F Company, blocked roads and tough nuts…

It’s time this week to post an article I’ve had for a week or two but not had time to lay out – a fascinating one on the topic of the local Home Guard and the interesting subject of local roadblocks.

For background, I’ve posted about the home guard before here and last year of the discovery that they had a large local shelter nearby here.

This wonderful article written by David Evans with photos from Shirley Downs captures life during wartime, and introduces the topic of wartime defences erected to prepare for the possibility of ground invasion by the enemy – pillboxes are a common remnant of this act defence of the realm but there were also gun and searchlight mounts, tank traps and road blocks. I had no idea there were apparently road blocks locally.

I’ll let David expand on this – and thanks to him for his tireless work, and for the invaluable contributions of Ray Share, Shirley Downs and Dorothy Gooding who have expanded ofn a bit of undiscovered history.

David Evans wrote:

Image kindly share with David Evans by Mrs Shirley Downs.

So very little has been written about Walsall Wood Home Guard F Company, and yet some of those named in the quotes below are well-known to locals. Mr George Mycock was the Walsall Wood Football Club founder; Mr Smith was the High Street chemist. I believe Mr Arblaster  was one of the well known Arblaster family and may have played for the football club at one time. Mr Arthur Wadey was the football team’s trainer in post war years.

Our history goes back to the dawn of civilisation in this country.  True, it is unwritten history, but the evidence is here for all to read who will. Some of you have trained and sited strong points and machine-gun posts on the fern-covered slopes, which once were Knaves Castle and the Old Fort at Upper Stonnall.

Hills were just as important strategically, when slings and boulders were the weapons, as they are to-day, and for probably two thousand years or more those entrenchments have mounted guard above the Old Chester Road.

From “The ground We Defend” article, written by Lieutenant W Oakley, published in Staffordshire Home Guard website

On to F Company. How well Smith and his loyal lieutenants, Arblaster and Mycock, did look after the creature comforts of their men! I still retain visions of amazing meals on mustering tests.

Smith was in command for a considerable time until one day came re-organization and the size of the company was increased by the inclusion of the Shire Oak Platoon, and the stormy petrel of the battalion, the one and only Torkington, took over command.

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.

In passing on, we must salute the Old Brigade and those young officers Harrison and Dodd.

From ‘A Review’, by Lieutenant-Colonel C Cartwright, DSO MC in 1944, and published in Staffordshire Home Guard website.  F company was the Walsall Wood platoon.

A wartime roadblock designed to frustrate the progress of a ground invasion. Image from the Pillbox Research Group.

We see reference to Shire Oak Hill… To strong points being set up on the slopes of Caste Fort Hill, presumably overlooking the Chester Road. But, again, so little recorded. I had been told by Arthur Wadey’s widow, that her husband, a member of F Company, that the platoon went on route marches up Castle Road, interestingly by the Old Fort, and to Shire Oak and then back down the Lichfield Road. The local HQ was the Boot Inn, near to Barons Court Hotel  on the south part of the village. Arthur had won a leather wallet in a shooting competition… Now known to have taken place on a shooting butts in the brickworks near Stubbers Green, by the canal,  Aldridge (source: Mr John Sale who, with other lads at the time, collected the spent rounds from the mound in the following days after the shooting practices).

I had vague memories of hearing about a roadblock at Shire Oak road junction, but I needed corroboration of this oral history. Then, very recently, during a meeting of old Walsall Wood folk, I was told by Mr Ray Share that there had been concrete blocks at Shire Oak, to form a chicane to traffic coming from the Streetly direction, along the A 452, and that these blocks were removed for ‘the convoys’.

Image kindly share with David Evans by Mrs Shirley Downs.

In the same meeting was given photos of the Shire Oak junction’s garage and petrol station, Goodings Garage as it was during the war. 

I contacted Mr Gooding’s daughter, who I know well, who confirmed that there had been concrete blocks in the  Chester Road by the garage,  by the Waterworks house, at the time. They were removed to let the convoys of tanks pass as they went  on to Chester ‘…or somewhere up there’. The people in the photos were wartime employees in the garage.

Image kindly share with David Evans by Mrs Shirley Downs.

From another source: Mr Goodings had a big black Austin car that served as  the local wartime taxi. Someone else there drove a small van.

Brownhills Urban District Council minutes give details of the quantities of petrol issued to the garage, and others during the conflict.

From Mr Ray Share: more roadblocks were near the Rising Sun Inn, near the junction of the A452 and the A5 Watling Street.

 So, another page of our local history unfolds…

My thanks are extended to Mrs Shirley Downs for kindly passing these photos to me, to Mr Ray Share, and to Dorothy for allowing me to use the photos of her father’s garage.

David Evans
March 2019

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2 Responses to F Company, blocked roads and tough nuts…

  1. ray share says:

    was there a home gaurd hut in the walsall wood pit yard i seem to remember ITALIAN prisoners there in mid tourties

  2. David Evans says:

    I think the Home Guard certainly ” rented” the wooden hut behind the Methodist Church..from memory at a rental of 10/- per week, too. Did they have some sort of shelter erected inside the hut? The church minutes were a little vague, I recall, The minute book was in the local history centre archives some while ago. NOt surfe whether the snooker table was sold to the Home Guard!

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