Here’s a sad but fascinating submission from old friend of the blog Greame Clarke who’s asked me to point out that with the greatest respect to David Evans, his list of Walsall Wood Second World War ARP wardens that I featured here last week was not complete – because sadly, one local man died in service before the list was compiled.
This is a heart wrenching and tragic fragment of local history, but one that deserves to be recorded and I’m very happy to do so here. My thanks to Graeme for sharing this story and the image of Fred’s headstone.
Please, if you have anything to add – do so, you’re most welcome: Comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBOb at Googlemail dot com or find me on social media.
Graeme Clarke wrote:
I was most interested to read David Evans research on the Walsall Wood
The register commenced on 10 October 1939 and therefore does not
include the below named man who died on duty on 1 September 1939 BUT
who is not officially commemorated as the C.W.G.C. work from 3
I would be grateful if you would mention him as he gave his life in the
service of the A.R.P.
I include my research and a picture of his headstone.
Air Raid Precaution
Died in England on Friday 1 September 1939
A native of Yorkshire, Fred was the son of Benjamin Smith and
Emily (née Allen) Buckroyd of Midland Road, Royston, near Barnsley,
Yorkshire, his father being a colliery deputy–below ground. A coal
miner, he later boarded with the Basford family at Co-operative
Fred married Dorothy Ada Pears in 1915 and had five sons later
residing in Castle Road, Walsall Wood and being employed as a colliery
overman at the Walsall Wood Colliery. He collapsed and died near his
An inquest into his death was held at Brownhills Council Offices
on Monday 4 September 1939, the Borough Coroner, Mr. James Flockhart
His widow gave evidence stating that he worked at the colliery on
Friday 1 September 1939 from 6.30am and returned home at 5pm. After
eating a meal he went to an A.R.P. meeting at the colliery, called at
an air raid shelter in Salters Road, Walsall Wood on his way home,
listened to the radio news at home and, at 9.10pm, went out on his
duties as an air warden to inspect the obscuring of lights. Later she
had heard that he had died.
Walter Samuel Pinches, a Special Constable in Rushall, stated that
on Friday night he was on duty in Castle Road with Special Constable
Blakemore. They met Frederick, who seemed quite alright, and inquired
of him the time. He replied that it was half past nine. All three then
walked towards Holly Road with Frederick slightly behind. The officer
then heard a slight shuffle and, on turning round, saw Frederick lying
unconscious in the road. They did all they could for him, sent for a
doctor and carried him to a nearby house.
Doctor F.R. Roberts gave evidence stating that when he arrived at
the house, Frederick was dead. A post mortem examination revealed that
death was due to fatty degeneration of the heart and there was evidence
of a mild attack a few years ago. The man was liable to collapse at any
time owing to the weak state of his heart, the doctor explained.
Recording a verdict of ‘death from natural causes’, the Coroner
‘Like many thousands of others, this man had been doing A.R.P.
work on top of his ordinary work, and I cannot help thinking that,
having regard to the weak state of his heart, he did too much.’
Following a short service at his home conducted by the Vicar of
Walsall Wood, the Reverend J. Stackhouse, a service was held in the
Parish Church where Frederick had been a sidesman. A guard of honour
was made up of Air Raid Wardens together with ambulance and nursing
staff, all with steel helmets and respirators.
Fred was buried in Walsall Wood Cemetery. He was 50 years of age.
By convention the date generally accepted by historians for the
start of the Second World War is Friday 1 September 1939, when Germany
invaded Poland – however Britain and France did not declared war on
Germany until Sunday 3 September 1939.