HOME GUARD MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - WARWICKSHIRE, BIRMINGHAM
BIRMINGHAM STREET FIGHTING SCHOOL
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Birmingham had its own Home Guard Street Fighting School known as "GHQ Town Fighting Wing". In 1944 it was based at 130 Bristol Street where one assumes a proportion of the training was carried out. Accommodation was provided for students a short distance away at the Blind Institute at 52, Carpenter Road, Edgbaston which seems to have been a training venue too. The practical training, of which an example in a bomb-damaged street is shown to the right, will have been carried out in the area adjacent to the Bristol Street premises. There are images of it here.
This is the location of the school (left). Bristol Street is a major thoroughfare to the south-west of the city centre.
"130 Bristol Street" is a large, probably disused church and adjoining Sunday School. These buildings are located on a site at the corner of Bristol Street and Ashley Street and known as The Old Meeting Church. The church can be seen on the right hand side of Bristol Street in the image below (left); and below (right), in a view from the early 20th century. It is a Unitarian church, built in 1885 and containing Burne-Jones stained glass windows. As can be seen it is an imposing and impressive building; its destiny will be to survive the Birmingham Blitz and the ravages of Home Guard students, but not the post-war city planners.
In the following image a group of students, drawn from units up and down the country, is arranged at the side of the church, facing away from the main thoroughfare and down Ashley Street with its rows of terraced houses. Behind the group, in the distance, the large building to the right is on the other side of Bristol Street. The date is unknown. There is evidence within the photograph of bomb damage in the area and no doubt practical training exercises will have taken place in the surrounding streets.
(Click on the image to see a magnified version and the names of some of the men appearing).
Thanks to information provided by a visitor to this site, the Chief Instructor of this School is now known. He was Captain Albert (Dick) Edwards who assumed his duties some time before November 1942 and spent approximately two years there. His departure may have coincided with the closure of the School in late 1944 when the Home Guard was in the process of being stood down. He may even have been C.I. for the School's entire life as its date of founding has not so far been established.
Capt. Edwards was commissioned into the Royal Leicestershire Regiment on 1st June 1940 from the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment with whom he had served since 1919. He had entered the Army as a Boy Soldier/Drummer Boy and because of his small stature was given the nickname "Dinky"; this in time changed to Dick.
Some images of him and his immediate colleagues survive.
Here he is, front left, kneeling; the School's C.O. (Major A.R. Turner) is on the extreme left, standing:
and left, probably photographed inside the church:
and on the right, in front of a "German Army H.Q." which obviously featured in some training exercise, with the C.O., Major A.R. Turner, centre.
This specialist Home Guard training unit was operating until a relatively late stage in the war. Another page on this website indicates that there was no let up, even by September 1944, and students were still being drawn from far and wide.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to Mick Ackrill for providing the Home Guard documents shown on this page; to members of the excellent Birmingham History Forum through whose efforts and knowledge the exact location of the Birmingham image was identified and who provided other information and images; and to AB of Salisbury for providing the images and information relating to her grandfather, Capt. Dick Edwards.