Everything went off without a hitch…

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Shire Oak House is now a care home for the elderly. Imagery from Bing! Maps.

Sometimes, something pops up that raises lots of questions – and so it is with this snippet from the Lichfield Mercury of 12th July 1940, when the emergency services, officials and even Boy Scouts of Brownhills and the local area came together to stage a mock air raid response operation at Sandhills House in Shire Oak.

This dovetails nicely with the stuff I’m still mulling over about bombing raids during the war: and that is, of course, still open to comment.

The first question is, where exactly was Sandhills House? Is it the big house that’s now a care home on the left as you head downhills to Lichfield, where Ralph Ferrie once lived, or was it the farm? The big house is now called Shire Oak House. If that’s the place, why the name change? I can’t find it marked on maps, but it’s clearly an important place as the same paper records its sale in 1925.

Secondly, the Lane family – I notice also from the archives that the Lanes held this house and Commandant Josiah Lane in particular appears to have been a man of great local standing and respect. What do we know about him?

Do you recognise any of the names? Were you one of the scouts?

Although it was deathly serious, and I wouldn’t mock that, it does remind me somewhat of the wartime tale of the recruits practicing without ammunition – one calls ‘Bang! You’re dead!’ to be met with the reply ‘Clinkety clank, I’m a tank!’…

If you can help, or have anything to add, please feel free. You know the drill, and so did they: comment here of BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

Thanks to top local history ferret Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler for spotting this gem.

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From the Lichfield Mercury,Friday 12th July 1940. Practice makes perfect…



REGULAR and Special Police Constables of Lichield and Brownhills, who had taken their training under P.C. Pinchard. co-operated with members of the Auxiliary Fire Service, under Supt. H. V. Speake, First Aid Post men, under Mr. T. Arnold; Rescue Squads, under Mr. C. R. Close: and Boy Scouts, under Scoutmaster W. Bickley, in a realistic bombing raid staged on Saturday evening in time grounds of Sandhills House, the home of Vice-Commandant J. B. Lane.

P.S. Lawrence, of Brownhills, who was in charge of the incident post, gave his orders to each section in such a clear and concise manner that everything went off without a hitch. The police directed traflic to keep the roads clear for the fire service, who quickly dealt with serious outbreaks caused by incendiary bombs, the Rescue Squads safely brought down seven persons from the bedroom of a burning building, while the First Aid Party, assisted by the Special Constables, efficiently dealt with gas and high explosive bomb casualties, in many instances bandages, splints and stretchers being improvised.

Imitation machine gun fire at intervals throughout the operations made the raid most realistic, as also did the need for carrying on in respirators when the gas alarm was given. Finally, a casualty with extensive injuries was traced on the roof of the house, and safely brought down on a stretcher by means of a sliding ladder and ropes. The Boy Scouts gave valuable assistance by acting as runners and patients.

Superintendent H. Jones was keenly interested throughout the whole raid, and expreaed his satisfaction at the efficiency attained by the various services. while a large number of the general public were high in their praise of the work.

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12 Responses to Everything went off without a hitch…

  1. aerreg says:

    I remember the home of josiah lane and aclualy met him several times the acces to the house was as stated off sandhills but also there was a road which led from beside the anchor in via brawns wood where once there was a house located it was occupied by a character known in school days as old beckie during the night of the big air raid one ore two bombs fell in the area mr lane was a portly man he had a brother reg they were the owners of midland tar distileries at the end of the day in lichfield road one would see mr james and mr rushton returning back to base intheir steam driven lorry to be housed over night in oliver twist farm yard mr lane was a public benifactor each christmas uncle georges choir would gather at the house for charol singing in aid o f princess alice orphange aldridge he had a wonderful house keeper and nanny jessie a very loyal lady i also knew mr speake he was the ambulance driver and oft times fire engine driver which were located at the local board yard i e the council house yes you have sent my grey matter working again by the way o hope ime not beiing a nuisance with my one finger tales if so sorry but you do give me hours of pleasure god bless you for what you do

    • Pedro says:

      December 1947 Lichfield Mercury…

      The death has occurred at the age of 57, of Mr Josiah Lane, of Sandhills House Brownhills, commandant of the Special Constabulary for the Lichfield and Brownhills Divisions. He was prominently connected with the tar distilling industry, and was a well-known Freemason

  2. Pedro says:

    Owned by a Mrs Brawn in 1925.

    Used by the Stonnall Women’s Institute for meetings from at least 1940. Mr Lane brought over his home talkie, and showed a thriller, entitled “The Flaw”, and another picture, featuring Charlie Kunz and his band.

  3. Sheila Norris says:

    My Grandfather, Richard Southall, worked for the Lanes family at Sandhills, Shire Oak as a race horse trainer. My Aunty ( Audrey Proffitt) told me Joe Lane had a chauffer called Harrison who lived in the Lodge House at Sandhills where the Lanes lived. The car in the Ivy House photo might be his as there is a chauffer’s hat just visible by the car. The portly gentleman in top hat talking in the group may be Joe Lane. Audrey said he used to follow Richard Southall around during his activities.
    NB, Ivy House on Carnival Day photo is already on blog somewhere. I tried to paste it in here but does not work.

  4. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Sandhills House is now calledHome Farm and was formerly the residence of a Mr Brawn. Your image shows another house, Shire Oak House, which was the residence or a Mr Ferrie.
    Mr Lane’s farmer neighbour was a certain Arthur Burton during the war, I believe. Messrs Brawn, Ferrie and Burton have featured in previous blog articles. I think Mr Lane is pictured in the photo mentioned by Sheila, in the Cossacks of Walsall Wood article. I understand he also rode an Indian Motor Cycle. I hope we may learn more of Mr Josiah Lane, Midland Tar Co , the steam lorry, the spur canal, and the well-established farming community at Sandhills House / Home Farm in due course, and perhaps gain some personal recollections from relatives of those who took part in the wartime exercise described in the newspaper report.
    A big thankyou to Pedro for yet another fascinating piece of research
    kind regards

  5. cathyking50@hotmail.co.uk says:

    My husband who lived in Pelsall Lane, Rushall, had their house bombed by an Incendiary bomb, fortunately it dropped in the back yard, and his father put it out with a bucket of sand. They were very lucky, on same night the Methodist church was burnt down.

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Pedro
    sadly, now all rusty .. and so are the cars!

  7. Sheila Norris says:

    My Dad, now nearly 92 and with a not altogether reliable memory these days, said quite categorically that Joe Lane owned “Aspro”, asprin company. We both agree that Lanes’ house was on the right, down a long drive, as you come up Shire Oak Hill from Lichfield.

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