Chipstead Village


Chipstead's Home Guard

The other day I was helping the church sort through some old papers and came across a real gem. Right at the bottom of an old trunk there was a package tied up with string with ‘Chipstead Home Guard’ scribbled on it. It included a letter to the Rector from Edward Harding suggesting that while the assorted papers might not be of particular interest to him some future historian might be glad to find them – and that’s precisely what has happened!

Chipstead Home Guard commenced in March 1940 and was active until it was disbanded late in 1944. It was initially led by Captain Roderick Horne (of The Lodge – now Chipstead Court - on Hazelwood Lane) but he retired in 1942, possibly in ill-health as he died two years later. In 1942 Lieutenant Edward Harding (of The Gate House, How Lane) took over command and the papers include an interesting report of the group’s activities during the four years of its existence as well as standing orders, mustering plans and a photograph.  In total 108 men served are various times in the Chipstead Platoon during the war years of whom 26 left to join the regular forces.

The Home Guard (or more properly The Local Defence Volunteers) was established a month before Dunkirk when the British Expeditionary Force was struggling to hold the German advance and the invasion of Britain was becoming a distinct possibility. A radio broadcast was made on 14 May 1940 inviting male British subjects between the ages of 17 and 65 to register at any police station to protect the country against enemy landings by parachute or otherwise. The same day owners of rifles were asked to inform the police if they had guns and ammunition that they were prepared to lend to the LDV.  The police had little time to prepare and, not surprisingly, were soon swamped. In the first week 27 Chipstead men registered with PC Skinner at a hastily prepared recruiting station in Babylon Lane.

The organisation of the LDV was based on the police’s organisational boundaries and Chipstead was split between the Metropolitan Police and Surrey County Council. Early on it seems that no one wanted to take responsibility for the Chipstead volunteers but as structures evolved they eventually became established as the 19th Platoon of Kingswood’s F Company of the 8th Surrey (Reigate) Battalion. This remoteness from the centre led to the Chipstead men calling themselves the ‘wild hillmen’.

Chipstead Tennis Club was the first base of the Chipstead Platoon until they were ousted by the army. A recently retired sergeant from the Brigade of Guards started the training in drill and musketry with two rifles borrowed from the Chipstead Rifle Club. The Platoon was instructed to build a ‘breastwork’ at the junction of Dean Lane and Netherne Lane in Hooley and mounted a guard there each night between June and September 1940. Thereafter they mounted guard at Elmore Pond and mixed concrete to make ‘noodles’ for road blocks (a few remain behind the old well-house). Following a Government suggestion Capt. Horne obtained 12 carbines and 24 revolvers from friends in America and the Platoon was well armed although the necessary ammunition was in very short supply. For range practice the men had to borrow British pattern rifles from the Canadian troops. Eventually the Regular Army was refitted and British rifles were distributed to the Home Guard.

One of the LDV’s roles was to help the Air Raid Wardens and the police after air raids. Many bombs were dropped on Chipstead and there was extensive damage to a number of houses especially in Hooley. The 19th Platoon did good work protecting the houses that had been damaged in the V1 ‘flying bomb’ explosions in Hazlewood Lane in July 1944 and in Church Lane Avenue in August 1944.


Training was a constant and the Platoon had a strenuous fortnight in June 1942 being trained by the Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment. Lt. Harding, who had last seen service in 1918, commented that ‘it near killed him’. However, revenge was not too far distant. One of Chipstead’s officers and several NCOs went through a course to become instructors in bombing, including throwing live bombs. A regiment of Canadians camping in Chipstead complained that they had no chance of such training and a large number of them were put through their paces by the Chipstead men.

Despite all the training the Chipstead Platoon had a fairly peaceful war.  They were involved in two large-scale exercises. Operation Tiger in August 1943 involved them descending, with ‘painted faces’, on the Coulsdon & Purley Battalion at 4am. Another night exercise involved defending the ‘enemy’ from attacking but, it seems, the foe never came near Chipstead. The only other excitement was to send a detachment to relieve a Home Guard Unit on the south coast. Despite rumours of kidnapping raids by German submariners all the Chipstead men returned intact.

The liberation of Northern France in autumn 1944 led to an easing of the domestic threat and in September it was announced the termination of the requirement for the Home Guard to undergo compulsory drills and training. A formal stand-down order was issued on 1 November and weapons, ammunition and articles of personal equipment were to be returned to the Quartermaster’s Store by the end of the year. In Chipstead the Platoon celebrated with an ENSA concert in the village hall on Saturday 8 January 1945 (the programme for which remains). At the conclusion of this Cpl. Jones (surely not the one from Walmington-on-Sea!) gave a witty speech and a handsome clock was presented to Lt. Harding as a memento of his services to the unit.

Edward Harding’s conclusion to his report on the history of the Platoon was ‘this record does not sound exciting. We worked hard, were often horribly bored and sometimes scared stiff. The main result is that there sprung up a very fine comradeship amongst a fine set of men with whom it was an honour to serve’.

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