In 1982, the Ministry of Defence issued a discussion document to Home Defence Battalions of the Territorial Army (TA) seeking opinions on a proposal to form a separate category of Home Defence unit. The aim of the new force would be to undertake static duties such as key point defence, thus relieving the Home Defence Battalions for the more demanding aspects of their roles.
At first there were reservations at creating a new force, mainly because of the cost involved, when the money could be better spent on assets for the moderately equipped Home Defence Battalions. However, the results of the consultation were positive and a pilot scheme was launched in 1982. The pilot scheme was entirely successful and the new force to be known as the Home Service Force (HSF) came into being in 1985.
Each Home Defence Battalion would have an HSF Company attached and would be responsible for its training and administration. The platoons of the HSF Company were to be attached to each rifle company known as the ‘host' company. The main purpose of the HSF platoon was to provide static key point defence involving any establishment or facility essential to the security of the United Kingdom. With the Cold War still the main defence preoccupation, the HSF was seen as a reliable and efficient way to combat homegrown terrorism and special forces of the Warsaw Pact should they attempt to cripple the infrastructure of the UK during the build-up to hostilities.
The HSF Soldier
Aged between 18 and 60 years and medically sound, the HSF soldier would have served for at least two years in the Regular or Reserve Forces of the Crown, or the Cadets or the Police Forces of the United Kingdom. The requirement to have completed two years previous service was non-negotiable. As a result, The HSF attracted recruits who were either too old to join or rejoin the Regular Forces or who were for a variety of reasons unable to commit enough time to the Reserve Forces.
On joining the HSF, the soldier became a member of the TA category C which was liable for service in the UK only. He was equipped to exactly the same scale as his comrades in the host Home Defence Company, on whom he relied for transport, training support and all administration required to effectively carry out his duties.
In the Greater London area, the HSF companies came under the operational control on London District with the exception of the platoon raised by B Company 6/7 Queen's at Hornsey – a sub unit of a Home Defence Battalion based at Horsham in West Sussex and therefore under the operational control of South East District.
HSF Companies operating in the Greater London Area were:
A (HSF) Company The Honourable Artillery Company
B (HSF) Company The Honourable Artillery Company
348 (HSF) Squadron, Inns of Court and City Yeomanry
S (HSF) Company, 10th Battalion The Parachute Regiment
H (HSF) Company, 4th Battalion The Royal Green Jackets
With the peace dividend that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, a review of the TA and its future commitments saw no further need of the HSF and the organisation was disbanded. Those who had served with the HSF were permitted to remain with their host companies until the completion of their engagement. Many HSF soldiers were well-known by their colleagues in the TA as reliable soldiers who, when not on HSF duties, supported their host company in many ways such as frequently providing ‘enemy forces' or making up depleted platoons on company weekends. Even after disbandment, former HSF soldiers filled the gaps in the ranks of the MT, Signals and QM platoon giving reliable and experienced service for as long as they were permitted.
Undoubtedly during its short existence the HSF provided a service to Home Defence in terms of enthusiasm, professionalism and value for money that to this day is hard to match.