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William Hudspith (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.

....When World 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.