Cpl. BATE'S 1941 DIARY

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Mr. Peter Geoffrey Bate contributed his wartime diary to the BBC's Archive of WW2 memories in June 2004. Amongst its several sections (all listed here and including both his previous HG service in London and his later years in the Royal Artillery) his record of 1941 when he moved with his parents to Mayfield Road, Sutton Coldfield will be of particular interest to all those who know Sutton. It is reproduced in full below.  (Please see the foot of this page for acknowledgements.)


January 3
Play table tennis in the Inter-station Fire Brigade Finals. We win!

January 5
Return my Home Guard uniform and equipment to the local HQ.

January 6
Say farewell to the Arts and Crafts School and the London Fire Brigade.

January 7
In Dad’s car from Kidbrooke to Sutton Coldfield, slipping and sliding all the way on roads covered with frozen snow.

January 8
Move into 22 Mayfield Road, Sutton Coldfield.

January 11
First day for weeks with no air raids.

January 18
Mike arrives from Dymchurch on 3 days leave.

January 20
Heavy snowfall makes Sutton Park look like fairyland. Start work in the Sales Office of the Dunlop Rubber Company — a job arranged by Dad, who has also got Tig a position at the Dole Office. Report to the Sutton Home Guard in the evening. They have a little canteen, where the “Squire’s daughters” serve soft roes on toast — delicious.

January 24
First week’s pay from ”The Dunlop” - £1/6/3d
(£1.31). Elected Secretary of the Mayfield Road Fire Watchers and Fighters. Arrange duty roster for the residents — 2 per night for each side, equipped with whistles and stirrup pumps.

February 13
Mike’s 21st Birthday. He arrives with Gladys for a one-day visit — I give him a pewter tankard, Dad gives him a set of Seton Merriman’s books.

March 11
Stick of incendiary bombs falls in the gardens of Mayfield Road. Baptism of fire for our Watchers and Fighters.

April 9
Mike marries Gladys in Colwyn Bay. Big raid on Birmingham —aircraft droning back and forth over Sutton — bombs falling and buildings burning in the city. Twelve German ‘planes shot down.

April 22
Letter from London — our house in Kidbrooke has been blown clean off its foundation by a bomb in the next-door garden, and will have to be demolished.

April 24
Home Guard manoeuvres “All over Sutton Park” under the command of one Corporal Douglas Thomas (The start of a friendship which has lasted over 60 years.)

(In June Peter Bate celebrates his eighteenth birthday).

July 9
Promoted to corporal again — half a year since I had to give up my stripes on leaving London. Had a celebratory drink with Douglas, after practising Guard Mounting Drill in Sutton Park.

July 18
This has been a typically busy week — worked at the Fire Service every day, then put on my Home Guard uniform for:-
Monday: Firing at butts, then Corporal of the Guard all night.
Wednesday: Firing with a P14 rifle fitted with a Morris tube, in the basement, till 2230 hours.
Thursday: Took a squad in arms drill and musketry.
Friday: Finished a ten week course of Physical and Bayonet Training at the Riding School, then to Headquarters for a late supper in the canteen with Douglas.

July 26
Leave Sutton Coldfield with Douglas on heavily-laden bikes, on our way to Torquay — some 200 miles to the South West. (Douglas was Cpl. Douglas Thomas, another member of the Sutton Home Guard. See another page in this website which remembers Douglas's service and also this eventful wartime holiday in South Devon).

July 27 to Aug 3
At Douglas’s mother’s hotel in Torquay. Hiking, swimming, drinking Scrumpy and scoffing Mrs Thomas’s delicious grub.

August 4
Back in Sutton.

August 18
Dad (on my bike) and Joan off for five days, to Cirencester, Wells, Cheddar, and Gloucester.

August 27
Joan applies to join the Women’s Land Army.

August 28
To a rehearsal of “Cavalleria Rusticana” by the Sutton Operatic Society. Sounds good, so fork out the ten shillings
(£0.50) subscription.

September 17
Hear on the news that all fire brigades have been nationalised and are looking for staff. Write to the Birmingham office of the new National Fire Service, applying for a job.

October 4
Last day at The Dunlop. Take a bottle of port to the office for my farewell party.

October 6
Start work at the Birmingham Fire Brigade - £2/10/0
(£2.50) per week.

October 8
Awarded my crossed swords as a P.T. Instructor, to wear over my stripes.

October 11
Joan home for the weekend, en route to a farm in Warwick, looking very sharp in her Women’s Land Army uniform.

October 16
Issued with my N.F.S. uniform, tin hat and service respirator.

October 22
First air raid for 65 days. Wet drill and smoke drill at Shadwell Street Fire Station.

November 6
Miss the last bus after a late rehearsal. Walk soprano Elaine Ritchie to her home. (This becomes a regular procedure).

November 13 to 15
“Cavalleria Rusticana” at Sutton Town Hall. Very well received. Whisky Macs at the “Three Tuns” with Elaine after each performance.

December 10
Shattered by the news of the sinking of the “Prince of Wales” and the “Repulse”. Ring Elaine, and agree to cheer ourselves up by having supper at her service club and going to the cinema.

December 16
Dad leaves Birmingham to become District Manpower Officer at Hanley, Staffs.

December 25
On Christmas Eve, Dad had arrived from Hanley with a chicken, and Joan came in late from her farm in Leamington, bringing 12 eggs, a rabbit and 4 pounds of pig. Traditional present distribution at 0845 hours, eggs and bacon, chat, lunch of chicken and pork, chat. Elaine and Douglas came at tea time — games and singing till 2300 hours.

December 31
To a New Year’s Eve dance at the Maney Dance Hall with Elaine. She expects to join the army next month, and my call-up is also imminent, so our ways are parting. Escort her to Highbridge Road at 0050, then home to ring Mum in Hanley, to wish her a Happy New Year.

© Peter Geoffrey Bate 2004

This article appears within the BBC's WW2 People's War website under the heading "WW2 People's War - Memories 2" by Peter Geoffrey Bate. The original article may be seen here.
WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the BBC and to the author for the creation of this record under terms which permit its reproduction on this website.