Mum’s Army

24 Jun

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This scarce, shield-shaped, enamelled badge is part of the collection at the Home Front Museum and was issued to a member of the Women’s Home Defence (WHD).  It depicts two crossed rifles and a pistol. The initials W, H and D are arranged around the rifles.

The WHD was an unofficial organisation founded by Dr Edith Summerskill, nicknamed ‘Flossie Bang Bang’, the Labour MP for Fulham West; in June 1940.  She was keen to see equality and wanted women to have an armed role alongside the men of the Home Guard.

The War Office refused to recognise the WHD and among the arguments that they put forward was that it was socially unacceptable for women to train as combatants.  Despite continued opposition from the authorities, by December 1942 there were around 250 units of the Women’s Home Defence across Britain; these were technically illegal.  No uniform was issued just this small metal pin badge.  After continued lobbying from Dr Summerskill concessions were made and in April 1943 the War Office reluctantly recognised the WHD but only let them join the Home Guard only in a non-combatant and supportive role. They were now known as The Women’s Home Guard Auxiliaries.

However, there were occasions when women did train and drill alongside some Home Guard units, at the discretion of those in command, but it was entirely unofficial and off-the-record!

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