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MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - STAFFORDSHIRE HOME GUARD

 37th STAFFORDSHIRE (DARLASTON) BATTN.

THE DARLASTON HOME GUARD

Darlaston was defended by the 37th Staffordshire (Darlaston) Battalion and the latter comprised several Companies, each with responsibility for the defence of a defined geographical area of Darlaston and including dedicated units in the larger factories and organisations.

The Darlaston Battalion was commanded (in 1941 and later) by Lt.-Col. F. Hemming (right). It was a large battalion with over 70 officers which implies a total roll of 1500/2000 men (and, later on, a number of women). The Battalion was split into several Companies, each with its own HQ and commanded by a Major; and then further divided into Platoons, under Captains and Lieutenants, in which there were Sections. The territory of each Company and Platoon would have been clearly defined.

The backbone of most of these units were the Senior NCOs and the majority of officers and senior NCOs would have been veterans, and therefore survivors, of the Great War. Further down this page is a list of all the men who are known to have served within this Battalion; and in some cases, their individual stories.

A number of images of the Darlaston Home Guard survive and those which have so far come into the public domain are reproduced below with, wherever possible, the kind permission of their owners.


A MARCH-PAST IN DARLASTON
Identifications:
- In the parade, on the right of the leading row of three (and nearest to the euphonium): Lt. E. Dowen (see below)
- At extreme left of group of band members (on right of picture), with euphonium: Sgt. Fred Pullar  (see below)
- On the reviewing platform wearing his chain of office is Mr. (later Sir) Alfred Owen, Chairman of Darlaston U.D.C., 1942-46

Location:
The saluting base was located in front of a building named "The Cottage" which stood at the top of Waverley Street and faced Bilston Street on the right.

Date: unknown.

SALUTE THE SOLDIER PARADE (June 1944)
Identifications: none to date
Location: Church Street, Darlaston, passing the Green Dragon pub.
Date: June 1944

A feature of these and other public parades was the presence of a Battalion band, if the Battalion contained the talent for one to be formed. It is evident that the 37th Battalion had both the raw material and the will, and we see the evidence in both the first picture above and the one immediately below.

THE 37TH BATTALION BAND

Click on image for higher definition/magnified version
Identifications, from left to right:
- Rear row: Jim Badderley - Joe Ratcliffe - ? - Jack Jenkins - Frank Jellyman - ? - ? - ?
- Middle row: ? - Mansell - ? - ? - Les Emery - Phil Wright - ?
- Front row seated: ? - ? - ? - Harry Lowe - Maj. J.T. Page - ? - Sgt. Fred Pullar - Harry Wright
- Seated on ground - Michael..?.. - Richard (Dickie) Page

Location: Booth Street, Darlaston, near to the main Rubery Owen Offices
Date: probably 1941

"E" COMPANY: Officer Commanding, 2 i/c, C.S.M. and Junior NCOs.
Identifications: 
- Back row, from left - 1st, Walter Dowen
- Back row, from right - 2nd, Elisha Dowen
Location and date unknown

"E" COMPANY: Officers, Warrant Officers, NCOs and Other Ranks.

Identifications:
- Back row, 2nd from left - John (Jack) Weaver.
Location and date unknown

37th BATTALION: Commanding Officer, Adjutant, W.O.s and Sergeants.

Click on image for higher definition/magnified version
Identifications:
- Back row, from left - 2nd, Bert North
- Third row back, 5th from left - William Holloway
Location and date unknown

"C" COMPANY: Warrant Officers and Sergeants.

Click on image for higher definition/magnified version
Identifications:
Middle row, from right - 1st, Bert North; 3rd, Sgt. William Holloway
Location and date unknown

23rd COMMANDO
Identifications:
- Back row, 6th from right - John Stephen Beechey
Location: Darlaston Football Ground with Baker Street Church in the background
Date: unknown
 
Amongst the many men who served within the Darlaston Home Guard, the following have so far been identified:

THE MEN OF THE
DARLASTON HOME GUARD

Abnett, E., 2/Lt.
Badderley, Jim
 
(Band member)
Barlow, F. J., 2/Lt.
Barker, C. A., Lt.
Barratt, F. F., 2/Lt.
Baynes, W. H., Lt.
Beechey, John Stephen
 
(23 Commando)
Bell, S., Lt.
Bennett, J. S., Lt.
Best, A. A., Capt.
Bird, C. J., Capt.
Bill, Maurice
Bond, L. G., 2/Lt.
Booth, H. T., Lt.
Brookes, N., Capt.
Broome, J. H., 2/Lt.
Brown, S., Lt.
Chambers, Jack
Clarke, A., Capt.
Clarke, H., 2/Lt
Clarkson, J. G., Lt.
Craddock, W. R.
Cresswell, Horace
Cumpston, S. A., Lt.
Dacre, H., 2/Lt.
Dale, M. H., Lt.
Davies, J. E.
Day, F., 2/Lt.
Dowen, Elisha, Lt.
 
(see below)
Dowen, Walter
 
(see below)
Durnall, W., Lt.
Eccleston, H. J., Lt.
Elwell, R., 2/Lt.
Emery, Les
 
(Band member)
Etchells, H. F., Lt.
Evans, G. B., Lt.
Fellows, A., 2/Lt.
Fellows, E., Lt.
Fisher, Thomas Wiiliam
Foster, Sam
Gibbins, F. J., Lt.
Giles, J., Lt.
Gough, J., 2/Lt., D.C.M.,
Groves, A. E., 2/Lt.
Groves, W. R., Lt..




Gwinnett, W., Capt
Hammonds, H. R., 2/Lt.
Hampton, R. W., Lt.
Harrison, Ivan Ernest
 
(later 14th Army, Burma,
   28th Field Reg., R.A.)

Hartshone, A. T., 2/Lt.
Heaton, G.
Hemming, P. J., Lt.-Col.
 
(Battn. C.O., Maj. ret. T.A.)
Hill, W., Lt.
Hirst, Jack
Holloway, William Henry, Sgt.
 
("C" Coy.)
Hutchinson, F., 2/Lt.
Jellyman, Frank
 
(Band member)
Jenkins, Jack
 
(Band member)
Jones, B.E.

Kneebone, R., Capt.
Lamb, G., 2/Lt.
Lievesley, F. , Capt.
Lowe, Harry
Lloyd, A. B., Lt.
 
(Lt. R.A.O.C., T.A.)
Lloyd, F. N. , Capt.
 
(Lt. R.A.O.C.)
Mansell, -
 
(Band member)
Mayer, R. G., Lt.
Morgan, A. E., 2/Lt.

Moss, F., Lt.
Newcombe, D. E., Lt.
Nicklin, W. H., Lt.

Nicholls, D., Lt.
North, Bert, Sgt.
Owen, E. W. B., Lt.
Page, J. T., Maj., M.M.
 
(Deptmtl. Mgr., Rubery Owen)
Page, Richard (Dickie)
 
(Band member)
Partridge, L. K., 2/Lt.
Pattison, J. or T. H.
Perry, A. W., Lt.
Powell, G. B., 2/Lt.
Poxon, S., Lt.
Preece, Bernard, Sgt.
 
(see below)
Price, J., Capt.
Price, W., Lt.

Pugh, J.






Pullar, Fred, Sgt.
 
(Band member - see below)
Pullar, Leonard
   (see below)
Ratcliffe, Joe
 
(Band member)
Richards, G. F. V., Lt.
Robertson, W. G., Capt.
Russell, G., Capt.
Salisbury, H., 2/Lt.
Shortman, A.F., Capt.
 
(Adjutant and Quartermaster)
Sinnott, H. W. L., Lt.
Small, John (Jack)
 
 (possibly Rubery Owen)
Thornton, B., Lt.
Tyler, Gordon
 
(of Mill Street, King's Hill)
Vale, C. P.
Walker, J. E. L., Lt.
Weaver, John (Jack)
 
("E" Coy.)
Westwood, William
Williams, C., 2/Lt.
Williams, George
Willis, H., Lt.
Wilkins, Edward W., Maj.
 (of Wilkins and Mitchell Ltd.)
Wilkins, John C., Lt.
 (of Wilkins and Mitchell Ltd.)
Wlnn, W. N., Capt.
Wright, Harry
 
(Band member)
Wright, Phil
 
(Band member)




These are just a few of the men of the Darlaston Home Guard, probably less than 10% of the total.

Ranks are shown, where known: these are taken from records at various stages of the war and may not reflect the rank ultimately achieved.

There are many more names which could be added to this list - please use Feedback if you can help....


It's a staggering thought, but a Battalion like that of Darlaston would probably have put in a total of more than 2m. man-hours of voluntary effort in the course of the war. Much of this would have been on guard duty, patrols and, especially, exercises and training. Training would have taken place at a number of venues, both in the Darlaston area and beyond, depending on the facilities required and available.

A tantalising hint of where the Darlaston men might have spent some of their time under training is contained in a humorous map drawn by the genial Adjutant, Capt. Frank Timings, of a nearby Battalion, the 32nd Staffordshire (Aldridge) Battn. It shows an area of the 32nd's territory, out "in the sticks" near Stonnall, as being the "Preserves of Darlaston Blokes" - almost certainly a weapon firing range and/or a fieldcraft training centre. Part of the map containing this area is shown here
(right).
                                                                       Click on map to see complete version.


The story of some Darlaston Home Guard men:

MAURICE BLISS

Maurice Bliss,
(b. ca. 1926) was a member of the Darlaston Home Guard which he joined as he became old enough in the course of the war. His best friend with whom he served was Jack Weaver.  They both lived in Rough Hay.  Part of their duties including travelling to Streetly to guard a factory on Aldridge Road.
 


THE DOWEN AND NORTH FAMILIES

Elisha and Walter Dowen, who were brothers, and their brother-in-law, Bert North, were all members of the Battalion and appear in several of the images on this page.

Walter Dowen was a Corporal and eventually held the rank of Sergeant. He is pictured
(right) in his Home Guard uniform, with his future wife and standing outside the family home, 159 Willenhall Street, Darlaston.

Lt. Elisha Dowen, his elder brother (by nineteen years), is pictured below. He had served in the Great War in the Leicestershire Regiment. The only surviving images of him during his Home Guard service are those reproduced on this page.

Both Elisha and Walter spent their working lives at Wilkins and Mitchell.  This was a large engineering company in Darlaston, employing around 1000 people at its peak.  Its best known product was the Servis washing machine. Elisha was responsible for the Maintenance Dept. and Walter rose to be Chief Designer for washing machines and other household appliances.

Within the Battalion were two brothers, John and Edward Wilkins, sons of the founder of the Company. Both of their names appear on the Dinner Menu below. Edward Wilkins and Elisha Dowen were life-long friends and there can be little doubt that their Home Guard comradeship was part of this.

Elisha Dowen in the 1920s and, much later, in the 1950s:



Walter and Elisha's sister married Sgt. Bert North
(right), another Home Guard who appears on this page.




And
(left) Walter Dowen in later life, then aged 91.


Sgt. BERNARD PREECE 

Bernard Preece was employed on essential war work and was a member of the local Home Guard.  He worked for Wellman, Smith, Owen until his eventual retirement in the 1970s.  Wellman's were one of the several significant engineering companies in Darlaston.  Whilst in peacetime they were a major manufacturer of beam cranes, during the war their activity extended into very different areas. Along with his colleagues at Wellman's, Bernard worked on the top secret "Operation PLUTO" - the design, construction and laying of the "PipeLine Under The Ocean" which played a major part in the supply of fuel from the U.K. to the Continent during the months following D-Day.

The only evidence so far of Bernard's Home Guard service comes from the following newspaper cutting
(source unknown).



The text accompanying this image tells us that we are looking at: Section Officers and Deputies, Auxiliary Bomb Disposal, South Staffordshire Garrison Home Guard.  The personnel are identified as:

Back Row:
Sgt. C. S. Lund; SGT. B. PREECE; Sgt. E. Rollaston; Sgt. E. Wooton;
Middle Row:
Cpl. W. Thoday; Sgt. J. Murcer; Lt. A.T. Painting; Sgt. G. Pallant; Sgt. J. W. Stones; Sgt. A. Thursfield
Front Row:
Lt. A. Munslow; Lt. A. Light; Capt. L. D. G. Hodgetts; Major T. O. Miles; Lt. A. E. Farmer; Lt. S. A. Jarvis; Lt. F. A. Fellows

HISTORICAL NOTE
The Auxiliary Bomb Disposal Units were formed in response to the 1940 concerns of the Ministry of Aircraft Production about the possible loss of production equipment in aircraft factories if hard pressed Bomb Disposal squads were forced to select detonation rather than deactivation. The units were formed with the role of locating, identifying, reporting and clearing sites prior to the arrival of the Bomb Disposal units.
This responsibility was extended in June 1941 so that suitably qualified men could undertake actual bomb disposal. The scheme covered all factories who employed at least 1000 personnel and were engaged on war work.
The units were factory based and, initially, wholly independent of the Home Guard. From September 1942, however, it was decided that all members of these units should be part of their local Home Guard battalion and perform a secondary role as HG infantrymen in the event of a German attack in the area.

The group image above possibly shows a gathering of senior A.B.D. personnel drawn from all the South Staffordshire battalions in Walsall, Aldridge, Brownhills, Wednesbury and Darlaston; and it includes Bernard Preece whose responsibilities, we may assume, lay within the Wellman factory.







Peace in 1945 did not lead to Bernard discarding military uniform for ever. He is shown
(right)
in about 1947 with his wife Kathleen and their son Anthony, born in 1944. It is a surprise to see him still in uniform and still holding the rank of sergeant.  The explanation is that when his reserved occupation status came to an end as the war finished, he was still liable to be called up for National Service and this happened in 1946.  He served in Palestine and Egypt and his experiences there haunted him for the rest of his life.




Bernard probably did not serve in close association with the Dowen brothers during the Home Guard years.  But a social connection emerged much later: Bernard and Kathleen's daughter married Walter Dowen's son.

THE PULLAR FAMILY

The Pullar family of 29 Addebrooke Street, Darlaston, had a remarkable record of service to King and Country.

Sgt. Fred Pullar
(left) was an old soldier and employed by Darlaston U.D.C. He served as a sergeant in the Darlaston Home Guard, together with one of his sons, Len.  He appears in two of the above images on this page. Fred Pullar volunteered on 22nd July 1940, was promoted to Armoury Sergeant on 2nd December 1940 and served right through until stand-down in December 1944.

A further image shows Fred performing in the Battalion Band on another occasion. This was taken in late October/early November 1942 and may even have been at the time of the Remembrance Service on Sunday 15th November mentioned on  the church noticeboard behind him.  Fred is on the right, wearing the specs (which indicates a piece of music not wholly familiar to him). The location is probably the Methodist Church, near to the old Co-op in Walsall.




Fred Pullar and Ellen Elizabeth Pullar, his wife, had six sons.  This local newspaper cutting of 24th August 1942 tells us much about them:


Petty-Officer George O. Pullar joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15 and had served for 20 years before surviving the loss of H.M.S. Edinburgh which was on Arctic Convoy escort duties and was attacked and badly damaged on 30th April by a U-boat. After a heroic engagement with attacking enemy vessels whilst on tow back to Murmansk the ship had finally to be abandoned on 2nd May with heavy loss of life. Nevertheless 840 men, including George, were taken off safely.  Whilst on the way home George was lost on 6th July 1942 on H.MS. Niger which struck a mine near Iceland. He was 34 years of age and was married. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.
Please click on newspaper cutting above for higher definition/magnified version.
                    
                                               

Cpl. Alaston Victor Pullar
, known as Victor
(right), transferred from the South Staffordshire Regiment to the Northamptonshire Regiment at the outbreak of war. After 11 years of service and at the age of 29 he was killed in action on 21st May 1940 and now lies in Heverlee War Cemetery at Vlaams-Brabant in Belgium.



Captain Q.M. Frederick Wiiliam Pullar
(left) had, by 1942, seen 21 years of service in the South Staffordshire Regiment rising from Private to Captain. He was at that time serving as R.Q.M.S. in the Middle East. He survived the war and is seen here in later years.






Pte. Leslie J. Pullar
(right) served in the South Staffordshire Regiment too. By 1942 he had seen  15 years of service and served in the Middle East, India and with the Chindits in Burma before eventually surviving the war.







Pte. Leonard P. Pullar
(left) served with his father in the Darlaston Home Guard. He later served in the North Staffordshire Regiment in the Korean War.






Mr. Reginald Pullar
(left, in his T.A. uniform) served for two years in the Territorials and although called up at the beginning of the war was later discharged and returned to work of national importance at Rubery Owen.










Fred Pullar
has a constant presence in Darlaston for it was on him that the statue on the War Memorial in Victoria Road was modelled in 1923
(right). He also appears in two of the above images on this page.




(As we pursue our comfortable and relatively safe 21st century lives, perhaps we should pause for a moment and reflect on the service, and especially the sacrifice, offered up by a family such as the Pullars in the fight for justice and freedom).


Pte. A. N. OTHER  span>
A blank space for memories of more Darlaston men.......Please use
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In common with many Home Guard units throughout the country, members of the 37th Battalion marked the occasion of the December 1944 stand-down,  and their many years of voluntary service and comradeship, by a formal dinner. Memories of the event organised by the Battalion's "E" Company happily survive: this took place on Thursday, January 4th 1945 in the canteen of Messrs. Charles Richards. It would be the last time that most of these men would come together.

All the decipherable signatures are shown in the "Men of the Darlaston Home Guard" list above.

The fare was modest but no doubt a treat in those heavily rationed days ....

From the signatures of this surviving programme we can decipher a number of names of "E" Coy. members, including.....

Magnified versions of several of the above images can be viewed here.

Staffshomeguard would welcome further information about the Darlaston Home Guard and its members so that the memory of these men can be further perpetuated. Please use the Feedback link at the foot of the page.

********** 

In Memory of

ALL MEMBERS OF
THE DARLASTON HOME GUARD

37th Staffordshire (Darlaston) Battalion
Home Guard

1940-1944

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Grateful acknowledgement is made:

- to members of the excellent History of Darlaston Facebook page including John Michael Beechey, Ken Chambers, Rob Raz Foster, Alan Dowen, Michael Fisher, Janine Giles, Sharon Higginson, Enid Proud, David Pullar, Lee Rochester, Anne Weaver and Alan Wheatley. 
(These members have generously put into the public domain material (images and other information) which now appears on this website page.  Staffshomeguard has in some cases been unsuccessful in making contact with particular contributors and obtaining explicit approval for this use of their material. Due apology is made. Contact with the individuals concerned would still be welcomed).

and
- to Sheila Price;  Darlaston Remembers; Wolverhampton History and Heritage Website; the Wilkins and Mitchell History Website;  and "Home Guard List 1941 Western Command" by Jon Mills (Savannah Publications)

Pullar family images David Pullar 2018
Dowen/North family images Alan Dowen 2018

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x154 - November 2017, updated Jan, Feb, March  and April 2018