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AND INFORMATION - WARWICKSHIRE
WARWICKSHIRE (BIRMINGHAM) BATTN.
THE AUSTIN WORKS,
(Harry) Vincent Dawson was a member of the Austin Home
Guard unit and this page is dedicated to him.
and Rubery area, on the south-western outskirts of
Birmingham, was defended by the
(Birmingham) Battalion under the command of
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
Works Home Guard).
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.
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
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
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.
unusual about this image is the inclusion of ladies
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.
artefact survives from Harry Dawson's service: an
officially provided map reading protractor (MOD
"protractor rectangular, 6 inch, ivorine, 'A' Mk IV"):
service was over four years as confirmed by his King
George VIth certificate issued to him after stand-down
in early December 1944.
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:
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
In memory of
43rd Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion,
Home Guard, 1940-1944
and of all his comrades
Home Guard Works Company,
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
the main Longbridge page
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
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