Training troops



Westcott airfield was one of the first to have aeroplane simulator training. Before high-tech computer generated simulators, the “Dummy Fuselage Scheme” was put together to train airmen. The fuselage of a Wellington plane was installed in Westcott in September 1942. The pilot sat at the controls and the bomb aimer below him would give instructions for bombing a target projected onto a screen below.


There were also training exercises in the air but these were almost as dangerous as real missions and many died. A whole crew and plane were lost on 15th March 1943 when the pilot realised he was too high to land and tried to overshoot the runway and pull up, but the engine stalled and he crashed. They had been returning from a training mission called Bullseye where the airmen got to fire live ammunition. There were also training missions against Hurricane planes, which used cine-guns, fake guns that could record a hit or miss.  

Langley Park, where some members of the Home Guard were trained

Home Guard

Those who were too young, too old or disqualified from joining the army could still do their bit by joining the Home Guard. Anthony Eden announced plans on the radio for the Local Defence Volunteers, as they were at first known, in May 1940. The sign-up rate was very fast. 158 men signed up in Haddenham within 24 hours of the announcement. There were over 18,000 members of the Home Guard in Buckinghamshire by August 1940.


The Home Guard was established to look out for German parachutists who would be the first wave of an invasion. At first they were supposed to just report any such sightings to the police but, eventually, their job was to try to repel any invaders. There were several places in Buckinghamshire that were thought to be vulnerable to attack that the Home Guard had to defend.


The Home Guard were given training and there are some signs of their manoeuvres in the countryside. Practice trenches were dug at various places in Buckinghamshire for training. Similar trenches had been dug in the First World War as well. Langley Park in South Buckinghamshire was the regional headquarters of the Home Guard for a short time.


Full-time training instructors were eventually taken on to train the Home Guard in observation and fighting techniques. The trainers were officers who had not yet been found posts in the military. At first the main problem was lack of rifles and the Home Guard was called a ‘broomstick army’. Rifles were bought from America and distributed to the Home Guard.


Stowe HouseThe company Roy Norris worked for was evacuated to Buckingham from London. He decided to join the local Home Guard. The training was a serious affair, and covered almost every aspect of warfare. Target shooting took place in the town's clay pits, along with grenade, rifle and bayonet practice. Other topics included battle manoeuvres, field craft as well as silent killing. "We also went on exercises with the regular army, using proper guns and training with explosives. I learnt demolition, blowing holes in the ground, even how to put explosives on doors. I remember if you put charge in the ground, blowing it up to make a cavity, place explosives in the cavity then discharge, it will make a huge hole". Battle training took place in the grounds of Stowe School, now Stowe Landscape Gardens (Roy Norris: WW2 People's War).


The Home Guard used Lacey Green windmill as a look-out postMrs N Baldwin of Frieth remembers that her father joined the Home Guard and went out on training exercises. On one occasion they were told to attack an airfield from a specific angle but took another and ended up falling into a trench full of armed airmen. Luckily, no-one was shot! (Mrs N Baldwin: WW2 People's War). 



  1. From the other worksheets you have done, which places do you think the Home Guard wanted to defend against the Germans?
  2. Do a search on Buckinghamshire’s Heritage Portal for practice trenches and write down which were from the First World War and which were from the Second World War:


First World War

Second World War











   3.  Are there any differences between the types of trenches dug at these two dates? Do you think fighting tactics had changed?


Go back to find out more about Buckinghamshire in the wars.