Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Major Hughie Miller's Home Guard Medal Second World War

The 1939-1945 Defence medal
Flame coloured in the centre flanked by stripes of green to symbolise enemy attacks on Britain's green and pleasant land, with narrow black stripes to represent the black-out.
The Defence Medal was awarded for non-operational service. This type of service in the UK included those service personnel working in headquarters, on training bases and airfields and members of the Home Guard. Home Guard service counts between the dates of 14 May 1940 and 31 December 1944. The Defence Medal was also awarded for non-operational service overseas, for example in India or South Africa.

My father Major James Charles Hugh Miller had lots of medals. He served in North Africa and Italy as a Workshops Officer in the RASC. Not one of the best army companies. I loved looking at these medals especially the one above which was my favorite. I never knew what they were for and being young I never asked.

So it was with some surprise that I found out last week 2013 that my favorite medal was awarded to the Home Guard! It was the medal awarded to those who did not fight abroad and as everyone knows the Home Guard was a bit of a joke. Dad's Army as it is fondly known. It was given for reserved occupations or those who served their country but did not go to fight abroad so how did my father a Major who certainly served abroad, come to have it in his collection?

The answer was simple and telling. Before the war my father served in the Auxiliary Fire Service in London. He was a young Lloyds underwriter and it was something that these young men did for fun. Come the declaration of war and these young men found themselves if not on the front line abroad in the front line on the home front. Nightly German bombing!

My father was a fireman during the worst of the Blitz. Every night he was out putting out incendiaries and worst of all digging people out of bombed houses. I have many photos of him infront of his fire engine. They were billeted in St James's Park. 

He did this until 1941 but when he married my mother he had enlisted as a private in the Army. Having been educated at Glasgow Academy he lasted just three weeks as a private and spent the rest of the war with jittery pips ending up as a full Major in Italy.

Hughie always said his most dangerous War period was the London experience. He said the Blitz was terrifying but exciting. I think this is my father's finest moment and he deserved his  beautiful Defense Medal. I wear it with pride for him on ANZAC Day.

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