Explosive stuff


A great Second World War poster from the National Archives.

There’s a discussion currently ongoing in the background between contributors the the Brownhills blog about our area during wartime, and the kind of effect the Second World War had on Brownhills and the wider area as a whole – we’re interested primarily in what people remember, or stories they were told about air raids in the locality.

We know there are lots of recollections, many of which may have now, in the space of the  70-odd years between the raids themselves and their re-telling, become foggy. We know there are some circulating legends which may have been perhaps gilded a little over time in the transmission.

I’ve featured some of the recollections here – but I’ve always thought there must me loads more out there, but it can be hard to tell fact from fiction with so little existing evidence.

Right now, we’re not bothered about that. What we’d like is for readers to comment about what the experienced, or what they were told by parents and grandparents about what bombs fell, and where.

Any contributions welcome, but particularly from the Brownhills – Burntwood – Norton – Pelsall – Aldridge -Walsall Wood area please.

Do you have any souvenirs of the raids, collected at the time – maybe shrapnel or whatever. Were your forefathers involved in the Air Raid Patrol or maybe reparations?

To take this further, I’m also fielding this to local historians and archivists (Hello, Paul!) – are there any trustworthy, official records held anywhere of air raid bombs that fell/damage caused or repairs made? I realise they may be disparate. I wonder, for instance, did Birmingham Canal Navigations or the Urban District Council keep records of bomb damage and repairs needed? If so, do these records still exist?

The reason I ask is because the Second World War is now slipping out of living memory, and like the First, it has its own mythology and legend culture that seems beyond public analysis.

To question received narrative on the wars is often tantamount to disrespect – but I’d like to go beyond that and I’d like us to be able to look at this stuff plainly and inquisitively.


Mrs. Parsley and co. ensured Brownhills learned how to survive the war on rations. Image from David Evans, who spotted it in an Alton Douglas book – ‘The Black Country at War’.

I’ll use the example of the Christmas Truce football match in the Great War: Anyone would think from media attention in recent years that the whole conflict was a football match bracketed by two bits of unpleasantness either side. This was a momentous event, but the truce is taking on, thanks to very sentimental media focus, a life all of it’s own. Lots of people now feel they are connected with what was a very small event involving a tiny number of soldiers.

In short, this is now way beyond history and is becoming cultural folklore. Which is OK, because lots of historians are aware of that, and countering it gently where necessary.

This is normal, and part of the distortion of time, and culture, and memory; but I’m keen to see what we have for Brownhills and the local area for the Second World War before reference points are lost for good.

Please do comment with any stories you have of the air raids – and if you can, where you heard them. We’re all fascinated and would love to hear them.

Mail me if you’d rather: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

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24 Responses to Explosive stuff

  1. Once picked a bit anti aircraft shell in the Leighswood. Also there in a Foxhole in the wood, which had a number of .303 cases around it. I’m thinking homeguard training.

  2. Isobel Dams says:

    My father told me that an incendiary bomb fell onto the roof of the family home at 4 Pier Street, Brownhills. There was also a large ‘dip’in the field at the side of the house which I used to play in. I always wondered how it was made and it wasn’t until I visited World War 1 battle field sites that I saw the same shaped depressions made by shells. Could this have been made by a bomb? A little further afield, my mother remembers a bomb dropping in one of the fields at New Barns farm, Footherley and the glass from the windows on that side of the house being sucked out onto the ground below.

  3. Pedro says:

    Having had an email exchange with young David Evans I was keen to find information on the massive raid on Coventry that took place on the 14/15 November 1940. I was surprised, even with this scale of event, how accounts differ.

    Wikipedia gives a detailed description of the raid, and you have to acknowledge that the German bombers did a very effective job and fulfilled their intentions. The initial wave accurately dropped marker flares, the first wave of bombers dropped HE bombs knocking out utilities, and later waves dropped combinations of HE and incendiary bombs. The anti-aircraft defences shot down one aircraft.

    On the other hand a site from the BBC says the enemy aircraft dropped bombs indiscriminately, and the anti-aircraft fire kept the raiders at a great height from which accurate bombing was impossible

  4. Pedro says:

    Looking back to the “Bombs over Brownhills” it featured the third part of a tale by Greg Challis and his father, Bill.

    They had proposed to write a publication costing no more than £5.

    Seems to have died a death?

  5. Clive says:

    Back in the early 60s may dad was working on the building site down Pauls Coppice (oposite the Wheel Inn) at the time they were digging out the footings for the bunglows. I had popped down there to take my dad is sandwiches, and I remember the bomb it was quite small and just the finns and neck were left, so it must have gone off.

  6. Clive says:

    I should have said they dug a bomb out of the ground when digging the footings

  7. Andy Dennis says:

    Dad was a teenager when Coventry was, well, “Coventrated” and lived at the corner of Castle Street and Watling Street. He said they could see the fire from there.

    An aunt, who lived in Coventry at the time, said she and her mother spent the night on a bus somewhere outside the city. Myth has it that the powers-that-were deliberately did nothing to evacuate the city for fear of alerting the enemy that their code had been broken, but it is clear that some people escaped.

  8. Keith Bradbury says:

    I have some vague wartime memories being born in 1941 and being 4 years old when it ended.

    1. My Dad was a Home Guard and Air Raid Warden in Cannock, having done service in World War 1. He also organised dances for locally billeted American troops. 2. I remember seeing gliders being towed over our house. Quite a few. 3. I was taken down an Air Raid shelter as a ‘drill’. 4. My late then grown up sister who was in the WRNS says she saw a crashed aeroplane in the Rumer Hill region of Cannock. This is disputed by local buffs who examine air crash records but supported by another local who say his grandparents witnessed it too. I have argued that records may be faulty or lacking. 5. I remember VE Day celebrations when there were bonfires and bunting all over the place and dancing on top of the air raid shelters in Cannock town centre. 6. Finally I remember attending more than one victory street party.

    Keith Bradbury

    Sent from my iPad


  9. Robyn says:

    Walsall spitfires Walsall one and two. Both used as non combat roles.one no info i can find the other had a crash fixed and sold to Canada where it developed landing gear problems so eventually ended up being scrapped.
    Aldridge airfield Heliwells and the two surviving buildings are No1 hanger and the Battle head quarters which is hidden under weeds(would love to see it restored)

  10. Been talking to Dad this morning about this. He was only 7 when war broke out but he remembers standing at the bottom of the garden in Paddock Lane Aldridge, wondering what the hell was going on because he didn’t understand. We’re going to set aside a day during August for me to write down his memories but throwing one in for the meantime; he was sent to get a pint in a jug from the Red Lion in Station Road and as he walked down he saw what he thought might be the end of the world (bless) there was an enormous ball of light followed by the loudest noise he has heard up until then. Apparently a bomb had been dropped just off Gould Farm Lane neat the Old Irish Harp. He says it left a large crater and that the local council later filled it with refuse. He can’t remember what year this was but he was still very young.

  11. Pedro says:

    Andy refers to the Covenrty Blitz conspiracy….


    Whether or not it is believed it does show that the Germans were using a cerfisticated navigation system….

    “X-Gerät was used effectively in a series of raids known to the Germans as “Moonlight Sonata”, against Coventry, Wolverhampton and Birmingham. In the raid on Birmingham only KGr 100 was used, and British post-raid analysis showed that the vast majority of the bombs dropped were placed within 100 yards (91 m) of the midline of the ‘Weser’ beam, spread along it for a few hundred yards. This was the sort of accuracy that even daytime bombing could rarely achieve. A similar raid on Coventry with full support from other units dropping on their flares almost destroyed the city centre.


    So does this put paid to a myth that the Germans came up The A5 and used Chasewater as their main navigation aid? Chasewater being covered at night?


    • I’ll link to it later, but there’s a post in a fishing forum that says Chasewater was covered with tyres to prevent the reflection blah… blah… blah.

      The theory is great, until one realises that tyres don’t generally float.


  12. Andy Dennis says:

    A regards Chasewater, I would imagine, despite sophisticated direction and range finding technology air crews would also have used landmarks and, in a blacked-out townscape large bodies of water would have been especially useful – more so that the Watling Street.

    An uncle told me that one morning there were dead fish all over “The Pool” and that a bomb was the cause. I don’t buy the idea that bombs were frequently dropped on the reservoir, but one bomb on one night doesn’t seem so ridiculous. If it detonated under water the sound, blast, vibration, etc., would all have been muffled by the water, but the percussion would still have killed fish.

    At the time, of course, it would have suited the authorities and people generally to spread the idea that Luftwaffe aircrew were in some way inferior to the RAF – the suggestion was they dumped bombs in Chasewater to avoid a second run over Birmingham, but they were no less brave or dedicated. In many ways they had more reason to be confident, having superior technology, but (unlike RAF fighter pilots) if they survived being shot down they were unable to return to battle in new machines.

    • Pedro says:

      Edgbaston Reservior was kept at a very low level to stop moonlight reflection, so I presume Chasewater would be the same.

      The vicar of Ladywood was brave enough to stick his camera above his head and actually capture a bomb explosion that happened at the Reservor. God bless him!

      • Andy Dennis says:

        Don’t forget that the canal network was crucial to getting coal to the factories in Birmingham and the Black Country, so, given all those locks, it was probably necessary to maximise the water supply.

      • Pedro says:

        “The course (Edgbaston Golf Club) was not fully re-opened until 1950, because the Park suffered more than its fair share of damage from bombs because, it was thought the Germans mistook Edgbaston Pool for Cofton Reservoir, adjacent to the Austin Motor Works at Longbridge, where munitions were being made.”

  13. Hi Bob, have a look at “us” http://www.chasecycling.co.uk. Based in Brownhills, been around since 1992.

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