Private W. Geoffrey Cradock (1914-
2014 and seen, left, in the H.G. in 1940 and, right, in the T.A. in the early 1930s)
was a member of No. 6 Platoon within a Company which formed part of the 12th Worcestershire (Warley) Battalion, responsible for the defence of the Quinton area of Birmingham.
Geoffrey Cradock was born in Wallasey and spent his early life there which included an engineering apprenticeship at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead. At the age of 16, having accidentally stated his age as the officially required 18, he joined the Territorial Army in 1932.
By the late 1930s Geoff was married and and had moved from the north-west of England to the West Midlands. He worked as an inspector (Aeronautical Inspection Directorate. M.A.P.) responsible for monitoring the quality of aircraft components manufactured at the company where he was based,
Birmingham Aluminium Castings.
Seventy-two years after the event Geoff recalls one Sunday morning in early September 1939 sitting with his wife in their local church in Quinton. In the middle of the service an announcement is made from the pulpit: Neville Chamberlain has spoken on the wireless and from that moment the country is at war with Germany.
Geoff and his wife lived at that time at
34 Sunnybank Road, Quinton. A close neighbour of his, and also his landlord, was Mr T. C. Fillery who owned a company of the same name which manufactured toffees. Other neighbours were
Stan Lovell and
Len Rhodes (right).
On the night of Tuesday May 14th 1940 Geoff and probably millions of others listened to the broadcast by Anthony Eden on the radio calling for volunteers for a local defence organisation to be known as the Local Defence Volunteers. (Read the actual words here). Eden was at the time Secretary of State for War in Churchill's new government which had been in power for just four days. Also on the previous Friday the German Army and the Luftwaffe had attacked Belgium, the Netherlands and France. On the day of the broadcast Rotterdam had been severely bombed, the Netherlands had capitulated and the British Expeditionary Force and the French Army were heavily engaged in a desperate but eventually fruitless attempt to stem the tide. In 13 days the evacuation of the B.E.F. from Dunkirk would begin.
Geoff wasted no time. The following day, Wednesday, he presented himself at Brandhall Police Station in the company of Tom Fillery, Stan Lovell, Len Rhodes and another friend, Bill Branston together with a large number of other local men. Like thousands of others throughout the country on the same day, he left his details and returned home to await the call.
Not many days later that group of volunteers found themselves forming the unit which was soon to become known as the Danilo Platoon (more officially, No. 6 Section, LDVC). In command was Tom Fillery whom Geoff remembers as a natural leader of men.
The normal activity of basic military training which all volunteers had to undertake was pursued with extreme urgency. Its effectiveness can be assessed by the early dates
(all in September, see left) by which Geoff was confirmed to have reached an acceptable level of proficiency in various areas, all attested to by another early member of the unit,
Sgt. B.H. Parry
(almost certainly a survivor of the Great War who by
the following year had been commissioned and had attained the rank of captain). In July or August the first rifles arrived - American .300s, all thickly coated with grease from their many years in storage. Gallons of boiling water were needed to bring them to a useable condition. Each rifle was at that stage accompanied by five rounds of ammunition.
All this was however not enough for Tom Fillery. He decided that a local defensive strong point was needed and should be constructed. The location was to be in the car park immediately behind the Danilo Cinema (to be known much later by other names - Essoldo, Classic, ABC, Odeon and finally Reel) which had only opened in the previous August, just before the outbreak of war. Sand, cement and other construction materials rapidly appeared from unknown sources and under the watchful eye of the unit's leader a substantial building was created.
At some stage during this project, apparently at or near its completion, Tom Fillery approached the manager of the cinema,
Mr. M. Dent,
with a request that a special film show should be put on there with the aim of raising funds for the local unit and the construction of its strong point - "To Inaugurate the Opening of Danilo Fort" as the flyer put it. This event took place on Sunday, August 11, 1940. Those attending would have known that the first of many air raids on Birmingham had occurred the previous Thursday and during the following week they would see four further attacks. The city's ordeal was just beginning and many local Home Guard units would be deeply involved. The Battle of Britain was still being fought and invasion remained a looming threat.
The platoon provided a Guard of Honour for the event at the cinema. Several photographs survive. No images of the Home Guard strong point have so far come to light although it might well be the structure seen in the background of the first of the following images. The building was a substantial one and no doubt lasted for many years after the HG had been disbanded at the end of 1944.
These are the images of the Guard of Honour at the Danilo:
Geoff Cradock is 9th from the right.
Geoff Cradock is 4th from the right: Sgt. (later Capt). Parry is standing between the two ranks.
Capt. (later Lt.-Col.) Lancaster, Battalion C.O., inspecting the guard, followed by Sgt. (later Capt.) Parry. Geoff Cradock is 4th from the right.
On the following day, Monday,
12th August, this report appeared in the local press
showing two Home Guard images of which the second is of
Geoff Cradock is 8th from the
right and the man bearing a rifle and accompanying the
reviewing party of Capt. Lancaster and Mr. Singleton is
again Sgt. Parry.
During 1943 Geoff's duties as, in modern parlance, a Quality Engineer, which by then involved unpredictable hours and a degree of travelling meant that he could no longer serve effectively in the Home Guard. And so he and the service bad each other a reluctant good-bye. He continued his career ensuring that the multiplicity of components and materials used in the country's huge aircraft industry were of the required quality. And the local Home Guard soldiered on, still training for an enemy invasion and incursion which thankfully never occurred and increasingly finding itself manning anti-aircraft batteries of guns and rockets, thereby continuing to defend the city in a different way.
OTHER BATTALION INFORMATION
The 12th Worcestershire was commanded by Lt. Col. T.S. Lancaster M.C., sometime Captain in the Royal Engineers. Senior officers in 1941 were Majors W.P. Homes, G.W. Rose, W.J. Balderstone, G.H.A. Cordwent and T.C. Fillery. In August 1942 Major Fillery took over the command of the Battalion from Lt.-Col. Lancaster with the rank of Lt. Col. and held it until June 1944. At that date he assumed command of the 8th Worcestershire (Oldbury) Battalion for the rest of the war. Lt.-Col. Lancaster died in 1944.
One night in 1941, that of April 9th/10th, the Danilo Platoon participated in the capture of a Luftwaffe pilot, although Geoff Cradock was not personally involved on that occasion. The detailed story can be read here, "The Quinton Raid" , on the Quinton Local History Society website.
It tells of a Heinkel 111 shot down by a nightfighter based at Tern Hill in Shropshire. The pilot of the stricken bomber, 23-year-old Unteroffizier Rudolf Muller, parachuted to safety and sustained only minor injuries. Two of his crew were not so fortunate, nor the seven occupants of the two houses in Hales Lane, Smethwick on which the machine crashed - members of the Smart and Hanson families: all of them lost their lives. The fourth crew member landed on the roof of 100 The Oval where other Home Guard and ARP personnel helped him down and handed him over the appropriate authorities having comforted him with tea and cigarettes.
Rudolf Muller (left) came down in Barston Lane, Oldbury and was apprehended by a section from the Danilo. (Just one member of the latter had declined to participate. Mr. Sainsbury had recently lost his only son on active service and could not trust himself to deal properly with a captured German airman).
Sources: QLHS (see above); and "Carl Chinn's Brummagem", Issue No. 44, November 2004)
Geoff Cradock's archive contained other interesting Home Guard and general home front information which can be seen in other sections of this website; please follow the links to read them:
- A Message to the Home Guard by John Langdon-Davies
- Duties of Sentries (Warley, Danilo Platoon - 23/7/40)
- What to Do about Gas
- Poison Gas and Food in your Home
- After the Raid