The Cambridge Home Guard
by Dave Homewood

"Holding The Line!"
October 1941 to December 1941


October 1941
first day of October 1941 saw the gazetting of new official appointments within the Cambridge Home Guard. Dave Lundon was promoted to take over command of the Headquarters Company, replacing Frank Green who had chosen to step down due to the pressing nature of his EPS duties infringing on his Home Guard activities. Lundon was transferred over to Headquarters Company from "A" Company, and Willie Webber now took over as second-in-command of "A" Company in place of Lundon.

Willie Webber was also appointed as the Battalion Range Officer with Corporal Ivan Litchwark as his assistant. This move followed the Home Guard gaining permission to use the Territorial Force's 25 yard firing range situated in Carters Flat, Cambridge. Now shooting practice could begin forthwith.

Also at this time the first consignment of much anticipated equipment for the Cambridge Home Guard began to arrive, in the form of two cases of boots (175 pairs). The majority of these were Size 9, and were to begin being issued by the Quartermaster soon to members of Division One.

When Dave Lundon addressed his new company of men on the evening of the 2nd of October 1941, he acknowledged that he was taking the place of a very enthusiastic and efficient leader who preceded him. Lundon explained that he was not a specialist himself, having served in the infantry in World War One, but he was confident that with the help of his excellent platoon commanders and NCO's he would be able to ensure that Headquarters Company would continue successfully.

At the parade the platoon commanders divided the Headquarters Company into the two required Divisions. Those men in the Company who were under 19 years of age, those whose attendance at parades had been somewhat irregular, those men who had been called up for overseas service and would soon leave, and the factory and farm workers who were finding that extra work of increased cheese production might prevent them from regular parades, were all automatically placed into Division Two. A few others also went into that Division, while all the others were now classed as Division One men.

At the parade the Quartermaster, Sam Boulton, began to issue the boots to the Division One men, with 111 pairs of Size 8, 9 and 10 being distributed. It was pointed out that more boots were on their way to the Quartermaster and those who missed out will soon get an issue in the near future.

Meanwhile down the road at the Drill Hall, 118 men of "A" Company were training once more in squad drill, company drill and musketry. The parade was taken by the new second-in-command, Willie Webber. A total of 33 pairs of boots were also issued by the Quartermaster of this company.

Around the town the Home Guard was now given some free storage space. Messrs Wilkinson and Co. offered space in one of their buildings for the home guard to store their ammunition, whilst Messers W. Souter and Co. made available room in their storeroom for the Home Guard to store boots and other equipment.

The Minister of Finance, the Hon. Walter Nash, announced in the House of Representatives that the Government were now giving the matter of compensation for Home Guardsmen who were injured on the way to or way home from parades further consideration. Their thinking was also now considering Territorials injured in the same predicament. The Chairman of the Defence Committee had made a representation to the Government about a Home guard member, Mr F.L. Frost of Taranaki, who was injured in motor vehicle accident on the way to a parade. Members from both sides of the house agreed that a vital principle was involved in this issue and the decision couldn't be delayed any longer. Nash had looked into the Frost case and wholeheartedly felt the Guardman deserved proper compensation. Prime Minister Peter Fraser backed him up. Fraser went further by suggesting it might be time to consider compensation of all workers who were injured on their way to and from work. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Sidney holland, asked, "Are you prepared to recommend it?" Fraser replied, "I would be glad to consider it." And Holland added, "So are we." The report on the peption about Frost's case was adopted, and the Home guard were now one step closer to the compensation coverage they were originally promised.

The Cambridge Home Guard's former Sgt Major E.J. Elliott, who'd left in September for a month's training at trentham to become a full time Home Guard instructor, was, it was announced, now posted to the Wanganui Home Guard with the promotion to Captain and position of Adjutant-Quartermaster there. The similar post of Adjutant-Quartermaster in the No. 4 (Hamilton) Area, covering the Cambridge Battalion's area, was given to a Captain Newton.

Lieutenant-Colonel E.C.N. Robinson, Group Director of No. 2 Group, told the Matamata Home Guard during a visit in early October that with the Home Guard now under Army command they were still working out the details of the Defence Regulations covering the Armed Forces. He said that to the Home Guardsmen themselves not much would outwardly change and they would continue as they had done, but the regulations that govern the army would be adapted to incorporate the voluntary organsation now within its fold. For example there was no power to Court Martial a home Guard, though they could be dismissed for breaking regulations or not carrying out proper military discipline.

On Monday the 6th of October 1941 the new Battalion Commander, Captain Robert Alford, accompanied by Lt. Howard Rishworth and Reuben Entwistle, made an official call on the Mayor of the Cambridge Borough, Edgar James. They informally chatted about the work of the Cambridge Home guard and also referred to the risk of invasion. James congratulated Captain Alford on his appointment and said he was honoured by their kindly gesture of calling on him, and he stated that he hoped there would be complete unity between the Home guard and his council and he hoped for close contact in the future.

Meanwhile at the nearby Waipa-Te Awamutu Battalion the men were losing their Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Wynard, who was being removed form the post by the Army because of his age and his lack of overseas experience. Wynard addressed the Battalion, outlining his removal from command and expressing his pride in the officers and men of his unit that had striven to do their duty. He said he'd carry on in the post till a replacement was appointed. The Director General of the Home Guard, General Robert Young, accompanied by Colonel Max Aldred and Colonel R.D. McFarland, visited Te Awamutu at this time. Young paid tribute to the work that Wynard had done in building up the unit.

An interesting occurrence in the Home Guard in mid-October 1941 was when six members of the Elstow Home guard had decided to go on strike and refused to parade. Lieutenant-Colonel Robinson had requested that the men attend the next parade, but they failed to show for that one too, so he immediately dismissed them from the organisation. The six men then appealed to the Central Committee of the Te Aroha Home Guard, asking for their position to be defined.

The committee wrote to Lt-Col Robinson stating that the men were a decent lot and it was hoped their services could be retained. Robinson replied that he'd discussed the matter with the District Director and after their careful consideration, the decision had been made to dismiss the men. He added that he agreed they were good chaps and that he was sorry to see them go, but their action in taking a strike struck right at the heart of discipline. He felt that their attitude where they felt they had the liberty to go on strike when any command wasissued that they disagreed with would render a military force absolutely unworkable. If they took such an attitude while on active service it could put men's life at risk and a punishment of the utmost severity would have been met upon them. he added that before they'd gone on strike the six men had been made aware of the consequences if they carried the strike out.

This reply from Robinson lead to a long discussion on the matter at a meeting of the committee, who eventually decided to refer the matter to the Minister of National Service. It was never made clear in the newspaper report exactly what the issue was that forced the men to strike. But it was now clear that if anyone else decided to go on strike they would be dismissed form the Home Guard.

Meanwhile down the road from Cambridge the Ohaupo Platoon were given a demonstration by Sergeant Major Thomas on the workings of the Thompson Sub-machine Gun (or Tommy Gun as it was known).

The parade on the 16th of October 1941 saw lectures given on the purpose of the Home Guard and explanations of its organistion and establishment. This was followed by an hour long demonstration of the Lewis machine gun to members of Headquarters Company while "A" Company did small arms training, particularly in reference to indicating targets.

During the parade on the 16th a number of points were made to the men. One was that those not yet issued with boots were requested to tell their Platoon Comanders the size they required so these could be collated and a specific order made for the remainder of the issue. It was also asked that any members who had motorcycles or pedal bikes to come forward and take on the role of despatch riders for the Signals Section.

The men were also asked to save, collect and bring in any empty tins and bottles that they could from their household waste to aid the Home guard in making jam tin bombs and Molotov cocktails.

The men were also advised that Group Headquarters had informed the C.O. that no tools were to be issued to the Home Guard by the Army, so the platoon commanders requested to know what tools they already had available to them so a list could be sent to Battalion Headquarters.

Another area discussed was the need to finalise plans each unit had for bringing their men into immediate action should there be an emergency, as it was expressed that the sooner this was done the more ready the Cambridge Home guard would be. It must be remembered that not everyone in Cambridge had a telephone during the war, in fact those who did were in the minority, so other contingencies to alert and rouse men to battle stations needed to be made.

More confusing statements were published on the 17th of October regarding the compensation for guardsmen if in an accident on the way to or from a parade. The Auckland Farmers' Union had written to Fred Jones, the Minister of Defence, requesting his position on what happens if a car load of Home guards driven by a farmer has an accident on the way to a parade. His take was different from Nash and Fraser's, taking the line that the home guard and territorials shouldn't get anything more than what is provided under the Workers' Compensation Act, just like members of the National Military Reserve and Mounted Rifles Units. He did advise that if people were worried they should contact their insurance agents and solicitors to ensure they have the best possible protection against an accident. it seems this issue was a real mess and wasn't about to go away.

On Friday the 17th of October more new appointments within the Cambridge Home Guard chain of command were announced, with Arthur Richardson now becoming the second-in-command of Headquarters Company under Dave Lundon.

Charlie Vennell and Dick Newcombe were promoted to become Platoon Commanders in Headquarters Company.

Sgt Morley Boyce was promoted to Sergeant Major in "A" Company and Sgt Gilbert McCandlish to Sgt Major in Headquarters Company. Sgt Cedric Peake now became the Sgt major for "B" Company.

Corporal D.P. Dillon was made a Sergaent in Headquarters Company, while Lieutenant A.F. Meldrum became the Platoon Commander for the Karapiro Works Platoon in "B" Company. And Guardsman William Cummings was made a Sgt in the Quartermasters Store of "A" Company.

Sgt Cecil Atkinson now relinquished his position as Quartermaster to Headquarters Company. Platoon Commander Frank Hardy DCM was granted a month's sick leave, and Regimental Sgt Major Tom Reilly was to assist in training the Tamahere Platoon in Hardy's absence.

As well as Frank Green's transfer to the EPS Headquarters, other Home Guards who now transferred with an Honourable Discharge from the Cambridge Home guard included Corporal Thomas Jones and Guardsman John Bruce from Headquarters Company, and Guardsmen R.L. Knight, F.J.B. Laloli and E. Neate all of the Karapiro Platoon. Guardsman H. Kingi of the Headquarters Company had been transfered to the Roto-o-Rangi Company of the Waipa Battalion, while Guardsman T.H. Wade of the Tamahere Platoon was released to transfer to the Manawaru unit in Te Aroha. Lastly Guardsman D. Jones of the Tamahere Platoon had joined the Armed Forces and was struck off the Home Guard roll.

On Sunday the 19th of October the Cambridge Battalion held a special day of training when they assembled at the Drill Hall and they boarded the fleet of transport vehicles which then drove them to the Cambridge racecourse to undergo training in Field Craft and Field Exercises. Lunch was provided on site to the men by the ladies of the Women's War Service Auxiliary.

Captain Alford addressed the men before the parade dismissed and he stressed just what the Home Guard stands for. He said on occassions guardsmen asked themselves whether the Home Guard was a worth while venture, and were they learning anything of value. He stated that so long as the uncertainty in the world persisted, and particularly in the Pacific, their Home Guard training was definately worth while.

Alford was quoted as saying, "A hundred thousand men on paper are worth nothing, but 100,000 men, well-trained, should make a potential invader ask himself 'Is the risk worth while?' You may be able to tell your grandchildren one day not that you fought to keep New Zealand safe, but that you made it unsafe for an invader to attempt an attack."

He also raised the issue of loyalty of Home Guards towards their unit. he suggested that reports in the newspapers had shown virtually every unit in the country had endured problems at one time or another. He said that if Home guards refrained from taking part in street corner gossip and criticism, and if they refrained from discussing Home Guard affairs with the general public, a lot of the harm and misunderstandings arising would be avoided. He stated that there is a proper channel for grievances, just as there is in any military unit. Anyone with a complaint was to see their immediate superior about it and it would work its way up the chain of command if necessary.

From Monday the 20th of October right through the week to the following Sunday the Group Adjutant-Quartermaster, Captain E.N. Newton and the Group Instructors, Sergeant-Majors J.P. Alexander and G.L. Martin, were in Cambridge to give all the officers and NCO's of the Cambridge Home Gaurd a special week of training which would see them attend nightly parades that week and in the daytime on Saturday the 26th and Sunday 26th.

Captain Newton had served in France with the 2nd Auckland Battalion in the Great War. his role now was to distribute stores and equipment to the Battalions of the No. 4 (Hamilton) Military Area. both instructors, Alexander and Martin, had also served in the First World War.

This special week of training was considered a high honour as it was the first time that the instructors had selected a battalion and chosen to spend an intensive week training them like this, so it was another first for Cambridge. Because of this special training wee all the reular parades were cancelled and did not resume till Thursday the 30th, when lectures were given bu Platoon Commanders on camouflage, musketry and movement by day and night.

Group Headquarters also announced in mid-October that the following specialists were now avaiable to the Home Guard in the region to call on for special training sessions:

- Captain W.P. Grey of Hamilton - Map Reading
- Lieut Colonel T. Patterson of Ngaruawahia - Molotov Cocktails and Bombs
- Major A.E. Gibbons of Hamilton - Sand Table Exercises
- Lieutenant H.C.M. Morris of Hamilton - Signalling


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