Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The evolution and appearance of the Home Guard

Until the reign of Boris III and his military reforms of the 1720’s the Home Guard did not truly exist.  The reforms began the process of codifying the guard’s existence.  Prior to this the ancestor of the guard was the peasant levy that the great dukes could raise in times of strife to bolster their retinues. Until the 1740’s the common soldiers consisted largely of peasantry recruited or impressed into service with little training, leading many to avoid service. In order to halt this trend, Boris IIII divided the nation into regimental regions. Every youth was required to serve as a soldier in the Home Guard of their district for three months each year; this met agrarian needs and added the potential of extra troops to bolster the regular ranks.  Sadly, the Guard was not truly supplied, organized or led adequately until the next phase of military reforms in the 1920’s.  In the 1740 edict conscripted every free able-bodied male citizen between the ages of 18 and 25 into the local Home Guard overseen by the region. Members were to be issued with a musket, bayonet and belt, two spare flints, a cartridge box with 24 bullets, a powder horn, 1/4 pound of gunpowder, and a uniform coat.

Over the years the Home Guard "uniform" all too often consisted only of a white armband with words “HФMЗ GЦДЯD”. Although the government tried to issue as many of its members as possible with military uniforms, these were rarely provided in sufficient numbers, thus many members of the Guard wore makeshift uniforms or their civilian clothes.

Typically during their three months of service a year members of the Home Guard received basic military training.  This would have included brief overview of military tactics and training on the use of basic weapons. There was sadly little to no standardization of any kind and units were often issued whatever equipment was available. This often resulted in some units looking very ragged, whilst others were rather uniform.  Armament was equally diverse, while some ex-regular army firearms were on hand, members were issued a plethora of Bordurian, Albanian, Russian, French, Italian and various other weapons that had been obtained at low cost by the government.

Fortunately for the Home Guard it finally received some well-deserved attention as a result of the 1924 reforms. Theses reforms expanded the ages of eligibility to male citizens between 18 and 45.  Members were now required to serve for set terms of three years and report for training twice a year, usually in the Spring and Fall.  The supply issues that so characterized the old guard units were improved with the issue of a standardized new uniform drawn from the same stock as the regular armed forces (distinguished by a brown collar) as well as the issue of rifles in the same standard calibre and design as that of the regular army.

The 1939 invasion

The Polishov Home Guard regiment features heavily in the opening stages of Borduria’s invasion of eastern Syldavia.  Although the members of the regiment were ultimately overcome and forced to surrender and lay down their arms, they managed to hold up the Bordurian advance in several hours of fierce fighting around Niedzdrow.

On 2 April 1939, Bordurian forces crossed the eastern borders of Syldavia. Resistance from the Polishov regions home guard regiment met the initial stages of the invasion. Having crossed the border in the early hours of the morning the first priority of the Bordurian forces was the regional capital and the Home Guard barracks.  Most HG members were not in the barracks at the time of the attack and so the Bordurians were robbed of an immediate victory.  Alerted to the attack members of the Polishov HG soon arrived in small bands in Niedzdrow with the intention of resisting the invasion.  This sporadic arrival was something of a double edged sword for the Syldavian’s as on the one hand they could not mount a large enough force to effectively resist the Bordurians for long, and on the other hand the Bordurians were constantly harassed on the morning of the 2nd. The engagement between the Bordurian troops and the Polishov Home Guard was fierce but sporadic, with the last holdouts surrendering at noon in the regional capital.  This was not to be the last we would hear of the Polishov HG though.  Many of the remaining members who were not among those in the city centre at noon simply slipped out of the city to rejoin other latecomers.  Their resistance in the region continued until the 12th of April with the arrival of the 1st & 2nd Mountain Brigade.

Due to the disorganised nature of the defence, most HG members in the city were either in civilian dress or only in partial uniform.  At one point taxis were commandeered to ferry ammunition and arms to various resistance points around the city.  The HG that operated in the region after the city’s surrender was a more organised affair and conducted its operations in proper uniforms.

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