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 HOME GUARD MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - WARWICKSHIRE, BIRMINGHAM

47th WARKS (POST OFFICE) BATTN.

CASUALTIES


The Post Office Home Guard unit was formed at an early stage. It consisted of Post Office employees and later evolved into the 47th Warwickshire (Post Office) Battalion. At least four members of this Battalion lost their lives in the course of their service:

Squad Leader William Edward Howkins (aged 23) of Sutton Coldfield.
(See immediately below)
Vol. Dennis Herbert Phillips
(aged 22) of Sparkhill  (See immediately below)
Vol. George Tibbitts
(aged 42) of  Erdington  (See below)

F.W.T. Charles (aged 29) of Yardley  (See below)


Squad Leader Howkins and Vol. Phillips
22nd/23rd November 1940


Vol. Phillips and Squad Leader Howkins both died in the same incident as the result of a direct hit by a high-explosive bomb on the unit's guard room at the Post Office depot during the night of 22nd/23rd November 1940 when the city was subjected to severe bombardment.

The London Gazette of 27th May 1941 records the bravery of two other members of the unit,
Vol. Leslie Hartland and Vol. Francis James
Peacock who rendered first aid to one of the injured men on that night and then braved falling bombs and machine-gunning to get help in the form of a doctor and an ambulance. Both received the King's Commendation.

The circumstances of this tragedy are all too vividly brought to light by the official reports of various men who were involved, Vol. Hartland, Vol. Peacock,
Vol. Hall and Sgt. F.S. Garrett.


Report on two fatal casualties sustained during the guard by "F" Platoon, No. 3 Section, on November 22nd, 1940 ..... by Sgt. F. S. Garrett   


The "Alert" sounded at 6:40 p.m., and this was followed by air activity which increased in intensity, and it was soon obvious we were due for a fierce attack. Mr Standing (Lt. F. Standing) was present, and after a walk round, we withdrew the guards covering No. 3 and 4 Posts, and all took shelter.

Somewhere about 10:30 p.m. everything was completely quiet apart from fires in the vicinity, and after taking a look round I return to the guard room and had some supper. At 10.40, Howkins and Phillips came in for some supper - Howkins had earlier been on duty at the Main Gate - and at 10.50 or thereabouts, I suggested that if the quiet continued, they might form a patrol. I emphasised that no risks were to be taken, and knowing the two men very well indeed, I knew I could place every reliance on them. But in view of the fact that an A.F.S. party had broken down a door on the back entrance, I was anxious for a patrol to be out, and indeed at that time conditions overhead were entirely quiet.

The majority of the guard returned to the guard room for supper and rest, but had not settled down before the raid was resumed with violent intensity, and everyone was ordered to take blankets and take cover in "C" Block. The intensity of the raid makes most people go for the nearest shelter, "D" Block, to which I returned as soon as conditions permitted. Bent and White were on duty at the Factory Gate, and I brought them from the blockhouse to the south end of the shelter, where we covered the gate so far as conditions permitted. Things presently got so bad that I ordered these two to go down and stay down, but an incendiary bomb dropped on the roof immediately opposite the gate at that moment, and White and I roused the occupants of the house and did what we could to control it, till stirrup pumps were brought, when we dashed back to our shelter.

I was met by two members of the guard who told me what had happened, but the First Aid people were already on the spot and preparing to take Howkins across to the main gate, where we eventually got him.

It transpired later that Peacock and Hartland had been out for the Doctor and ambulance, and knowing the intensity of the raid at the time, it is desired to commend the action of these two men in doing their bit under these conditions.

It will be seen that I have no direct knowledge of the immediate circumstances leading up to the tragedy.

Reports from members nearer the spot are attached.

F.S. Garrett

26th November 1940


*****************

Vol. Hall:

I had been sheltering towards the South End of the "D" block basement shelter along with the guards Messrs. Bent, Jones, White and Pratt. There were also three or four Engineering workmen sheltering there.

Sgt. Garrett came along and asked for two volunteers to guard the Main Gate; Messrs. White and Bent were accepted and departed with Sgt Garrett. The Engineering workmen left also, to attempt to reach home, so there were Messrs. Jones and Pratt and myself left in the shelter.

One of the workmen returned, and as I could not sleep I talked to him a little while and then decided to find a lavatory. While going along the passage I came upon several more of our guards in a shelter, which was about three shelters from the end of the passage. From the last shelter I proceeded to the steps hoping to get food from the guardroom, but abandoned the idea on the advice of Howkins and Phillips, who said the conditions were too bad. I was with them about five minutes talking about various things, and then returned to the shelter.

I returned to the previously mentioned shelter where Messrs. Jones and Pratt were asleep, and the one workman was resting on several stretchers. I awakened Messrs. Jones and Pratt and asked them whether they would like to go and sleep with the rest of the Guard further along the passage. They decided to do this, and we proceeded to the other shelter, the workman accompanying us. When I arrived back two of the guard were arguing about possession of pillows and this led to John Turley suggesting putting out the electric light to help stop this argument, and we proceeded to the switch further along the passage. (Not far from the Guard Room end). Before reaching there, the bomb exploded and picked Turley and myself up and blew us along the passage a little way.

As I had been talking to Messrs. Howkins and Phillips on the steps I knew that they were there, and I guessed that they would perhaps be injured. I believe I asked Turley to fetch a stretcher and help, but he did not hear, so I rushed back to the injured men and then rushed for help. Someone and myself tried to make Howkins comfortable as he asked us to, as he was still conscious, and several times asked how Phillips was.

A policeman approached along the passage and attempted to put a tourniquet on Howkins severed leg, but remarked that this was impossible as he had only a truncheon and a handkerchief or something similar. Someone, I have an idea they were part of a First Aid party, arrived and proceeded to attend to Howkins.

As I and the rest of the guards were unable to help any more, Bent and myself hurried to fetch Sgt Garrett, and we met him hurrying along the passage. We informed him of what had happened.

After this Messrs. Jones and Turley and myself, being tired and feeling very sick, had a drink of water and sat down in a First Aid Shelter, where we stayed until someone came and asked us to get in the passage together with the rest of the guards.

From here we rushed to "C" Block shelters.

    J.E.(?) Hall

26th November 1940

*****************

Vol. F. J. Peacock and Vol. L Hartland:

.......During a lull in the raid, at about 10:45 p.m. members of the guard returned to the guardroom from the "C" Block shelter with the idea of having some supper, and if possible a little rest. They had not been there for more than a short time, say ten minutes, when the raid was resumed in increased intensity and Sgt Garrett immediately gave instructions to everyone to grab blankets and make for "C" Block shelter.

Owing to the heavy barrage, and the fact that we thought it might be possible to get some sleep, a number of us dashed to "D" Block which was much nearer. There were ten of us in this shelter, including several who were already there when we arrived, and we started to make ourselves comfortable in the third room in the shelter.

We had been there something like 15 minutes when Howkins and Phillips followed at about 2 to 3 yards by Hall, Turley and Jones passed the doorway making for the entrance. They had hardly passed when there was a terrific explosion and we were all knocked giddy and dived flat on our faces. I rushed so that I could see what had happened at the passage, and when the dust cleared a bit I could see Hall waving his hands and shouting for a hand as someone was hurt. I rushed up and I believe there were others behind me, and saw Howkins lying on the floor groaning. I caught his shoulders and moved him just enough to make him a little more comfortable. I saw his leg had been amputated and rushed back shouting for someone to fetch more skilled help. My next recollection is of the policeman coming and we all took blankets.

I asked Hartland, who lives handy, the address of the nearest doctor, and he mentioned a Dr. Bose at the corner of Underhill Road. We immediately dashed out of the shelter and ran as hard as we could through the barrage to this address. We had difficulty in getting him, but on being told something of the nature of the case, he got out his kit and his car and we started back. He enquired if we had asked for an ambulance and on being told no he dropped Hartland at the top of Anthony Road to go for one, while I stayed with him to bring him here. He parked his car outside and we came in. I handed the doctor over to the policeman in "D" Block and had no more direct concern with the matter. While we were at the far end of Fordrough Lane we heard the plane diving and machine-gunning, and we had to flatten out while it passed.

     F. J. Peacock
     L. Hartland

26th November 1940

**********

Vol. George Tibbitts
26th December 1940

Vol. Tibbitts died in the General Hospital on 26th December 1940.  He now lies in St. John's Churchyard, Perry Barr. The circumstances of his accident on that same day, Boxing Day, are recorded in two newspaper clippings, dated 28th December 1940 and 2nd January 1941 respectively:

N.B. As at June 2015 Vol. Tibbitts's name has been incorrectly recorded by C.W.G.C. as "G. Tibbets". This error has been repeated on his headstone.

**********

F. W. T. Charles

This cutting tells us that Mr. F.W.T. Charles, of 191 Queen's Road, Yardley, a testing officer with the G.P.O. and a member of the Birmingham G.P.O. Home Guard, fell victim to the London Blitz, together with his wife, Gertrude Annie. Mr. Thomas was the 29-year-old son of of Frederick William Thomas and Hannah Charles, of 57 Eversley Road, Small Heath.

They died at 49 Tadworth Road, Willesden on 19th September 1940.


**********

In Memory of

 F.W.T. Charles, Dennis Herbert Phillips, George Tibbitts  and  William Edward Howkins

and all their comrades in

47th Warwickshire (Post Office) Battalion

Dennis Phillips's headstone can be seen here.
For further information about many Birmingham Home Guard Battalions: 
Memories - Warks
or use  Search.

Grateful acknowledgement to Matt Felkin and his "Wartime Birmingham and the Blitz" Facebook page;  and to Maggie Laity, Colin Baker and Brian Wright;  to Michael Minton's "Heroes of the Birmingham Air Raids"; and to members of the Birmingham History Forum).  

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x137 - August 2016; updated December 2016

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