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21st Devon (Post Office) Battalion, Home Guard - Charles George Hibbitt

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posted on 2024-07-08, 13:39 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Amongst the papers of Charles George Hibbitt (known as Charlie) is what looks like a certificate which had been issued by the Home Guard. However it was difficult finding anything out about any potential service in this local defence force during WWII. Nevertheless, an application was made to the MOD for his Home Guard record and, after initial disappointment, the record finally arrived.

The record consisted of two sides of one piece of paper with scant information on it. This isn't unusual but at least now there was official confirmation that Charlie had served in the force. He was with the 21st Devon (Post Office) Battalion, H.G. This made perfect sense as he was a General Post Office Telephone Engineer. His occupation on the form was noted as SWI POE Dept which stood for Skilled Workman Class I, Post Office Engineers Department.

There was very little information on the internet about the 21st (33rd GPO) Battalion, Devon Home Guard, except that their headquarters was in Plymouth and was made up of employees of the General Post Office. They wore khaki uniform and were tasked with protecting the communications equipment of the GPO.

Charlie lived in Tavistock, about 15 miles north of Plymouth, and was working there at the time too. Nevertheless his son remembered that Charlie would drive down to Plymouth three or four times a week to carry out emergency work. Apparently the office was full of maps. The bombs would drop in the streets and the circuits would need to be rerouted by the jointers. A few plugs would be put into the telephone exchange and they could then change over to another route. It wasn't unheard of for the rerouted circuit to be knocked out at a later date and the same process would have to begin again. Charlie later said his near-sight suffered as a result of reading all those plans during the blackout. This work might have contributed towards Charlie's Home Guard service although it's quite possible he was actively engaged in these activities before he was officially part of the force.

Originally, all members of the Home Guard were volunteers but in 1942 the National Service Act made it possible for compulsory enrolment to be applied in areas where units were below strength. There was a wealth of experience within the Home Guard. For example, in 1940 and 1941, approximately 40% of volunteers were World War I veterans and Charlie was no exception, having enlisted in the Royal Engineers on 6th November 1916, a month before his 18th birthday, and mobilized on 1st March 1917.

The Home Guard was eventually stood down on the 3rd December 1944 and from this date they became an inactive reserve unit. The archive online catalogue for the Box in Plymouth contains photographs of the Home Guard Stand Down on Plymouth Hoe dated 27th November 1944. Perhaps Charlie was in attendance at this event. The Home Guard was finally disbanded on 31st December 1945 and ceased to exist from this date.

History

Item list and details

1. Home Guard Service record awarded to Charles George Hibbitt 2. Home Guard Certificate of Service for Charles George Hibbitt

Person the story/items relate to

Charles George HIBBITT (1898-1972)

Person who shared the story/items

Anne Barnes

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

Paternal grandfather of Anne Barnes

Type of submission

Shared at University of Plymouth, Plymouth on 15 November 2023.

Record ID

110299 | PLY018