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Home Service Force

#1
The Home Service Force was set up in the eighties as a modern day home guard, as far as I'm aware there were 50 platoons nationwide, and they were disbanded in 1991. They recruited people from 18-59 years old, and you had to be ex-services or cadet forces to join. Apart from that, I can't find much about them anywhere.

I've only seen them once, in 1988 or thereabouts, and I remember being surprised that there were HSF Paras too.

Does anyone here know any more about them? Perhaps any ex-HSFers would be willing to tell us about it?

I'm particularly interested in the commitment requirements, fitness standards, and training.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
There was an article on them in British Army Review about a year ago methinks. They have their archives on Army Net, will try to dig up a link for you.

edited to add that the issue with above mentioned article is 136: Spring 2005. Am PMing text of article to you instead of pasting it here to avoid Moderator wrath vis-a-vis copyright etc.
 
#3
Ex no2 Company Home Service Force HAC here. We then became "The Infantry Comany HAC" and then disbanded.

A wonderful organisation. The ranks were full of some some really brilliant people: A real mix of ex officers, city chaps and normal Londoners. We had bookies, chairmen of private banks, publicans and cabbies. OC was a huge Grenadier ex HAC Drill Sgt - Uggy to those that know. The CSM was an Ex Senior major, Alfie P. It was Dads Army. One platoon commanders had commanded a company at Goose Green, and another had been mobilised for Suez. Our CO was Orde Wingate (RIP) - son of the famous one. If Ivan had come we would have done our bit (as long as the tactical suttling box made it into the field)

A really super bunch of people.
 
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#4
Thanks for the help guys!

The article was really excellent, and very detailed. I found the author's suggestion of whether they should be re-formed quite thought provoking. Does anyone else think that an HSF-like organisation would be a successful counter to terrorist attacks on key points?

Pteranadon, sounds like a good unit you had there. They sound like they must have been a very enthusiastic bunch of guys.

As an ex-member (though without too much of the 'rose-tinted -spectacles') how effective do you think you would have been in a real situation, i.e. without heavy weapons and so on?

I can recall reading about a pressure group in the mid-eighties who had the slogan 'Defence Begins at Home'. I'd actually thought it was their campaign who'd got the HSF off the ground (though since the HSF started in 1982 this is obviously not the case). Can anyone remember more about this group/campaign?
 
#5
I remember playing at enemy for them on Brave Defender. Also saw HSF paras guarding the Disused airfield at Waterbeach when I was there. They took one of our parascending club team prisoner when he overshot on a sunday training meet and landed in their compound. Took us ages to convince them he wasn't Spetznaz and Current Sov SF kit was not our rather gay red and blue jumpsuits. My oppo took great delight when the guard shoved the barrel of his SLR in the empty earholes of his sport parachuting lid. That sort of improvisation only comes with experience.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#6
Tartan_Terrier said:
I can recall reading about a pressure group in the mid-eighties who had the slogan 'Defence Begins at Home'. I'd actually thought it was their campaign who'd got the HSF off the ground (though since the HSF started in 1982 this is obviously not the case). Can anyone remember more about this group/campaign?
Very vaguely mate. Maybe I got it wrong, but I was always under the impression that they were a right wing political group along the lines of the GB75/Unison/Monday Club sort of orgs formed by Col Stirling & Gen Walker back in the 1970's. Could very well be me getting the wrong end of the stick as I was only a teenager at the time.
 
#7
Tartan_Terrier said:
Pteranadon, sounds like a good unit you had there. They sound like they must have been a very enthusiastic bunch of guys.

As an ex-member (though without too much of the 'rose-tinted -spectacles') how effective do you think you would have been in a real situation, i.e. without heavy weapons and so on?
Our job was key point defence. Its what the Trained Bands of London did, and the HAC have done since 1537, and armed Londoners have done long before that. Key point defence is mostly stagging on and we would have been jolly good at it. I think an aged insurance broker or banker with an SA 80 is less menacing than a policeman with a machinegun. There is a social cohesion argument that its better for at least part of the local security should be provided by citizen volunteers rather than by hired hand security guards from the third world. Sure, its not cost effective for a company chairman or solicitor to be stagging on, but its a visible public statement. Its a powerful message to show that the citizens defend their city. However, part of me also recognises that its a good job it was disbanded 10 years ago as stagging on post 9/11 would have been a real bore. :)

Many of the people attracted to the HSF really had a hankering for sneeky beaky stuff. (For others it was a chance to carry on serving. We had people who had been in Iraq in 1948, and one who claimed he was eligible for a 1939-45 Home Guard medal ! :) ) My company followed the IS Primer and wore beret and adopted a high visibility role. Our sister company were all HAC SF types and were doing the job dressed in rambo style head bands. Similarly I doubt whether the para ethos sits with the HSF, other than an opportunity for people to carry on serving and an excuse for some people to say they were still with a para unit.
 
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#8
Pteranadon said:
Our job was key point defence. Its what the Trained Bands of London did and the HAC have done since 1537, and armed Londoners have done long before that. Key point defence is that its mostly stagging on and we wouild have been jolly good at it. I think an aged insurance broker or banker with an SA 80 is less menacing than a policeman with a machinegun. There is a social cohesian argument that its better for at least part of the local security should be provided by citizen volunteers rather than by hired hand security guards from the third world. Sure, its not cost effective for a company chairman or solicitor to be stagging on, but its a visibile public statement. Its a powerful message to show that the citizens denfed their city. However, part of me also recognises that its a good job it was disbanded 10 years ago as stagging on post 9/11 would have been a real bore. :)

Many of the people attracted to the HSF really had a hankering for sneeky beaky stuff. (For others it was a chance to carry on serving. We had people who had been in Iraq in 1948, and one who claimeds he was eligable for a 1939-45 Home Guard medal ! :) ) My company followed the IS Primer and wore beret and adopted a high visibility role. Our sister company were all HAC SF types and were doing the job dressed in rambo style head bands. Similarly I doubt whether the para ethos sits with the HSF , other than an opportunity for people to carry on serving and an excuse for smoe people to say they were still with a para unit.
What is/was the IS Primer?

As to the sneaky beaky stuff you mention, were some HSF units trained for a similar role to the 'British resistance' units of the Home Guard during WW2? Or was it more counter-SF patrolling work?

Were HSF units subject to the same fitness tests as their parent units? Or was there less emphasis on fitness for units in the static defence type role?

As I'm a current member of the Danish organisation on which the HSF was based, it's very interesting for me to see the differences in how the two organisations operated.
 
#10
Tartan_Terrier said:
What is/was the IS Primer?
Think Nothern Ireland, high alert state IS threaty to barracks or any other low threat internal security as conducted by ordinary soldiers. Look smart, wear berets and no cam cream, high visibility VCP and patrols as well as OPS.

Tartan_Terrier said:
As to the sneaky beaky stuff you mention, were some HSF units trained for a similar role to the 'British resistance' units of the Home Guard during WW2? Or was it more counter-SF patrolling work?
Not to my knowledge, though if you met certain ex HAC Squadron types and ask about "operation 49 Para" they might tell you , but don't be surprised if they had to kill you afterwards. Please remember the HAC is a TA unit with a role that falls (or fell) under the remit of Director Special Forces. It would be surprising if the HAC HSF didn't attract TA (volunteer) soldiers of a waltish persuasion. The HAC HSF was an opportunity for some people to have pretentions to SF cowboy behaviour of the worst sort. So some people were planning to man VCPs dressed like rambo with no visible insignia or unit badges cam cream from "Platoon" and the entire contents of Silvermans catelogue...

Seriously, if there was going to be a battle of Britian and a Soviet occupation the HAC sabre squadrons were trained to operate as stay behind OP, but a stay behind OP isn't a lot of use against spetznatz. The stay behind OPs were for use in Germany not Surrey.

Were HSF units subject to the same fitness tests as their parent units? Or was there less emphasis on fitness for units in the static defence type role?
I would like to think that we were highly trained and fit body of men, based on out ten days annual service. But, I know that we were really "Dads Army". The HSF were from the 35-55 age range and supposed to meet the basic annual tests of fitness, weapons NBC etc. We did a test weekend a year. However there was no comparison in fitness levels. How could there be with most of the members middle aged men and several people well over the upper age limit. ("Blind Bob" M..... , a great shot, had been in national service in Iraq in 1948. So at the disbandment parade in 1995 he has to have been 65. Ditto Pat "E-D" who claimed to have been eligable for a Home Guard medal (if he thought you were gullible enough to beleive). On disbandment a lot of the stalwarts went into the Light Cavalry and the Pikemen and Musketeers.

BTW the HAC Light Cavalry should be a sociology study in its own right on how military tradition can be created. Technically the HAC Light Cavalry are an HAC re-enactment unit with no military status or right to exist. But, thats just a technicality, and a challange to the wits of those involved. Little by little they have become part of the City of London Ceremonial. This is the way traditions are made ;)
 
#11
Remeber seeing HSF guys on exercise in the 80s a lot of experince but geting on a bit .Never saw anyone in it who was under 40 which as i was 20 was seemed ancient :D .Guess anyone younger joined the ta .Good thing they got disbanded as post 9/11 stagging on at a
key point would get old real fast .
 
#12
I was HSF and our unit comprised ex-regs from all sorts of units from Hereford to RCT. Good laugh, especially at the expense of our host TA unit, whose OC threw his teddy out of the pram when they issued us No 2s for a special parade and then objected because we all had medals and his men didn't. This plonker then tried to limit medals to one only, which got short shrift from our boss, whose collection included an MM. We didn't do the standard fitness test (bloody good job too!), but our shooting team was demon and we all had a lot of IS experience 'over the water'. Most of our work was uniformed key position defence, though we did a lot of exercises as 'bad guys' for the regs.
 
#13
dundrillin said:
I was HSF and our unit comprised ex-regs from all sorts of units from Hereford to RCT.
Sounds like our lot. Mostly ex-15 Para, a few ex-23, some ex-booties (including one legend who'd been a heavyweight boxing champion within RM Commando, and spent his civvy job scaring the sh*te out of young offenders). One lad was a triathlete who could be relied upon to come first in any battalion BFT, and God knows we tried to beat him.

As far as I could figure out, there were a chunk of ex-Para-RSMs, who drew straws - loser got made section commander, winners got to stay Toms...

...having said that, on those really miserable exercises they could be relied on to be the people who'd brought beer (or in the case of the Motherwell mob, Buckie.... )
 
#14
I have just consulted with a friend who wrote several articles on "defence begins at home" back in the early 80s. This is his reply:

DBH was indeed launched at the beginning of the 1980's, by ex-CDS Admiral Lord Hill-Norton, Gen. Farrar-Hockley, Air Marshal Sowrey and Sir David Wills. It had nothing to do with right-wing agendas: it was based on the perceived vulnerability of a multitude of undefended targets to Spetsnaz attack. The creation of the HSF was indeed the government's response: a 4,500 man fudge in place of the proposed 700,000 nationwide HDF. For more information, see my articles in Handgunner Number 18, 1983 and Number 23, 1984.
If anybody happens to have the two relevant issues of Handgunner in their loft somewhere, I would be grateful for a photocopy of the relevant articles.
 
#15
During Brave Defender a member of 6/7 Queens' HSF Platoon, who has/had a large collection of military vehicles, took his own Saracen ( think it was) on exercise - their KP was Northolt. I seem to remember an article in Soldier saying that the OpFor (10 Para) had rather a surprise when met by an unexpected armoured vehicle as they round the corner on the attack. And while not directly HSF related, the other memory of Brave Defender is a the battalion's worth of white minibuses (one per section I think) lined up on the square at Wretham. Happy Days, just thank God that 3rd Shock Army didn't roll over the channel, think a T72 would have done a minibus a bit of damage.
 
#16
Gravelbelly said:
dundrillin said:
As far as I could figure out, there were a chunk of ex-Para-RSMs, who drew straws - loser got made section commander, winners got to stay Toms...
That is similar to the HAC HSF. Except the experience in the ranks tended to be officer and tactical suttling was always high on the loading list ;)
 
#17
stoatman said:
I have just consulted with a friend who wrote several articles on "defence begins at home" back in the early 80s. This is his reply:

DBH was indeed launched at the beginning of the 1980's, by ex-CDS Admiral Lord Hill-Norton, Gen. Farrar-Hockley, Air Marshal Sowrey and Sir David Wills. It had nothing to do with right-wing agendas: it was based on the perceived vulnerability of a multitude of undefended targets to Spetsnaz attack. The creation of the HSF was indeed the government's response: a 4,500 man fudge in place of the proposed 700,000 nationwide HDF. For more information, see my articles in Handgunner Number 18, 1983 and Number 23, 1984.
If anybody happens to have the two relevant issues of Handgunner in their loft somewhere, I would be grateful for a photocopy of the relevant articles.
Spot on Stoatman. I'm pretty sure I read about it in either Handgunner or Guns Review, unfortunately I binned them all when I moved to DK.

As your friend states, 4500 men is nothing considering the size of the UK.
At the height of the Cold War, there were 67,000 (more than 1% of the population) in the Danish Home Guard, and Denmark is nowhere near the size of Britain.
So in the event of war, coverage would have been patchy at best.
 
#18
The HSF platoon that we hosted initially had about 25 soldiers and with one exception they were all former members of the Company. The platoon contained four or five former Pl. Sgts. and about a dozen former JNCO's. They were all good, fit, keen blokes who had to leave the TA because they could no longer meet the training obligation so the HSF was a godsend in this respect and ensured the experience wasn't lost. With one or two exceptions they were all still young enough to serve in the TA.

When the HSF finally disbanded about 8-10 transferred into the TA and took over roles in MT, Sigs and with the CQMS. An incoming CO (Regular) had a thing about age and culled anyone in the Battalion over 40, so we lost these guys when he wouldn't sign their re-engagement forms.

For me, these were some of the best years for the TA - six new infantry battalions were created, a strength of 86,000, many units receiving new kit such as Clansman and Milan before the Regulars, major exercises testing the TA's real roles - Lionheart and Brave Defender - and with no restriction on MTDs and there was some form of training going on every weekend of the year (many of our blokes did over 100 days a year)

All this for about 3% of the total UK Defence Budget!

Anyone know of a time machine going cheap?
 

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