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and the

(Depot 6/1, Washwood Heath

The responsibility of most Birmingham Home Guard battalions was to defend specific areas of the city. Other battalions were however raised to protect the buildings and other assets of important organisations with multiple premises throughout Birmingham and their members were almost entirely employees. The Post Office, Birmingham City Transport* and the LMS were examples of this and they bore their affiliation within their formal Battalion titles.
(* detailed information on the two BCT battalions will appear in this website in June/July 2015)

It is believed that the 35th Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion was another of these specialist units, this one devoted to the activities of the Auxiliary Fire Service (A.F.S.). The latter service was established in the immediate prewar years to provide backup in terms of voluntary manpower and equipment to the regular Fire Service in the event of war. It was absorbed into the National Fire Service (N.F.S.) when that was formed in August 1941.

The 35th Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion was commanded by Lt.-Col. H. A. Sale, M.C. (It may have been known as the 15th Birmingham in its first incarnation). Its membership consisted of A.F.S. men based at various depots throughout the city. Many of these men were part-time volunteers, spending the rest of their time in day jobs, often essential to the war effort. Yet, somehow or other, they managed to combine all these duties with membership of the Home Guard. An image of an "A.H.F.G.S" member, according to the Battalion caricaturist, is shown to the right.

Images of the officers of the 35th Warwickshire appeared in the 1941 issue of "Squirt", the magazine for the Birmingham Auxiliary Fire Service.

Images survive of a parade by the Battalion on the wintry, wet Birmingham streets of early 1941. 

One of the A.F.S. depots, designated 6/1, was located in Washwood Heath Road, in Washwood Heath. On hand was clearly a talented caricaturist by the name of G. Rose and in 1941 he produced a cartoon showing some or all of the Home Guard men who were responsible for that particular A.F.S. depot.

The depot also had further creative talent and the following poem, mentioning several of the men who appeared in the cartoon, was printed in "Squirt".

A further literary creation was an entry for a modern, Brummagem version of The Diary of Samuel Pepys. It describes events surrounding the celebration of the first anniversary of the founding of the Home Guard in May 1940.

Behind the lightheartedness there was however hard work, danger and even tragedy. On the night of Friday, 25th October 1940 an A.F.S. tender received a direct hit at the junction of Great Lister Street and Dartmouth Street. Three A.F.S. men, thought to be members of 6/1, were killed. They were:  Charles Arthur Perry (35) of St. Clement's Road, Nechells, Leslie Samuel Kendrick (25) of Aston Church Road, Washwood Heath and Ernest William Payne (25) of Malt House Lane, Washwood Heath. They were all married.  It is not known whether these men were also members of the depot's Home Guard unit.

The toll at that time on A.F.S. men was very heavy. "Squirt" published a roll of honour showing those who had given their lives over little more than a month in October/November 1940. Regrettably many more names were to be added later.

In Memory of all members of
35th Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion
and of their comrades in
Birmingham Auxiliary Fire Service

Staffshomeguard is most grateful to Matt Felkin for providing most of the images and information on this page: they originally appeared in "Squirt". Other sources which are gratefully acknowledged are CWGC and the Swanhust Barra website..

Further information about the Warwickshire battalions is contained elsewhere in various parts of this website. To view the Warwickshire summary page, please use the Mems-Warks link below.

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




x120 June 2015