The Cambridge Home Guard
by Dave Homewood

"Let Them All Come!"
January 1941 to March 1941


January 1941
By January 1941 the number of men attested in the Cambridge Home Guard had risen to a very healthy 188. There were also members parading regularly who had not yet been attested, and it was expected that the official numbers would rise in the early weeks of the year.

On the 4th of January 1941 a new platoon that had been formed in the farming district of Roto-o-Rangi, just south of Cambridge, met for the second time. There were twenty-two members in attendance, which was considered highly commendable bearing in mind the busy time that farmers were experiencing. The commander of the new unit was Captain David Dillon. It was expected in the future that this unit could rise to around 60 members.

Meanwhile the politics of the now fast growing force was beginning to boil over behind the closed doors of council chambers all around the country. It was widely felt by council members that the Government was wrong in making them, the city and town councils, pay for the Home Guard. They thought as they were defending the nation as a whole, it was a national funding matter and the required cash to keep the force going should be met by the central Government's treasury. It was reported on the 8th of January that Councillor H. Wilson of the Waiairi County Council in Canterbury had called for local bodies to protest the expenses that had been thrust upon their shoulders. He wasn't denying that the Home Guard needed money, but he felt it should be the Government who gives it to them.

During that week Headquarters Platoon Commander Frank Green, was attending a refresher course for Home Guard leaders at the District School, Narrow Neck. This was a special school near Devonport in Auckland that was set up for specialist Home Guard training courses. The course he was attending revised his military knowledge he'd learned in the last war and enabled him to gain experience in modern warfare methods. After completing the eight-day course, Green would then return to the Cambridge Home Guard to pass on his new-found knowledge to the other commanders and troops of the company.

When the first parade of the year finally came around on the 9th of January, a good attendance saw 130 members on parade. This was thought to be satisfactory considering the amount of members still away on their Christmas holiday breaks.

Twelve new members were sworn in, bringing the role up to exactly 200. The CO told the attendees that a full roll had been posted on the notice board, and each name had a number beside it, which was to be their new Home Guard service number. They were told to write their name and number inside their armband.

An announcement was made that Mr C.A. Finch had been appointed as Sergeant in charge of records, following the resignation of the previous holder of the post, Joe Richards. During the parade Headquarters Platoon carried out specialised training in signalling, scouting and observing. Meanwhile the members of No. 1 Platoon were instructed in bridge building, and No. 2 Platoon undertook squad drill on Victoria Square.

On Saturday the 11th of January, six new members were enrolled into the Roto-o-Rangi Platoon during a regular parade. This rural platoon received instruction on squad drill during the parade.

On Thursday the 16th of January the Cambridge Home Guard's parade saw 12 further new recruits attested, and there was an attendance of 150 members. While Headquarters Platoon carried out specialist training, the remainder of the company was given drill training on Victoria Square. Platoon Commander Frank Green had by now returned from the school at Narrow Neck, and he gave his impressions of the camp to Waikato Independent reporter Sam Boulton. Mr Green said, "It was a wonderful refresher course, and all who attended were sorry that it did not last longer". He also stated that many new methods, that were simpler and more effective, were now used in the army and a great deal had been learned by those who attended.

A notice in the paper on the 17th of January mentioned that it had been desired that the Monavale Home Guard Platoon, which was south west of Cambridge, might link up with the neighbouring Roto-o-Rangi Platoon in its activities. Both platoons were grouped under the Waipa Home Guard area and a visit from the Area Commander, Colonel R.D. McFarland, was planned for the following Thursday to stimulate interest in the Roto-o-Rangi area.

By the 20th of January the Cambridge company had 214 members on their roll, and the national figure of enrolled Home Guards was nearing the figure of 100,000 as required by the Minister of National Service. A Home Guard unit consisting of 90 men had recently been formed in Kaitaia, in the extreme north of the country. And a Home Guard unit in Cape Runaway was boasting a record. With a total of 51 men in this remote district eligible to join the Home Guard, the unit strength now stood at 51. That meant every single man in the district who could join, did. It was noted in the report that many were Maori.

A report was made on the same day of what was thought to be the first time a New Zealand Home Guard unit actually went 'into action'. As part of their job was to cope with cases of emergency, the Otehaike unit decided to take action when a local farmer, who was a returned soldier, was too ill to do his shearing. They declared the situation a state of emergency. When volunteers were asked to assist, the whole unit of 50 men offered their help. Twelve guardsmen were picked, and they paraded at the woolshed of the farmer's neighbour who had put her machines at their disposal. They set to, shearing the flock of around 500 sheep. Of course, they were not just helping a comrade; the wool was vital for the war effort as it was used to produce the likes of battledress uniforms, blankets and other pieces of a soldier's kit.

Nearer to Cambridge, the Morrinsville Company was nearing 100 men under the command of Captain H.E. Blennerhassett. And nearer still a new unit was formed at Matangi, just north of Cambridge with 50 members attending the first meeting to be sworn in. The first parade for this rural community was held on the 20th of January at the hub of the small village, the Matangi dairy factory.

At about this time Captain Kennedy decided to run a recruiting campaign, and the newspaper was right behind him. Kennedy noted that of the 214 members already attested, around 75 per cent of them resided outside of the Cambridge Borough. He felt that there was potentially a large number of men who lived inside the borough greenbelt who were yet to join.

Kennedy stated, "There are hundreds of people in town, who should be in the Guard." He suggested that the area commander, Lieutenant-Colonel R.D. McFarland, should be asked to address a public meeting in the Town Hall. However it was mentioned to him that getting people to attend a meeting would be difficult and a suggestion was made that the Home Guard should parade through the streets on a Friday night to create public interest. A short meeting could then follow the parade. It was decided to discuss the matter further with the Area Commander himself.

Meanwhile McFarland must have also been thinking along similar lines because a circular that had come from him said that enrolments for the area of his responsibility, No 4 Military Area, was now approaching 4,000. The circular stated the area was still considerably short of the required numbers. He was sure that with continued recruiting the area would soon be at full strength. For Cambridge's part in the drive, the Duke Street office of Mr. Reuben Entwistle was proposed as a recruiting depot for the Cambridge area.








Cambridge Home Guard
Recruiting Office

A photo of the building that during the 1940’s had been the site of Reuben Entwistle’s accountancy and secretarial business. This is the place that became a recruiting office to entice and sign on men to the Cambridge Home Guard. The building stood on the corner of Duke Street and Commerce Street, till it was demolished in the 1980’s. Today the site is occupied by the TAB building. Photo Cambridge Museum



The Cambridge Home Guard Committee met on Monday the 20th of January for the second time. They consisted of Walter Moore (chairman), Edgar James (Cambridge Mayor), Neville Souter, John Bruce, Frank St John, Allen Looker, Mr. C.G. Wallace, Gilbert Watt, John Garland, Edward Kennedy (now officially appointed by the Dominion Commander as Officer Commanding the Cambridge Home Guard) and Reuben Entwistle (Home Guard Committee Secretary).

The committee meeting confirmed the official appointments of the platoon commanders. The appointments, which had been recommended by the Officer Commanding, Edward Kennedy, saw Alf Swayne officially recognised as Second-in-Command, and the Platoon Commanders were affirmed as being Frank Green (Headquarters Platoon), Arthur Richardson (No 1 Platoon), Willie Webber (No 2 Platoon), Dave Lundon (No 3 Platoon), and Robert Alford (No 4 Platoon).

During the meeting it was recorded that the Company appreciated the efforts of Mr Allen Looker, who had manufactured several pieces of equipment for the signalling section. Mr Looker had incorporated many of his own patents into the design of the specialist equipment. The Signalling Officer from the Hamilton Home Guard had visited to inspect Cambridge's signals equipment and he apparently gained many useful ideas.

A picture from ‘Sound The Tocsin’, a book by the Hamilton Home Guard Commander T.H. Melrose

A communication from the Area Commander, Colonel McFarland, was read out to the Home Guard Committee. It stated that his district was now broken into nine different battalion areas. The areas were selected firstly to give adequate defence to the western coastline from the Waikato Heads to the Mokau River. Secondly the areas would give each battalion commander a district that he could work conveniently from his headquarters. Unfortunately parts of some of the battalion areas had their boarders encroaching over more than one local body district. As it was local councils funding the Home Guard units in their area through the Home Guard Committees, this would cause confusion when working out who pays. McFarland asked his Home Guard Committees to accept this and try to do the best they could for those units in their area.

A meeting was held in Hamilton on the 21st of January to appoint a battalion commander for the area including Cambridge and neighbouring units at Gordonton, Eureka, Matangi and Tamahere. The two possibles for the appointment were Edward Kennedy from the Cambridge Home Guard and Mr J.M. McNicoll who organised the Home Guard for the Waikato County Council. The meeting ended with no decision. The reason for no decision was because disputes arose over the boundaries of the area to be commanded.

It seems that the area had been set out as taking in Cambridge, Karapiro, Eureka, Tamahere, Komakorau and Horsham Downs. The adjoining battalion area took in Roto-o-Rangi, Rukuhia, Pukeatua, Korokanui, Te Awamutu, Ngutunui, Pirongia and Te Rore.




"The contention that the time would come when every person who was not a member of the Home Guard would feel an outsider was voiced by Captain J. Mitchell, commander for the Tauranga district, at a Home Guard meeting. He hoped there would be no outsiders."

Reported in the
Waikato Independent,
20th of January 1941


However the dispute arose from the fact that it was not clearly defined as to which of these two battalion areas that Leamington, Maungatautari, Horahora, Pukekura and Monavale fell into. So it was decided to adjourn until this could be sorted out.

On the 22nd of January the now regular news slot in the Waikato Independent about the Cambridge Home Guard was promoted to the front page, taking up two full columns. This was a reflection of the growing awareness of the importance of the Company in Cambridge, and this prominent position for Home Guard reports became a regular occurrence. With many of the men from families in the community now enrolled, and the highly visible training in places like Victoria Square in the centre of town, the citizens would have had the men who were to defend their town in the forefront of their minds. And now it was in the forefront of the local press. An interesting announcement on the 22nd of January was that the Home Guard was planning a field day to be held the following Sunday. A programme for a full day's training had been drawn up for the event.

A great boost to the Cambridge Company was the arrival of 25 rifles in time for the parade that would take place the next day. However the rifles, which had been sent from the Area Commander in Hamilton to the secretary of the Home Guard Committee, Reuben Entwistle, were classed as unserviceable, and were not to be fired. Therefore they were to be painted white on the butt so no mix-ups occurred, and no ammunition was supplied with them. The rifles could only be used for drill practise and other such training. A total of 140 members attended the Cambridge parade at the Drill Hall, despite wet weather. The weather must have been bad for this parade because it was reported that, as outdoor manoeuvres were not possible, two platoons trained in the town hall.

At this parade the arrangement of the new No 4 Platoon was finalised. This platoon was to be made up from new members and some younger men from No 1 Platoon, which was now restricted to only returned soldiers. Sixteen new members were attested during the evening, bringing the total role of the Cambridge Company to 230. Also the appointments were made of five platoon sergeants. They were Frank Oliver (Headquarters Platoon), Dick Newcombe (No 1 Platoon), G Smith (No 2 Platoon), W J Maddock (No 3 Platoon) and Jimmy Jeans (Snr.) (No 4 Platoon).

Captain Kennedy detailed the upcoming field exercise, which was to be held near the gasworks. (These days the gasworks building is the Gaslight Theatre.) He told the men to parade at the gasworks at 10:00am, and to bring lunch and a cup. The cup was necessary because several ladies had offered to provide tea for the troops.

A meeting was held on the same evening, the 23rd of January 1941, at the Karapiro dam hydro-electric power works on the Waikato River just south of Cambridge. The intention of the meeting was to form a Home Guard unit there, and around 80 men attended, where the result was indeed a new unit formed. The dam was at this time under construction, and many men were employed in the building of the structure. Though no officers had been appointed at the meeting, the initial steps had been taken in bringing together the Karapiro Platoon. As Karapiro Dam was an important facility to the nation as well as the region, it had been guarded for some time by a regular army unit against any possible threat of enemy sabotage or attack. A Home Guard unit could supplement and perhaps replace the regular soldiers given time and training.

Meanwhile on the same evening the Roto-o-Rangi platoon met again, in the company of the Area Commander Colonel McFarland, who had previously attended a parade in Hamilton on the same evening, and unofficially visited the Cambridge Company on the way. By the end of the evening Roto-o-Rangi had a total of 75 members. They had enrolled 25 in the one meeting, and there were also another 20 possible members who were expected to sign on soon.

The Platoon Commander, Captain David Dillon, presided over the meeting with his second-in-command Captain John Peake, and acting secretary Aubrey Dahlberg at his side. It was noted that a number of men from the Kairangi Settlement had attended the Roto-o-Rangi meeting. Every person in the hall that had not already joined the Home Guard signed the attestation papers by the night's end.




"It has been announced by the Minister of National Service, the Hon. R. Semple, that the Government has decided to equip the whole Territorial Force, as well as the Expeditionary Force with battledress, and transfer to the Home Guard service the uniforms at present in use by Territorials."

Reported in the
Waikato Independent,
24th of January 1941.


Colonel McFarland gave an explicit speech outlining the part that the Home Guard would play in the event of an invasion. He talked of the school of thought that New Zealand ran the risk of invasion, and that the risk had to be minimised. He stated that if the Home Guard's strength could reach 100,000 to 150,000 men, then the country's shores could be defended safely. He stressed that it was therefore necessary that every able-bodied man over 16 years old should join his local company of the Home Guard. He spoke of the various classes within the New Zealand Home Guard that ensured men of all ages could serve in the defence of the land. He also stressed that the important fact was, that all officers in the Home Guard were appointed by the members, making the civilian army a true organisation of the people.

When questioned about what training would be given, McFarland explained that the Home Guard would have to train themselves. He mentioned the refresher course for officers that had taken place but noted that only 12 men from No 4 Area had been invited to attend. One of those officers had been Frank Green of the Cambridge Company. He said however that it was hoped to hold a course for all officers in the Waikato region, to take place in Hamilton in February or March 1941. And in the meantime the officers and NCO's of the Waikato Regiment were offering their services to Home Guard companies in the area. In conclusion, McFarland said the local leaders were undertaking a huge job, and that members should be patient for the next few weeks.

A vote at the Roto-o-Rangi meeting confirmed that the platoon would continue to meet, for the summer months at least, on Saturday mornings. It was conceded that the local cheese makers could not attend these parades, but specialist parades would be held at night to accommodate them. An alternative suggestion was proposed that those who could not attend on Saturday mornings could join the Cambridge Home Guard instead, which met now on Thursday evenings. It was also decided that when winter came, farmers feeding out to their cattle would take up the mornings, so the Roto-o-Rangi platoon parades would most probably be changed to the evenings.

At a meeting of the Waipa County Council earlier in the week, Councillor John Garland had stated that the Roto-o-Rangi platoon had expressed a desire to have the section of metal road in front of the dairy factory where they met, to be tar sealed. They wished to use the tar sealed portion as a suitable parade ground for drilling on. He suggested the dairy company would probably contribute to the costs. However Cr Livingstone had expressed concern at whether Home Guards should be drilling on the roads, particularly at night.

The engineer replied that there was plenty of room in front of the Roto-o-Rangi factory. It was agreed, on the motion of Cr Garland, that the engineer should prepare an estimate of the cost for tar sealing the piece of land.

The Gasworks Battle
On Sunday the 26th of January 1941, the Cambridge Home Guardsmen went into action on their first large scale exercise. 120 members of the company joined in the spirit of the training with great enthusiasm. The exercise in attack and defence took place on the property of Mr. F. Arnold, alongside the Waikato River, on the river flat area that runs from the gasworks west to St Peters School.

It was felt the area was not ideal for an exercise of this nature because permission to use one of the properties along the battle area was refused. However the men involved gained valuable knowledge of warfare tactics, and the officers commanding the various units showed sound judgement in the conditions.

Upon assembling at the gasworks the Company was told an enemy force, estimated to have the strength of one battalion, had captured the ridge south-east of St Peters School, and was moving forwards to make an attack on the gasworks. The men were told that defending aircraft had reported the enemy advance was half a mile, where consolidation had taken place. They had also reported that strong points, defended by machine guns, had been erected.

Then the Cambridge Home Guard Company was ordered to attack the force. The Guards lacked any artillery support, but they had rifles, ammunition, and explosives and machine-guns (all make believe of course!). No 2 Platoon lead the attack, with No 3 Platoon in support. Headquarters Platoon provided scouts, observers and signallers. The 'enemy' was made up of No's 1 and 4 Platoons, who had been taken to their defending positions by lorries.

For the first quarter of a mile the advance of the attackers was easy going, as they had the cover of a high hawthorn hedge screening them from view of the enemy. Then the platoon divided into three sections, and moved in short dashes toward the enemy positions. Although the terrain wasn't entirely suitable, attempts were made to bring sections up on each flank. However the cover was impenetrable on the left, so rather than expose the men to open fire, No 3 section retreated and rejoined the remainder of the force. In the meantime No 3 Platoon had made its way to its position in reserve, and once all the members of No 2 Platoon had deployed to cover, the final attack was made.

Alf Swayne acted as umpire for the exercise. He congratulated both the attackers and defenders for their skills during the manoeuvres, especially considering the restrictive nature of the countryside. He said the defenders had occupied the most strategic positions, but as there had not been any actual gunfire, which in real battle conditions discloses the location of the positions, there was no margin for giving officers of either side an advantage.

In view of the conditions, Swayne considered both sides' actions in the exercise to be excellent. The Company Commander, Edward Kennedy, was very satisfied with the enthusiasm and initiative of his officers and men. He said his troops had learned a great deal about the use of cover and 'dead' ground. He was also pleased with the scouts and observers, saying their training in their specialised fields had proved its value well. After the exercise, the men returned to the gasworks for lunch, where a welcome cup of tea was provided by Mrs Kennedy, Mrs Jeans and Mrs Irene Green, all wives of the Company's officers. In the afternoon, instructional training was carried out. This included construction of barbed-wire entanglements for the bulk of the men, while others took lessons in drill. The signallers, observers and scouts trained in their specialised fields.

Many of the men enthusiastically enquired when the next exercise of this nature would take place, and they were told that such large-scale training days would hopefully become a fixture at regular intervals.

On the 28th of January another meeting concerning the boundaries of the Home Guard battalion areas was held in Hamilton, and at the meeting it was decided to appoint Edward Kennedy to the position of Battalion Commander.

With the original boundaries now altered, Kennedy would be in command of the area from the Narrows Bridge in the Cambridge riding of the Waikato County, and the area included Tamahere, Matangi, Eureka, Tauwhare, and the entire Cambridge district, including Karapiro, Pukekura and Maungatautari. He was now in charge of around 700 men, and with the promotion he had to relinquish his position of the Officer Commanding the Cambridge Home Guard Company.

On the 30th of January, 154 men attended the regular parade at the Drill Hall. Fifteen more members were attested during the evening, bringing the role to 247. The following night was the recruiting drive, where over 150 members of the Home Guard marched through the town, lead by the municipal band, and then a speech followed by a meeting in the Town Hall.

Considerable interest was aroused by the evening, but predictions in the newspaper that the drive would see over 100 more men join was not the case. The company signed up 16 more men after the meeting, and this brought their roll to 263. However they expected many of the people from around the town that had lined the streets to watch the parade, to come forward in future weeks to sign up.

Introduced by the Chairman of the Home Guard Committee Walter Moore, speeches were given in the hall by Colonel McFarland, Mayor Edgar James, Captain Kennedy and Dick Newcombe of the Returned Soldier's Association. While introducing McFarland, Mr Moore stated that it was better to be trained and equipped than to be caught unawares. He asked every man present to join the Home Guard, and he pointed out that within the force there was something for everyone to do.

When the Mayor, Mr Edgar James spoke, he said the defence of people and their property was essential. He said the position in the Pacific was different from what it had ever been before, and New Zealand would have to look after itself. He said the danger might pass, but no one would begrudge the effort of preparing just in case.

Edgar James also asked for those men who were in the Territorials to join the Home Guard and assist as much as they possibly could.

Lieutenant-Colonel McFarland stated during his speech that the presence of so many women in the assembled audience was a sure sign that recruiting would be stimulated. He said that in such matters, women carried a great deal of weight with their friends. He added that in Cambridge there was an efficient Home Guard with good officers and organisation, praise that must have boosted the morale of those already serving in the Guard. McFarland reckoned that the membership should be boosted to around 400 - 500 men. McFarland continued by explaining the necessity of the Home Guard in modern warfare.




"Recent figures from neighbouring towns indicate that the movement is growing steadily. Waihi enlistments total 120, which number does not include enrolments in the Waihi Beach unit. There are 69 members at Paeroa, 156 in the Te Awamutu Borough, 863 at Rotorua, Whakatane 819, Tauranga 509 and Opotiki 179."

Reported in The Waikato Independent on 27 January 1941


He pointed out that many countries in Europe that had been under-prepared collapsed when they were attacked. He said it is necessary to have a trained army and also a controlled body to look after the civilian population. He gave the example of the recent attack into France made by the Germans, stating the civilians there had been unorganised and had blocked important roads in their stampede to safety. McFarland assured those gathered that in New Zealand the Emergency Reserve Corps Regulations had been introduced to provide three bodies, the Home Guard, the Emergency Precautions Scheme and the Women's War Service Auxiliary. He said that of these three, the Home Guard was the most important, particularly in the country districts.

Of the risk of invasion to New Zealand, McFarland said that the country's isolation helped to minimise the possibility, and also minimised the size of an invasion force, as they would have to travel a vast distance by sea to get here. He said there was a large coastline to defend, but with around 100,000 to 150,000 Home Guards around the nation, it would be possible. He stated that the Home Guard was a civilian fighting force assisted by the Government. He said men would not be sent overseas; there would not be any compulsory camps, no interference with private businesses, and no medical examinations. The oath of allegiance had to be taken however, and the Government accepted any responsibility for injury to members while on parade and wearing their brassards.
He continued, “In the event of an invasion, the Guard will be called up for service. The best place to repel an attack is on the beaches - not in the homes or on the farms.”

He spelled out the requirements for joining, stating that membership to the Home Guard was open to any man of 16 years or over, who was a British subject and not a member of the Armed Forces. Members were graded into three classes, and the training would be according to each individual's ability. He also said that it was not intended to make the men into parade ground soldiers, but a certain amount of drill had to be given as the basis for discipline.

He spoke of the syllabus for training. The fit men would be trained in drill, shooting, siting defensive posts and holding them, entanglements, camouflage, ground defence against tanks, aeroplanes and gas, obstructions, attacking a locality, patrolling, scouting, rearguard action, detonations, signalling, despatch riding, first aid and combating fifth column activities. There would also be map reading and marching by map with a compass.

The Colonel said that all the latest manuals were kept at Headquarters, and special lectures were being prepared from these manuals for distribution to the companies in the battalion. He also said that rifles were now being made available, and 400 had been allocated to the area. Also, privately owned rifles could be loaned to Guardsmen. He expected that ammunition would become available by the end of February.

McFarland then explained how the military area that he commanded was divided up. He said there were four battalions along the west coast of the region, with the other five inland battalions in reserve. However these battalions were not yet up to full strength, and they needed to recruit more men. Hence this was the reason for the meeting. The Colonel said preparations had to be made for all eventualities, and suggested that the war situation changed so rapidly that perhaps the Pacific would become the next theatre of war. He said it was doubtful that America would put her men into action, apart from the Navy, which would probably be required in the Atlantic. He said Germany made it a practice to attack weak countries, and with no outside help, New Zealand might be an objective.

He said Japan was 4,000 miles away but that was not insuperable. However he believed that if the Axis countries knew a strength of 100,000 to 150,000 trained men awaited them, an attack would probably not eventuate. Lieutenant-Colonel McFarland concluded his speech with one final appeal to all able-bodied men to join the Home Guard.

Following the speech by the Area Commander, the new Battalion Commander Edward Kennedy made his own appeal to the townsfolk of Cambridge. He pointed out that the last meeting had seen 15 men join the Cambridge Home Guard but of these men, 12 were from the country and outlying districts of the town. Two had come from as far away as Horahora and one from Taotaoroa. Only three of the 15 were from within the Borough. He said that during that morning he had walked down Victoria Street (which is Cambridge's main shopping street) and he'd counted 36 eligible businessmen who were not yet members of the Home Guard. He appealed to employers to encourage their staff to join up.

Mr Kennedy announced that his aim was to see that Cambridge would eventually have two full companies, one becoming Headquarters Company of the battalion with 200 men, and the other company of 120 men with reserve strength of 10 to 15 per cent. He added that this meant that they were striving for a minimum of 340 men in the Cambridge Home Guard.

At this point the meeting was declared closed; the Cambridge Home Guard's first major recruiting drive was over. The 16 men who came forward on the night were attested by Reuben Entwistle, who by now had established the recruiting post in his place of business at the Farmers' Union Building in Duke Street.

In the last week of January, an announcement was made to the Te Awamutu Home Guard that they would shortly be issued with their brassards, or armbands. The Cambridge Company, having been one of the country's oldest Home Guard units, had been one of the earliest to receive its brassards, the first of which were distributed as early as the 24th of November 1940. But most other Home Guard platoons were now only receiving their armlets. This is interesting considering the long period that the New Zealand Home Guard had been formed, and the fact that these armbands were the only item that covered a Guard for compensation if an accident occurred while on duty. Also if an invasion took place and a Guard was captured with the brassard on, he was supposedly to be treated as a soldier, but without the band could be perceived as a spy or member of the Resistance, and executed. Having said this, Hitler was never too keen to recognise the Home Guard as soldiers at any time, and referred to the British Home Guard in one speech as a 'murderous band of thugs.'

The rules of wearing the brassards were clear; it should be worn to and from parade. This was so if an accident should occur to a Guard while travelling to a parade, or perhaps on the way home, he could claim Government compensation for his injuries. However he had to prove that he had indeed been wearing the brassard at the time of the accident.

Members were required to write with marking ink on the inside of the brassard, their name, registration number and their unit. The armlet was worn at all times while on duty, on the left arm above the elbow, with the 'H G' and crown facing outwards to the left. It was suggested a small pin could be used to secure the brassard so it did not slip down or spin around, obscuring the lettering. When a member was discharged from his unit, for example if called up for the regular Armed Forces, he had to return the brassard to his CO.

February 1941
By the beginning of February the Cambridge Company's Quartermaster Sergeant, Mr Cecil Atkinson, had obtained rank insignias for the commanders and other officers in the company. These had been distributed and sewn onto the armbands of those with rank. The New Zealand Home Guard insignia was denoted as follows:

Home Guard Rank
Army Equivalent
Section Leader
Two half chevrons

Platoon Sergeant
Three half chevrons
Senior Man (of non-commissioned rank in a Company)
The letters 'S.M.'
Sergeant Major
Unit (Platoon) Commander
One open triangle
Company Commander
Two open triangles
Battalion Commander
Three open triangles
Area Commander
One solid triangle
District Commander
Two solid triangles

By the 5th of February, just a few days after Reuben Entwistle had established the recruiting office in Cambridge, it was reported that many men who were considering joining had made many enquiries. A number had filled in the recruitment forms and they were to be officially sworn in at the next parade at the Drill Hall.

At this time some New Zealanders began to question whether men who had been granted exemption from military service by the Government should be conscripted for service in the Home Guard. The Matamata RSA asked the National Service Department for clarification of this situation, and they addressed this question with the statement: "I have to advise that the question of compelling men exempted from service with the Armed Forces, or whose service has been postponed, to serve in the Home Guard is at present under consideration by the Government, and no doubt an announcement will be made at a later date." So the initial stages of compulsory service for at least some men were now under consideration.

On Wednesday the 5th of February, the members of the Cambridge Legion of Frontiersmen met in Te Awamutu. As the Legion unit was made up from men of both Cambridge and Te Awamutu, it was discussed what the Te Awamutu members should do regarding the Home Guard.

The whole Legion of Frontiersmen unit formed part of the Cambridge Home Guard. It was decided that the Te Awamutu men would continue to parade with the Cambridge Home Guard for instructional training, and also attend the Te Awamutu Home Guard parades.

On Thursday the 6th of February Cambridge Company's weekly parade in the Drill Hall recorded its largest meeting to date, with 237 men attending. The results of the recruiting campaign were starting to become obvious now. Also present at the parade were Major Frederick Kingsford, and Sergeants Maddock, Buttimore and Elliot from the 16th Waikato Regiment, who gave most of the Home Guardsmen instruction in drill.

The evening's training was concluded with elementary night manoeuvres. Meanwhile the Headquarters Platoon continued with their specialised training, which included on this particular evening the construction of pontoons.




By February 1941, people were openly advocating that Home Guard service should be compulsory for all those eligible men. The Te Awamutu Farmers' Union president, Mr A S Wyllie, urged his members to join the Home Guard. In response Mr J Wallis added that if people 'fell down' on it this time there would be nothing for it but conscription. Following these sentiments, the Waiuku Home Guard wrote this resolution on the 30th of January 1941 after criticising the apathy of men who had not joined - "That as it is generally regarded that the next 60 to 90 days may be critical in the course of the war, this meeting of platoon commanders of the Franklin Home Guard urges the New Zealand Government immediately to enforce compulsory enrolment of all available eligible manpower in the Home Guard."

Some of the men who travelled from the rural country areas around Cambridge to parades were entitled to claim for the petrol required. On this evening, Battalion Commander Kennedy announced in future those claiming petrol would have to give fuller details when applying. The new details included the make of the car and the miles to the gallon that the vehicle achieved. Also needed was the distance that the car would travel to and from the parade. These precise details helped to ensure petrol was not being wasted or taken for other purposes.

As the No. 4 (Cambridge) Battalion slowly grew in strength, it was reported in the Gazette, by the 10th of February 1941, the Hauraki Home Guard had signed up 516 men, four more than the full strength number required for the proposed No 5 Battalion based on the Hauraki Plains.

Petrol was one of the first items to be rationed in New Zealand, due to the country's inability at that time to produce our own. It all had to be shipped in from abroad. So when rationing was imposed most people lost a lot of freedom of movement.

If one was required to travel a long distance, a special permit had to be applied for. Very soon the use of the motorcar became strictly limited, and bicycles, horses and the railway networks became the main forms of travel.

Kennedy again stressed to the men at this parade the necessity to wear the Home Guard armbands to and from parade, and he cited the fact that two members of the company had actually been involved in an accident after a recent parade. He had applied for the Government compensation for the two men, who had been wearing their brassards as required.

He also said a delay had developed in the issuing of rifles to the company, but arrangements had been made so that they could train with privately owned rifles.

A further 55 men were either attested at the parade or had done so during the week at the recruiting depot, bringing the total role to 318.

On Sunday the 9th of February, Headquarters Platoon's bridge-building section gave a practical demonstration of their skills.




"Twenty-two minutes after a general alarm was given, 130 members of the Hawera Home Guard equipped with fire-arms, axes, picks and sufficient provisions for 24 hours in the open were assembled at their mobilisation point. The success of the alarm was two-fold. Firstly, the attendance of 130 men of a total of 180 was exceptionally good as a northerly wind prevented the alarm from being heard in one section of the town. Secondly, the alarm, which was given to test the efficiency of the organisation of the Hawera unit, revealed a surprisingly keen public interest. Guardsmen who were attending the pictures when the alarm was sounded at 8.20pm left the theatre, but later the commander received a request that they be dismissed at an early stage in the proceedings so that they might return to continue their duties as escorts."

Reported Waikato Independent, Wednesday 5 February 1941

The squad, under the leadership of Platoon Commander Frank Green, successfully built a pontoon raft and 12 men were transported across the Waikato River, near the old Cambridge Wharf. Having received full instructional training on building a pontoon at the previous Thursday night parade, they were able to lash together ten oil drums in just a few minutes.




The Boat Builders

Member of the HQ Company bridge-building section proudly display the raft they constructed on the 7th of February 1941. Most remain unidentified, but standing 4th from left is Alby Voyle. Sitting, 2nd from left is Alf Scott and beside him 3rd from left is Fred Cowie. The raft looks rather makeshift but as can be seen later in the book, it proved to be very robust against the strong current of the Waikato River. Close inspection of this photo reveals the pontoons are Speights XXX beer barrels that are lashed together with sturdy ropes. Photo from the Frank Green Collection, Cambridge Museum.



The most important phase of the exercise then took place when a cable that had been taken across with the pontoon was made fast on the other side. The currents of the river were studied and then a cable, now stretching from one side of the river to the other and running through a pulley on the raft, enabled the pontoon to traverse the waterway with ease and without risk of being swept downstream. It was estimated that, if necessary, the pontoon would have taken the weight of twenty men.




Boat Builders Cross the Waikato River

Members of the HQ Company bridge-building section proved their raft was operational on the 8th of February 1941. Seen here on the stretch of the river known as 'The Wharf' where the boat ramp is, just west of the current low-level Ferguson Bridge, the boat builders successfully braved the strong and unpredictable currents there to cross the river. 

In the photo above the only member who has been positively identified is Sgt Roland 'Poly' Hill, standing third from left with the little dog in his arms. The photo is from the Frank Green Collection, Cambridge Museum.



Now the bridge-building section had plans to build a larger pontoon that could carry a vehicle across a river. The main point of the pontoon exercise was to train the section in dealing with river crossings if, after an invasion, the bridges have been destroyed. Another such venture that the section was involved in at the time was the building of a bridge across the stream near the Cambridge Gasworks. It was intended that this bridge would carry motor vehicles once completed. (Sadly no photo of this bridge has come to light.)

Around the country the politics and organisation of the New Zealand Home Guard continued. In Tauranga it was discussed whether members of the Emergency Precautions Scheme (EPS), who would run the essential supplies such as water, gas and sewerage plants in an invasion or wartime emergency, should be allowed to also join the Home Guard. Belonging to both emergency services could cause huge conflicts in their roles in an emergency. When it was suggested that the Home Guard take over all duties of the EPS, this was quickly dismissed. At this time no conclusion was drawn on whether EPS wardens who were also in the Home Guard should choose between one service or the other.

Meanwhile the Waikato County Council were discussing the payment of hall hire fees. They had been asked by the Gordonton Hall Committee to pay the bill amassed by the local Home Guard using the facilities. The Council thought if they paid this bill, it might set a precedent that would see councils liable for every hall bill in the county that is amassed by a Home Guard unit. Some councillors thought the Government should take over these bill payments as it was too high a burden on councils, but others suggested rate payers wouldn't mind an extra fee in the circumstances. The decision was postponed pending further enquiries.

By the 13th of February 1941 the recruiting drive, run two weeks previously, had proven so successful for the Cambridge Home Guard that it was now necessary to split the unit into two companies. News of this decision was announced at the parade that night, which again set a record for attendance with 270 men present. Some 34 new members were enrolled on the night, and the total role was now standing at 352. The new arrangement would see one company consisting of Headquarters Platoon, No 4 Platoon and No 5 Platoon, under the new Company Commander Frank Green.

The second company was under the leadership of Company Commander Alf Swayne, and consisted of No's 1, 2 and 3 Platoons. It was announced that the two companies would continue to parade together until the end of February. After that date one company would parade on Monday nights and the other on Thursday nights. The two companies were divided at the parade, and Alf Swayne's company was then transported to the golf links area where under the supervision of Major Frederick Kingsford and Sergeants R. Buttimore and N. Elliot, they carried out night manoeuvres. The men were trained in judging distances in the dark, and how to pick up movements of enemy troops by sight and sound. Meanwhile Frank Green's company carried out drill, with the exception of the Headquarters Platoon, which underwent their specialised training.

At a meeting of the Leamington Town Board during the week, it was decided to grant permission to the Cambridge Home Guard's Signalling Section to use the Pavilion on Wednesday nights, except on nights when the building was required for board meetings.

On the 17th of February a further appeal to the public was made by Lieutenant-Colonel McFarland across his No 4 (Hamilton) Military Area for rifles. He asked that privately owned rifles be either given or lent to the Home Guard for the duration of the war. He stated that even unregistered rifles were welcome, and under a special waiver no penalty for the failure to have it registered would be imposed on the owner. Also on the 17th the locations of the nine battalions under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel McFarland were announced to the public. The Battalions were now as follows:

Battalion Name Battalion Commander

Port Waikato-Huntly Bttn

Raglan Battalion

Kawhia-Otorohanga Bttn

Waitomo County - Te Kuiti Bttn

Waikato County Northern Bttn

Waikato County Cambridge Bttn

Hamilton Battalion

Waipa County Te Awamutu Bttn

Taumaranui-Ohura-Kaitieke Bttn

Major K.S. Caldwell (of Huntly)

Major C.J. Fillery (of Te Pahu)

Major H.H.S. Westmacott (of Otorohanga)

Captain J.G. Mackenzie (of Te Kuiti)

Captain D. Bruce (of Horsham Downs)

Captain Edward Kennedy (of Cambridge)

Captain T.H. Melrose (of Hamilton)

Lt-Colonel J G Wynyard (of Te Awamutu)

with headquarters at Taumaranui

On the 19th of February the Waikato Independent announced that the Roto-o-Rangi Home Guard had decided they favoured being linked with the Waipa County Te Awamutu Battalion rather than with Cambridge. At a meeting of the unit on the previous Saturday, 71 members from a total roll which now stood at 82, discussed which battalion they favoured to be part of. The unit had originally been part of the Waipa battalion area when they formed, but when the districts were changed the unit was transferred to the Cambridge Battalion. Difficulties had arisen with the change to a different battalion command, and so at the meeting a vote was taken. The members voted unanimously to revert to linking with the Waipa Battalion. It was then decided on Monday the 17th by the Waipa County Council that their chairman and engineer should raise the point of the unanimous vote with the Cambridge Home Guard.

On the following evening the Cambridge Home Guard fell in on parade for the first time as two separate companies. Each company commander explained the reorganisation to their men. The two new companies were to be known as Headquarters Company, under Frank Green, and 'A' Company, under Alf Swayne. Cambridge's 'A' Company would now be regarded as the senior of the companies in the battalion. Under the new structure, Headquarters Company had four platoons, and at the time of this meeting 'A' Company had three with a fourth planned to form soon which would include a number of Maori members.

New platoon commanders and sergeants were announced, and from this time onwards Headquarters Company would now parade in the Cambridge Town Hall, separately from 'A' Company, which would continue to use the Drill Hall as its base. 'A' Company was now to be made up only of riflemen, with the exception of four men from each platoon to be trained in signalling, and a section of Lewis gunners in each platoon. Headquarters Company would contain the remainder of the specialists. Frank Green asked that all members of his company in possession of .303 calibre rifles make them available to the Home Guard for training, as an extra supply of ammunition could now be secured for each rifle. Meanwhile, recruiting continued. With another 38 new men in attendance at this parade and signing up with the Home Guard, the total roll rose to 391.

On the 24th of February 1941, a statement was published in the Waikato Independent from the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Fraser. The PM said that with the Home Guard now numbering 66,000 throughout New Zealand, and hundreds of men joining every day, the pressure on the Government to equip the Home Guard with rifles was becoming too much. He said that the Army had already released a large number of rifles to the Home Guard, but many more were needed. He stated, "There is no need to stress the fact that it is absolutely essential that rifles should be available not only for actual use should the necessity arise but also for training purposes now. Rifles by no means, however, are the only weapons in modern warfare and the training in these other arms has received full attention, but so far as increasing the usefulness of the Home Guard is concerned I would like to emphasise that it is highly desirable that they should have more rifles."

Mr Fraser quoted a recent survey which showed there were 20,000 privately owned rifles in New Zealand, and he said if all of these were made available it would greatly ease the situation. He said he assumed that all marksmen and rifle club members had already joined the Home Guard, but if any hadn't done so and they were unable to offer the Home Guard their skills, then the least they could offer were their rifles. The Prime Minister gave his assurance to rifle owners that in handing in unregistered weapons, no action would be taken against them for such a failure. He also assured that as soon as possible after the end of the war, the owners would either have their rifles returned to them or replaced. Rifle owners were urged to hand their weapons into the nearest police station, where a receipt would be given.

On Thursday the 27th of February the Cambridge Home Guard companies paraded at their new respective headquarters. 'A' Company paraded at the Drill Hall, with 182 men present, where rifle drill was carried out during the evening using twenty rifles that had been supplied by area HQ. The men took it in turns to do the drill, and those men who were not using the rifles at the time practised squad drill. Meanwhile at the Town Hall, 164 men of Headquarters Company paraded. They had the assistance of 17 privately owned rifles, which had been lent to the company for training. A further 26 men were attested during the evening, bringing the total Cambridge Home Guard role to an incredible 417 men.


Cambridge Home Guard
The Rank Structure Arrangements when split into Two Companies
As of 20th of February 1941

Battalion Commander
Captain Edward Kennedy

Battalion 2nd in Charge
Lieutenant Howard Rishworth



Headquarters Company
Headquarters Company Commander
Frank Green

Company Sergeant Major
E.J. Elliot


No. 1 Platoon
Signallers and
Despatch Riders

Frank Oliver

Platoon Sergeant
Frank St. John

No. 2 Platoon
Transport and
Despatch Riders

Arthur Richardson

Platoon Sergeant
Dick Newcombe

No. 3 Platoon
Scouts, Machine-Gunners & Snipers

Robert Alford

Platoon Sergeant
Arthur Hill

No. 4 Platoon
Bridge Building, Wiring & Demolition

Jimmy Jeans snr.

Platoon Sergeant
Roland "Poly" Hill

(No Section Leaders had been appointed by this date in Headquarters Company)


“A” Company

“A” Company Commander
Alfred Swayne

Second in Command ‘A’ Company
Dave Lundon

Company Sergeant Major
Tom Reilly


No. 1 Platoon

Charles La Trobe

Platoon Sergeant
Carl White

Section Leaders
George Haydon
Spence Johnson
Peter Hulse

No. 2 Platoon

Willie Webber

Platoon Sergeant
G. Smith

Section Leaders
Clarence Hargraves
Richard Ireland
Joseph Donoghue

No. 3 Platoon

W. De Latour

Platoon Sergeant
Morley Boyce

Section Leaders
Ronald J. Watts
John Hoff
Ivan Litchwark

No. 4 Platoon

Gordon Vosper

Platoon Sergeant
Henry Giles

Section Leaders
To Be Appointed


On the evening of Friday the 28th of February 1941, the Home Guard Committee met in Cambridge where the issue of key EPS men who were also serving in the Home Guard was discussed at length. It was announced to the meeting that in the event of an invasion, the EPS were required to stay at their posts. Concern was raised that despite this, several key men within the Cambridge EPS also had leading positions in the Home Guard. Chairman Walter Moore said that the Government Liaison Officer had made the position on this matter clear to him. He said that such men as Power Board employees, Borough Council employees and Fire Brigade members were required for the EPS. However there was nothing to stop them from training with the Home Guard. During the discussion it was suggested that there may be no limit to the number of key men required, and that even farmers could fall into the category. Alf Swayne suggested that rather than holding back important Home Guard officers for the EPS, other men could be found and trained to take over their EPS duties, relieving them for the Home Guard. John Bruce suggested that nothing further could be done on the matter until the reorganisation of the Emergency Precautions Scheme was completed. It was agreed that until the changes were in place, which were being undertaken by Mayor Edgar James, the so-called 'key' EPS men in the Home Guard would continue to train with the Guard. Captain Kennedy added that currently the attestation papers of all those in the Home Guard were being sorted through to see which men were more suited to the EPS. Those found not fit for Home Guard training would be honourably discharged, provided they agreed to join the EPS.

The Home Guard Committee also discussed Roto-o-Rangi's desire to leave the Cambridge Battalion, following a deputation from Roto-o-Rangi Home Guardsmen Samuel Macky and G. Macky. The unit had been transferred to the Cambridge Battalion on the 21st of January, but the men unanimously wanted to return to the fold of the Waipa County Te Awamutu Battalion. It was stated that Waipa however had no desire to take Roto-o-Rangi back. But in view of the unanimous vote, the Cambridge committee agreed that it did not want to send men where they did not want to go. The committee hoped that the two areas could come to an arrangement, although the battalions had no power to make such decisions. For the time being, nothing was to stop individual members parading in either Cambridge or Te Awamutu. Captain Kennedy said that the boundary changes that had caused Roto-o-Rangi's problems had been drawn up from a military point of view, and not from a county angle. Although no other reason was known why Roto-o-Rangi wanted to change back to Waipa Battalion apart from the fact that they were remaining in their own county, Captain Kennedy suggested that the committee make the recommendation to transfer the unit back. He said the Cambridge Battalion was already at full strength without the unit, having 702 men, with more expected to come (this figure being the entire Battalion number, not just the Cambridge units.) Mr Alf Swayne then moved that a recommendation to rescind the motion that fixed the boundaries on the 21st of January be made by the committee to the Hamilton Area Committee. He regretted the loss of the unit, saying there were many valuable Guardsmen and a highly capable commander in the platoon. He added that all would be welcome to continue attending the Cambridge parades for specialist training.

Further business for the Home Guard Committee in Cambridge was a request by Mr W. Harbutt, chairman of directors of the Cambridge Co-operative Dairy Company. In a letter from Harbutt to the committee, he asked if it would be possible for the Home Guard to mount patrols at the Hautapu, Pukeroro and Monavale dairy factories. He suggested such patrols were in the national interest. He recommended that a roster could be drawn up so patrols were not too frequent for individuals, and he said it was desired that the factories were guarded from 21.00hrs until 05.00hrs each night. Mr W. Morrow suggested that as the cheese was being produced as part of the war effort, the request should be made to the Defence Department instead, where permanent guards should be sought. Reuben Entwistle agreed, saying he had been in touch with the Liaison Officer of the Home Guard, who had said this was definitely a matter for the Defence Department. Where the Home Guards would have no rifles, men of the National Military Reserve would, and they would receive military pay for these duties. The committee decided to advise the Dairy Company to approach the Minister of Defence, as the Home Guard had no power to take action in this situation.

By the end of February 1941, the recruiting rally that had been held at the end of the previous month had successfully seen 123 new members join the Cambridge Home Guard. An attempt to find information on how to claim the compensation for two Guards who had been injured in an accident whilst returning home from a parade earlier in the month was ongoing. Despite the fact that these two were wearing their brassards as required, the letter to the Area Commander seeking the procedure on claiming the compensation had still not received a reply. A final act for the month of February was the Cambridge Home Guard Committee's official acceptance of the offer of assistance from Major Frederick Kingsford of the 16th Waikato Regiment who, along with several NCO's from his regiment, had already assisted with many hours of training for the Cambridge Home Guard. The regulars were now officially recognised as instructors for the Cambridge companies.

Captain Edward Kennedy had made recommendations for four new officers within the Cambridge Home Guard to the Area Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel McFarland. They were for Howard Rishworth M.C. to become Second-in-Command of the Cambridge Home Guard; Reuben Entwistle to be made Adjutant; Arthur Richardson to be appointed the Transport Officer; and Alfred Bluck to become Intelligence Officer.

Howard Rishworth had an excellent record of previous military service, and was well suited to the post of Second-in-Command. He had served with the College Rifles Volunteers from 1907 till 1914. At the beginning of World War One he was attached to Divisional Signal Company and left with the main body. At this time he held the rank of Sergeant. He served in Egypt, Gallipoli and France, and received a commission in the Royal Engineers.

In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross. After the Armistice he was posted to the British Army of the Rhine for 12 months, before his discharge from service on the 16th of July 1920. He retained the rank of Lieutenant in the Reserve of Officers.

Reuben Entwistle was born in India, and as a young man was a member of the cadet corps attached to the Bombay Volunteer Rifle Regiment. In June 1914 he joined the 5th Battalion, The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) as a Second Lieutenant.___

From February 1915 until September 1917 he had served in France. Whilst there, he acted as assistant Provost Marshall and Town Major. He was invalided out of the army with the rank of Lieutenant.

Arthur Richardson's military service and his long association with the carrying business made him the perfect fit for the position of Transport Officer. He had joined the 3rd Dragoon Guards as a Trooper in June 1916. He received a commission on the Curragh and was posted to the Yorkshire Dragoons. He served in France until the end of the Great War, and was discharged in 1919 with the rank of Lieutenant. Richardson had appointed Dick Newcombe as his Transport Sergeant.

Alfred Bluck had been too young to see service in the Great War, but he had served in the Territorials. His exceptional keenness and ability in scouting, observing and map reading were factors in him receiving the appointment to Intelligence Officer. His sergeant was to be Charlie Vennell.

March 1941
At the parade on Thursday 6th of March, 168 men attended Headquarters Company's parade at the Town Hall for specialist training as usual, while 116 men of ‘A' Company were transported in motor cars to the golf links to take part in night-time manoeuvres. They took up positions on the golf links, in preparation of “attacking an enemy force at dawn”. The transport arrangements were included as part of the exercise. Another 17 new men were attested, 11 joining ‘A' Company, and 6 joining the Headquarters Company. This brought the total strength of the two companies up to 433. In the Battalion there were now over 700 men, but there were still more required, and plans for a third Cambridge Company were underway.

At the same time in nearby Hamilton, the role of the city's Home Guard had just passed the 1000 mark. A further figure for the whole of the No 4 (Hamilton) Military Area, whose nine Battalions included Cambridge, showed that by February 28th a total of 6501 men had joined units in the region.

On Sunday the 10th of March, under the instruction of Company Sergeant Major Tom Reilly, ‘A' Company carried out a successful day of elementary field exercises, held at the Cambridge Racecourse.

The next evening Captain Kennedy visited the Karapiro Works Platoon, accompanied by his second-in-command Lt. Rishworth and Sergeant Major Reilly. There were 20 men of the platoon on parade, under the command of Mr Andrews.

Sgt Major Reilly gave them instruction in squad drill. Arrangements were also made for the Karapiro Platoon's NCO's to attend special training at the Drill Hall on Saturday afternoons.

The Cambridge Borough Council, like all the other councils in the country, received a circular letter from the Stratford Borough Council, which sought support in urging the New Zealand Government to adopt compulsory conscription for the Home Guard. The letter read as follows:

“That, in view of the serious position now obtaining, the threatening aspect in the Pacific, and the urgent need for preparedness for local defence, this council urges upon the Government that it exercises its powers under the Home Defence and Emergency Precautions schemes by all those fit and able to render service therein, and not at present being called on for overseas service or serving in the defence forces of this country.”

The letter went on to say that if men were being called up for overseas service by ballot, and rightly so, then what objection should be made for a ballot system being introduced for service in the Home Guard?

In fact, an amendment to the Emergency Service Corps Regulations of 1940 had been introduced in September 1940 and was now in place, which meant the Minister of National Service had the power to direct any individual at his discretion to serve in the Home Guard.

This new law stated that any person directed into the Home Guard “shall thereupon become a member of the Home Guard in the same manner to all intents and purposes as if he had voluntarily enrolled and been attested.”

So compulsory conscription could be seen as a natural extension of this amendment. A further amendment to the scheme abolished the requirement for commanders and other officers to be appointed from among the members of the Home Guard.

By March 13th the total membership of the Cambridge Companies was 451 men. Eighteen new members were signed up at the weekly parade that night, and all but one were appointed to ‘A' Company. For the parade ‘A' Company, consisting of 152 men on the evening, had its platoon sizes reduced to nine men and a leader each. Major Kingsford of the 16th Waikato Regiment then addressed the company with a review of the previous week's exercise at the golf links. He explained to the guardsmen where they had made various mistakes, and announced that another similar exercise would take place the following Thursday evening. The parade was then completed with rifle exercises and drill. Meanwhile Headquarters Company, consisting of 143 men for the parade, had continued to train in their specialised fields. A number of men with experience in driving heavy vehicles were transferred from ‘A' Company to Headquarters Company, to be drafted into the new Transport Platoon.

Despite now surpassing 450 men in the Cambridge Home Guard, it was still hoped that this figure would rise. One way of achieving this was the establishment of a rural platoon at Maungatautari, which would be attached to the Cambridge Home Guard. The Maungatautari platoon, formed at a meeting on Saturday 15th of March 1941, at Maungatautari No. 2 School, was set up because of the long distance that members in the area had to travel to attend Cambridge parades.

In the area, which encompassed Maungatautari, Horahora and Orepunga, there were already 19 residents who had joined the Cambridge Home Guard. They would form the core of the platoon, but it was hoped that eventually they would number up to 50 men from the district.

Meanwhile at Roto-o-Rangi's parade on March 15th a total of 69 men had attended. Under Captain Dillon, the platoon received instructional training from Sergeant-Major Tootill of Te Awamutu, and it was reported that the guardsmen keenly appreciated his lecture.

At the first meeting of the new platoon in the Maungatautari-Horahora district, a surprisingly large turnout was experienced. Mr E. La Trobe was appointed Platoon Commander, and Thomas Hill as secretary. The platoon consisted of a number of men already trained as specialists in Headquarters Company, and arrangements were going to have to be made to define their position.

Another rural platoon outside Cambridge was set up at Kaipaki around this time. With 40 men on strength, the platoon commander was Charles Garmonsway, with Ivan Cruickshank as the secretary. Several section leaders had been attending instructional classes, and parades were being held each week in the Kaipaki Hall, pending on the installation of floodlights at the sports ground.

On the 17th of March it was announced in the Waikato Independent that a large-scale exercise was being planned for the Cambridge Home Guard, to take place on Sunday March 30th . It was to be on a much larger scale than the previous exercise held near the gasworks.

A letter from the National Service Department Director was read to the Cambridge Borough Council on the evening of Thursday March 20th defining the position of key members of local body industry who were in the Home Guard, and the conflict of interest that would arise between their two tasks in an emergency. The Department Director, Mr J.S. Hunter, ruled on the dilemma as follows:

“There is a large proportion of employees on local bodies and public utility corporations whose services are essential to the running of the particular public service or utility in an emergency. They must be regarded as ‘key' men. It is directed that these men must not be attested and enrolled in the Home Guard - they may enrol in the E.P.S. organisation provided they can be posted to a unit that would, in any case, deal with their particular utility, but they must not enrol with the Home Guard. If any such men are already enrolled, they must be released forthwith.”

This news caused some controversy within the council meeting. In particular the council discussed Frank Green, an officer in the Home Guard and also manager of the Cambridge gasworks. The Mayor Edgar James regretted the fact that the decision was out of the council's hands, and the fact that the word ‘must' was used in the directive meant they had to comply. He suggested that in the meantime Mr Green could continue in the Home Guard,

A further paragraph in the directive had stated men in positions with the local body utilities who were not in ‘key' positions did not have to join the E.P.S., and could join the Home Guard instead. Mr James added that several men who had been directed into the E.P.S. previously could now be released for service in the Home Guard. Also there were many men in the Home Guard who were not fit for duty in the civilian army, and might be better suited in the E.P.S.

The Mayor asked for Frank Green's opinion of the situation. He answered that he had realised all along that he would have to join the E.P.S. eventually. At present in the Home Guard he trained the specialists. The platoon of specialists would, in the event of an invasion, be divided up between all the other platoons. This would see him have no platoon to command in an emergency.

He considered that when that time should come, if it came, he would then forget the Home Guard to pursue his E.P.S. duties.

The council all agreed that Mr Green should continue with the Home Guard, as it was clear where his priorities would lie in the event of an emergency.

Also at the council meeting, the letter from the Stratford Borough Council regarding conscription into the Home Guard was read and discussed. The Mayor said he believed in equality of service, and he felt that it should not be the case where some men served in the Home Guard and E.P.S., and others didn't. He was all in favour of compulsory service. He added that Home Guard training could do no harm to anyone who was conscripted. However Councillor William Moore said he felt that he failed to see any good in the training until the Home Guard was armed. Cr. W. R. Garrard said there was no point asking the Government to take on any further effort at this time. He felt that the Government was already moving too fast with the Home Guard organisation. Mayor James agreed that the Home Guard was insufficiently armed, but he felt all men should join and be prepared. He moved that the resolution be supported, and Cr. Neville Souter seconded his motion.

Councillor Ken. Wilkinson stated that the Home Guard could barely accommodate the members it already had and they should be better staying with just those men who had been keen to volunteer, rather than extras forced into the Guard. Cr. Souter replied, “It will be too late to start and train men when the enemy are at our gates.” He added that rifles and ammunition would be coming to hand shortly.

Then Cr. Arthur Nicoll said he considered that the Government was taxed to capacity in training troops for overseas and the Territorials. He moved an amendment that the letter be received, and this was carried. The Mayor and Councillors Neville Souter and Mervyn Wells recorded their votes against it.

Further Home Guard business at the council meeting saw the council raise no objection to the Roto-o-Rangi platoon formally transferring to the Waipa Battalion. The Waipa County Council also had no objections to the platoon coming under their command. Another coup for the Roto-o-Rangi platoon was the agreement by the Cambridge Electric Power Board to install floodlights at their meeting place of the dairy factory, so they could parade outdoors at night. The power board also agreed to meet the costs with the Waipa County Council of the installation. This generous offer from the power board was actually becoming a common practise around New Zealand, where rural Home Guard platoons were having lights installed and part paid for by their local electricity suppliers, all in the interest of the nation.

Once again, the Cambridge Co-operative Dairy Company put in a request for the Home Guard to patrol one of their factories. This time the factory they wanted to have patrolled at night was the Roto-o-rangi dairy factory. Rather than approaching the Home Guard Committee, which previously they had done unsuccessfully regarding other factories, they instead asked the Borough Council's permission. The Co-op hoped that sufficient members of the Home Guard who lived in the area around the factory would volunteer to be put onto a roster for occasional night-time duty, guarding the facility against sabotage or enemy attack. However, once again the Dairy Company was asked to refer their request to either the Police or the Government. The council was concerned that men on patrol would have to carry and perhaps use firearms, and special authority would have to be obtained from the Police to do so. The clerk of the council also mentioned that the question of indemnifying the council's Home Guard Committee against any claims that may arise out of and in the course of the protection of the factory was also an important factor to be considered. The council decided to forward a copy of the Dairy Company's letter of request onto the Minister of National Service for his opinion.

Meanwhile, as all the important business of the council took place in the chambers of the Town Hall, the Home Guard met for their usual parade. Bad weather affected the attendance however, with just 90 men turning out for ‘A' Company, and 139 at the Headquarters Company parade.

‘A' Company were given two short lectures, the first by Company Commander Alf Swayne, who talked about field exercises. Major Kingsford gave the second lecture, a talk on the use of hand grenades. Following these short talks, the men of ‘A' Company continued with rifle exercises and squad drill.

Headquarters Company trained in their usual specialised roles of warfare. Due to the wet weather the exercises were held indoors, and two large buildings in Duke Street, which were owned by Messrs Wilkinson and Co. Ltd. were used by some of the sections. A German machine gun, most probably brought back from the Great War as a souvenir, was used by No. 3 Platoon to assist their training.

It was announced to the Home Guard that on the following Sunday afternoon, the officers and NCO's would look over the terrain to be used in the planned large-scale exercise.

On the Sunday morning, before this reconnaissance of the terrain took place, most Home Guards took part in a special church parade that had been called by King George VI, who asked for Sunday the 23rd of March 1941 to be observed as a day of prayer throughout the Empire. The guardsmen paraded at the Drill Hall at 10:30hrs, before parading up Victoria Street behind the Cambridge Municipal Band. Once they reached the Town Hall, they were dismissed to attend church, not in one particular place, but simply at their own churches around the town. It was reported that this was the fourth special church parade which the Home Guard had taken part in.

At the weekly parade on the 27th of March, 132 men of ‘A' Company paraded at the Drill Hall, where they carried out more rifle exercises and squad drill. A vote was taken after a discussion about which day the men preferred to train on during the weekends, and a small majority voted that they preferred Saturday to Sunday as their regular day. A further vote as to whether Thursday still suited them for the weekly evening parades, and a large majority voted to keep Thursday night parades as a regular fixture. Down the road at the Town Hall, Headquarters Company paraded with 187 men present. Specialised training was continued with.

Company Commander Frank Green announced a new system to save time. In future men would fall in for parade at 7:45pm at the place where they intend to operate for the evening and commence training immediately, rather than all gather at the hall and then disperse to the various locations. The full company parade will now only be held after the completion of training, unlike before when they had gathered as a company before and after the individual specialised training classes. Ten new members were enrolled at the parade.

At Roto-o-rangi the Home Guard's facilities were moving along. The Cambridge Power Board were complying with a request put to them on Wednesday 26th of March, to provide for the installation of floodlighting the parade ground and electricity to use the lights. The piece of land to be lit was actually on the property of Captain John Peake, the Roto-o-Rangi Home Guard's second-in-command. The Power Board engineer, Mr H. C. Oaten , said the costs were estimated at £46, and he stated that the equipment would remain property of the Power Board and be returned to them when no longer required. Power Board chairman Mervyn Wells wondered whether asphalting in front of the Roto-o-Rangi factory for the Guards to use as a parade ground should now go ahead. The Cambridge Dairy Company Ltd. and the Waipa County Council had both agreed to share costs in laying the asphalt, but if a separate section of land was to be lit for parading, it didn't make sense. The suggestion that in wintertime the paddock to be lit would get very wet underfoot was made. It was decided a sub-committee of Mervyn Wells and John Brock would investigate the unit's needs further.

The Power Board also agreed to install lights in the storeroom of Messrs Wilkinson and Co. Ltd, to assist the training of the Cambridge Home Guard who used this building. The Power Board committee made a further important decision. Frank Oliver, who was Secretary of the Power Board, would not fall into the category of a ‘key man' in an emergency, and therefore he could continue serving with the Home Guard in his post of Platoon Commander, No 1 Platoon, Headquarters Company. It had originally been thought Oliver would be required in an emergency by the Power Board under the EPS scheme, but on consideration the emergency work could be completed by the engineer and outside staff, and Mr Oliver's presence would probably not be required.

The Battle of Whitehall

On March 28th the plans for the big exercise that would be held in two days time were revealed in the Waikato Independent newspaper. The exercise was planned to unfold in the Whitehall area, a particularly hilly region of farming country with still a number of patches of forest to the west of Cambridge. Taking part would not only be Cambridge's ‘A' Company and Headquarters Company, but also the two platoons from Tauwhare, one platoon from the Tamahere Home Guard, plus the Karapiro Works platoon. Also taking part were the local St John Ambulance squad, the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurses and the Cambridge Boy Scouts.

The main objectives for the exercise were laid out as giving officers and NCO's training in practical handling of the men, teaching the Guardsmen patrol and reconnaissance work, and instruction in the use of cover, both from enemy fire and observation from the air. Much preparation had been put into this exercise to ensure that it would be a success. On the previous Sunday all the officers and NCO's of the two Cambridge Companies had visited the site, and the Intelligence Section had also made visits, developing detailed and accurate maps of the locality.

In the exercise plans, the defenders would be made up from the machine-gun platoon and wiring section of Headquarters Company. The VAD's and St John Ambulance would set up first aid posts and casualty clearing stations. The St John Ambulance Association had recently purchased six new stretchers, and they would be used for the first time in the exercise. The Boy Scouts from Cambridge would take their part by acting as runners for the Quartermaster-Sergeant and the Intelligence Officer. In charge of the whole operation would be Captain Edward Kennedy, the Battalion Commander.

The referees would be Major H. Senior M.C., who was second-in-command of the 1st Battalion, 16th Waikato Regiment, and 2nd Lieutenant G.E.L. Dawson, N.Z.S.C., adjutant of the same battalion.

The whole scheme started at 10:00am on Sunday 30th of March. Over 300 people took part in the battle exercise. The machine-gun section of Headquarters Company left Cambridge to take up their positions defending what was called Reservoir Ridge, on the property of Jimmy Jeans, at Whitehall. It was assumed that an invading army, which had landed at Tauranga, were advancing on the ridge from the north with the intention of capturing the hydroelectric dam at Arapuni. The enemy had advanced without opposition to the French Pass Road. It had already been reported that the Whitehall Road was impassable at a vital point, and it was necessary for the defenders to secure possession of Reservoir Ridge.

The attackers gathered at the Drill Hall in Fort Street, and following instructions were then transported in lorries of the Home Guard's Transport Section (which were all leant to the guard by companies such as Cambridge Transport), and private cars. Within minutes of the order being given, 20 lorries were on the road, making towards their objective by way of French Pass Road.

On their arrival, the men split into sections and marched off to attempt to take Reservoir Ridge from both flanks. The attackers moving up the left flank kept close to the road and cut in near the sharemilker's house on Charles Jeans' property. The greater part of the road was ‘mined', at least according to the plans, and was therefore out of bounds. The referees drew attention to this fact during their reviewing of the exercise later in the day.

The men attacking on the right flank went across the very difficult countryside. In less than two hours the final assault was made, and the ridge was reached. The defenders made a valiant stand using, apparently, realistic land mines and bombs. However the odds were in the favour of the attackers, despite not having the advantage of any artillery support.

Headquarters Company's specialists proved invaluable to both the attackers and the defenders. The maps that had been prepared by the Intelligence Section were a considerable asset to the officers, giving them a full understanding of the area. When the plan for the attackers on the right flank saw that they would have to cross the Karapiro Stream, the bridge-building section was sent ahead. By the time the main body of men arrived, a pontoon bridge had been erected, enabling the men to cross. The umpires were very impressed by this effort. Once all were across the stream, the bridge was dismantled in just four and a half minutes, which also impressed the umpires.

The signallers fully demonstrated their efficiency too. Each section taking part in the exercise had a couple of members from the signalling platoon with them. This enabled all the sections to keep in touch with headquarters using both Morse code semaphore. It was reported that many of the messages were sent over very long distances, but all were received correctly.

The wiring section erected a double apron barbed wire fence on the brow of the hill, and a demolition was also active in the exercise. A number of ‘casualties' were sent back behind the lines from each section, and St John Ambulance crews, who were also acting as stretcher-bearers, treated them. The more ‘serious' cases were transferred onto the clearing stations that the VAD had set up. The Boy Scouts were also active as runners, and proved to be most valuable.

After the operation was completed, the Battalion returned to the headquarters, which had been set up on the property of Mr Gilbert Hulse. Here the Quartermaster Sergeant and his staff, which included the Boy Scouts, had prepared hot tea for the parched troops. As the men ate their lunch, the umpires addressed them with their summary of the day's actions. Both Major Senior and Lieutenant Dawson considered the exercise to have been excellent. They felt this more so when considering the very difficult countryside and “serious natural obstacles” which had to be tackled in the attack. They were impressed with the section commanders, acknowledging their good control of the men and their excellent sense of initiative. The umpires also congratulated the Guardsmen on their great enthusiasm.

Captain Kennedy then thanked Major Senior and Lieutenant Dawson for their valuable assistance in the exercise. He went on to thank the staff of St John Ambulance, the girls of the VAD, and the boys of the Scouts for their work too. Finally he expressed his appreciation for the manner in which everyone had done their utmost to make the manoeuvres a great success.

It was noted too that an interested spectator of the day's events was Lieutenant-Colonel R. D. McFarland M.C., the area commander of No 4 Military Area. The conclusion of The Battle Of Whitehall came when the huge contingent made their way back to Cambridge via Karapiro.


Go To Chapter Four

Turn Out The Guard Index