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MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - WORCESTERSHIRE

1st SHROPSHIRE BATTALION
and

Lt.-Col. F. H. LIDDELL, M.C.


The county town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire  was defended by the 1st Shropshire Battalion. At the beginning Lt.-Col. W.R.H. Dann D.S.O. was in command but later responsibilty fell to Lt.-Col. F.H. Liddell, M.C. who was promoted from within the Battalion where he had previously served as a Company Commander with the rank of Major.

Frank Liddell had had a distinguished Great War record, winning the Military Cross and being demobilised with the rank of Major after the Armistice. It is unsurprising that he was involved in the very earliest days of the Home Guard in his home town of Shrewsbury. Fragments of those times survive: he kept a scrapbook of documents and images and thanks to the generosity of his granddaughter this information can now be published in this website.

There is just one group photograph. This appears to have been taken within the grounds of Shrewsbury Castle and shows the Battalion officers. Its date is unknown.



Frank Liddell was clearly a man of artistic bent and able to juggle the demands of Home Guard duty, personal life and other pursuits to a remarkable degree. This letter of 14th April 1941 from General Gordon-Finlayson, G.O.C. of Western Command refers to a dramatic production which saw performances in Chester, Liverpool and almost certainly elsewhere, and in which Frank was very much involved. It is unclear whether he was the writer, producer or the director, or all three. What a pity that the script seems not to have survived!



The following two images are of a significant building and of, presumably, its grounds in which a Home Guard exercise is taking place. Much scrutinising of maps appears to be occurring. Whether this is in or near to Shrewsbury has yet to be confirmed.





A memorandum from Major W.S.B. Tucker, C.O. of the Battalion’s "Z" Company dated 23rd February 1943 indicates that humour certainly had its part in the life of the Shrewsbury Home Guard alongside the long hours of hard work . The enclosure details the woes of life in the service and would have no doubt rung many bells amongst members. It was certainly deemed worthy of preservation by the Battalion Commanding Officer. In the covering note there is also a very clear inference as to Major Tucker’s day job.





Work continued, day in and day out. The third anniversary, in May 1943, passed.


From October of the same year, 1943, a letter survives from W.C. Green, Zone Commander and possibly an officer in the Regular Army, announcing his departure for pastures new and expressing thanks for loyalty and support.



We are reminded of Frank Liddell’s creative and organisational abilities by records of the Tattoo which was held in The Quarry at Shrewsbury on Saturday, August 19th, 1944 in aid of the Shrewsbury Red Cross Appeal. He is shown in the programme as Tattoo Director and from his surviving papers we can see detailed instructions for the event.





(Click here or on either of the two programme images above to see Frank Liddell's detailed planning for this event).

A further production occurred on another date in 1944: a play entitled “Up Guards and At ’Em” and subtitled “A Short Play Dedicated to the Home Guards by the Anonymous Authors”. The producer is F.H. Liddell supported by the Stage Manager, G.M. Crick. It appears that the actors are all members of the K.S.L.I. stationed in the town. The date of this production is unknown but the time in which the play is set is clearly the period of several weeks following D-Day on June 6, 1944. It must therefore be a different production from that of 1941.



After 4½ long years the need for the services of the Home Guard was rapidly disappearing and the organisation started to wind down. There is unfortunately within Frank Liddell’s papers little evidence of all the effort which must have been put in over the years in order to make the 1st Shropshire Battalion a formidable fighting force - constant training, frequent exercises, guard duty, parades, mountains of paperwork, evenings and most weekends dedicated to the service. Nor of the comradeship which evolved and which was no doubt a significant legacy for this and all other Home Guard units. Perhaps we can imagine the relief and sense of achievement felt by him and his comrades as the end came in December 1944; and also their desire to mark the occasion.

The officers of the Battalion had a farewell dinner on Wednesday, November 22nd at Morris’s Café.





On Sunday, December 2nd there was a formal, farewell parade through the middle of Shrewsbury and this was reported in the local newspaper a day or two later.

 

Social events continued. There was a dinner organised by the 2223 Home Guard Motor Transport Company - a unit of whose function staffshomeguard is not currently aware - which was held, again, at Morriss's Cafe. Frank Liddell had the job of proposing the toast to the hosts.





Letters of commendation and farewell were received.





And so ended Frank Liddells's second military career. Not recorded are the further weeks of effort as the Battalion's affairs were tidied up, equipment returned, reports made and,  to the chagrin of future Home Guard historians, large bonfires no doubt lit to dispose of the mountains of now redundant paperwork.

Whilst the service was not formally wound up until 1945, December 31st 1944 was officially regarded as the end of each individual's service and Frank Liddell's certificate of service reflects that. Behind it lies countless thousands of hours of voluntary effort, physical, mental and emotional, leading a unit which was prepared to give its all in the defence of its town and its country, had the need arisen.



Frank Liddell continued to hold a significant position in the life of Shrewsbury after the war. He had a close relationship with the Dutch town of Zutphen and organised consignments on behalf of the citizens of Shrewsbury to relieve hardship in the difficult months of 1945. Later he was instrumental in the organisation of a twinning of the two towns which lasts to this day. Professionally he continued to run his business: the Della Porta department store in High Street which later became part of the House of Fraser (Rackhams). And personally, it seems, he was well-known, not only for his many qualities but also for a vast collection of gramophone records.

In the early 1950s a cartoon of him, in the contemporary style of the time, was drawn by an unknown artist named MAC (not the later Daily Mail cartoonist of the same name). This cartoon relates to his military background in general - including his remarkable and rapid rise from humble Private in the Great War - and not specifically to his Home Guard years.  But the image represents a mature Frank not so many years after his Home Guard service between 1940 and 1944; and through it we may perhaps picture the man at that time, striding forward in battledress to tackle the job in hand, at the same time exuding enthusiasm, energy and good cheer.

Associated pages within this website are:

Frank Liddell in the Great War
The Tattoo - August 19th 1944



In Memory of
Lt.-Col. Frank H. Liddell
and
all his comrades in the
1st Shropshire Battalion

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Staffshomeguard is most grateful to Mandy Peat, Col. Liddell's grand-daughter, for generously passing on images and information about her grandfather and permitting their publication in this website.

FURTHER INFORMATION
Further information about the Home Guard in Shropshire is contained elsewhere in various parts of this website. To view the Shropshire summary page, please use the Mems-Shrops link below.

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

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x119 June 2015; updated November 2015