THESE were the men – and a dog – who protected part of Oxford during the Second World War.

We believe this picture of members of the Home Guard was taken at Cowley Barracks.

It comes from Barbara Gray, of Osberton Road, North Oxford, who found it in the belongings of her late husband, Alan.

She recognises only one of the men in the picture – her father-in-law, Harold William Gray, who is second from the right in the middle row.

She writes: “As there are many fellow Oxonians in the picture, I thought it might be of interest to your readers.”

Harold William Gray, born in 1909, was a chartered accountant and senior partner in Wenn Townsend, first in offices above Grimbly Hughes, the grocers in Cornmarket Street, and later in the former Pheasant pub, at the corner of St Giles and Keble Road, where the firm is still based. He died in 1994.

He was one of 16 children born to the two wives of Alderman William Matthew Gray, a prominent Oxford businessman and councillor.

Alderman Gray ran a family builders’ business in Pembroke Street (now Rectory Road), off St Clement’s, and was a prominent councillor, who rose to become mayor of Oxford and chief magistrate.

Our sister paper, The Oxford Times, devoted two columns to a report of his funeral at St Clement’s Church in 1931, describing him as a man who “gave himself unsparingly to the service of others”.

He was so highly regarded that “all the way from the church to Rose Hill cemetery, people had assembled to pay their last respects to one of the best known and best loved of Oxford men”.

The Home Guard began life as the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), a part-time force designed to help protect Britain from possible German invasion.

Within two months of a radio appeal by the Government in May 1940, more than a million volunteers had come forward.

They included farm workers, bakers, teachers, grocers, bank staff and railway workers, whose daytime jobs were essential to keep the country running, and those too young or too old to join the regular Army.

The name was changed to the Home Guard in July 1940 and its members went on to do valuable work defending their local communities.

No-one expected them to beat well-trained German soldiers – their task was to slow them down until the Army arrived.

The Home Guard was immortalised by Dad’s Army, the TV show about a platoon at the fictitious Walmington-on-Sea, starring Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier and Clive Dunn, episodes of which are still regularly shown on BBC2.

Can anyone name any other members of the Home Guard above?

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