Had a thought-provoking article from David Evans last week. Can anyone help?
The blessing of a chat over a cup of tea with a good friend, perhaps?
In one of the recent blogs, Guard of Honour, which appeared on November 15, a reader asked about the soldiers in the photo which accompanied his letter. Local readers may be interested to go to the following site:
In particular, the article written by Lieutenant W. Oakley, The Ground We Defend, which refers to Walsall Wood Home Guard.
Amazingly he gives some of the names of the 32nd battalions detachment in Walsall Wood; Arblaster, Mycock, Smith. Mr George Mycock was the president of Walsall Wood Football Club, ‘The Prims’ at the time, I believe. Mr Smith, officer in charge, was the local chemist whose shop was in Walsall Wood High Street, now the Spar and Post Office. Mention is made in the article of training at two strong points, Castle Fort and Knaves Castle, which should be of interest to locals here and in Stonnall History Group, perhaps. There is also mention of Tom King the highwayman from long ago, and a certain Hostelry used by that gentleman, and also frequented by the local Home Guard during the war! There is mention made of where the local detachment paraded…on the Football Pitch… And one particular parade and march, up the Castles, along Chester Road and back down Lichfield Road to the Football pitch. This may be the time and place of the Guard of Honour photo, if it was taken in Walsall Wood at all.
However, my dear old lady friend, whose husband, a Bevin Boy conscripted to work as a fireman in the Coppy Pit, was not able to identify any of the soldiers in the photo or its location. Perhaps the sergeant was leading an Aldridge squad in a combined exercise.
During the conversation a brief comment was made that the local Walsall Wood squad was only small, that they met in the Boot pub on a weekly basis, and that they went for shooting practice, up the Castles.
One mention in Lieutenant Oakley’s article confirms one other local exercise where the Home Guard and the Civil Defence (ARP) were engaged in a joint exercise. One volunteer ‘casualty’, a very corpulent local optician, Bill Southron, was told he would have to carry himself on the stretcher, by two lesser mortals!
The exercise was completed and a good breakfast was provided by the Wood’s Home Guard, with more than a little help from a well-known wholesale grocer at the time. No records, as far as I know, were kept of the liquid consumption by patrolling soldiers passing the Irish Harp, or the Shire Oak pub, or the Boot Inn. I expect the local residents kept their heads well down in their Anderson shelters at these times. Walsall Wood’s noble traditions!
I hope that this information will be helpful, and that it will bring to light further information in due course, from other interested readers. I recommend readers to take a while and read the fascinating details in the web site mentioned above. The photos at the top of this note are from that site and maybe, just maybe, someone will recognise the soldier with the machine-gun.
David Evans, November 2011