(1912 - 2003) taught French and Geography at Bishop Vesey's
Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield between 1932 and 1946.
As is mentioned in David Riggall's memoir,
he was active in Civil Defence and the Home Guard in Sutton.
But there was rather more to Bill Hudspith's war than
was realised by any of his teaching colleagues at the
school or by the several hundred pupils. A remarkable
story gradually unfolded in the post-war years and it
was summarised within his obituary notice in the Summer
2003 issue of the "Old Veseyan News", the magazine
for past pupils.
G.F. writes that Bill Hudspith's first
teaching appointment, after graduating from London University,
was at Bishop Vesey's.
War II broke out Bill was not quite twenty-seven. Along
with many of the younger masters, he was eager to join
up for active service. When he was called up, however,
they noted his French degrees and tried him out on some
Frenchmen. On these occasions he "became French"
and could fool anyone. He was then told to carry on teaching
and that, when they needed him, he would be called. His
training was quite strenuous and he was pleased to find
that he had become a perfect shot, which was an asset
when on his many missions working with the French resistance.
Sometimes he was dropped by parachute and sometimes by
Lysander planes and then picked up by the French and guided
to safe houses. Bill always felt sorry for the French
people where he and the others operated. It was not always
the Germans that you had to fear, but the French collaborators.
On one occasion
the objective was to destroy a major German ammunition
dump. "The sentries were green, young troops. We
just slit their throats and went in and detonated the
whole works," Bill said. He felt very sorry for the
people in the neighbourhood having to endure this major
explosion. On another occasion, he was saved by a young
woman who sheltered him in her cottage, at great risk
to herself, until the coast was clear. Six weeks later,
the Germans shot her. Bill never got over that.
Some years after
the war, Bill's exploits were recognized when he had tea
with the Queen and, in France, he was awarded the Croix
de Guerre and Les Palmes Academique.
When absent from
school for training and on missions, his cover was provided
by his being in the Home Guard. On his return to school
one time, looking much the worse for wear, his fellow
French teacher, "Patchy" Watkinson, said, "What
DID they do to you on that course?"........"
Bill Hudspith went on
to a distinguished career in teaching and spent the latter
part of his life in Canada.