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Home Service Force

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Long ago in the Cold War everyone became excited about the threat of the Soviet Union's Special Forces - the Spetznaz. This may have been connected to the deployment of land based medium ranged nuclear weapons in the UK, or maybe not. In 1982 there was a pilot project to set up a force of 18-59 year olds to defend key points in the UK. The aim was to recruit 5000 by 1988 - which was just in time to commemorate the end of the Cold War.

The Home Service Force was formed as a successor to the Home Guard and recruited "trained Soldiers" with a liability of 10 days a year. Each TA Unit was invited to form an HSF unit.

The HAC recruited two companies which competed as bitterly as anything written by Croft and Perry. One was fiercely warry, stretching the "Special Forces" ethos of the HAC to cover a bunch of geriatrics guarding a site, while draped with half of Silverman's emporium topped with a cap comforter or a Ramboesque bandana. The other opted for a more staid approach to MACP, with an emphasis on comfort in the field and a well stocked tactical bar.

Evoking the Home Guard was an open invitation for the old and bold, and led to a degree of falsification of age unseen in the British armed forces since 1914. One Corporal serving in 1993 had served in the RAF in Iraq in 1948, while another claimed to have been a teenager in the original Home Guard and due a Defence Medal - if he thought his audience gullible enough. Military training extended to RAF and RN recruit training and there were suspicions that the benefit had given to highly dubious claims of service in Vietnam or other foreign parts.

The HAC's leadership was an eclectic group, including one platoon commander who had commanded a Company at Goose Green and another who had been mobilised for Suez in 1956, while the founder was Orde Wingate (Junior). The longest serving Company Commander was a legendary animalistic Grenadier's Warrant Officer while his CSM was an ex Senior Major from the HAC who fancied a turn in the Sergeants' Mess. On any difficult tactical task the unit would regroup around the people serving in the ranks who had relevant tactical expertise. Happy days...

Happy days indeed. I was brutally forced to umpire during a big home defence exercise circa 1988 (Brave Defender?) and rocked up at HQ SWDIST at Bulford to find the HQ defended by a unit of HSF, led by a fat, middle-aged Lt wearing SAS wings and a Commando dagger on his capacious combat jacket, all entirely legit as it transpired. It didn't stop the Gurkha section which subsequently attacked them from completely taking them out, however. Still, they made me a nice cup of tea afterwards.

The Home Service Force was disbanded in 1993, after 11 years - and eight years before Al Quaeda demonstrated the contemporary need for Key Point Defence.