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MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - WARWICKSHIRE

43rd WARWICKSHIRE (BIRMINGHAM) BATTN.
THE AUSTIN WORKS, LONGBRIDGE
and

HAROLD VINCENT DAWSON

 


Harold (Harry) Vincent Dawson was a member of the Austin Home Guard unit and this page is dedicated to him.

The Longbridge and Rubery area
, on the south-western outskirts of Birmingham, was defended by the 43rd Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion under the command of Lt.-Col. A.F. Lovell. Within that Battalion served the unit, almost certainly of full Company strength, which was responsible for the huge Austin works at Longbridge. Its membership would have been made up entirely from Austin employees, devoting much of their spare time, in evenings and at weekends, to Home Guard duties after long days at work. (A separate page in this website contains images and further information relating to the Austin Works Home Guard).

Harry Dawson
(1907-2006) was an upholsterer by trade and was involved at Longbridge in the manufacture of Spitfire seats. He lived in Cliff Rock Road, Rednal with his wife Margaret and their three children, Jean, John and Alan; and he was employed at the factory between the early 1930s and 1947/48.

Memories of Harry's service in the Home Guard are scarce but he is known to have participated in the parade at the funeral of Herbert Austin in 1941.  The image to the right shows the cortege leaving the factory. Just discernible are Home Guards lining the route.

Amongst Harry Dawson's papers there survives an excellent group image showing what must be the entire Austin Company, one of the several which constituted the 43th Warwickshire Battalion.  The precise location of the photograph is so far unidentified but it was clearly at a location within the factory. The date and occcasion are similarly unknown but are likely to be one of the fairly rare occasions when the whole Battalion came together - possibly a ceremonial parade, perhaps to celebrate one of the anniversaries of the founding of the service in May 1940 or to support one of the fund-raising weeks such as Salute the Soldier or Wings for Victory.  It may even mark the stand-down of the Home Guard which occurred in early December 1944 and was celebrated by parades and march-pasts by every battalion in the country. It is unlikely to date before mid-1943.

Here is the group.  Harry is located in the row immediately in front of the back row, fifth from the left (not counting the lady auxiliary). There is so far only one further identification: William J. (Mac) Hardy (b.1895, a wood pattern maker at Longbridge in the 1940s) who also lived in Cliff Rock Road, Rednal, at No. 76: he is seated in the front row, immediately to the right of the four ladies.


Please click on the image to see a magnified version

The image will show the majority of the Longbridge Company members. A number will be absent, unable to attend for a variety of reasons.  What we see is around 100 personnel including 12 officers, an unknown number of NCOs and 7 Women Auxiliaries.

What is unusual about this image is the inclusion of ladies since many similar Home Guard group photographs do not show them. From April 1943 women were permitted, officially, to join the Home Guard and were known as auxiliaries. This formalised a situation whereby many units had from an early stage been actively supported by women in a variety of roles, including clerical, signals, driving, intelligence and cooking. But that had been entirely unofficial. When official approval was finally granted, the women had to be content with no uniform or kit, but just an armlet or a plastic lapel badge denoting their affiliation. The three ladies at the extreme ends of the middle rows are wearing such badges.

Intriguing are the four ladies in the middle of the front row. They have a much more formal attire,  navy-blue or black boiler suit, forage cap. white shirt and tie. Do they have a different, more active function within the unit than the other three? Or were personal dress  preferences involved? There are examples in many Home Guard units of Women Auxiliaries wearing clothing far more appropriate to their function than the official regulations specified and this will have been provided to them by the Battalion concerned or even by the employer on whose site they performed their duties. These ladies must fall into that category.

One artefact survives from Harry Dawson's service: an officially provided map reading protractor (MOD "protractor rectangular, 6 inch, ivorine, 'A' Mk IV"):



Harry's service was over four years as confirmed by his King George VIth certificate issued to him after stand-down in early December 1944.



And his service was further acknowledged by his employer, The Austin Motor Company, who issued to him, and to all those who gave additional service during the war years on the Longbridge site, this splendid certificate:



The left hand side of the certificate mentions the many Home Guard roles performed by Harry and his comrades.  On the right hand side are all the other functions performed by other employees in the defence of Longbridge, including ARP, Observers, Fire Services, Messengers, Spotters, Utility Squads, Casualty Services, Incident Officers and Civil Defence Controllers. An acknowledgement of an incredible, voluntary effort over at least four-and-a-half years.

The extent of the roles performed on a site such as Longbridge by the Home Guard and other units outside normal working hours - and the latter themselves being much extended by the intensive drive for output which the desperate times demanded - makes the 21st century observer wonder where the energy and the spare time came from. But men like Harry somehow seemed able to cram in yet more effort.  In his case it was growing food on an allotment. How good it is to see that such additional effort was in itself acknowledged by the powers-that-be.  Here are two certificates which note the further contribution made by Harry to the nation's war and immediate postwar effort:



In memory of

Harry Dawson

43rd Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion, Home Guard,  1940-1944

and of all his comrades in the
Home Guard Works Company,
 Austin Motor Company, Longbridge


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Staffshomeguard is most grateful to John Dawson for the information on his father and his generous permission for its publication; to members of Austin Ruddy's Remember Britain's Home Guard Facebook page; and to Janet Sly and Evelyn Jones.
All personal images John Dawson 2018


FURTHER INFORMATION
Please see the main Longbridge page
and

Further information about the Warwickshire battalions is contained elsewhere in various parts of this website. To view the Warwickshire summary page, please use the Info-Warks link below; otherwise use the Search function to check the entire website.

And if you can add to the history of the Austin Home Guard, please contact staffshomeguard via the Feedback link below.


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x117A - June 2018

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