Home Guard

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You have your army, perhaps it is a Badass Army, or just a Redshirt Army, but in any case, it is the standing army of your nation, with everything that entails. Of course, not everybody in the army does it for a living. Some folks just do it for the bit of extra pay, or the college benefits, or as a way to keep connected with the military after they retire and settle down to start a family.

These guys are the Home Guard. Typically, they will get called up when the nation goes to war, or in the event of a natural disaster or civil unrest. Many of them will be military veterans who got out of the regular army, or folks who had imminent life plans that precluded being away from home permanently. In more desperate situations, the Home Guard might include people who otherwise would not have been accepted into the military, but are being organized into a militia as a last ditch defense of their homes. Depending on a variety of circumstances, they might be equipped with obsolete weapons and equipment from decades past, or even less. In more ideal situations, they will use the same equipment as the regular troops, to better allow them to serve along side them in combat when needed.

Even the version of the trope where the Home Guard is little more than a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits armed with whatever they have on hand, it can be Justified as freeing up more troops to fight the enemy before they can invade the home country.

In practice, these forces might also be called the Reserves or the Militia, with either name (in the United States, at least) carrying different connotations. From an American point of view, "Militia" sounds more like Training the Peaceful Villagers at best, and more like "Right-Wing Militia Fanatic" at worse. "Reserves" gives more of an impression of professional soldiers (again, from an American audience's perspective.)

If they end up getting invaded and defeated, expect these guys to help form La Résistance.

Named for the British Home Guard troops who were formed to protect Great Britain in the event of German invasion during World War II.

See also Training the Peaceful Villagers and Instant Militia.

Examples of Home Guard include:


Film[edit | hide | hide all]

Robin: My father couldn't get me into the National Guard.
Crowd: Oooooooohh...

  • The Big Red One. The Squad find themselves confronted by Volksturm armed with pitchforks and pictures of Adolf Hitler. It looks like a massacre is about to take place, but they quickly surrender when the Sarge fires his gun over their heads.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Various characters in the Honor Harrington series are mentioned in passing as being members of their armed forces' Reserves. Typically, such characters will be a bit older and wiser than their similarly-ranked companions, and officers of the Grayson Space Navy reserve forces are mentioned as having slightly different rank insignia.
  • Frequently shows up in the Ryan Verse by Tom Clancy. In particular, a brigade of the North Carolina National Guard plays a pivotal role in Executive Orders, General Gennady Iosefovitch Bondarenko manages to field an entire division of reservists in The Bear And The Dragon, and John Kelly (later John Clark) is threatened with being recalled to active duty since he checked the box for joining the reserves in Without Remorse
  • In Lord of the Rings Hobbits are described as having a Shire Muster. The only time it sees combat in the book is toward the end when they face bandits. However a long time ago they had repulsed an orc-raid. They had also sent archers to join the expedition to destroy the Witch-King of Angmar, in alliance with Gondor, what was left of Arnor, and the Elves of Rivendell. Then too the Brandybuck clan which lived on the borders and were Proud Warrior Race Hobbits(yes there is such a thing, well sort of) are described by Merry as fighting off evil tree spirits from the Old Forest. And in the book itself they even try to assemble a force to defy the Nazgul though they really didn't know what they were getting into.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Battlestar Galactica: According to Word of God, Lee Adama was a member of the Colonial Fleet Reserves.
  • Dads Army: Based on the writers' experiences in the Home Guard during World War II. Most of the humour stems from the fact that the members are too old, too young, or just incompetent in that bumbling English way.
  • Horrible Histories has had several sketches about the British Home Guard.

Music[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Wing Commander IV, Vagabond mentions that after the Kilrathi War ended, he took a billet in the Reserves, thinking it would be some easy money for little work now that they were at peace. So of course he got recalled to active duty for the next crisis.
    • Blair is also in the Reserves, and finds himself recalled as well (by Maniac, who throws in a mock-fanfare while issuing the order in a seedy bar).
    • In the Wing Commander novel End Run, Colonel Bondarevsky warns the pilots under his command that the pilots they'll find defending the Kilrathi homeworld of Kilrah will not be typical aging "Home Guard" pilot with "rusting armor", but rather a very well trained and equipped force of some of their most experienced and skilled pilots.
    • Also from Wing Commander IV, we have the Border Worlds Militia. In the game, they are shown to be a somewhat ragtag force with modern (if somewhat nonstandard compared to what Confed flies) equipment. In the Novelization, they are flying barely-holding together ships that would have been at home on the flight deck of the Tiger's Claw ten or twenty years earlier.
  • Valkyria Chronicles: The Gallian Militia unit that the protagonist commands is an example of a homeguard, constituting members of the nation from all ranks: singers, wealthy heiresses, university students, bakers...

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • The Warhammer 40,000 equivalent is the PDF (Planetary Defense Forces). Their quality is variable: depending on the people settling there (usually long-serving Guard regiments), a planet's PDF could be those of a sedentary population too stupid to dodge the draft or a bunch of veterans from one of the Imperial Guard's more experienced and successful regiments. Nonetheless, they are considered as underequipped and far less competent by the Imperial Guard. We repeat: the Imperial Guard, Butt Monkey Cannon Fodder extraordinaire, believes the PDF to be beneath them.
    • The Cadian Interior Guard is one of the better-equipped PDF units—one in ten soldiers, regardless of skill, are recruited to the PDF, so Cadia actually has a home guard better than many planets' best troops. Seeing how as Cadia is a World of Badass sitting right in front of a giant Hell Gate Negative Space Wedgie, it's probably for the best.
    • The planet of Perlia got a "speedbump's speedbump" in the form of the Planetary Defence Volunteers, established by Ciaphas Cain in the sixth novel of the series. The author also used it as a chance to make an extended Shout-Out to Dads Army.

Truth in Television[edit | hide]

  • The Trope Namer is the British Home Guard, formed during the early years of World War II (and disbanded soon after, when they were no longer needed).
    • Normally the role is taken by the Territorial Army, which was formed in 1908 and currently forms about a quarter of the British Army's manpower. Since the TA was automatically mobilised when the war started, they needed a 'reserve for the reserves' once things got worse.
    • It was never quite as poorly-equipped as some fictional examples, however; whilst most of its members were exempt from the draft by virtue of age or a minor disability, most agricultural workers were exempt from the draft, and a fair percentage of them owned their own shotguns and varmint rifles which they knew how to use.
  • In the U.S. this is called the National Guard, which traces its lineage back to 1636, with the formation of the Massachusetts Bay Regiments, local militias formed together by the colonial government into larger units so they could more effectively deal with the Pequot tribes.
    • The Founding Fathers had a fear of military takeovers that goes back to Oliver Cromwell or even to Medieval Kings who wanted to rule without Parliament. This is a normal theme in English history and is coincidently why the Royal Navy has more prestige(you can't do a coup with ships unless you can figure a way to take them inland). Because of this they put to much confidence in the militia. In point of fact they were a fine recruiting pool and made for a nation in which effectively everyone had been to boot camp. But when they were put into battle as militia, they usually found that militia who were serving out of state, commanded by(often elected) non-professional officers who were neighbors of the men they were supposed to order to their deaths and half-trained anyway. The result was that they of course ran. When militia was used properly(I.E. as a building block) in the American Civil War both sides could field a proper army in a remarkably short amount of time.
    • In modern times, National Guardsmen typically are equipped with the same gear as their "Regular" Active Duty brethren, although up until the later years of the Cold War, it wasn't unusual for them to use obsolete equipment that had been cast off by the regular service, particularly for the Air Guard, since military aircraft are considerably more expensive than an infantryman's kit.
      • In addition to the National Guard, certain states even have a State Guard, essentially a National Guard writ small, which the Federal government has no claim to without the Governor's consent. These are typically intended to guarantee that the state will have at least a small reserve force of trained personnel if a crisis arises locally while the National Guard is deployed elsewhere.
  • The Civil Air Patrol is a civilian organization whose mission includes serving as an Auxiliary of the Air Force when needed.[1] They are known for their red and white Cessnas, which they use both for pilot training and for performing search and rescue operations over the American wilderness.
    • They also serve a function similar to the Boy Scouts or Junior ROTC, training youths and giving them something to do with their free time and giving them a chance to help their communities (among other things, kids in the organization can be trained and serve as Observers on official CAP missions, aiding in Search-and-Rescue operations, and many of them are certified as Disaster First Responders.)
    • Those brightly colored civilian airplanes they fly around in? During World War II, they became something of a Lethal Joke Character, when the CAP flew yellow-and-red Piper Cubs off the coasts looking for German U-Boats. There was little one of these planes could do to a U-Boat, given that they were unarmed (at first), but they could use their radios to call for the Air Corps, who would happily send a bomber to blow the interloper out of the water.
  • Although it is very rare, the Boy Scouts themselves have been known to serve in this role in particularly trying times. The Polish Boy Scouts fought against the Germans during World War II as part of La Résistance, often serving as scouts and messengers, and at one point late in the war even using tanks that they had captured from the Germans to help liberate a Concentration Camp.
  • Near the end of World War 2 Nazi Germany had the Volkssturm. Military service has been part of German culture for decades, so in theory, the Nazis would be able to scrounge up a massive reserve force that could hold off the Soviets. However, in practice, the majority of Volkssturm members were old men and veterans of the First World War. It pretty much boiled down to giving someone a gun and hoping they could kill enough Russians.
    • A more effective idea was using them to serve the anti-aircraft grid during the Strategic Bombing Campaign. The calculations of course required advanced mathematics, but putting a shell into a gun just required a strong arms and back and pulling a lanyard did not even require that, and neither was beyond the capacity of teenagers.
  • The Kamikaze were this. Because Japan was out of trained pilots(most of these were dead, the replacement program was inferior to begin with and needed more flight time then they had fuel to spare), the rather brutal alternative they came up with was to turn half-trained pilots into missiles. However callous, tactically it wasn't one of their worst ideas although they would have been better off surrendering. In any case though at first glance it has the weird Japanese romanticism about Suicide Missions the effect was the same as how many nations thought of their home guard. They recruited them from civilians(usually educated young men)and sent them into a desperate battle they did not have much expectation of coming back from-like other nations. The difference was that unlike Poles, Russians, Germans, and later Haganah troopers they were expected to push the button on themselves rather then just fighting until they died but that does not make it all that different in essence. Thus they were not really the most bizarre example of the Japanese military cult's romanticism. That "honor" would probably go to Saipan where civilians including women and children were pressured into killing themselves in full view of the American invaders with a rather hypnotic flourish of ritual.
  • The Fyrd was the Anglo Saxon version of this. They owed a period of time a year. Alfred the Great tinkered with the calender to make sure the call up came to differing parts of the country in a staggered schedule. The purpose of this was to make sure he always had some troops coming on line even as other's tour was up.
  • The Swiss are famous for this, and aside from those that were doing mercenary service that was their main force.
  • Greek hoplites were for the most part this. Phalanx warfare was made to be for a home guard. All anyone had to do was push.
  • The IDF has always maintained a tradition of this that enabled it to punch above it's weight class. More noticeable was in the 1948 war. During that time sometimes concentration camp survivors were given rifles right off the boat and sent into hopeless attacks. Those few who survived, of course, became citizens.
  1. Contrary to common belief, they are only an Auxiliary of the Air Force when serving in that role. The rest of the time, they are essentially a very large, civic-minded private flying club.