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Women and the Home Guard

The relationship of  women to the Home Guard was complicated.  The attached essay was primarily written to answer the many questions on the topic that arise on social media platforms, and which cannot be properly answered within their short and snappy format. 

ATS Badge.jpg

Logically, the model for a women's section of the Home Guard should have been the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), formed in 1938. This provided a wide range of support services including radar operators and signals but it was not intended to have a direct combat role.  As the war progressed,  the ATS took on roles in anti-aircraft defence but was still not allowed to actually fire the guns.  Some champions of women in the Home Guard wanted to go further and demanded a direct combat role for women. The fear of creating such a precedent delayed the creation of an official  women's section of the Home Guard until 1943. 

Women unofficially provided support to the Home Guard from its foundation in May 1940 (as the LDV Some local Women's sections  unofficially wore uniforms, including the Home Guard shoulder titles, against the orders of the War Office. At least one women's section wore the red on khaki variant of the Home Guard title. 

The WVS was the main women's volunteer organisation that provided support services to the Home Guard throughout the war.  The original plan in 1940 was that the WVS would create an official women's wing of the Home Guard but this never materialised and an official women's section (the Home Guard Auxiliaries) was not formed until 1943.

The Mechanised Transport Corps (MTC) was another civilian volunteer unit recognised as an official support organisation to the Home Guard. The MTC provided drivers for the Home Guard as well as to the ARP, medical services, SOE and government departments. They wore a variation of the ATS uniform - something the Home Guard Auxiliaries were never allowed to do. 


An official women's section attached to the Home Guard was finally established in 1943 as the 'Nominated Women' - better known as the 'Home Guard Auxiliaries'. They quickly became known as the 'Home Guard Auxiliaries' - but they were not permitted to bear arms or wear a uniform. The only recognition was a plastic breast badge (also unofficially worn as a cap badge).  

In Denbighshire, the Ministry of Food Home Guard Women's Auxiliaries designed their own badge in 1943, worn as a cap  and shoulder bade.

The Women's Home Defence Corps was established in 1940 to press for an armed role for women.  By 1943 there were claimed to be over 250 branches of the WHDC across the country. They were never recognised by the government, although some some of the branches performed the same non-combatant support duties as the WVS and MTC. In addition to the actual WHDC branches, some women's sections attached to the Home Guard used the WHDC lapel badge as a proficiency badge.  Some local Home Guard units also provided a limited amount of weapons training to WHDC groups.

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