In 1940, invasion of southern England by the German Army appeared imminent. France had fallen and the defeated British Army had just been evacuated from Dunkirk. One of the most disturbing sites was the arrival of trains at Blandford station carrying in total some 45,000 tired and dishevelled troops who had retreated from Dunkirk. For days the station was extremely busy with train after train arriving. Blandford people came to the station carrying jugs of tea to witness the sad sight.
With the threat to the country of invasion by the German army, an appeal was made on 14th May 1940 for volunteers to come forward to form a home defence force to be called the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). Those that came forward had to be over 18 years, be able bodied but there was no upper age limit. Later that month a LDV unit was set up in Blandford based in the old workhouse building which is now Castleman House just off Salisbury Road.
Two months later, the LDV name was changed to the Home Guard. Blandford Home Guard’s Commander was Major L Cherry who was assisted by his brother Roger who was Adjutant. They were given training at Blandford Camp which included going through a gas chamber to simulate the effects of a gas attack and they also threw live grenades. The Blandford Home Guard was given uniforms and arms long before the rest of the country because they were loaned from Blandford Camp. This was strictly on the understanding that they would be returned when the Home Guard issue came through. One foggy night they were marched to Dorchester to face an invading enemy but fortunately it was just a false alarm. The Blandford Home Guard took part in many practices when they had to defend the town against the regular soldiers from Blandford Camp.
The Home Guard headquarters was moved from the old Workhouse to the Scout Hut where they remained until the end of the war when they were disbanded.
(Image: Blandford Home Guard)
(to be continued)