and every Home Guard had, by the very nature
of the service, close and regular contact
with lethal weaponry of one sort or another.
Accidents were not unusual and the consequences
were often devastating, both to the victim and to
other men caught up in them.
James Walker, James Edward
Sargent, Isaiah Mountford
James Kelly, all of an
unknown Birmingham Home Guard
Battalion, were involved in one
there lies Volunteer John James Walker
Clifton Road, Aston.
This is his headstone
(right). It is
singularly lacking in information apart from
the date of death: 21st December
research into the circumstances of his death
reveals a tragedy even more heartbreaking
than, as one might otherwise have suspected,
had he died as a result of one of the air
raids on Birmingham in the winter of
cuttings from 9th January 1941 provide much
of the story.
The place of work
where these events occurred is unknown.
so, what was the outcome? What was the view
of the Police Court with regard to the
accusation of murder against the careless
James Edward Sargent of
Road, Harborne? There was little
alternative to a referral to the Birmingham
Assizes, for James Sargent to face the
lesser charge of manslaughter.
the judgement in March, at the Assizes?
The judge and prosecution exercised common
sense and humanity at a time when, as they
well knew, all of these men were doing their
best in a period of unimaginable danger and
pressure. This is the report of the verdict:
the family of John Walker mourned their
loss, was James Sargent able – or even
permitted – to continue his Home Guard
service? And to live with his regrets?
Questions to which we shall probably never
know the answer. Let us remember him too.
ACQUITTED - Thinking that a rifle was not
loaded, James Edward Sargent (32), a Home
Guard at a Birmingham works, jokingly
pointed the trigger and tragedy resulted. At
Birmingham Assizes Sargent was acquitted of
manslaughter of his friend John James
Walker. Mr Justice Humphries had commented
that any jury would hesitate to convict for
such a stupid act. The prosecution offered
no evidence against Sargent.
(Report of 13th March 1941)
In Memory of
Vol. John James Walker
those Home Guards whose lives were cut
short as a result of their service.
He is not
forgotten by Maggie Laity who
laid flowers on his grave on
21st December 2015, the 75th
anniversary of his death