The Home Guard was always hypersensitive to not being taken seriously; it would probably be irritated with posterity for immortalising it in Dad's Army while failing to provide it with a proper scholarly history. MacKenzie's academic study redresses the balance - but it's hard to eliminate all traces of the ridiculous - like Churchill's decision to provide each man with a "pike or mace" instead of firearms. When guns were available, they were put to some bizarre uses: one photograph shows a training exercise in which an "enemy agent" disguised as a nanny with a pram brandishes a pistol at a sentry who appears to be clad in bee-keeping headgear.
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THE HOME GUARD by S P MacKenzie, Oxford, £16.99