This is a bit of a delicate one, as I’m aware this might be treading on memories, but the veracity of this particular local legend is intriguing me. In the pub last night, discussion fell to the tale that during the Second World War, tanks were brought from somewhere – assumed Birmingham, but maybe not – for testing of some sort in Shire Oak Quarry. This is a well recanted local legend. What I’m after is some light in the darkness.
On a practical level, there didn’t seem to be a quarry on the Shire Oak side of the Chester Road to speak of in 1945. Looking at aerial imagery provided by Google Earth, there seems to be something going on around the site opposite Fishpond Wood (sometimes called Bluebell Wood locally), just south of the old transport cafe. On the northern side of the Chester Road, there seems to be nascent operations in progress, but they’re quite small.
Why would you bring tanks from manufacture (assumed) to a dot of a site in Brownhills? How did they get here, and what did the testers do with them? You need a lot of room to swing the arse a tank around, are there doesn’t seem much there. Why were none of the other quarries – particularly those around the Tame at Minworth and the like – deemed suitable? Who was the manufacturer? Has anyone any imagery or first hand experience?
As background to this, I know that someone – possibly Ralph Ferrie – operated a short-lived post-war military scrap operation near the Fox Covey for a time; as kids we were still collecting the spent bullets. Military vehicles were possibly driven or delivered there, but little history of that seems to exist. I also know that during the First World War, a tank was paraded through the area in order to raise funds to pay for one (much as Walsall paid for a Spitfire in the second conflict).
It is indisputable fact that testing also happened on Cannock Chase and I’ve posted photographic evidence of tanks being tested there during the same period; this was clearly due to the manufacturers being close by in Stafford. At the time I posted those images, even that proved controversial with a long twitter debate started about the type of tank being tested. Heh, boys and detail.
Please consider this carefully – I’m not saying this did or didn’t happen, I’m open minded. This arose, like so many great local history topics, out of a debate in the pub. And like all great pub debates, it remains unresolved. Let’s see if collectively, we can nail this one.
That’d be BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, or comment here. Cheers.