Remembering Fred – an early local loss of World War Two

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:

Fred Bockroyd, rest in peace: Image of the family headstone kindly supplied by Graeme Clarke.

Hi Bob,

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 
September 1939.

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 
Terrace, Royston.

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 
Addison, presiding.

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.

Graeme Clarke

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Remembering Fred – an early local loss of World War Two

  1. David Evans says:

    Dear Graeme
    very very many thanks for your wonderful note and for your kindness in sharing it with us all
    with my kind regards

  2. davidoakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    I was very interested in this post, as I knew the Buckroyd family quite well, as I lived just around the corner to Castle Road, at the Vigo end of Salters Road, and still remember the tragic event referred to by Graeme. I remember four of the five sons mentioned, Geoffrey, Gordon, Dennis and Bernard. the last named, Bernard, was about my own age, and would be no more than eight or nine years old, when his father died. The family were staunch churchgoers, and Fred, as church sidesman would have been quite proud at the way his family followed this C. of E. tradition and church activity, after his death.
    Bernard was my closer friend, going to school together, and I believe that he had a former mention in the blog, when David Evans unearthed some wartime reports from St. John’s Junior School, in which Bernard was mentioned as passing the eleven-plus and was heading for a posh Lichfield Grammar School. Bernard had joined the 2nd Brownhills Scouts, and was Patrol Leader of the Hawk patrol, he persuaded me to join, which I did, as a Tenderfoot member of the same patrol.
    I admired Bernard tremendously, completely different from the rest of the Vigo gang, and one could see, even then, that he would leave a lot of us behind, my only hint of jealousy, if it can be called that was, Bernard could yodel !! I couldn’t. He could announce his presence from half a mile away if he wished to contact you.
    What a lovely family, so pleased to have known them, all those years ago. A difficult time for a fatherless family, but Fred would have been so very proud of these lads.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.