Kingston Aviation
George Cottrell
Transcript: 5
The Hawker Home Guard

During the war, Hawkers had its own battalion of the Home Guard whose duties included defending the factory from possible low-level German aircraft attack from the roof of the Experimental Shop on the south side of Canbury Park Road. George was a member, serving under the Commanding Officer – a Major Cowrie. Although duties could involve night time guard work, he still had to do his day job as well.

Plus at that time I’d joined the company – the company had its own Home Guard.  ‘Cause when the war started the Army took control and we used to have armed soldiers on the doors with fixed bayonets. And we were all given special passes and if you didn’t have one of those you wouldn’t go in – they wouldn’t let you in, even though you worked there.  So you didn’t forget your pass –  just show your pass and you were in.

But eventually, as I say, they had their own Home Guard Battalion. H Battalion as they called it. And we took over all the duties of the Army but they were all workmen. I mean I went, I joined it but I still had to do my daytime job just the same. And believe you me it’s not pleasant doing your daytime job in Army uniform – it’s not very comfortable. Not as the Army uniform was in those days, you know all that serge sort of stuff, and army boots and oh dear.  It wasn’t comfortable but there are you had to do it and that’s it.

So you did your sort of Home Guard duties after you’d done a day’s work?

Yes, we used to go in this canteen as you were talking about.  We used to go on patrol up there. And we were taught all the details of things like – how to strip down a 303 rifle and how to put it together again. How to do it blindfolded and how to put it together again blindfolded.  And all about the Thompson sub-machine gun – we were taught all this you see.

And occasionally we used to go out for manoeuvres in the bombed streets of Kingston and carry out – just manoeuvres they were – but just the same – house clearing as they called it then.

And as I say and also, very interesting, we used to go by train to Wisley. Bisley rather not Wisley, Bisley, for shooting live range, you had to do that. And in those days you were expected to do it. You couldn’t say no I can’t go I’ve got something else going on – that was it, if you were told you were going to the ranges on such and such a day you would go. You’d have to report on – I think it was Surbiton Station – you had to report to Surbiton Station at a certain time.

And this was a special, sort of, Hawker section of the Home Guard?

Yes, a special battalion of the Home Guard for Hawker Aircraft – we took over all the duties. We had to do all night guards as well.

So, and this is when you were still working, working during the day?

Yes, yes, as I say you didn’t have to join the Home Guard – it wasn’t a thing that you had to do.

But it was sort of expected that you would.