Tanking along…

Did this now becalmed former quarry once resonate to the sound of military vehicles under test, or just earth moving equipment?

The question of tank testing in Shire Oak Quarry is ongoing. I’ve received a large number of fine contributions from David Evans, not least this email communication between him and the Tank Museum….

From: David Evans

Sent: 26 September 2011 17:59

To: Janice Tait (tank museum.org)

Subject: Tank testing in WW2

Dear sirs,

Please could you help…

The first Shire Oak quarry, at Walsall Wood, near to junction of A452 and A461… on the south side of the A452, south of the junction of the two routes was rumoured to be the site of some testing of tanks during WW2. The site locally called The Tank Traps… possibly testing a flail tank and attached flails for first time.

Streetly Steel works… a few miles away was active and busy during WW2 The Tank Traps was strictly out of bounds to the public at the time.

I would be pleased if you could shed some light on this, please.

I visited your museum two years ago and was thrilled and awestruck.

with kind regards

Yours sincerely

David Evans

David received the reply:

From: David Fletcher at the tank museum.

To: David Evans

Sent: 27/09/2011 10:46:29 GMT Daylight Time

Subj: RE: Tank testing in WW2

David

We have no record of this but we are continuing to uncover sites all over the country so anything is possible. Britain at War magazine recently found a report concerning a site at Wiggonholt in Sussex in the National Archives at Kew so it is quite possible that more will be discovered in due course. Flail tanks were developed on the Matilda, Valentine, Grant and Sherman tanks but we have no record of any being fabricated in the Walsall area – the closest I can think of is Curran Brothers in Cardiff – so there is no obvious reason to carry out tests on them in your area. Finally we have no records of tank production by the Streetly Steel works although tanks were assembled from components manufactured from all over the country, so anything is possible. It might be worth consulting local museums and record offices to see if they have anything.

David Fletcher

I also had a contribution from Sheila Norris, daughter of Len Jones whose account featured in the last article:

From: Sheila Norris

To: David Evans

Sent: 27/09/2011 13:45:33 GMT Daylight Time

Subj: tanks etc.

Hi Dave,

I see Dad’s account has made the blog already! Just for the record, he tells me he received his call-up papers on his 18th Birthday – 13th October 1941. I’ve sent a message to my Aunty, who was living in the area throughout the war, asking if she recalls anything about the tanks. She is 88 and still lives in Clayhanger. I’ll let you know if she has anything to add.

Best wishes,

Sheila

On the subject of the quarries on Shire Oak, longtime reader Steve Hickman had this to say today (I reproduce it here for continuity):

Hi Bob,

I have a short bit of family history connected to the sand pit at the bottom of Castle Hill. My Great Granddad owned Prospect House at the bottom of Castle Hill. My mom was brought up there and I was born there. She grew up playing with her brother Ray and cousin Ron. They spent a lot of time (probably without permission) playing in the sand pit behind the house. Around 1940 Ray and Ron, who would have been about ten and twelve, used tohelp the men working in the sand pit. They would let the lads use a hand auger to finish boring a six foot deep hole in the fairly soft sand cliff, while they had a cup of tea in their shed. They would then come out and load small charge of explosive, about the size of a twelve bore cartridge. Then blast the sand out. It was then according to Ron used to fill sand bags. I cannot see today’s health and safety rules allowing any of this. Ron is still going strong so I will ask him if he remembers anything about tanks.
Regards

Steve

Finally, Stuart Williams, of Bloxidge Tallygraph and Local History Centre fame sent this fascinating account:

Stuart Williams in his re-enactment days. Photo kindly supplied by Stuart.

Hi Bob,

Further to my comment on your Digging for Victory post, please find attached a picture of me in my WWII re-enactment days portraying a British Army AFPU sergeant photographer with a Valentine Duplex Drive amphibious tank of the kind that was definitely tested in the lakes at Sutton Park and for all I know may even have put in an appearance at what is now the nature reserve on the way up Shire Oak hill.

As you can see these Valentine tanks were not massive by later standards. My late father certainly said tanks were tested there when he was a boy, and recounted the incident of the little girl being run over by a tank, I think he said it was near Streets Corner. He would have been ten when the war finished. The tank illustrated is the only one still in working order, it was rebuilt and restored over 20 years by the owner, John Pearson, who salvaged the main body from being used as a farm vehicle and the turret which had been shot off at an MOD firing range! You can see it being driven by John Pearson (left) here in 2004:

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/markansell/vehicles/studland2004/MRA_20040403113b.jpg

Background info on the Valentine tank:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine_tank

Apparently these and other tanks were built in the Darlaston area and at Washwood Heath, Birmingham, by Metro Cammell. They used them to test the Duplex Drive, including in exercises off the south coast of England, but did not use them for this on D-Day because they would have had to come onto the beach with their gun pointing to the rear until the flotation curtain was lowered – not a very safe option!

They used Sherman tanks instead because of the short gun, and a lot of men died in the Shermans, sadly. The tall tank periscope which was essential for navigation at sea due to the height of the raised curtain was designed and built by the late H. F. G. ‘Fred’ Archenhold, who escaped Nazi Germany before the war, subsequently working for companies in Birmingham and Walsall, and latterly becoming a businessman in Aldridge. His family ran a remarkable public astronomical observatory in Treptow Park in what was later East Berlin, and were friends with Einstein.

Anyway, hope this is of interest.

Cheers,

Stuart

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44 Responses to Tanking along…

  1. Jim says:

    Just a thought but is it logical to assume training for beach landings might take place in a sand quarry?

    With Whittington barracks only six miles away could the tanks have been part of the build up to the Normandy landings I’ve read the barracks were under U.S. control during WW2. Were U.S. tank crews training to negotiate things like tank traps in sandy conditions prior to the invasion?

    • Highly, highly unlikely.

      Hopwas was an infantry barracks – it hadn’t got space for large amounts of such vehicles, really. What it did have, however, was Whittington Heath and woods, stretching from Jerry’s lane eastwards to the tame. Plenty of large, sandy quarries there, even then. The woods and Devils’ Dressing Room would have provided plenty of varied terrain should it be needed. Most of the site is still in MOD ownership and leased to tenant farmers.

      Best wishes

      Bob

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi JIm
    I have sent Bob some interesting photos from Bovington and elsewhere, and reference to other documents which may help…..ish!
    cheers
    David Evans

    • Can we think logically about this for a bit?

      You’ve sent me quite a bit of material over the last few days, mainly pictures of bridging tanks. There’s nothing to even link them to the Brownhills area, and any suggestion of such is pure speculation with no factual grounding.

      As I said to you a couple of days ago, Wellman Owen have their place in this production well known and well defined. Any vehicle testing for them went on at land near Moxley – no shortage of sand pits and slag heaps there on their doorstep – or at Deepfields/Millfields near Bilston. Remember, the primary designers and constructors of this technology were based there, and did huge postwar trade as Vickers Bridging, latterly Alvis. Documentary and first person evidence of vehicles being tested on the rugged, pitted ground behind what became Thompson Chassis is well known. Bear in mind also that Rolls Royce were neighbours, too. The site was adjacent to a mainline railway, with sidings for easy transport south.

      These were huge vehicles with massive weights to carry. Getting them to Shire Oak – either under their own power or on lorries – would have been fraught with difficulty. It would have consumed huge amounts of diesel in a time when, nearing the endgame of the war, we were short of it. We’re to imagine that these hulking great vehicles came to a little dot of a quarry – no bigger than a field, about an acre, for testing. This field appears to have no workshop support and no visible storage. Further, these are bridging vehicles. If you want to test them, you surely test them where there’s something to be bridged?

      Further, these were highly secretive machines we’d be keen to hide. There are no tales of vehicles thundering through the area undercover. And there would be; people would talk after the war, just as they’ve talked aout Wellman Owen and the Spitfire production. This would be the stuff of legend.. Would the authorities really run the risk of exhibiting these hulks through major population centres, passing other far more appropriate sites on the way? Just can’t see it. There’s no evidence of tight security, and I’ve never heard anyone talking about there being any. People remember out-of-the-ordinary stuff, generally. Suppose one broke down. How would they retrieve it? When you test vehicles like this you need technicians, mechanics, drivers and labourers. You need whole kits of spare parts and a handy workshop to fix or modify things. I can’t see any evidence of that.

      I was hoping for a wider response to this one, but perhaps it’ll stay as a legend. I’m still very, very open minded, but we need to think really logically about the whys, wherefores and logistics. If they used a site here, there had to be a reason.

      Please take on board that I’m not denying anything anyone has said, but I’m trying to see it from a historical proof point of view. I want to try and get answers to the mystery if possible. In this respect fact is critical.

      All of this is why local history is so much fun. Out there, somewhere, someone has the key to this. Let’s see if we can find them.

      Best wishes

      Bob

  3. Jim says:

    Hi David
    I did find a WW2 9mm pistol cartridge of Canadian origin while metal detecting on a sand pit in brownhills but that was at the sand pit up towards Chasewater on the Anglesey branch canal sand pits and quarries must have been a favorite spot for training during the war.

    • They may well have been, but also, many were used as holding yards for military scrap after the war. Several local businessmen built empires on war scrap, so I probably think that may also be a possible origin. If it had been used for training, surely there’d be lots of bullets?

      Just a thought.

      Best wishes

      Bob

  4. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    short of a verifiable document this may be impossible to sort out
    …..but, why, I wonder, did this sandpit, alone among all the others nearby, become known as The Tank Traps by the youngsters?

    Good fun, and one to peruse whilst whittling, I think!

    regards
    David Evans

    • Hi David.

      Well, yes and no. I tend to think that testimonies from several folk to the same general thing are as good. Remember, of course, that I’m not saying what did and didn’t happen, and very rarely do. I look at the balance of submissions and reflect on the impression given. Woolly? Certainly, but I think it’s the best we’ll get in the circumstances.

      You see, I’ve only ever heard you call the area the ‘Tank traps’ – so that bit, in at the public record, is new. That’s a pointer, so I’m interested where it came from and how the etymology developed. The fact that the term was used implied a wider knowledge among the kids of the time than seems to have been represented so far. What was it known as in the early stages of the war?

      It’s immense fun and I love all the contributions. I love seeing what people have to say. Just think of me as a particularly hard-to-please librarian.

      I’m whittling a new bike. I’ll let you know how I get on.

      Best wishes

      Bob

  5. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    just checked with my cousin.. he who Caz described as being “cute”..knew the site as the Tank Traps..but never went there.
    Can you please whittle me a lap top that can spell.. and not make rude noises at me!
    its done it again!

    kind regards
    David

    • Harry says:

      Hi Dave, just come across your inquiries regarding tank testing at Shire Oaks quarry. I was a quarry worker for 20 years at Shire Oaks quarry and unfortunately I have never had the stories about tank usage. There was a gentleman Horace Taylor who worked at the quarry from a very young age as a boy of about 14 years old and worked there for the rest of his working life which I remember was around 80 years old, Horace used to tell me a great deal about the quarry from when he first started as a young boy things like how the lorries was loading by hand shovel and how the machinery was mainly driven by steam power. But Horace never mentioned anything about tanks within the quarry. I do have a booklet of Horace’s life story when Hovringham Gravel done a life story on Horace for his many years of service.

      When we were kids in the 60s we used to play in an area called the Fox covey which was added wooded area and also it used to be an Army storage place and probably some type of firing range, we know this to be true because as Kids we used to go digging for what bullets some spent and others still alive we know mortar shells and grenades had been found in this area and also we believed there were tank tracks all over this area.
      I think most of the area has now gone to the development, it was at the top of Castle Road Walsall Wood, me and my mates have very good memories all that area and if there were tanks it would have been there.
      Hope this helps you. Harry.

  6. Jim says:

    Is there a home guard connection here could this have been them perfecting the art of constructing tank traps or taking lessons in a Bren gun carrier this kind of training seems far more likely than some kind of miniature proving ground.
    Everyone’s probably read the link below but it mentions the Bren gun carriers the home guard Whittington barracks etc an interesting little window into the goings on in the area at that time.

    http://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/D5ReminiscencesDstaffshg.htm

  7. Hi Jim

    That’s an interesting and highly possible scenario, really hadn’t thought of that. This bears investigation. While this land was being used, someone must have been getting paid for it, and I bet the UDC knew. They seem to have poked their noses into everything 😉

    Thanks for the great link, too. Nice one.

    Cheers

    Bob

  8. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I wonder if the now-demolished transport cafe next to the site was in existence at the time…..? I think Whittington was a US Army base, linked with Pheasey Farm, from 1942 to 45).US Army 10th Replacement Depot..sort of recycling of wounded soldiers for returning to front line duties, I think..Certainly included Pioneers Corps training and Ordnance Bomb disposal.
    Any documents, Home Guard..or Air Raid Warden diaries ?
    Thanks for your tenacity, Jim!
    Kind regards
    David Evans

  9. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Thanks to Jim’s tencaity….there is a very interesting website;staffshomeguard.co..and the sections which refer especially toWalsall Wood F Company, Brownhills C company of the 32nd Aldridge Battalion are fascinating..names, places, dates..and reference to some exercises ( yes, tanks mentioned ( obliquely)) and Shire Oak Platoon, summer exercise 1941…a parade in mass 29 Dec 1940 on Walsall Wood Football Club ground..thence parading around Shire Oak…the involvement of Air Raid Wardens, Police force etc
    There is mention of Tank Torpedo and Spigot training…………..mounting strong points and machine-gun poats on the fern covered slopes of the Old Fort, Stonnall………and well-known local Walsall Wood famileis’ names.Worth reading!
    …” your name will be in the book. Vot is your name?”….sadly, no Mainwaring. Deep joy

    regards
    David Evans

  10. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    the Home Guard, locally, included men ( and women) who were working in “Reserved Occupations”..sometimes as Bevin Boys,who were conscripted to work in these occupations. This including working down the Coppy Pit, for example, or in the Streetly Works or in the Munitions Works at Witton. These good folk would then become the Home Guard ..on night exercises..or as Air Raid Wardens…not quite the Dads’ Army as seen on TV.
    BUT..a bit but here..they did not talk about their “extra mural” activities..and their wives and families knew not to ask them!
    I fear that unless detailed local military records still exist, or become made publically available after a set time the “Tank Traps” full wartime history may be lost.
    But I hope that there are readers who may offer their own contributions.
    cheers
    David

    • Hi David

      With respect, I think almost everyone here is well aware of how the home guard worked. The idea that they were all hush-hush secret squirrels isn’t borne out by the huge amount of published coverage in the media over the years – a cursory search for ‘Home Guard’ on Amazon turns up enough books and memoirs of the service to keep a small army entertained for months. They may well have been discrete at the time, but afterwards they certainly opened up. I personally listened to memories of more than a few ex members years ago.

      There’s a bit of a self contradiction in what you’re saying, however. Consider this carefully.

      You assert that ‘The Tank Traps’ was in common use as a name for the quarry amongst kids of the area at the time. If that is indeed the case, then those kids must have known tank traps were being made/used/practised there. The term ‘tank trap’ is an adult, military term, which must have taken hold after Len Jones went off to war. Something very definate and very resonant with local children must have happened to cause widespread adoption of the term within a short period – maybe 2-3 years. So if it did happen, someone clearly did talk about it for the name to become adopted.

      That’s why the etymology and demonstrated use of the name could be considered useful. So far, you’re the only personI’ve ever heard use the term and I’d love anyone else who new the Location by this name to get in contact.

      This doesn’t have to be about documentation, but we need more voices.

      Best wishes

      Bob

  11. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    one voice from yesterday’s social visit to a very old lady friend in Walsall Wood. She calls the area the Tank Traps..her husband was a Bevin Boy and also in Home Guard but.. did not talk about what he did at the time…or ever since then, at least, not to me! “You didn’t ask in those days, David..and you didn’t say!”
    = ears boxed…!
    regards
    David ( still smarting a bit )

    • Hi David

      You didn’t think to ask her why she called it the tank traps?

      Like I say, the etymology is key here. At the moment, it’s not making sense.

      Best wishes

      Bob

  12. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    yes, I did. It was because I asked that question..that I got
    them boxed!……I have just mailed you some more info from another voice.
    best wishes
    David

  13. Hi David.

    Without a name, it’s just another statement. The subject is clearly OK with email so why noy put her on to the blog?

    The geography on that is very shaky, too, if you look at the aerials on Google Earth.

    I know your position, I’m after independent voices. Just saying ‘This anonymous, uncontactabe person agrees with me’ is not really adding additional material.

    There must be someone out there reading this who knows more. Like many enquiries here, it’ll get developed over time as folk search for information.

    Cheers

    Bob

  14. David Oakley says:

    I lived at number 161 Salters Road in the 1930’s and 1940’s (Born 1931), well before the Castlefort Estate was built and the common land stretched from Salters Road to Holly Lane, or Lovers Lane as it was often called. From my bedroom window I could see across the common to Holly Lane and beyond. On the north side of Holly Lane, about midway down the lane was a rough area of land with peaks and troughs of sand and gravel, plentifully populated with gorse bushes, the Tank Traps Or “Tankies”, to use our youthful expression. I could see and hear the tanks at intervals on this land. The usage by the tanks was irregular and for most of the time, in season, we roamed this land, undisturbed, seeking linnet’s nests in the gorse. From this land a cart track led up the hill, past a derelict house on the skyline, known to us kids as the “haunted house”. A good, wide track ran from the top of the hill, down to the Chester Road which was the entrance and egress for the tanks. There was a gate leading on to the site at the Holly Lane end but this was always padlocked. Tanks never used this entrance. Holly lane was unmade and often muddy at the time with water draining down from the higher levels. I left Walsall Wood in 1951 and now live in Scarborough, but anyone from the Salters Road/Castle Road area over 75 would have similar memories. Kind regards, David Oakley.

    • Hi David.

      That’s brilliant, and exactly the kind on thing I’m after. When was this, during the war? Do you know what the tanks were, or where they came from? Were they operated by military people or civvies? What did your parents say, if anything?

      Yours is the kind of eyewitness testimony that helps build a picture of local history, and I’m very grateful for it. Any further information you may hav is welcome. Do you remember the Fox Covey storage yard?

      Thank you for your help, and if there’s anything you’d like to see answered or raised here, please don’t hesitate to ask.

      Cheers, and huge thanks,

      Bob

  15. David Evans says:

    Hi David Oakley
    splendid…..thanks a million. Do you remember the skylarks in the bullrushes on the common?
    best wishes
    David Evans

  16. David Oakley says:

    Hi David, Yes, I well remember the skylarks on the common. I would spend hours listening to the song, waiting for them to descend to earth then hastening to the spot, hoping to find the nest. Never did. One advantage in leaving Walsall Wood so early in life is it leaves one’s early memories stuck in a timewarp. I can close my eyes and picture any part of Walall Wood as it was in the ’30’s and ’40’s and could probably name most of the high Street shops and place them in order, from Lancaster’s the first shop on the corner of High Street/Beechtree Road to Ecob’s the chemist, adjacent to the canal bridge, leaving just Albert McGuires orchard on the corner of the other end of Beechtree Road. As they say, you can take the boy out of Walsall Wood but you can’t take Walsall Wood out of the boy !! Best wishes. David Oakley.

  17. David Evans says:

    Hi David
    Walsall Wood has many things to be proud of. indeed. People’s generosity especially. Can you remember who sold glass nearby?
    best wishes and my regards to Jimmy Saville next time to see him you know where!
    David Evans

  18. David Oakley says:

    Hi David
    Memory -wise. I have visited all the places in Walsall Wood where glass may have been sold but have only come up with two. One was Mr. Edwards on the Lichfield Road, near Street’s Corner who did operate as a glazier. Old Mr. Edwards was father to Jim Edwards who went as a missionary, reportedly to the Solomon Isles and returned much later in life as Canon Edwards to assist at St. John’s Parish Church. The other was Billy Evans, the local window cleaner who would call round, measure your window, get the glass and do the full re-glazing job. Billy’s wife gave birth to a son, Keith, who, if memory serves me right, had the first “high pram” seen in the village. What strange snippets of information we hold in our memories !!
    Jimmy Saville’s flat is not too far away. He lives at the very end of the Esplanade, with a magnificent view taking in The whole of South Bay and the harbour and extending to Filey Brigg in the South. Last I heard, he was in Leeds Infirmary with a bout of pneumonia, probably out and about again by now. He has been an excellent supporter of many Scarborough charity efforts. We all wish him well.
    David Oakley.

  19. David Oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks for your kind comments regarding my email and due to the present interest in the Tank Traps I wish I could be of more help, but there is nothing further that I remember. Probably that is because it was such a low-key event at the time. All the local people knew that tanks practised up there at intervals but there was a compete absence of curiousity, even among us kids. We never went up there when we heard the tanks, in any case, the site was shielded from the lane by a high hawthorn edge. My own view from the bedroom window was probably the best view to be had. We saw many tanks during the war – long convoys of tanks and other military vehicles passed along the A461 at quite regular intervals. This lack of real interest at the time
    in what was going on in Holly Lane probably accounts for the paucity of information available now, So many things which in retrospect would appear to have been of great interest at the time hardly raised a ripple. Take enemy prisoners of war, for instance, Italian prisoners-of -war were allowed great freedom and even provided with bikes ! So long as they were back in the hostel for 10pm and wore their blouses with the round distinctive patches, things were OK. Even German POW’s in working parties, erecting prefabs,
    etc.,had the liberty to chat with the villagers and could accept cigarettes or other little gifts. I never saw any conspicuous security measures and made a particular friend of one German POW, Heinrich by name, who made a very nice carved wooden cigarette holder for my father in gratitude for the gift of a couple of woodbines, Any initial hatred for the enemy seemed to disappear as the war turned more and more in favour of the Allies.
    As regards the Fox Covey Storage Yard, This “foxed” me a little as I remember the Fox Covey as a small coppice of trees on the Eastern side of Castle Road, nearly opposite to Holly Lane. Just right for climbing. Strangely, enough, bombs were dropped nearby and us kids were there, early next morning after the raid, looking for shrapnel.
    David Oakley.

  20. David Evans says:

    Hi David
    many thanks for your contribution. It is wonderful. Did you go flying your kite up on the common? Where were the POWs at the time? Do you remember the night of the big air raid on the brickworks , at all? I would love to know more..please.
    If you search “David Evans” on this blog you will surely recognise some of the faces in the photos in the pages there..Walsall Wood Methodist Church members…Let Us Entertain you..
    In my mis-spent youth the Fox Covey yielded things “what went bang”..if you got your technique right..so I believe.
    I knew Jim a long time ago. He is a very kind man, as you say.
    Kind regards
    David Evans

    • David Oakley says:

      Hi David,
      Have looked at the photo of the concert party from the “Prims” and although a little before my time I think I recognise a young Bill Evans on the left with possibly his wife or future wife in front of him. I also think I recognise Cyril Taylor on the back row. I know Bill still did a little concert work in the ’30’s as I heard him recite a poem called “The jellyfish” at a concert in the Church Hall. I well remember the Redcaps Jazz band, later called the Red Coronets and saw them win a contest on the football ground with a sparkling performance and a grand finale based on the song “Red sails in the sunset” in which members formed themselves into the shape of a ship, complete with superstructure, while a wide roll of white canvas unrolled around them to complete the effect. They originally practiced in Holly Lane in Bowkers field, who, I think were active supporters of the band. Other local bands were The Black Aces. Norton Dandies and the Militaires. Band instruments were known locally as “Bazooka’s” but I think the correct term should have been “Kazoo’s.
      There was nearly always a good wind “up the common” for kite flying and most of the Italian POW’s worked on local farms during the day went out and about in the evening and returned to an hostel in Lynn in the evening, Although many were moved to a camp in Sherrifhales, Shifnal, later in the war.. I made firm friends with four of them and corresponded with them for a time after repatriation, but then lost touch once they were re-established with family and friends.
      Kind regards
      David Oakley.

  21. David Evans says:

    Hi David
    Many thanks for your kind notes. I remember Bowkers field well . Was their farm the haunted house? I never knew. I have sent Bob a “fun quiz” that I recently made..The Wood, its people and places. Perhaps if you send him an e-mail he can send you a copy. I would guess you can add a few more good questions !
    Was the POW hostel along Lynn Lane..the wooden hut?
    If you search “Hermann” on this blog you may be interested to read about one big bomb being discovered long after the end of the war. You would have had lots of shrapnel from that one if it had gone off!
    Kind regards
    David Evans.

  22. Tina Hill says:

    Hi Bob,
    I have read this thread with some interest. My Nan an Granddad, lived halfway up Shire Oaks, and as a child I vaguely remember them talking about the tanks. There garden back on to where they used to have the tanks. Also, My granddad work in the pit, and was in the home guard. I didn’t know this until I was given a box of old photos and documents after my Nan died. I found my Granddads home guard card.

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  24. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I believe the Italian risoner of War camp was near Shenstone..possibly near to the South Staffs Transport Depot as you arrive from Lynn. There were some twenty Nissen huts according to my source, my sister in law ,who used to cycle near there during the war. I wonder if any other readers have memories of this camp, or of the Italian men woho worked on farms locally….perhaps members of the Italian community locally or nationally.
    cheers
    David Evans

  25. David Evans says:

    Ho Bob
    just read Gordon Mycock’s Memores of Old Stonnall..the POW camp was half way along the road to Shenstone, opposite Lynn Nurseries. I remember there being a big hut there, surrounded by trees, but did not suspect that this had been a POW camp. Thanks to Gordon’s memories we can confirm the air-raid at Sandhills, too!
    cheers
    David Evans

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  27. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Lynn and Stonnall Conservation and Historical Society’s recent book, “Discovering Stonnall” a 240 page publication, has one of its twelve chapters devoted to locals’ memories. One contributor, Jim Mycock, includes this telling sentence( page 92);-
    “They tested tanks in the war on the Sandpits opposite Fishpond wood through to Holly Lane”
    cheers
    David

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  29. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Mr Harry Davenhill kindly added a comment which relates to this topic..its over in quiz 1, and is dated September 2, 2013
    a big thankyou to Harry for this additional information
    kind regards
    David

  30. Pedro says:

    The question of Italian POWs was further explored in the December 2015 article “going out for an Italian” here….

    http://brownhillsbob.com/2015/12/14/going-out-for-an-italian/

    As seen in this article the Italians were not actually POWs, and the camp at Lynn was a hostel.

    Remarkable to me in the comments by the David’s is just how much of a shock was to come afterwards concerning Jimmy Saville.

  31. Bowk says:

    Hi Bob
    Probably a bit late now with this post (new to your fine blog)but wanted to let you know that my grandfather George Bowker spent many hours telling me stories about Holly Lane and the Tank field.He was born and bred in the cottage in Holly lane when there were just four or five houses in the lane and he told me that they had used to test the tanks in the field off the Chester road and that he and his brother Fred used to watch them from there bedroom window.Unfortunatly when I was told all these snippets of information I never thought to tape the many conversations we had together so now they are just hearsay I suppose but with your blog and the many interesting people that take the time to put information on this here blog my grandfather is still with me and some of the stories he has told me ring true with what your regular contributors write.So to you and the army of Bobs Bloggers many thanks and keep up the good work

    • david oakley says:

      I remember the Bowkers living in Holly lane in the 1930’s/40’s. The house was virtually adjoining the tank testing ground, separated only by a large field by the house which we called ‘Bowkers Field’. During the summer months ( jazz band time), the Walsall Wood Jazz Band, the Red Coronets, used to practice on this field (marching and carnival manoeuvres). When the wind was in the right direction, the sound of the Kazoos and drums would drift across to Salters Road to my bedroom. They lulled me to sleep, more than once. I still remember Mrs, Bowker very clearly. Sincere best wishes to the family.

  32. Bowk says:

    Hi Bob
    Just remembered can anyone remember, over at the Fox Covey all the bullets that as a young lad would dig up we also found other ordinance but never knew what they were people would dig up the bullets and take them for scrap.was the covey a ammo dump? Most of the bullets were found around the ash track which when I come to think of it,it was layed out quite regimental like.Now I think all has gone it is now stables

  33. Clive says:

    Hello Bowk. Myself and a mate back in the 60s used to dig up the spent bullets and take them to the scrap yard, had some fun at the Fox Covey, we also drank the water from the spring where the water used to well out of the ground.

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