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MEMORIES and INFORMATION: 32nd Battn. (16)
32nd Staffordshire (Aldridge) Battalion

("C" Coy.)

BROWNHILLS


Brownhills was defended by "C" Company of the 32nd Staffordshire (Aldridge) Battalion whose C.O. for much of the war was Lt.-Col. C. Cartwright, D.S.O., M.C. (See the Battalion area map, right - click on it to enlarge).

Brownhills had fallen within the area of responsibilty of a different battalion when the Home Guard was initially formed in May/June 1940.  Lt.-Col. A.A. Trowell, C.O. of 10th/11th Staffordshire (Lichfield) Battalions from 1940 onwards, wrote in January 1945
("Burntwood Home Guard Stand-Down") that on its formation the 10th comprised three Companies, Lichfield, Alrewas and Brownhills. In those early weeks, however, the HG organisation throughout the country quickly evolved as more men volunteered, local needs were better identified and more logical command structures became evident. In this process Brownhills became part of the 32nd Staffordshire whilst the 10th Staffordshire (Lichfield) took over Burntwood and Hammerwich.

In his own review of the role of the Brownhills Company, written immediately after stand-down in December 1944, Lt.-Col. Cartwright wrote:

.....(The 32nd Staffordshire) began as part of a much larger unit.  In the weeks immediately following the enrolment of the L.D.V. we were part of the Wednesbury Group corresponding with the Wednesbury Police Division, and including Bilston, Wednesbury, Darlaston and Aldridge.  Brownhills, at that time, was in the Lichfield Group and was not transferred to the Central Midland District until July 1940. Shortly before I took over, on 1st September, 1940, the present battalion was created.....

.....As I have said, Brownhills had only just been transferred to this area when I took over the battalion. It was a momentous move as far as this battalion was concerned. Brownhills then became our "C" Company and, as such, made a very fine contribution to the part played by the battalion. It had numbers, it had grand material in the ranks, a particularly good tradition among the N.C.Os , fostered and maintained by its two C.S.M.s, and it had splendid officers who took their jobs very seriously and made what I have considered to be as satisfactory a set of company officers as could be found anywhere in the H.G. organization.......

......I have touched on "C" Company in my introductory notes, but without mentioning the names of those who contributed to the success achieved by this company. Hume-Humphreys, who assumed command when Trevor-Jones came to B.H.Q., was a most efficient trainer of men, a master of detail, and an amusing correspondent. Some of his contributions to B.H.Q. were certainly not in the orthodox style, but they were journalistically bright and often, when they were critical, dangerously near the truth. I liked his telegram to the A.A. on the occasion of the latter's birthday: "Wishing you very many and moderately accurate returns."

Then Wheatley, the genial pipe expert, who was with the company until lately, when he was appointed Liaison Officer between H.G. and H.G.H.A.A. Bty. And Miller, a born leader and a winner of competitions. Chaplin, who delighted in all the horrible equipment of the commando, and, incidentally, with his platoon represented Garrison in the District Finals Platoon Competition in 1943. Sadler, who served the company so faithfully in a variety of ways, Tyrrell, Kendall, Murray, Fletcher, and not forgetting C.S.M. Sedgwick, and names such as Heath and Bradley and many others come to mind.......

(The full article can be read elsewhere within this website)


A few images of the Brownhills Home Guard survive.

The following group image shows one of the units within the Company:


IDENTIFICATIONS
From the left:
Front row: Mr. Maddox, Mr. Mason, Len Sadler, Norman Waine, Fred Bowen, Mr. Yewall, A.N. Other.
Second row: Harry Cox (from Shire Oaks Hill, David Fullelove, - , - , - , -
Back row: Edgar Pritchard, - , Jack Brewe, Fred Heath, - , - , - , - .

Part of the interest of this image comes from the unusual dress of the men. They are wearing Home Guard issue forage caps, greatcoats and possibly, in some cases, boots; but otherwise they are in civilian clothes. This suggests that the photograph was taken in the late autumn of 1940, at a moment when some parts of the kit had been issued but some was yet to arrive. Even within a single Battalion it seems that the issue of kit was patchy, with different units receiving different items in different quantities at different times.

Two pieces of very early kit, perhaps even the first, belonging to David Fullelove, survive. They are his LDV armband, quickly superseded on Churchill's instruction by a similar one bearing the title "Home Guard". These armbands, in the earliest days, would have been the sole obvious confirmation of his status as a member of the Local Defence Volunteers/Home Guard. They might - or more probably might not - have saved him from being summarily shot as a franc tireur in the event of the Germans arriving.

Reg Fullelove (whose father appears in the above group) recalls that an early HQ was set up in the warden's post by the Memorial Hall in Lichfield Road.

Below is a march-past by the unit with the Chester Road North Fire Station just visible to the right. Sgt. Harry Bradley is on the extreme right. The date is unknown but it is clearly summer and the occasion may well have been one of the anniversaries of the foundation of the Home Guard which were celebrated each May, from 1941 to 1944.
.

To find references within the site to subjects mentioned above please use either the Index of Surnames and Place Names relating to the 32nd Battalion or the general website SEARCH facility.

Staffshomeguard would welcome any further information which visitors to the page may have; to help us add to the story of the Brownhills Home Guard, please use
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Much of the above information first appeared in the excellent BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog website. Grateful acknowledgement is made to the contributors including "Bob", Reg Fullelove B.E.M., Peter Cutler, David Evans, "goodcuppa" and Michael Cox.
(The HG group and armband images are Reg Fullelove 2015)

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D16 April 2015, updated Jan 2017