But, who’s sticking in here? Who will defend,
every inch of England no matter what they send?
Who’s standing firm in our own front yard?
The soldiers of the old home guard,
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-)state, 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 Rag Tag 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
Most people would be surprised at how much action the Reserves actually see in Real Life
, at least in the United States armed forces. In most armed conflicts, the active components are mostly only involved during the main fighting, while the post-war peacekeeping, policing and rebuilding operations, which are just as dangerous or even more so, usually go to the reserve components. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, for example, many United States National Guardsmen and Army Reserves served longer deployments than any of the active components did, and as such were exposed to dangers not seen by those who were involved in the main fighting(those videos you see of IEDs blowing up HMMWVs are most likely National Guardsmen or Reserves). Reserve components also tend to be more career-oriented: you see more Reserves staying until retirement age than active component soldiers.
See also Training the Peaceful Villagers
and Instant Militia
- 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 Jack Ryan series 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 the Star Carrier series the Sol System is patrolled by the High Guard, a sub-fleet of the Confederation Navy that acts mostly as an early warning system for Earth and was originally set up to guard against Colony Drops. Their ships are rather outdated and prove no match for the Turusch.
- The Elenium: Sparhawk, Platime, and Stragen organize a home guard note to defend the city of Cimmura after Ehlana is restored to her throne. It's not clear how many of the citizens actually have prior military experience, but they manage to impress Wargun a few chapters later.
- 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.
- The Commonwealth's military in Andromeda was divided into the Home and High Guard.
- M*A*S*H: Lt. Col. Henry Blake was in the Army Reserve. Several patients mention they are Guardsmen and were called up.
Table Top Games
- 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 home-guard, constituting members of the nation from all ranks: singers, wealthy heiresses, university students, bakers...
- After the ultimately-unsuccessful coup attempt on the Citadel in Mass Effect 3, the Council authorizes the founding of a "Citadel Defense Force", structured as a reserve extension of the Citadel's existing police assets. Its initial strength is very low, but it serves as a catch-all for War Assets earned from completing various sidequests and can grow surprisingly large given enough care.
Truth in Television
- 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 (soldiers of Cadia being just about everyone at some point in their lives), 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 Hellgate 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.
- The Ultramar Auxilia serve as the PDF for the Ultramar sector controlled by the Ultramarines. Unlike other PDF, they are disciplined and steeled from training mandated by Ultramarines and the region is prosperous enough for them to be equipped accordingly well - as such the Ultramar Auxilia subverts the Home Guard trope in the case of many regiments who are meant to be available for deployment outside of Ultramar a bit like the Imperial Guard.
- In BattleTech, the various Successor States of the Inner Sphere often have little more than a garrison of a dozen outdated battlemechs or a smattering of tanks guarding their non-industrial worlds, though important worlds often get an entire platoon of battlemechs! The Clans are infamous for their defensive garrisons using third-rate equipment (it's still better than Inner Sphere gear, though). In Operation Bulldog, a combined offensive against Clan Smoke Jaguar as vengeance for their Orbital Bombardment against a civilian city. The IS task force quickly crushes the Smoke Jaguar's homeworld defenders, which are notoriously poorly equipped even among the other Clans.
- 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, nearly all agricultural jobs -farm labourers, gamekeepers and such- were classified as essential war work, and a fair percentage of farm workers owned their own shotguns or small-game rifles. Once Lend-Lease equipment started arriving from the United States, the old First World War-era equipment hastily pressed into service for the regular forces was quickly handed down to them as well.
- Then there was "Croft's Pikes", an unfortunate incident where a bit of hyperbole on Churchill's partnote was misinterpreted and lead to some well-intentioned idiot at the War Office ordering the production of 250,000 pikes made from steel tubes and bayonet blades. This lead to a bit of a scandal, and the whole affair got named for Henry Page Croft, the Undersecretary of War, who tried to defend the decision by claiming that the pike was "a most effective and silent weapon". Accounts vary as to whether any Home Guard units were actually issued with the pikes, but if any of them did they shoved them in the back of the armoury and never used them for anything.
- 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.
- 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.
- Latvian National Guard (Zemessardze) is the biggest military formation in the country, and have taken up role usually reserved for professional soldiers, like going to missions to other countries, like Iraq. They fit the TV version as their gear mostly is composed from used gear from other countries, like Sweden (most of it, for example, main small arm is Ak. 4 battle rifle, Swedish licensed version of HK G 3 A 3) and USA (backpacks, presents from US National Guard). If you commit yourself into Zemessardze a bit further than your average recruit, you actually get a decent training though, especially in recon, or now, sadly, absent airborne. Often used as a "demo version" of professional armed forces by young men.
- And now they are part of EUBG (European Battle Group) 2013 together with professional soldiers from Lithuania, Sweden (CBRN), Dutch Marines and freakin' Royal Marine Commando.
- The Civil Air Patrol is a civilian organization whose mission includes serving as an Auxiliary of the Air Force when needed. note Originally formed as a way for civil aviation to support the military in time of war note , 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. By the end of WWII, the Civil Air Patrol was able to claim two German U-Boats sunk directly by CAP aircrews.
- 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.
- Hitler Youth often ended up manning anti-aircraft guns in Germany. This was actually a fairly sensible use for them as they could at least load and fire and the officers could be trusted with figureing out what to fire at.
- Greek Hoplites ("shieldmen") were traditionally composed of anyone who could own a farm and pay for a shield and corselet. In Athens that was for a long time the main qualification for voting. They were actually fairly effective in a limited manner for bunched up in a phalanx they could trample over anything except another phalanx. Their weakness was that they could not go on long campaigns far away from home as easily as professionals.
- The railroad made putting reserves into battle a practical possibility in the nineteenth century. Prussia gained an advantage over its enemies by realizing first that its soldiers no longer needed to march until they reached the actual battlefield and thus unseasoned reserves had a chance of getting into action without falling by the roadside (as a result of disease and general sluggishness).