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The Dudley area of the Black Country in Worcestershire was defended by the 3rd Worcestershire (Dudley) Battalion, commanded in 1941 by Lt.-Col. A.R. Tanfield and later by Lt.-Col. C.G. Elkington, D.S.O.

An image of a happy group of mainly officers survives, with Sgt. Joseph William Wesson (click to read his story) and Mine Host standing behind and surveying the scene. The occasion is a weekend training camp at Kinver, probably in 1942. Just one of the officers has been identified. He is Major William James Adair
(1896-1964) sitting second from the left and holding a swagger or pointing stick. We know a little about his life and service, thanks to information provided by his grand-daughter whom he never met.

William Adair was born 7th November 1896 at 43 Sugarfield Street, Belfast to William and Jane Adair formerly O'Neill. His father was a sailor. His own trade was that of carpenter. He served in the Great War in the 15th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, rising from Private to the rank of Acting Sergeant. He married Hannah Burke at around this time and they possibly had three children. After demobilisation he joined the Royal Irish Constabulary and served for a number of years. Unknown circumstances - was it the political problems and dangers of serving in that organisation in those difficult times, or the ongoing psychological effects of his war service, or problems in the marriage? - led to him leaving Ireland and his family and moving to England. He eventually settled in Dudley with a new, younger lady, Elizabeth Oliver Long Thompson with whom in January 1938 he had a daughter, Elizabeth Harriet, born at 10 Hill Street, Kates Hill, Dudley.

It is not certain when he joined the Home Guard. It is likely to have been at the very beginning, perhaps in June or July 1940. By the time that the first Officers' List was published, on 1st February 1941, he holds the rank of Major. Whilst most N.C.O.s and officers in those early days of the Home Guard were appointed to positions of authority as a result of the military training and experience gained in the Great War, his rank is a significant one for someone who. it appears, was not commissioned at that time.  Other factors must have been involved: probably including his R.I.C. experience and evident personal qualities and skills.  

William Adair commanded "A" Company within the Battalion and was responsible for a unit consisting of up to 200 men. It is possible that he is the senior officer present at the happy group shown above.

The following group shows him (second left), fellow officers, a Sergeant-Major of the Worcestershire Regiment, possibly seconded to the Battalion for training purposes, and - for wholly unknown reasons - a scoutmaster!

But William encountered difficulties during his period of service. Records show a period of sick leave after 10th June 1942 and then a further three months from 18th July. The problems apparently did not resolve themselves and he was eventually discharged from the service on 6th May 1943 on the grounds of ill-health. He was living at 3 Bourne Street at that time. He was succeeded as C.O. of "A" Coy. by Major A.C. Coleman

Here is his well-worn Military Identity Card from around that time:

 The nature of William's ill health, which brought to an end a long history of service to his country, is unknown. Whether it was of the body or of the mind, it can hardly have been helped by a family tragedy which was developing in 1943: in early October an infant son, Albert, was born at 12 Hayfield Road but the little boy only lived for three weeks.

At the time of his leaving the Home Guard, William's trade was "sheet metal worker/foreman telephone cable reels". But subsequently he reverted to his original skills, those of cabinet maker and French polisher. His home in the later years was at 30 Chestnut Avenue, Dudley where he lived in very straitened circumstances. He died in Wordsley Hospital on 31st March 1964.

Some memories of his life as a young man, many years earlier......


Royal Irish Rifles

With fellow N.C.O.s and others at an unknown, snowy location. He is 5th from the right.

His Great War medals

Royal Irish Constabulary

...seated, third from the left...and...

...seated, in the middle

In Memory of
Major William James Adair
all his comrades in the
3rd Worcestershire (Dudley) Battalion

Staffshomeguard is most grateful to Tildi Ferlet-Horton for the images and information about her grandfather; to Mick Wilks for providing information to her about Major Adair's Home Guard record; and to Malcolm Wesson for  supplying the group image at the top of this page.
(Mick Wilks is an expert on Worcestershire Home Guard matters and has published books on local defence including
"Chronicles of the Worcestershire Home Guard").
All images: T. Ferlet-Horton 2015 (except top group image Malcolm Wesson 2015)

Tildi Ferlet-Horton would welcome contact with anyone who can throw further light on her grandfather's life and service. Please get in touch with staffshomeguard in the first instance for contact details, using the Feedback link below.

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

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




January 2016