The American Committee for the Defense of British Homes
Every so often you see something on social media and the comments section is the most interesting part. Ok, who am I kidding the comments are usually the interesting part. As you can see on the left we have an add to send a gun to help defend Britain by something called The American Committee for the Defense of British Homes (we will call it ACDBH for the rest of the article). Like a lot of small things from World War Two, it is hard to find much information on it. Sadly a lot of it is antidotal. So the two questions in the comments were; “Is it real?”, “Why?” and “What happened to the guns afterward?”
I can say with a high degree of certainty that the program existed. The ad was supposedly posted in the November 1940 issue of American Rifleman and likely in other sporting and shooting magazines. I don’t have a primary source but I have no reason to dispute it. I did find an article from the November 29th, 1940 issue of the Scarsdale Inquirer on the left. If there is a smoking gun so to say it is the Imperial War Museums website. On the site, they have multiple pictures of rifles that are from the ACDBH.
The stated reason was to help the UK defend against a German invasion. The British Army had left lots of equipment behind at Dunkirk and was suffering a shortage. Naturally, the regular army was the first to receive new military arms and in 1940 there were not enough guns for all of the Home Guard.
The guns sent to the Home Guard were of mixed quality. The Imperial War Museum has an old trap-door rifle that was given. On the other hand, the book Kent at War (see page above) claims that some Thomson submachine guns were given by ACDBH.
That they were needed for the Home Guard reasonable but let me throw another idea out there. Churchill felt that the only way to defeat Germany was by getting the Americans involved in the war. The USA and UK’s close current relationship was a product of Churchill’s political maneuvers. The image of poor British citizens needing guns to defend their homes from the Nazi menace was sure to raise some sympathy.
What happened to the guns?
Most online posters claim that most of the guns were destroyed. Either dumped into the ocean or into pits like lots of surplus World War Two equipment. In fact found lots of online stories about how some relative or relative of a friend was disappointed to never get the guns they gave back. The Imperial War Museum says “Officially, the weapons sent by the Committee were supposed to be returned after the war. This did not happen in all cases however and, after the Home Guard was stood-down in 1944, the Imperial War Museum was given a small collection of weapons from this source.” Granted I was never able to find and estimate of what precentage were destroyed.
So why trash them? First, it was likely a logistical nightmare after years of war. Records may not have been kept very well or neglected at certain points. In addition returning the donated guns was likely low on the list of priorities for the UK government at the wars end. I also found an anecdote that some of the home guard units were told they were guns seized from American gangsters and not given by citizens. If this was what they were told, it made no sense to return them. Between concern about criminals and Marxist getting their hold on arms, cost, and priorities, it seems like the majority were destroyed.