Rehearsals for Blackpool’s final line of defence

Blackpool Home Guard rescue squad, October 1940
Blackpool Home Guard rescue squad, October 1940

‘We shall fight them on the beaches...”

And in Blackpool, the Home Guard of the Second World War certainly put in the hours of training to prepare for it.

Blackpool Home Guard display, on the beach in May 1943

Blackpool Home Guard display, on the beach in May 1943

Our archive photographs show the local defence volunteers – affectionately dubbed Dad’s Army – on the resort’s streets and taking part in various exercises, to prepare for the worst.

Their role was to act as a secondary defence force, in case of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany and their allies. They were to try to slow down the advance of the enemy, even by a few hours in order to give the regular troops time to regroup.

The Home Guard continued to protect the coastal areas of the UK and other important places such as airfields, factories and explosives stores until late 1944 when they were stood down, and finally disbanded in December 1945, eight months after Germany’s surrender.

Blackpool did have two female members of the Home Guard, pictured here in an archive photograph.

Members of B Company of the Blackpool Local Defence Volunteers undergoing training on Arnold School playing fields, South Shore, in July 1940

Members of B Company of the Blackpool Local Defence Volunteers undergoing training on Arnold School playing fields, South Shore, in July 1940

According to the caption, at first they had been limited to domestic duties, such as helping in the canteen, but were later able to take part in the drills and “square bashing” once their long-awaited uniforms had arrived. The issue of uniforms being provided to the Home Guard across the country proceeded slowly – owing to shortages and the need to re-equip and enlarge the army following the fall of France.

Our archive pictures show Blackpool’s local defence volunteers undergoing training at various locations, including the beach.

They can be seen running through the sea spray, in October 1940, as well as practising weaponry exercises in May 1943.

Members of the B Company of the Blackpool Local Defence Volunteers can be seen undergoing training, on Arnold School playing fields, in South Shore, in July 1940.

Blackpool Home Guard, February 1942

Blackpool Home Guard, February 1942

And in August that year, the Home Guard was captured on camera, at Stanley Park.

Lieut Gen Sir James O’Dowds, the zone commander, is shown taking the salute at the march past of the home guard, led by their commander Major Eric Read.

The Home Guard can also be seen marching through Talbot Square – with the old Yates’ Wine Lodge in the background.

And there are pictures of the volunteers on various exercises in the resort in February 1942 – “defending a strong point”, policemen with rifles, and ‘casualties’ at the first-aid post.

"Casualties at the first-aid post", February 1942. Blackpool defence exercises

"Casualties at the first-aid post", February 1942. Blackpool defence exercises

"Casualty as the result of dive bombing", February 1942, defence exercise

"Casualty as the result of dive bombing", February 1942, defence exercise

Policemen with rifles , February 1942

Policemen with rifles , February 1942

"Defending a strong point": Blackpool defence exercise, in 1942

"Defending a strong point": Blackpool defence exercise, in 1942

Lieut Gen Sir James O'Dowds, the zone commander, takes the salute at the march past of the home guard, led by their commander Major Eric Read, at Stanley Park, in August 1940

Lieut Gen Sir James O'Dowds, the zone commander, takes the salute at the march past of the home guard, led by their commander Major Eric Read, at Stanley Park, in August 1940

Blackpool Home Guard  training on the beach, October 1940

Blackpool Home Guard training on the beach, October 1940

Blackpool's two female members of the Home Guard

Blackpool's two female members of the Home Guard