon turned out for the manoeuvre despite rainy weather.

Lead by Francis Hardy, the Tamahere Platoon defended the Narrows Bridge from an attack by NCO’s of the Cambridge Battalion, who were under the leadership of Sgt-Major Tom Reilly. Lieutenant Gall of Hamilton umpired the two sides.

The exercise proved to be very instructive and useful in training the men who took part, and several C.O.’s apparently voiced their desire to see more mock battle manoeuvre on a larger scale to involve more of the troops and to stimulate interest in the Home Guard.

It was noted in the Waikato Independent on August 11th that recent parades had been boosted by the return of several NCO’s who had recently attended training courses at the Home Guard training school at Narrow Neck in Auckland. Apparently many of the Narrow Neck instructors were officers who had actually fought in the beginning of the war, so the knowledge the NCO‘s were learning was extremely up to date tactic-wise. The NCO’s were now imparting that knowledge onto their fellow Cambridge Home Guard troops. The paper also said that “A” Company’s attendance record recently continued to be satisfactory, and that week they had grenade-throwing practice before a route march.

On the same day the Independent reported on a statement made by the Minister of Defence, Fred Jones, who had just taken over the running of the Home Guard from the Minister of National Service, Robert Semple. Jones said “In Britain the Home Guard has become an integral part of the defence system and there is no reason why we in New Zealand should not place equal reliance on the New Zealand body in our home defence organisation. That, at any rate, is what I plan to do.”

The Minister went on to say that though New Zealand’s economy could not afford to maintain a large standing army, they could have the equivalent in the Home Guard if the country’s citizens continued to give their time to train to become a fine body of men, available at a moment’s notice.

Jones also said, “The time to prepare is not when the country is threatened, but now, while there is an opportunity to plan and train and practise against the day when the services of the Home Guard may be needed. The task ahead is not an easy one and demands for equipment are very great, but we have already made a start in issuing a share of equipment to the Home Guard, and I would like to assure its members that this will progress at an ever-accelerating rate. I know that I shall receive the same valuable co-operation and assistance in my administration as was accorded my predecessor, and I will do all I can to hasten the time at which every member of the Home Guard will be fully equipped and fully trained to discharge his important duties.”

Sensation in Cambridge Home Guard
On the evening of Monday the 11th of August, a special meeting of the Home Guard Committee was held to consider a statement that was said to have been made by the Battalion Commander, Captain Edward Kennedy. Apparently he had alleged that the committee were endeavouring to retain the capitation grant of £94 14/- that had recently been granted by the Government. The committee felt that because it was contended that Kennedy had made the statement to all of Headquarters Company from the steps of the Town Hall, it was a public utterance and could not be left unchallenged.

In attendance at the special committee meeting were members William Moore (chairman), Alan Looker, W. Morrow, John Bruce, J.W. Garland, Charles La Trobe Hill, Alf Swayne, Edgar James, Cecil Wallace, Frank Green, Frank St John and Frank Oliver (secretary). Also in attendance at the request of the committee was Cambridge Borough Council’s Town Clerk Frank T. Ray.

After considerable discussion the committee passed the following resolution:

That the committee views with concern the unsatisfactory state of affairs existing in the Cambridge Home Guard Battalion, which it considers is due to the conduct of the Battalion Commander, Captain Kennedy, and as the committee considers this officer entirely unsuitable to hold this responsible position, representations be made to the Minister of National Service to have his appointment cancelled.”

The committee secretary was instructed to outline the details to the Minister. A copy of the above resolution was also sent to Area Commander.

At the beginning of the same meeting a letter was read from Kennedy in which he resigned his post on the committee. He had been one of the RSA’s representatives on the committee, but he tendered his resignation stating that the committee served no useful purpose. The resignation was discussed, during which one committee member remarked that the letter was an insult, especially in light of the fact that before the capitation grants came into being, it was the committee which was relied upon to find all the funding for the Home Guard.

The committee chairman William Moore explained that the money in question was never received by the committee. The Government had sent it to the Town Clerk, Frank Ray, and it was accompanied by complex instructions on what should be done with it. Some doubt was cast on the procedure, so Mr Ray then decided to protect himself by writing to Wellington and seeking further instruction. A couple of days later no reply had been received when a demand was made for the money by Captain Kennedy.

Mr Ray then telephoned Wellington to clarify the situation immediately. He spoke with the accountant of the National Service Department and the Director, Mr J.S. Hunter. At that time Wellington was pleased to hear that such an active Home Guard Committee was operating. Ray was informed that so few committees were working properly in other areas that an order had been issued stating the money should be paid directly to Battalion Commanders and another appointee, bypassing the committee system. However, as the Cambridge committee was functioning, instructions were given over the phone to Mr Ray to pay the money to the committee. A telegram backing this up arrived later.

However Kennedy then telephoned Wellington himself, and then Mr Ray received a call from the department stating that the original procedure would now be adhered to, and the money paid the Battalion Commander, Captain Kennedy. The position now clear to Mr Ray was the committee would control money received from local bodies, while the Battalion Commander controlled the capitation grant.

It was agreed by the committee members that if the capitation grant were increased there wouldn’t be any need for them to take money contributed from local bodies.

The committee had discussed the grant at their previous meeting, and all were then in agreement that the Battalion could get all the money it wanted by making a requisition to Mr Ray. Many of the committee members apparently considered the remarks and accusations by Kennedy to be quite extraordinary due to the fact that the committee had no reason to want to keep the money, and that it would more likely be the case that they’d be pleased to unburden themselves from the responsibility of it.

Edgar James, the Mayor and a committee member, told those gathered that Kennedy had come to his office and had in strong terms bad-mouthed the other committee members. He added that he knew Kennedy had done the same about him to other members behind his back. James also said that he resented the way his position of Mayor was quoted by Kennedy, because he considered himself within the Home Guard as just another member and not the Mayor.


New Director-General 
of the Home Guard

It was reported in the Waikato Independent on the 18th of August 1941 that Cambridge Home Guard members had expressed satisfaction in the appointment of Major-General Robert Young to the post of Home Guard Director-General.
   Born in Sunderland in the north of England in 1877, Young had been educated at Nelson College. He volunteered for the Army in 1900, and by 1910 had achieved the rank of Captain. In 1914 he embarked with the Main Body heading to the First World War, now with the rank of Major. The war saw him receive rapid promotion, and he ultimately became the Brigadier-General in charge of the 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade.
   Young returned to New Zealand in 1919, where he was appointed as the staff officer commanding the Canterbury district, before a further appointment to officer commanding the Southern Command. He held the post of General Officer Commanding the New Zealand Forces from 1925 to 1931.
   Since the 23rd of October 1940 Young had served as Dominion Commander of the Home Guard in New Zealand. His step up to Director-General saw him promoted to Brigadier-General R. Young, CB, CMG, DSO.


The committee also expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of information they had been supplied by the Government on exactly how they as a body should operate.

It was decided they would contact the Minister directly and ascertain exactly what powers they have. One member was quoted as saying, “We are groping in the dark. If we have no power, we might as well wind up the committee and return the money in hand to the local bodies who contributed.”

All this sensational business was the lead news in the paper on Wednesday the 13th of August, and no matter who may have been right or wrong, Edward Kennedy, a man who held quite a position in the town, was truly embroiled in a scandal.

The newspaper said a member told them that at the parade the previous Thursday Kennedy had told the men that he intended to cancel all further parades till he had control of the capitation grant money.

The committee felt that it was not conducive to good discipline to address the men about such a matter in such a way. His resignation from the committee was accepted, and the actions that the committee decided to take were all approved.

The newspaper did not investigate this strange affair any further, and Captain Kennedy appears to have disappeared completely from the limelight. So now some sixty plus years later we may never know what indeed had caused Kennedy’s outbursts and his departure. It is such a shame after his dedication and hard work over the previous year in establishing and leading a fine Home Guard unit that Kennedy was forced out on such a sour note, with not even a hint of thanks for what had gone before.

A scheduled Cambridge Home Guard parade to take place at Hautapu on the 17th of August were cancelled after wet weather had meant the condition of the ground that the manoeuvres were to take place on was unsuitable.

On the 18th of August the Waikato Independent reported that Colonel Aldred V.D. who commanded the Home Guard for the whole Auckland province, which then encompassed the Waikato where Cambridge is situated, had made a visit to the Tamehana Battalion in Matamata where 587 Guardsmen turned out on parade. On his brief visit the Colonel saw the Matamata men making Jam Tin Bombs, carrying out bayonet exercises, practicing distance judging, bomb throwing, company drill and other work. Aldred told the men how impressed he was with their achievements and he said he planned to try to get Brigadier P.H. Bell, the Commanding Officer of Northern Military Command, to visit them in the near future so he too could see their progress. Of the men present, not all were from Matamata itself. 110 men were from Putaruru and 80 had come up from Tirau.

Both Headquarters and “A” Companies paraded on the evening of Thursday 21st of August, with 136 men of Headquarters Company in the Town Hall. The company began to organise how they were to split their men into the two new grades that had been set out under the regulations sent after the Army had taken control. They also carried out general training.

Meanwhile, 135 men of “A” Company paraded at the Drill Hall, before they marched up to the Oddfellows Hall in Empire Street. Here they received an interesting lecture given by Lieutenant G.C. Andrews DCM, a member of the New Zealand Permanent Staff who was currently in camp with the Mounted Rifles at the Cambridge Racecourse. The topic of his lecture was the use of modern weapons in warfare, perhaps a little superfluous at the time, as the Cambridge Home Guard still didn’t have many modern weapons.

The notion of compulsory conscription to the Home Guard was still buzzing around some districts. It was reported on the 25th of August that in Te Awamutu at a meeting of the local branch of the New Zealand Farmer’s Union, Mr W.S. Sarwaker said there were 19 men in the Te Mawhai district who refused to join either the Home Guard or EPS. He asked the meeting what could be done. Mr A. Bryant felt that the organisations would probably be better off without such men, and Mr C.S. Alexander said that as both bodies were voluntary, even if they were forced by conscription to join, they could still refuse to parade.

Meanwhile around the Waikato other items of interest were taking place. In Hamilton the local Battalion of the Home Guard lead by Captain T. Melrose made a visit by invitation to a gathering of the Hamilton Orphan’s Club. In Waihi the locals carried out a tactical exercise involving a full-scale attack made on a known ‘enemy’ position on the Waihi Plains. As well as rifles with blank cartridges for realism, the Home Guards had the bonus of several machine guns that made a realistic noise, and dummy Mills bombs that were of the correct size and weight of the real thing. These dummy weapons were both produced at the Martha’s arsenal, it was reported, which must have been part of the Martha goldmine scheme. The exercise also utilised smokescreens and stretcher-bearers were employed too to mop up the wounded.

Also in the Waikato region, the New Zealand Mechanisation Society had offered to the Waikato County Home Guard Committee the use of a very special vehicle for the Battalion Commander to use during exercises, and in the event of an invasion. The vehicle was a mobile headquarters, which had been built to enclose a complete office with plan table, filing cabinets and sleeping quarters. The report in the Waikato Independent on the 25th of August states, “With it, the battalion headquarters staff could be ready to go like a fire brigade if the call to action came. No time would be lost in getting things together, while a road speed of 70 miles an hour had been achieved on trials.” Sadly the report does not elaborate to what sort of vehicle it actually is, but it must have been built around an old van or a bus. Perhaps the vehicle survives today, who knows.

Further afield; the One Tree Hill Home Guard in Auckland had taken the issue of uniforms into their own hands. Following complaints that many men were wearing out their civilian suits during Home Guard activities, the officers of the company made an offer to the men that they could buy a working dress for £1 each. The ex-Territorial uniforms promised by the Government were still a long way off due to delays in producing replacement battledress uniforms for the Territorials. So this offer of special attire for parading in as a stopgap measure was snapped up by over 90% of the men on parade. The work dress uniforms were to be made locally in Auckland, and a sample that had been on display at the parade was said to be perfect for the job, plus the cheapness also made the offer more attractive.

It was announced on the 27th of August that Headquarters Company was to lose one of its most valued members. Company Sergeant Major E.J. Elliot had been appointed to become an instructor for the Home Guard in the whole of No 4 Military Area. Having moved to Cambridge from Aria in 1940, around the time the Home Guard was set up; Elliot had been a very keen and active member of the Cambridge Home Guard. He had served in the Australian Imperial Forces in the First World War and was one of a small number of men in the No 4 area picked to become official instructors. Others included Sgt-Major G.L. Martin of Port Waikato, and Sgt J.P. Alexander of Orini.

On the 31st of August 1941 Headquarters Company paraded at Maungatautari, on the farm owned by Guardsman Fred Griffin. They commenced training under the new training schedule that the Army authorities had imposed. Later in the afternoon, Company Commander Frank Green made a presentation of a fountain pen to Sgt Major Elliot, as a thank you from all the men before he departed for his new job. Elliot would be leaving later in the week to attend a month-long training course at Trentham. Green said that the efficiency of the company had been due largely to Sgt Major Elliot’s efforts. Green stated that Elliot was a keen disciplinarian and the men had appreciated his methods.

In reply, Elliot said he was very sorry to be severing his connection with the Cambridge Home Guard, and he hoped that he’d be appointed to the part of the No 4 Military Area that took in Cambridge, so he might work with them again in his new duties.
September 1941
The Waikato Independent newspaper printed a letter on the 1st of September 1941 that had been received by the Cambridge Home Guard, and undoubtedly by all Home Guard units, from the Hon. Robert Semple, following the Home Guard passing over from his control to that of the Minister of Defence and the Army. The letter read:

On the occasion of the transfer of the Home Guard to the Ministry of Defence, I desire to convey to you and your District and Area Commanders my grateful thanks for the enthusiastic and whole-hearted manner in which you responded to the call for the organisation of a Home Guard in New Zealand.
   When, in company with yourself, I began my campaign, the objective of 100,000 men seemed to be an ambitious one, but due to the tremendous efforts made by those who believe in the necessity for a citizen’s army to reinforce the Territorial Force, in less than four months the full number of men has been secured.
   To you, and to those who played such an important part in this campaign, I am deeply grateful, and I can assure you this gratitude is shared by all members of the Government.
   In this new phase of the development of the Home Guard I wish you all well, and trust that the Guard’s progress will rapidly transform it into a most effective fighting force. Which will worthily support the Armed Forces in the Dominion, should the need ever arise.
   To those many thousands of men who have joined the Home Guard so readily and with such a fine appreciation of their duty to their country, I would say that their keenness does them the utmost credit. Should the day come when their services will be called upon, I feel certain that they will prove worthy of their confidence reposed by their fellow citizens.
   I say good-bye to you with extreme regret, but I can promise you that I will follow your fortunes in the future with the greatest interest.”

The Battle of the Bridge
On the evening of the 4th of September 1941 "A" Company and the Snipers Platoon from the Headquarters Company undertook an exercise in night time patrolling. "A" Company were informed that two enemy troop-carrying aircraft had landed at the Cambridge Racecourse (which incidentally had previously been used as the town's aerodrome), and they were told a party of 20 men from the aeroplanes was making its way through town towards the High Level Bridge (Victoria Bridge). The party had split into three groups of six or seven men, with each making progress along the parallel Victoria, Grey and Hall Streets respectively. These enemy groups were known to be carrying sub-machine guns and grenades, and each group had explosive charges and a wheeled mortar that they were dragging towards their bridge objective. the mortars were said to be capable of hurling 50lb projectiles with an accuracy of up to 300 yards. One direct hit would destroy the bridge and these 'enemies' needed to be stopped form getting there.


Alarm at Otorohanga

At Otorohanga a few days ago the fire bell was rung at 6.45pm as an alarm for the Home Guard to turn out to defend the town against an invader. Within a quarter of an hour of the alarm 20 men were on parade, and within half an hour over 40 had arrived. Finally at 8pm over 60 men were present and guards had been posted at the vital points of the town. Besides Guardsmen of the local company, the battalion adjutant and quartermaster, together with the petrol pump guardsmen and the fire brigade turned out, and were stationed at their posts.

Reported in the
Waikato Independent,
1st of September 1941


Groups of men from "A" Company moved off immediately in full units from the Drill Hall and in the course of the exercise they contacted all three 'enemy' groups (the Headquarters Company Snipers) and captured them.

One cannot help wonder what the gentlefolk of Cambridge thought on the evening when two groups of burly men came up against each other in their residential streets, playing at soldiers.

The attendance at this particular parade was excellent, and whilst it was going on, the remaining members of Headquarters Company were practicing their usual specialist training skills.

HM King George VI had requested that Sunday the 7th of September 1941 become a special National Day of Prayer, with special church services throughout the British Empire. Cambridge was no exception and in fact a special Home Guard Church Parade was arranged.

The Cambridge Battalion gathered at the Drill Hall at 1.30pm and marched on strength up Victoria Street to the Cenotaph in front of the Town Hall. There the special parade took place.

The men paraded under the leadership of Lieutenant Howard Rishworth MC, who had by now been appointed the Acting-Commanding Officer of the Cambridge Battalion, which indicates that Edward Kennedy was no longer in charge. Whether he resigned as Battalion Commander or whether he was forced out following the funding accusations is not known as the newspaper didn't report his departure from the Battalion itself - only his resignation from the Home Guard Committee.

The men of the Home Guard had marched behind the Cambridge Municipal Band, and numerous other organisations had also fallen in behind the guardsmen.

The church service was lead by the Battalion Chaplain, the Reverend Herbert Hitchcock who gave the service from the Town Hall steps. The service was held in the open rather than in the hall, despite the weather being stormy. The congregation sang two hymns, 'O, God Our Help In Ages Past' and 'Abide With me', followed by the National Anthem of New Zealand, 'God Save The King' and the approximately 40 minute service included a short reading from the Scriptures, some prayers and an address by Hitchcock.

As well as Home Guards and service organisations on parade the public were also invited to attend the special Church Parade. This was the first large scale combined service for all denominations in Cambridge for a National Day of Prayer; previously they had been held in the various churches following a parade.

The following day in the Waikato Independent newspaper, as well as having his address from the service transcribed into print for readers, the Rev. Hitchcock was also quoted as saying, "This is the first opportunity that has come my way of addressing the entire Battalion of the Home Guard, and I would express to you, my fellow guardsmen, appreciation of the comradeship I have found in my association with you, and also of the privilege accorded me of occupying the position of Battalion Chaplain."

A lecture was reported on in the Waikato Independent newspaper on the 8th of September 1941, which was given by Captain E.C.N. Robinson, the Group Director of No. 2 Group, New Zealand Army. He had spoken in Morinsville to the Home Guard there. Robinson said that the plan for Division I, a force of 50,000 men of the Home Guard, to be given uniforms and equipment as soon as possible was only the beginning of much more to come.

He stated that the rules around who went into which division had to elastic, not rigid and the decision often would come down to location of the individual's place of residence.

He stated that the whole idea of creating the two divisions was to have Division I more or less static in numbers and locality, made up from men fit for combat service but not likely to be called up for service with the 2nd NZEF or the Territorial Army. That way the force of 50,000 would remain dependable and constant.

Whereas Division II would, among others, take the young members who have just turned old enough for Home Guard service but would likely soon leave to enter the regular Armed Forces. Thus Division II would have a more fluid membership. Though the First Division would be armed and equipped first there would be urgency thereafter in equipping the Second Division too and there would be no difference or favouritism in terms of the training given to the men of each division.

So there would be young, fit troops in Division II, but Captain Robinson stated that issuing clothing and equipment to such a member who was likely to at any point be called up for territorial or overseas service was surely uneconomical so in the meantime they would not get this issue. However if there was an emergency than that would be addressed and the appropriate issues made immediately if possible.

He said that training of both the Divisions must continue along exactly the same lines as before and there would be no difference in awarding rank to members of either division. He pointed out that the members in Division II had a vital role to play too, not just as a reserve to the Division I but also in guarding vital points, manning coastal watching stations and performing other duties to support the army in the field.

Around the districts a competitive spirit was dawning upon the Home Guard. In Te Aroha in early September 1941 a shooting competition was held at the miniature rifle range at their Drill Hall between twelve Home guards and twelve members of the Te Aroha Legion of Frontiersmen. The Home guards won the competition with 393 points, over the Legion's total of 390.

And the Tamehana (Matamata) Battalion were now in planning for a monster sports day for the Home Guard to be held on Labour Day on the Matamata Domain. It would include competitions in the normal sports events, as well as military exercises, and items for the ladies and for children were also being drawn into the programme. there would by tug of wars, sprints, platoon relay races, sack races and three-legged races. plus plans were in place for races involving officers and NCO's.

On the 12th of September the issue of compensation for Guardsmen who were injured on the way to or from parade was finally resolved with a notice in the local newspaper. It reported that in the latest routine orders issued by Major D.G. Johnston, the group director of No. 5 (Wellington) Area wrote that it had been generally understood by Home Guardsmen that if they were injured whilst en route to or from a parade while wearing their brassard or uniform, they were eligible to apply for a pension or compensation. However a recent case (most likely the case being pursued by the two Cambridge Home Guard members who were injured on their way to a parade) had prompted an inquiry and it was discovered that in fact there was no such statutory authority in place that allowed cover for such claims.

Johnston wrote that no member of the regular Armed Forces, Expeditionary Forces, Territorial Forces or the National Military Reserve were covered for personal injury should they incur injury on the way to or from a parade, and neither could the civilian workforce claim under the Workman's Compensation Act for a similar injury out of work. Therefore it had been deemed that contrary to what the Home Guard had been told, they were not eligible for any such cover outside of parade. this must have been disappointing to those who were injured, but the matter was at least resolved finally. it was also pointed out they may still be able to claim sickness benefit or other such benefits under the Social Security Act.

New regulations for the Home Guard were announced in the Waikato Independent on the 15th of September 1941, which now came into place officially, marking the transition of the Home Guard into Defence Forces command. This effectively abolished the old home Guard and all its rules, and formulated a new Home Guard under military law. It was pointed out that though the Home guard was now part of the military serving in it did not absolve any member from being called up into another armed service if they were eligible.

The new regulations made clear that no Home guard officer, though holding the King's commission, could exercise military command over any service personnel outside of the Home Guard unless specially authorised to do so by the officer in charge of the military district. And if an officer wished to resign his commission he had to seek the consent of the Governor-General.

Any member of the Home Guard were now liable to undergo their prescribed training unless they were called up for regular military service, which meant they could not shirk and only attend parades at their leisure but were now compelled to attend by law.

Provision had now been made to allow the impressment of privately owned firearms into Home Guard service. If owned by an individual it could be confiscated but with the proviso it would be returned to the owner when no longer needed. However if it were a firearm for sale by a licensed gun dealer, the Government could impress it permanently and compensate the dealer with an agreed sum of money.


The Foreign Legion

A story told at a Home Guard social at Matamata on a recent Saturday night concerned a guardsman's wife who expressed a desire to go to the pictures that night. The husband was sorry but he had to go to the A Company social. Well, what about the matinee? Sorry again, but he had to go to the Home Guard football match. Oh well, we will go on monday night. Bad luck again, there was a Home Guard parade on Monday night. By this time the lady was a bit fed up and exclaimed, "Home Guard be blowed, why don't you call it the Foreign legion and be done with it!"

Reported in the
Waikato Independent,
15th of September 1941

A major weekend exercise took place south-west of Cambridge around this time when the Waipa-Te Awamutu Battalion of the Home Guard carried out tactical manoeuvres at Kihikihi. There was a rifle company - the 'enemy' - occupying a hilltop position and B Company of the battalion was ordered to attack them and drive them out. This they did, and they did it well. At the debrief afterwards, staff officers who had accompanied each of the platoons who made a pincer movement on the position, were most pleased with the tactics.

Captain H.A. Swarbrick was one of the 'enemy' officers on the hill position, and he admitted in his report that he and his men had not seen any of the attacking force men approaching. They had spotted some signal positions on the distant ridge, given away by their flags waving, but had not realised that the Company was creeping up towards them, they had been that good at concealment and camouflage.

Colonel J. Wyngard told the men that they had set the exercise to achieve three points, protection on the march, invisibility and surprise, and giving the signallers practice to keep up with advancing men. All three points had been achieved with excellent results he said.

When "A" Company of the Cambridge Home Guard met on Thursday evening, the 18th of September, the 116 men present were reorganised under the new Home Guard regulations into platoons based around the area that they lived in the district. They were then given an interesting lecture in map reading by Lieutenant Hampton who was visiting from the military camp at the Cambridge racecourse.

Meanwhile the 120 men who paraded at the Town Hall with Headquarters Company were in for a shock. Their leader, Frank Green, announced he had handed in his resignation from the Home Guard. The only explanation given was he had other important matters to attend to and felt he could not give enough time to the Home Guard. It was later explained that these other matters were his duties within the Emergency Precuations Scheme. This seems in contrast to his earlier wishes to stay in the Home Guard when it was suggested he leave due to his EPS duties. It leaves an unanswered question as to whether he'd had pressure from the gas company regarding his EPS duty, or if perhaps it was simply a realisation that he'd taken on too much and now believed the Home Guard was strong enough to carry on without his enormous expertise. Whatever the reason, Frank Green would leave shoes difficult to fill.

On the 24th of September 1941 it was announced that as of that day Robert Alford was to take over the Cambridge Battalion as temporary Commanding Officer, relieving Howard Rishworth back to his second-in-command duty. Alford had served in World War One and had been active in the Cambridge Home Guard since its inception.

Also on the 24th of September an announcement from Wellington stated that around 80 Returned Soldiers were currently in training and within a month or so would become full-time paid Adjutants and Instructors for the Home Guard. It was also noted that a second issue of boots to Home Guardsmen was soon to be made, but uniforms were still in short supply.

On Sunday the 28th of September the a air number of members from the Headquarters Company paraded at the Town Hall before proceeding to Maungatautari, a rural district just south-east of Cambridge, where they were split into two groups. The two sections were tasked with performing patrols against each other to attempt to penetrate each other's lines which were on opposite sides of the Hauiora Creek. A heavy growth of blackberries and thick scrub ensured this was a difficult task indeed, but several of the patrols managed to break through the line and achieve their objectives. They then stopped for lunch, and after eating their haversack rations the men were divided into classes and instructed on throwing Mills bomb grenades. Later on Sunday evening all the NCO's from the battalion held a meeting, no doubt with regards to planning further training.

At this time the Governor-General Sir Cyril Newall sent a message to the Director General of the Home Guard, Brigadier Robert Young, which was circulated to units and the press, which stated, "Now that the Home Guard has entered on its second year, I desire to express to all officers and men my keen appreciation of the loyal services which they have freely given, and also my best wishes for the year to come."

Things were beginning to look up for the Home Guard now around the country. Several reports on the 28th of September stated that the Penrose Home Guard, platoons from all across the Franklin district, the Te Kuiti Home Guard and even nearby Matamata guards were finally getting some shooting practice in and ammunition was being issued more plentifully. In their shoot at a 25 yard range the Matamata battalion fired 700 rounds into targets. The time was drawing closer for the Cambridge men to get their turn.


Go To Chapter Six

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