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MEMORIES and INFORMATION: 32nd Battn. (20)
32nd Staffordshire (Aldridge) Battalion
Home Guard


During WW2, members of the Foden and Cutler families in Streetly and Little Aston - in particular Arthur Edgar Foden and Linnaeus William Cutler - made significant contributions in their own ways to the local Home Guard, in the form of "B" Company, 32nd Staffordshire (Aldridge) Battalion. They are part of its history. And they had something else in common which 21st century genealogical research has uncovered: a close family connection. The two men were second cousins and, even in those days when family history studies were far from easy and rarely performed, they were almost certainly aware of that fact.

This page commemorates both men, explains some of their contribution to Home Guard affairs and provides information about the family groups to which they belonged.


A brief note about the Foden family appears in the 1945 record of the local Battalion, written by
Lt.-Col. Charles Cartwright, M.C.

......For various reasons outside anybody's control, the Spigot Mortar teams became dispersed to some extent, and to look after the training of fresh teams and to carry on the training of existing ones the C.O. gave permission for a Battalion Spigot Mortar School to be opened at Foden's Farm, Mill Green, Chester Road. Second Lieut. (now Lieut.) G. C. Richards was put in charge and in a short time we had a self-contained instructional unit complete with lecture room, stores, inert firing range with static and moving targets. This was due to Richards's keenness and to the ready assistance given by the Foden family. They had been our good friends since the "early days" and it was with genuine sorrow and regret that we learnt of Mr. Foden's tragic death while working on the land he had farmed all his life. His sons, three of whom were members of the Home Guard, will carry on the farm, but their father will be missed for many a day and his and Mrs. Foden's kindnesses will long be remembered among the Home Guards based on Foden's Farm.......

Mr. Foden's full name was
Arthur Edgar Foden. He was a member of an extended family with its origins in the inner city areas of Birmingham in the 18th and 19th centuries. The family's area of influence seems to have extended, during the nineteenth century and later, to the north of the city and into Staffordshire. Many of its members were farmers and licensed victuallers and were either tenants or owners of the various properties in which they lived. A remarkable number of farms and public houses in the area are associated with their name, at one time or another. And the family assumed other business interests too: for example, in Streetly, there was a Foden motor business in Burnett Road in the 1920s and, perhaps a little later, a Foden horticultural business under the name of Hardwick Nurseries.

Arthur Foden (1886-1944) lived at, ran and almost certainly owned
Mill Green Farm, located on the Chester Road between the Irish Harp and the Plough & Harrow pubs. His wife, whom Col. Cartwright also praised, was Nellie (née Downes, 1888-1967). They had a number of children: a daughter, Frances and four sons: William, Edgar, George and Thomas; and it seems as though three of these boys were members of the local Home Guard. They would almost certainly have been members of what was originally called No. 1 Platoon (probably later renamed as No.5 Platoon, which in turn was part of the Battalion's "B" Company. Conveniently No.1 Platoon was based at Mill Green Farm as is confirmed by an early map on another page of this website: this denotes the Company's area of responsibility (but does not mention the Artillery Range, which had not been established at that time).

Arthur himself does not appear to have been a member of his boys' unit but made a significant contribution to the local Home Guard effort by hosting and supporting a mortar school and firing range at his farm.

No evidence now remains about the school and range, apart from Col. Cartwright's appreciative note above; and also a humorous reference to its existence in a jokey 1945 map drawn by the Battalion Adjutant,
Capt. Frank Timings (right).

Arthur's passing must have been an unspeakable tragedy, not only for his and the wider local family but also for the neighbourhood as a whole. A newspaper report on the findings of the inquest:

(The Lichfield Mercury, October 1944)


Linnaeus William "Bill" Cutler
(left) founded and owned Cutler's Garage, on the Chester Road in Streetly, next door to the Hardwick Arms public house, and he lived nearby, in Wood Lane. He too made a significant contribution to the local Home Guard, in several different ways.

Bill Cutler was Battalion Sergeant Major (an appointment which must have relied on his previous Great War service and would have weighed heavily on his time and energy). He ensured his business was very supportive of the Home Guard effort. A teen-aged bicycle messenger for the Home Guard - too young to join as a full member - recalled later, in a memoir written for staffshomeguard, helping to clear out the store of Home Guard equipment held at Cutler's Garage after the service had been disbanded.

.....And another contribution:


There are hints that at some stage during the war, Cutler's had plans to create an armoured vehicle for Home Guard use. Images survive of what appears to be preparatory work on this.  The Webmaster has a personal memory of one incident which almost certainly related to it.

..On a wintry Sunday morning, when I was five or six, my father took me to a field behind Cutler's Garage in Streetly. There he met up with some of his comrades and a large sheet of thin steel. I imagined at the time that the metal was to be used for some defensive purpose, possibly the protection of a vehicle. The sheet was propped up against a bush and all of us except for my father retired to a safe distance. I was told to cover my ears; my father raised his Webley revolver, took aim at the middle of the sheet and pulled the trigger. (The target this time was of course a little more difficult to miss than on the occasion when I caught him leaning out of his bedroom window, trying to pick off a grazing rabbit on our neighbour's lawn). We then gathered around it and balefully examined the damage. The experiment was deemed a success as the sheet, whilst severely dented and gouged, had not been penetrated. It was then carried off towards the garage and we all went our separate ways. Thirty years later the script of "Dad's Army" would have concluded this little episode with Warden Hodges tearing across the field in our direction, puce-faced under his ARP helmet, shaking his fist and shouting "Ruddy 'ooligans!!".......

Much later some images surfaced which seemed to confirm the existence of this project.

Unfortunately there is no further reference to such a project, no more images, no memory, no mention in the Battalion record, and so one has to assume that it was never carried through to fruition.

And finally, Bill Cutler's other contribution to the local Home Guard was probably his most long-standing one: the filming of the earlier days of the local units' life and work, from the winter of 1940/1941 and for a year or two later: this includes drill and bayonet training at Little Aston Hall stables, the digging of defensive positions, exercises in the surrounding area, scenes at Battalion HQ ("The Greylands", Middleton Road, Streetly), a Home Guard sports meeting, a social event and other activities.


Linnaeus William Cutler (1897-1956) was married to Elsie May (née Hall, 1896-1963). They had five children, three sons and two daughters. At least two of the boys, Brian and Roland, were too young for Home Guard service but this did not preclude a keen interest in that direction at home in Wood Lane, no doubt encouraged by their father (right).

Linnaeus William was the son of
Linnaeus C. Cutler who in turn was the son of Linnaeus (b. 1841, Witton). On 1st February 1871 this earliest Linnaeus married Harriet Foden at St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Aston and they later ran the Irish Harp public house on the Chester Road, only a short distance from Mill Green Farm.

The 1871 marriage of Linnaeus Cutler and Harriet Foden is part of a remarkable union between the Foden and Cutler families which appears to have started in the 1860s. Harriet had two older siblings:
Emma who was already married to Linnaeus's brother, Jeremiah; and John, married to Ellen Cutler, sister of Linnaeus and Jeremiah. Thus three Foden siblings married three Cutler siblings.

John, Emma and Harriet Foden had a brother who was named
George (b.1833). Like them, George was the son of Caleb and Caleb Foden (b.1805) was thus the common ancestor of both of the Home Guard stalwarts whom we commemorate on this page.

To find references elsewhere within the site to subjects mentioned above please see:
- 32nd Battalion Information Summary Page
(Aldridge, Barr Beacon, Brownhills, Little Aston, Pelsall, Pheasey, Rushall, Shelfield, Streetly, Walsall Wood)
- Index of Surnames and Place Names
relating to the 32nd Battalion
- or use 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 Aldridge and district Home Guard, please use FEEDBACK


Grateful acknowledgement is made for information generously provided by Kate Cutler and several members of the Birmingham History Forum, including Glennys Jean, Pedrocut, MWS, pjmburns and jr_stanley1958
Cutler Images © Kate Cutler 2020

In Memory of

Arthur Foden and Bill Cutler
and their families

who supported the 
32nd Staffordshire (Aldridge)  Battalion,
Home Guard




32nd BATTN


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