HOME GUARD MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - WARWICKSHIRE, BIRMINGHAM

STOCKLAND GREEN
and
MR. JOHN WELCH

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"Jennyann" relates a family memory from 1940/1941 involving a late-night knock on the door from the Stockland Green contingent of the Home Guard, possibly a unit within the 31st Warwickshire (Birmingham) Battalion.

My mother's father, John Welch, had moved in with my father and mother during the war. He was living in Brantley Road, Witton and then moved to Hidson Road, Marsh Hill. Although there was an Anderson shelter in the garden the favourite spot during air raids was in the pantry close to the stairs where my Mother, her first born son and her Father shoehorned in whilst Hitler's bombers looked for the ICI and GEC.

My father was often holed up in Bournville Power Station for several nights hoping that Jerry hadn't got that station on their list or that he wasn't blown off his bike as he cycled the many miles from Erdington to Bournville and back. He slept under a heavy wooden table when on night shift with only a cat and mice for companions. I was on the way in 1941 and my Mother knitted furiously in the bombing raids to prepare for my birth. Mother told me how frightened she was most of the time especially after that menace Lord Haw-Haw would spell out local targets for that evening's bombing via the radio. We had several incendiary bombs in the Hidson Road area and one direct hit on a house in Woolmore Road not far from the Woolmore entrance to Witton Lakes Park. But we were very lucky overall compared to the inner city areas and suburbs of Erdington.

My Grandfather was very restless. He was 80 years old. Mom and Dad removed the bulbs from the landing and hall lights. The large long window on the stairs then didn't have to have any black out since everyone used shaded torches to find their way around on the stairs and in the hall.

Grandfather had his own torch and frequently used to get up in the night to make tea. He was unsteady on the stairs and would flash his torch around all over the place on his way to the kitchen. My parents didn't know about this and one night there was a loud knock on the front door. It was the Home Guard. My parents were informed that for several nights strange darting lights had been seen coming from our landing window and were going straight up into the sky. The officer wanted to know what was going on. It some time before it was realized that Grandfather was the culprit....almost accused of signalling to the German aeroplanes that came over frequently.

Thankfully all was sorted out and a blackout curtain was hastily made for the landing window!!!

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

Such seemingly trivial activities were an important part of the Home Guard's work, especially in the earlier period when the fear of fifth columnist operations was at its highest. Often the local unit was acting in response to a report from a member of the public. Elsewhere in this site similar incidents are described, these not far away in Streetly/Little Aston. This is the night log of one platoon.

August 23/24th, 1940
21.14 hrs.  Guard mounted. O.P. manned. Weather cloudy, wind N.W.
22.40   Visited by Company Commander and 2 i/c. Issued with
sixteen blankets.
23.15   Visited by Orderly Officer.   
23.50   'Phone message received from Deputy Warden: "Flashing lights reported by occupant of 164, Rosemary Hill Road,
in direction of Shenstone and Lichfield."   
Two men sent to investigate. Found to be flares used by Military at Owlets Farm, 1 miles from Shenstone.
23.45   Patrol contacted by searchlight unit.
02.45   Sirens sounded. 'Planes very active. Bombs and A.A. fire.
03.00   O.P. re-manned. Clear sky.
03.30   Visit by Orderly Officer.
03.50   All clear.
04.05  Sirens sounded. 'Planes over.
05.15  All clear.
06.00   Guard dismissed.

An officer of that unit later writes about other similar incidents, typical of every Home Guard unit:

The "flashing lights" keep our Guards busy and frequently involve long journeys and long and patient investigation before being cleared. Each report is investigated: one concerned a report of a local inhabitant that each night intermittent lights resembling signalling were visible from Rookery Wood in a north-westerly direction. It takes the whole platoon two hours and an organised scheme with three observation posts and with synchronised watches recording each flash to determine that the lights were masked headlights of cars topping a rise on the Chester Road a mile and a half away.

The Guard Book contains constant reference to a "bright" light seen each night at a certain spot. This proves on investigation to be a red railway signal light at Aldridge, three miles away. These checks are made almost nightly, and such reports, common in most H.G. units, tend to illustrate the effectiveness of countless watching eyes peering into the darkness throughout the country and the improbability of any serious happening which is not instantly spotted and reported.

 

Thus John Welch, his torch and his need for a cuppa was just another incident, typical of so many at a time when the blackness was total and the faintest unexplained glimmer would be investigated. It would have been logged and perhaps, somewhere, the record of it survives.....

Acknowledgement: We thank "jennyann", a member of the excellent Birmingham History webring forum, for providing the above story and generously allowing us to reproduce it in this website.

There's another memory of Hidson Road in WW2 here. (You will leave this site).