F Company take aim!

Continuing the Remembrance theme here on the blog today, here’s a lovely bit of research into the Home Guard locally by the wonderful David Evans and John Sale.

I’m particularly glad to receive a contribution from John, as being one too the prominent and longstanding local historians whose work this blog stands upon. John’s work with Bill Mayo on books and curating their photo collections is legendary.

Here John and David answer one of the pressing local wartime questions: Just where did the Home Guard practive their shooting?

It’s worth pointing out here once more the great resource for people interested in the local home guard history: the Staffs Home Guard website – click here to visit it.

Thanks to both gentlemen for a lovely article, and if you remember anything, or have anything to say, please do. Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

David Evans Worte:

In the immediate post-war years of my childhood, stories of the war abounded. The deadly air raids, the sirens, these tales often elaborated from reality it now turns out, but this map has recently been published in the wonderful Home Guard site, and it intrigues me.

This remarkable hand-drawn map has been discussed many times on the blog, and remains a curiosity. Image from the Staffordshire Home Guard website.

The Home Guard in Walsall Wood had its own character, and stories of F company’s route marches have passed in to local folk lore. However, the exact location of the shooting butts. in Streetly and near Stubbers Green have remained a mystery. Until now.

Mr John Sale is a well-known local historian whose works are a valuable source of accurate information and personal photos. In a friendly chat with him recently I was delighted to learn of the existence and location of one of the Home Guard shooting ranges. John told me where and when the Aldridge E company trained there. He recalled seeing the soldiers march past his home in Leighswood Road on to the canal, then along the towpath to the Wharf Canal bridge, and then to a disused mound, a heap of red ash. He described it as being a tip from a disused coalmine, and it was near the old marl holes and on the towpath side of the canal.

John mentioned the Sunday morning Home Guard shooting practices, and the Monday retrieval of spent bullets from the mound, performed by the local lads!

The now demolished Millington and York offices. Image Kindly supplied by John Sale.

The commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Cartwright DSO, MC who lived in this large house in Leighswood Road, and seen in John’s photo. The house was later converted into the printing firm Millington and York’s offices, and was recently demolished.

F company at the rear of the building. Image Kindly supplied by John Sale.

The house was the headquarters of the local Company, seen here in front of one of the out- buildings at the rear of Colonel Cartwright’s house.

This outbuilding, in the back yard of Millington and York, is clearly the same low building in the group photo. Image Kindly supplied by John Sale.

This is John’s photo of the building, and his notes on it:

John’s notes on the rear of the above photo. Image Kindly supplied by John Sale.

This is an aerial view, 1945 and clearly visible is the spoil mound to the left of the canal, below the large pool in the centre of the image

Google Earth 1945 aerial imagery showing the Stubbers Green area. Image Kindly supplied by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

A Mr Arthur Wadey, formerly the trainer at Walsall Wood FC, had been a Bevan Boy, working in the local coalmine, and was also a member of the Walsall Wood Home Guard. He had won an anonymous plain leather wallet in one of the shooting competitions and treasured it. An unusual award perhaps? Well, Colonel Cartwright was a manager of a leather firm in Walsall at that time!

I would like to thank Mr John Sale for allowing me to scan and copy his photos, and for sharing his invaluable personal memories, enabling another piece of our local history to be documented and recorded.

Thank you, John.

David Evans
November 2017

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3 Responses to F Company take aim!

  1. Brenda and peter Hall says:

    This article is so interesting and more so because in the “F” company group photo I spotted my Dad, Horace Randall and our next door neighbour Uncle Bertie Wright. It brings back so many memories.

  2. Chris Myers says:

    Wonderful image and information and thanks so much for posting it.

    As ever, the group image raises many interesting questions. It is good that its location is established but I wonder what the occasion/date was? To mark standdown in late 1944? In anticipation of some parade, either then or on the many occasions when the Home Guard was seen formally in public between 1940 and 1944? The shine on boot toecaps suggests imminent public scrutiny! There is an unusually high proportion of officers and NCOs in the image. Thirteen officers occupy the entire third row from the front, most of them of an age and with medal ribbons indicating survival from the Great War which had only ended 25 years earlier. It would be very useful to know how we have come to identify the image as showing men of “F” Company whose responsibility was Walsall Wood.

    Who were all these men? Just two have been identified (and it would be good to know which face fits which name). Of all the others, one can only wonder whether the officers whose names we have heard of already – Smith, Mycock, Arblaster and the fearsome Torkington – are all present in the photograph. (The Battalion C.O, Col. Cartwright described Torkington as “the stormy petrel of the Battalion, the one and only Torkington”. Perhaps he is the tall officer in the middle of the row). And do any of the men facing the camera in this image also appear in a photograph here – http://www.staffshomeguard.co.uk/D17ReminiscencesWalsallWood.htm – where they are being led by Sgt. Ron Harrison in a parade somewhere in Walsall Wood?

    Col. Cartwright in his final review of the Battalion’s activities made a veiled comment about the “differentness” of the Walsall Wood unit:
    “I find it difficult to understand, but “F” has always been a tough nut to crack. Even “Talky” could not change the Walsall Wood spots, but I am sure there are men in that locality who will never forget the intrusion of this warrior into their peaceful world. If ever circumstances had demanded action on the part of “F” Company, it would not have failed to give a very good account of itself…….”

  3. Chris Myers says:

    Would David and John have any objection to my incorporating their information into my staffshomeguard website, please? It is a very useful addition to our knowledge of the 32nd Staffordshire (Aldridge) Battalion Home Guard. Full acknowledgement would of course be given.

    Thanks for considering this.

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