Remembering Kirklees' very own Dad's Army

Kirklees Home Front volunteers.Kirklees Home Front volunteers.
Kirklees Home Front volunteers.
Much has been written about the courage of our British soldiers during World War II, but little about the ordinary men and women who rallied round to defend their country while they were away fighting.

Many organisations were formed in this district, but the one which most will remember was the Home Guard, later to be known as ‘Dad’s Army’. They were first known as the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) which was made up of men who were too old to go and fight, but who volunteered to defend their country at home.

There was a platoon of coal miners who guarded Shaw Cross pit, but at first all they carried for protection was a pick-axe handle. One of the platoon was Tom Sheldon.

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Tom, who lived at High Street, Hanging Heaton, Batley, recalled: “About six men were on duty nightly and three would go out for the first three hours and the other three taking over from them. This carried on for quite a while, until the country had sufficient arms for the army. After two years we were issued with khaki denim overalls, with cap and boots, and each platoon was issued with a few rifles.

“Each night the enemy bombers were regularly flying overhead and everyone kept their fingers crossed and prayed they would pass over.

“One night they decided to drop one or two around about us and we, the Home Guard, were told to keep a look out for enemy airmen who might get shot down. We were told there were quite a few about, and so we were all keyed up as we walked the main Leeds Road at Shaw Cross.

“Suddenly, we saw a man walking towards us whistling, and we thought that could be a camouflage. I approached him and shouted ‘Halt, who goes there? Stop and be recognised!’

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“I turned to one of our men and said ‘Keep him covered while I check him out,’ but the foolish man said ‘Wait a minute Tom while I load my gun’.

“The man under suspicion burst out laughing and said ‘What kind of a set up have you here mate? If I’d been an enemy I could have shot all of you easily.’

“Another incident occurred at midnight while on a manoeuvre, crawling on my belly behind a pit stack near the cricket field by the Savile pit on the Wakefield Road. It was pitch darkness and I accidentally stumbled into a pit that had been dug to catch the oil out of a burning pit stack.

“I was really in it then, up to my neck almost, and when I was pulled out, was covered from head to foot in smelly oil.The night was very frosty, and my tunic and trousers froze on me. I was as stiff as a board when I got to the pit-head baths.

“My uniform was so stiff it broke in two or three pieces while I was getting it off. I was the butt of many jokes after that.

“Anyone asking for oil was told to come and see me”.

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