With the release of Dad’s Army the movie, many of us will be planning night time manoeuvers to spy on the fictitious enemy ensconced within the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard.
And while you tuck into your pick ‘n’ mix rations you might breathe a sigh of relief that you’re of a generation that has so far avoided total war. But what if, like the characters in the film, you were called up to fight? Would your fitness be good enough? To celebrate the release of the film, we decided to have a look into the subject!
In 1939 it was ‘total war’ and that meant men had to be conscripted to fight as the established numbers of the British Armed Forces were inadequate. The introduction of the National Service Act made all men aged 18-41 liable for conscription. During the war years the younger, unmarried men were called on first and as the war progressed, older recruits were drawn in.
Now, the recruitment process probably conjures up images of boot camp style drills and assault courses featuring barbed wire to crawl under accompanied all the way round by a sergeant major shouting orders to find the fittest of the fit. But actually, fitness for service between 1939 and 1941 was determined by Civilian Medical Boards, and recruits were classified as follows:
A – fit for general service
B – unfit for general service but fit for base or garrison work
C – fit for home service only
D – temporarily unfit for any form of military service
E – permanently unfit for any form of military service
Actual physical fitness testing as we know it didn’t really come into it back then. So, if you were a conscientious objector or had a mother who wanted to keep you firmly attached to her apron strings like Private Pike then you had to find a way round the system. And many did by buying forged doctors’ certificates and going into hiding for example.
After roughly six month’s training, those that were deemed fit for service were assigned all over the world in the battle against the Nazis, but even then their fitness was in many cases below what it needed to be for the combat of the day, which was far more physical than it is in modern warfare.
Many historians argue the lack of fitness of these new recruits alongside their limited training resulted in many mistakes and losses for the Allies during WWII and it’s only really since the conclusion of the war that fitness has been a greater feature of the recruitment and training programs.
How would you fare?
So, had you been born in the 20s the chances are that you’d make the grade and sent out to fight. But would you make the Army now?
These days there’s a range of simple but challenging fitness tests to make the grade. These include max press-ups in two minutes, max sit-ups in two minutes and the sit and reach test to gauge flexibility. How well you need to do varies from role to role. For example in the 1.5-mile run test you have to go the distance in under 14 and a half minutes for junior level entry, while paras need to finish in under ten minutes.
Whether you got the results you need or not there’s no excuses not to improve. Even the Army has an app – ‘100% Army Fit’ – designed to get you as fit as a soldier in training. So, if you want to drop a T-shirt size before you buy your Dad’s Army T-shirt from us, maybe you should give it a go.
Now sit back and enjoy the movie!
Check out our Dad’s Army t-shirts here in our store where you can browse and buy some great t-shirts and gift ideas as well as all sorts of fitness equipment to get you in military shape!