Marsden's Home Front
The Home Guard
It was in May 1940 that Anthony Eden broadcast an appeal for volunteers for a Home Guard. By June over one and a half million men aged between 40 and 65 years of age had been recruited. The people of Britain were encouraged to hand over guns to the newly formed Home Guard. Because of a great shortage of weapons the Home Guard had to improvise often carrying dummy rifles and implements such as pickaxes and coshes. The recruits were eventually issued with greatcoats and steel helmets and trained in the use of guns, high explosives and also sabotage techniques. The Home Guard formed an invaluable part of Britain's Local Volunteer Defence Movement. Marsden like all other areas of Britain, had a Home Guard recruited from local men.
I was a member of the Home Guard: the Marsden Company of the Colne Valley Battalion of the 7th Duke's Home Guard. We met at Middle Mill. There were 4 companies with about 150-200 men. We had P17 rifles, but we weren't involved in any live action. There was also Civil Defence for fire watching the mills; Special Constables; Air Raid Wardens. They used to pass the stirrup pump around from one fire watching post to another: " It's so and so's turn today." Marsden was never hit, although some bombs were unloaded up above Wessenden Lodge. About 15 or 20 of the farmers were excused parades for seeing to stock - we called them the 'Bo Peep Squad'.
I think Dr Guy was the chief. I was at school at the time and we had a printing machine we used to print stuff off for him to distribute to his [men]. On the tips by the Legion, they put up two posts about 15 foot high. They dug a pit on one side of 'em and, on a Sunday morning , they [the Home Guard] would train, throwing hand grenades over them. They had to throw the hand grenades over the wire [between the posts] to land in the pit. We used to stand there watching them. They used to parade as well of course. They used, I don't know what they called 'em, schemes or what, on a Sunday morning. Occasionally, they used to go round and put blanks in their rifles pretending that the paratroopers had dropped. They took sides you know, like we used to when we were kids. We played cowboys and Indians, they played Germans and us. Aye, they were firing blanks all over.
Soldiers in Marsden
Troops were stationed here, the Royal Corps of Signals, at the Adult School, which no longer exists, the Congregational school room, the Church and Parochial Hall, the Methodist Church, and some at Bruce's canteen. They used to parade in the streets, do all their square bashing. They were up at Tunnel End, they were guarding up on the shaft on the moor, 4 Shaft, as it was known as. They were on the canal bank, when you go on here [Dirker Drive and the canal bank], there was a sentry box there; there was always a soldier on guard there. There was one at 'top of 'Two Police' between the two tunnels.
We also had a shooting range up on the moors at Deer Hill. Soldiers used to stay at Deer Hill and practice their shooting. Up by the second catchments stood a sentry box. If the red flag was flying, you couldn't go beyond that point. It meant practising was in progress. I was on about that sentry box. When I used to go with mi dad, he used to say, "Now, there's Wireless Jimmy in there." He said, "You've got to be very, very quiet as you pass. You've got to go past on tiptoe." This is like when t'flag weren't out. So we used to shout as we were coming back, "Wireless Jimmy, you can't catch me."