THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: ‘If invasion comes civilians must play their part’
From the News Letter, June 10, 1942
The part civilians will play in Great Britain in the event of invasion was defined in plans published the previous night by the Ministry of Home Security, reported the News Letter on this day in 1942.
Regional commissioners were to assume all the functions of central government in case of an invasion, if contact with the government was impracticable.
Zone war courts were to take over the administration of justice, and any member of the Armed Forces could claim the “help and obedience of civilians”. Police were to maintain public order.
Whenever possible the military would work with or through the civil authorities.
Civilians would be enrolled - “conscripted if necessary” - and allotted tasks such as trench digging, clearing or blocking roads, first aid work, maintaining messenger services if communications fail, and helping to ascertain water, food, and tool supplies.
Civilians “must not act on their own initiative”, as independent action “may have the most serious results”.
If a town or village was cut off, the military commander or chairman of the invasion committee would take over.
There would also be drastic restrictions on supplies, communications and travel.
Instructions would be given for the immobilisation of cars, motorcycles, and pedal cycles.
The plans declared: “The military may take over roads. If transport is dislocated emergency food stocks will be available.
“Steps will be taken to prevent food and resources falling into enemy hands. These steps will be carried out solely with view to national defence, and without regard for private interests of any kind.”
“Civilians should keep their own food stocks or other useful things out of the enemy’s hands.”
The advice to civilians was either to join the Home Guard or volunteer for emergency duties with the invasion committee.”
The issue of these plans, Mr Morrison explained to a lobby correspondent of the Press Association, did not indicate any assumption by the government that invasion is imminent.
“Nobody should imagine, from the-publication of the plans, that there is any new reason for apprehension,” he said.