When the local Home Guard received a surprise visit from Royalty in August 1940, the local newspaper reported the excitement of the villagers in West Wickham, and the surprise of the men themselves. The Home Guard put on the largest display in the history of the movement on that day.
Record parade of Home Guard at West Wickham
Inspection of Anti-Aircraft units
The deep interest which the King takes in the military ad civil defence of this country was evident at two visits which he has made to Kent within five days. On Saturday he spent an hour and a half at a parade of 4,000 men of the Home Guard at West Wickham, and was obviously impressed by all that he saw. On Wednesday he made a tour of inspection of anti-aircraft units. Although the visit was unannounced, large crowds gathered along the route and, waving their hands and in some cases flags, gave His Majesty a right royal welcome.
His Majesty’s inspection, which was of the most thorough character, lasted just an hour and a half. There were 4,00 men on parade, and everyone of them carried himself as became a soldier of the King.
His Majesty’s visit, which naturally thrilled the men, came as a surprise. Members of the Guard knew beforehand that there was to be an inspection and that a high personage would be there. On the Friday evening they held a rehearsal, but not till they heard the rousing cheers of the villagers, who had recognised the royal car, were they really certain that their King was coming to encourage them.
Source: Bromley & District, 16th August 1940 (pg 5)