Ken Heard and the Home Guard and the East Lancashire Regiment
When I did the article on Arthur and the Home Guard and mentioned that his brother Sydney was also a member I was told that I hadn’t done all my research! We have another ex Home Guard member in the village – Ken Heard.
There were over 20 members of the Home Guard for our area and Ken volunteered and was the youngest member. Some of the older ones were ‘Old Soldiers’ from the World War 1. The members were taught to shot and Ken tells me he was a good shot. They used to use the bank at Hanger’s Cleeve for target practice.
With its excellent views over the area Heathpoult was very important in home security and anyone passing along the road would be challenged with ‘Halt, Who goes there?’ On one occasion, on duty with Billy Hill, they made their challenge – it was a man called Baker on his bike with his mother following on behind. He shouted back ‘Don’t ye shoot mother!’
On Sundays there would be exercises against neighbouring Home Guards. When competing against Dunster Home Guard they would be set tasks like getting into Dunster without being found by the ‘enemy.’
He was called up at the age of 18 and sent to East Lancashire Regiment based in Blackpool and trained on the Blackpool Beaches. Asked why he was sent there and not based locally, it was because this is where men were needed at the time. He also trained at Royal Army Service Corp Transport Section at Buxton, Derbyshire. Soldiers needed to be versatile and skilled to survive.
On June 6th 1944 he was sent from Gosport, Hampshire to Normandy as part of the D Day landing force. A lady gave him a four-leaf clover before leaving for Normandy and this remained with him throughout. Many of the troops were drowned during the landings as well as those killed by enemy fire. We received air cover all the time from the Royal Air Force.
He marched through France and into Belgium and was very grateful for the air cover given by the Royal Air Force that saved many thousands of lives. He remembers on one occasion being sent out on reconnaissance and they went too far. Fortunately for them they saw a light in the distance and found help from a man called Franz de Hooga who belonged to the Resistance and they were directed back to their own lines. Ken was sent to France, Belgium, Holland and Oldenburg in Germany. Part of his job was to check houses for enemy soldiers and clear the way for the rest of the force. He remembers on one occasion falling through a ceiling in someone’s house!
Supplies and hard rations were often in short supply. They would be given a rest from time to time behind their own lines and fresh troops sent to the front.
He did meet two friends from home during his time abroad. One being Cyril Hurdley who worked with the waterproof vehicles – ducks that were used for transferring supplies. Near Arnheim he saw Raymond Quartley from Bridgetown who was a Military Policeman. It was good to see a face from home.
He was sent home just before the end of the war on compassionate leave because his father was dying. He then cared for his parents and found work at Hoe Farm helping in the gardens. He worked at Dulverton Sawmills for a time. One day he was sent to Chumleigh and worked with Tony Fowler (who lived in Cutcombe) cutting down some enormous trees. He remembers walking back to Dulverton from Chumleigh ….. A long way! He then went to work for West Somerset Council until retirement. He was always a welcome sight in mid winter when the roads were blocked with snow and those of us living off the main roads were unable to get out. Thank goodness we don’t have such hard winters and the heavy snow I wouldn’t be seen from New Year to Easter!!!!