My training films for the home guard bring me quick promotion

As a teacher, in my late thirties, I was exempt from serving in t he forces, so I threw in my lot with the Home Guard where I was put to work in the Orderly Room preparing drawings and sketches and making models for Troop Tactical Exercises. My skill in making films brought me quick promotion and I was appointed Battalion Film Officer - with the task of making training films, the cost to come out of my own pocket.

The films I produced, although deadly serious at the time, now equal any footage of the famous 'Dad's Army' episodes on BBC television. I remember the Home Guards' answer to overcome enemy armour; the device consisted of a length of washing line and an army blanket, the idea was to raise the blanket as an enemy tank approached and blind the driver; jerry must have been quivering in their jack boots with the thought of what the Home Guard was preparing for them.

 Eventually I produced several important training films which taught the 'citizen' soldiers a great deal. The camera revealed not only their strengths but their failures. When out on manoeuvres I was able to record the mistakes of one patrol that allowed itself to be silhouetted against the skyline and in doing so provided an easy target for a potential enemy marksman. The use of camouflage and the handling of weapons were other subjects I filmed. I took close-ups of the mechanism of antitank guns which proved to be most useful to the soldiers using the weapons. I filmed men throwing hand grenades from the trenches - the film made it quite clear to them what happened if they took cover too late.

 

Film Officer Sam
There was one fatal accident in my Battalion and a very serious accident. The training films helped to minimise such happenings. The men were made more aware of the correct way to do things, and this no doubt helped to save lives. As the Battalion Film Officer I was able to requisition films that were available for the fighting services, and I went around the various Home Guard Companies during the winter evenings to show the films issued by the Army Film Unit. I was able to show them the official films of events in France and the Low Countries when the German armies were moving in. They were able to see the new tactics practised by the Nazis, which even to the old soldiers of the 1914-18 war, was a revelation. The old soldiers and the inexperienced Home Guards began to appreciate that they had much to learn and that films could be most helpful in their training.

 On one occasion I was able to help the Commanding Officer in preparing for a briefing he wished to give the whole of the 29th Battalion. First he needed a place to seat all the men; I commandeered a local cinema. He wanted to illustrate an area of the countryside on a blackboard but he doubted if he had the skill to do this. But, I had a solution. I used the largest piece of plywood that was available, then painted it with dead' black paint and with the help of Albert Paiton, an old scholar, who was a skilled draughtsman, I asked him to pencil in all the grid lines and other important features that the C.O. wished to chalk on the board.

 On the day of the briefing, the C.O. stood on the stage of the cinema in front of the assembled Battalion. The spot light shone down on to the blackboard. The C.O. talked to his men and as he did so he chalked in the details on the map, starting with the Battalion BO As the map grew in perfect proportion there were murmurs of approval, the men were appreciative of the great skill shown by their Commanding Officer. As he finished, there was a spontaneous applause. The C.O. held up his hand - "I am not as bloody good as you think," he paused - "it was already pencilled in for me." Such honesty was greatly appreciated.

My other duties in the Home Guard included filming several parades, one of which as the third anniversary of the formation of the L.D.V. - it took place on the cattle-market, one of the biggest open spaces in the town, later to become the site for the Central bus station and much later for Burnley's new Police Station. Then there was a special parade for 'Salute the Soldier Week' which saw a contingent of American soldiers marching through the town.

On a more light-hearted occasion I filmed the Home Guard 'C' Company at Hood House on Manchester Road (now part of Scott Park). Here they relaxed and entertained their families with races for the children and a ventriloquist act - the dummy appropriately dressed in uniform, there were side shows and cups of tea, whilst the soldiers entertained themselves, as well as their guests, with pillow fights on a slippery pole.

Whenever there was a parade and they knew I would be showing films afterwards, there were few absentees; they did not want to miss an opportunity of seeing themselves on the screen.

On Parade

On one occasion I was given the responsibility of organising the NW Area's Boxing Tournament at the Drill Hall. It was quite a responsibility, but being a teacher, they thought I was the man to do it. I suppose that the most difficult part and that I had was remembering that I was in officer's uniform to return the salutes from all the soldiers who were reporting to me for their instructions.

On the night of the Tournament the Drill Hall was full. The boxing provided many exciting moments and some amusing. One unfortunate contestant split his shorts to such an extent that most spectators thought he was very cheeky.