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MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - WORCESTERSHIRE

12th WORCESTERSHIRE (WARLEY) BATTN.

- A SOUVENIR OF FRIENDSHIP -
(
A Brief History of the Battalion)
 


At the time of stand-down at the end of 1944, the Battalion produced a commemorative booklet - A Souvenir of Friendship - providing a brief history of the unit and a record of many of the faces of those who had served within it. Much of the information in it was published in a series of articles in the Black Country Bugle in the spring of 2015.

This is what the booklet contained.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BATTALION.

WHEN the call came over the "air" on May 14th, 1940 asking for Volunteers to enrol for the Defence of their Homes, there was created in the OLDBURY, WARLEY, QUINTON, BLACKHEATH and HALESOWEN Districts an L.D.V. Organisation under the command of the then Capt. T. S. Lancaster, M.C. (right). Within a few weeks the number of Volunteers had exceeded all expectations and by the time the Prime Minister announced the change of name from L.D.V. to Home Guard, this local force had become too unwieldly for one command. From it emerged the present 5th Worcestershire (Halesowen) Bn., 8th Worcestershire (Oldbury) Bn., and 12th Worcestershire (Warley) Bn., each over 1,000 strong. 

Capt. T. S. Lancaster, M.C. assumed command of the TWELFTH and when commissioned rank was given to Officers he became the first Lieut.-Colonel and selected as his Second in Command, Major W. P. Homes (below), already well known in Oldbury and the county for his public activities.

In the beginning, Battalion Headquarters was at the Drill Hall, Langley, but in November, 1941 it was moved to a more central position in Perry Hill Road, Quinton, where it remained until the "Stand Down." The first recognition of the Home Guard as a Military Unit was the appointment to each Battalion of a Regular Army Captain as Adjutant and Quartermaster, the appointment in the TWELTH being taken up by Capt. H. S. Kemshead, already an Officer in "B" Company and who was called up from the Emergency Reserve. In March, 1942, an Army P.S.I, was attached to the Battalion to assist in training and in July an additional Regular Captain was appointed to relieve the Adjutant of the "Q" duties. This appointment was taken up by Capt. F. J. Holder, also one of the original L.D.V. and a member of "C" Company of the TWELFTH, who left the Battalion on posting to Civil Affairs abroad in September, 1943, to be succeeded by Capt. A. Stephens of many years' experience in the Field Force.

In May, 1941 the appointment of the first Battalion Specialist Officers was the origin of what in August, 1942 became Headquarters Company, composed of Signal and D.R., Pioneer, Intelligence, and Administrative Platoons, the latter consisting of Cooks, Medical, Gas and Transport Sections. Each Platoon and Section of this Company was trained and operated by its own Specialist Officer, and all proved their keenness and efficiency in the many District, Garrison, Sector and Battalion Exercises and in the Training Camps during their three years' existence.

In the early days of L.D.V. and Home Guard the TWELFTH was directly under the command of General Sir George Weir, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., followed by Colonel W. H. Wiggin, C.B., D.S.O., T.D., Zone Commanders, Worcester, but during 1941 it was absorbed into the BIRMINGHAM DEFENCE SCHEME and from that time came under the Birmingham Garrison Commander for training and operations, and Worcester for Administration and Equipment only. Serving a dual Higher Command has not been an easy task, but the TWELFTH has done so successfully and has stood high in the estimation of both Commands. From September, 1941 until the Stand-Down the Battalion has been Home Guard as a Military Force has taken place.

Lieut. Colonel T. S. Lancaster, M.C. resigned in July, 1941 on reaching the Age Limit and was succeeded by Lieut. Colonel T. C. Fillery, (left), then O.C. "C" Company. Major W. P. Homes resigned for health and business reasons in August, 1942 and Major W. J. Balderstone (below), O.C. "D" Company assumed the appointment of Bn. Second in Command, until taking over the Command of the TWELFTH in June, 1944 when Lieut. Colonel T. C. Fillery was posted to the 8th Worcs. Bn.  Major Balderstone was then promoted to the rank of Lieut. Colonel and appointed Major A. E. Church (below), O.C. "B" Company as his Second in Command.
During its lifetime, the TWELFTH has achieved many successes. In New Year and Birthday Honours it has had its share of Meritorious and Good Service Awards; in Garrison Examinations for Signals and Intelligence personnel 95% of these specialists have been granted Certificates and many Officers and N.C.O.s have collected Gas Instructors Awards in Birmingham Courses of Instruction. The Battalion has also raised large sums for Charity, notable efforts being nearly £8,000 for the Worcestershire Regiment P.O.W. Fund in less than 8 months; over £2,000 in two days for one Borough's Salute the Soldier Week, and over £6,000 for another a few weeks later.

Its Officers raised £150 in three days as a gift to the Admiralty towards a new H.M.S. Repulse when the famous ship of that name was sunk, and in War Weapons and Wings for Victory Weeks the Battalion did its full share.

During the summer months of 1943 and 1944 week-end Camps were held at Shrawley and each week-end from April to September an average of 100 enjoyed Camp life and training in delightful new surroundings. Here the cooks came into their own, providing from ordinary rations many varied and delightfully cooked meals under the very able direction of the "Q" Staff.

The Pioneer Platoon apart from its consistent good work in operations and camp, voluntarily took up train­ing in Heavy Rescue and First Aid under tuition from the Harborne A.R.P. Training Centre; and after an abridged course of a few weeks only, received high commendation from the Birmingham City A.R.P. Authorities. This training was additional to the Home Guard parades, and their usual keenness and efficiency was maintained in both spheres of activity. A number of Pioneers and also in their own time studied explosives and demolitions under the guidance of Officers of the TWELFTH whose civilian occupation was connected with such subjects, and these Home Guard explosive experts assisted in a number of demolitions of buildings and stacks in the Birmingham Area. They also supplied the welcome effects used in many of the Training Exercises carried out by the Battalion, thereby giving realism to what might otherwise have been very ordinary mock battles.


IMAGES OF THE BATTALION'S COMPANIES

"A" Coy.

showing officers, N.C.O.s and men. The location is the T.A. Centre at Langley.
Click on the image to see a magnified version.


"B" Coy.

showing officers, N.C.O.s and men, at George Road School.
Click on the image to see a magnified version.


"C" Coy.

showing officers, N.C.O.s and men; the small number suggests a group from within "C" Company responsible for winning the impressive shield in a now forgotten competition. The location is the Chance and Hunt cricket pavilion in Dog Kennel Road.
Click on the image to see a magnified version.

"D" Coy.

showing officers and N.C.O.s. The location is somewhere in Lapal, Quinton. It is not possible to identify exactly where; but this unit did meet at the Lapal School and the Methodist Church, although their HQ was at the Danilo cinema.
Click on the image to see a magnified version.


"E" Coy.

showing officers, N.C.O.s and men at Brandhall School.  Click on the image to see a magnified version.

HEADQUARTERS (Officers)


BATTALION OFFICERS

Click on the image to see a magnified, fully captioned version.

This photograph was taken on Sunday, 15th October 1944 at a house named "High Tor". This was the Battalion HQ and was located on Perry Hill Road, Warley between Tame Hill and Perry Hill Crescent and opposite Forest Road.

One has to assume that "High Tor" was, for one reason or another, largely unused in 1940 and was therefore requisitioned by the Home Guard as a suitable Battalion HQ. Memories of the house survive from immediately prior to, or after, the outbreak of war but before the arrival of the Home Guard. A visitor to this website, living nearby in Forest Road, describes being taken for dancing lessons on the ground floor of the house in the left hand reception room where a piano had been installed. There is a dim memory that perhaps the upper floor was still occupied. Later, during the Home Guard era, there may have been earth fortifications in the gardens of the house.

(In Forest Road there lived at least one member of the local Home Guard who may or may not have been based at "High Tor": he was Sgt. Sam Bell, a family man with three daughters.)


N.B.  Most of the above Company images show numbers of men which are fewer than might have been expected. There are several possible explanations for this, including the particular circumstances when the photograph was taken - perhaps many men were unavailable, perhaps it was a selected group for one reason or another. Another factor may have been the reduction in the numbers of these traditional infantry Home Guard battalions when many Home Guards were transferred to local anti-aircraft duties during 1942 and 1943 and thus effectively left their original Battalion - the strength of the latter when acting in a solely infantry role would have been between 1000 and 1500 men.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Staffshomeguard is most grateful to the "Black Country Bugle" newspaper and Mr. Dan Shaw for providing information previously published in that newspaper and generously permitting its republication here; to Roy Bates of the Warley History Society for information, including locations of the group images; to Michael Condon for early memories of "High Tor"; and to David Baker.
 


FURTHER INFORMATION
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.

Other
12th Worcestershire (Warley) Battalion pages in this website:
The Danilo Platoon and Ken Cradock
Harry Mac Leod Kay
Leslie Pierson
Magnified Group images


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x130 January 2016, updated October 2017