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(August 1944)

4.  On Along The Chester Road
Chester Road Traffic

by Chris Myers

4.  On Along The Chester Road - and Chester Road Traffic - and Further On Up The Hill

We’ll walk on a few yards. It's there that I can remember being driven past, looking out of the car window over the grass verge. It must have been the summer of 1940. Four years ago now. Piled up on it was a great mound of old cars and other bits of machinery and scrap metal and rubbish. I think it was going to be used as a roadblock if the Germans came. They were going to shove it all across the road to stop the tanks and other things. How long it would have stopped a Panzer tank for, I don't know, but they had to try. Of course it was never needed and by now it has all been cleared up, taken away and probably forgotten about by everyone except me.

On our side of the road there are a couple of houses quite close together. I think somebody called Mrs Ashmore lives in one of them. I have the feeling that my elder sister used to have piano lessons from her. Before you get to those houses, and for a long time afterwards as you start to climb the hill, there is nothing, just the odd field stretching back to the gardens of Thornhill Road. On the other side it is all open fields.

We'll pause here, just a few moments. I'm going to tell you a bit about the traffic before we walk any further.

Chester Road Traffic

Today is normal, mainly lorries and things. Very few cars and all the vehicles have mudguards and other bits painted white at the edge. They all still have their blackout masks over their headlamps. Even though very few German planes come over now, we still have the blackout.

This is what I call normal traffic. Sorry the pictures are a bit fuzzy. They are all taken up the road, near Cutler's Garage, next door to the Hardwick Arms. You can see the lorries and cars in the background of some and those were taken in the winter of 1940/41 when a squad of Home Guard blokes were building an air raid shelter one weekend. My brother's there, somewhere, and possibly my dad.

This one's a bit more recent, probably last summer or the year before. Taken from near Cutler's petrol pumps. The air raid shelter is part of the landscape now. It's not been used recently.

 A lot of cars are laid up. The ones that are on the road are owned by people who have got a petrol ration. Dad has one of those because of his job and also because of his Home Guard duties. We are very lucky although he has to be careful how he uses the car and doesn't break the rules. I have a friend in Talbot Avenue whose name is Clive Smith. His dad's car is laid up in the garage, raised up on bricks. Like a lot of others. But in their spare bedroom are all the bits which his dad could easily take off it. The doors, the headlamps, the bumpers. I think probably the wheels as well. I suppose they all stay warm and dry there and don't go rusty. And it will all be put back together again when peace comes. But that's why at the moment there aren't very many cars on the roads.

Here's a couple, outside the Parish Room in Foley Road, just down from All Saints Church, probably in the winter of 1940/41. You can see the masks and the white paint on the edges of the mudwings. I wonder who the men are and what they are talking about. Perhaps one of them is the owner of the car which is parked.

(You are probably asking - why do the cars only have a mask on ONE headlamp? It's because when the headlights are dipped, on cars, today, just the one headlamp shines at the kerb. The other one which points straight ahead goes out. And so all the cars now run all the time on dipped headlights, just the one with the mask. I expect the other headlamp is disconnected or the bulb has been taken out so that it can't be switched on by accident.  Dad's is like that. It has a secret switch too, under the dashboard, so that when there was a danger of German paratroopers pinching it, they wouldn't have known how to start it. I'm not allowed to touch anything under there).

But back to the Chester Road traffic. It's all the other stuff which you don't see all the time, not just the ordinary lorries and cars, which really interests me. Possibly just once or twice in a day. Or even less often. Like the regular appearance of an RAF or Royal Navy sixty-footer, usually laden with aircraft pieces, like a fuselage or wings. Sometimes brand-new but, more often than not, twisted and scraped and bashed about.

There are constant Army convoys, trundling along, one after the other, vehicle after vehicle. And so slowly. The last long car journey I remember was in May 1940. To Blackpool for the weekend. (That's another story. I'll tell you about it some time). I think it was to try out the new Ford Prefect. Petrol was easier then. I don't think it was rationed. We got stuck in the middle of one of those convoys. Mile after mile. Crawling along at about 15 m.p.h. A lot of the time I could have got out and run faster. Dad was very frustrated. We knew all about these things and we groaned when we came up to the back of this one. There is nothing at all you can do.

Of course a lot of the traffic is to do with the war. Not just lorries. But Bren gun carriers, for example. Dad says a lot of these are made in Birmingham. Funny things, those, you can hear every chain and cog and tread going round and round as they clatter past you, all whirring. They sound like huge, clockwork toys. Like my Hornby. And, noisiest of all, huge tanks. They make all those noises as well but a lot is drowned out by the roar they make. It takes your breath away if you are standing on the pavement as they go by. And after they've gone you can see how the road surface has been scraped. Especially if they have been making some sort of turn.

We are lucky. I can show the second of two of these huge things, just disappearing down the road. Again it's a fuzzy picture, I'm afraid, but it's something to have anything at all. Here they are, roaring past Cutler's Garage. I can almost hear the noise and the clatter. I don't know when this was taken. Or where they had come from and where they were going.

I'll tell you a bit more about the traffic when we get to the top of the hill. But it's time we got on as otherwise we'll never get home.

And so further on up the hill

On up the hill. About halfway up, on our side of the road, there are some trees, almost like a little wood. In it there is a house. A family called Brittuce live there. I’m always surprised when I think about this. Because they are German. Or at least they have a German name.

What on earth are they doing living there? I know that all Germans are horrid and every single one of them just wants to kill me. For as long as I can remember, we have been fighting them in the war. Now, right near to my home, live a family of them. I am surprised as well that Mum, who thinks Germans are horrid, just like I do, never says anything nasty about them. Nor does anyone else. Not even Dad. He was in the last war and was wounded in France and so he has good reason not to like them. Dad got sent home when he was wounded. They called it "getting a Blighty". It probably saved his life because it got him out of danger and he's perfectly all right now. That happened twenty-six years ago. To me, that seems a long, long time in the past. Even before my big brother was born. But I bet it doesn't to him. And to really old people it must seem just like the day before yesterday.

I don’t know this family at all but they seem to be getting on with their life just like the rest of us. What I never knew before is that their real name is spelt Britzius. Despite everyone pronouncing it to rhyme with "juice". I think they must be nice people, even though they are German.

Perhaps that teaches me something. And I wonder how they feel, living in the middle of the enemy.

Opposite their house, the fields have stopped. Going off at an angle to the left is a very interesting, leafy little cart track and there’s a farm building of some sort in the angle. It’s very broken down and certainly nobody lives in it. I don’t think they ever have done. Perhaps it's always been just a farm building. I've never looked in it and so I don't know if there is anything inside.

What I know about this little track is that it leads off to a wood which lies behind all the houses on that side of the road. The ones we are going to see in a minute as we walk further up the hill. It’s a jolly interesting place. I’ve only been there once or twice but the wood is full of birch trees and in amongst them are all sorts of ditches and things which look just like army trenches. It makes you wonder what used to happen there. And if you carry on walking through the wood, eventually you will pass The Camp. This is a whole lot of wooden buildings. It looks just like an Army camp and so I suppose that's how it got its name. But there are no soldiers. I think that children are given a holiday there. They are the ones who normally live in the middle of Birmingham and can’t often see green trees and breathe in fresh air. I really don't know whether they still come here, in wartime. I hope they do. It must be a nice change for them when they probably don't have gardens to play in where they live. And they've had all the bombing. Then, a bit further on, after you leave the buildings behind you, you come out into Bridle Lane. Turn left to go up to Barr Beacon. Or right to go back to the Chester Road.  

But back to our stretch of the Chester Road.

    5. Up to the Brow of the Hill
   and More Chester Road Traffic



This family and local history page is hosted by
(The Home Guard of Great Britain, 1940-1944)
Please see INDEX page for general acknowledgements; but specific, grateful acknowledgement to the owner of the traffic images on this page, Kate Cutler.

All text and images are, unless otherwise stated, The Myers Family 2022
Traffic images Kate Cutler 2022

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L8D April 2022
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