Contesting home defence

Men, women and the Home Guard in the Second World War

This book explores the meanings of the Second World War in British popular and personal memory. It does so through the study of one particular field of action, namely 'home defence': the military strategy for the security of the British nation against bombardment, incursion, invasion and occupation. The book is organised in three sections, relating to the three critical strategies that inform the research. The first part of the book addresses political challenges to the official version of the social and ideological character of the Home Guard. It addresses tensions over the social and political composition and the ideological inspiration of the Home Guard, and their relationship both to the military functions of the force and to its masculine identity. The second part explores the cultural representations of the Home Guard during and after the war. Official accounts, in posters, films and radio broadcasts, for example, had explicit aims to inform, aid recruitment, raise morale, and counter views that were officially regarded as impeding the war effort. Many unofficial versions took up the government's message about home defence and, like it, they were selective in their representation of Home Guard experience. Others offered more challenging accounts, that were sometimes serious and very often comic. The third part of the book scrutinises personal memories of wartime participation in home defence and their relationship to cultural constructions of the Home Guard, including the Dad's Army representation.

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