The Cannon made in Walsall Wood

Here on the Brownhills Blog, things are often, well, circular. As time goes by, stuff becomes interlinked, and the interconnections between stories, the people who relate them, and their subjects all become evident. It’s one of the things I love about doing this – a sort of local history relativity.

On Sunday last, I ran the last episode of the St. John’s School log books, which mentioned Jim Edwards, a local theologian and cleric with a remarkable story. As the comments on the article expanded, it became clear this was no ordinary parish churchman, but a fellow of considerable stature who was well travelled and also experienced in war.

Thankfully, the Walsall Wood contingent sprang to action, and I discovered that the Canon’s history has been touched on before.

In January last, local lady Jenny Langford – who had previously written beautifully about The Fold and her memories there – supplied a booklet on the history of St. John’s Church in Walsall Wood, which contained a picture of Jim; Jenny has contributed her memories of the man, as well as other great memories of the period which I include below. Jenny talks about her father as stand-in organist at St, Micheal’s in Caldmore, and reader  BillyTheBez helped with the story of the stuck football at that church earlier in the year.

David Evans spotted Jim’s picture in that wonderful book ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale, and wrote up Jim Edward’s wartime history.

Thanks to David, Jenny, and to Peter Cutler too, who also as turned up so good stuff for later. A wonderful bit of collaborative history.

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Cannon Jim Edwards was a Walsall Wood man with quite a story. Image from ‘The Parish Church of Walsall Wood – A Short History’.

David Evans wrote:

Canon Jim Edwards in World War One.

James Edwards enlisted into the Royal Army Medical Corps, in Nuneaton, on 7th of September 1914. He was one of  three Walsall Wood men who enrolled into the Royal Medical Corps who survived the war. The others were F. Cooke and T. Swain (source, the Roll of Honour book, 1914-1918, Walsall and District).

The military records show that Rev. Edwards, service number 31944 was assigned to the Royal Engineers,  and sailed aboard the HT Alaunia from Devonport on 1th July 1915 and disembarked at Suvla on 5th August 1915.

This was the first landings of the awful Dardanelles campaign served there as a ‘water bearer/carrier’ in a field ambulance, and was attached to the 31st company Royal Engineers. This translates as being an unarmed but uniformed medic, issued with a water bottle and pack of bandages, who tended wounded soldiers – under enemy fire and out in the open.

He  was reassigned from the Dardanelles conflict and sailed aboard the H.T. ‘Crown of Aragon’ bound for Salonika and the Macedonia campaign, where, in this new field of conflict, he performed the same dreadful and highly dangerous tasks.

He contracted fever and malaria, and  so was transferred ‘compulsorily’ away from the front lines and from the deadly enemy fire, and was given new duties when he became a sapper in the 85th company of the Royal Engineers, service number 354081, but still in this Salonika conflict.

He returned to England and left the Army in 1919 .

Sources:

Army records, ‘The Roll of the Great War’ book.

David Evans, September 2013

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This is a salutary lesson: always check the books, even if you think you know them. I never would have spotted this great image. Thanks to David Evans for spotting it. From ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.

Jenny Langford wrote:

Hi Bob,

I have been speaking to David Evans over the last two days and he suggested I write to you with some of my memories/comments. Although I note that since we spoke, a lot more has appeared on the blog. So…  here goes!

Father Jim:

I knew Father Jim quite well in my younger days. This was after his retirement, on his return from the diocese of Melanesia in The Solomon Isles.

He became a Canon of Lichfield Cathedral and was also assistant vicar of Walsall Wood. A lowly position for one with such a title, but he was still a Walsall Wood boy, known by all at St John’s with great affection, as Father Jim.

He once told me of his memory of being on a boat in Melanesia, escaping from a Japanese air raid, when a pregnant local woman went into labour. Because of his calling, I don’t think he was very familiar with the female form and child birth!

He was head of The Theological College out there but I don’t know exactly where it was.

I was also told, that he became a priest after serving in the First World War in Gallipoli. The dreadful suffering and carnage he was involved with as a soldier, made him want to try and do some good in the world after the war was over.

Evacuees:

My parents who were childless until 1944, not by choice I add, had two evacuees from Liverpool living with them for some time during the war. Their names were Joseph and Alfred Taft, better known as Joey and Alfie.

They were of course Roman Catholics. I understand that if you were childless, you had to have a good reason not to take in refugees – but my parents had no problem with this. I understand that they only left our house when my mother was expecting me!

I found it interesting reading about the evacuees at the school.

My uncle Alf, my father’s younger brother and also first cousin of May Langford mentioned in the Blog, used to take Joey and Alfie to the Roman Catholic Church in Brownhills for Sunday Services.

Dad was a Church of England church organist and would have been otherwise occupied on Sunday. 

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St. Micheal’s, Caldmore. Scene of a rather unfortunate but remarkable footballing faux pas. Image by BillyTheBez.

Mr. Garner: 

My father had been a pupil at St John’s school in Walsall Wood and he often spoke of Mr. Garner, although I can’t remember anything specific he said. Just that his name is very familiar to me now, all these years later.

Another point of interest maybe ?

My father worked at GEC in Birmingham during the war and was thus exempt from military service, although he did belong to the local Fire Service during this time. His job was something to do with making, or testing, parts for Spitfire planes.

He happened to be the church organist at Walsall Wood church at the time. However, when the organist from Rushall Parish church was called up, he moved there – on one condition.

This was that if their organist survived the war and returned home, he would have to leave.

Fortunately, Jack Darrell, the man in question survived the war and came home and my Dad did leave and moved to St. Michael’s in Caldmore, Walsall.

When Jack died many years later, my father was the recipient of all, or most of his organ music, some of which I think is still in my possession.

Keep up the good work, like many others I do enjoy reading the blog.

Kind Regards,

Jenny Langford

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7 Responses to The Cannon made in Walsall Wood

  1. Pedro says:

    In the comments for “A school united in war and in peace” I discovered a link to an interesting story concerning the Canon which might be worth repeating…

    http://anglicanhistory.org/oceania/cpmorehouse1945.html

    Also I hope Dave Eddy Edwards does not mind me repeating his extra information concerning his distant relative…

    Thanks Pedro for a great article on Canon Jim who was a distant relative of mine (2nd cousin 2x removed) known in the family as “uncle Jim”
    He had close ties with the Ebenezer Methodist Chapel in Walsall Wood as his father, also James Edwards and his mother the former Emma Bomber were prominent members.

    Born in Walsall Wood he was a carpenter in his youth and after WW1 became a Curate and was at Holy Trinity, Ilkeston 1924 to 28 and then at Marske in Cleveland 1928 to 33.
    In 1933 he joined the Melanesian mission and became assistant warden at Selwyn College in Siota in Melanesia. In 1934 he was sent to Makato open a school to train the youth of the villages in the ministry.
    He worked many places in the Soloman Isles inc Siota, Tobalia, Maka, Maravovo, and Taroaniara. He also worked in Australia during the Pacific War and in 1943 worked informally as chaplain on USA war ships in Soloman Isles.
    1948 to 1957 he returned to Siota as warden of the College of St Peter. He was made Canon of Melanesia in 1956 and returned to Walsall Wood as curate from 1957 to 1964.
    Some life…..
    Dave Eddy Edwards

    • Pedro says:

      Should also give many thanks to Jenny for her time and information.

      • David Oakley says:

        Jennie Langford mentions the local R,C. evacuees from Liverpool and the kindness and courtesy shown to them by villagers in assisting them to worship at their own church, regardless of their own faith. Although there were still quite deep divisions, theologically, between C. of E, and R.C., at the higher levels, these did not seem to percolate down to the ordinary worshipper. Two examples that I well remember, An Elder of the Christian Brethren, who had spent some hours of his life in the pulpit, condemning the Church of Rome, received a Roman Catholic evacuee. She was still there throughout the war and apart from some vigorous dogmatic dialogue with the local priest, from time to time, by the householder. in the girls absence, of course, she remained, a happy and contented little girl. Ernie and Edie Bullock, staunch Methodists, who photo’s have appeared on the blog, had a R.C. evacuee, Ena Shaw, who received as much love and attention as their own two daughters.
        The fighting came later, no, nothing to do with religion, but when young males are introduced into a closed community as Walsall Wood was, at the time, a pecking order must be established, and the leading males from both communities ‘slogged it out’, both in the playground and at other venues. The world ‘FIGHT’ !! rang out and the two combatants could be seen at the centre of the milling crowd, with supporters from both sides giving vocal encouragement. No great harm was done, nosebleeds and a black eye, or two was generally the token damage. The conqueror would move up a notch in the pecking order, and the conquered would slip just a little bit, and peace would be restored. As a whole, the three communities, Walsall Woodians, Liverpudlians and the Eastenders, got on quite well and friendships were made that lasted well after the war ended.
        Finally, going back to Walsall Wood Church School. The Infants school lay just behind the Junior School, with a teacher teaching the seven year olds in 1938, named Miss Bramham. I was a member of that class when Miss Bramham became Mrs Alf Langford, setting all the little girls hearts fluttering. I strongly suspect that Alf Langford was later to become the uncle of Jennie, who she mentions in this most enjoyable and informative piece for which I offer my own thanks.

  2. Edwina says:

    Let’s hope they put some decent people in there and not make it yet another “no go” area like one of our local “areas” …

  3. Pingback: The displaced | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  4. Jeannie Batchelor says:

    I think the brownie on the far left may be me. I remember canon Jim with great fondness. He had a huge influence on me and on my Christian faith. He taught regularly in my Sunday school, where he called me ‘chatterbox’ I also went to St John’s school where he came to give us our scripture lessons. I remember someone asking about Heaven, and canon Jim asked us. He chose me to answer. I said ‘heaven is where God is’ I remember he smiled. He later supported my desire to be confermed earlier than the 12 years required. I was. I remember visiting him regularly as he became ill. He was very special

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