'THINK BEFORE YOU ACT, BUT ALWAYS THINK OF YOUR COUNTRY BEFORE YOU THINK OF YOURSELF' - Stand Fast leaflet, June 1940
The overriding duty of civilians in time of invasion was to ‘Stand Firm’ (or 'Stand Fast') and keep off the streets (unless undertaking essential duties) in order to avoid the refugee movements that caused many problems in France, 1940.
Artists impression of The Guards advancing to hold positons while refugees pour down the road in the opposite direction. GHQ was determined that scenes such as this would not be repeated in any invasion of Britain.
In times of invasion, it was expected that the Regional Commissioner would delegate powers to the police to enforce the ‘Stand Firm’ policy. For this to work it was essential that sufficient arrangements were made for food and water by Emergency / Invasion Committees. Every man and women was to be encouraged to stay put and take on some form of service.
Although the “Stay put” policy was primarily for military purposes and the civil population would be in grave danger when fighting broke out in their neighborhood, it was also emphasized that they would be worse off if they took to the roads, where they would be machine-gunned and bombed and possibly driven over by tanks, and in many cases unable to obtain food and shelter.
The ‘Stand Firm’ Policy did not mean that the civilian population should adopt a passive role in the face of the enemy. The Government expected civilians to do all they could to hinder and frustrate the enemy. This could be by joining the Home Guard or even overpowering isolated enemy parties. However civilians were not expected to make independent attacks on enemy formations - this would be futile and may even impeded the operation of Home Forces. If civilians were not enrolled in the Home Guard they were expected to undertake other voluntary roles e.g. cooking / food distribution, filling in shell holes etc. It was considered that the ‘Stand Firm’ policy would work most effectively if people felt they were undertaking work of value in invasion conditions.
The first 'Stand Fast' leaflet was issued in June 1940 and assured civilians that German troops would not stop and attack individual houses. It advised householders to dig slit trenches for protection. It also stated in capital letters:
"DO NOT GIVE THE GERMAN ANYTHING. DO NOT TELL HIM ANYTHYING. HIDE YOUR FOOD AND YOUR BICYCLES, HIDE YOUR MAPS, SEE THAT THE ENEMY GETS NO PETROL. IF YOU HAVE A CAR OR MOTOR BICYCLE, PUT IT OUT OF ACTION WHEN NOT IN USE. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO REMOVE THE IGNITION KEY; YOU MOST MAKE IT USELESS TO ANYONE EXCEPT YOURSELF."