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Dad’s Army & the Communist Party

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2018 by kmflett

Dad’s Army and the Communist Party

Wikipedia

It is the 50th anniversary of the first showing of Dad’s Army on the BBC on 31st July 1968. For those unfamiliar it was about the Home Guard, a volunteer civil defence force. Specifically it featured a local unit operating in Sussex and might be seen as a finely drawn comedy on British social class distinctions.

It may seem an odd question to ask whether any of the ‘Dad’s Army’ were members of the Communist Party of Great Britain but it is in fact not as odd as all that.

The immediate forerunner to the Home Guard was the Local Defence Volunteers which were set up by Tom Wintringham in July 1940. Wintringham had been the commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War and until the late 1930s a member of the Communist Party.

He was a strong opponent of the politics of the Nazi-Soviet pact that had led the CPGB to stop its members from joining the Home Guard (how successfully is less clear). Wintringham’s point was that those in Britain, not already in the Army, who had the most experience of fighting a guerrilla campaign against an enemy were those who had been in Spain.

Wintringham was edged out as the Government took control of Home Guard units.

The Government, much as later, was not enthusiastic about signing up Communists and by some accounts also left-wing Labour Party members, Jews and Irish, all of whom it seemed to regard as in some way being less reliable than might be desired.

Even so after Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 and Russia became an ally things started to change. By June 1942 the Home Office had instructed Chief Constables to ‘modify’ the practice of excluding Communists and by early 1943 it determined that Communists could join the Home Guard in the same way they could join the regular army.

This still begs the question of whether any members of the BBC’s Dad’s Army were CPGB members. The socialist historian Daryl Leeworthy has suggested Sergeant Wilson as a possible contender..

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