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Alaska.
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There are a great many things that went on in the area, both during, and after the War. Can anyone remember the collections, for old pots and pans, which went towards the construction of Aircraft.  Does anyone remember the fundraising that went on to buy Fighters and Bombers. What about collecting from neighbours, all the food scraps, to feed the Army of Pigs that lived in backyard styes. I have a feeling, that those Pigs, were better fed than we were..




:)

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 19, 2011 at 3:42 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

During the War, a company called Haliwells, used Walsall Airport, ( yes, they did indeed have an Airport ) for repairing aircraft. Situated in the shadow of Barr Beacon, made it unsuitable for anything other than light aircraft. If my memory serves we right, this company were still there, long after the war ended. Does anyone remember the last time a plane took off from there, or has anyone got any photographs of it being used ?



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 16, 2011 at 2:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Wartime Memories, Airfields, Bombing.


Just goes to show sometimes, how an event that is personal, gets remembered by complete strangers. Flight Sergeant Albert H Hall, who hailed from West Bromwhich, was part of a Lancaster crew, that was shot down by anti-aircraft fire returning from a raid. It happened on June 21, 1944, over a Dutch Island, and a local group tracked down his descendants, one of whom was born in Halesowen. A Plaque commemorating the event, and the crews bravery, will be unveiled tomorrow by the group.The family, are of course delighted, and plan to visit the site, to look at the small exhibition that will be set up. What a nice gesture, 67 years on, and what a surprise, that a small part of the last war, has been remembered. Flight Sergeant Hall, was laid to rest in Bergen, northern Holland, 45 miles away, where his memory lives on.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 3, 2011 at 11:21 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

And in response to your request, a full list of the Airfields used in and around the region.



R.A.F. Cosford. Opened in August 1938, as the Number 2 Technical Training School. Later on, Number 9 Maintenance Unit, whose task it was to prepare Spitfires for the front line was based here. Number 12 Ferry Pilots Pool, ( all women by 1943) handled all the Spitfire deliveries, for The Air Transport Auxiliary. Over 70,000 mechanics and armourers passed through the School, and after the war, the base was used to store surplus aircraft.

R.A.F Wolverhampton. Pendeford was used by Boulton-Paul to test fly their " Defiant ", in 1937. This process of test flights went on until May 1939, when the plane went into production. The Company built 1,060 Defiants, 105 Blackburn Rocs, and 692 Barracudas, the latter two, under licence. In September 1941, Number 28, Elementary Flying Training School, was formed, consisting of 6 flights of 18 Tiger Moths, 108 aircraft in total.

R.A.F. Perton. Intended as a fighter station in August 1941, but was handed over to the Royal Netherlands Army.  Used by Heliwell Ltd, for testing repaired aircraft from their base at Walsall Airport. Plans for it's use as a Parachute Training base, were shelved, due to nearby Towns, and poor visibility from industrial haze.

R.A.F. Weston Park.  Opened in 1940, as a reserve airfield, and used for the dispersel of Spitfires from Cosford. The Fleet Air Arm, also used the base for similar reasons, but gave it a different name. H.M.S. Godwit II, which was not appriciated by the locals.

R.A.F. Teddesley Park.  Again, used as a reserve airfield, and opened in 1941. Two 800 yard runways ran through the local woods, which must have been a very scenic takeoff. No. 29 Maintenance Unit, from High Ercall, used the site for aircraft storage, until it was closed in 1946.

Battlestead Hill, and Penkridge, were used as relief landing areas, and also some training flights. 1942, saw some Officers from neutral Turkey being trained here, despite fierce competition from another air force. The Luftwaffe.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 5, 2011 at 12:02 PM Flag Quote & Reply

David Loaring
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Posts: 1

 

(From my mother, Ellen (Ruston) Loaring’s Diary, edited by my sister Mary Ellen (Loaring) Fellows. The passage was probably written in 1956 or 1957. She is thinking back to the war years when she first viewed her father’s (George Ruston) Rowley Regis neighbourhood while staying at the Price home, Cawney Bank House, home of Tilly (Matilda Ruston) and Harry Price. Ellen's father was George Ruston, the fourteen year-old in this reminiscence, son of Joseph Ruston. George's mother Martha had a shop down the road, and there is reference to that here. She was mother of 18 children, and I am pretty sure she also put heads on nails in her spare time.)

     Even when I saw the club building and the tiny brick cottage in Hawes Lane (where they slept, how, I don’t know)—where, when my father, a thin fourteen year old apprentice at Doulton’s, dropped his head on the table in sleep, Grandfather said, “Carry him up to bed!” and one of the brothers would sling him over his shoulder like a fireman and put him to bed—even when I saw all these places, they seemed to bear no relation to my coloured fancies which had developed in my imagination as I heard the stories through the years. Uncle Harry pointed out the hill where he had tipped the wagon with grocery order—I suppose the “makeweight”—and everything else went sprawling down the hill. I have forgotten the way Dad told it—the words chasing each other as he built it up to a climax. His was a high degree of fluency—to me, as a child, it was inspiring it was most dignified with delightful inflections and immaculate enunciation.

     There was the story about the bacon—the beauty of the telling of it was the great thing. How human for a boy to skid away from the frightening truth: “Where’s my bacon?” the man demanded angrily as, weary from his morning’s work and early breakfast, he anticipated the flavour of the bacon on his bread. How the skinny lad trembled! Yes he had seen the bacon, he had cooked it. And, taking it from the pan had dropped it into the fire where it caused a wonderful blaze and then fell a dismal char of failure to the ash below: “What shall I do?” he whimpered to himself. Burning his fingers he did what seemed to be the only thing to do—he dropped it on the bread. “Ghastly,” he thought: “Oh it’s no good! He’ll skin me alive!” He threw it frantically back into the ash where it sat cold and forgotten, no life left in it. Perhaps the man would forget about it. But he stood there as the man pointed an accusing finger at him and said: “Can bacon walk? See the patch on the bread where the bacon was, you liar you!” Dad never forgot it and we won’t either.

     How many others were there of those countless anecdotes. He would say: “I don't like to talk about myself”, and then wander off into a glorious string of anecdotes, each one well appointed, simply told and completely apropos. I guess the length of his sermons was never so irksome to me as to the boys. Though they slept through parts of them, they must have thought them a fraction of eternity. Nothing could dim their love and admiration for the “old boy”.

     I thought of the “makeweight” (OED a small quantity added to make up to a certain weight, or a counterbalancing weight, or a person or a thing of insignificant value), as I measured the value of my wasted crusts of bread against John’s life in Granny’s little copper scales. Daddy would say, “To some people Jesus is just a makeweight.” Our people used to keep a shop and sell bread. They were very careful to give people proper weight: bread was sold by the pound. If a loaf came up short, they cut a bit off another one. That was known as the makeweight. I have often seen in my imagination the honest face of Granny Ruston as she weighed out the bread in a dimly lit room.

     The sixteenth child in my father’s family was Frank. When he was about two years old, Blind Joe’s dog knocked him over and he died of the results. I suppose modern medicine might have saved him. Father was the fifteenth child and I suppose he regretted the loss of a younger playmate. One day during a funeral he and some younger boys set the hedge on fire. In later years, he never read the story of “Moses and the Burning Bush”, without thinking of it. He was hiding with another little gaffer watching the blaze, when the folks came out. Someone said, “Where’s our Georgie?” Out he had to crawl and confess.

     These stories are almost legendary to me. I heard them so often, they were more to me than the trite nursery rhymes we teach our children. Yes, I suppose it is twenty years since that visit to Birmingham. The stories have been hiding in a dusty comer of my recollection. I am sure though that in some unknown way I have drawn strength and courage from them through the years. I suppose my sons, John and David, will remember the bravery of Van Dome and Brooks which their father has told them about many times. Unfortunately, they are wartime tales, dripping with tears, blood, agony, suffering, waste, and misery, but nevertheless, brave and mighty!

     One of the most dramatic moments in Aunt Tilly’s life must have been when she took my Granny Ruston to see Cawney Bank House. I think Granny, dear aged soul, was lost in wonder and admiration over so much magnificence. She must have thought it a palace. She must have returned to her own humble bed and board with a great sigh of relief that it was Tilly and Harry who had to look after it all. I wonder if Jim, or Honour, or Mary remember that first visit their grandmother made to Cawney Bank House.

     I think Mary was thought to be the most like Granny Ruston. She was the most unselfish girl I had ever known, though pity the poor soul for whom she had a dislike! I was grateful for her affectionate regard for me and for all her kindnesses—the highlight being the boiled egg, bread, and tea in bed, when, tear stained and weary, I arrived trudging up Oakham Hill from Dudley Station. The dear soul had given my bedroom to some Polish officers. “You don’t mind, do you dear? I’ll give you a bed in the sitting room.” I said, thinking of the precious egg, “Mary, you shouldn’t.” “Of course I should! You need it, walking all that way carrying that bag.” So I tucked into the repast, each bit washed down with a tear and I snuggled down in the linen sheets to enjoy the warmth of an English cup of tea. All the while, unspeaking but duly honoured, the Louis- Philippe clock in its glass case watched and the gas lamps flickered quietly over my head.

     It was March 10th that we first talked to you dear brother John from the Greenock Hotel. We were staying at Mrs. Kincaid’s house, whose husband was so crippled with arthritis. Maurice was with us. There was a piano in the room and Maurice had just played it. The operator let us talk longer than the three minutes because we were so happy to talk to each other again. And then you were on the platform with Uncle Harry—he so proud and so pleased to be with someone else who was happy. You were upset dear heart, because you didn’t have your commission yet. We went through the preliminaries: what was the crossing like, how are the folks at home; the C.O. says the commission should come through soon. And then you came and sort of leaned on or knelt beside my bed—me propped up writing to Johnnie in my blue satin trousseau nightie which Betty had given me, and I suppose a bit of a pink wool bed-jacket, for there was no heat in the room. You tried to say so much but said so little. You put your face in the quilt and said, “It’ s been hard for you, you’ve been homesick.” I shrugged it off, cheered by your understanding. “Oh it hasn’t been so bad. They’ve been so kind to me.”


 


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July 2, 2011 at 6:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Dudley, Halesowen, Sedgley, Wednesbury, West Bromwich. War Bonds.


During the first World War, those not fighting, were urged to save money, and loan it to the Government in the form of War Bonds. Started up again in 1939, the scheme was called National Savings, and was a mixture of saving stamps on cards, Certifcates, and War bonds. To help it all along, there were Aircraft weeks, Ship weeks, Tank weeks, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen weeks. The whole Country responded, and took to saving every penny they could spare. We should I suppose, take due note of all this, given the state of the current economic climate. Just as an example, Dudley set a target in it's " Wings for Victory Week " of £500,000. Enough to buy a 100 spitfires. George Formby, who was appearing in the Town at the time, June 1943, got involved with a series of promotions. This, together with a truly remarkable response from the citizens, raised just over £750,00. Just up the road in Sedgley, the same event raised £120,200, against a target of £100,000. I wonder if the Town still has the Aircraft Logbooks, that were presented to them after the War ended. In 1940, when " Navy Week " was announced, Wolverhampton set a saving total of £1,000,000, and managed a total of £1,140,000. In 1942, ( see Warships and Gallery ) the Town adopted HMS Newfoundland, a light Cruiser.



Captain Ravenhill, gave a thank you speech at the adoption ceremony. Tipton had over 119 savings groups in 1943, and when set a target of £250,000 for a Nvay week, raised £188,000 in just five days. Wednesbury, and West Bromwich, also exceeded the targets set, on every savings campaign announced, having encouraged the Towns employers to each set up a savings group. Halesowen, has a complete list of the savings made during the War. During " War Weapons Week ", in 1940, a modest target of £150,000 was set. It was after all, only a small Borough. Imagine the surprise when the figure of £410,000 was revealed. I suspect some of the population may have been hiding a few bob under the matress's. The Town also adopted a Warship, after raising a further £ 330,000. The final total of savings and investments, made by the people of Halesowen at Wars end, was £3,592,735. A truly mind boggling sum at the time, for such a small place, but only a tiny proportion of the vast sums raised across the Black Country and beyond. Concidering the risks being taken by our fighting men, and the civilians of the Merchant Navy, it was the least anyone could do.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 7, 2011 at 3:30 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Warships, HMS Kelvin, HMS Griffin, HMS Centurion. Cradley Heath, Dudley.


Life can seem very strange at times, so while researching a tale sent to me last week, I came across not one, but two interesting little things. On my Warships page, are listed the vessels adopted by many midland towns. It would appear, that the ship adopted by Dudley, HMS Kelvin, and the one by Oldbury, HMS Griffin, not only served in the same theatre of War, the Mediterranean, but also in the same convoy, in June 1942. From some papers,  copies of which were kindly sent to me, comes a story that sort of knits things together. A man from Cradley heath, who worked on Chains and Anchors in the 1930s, lost his work when the firm went bust. ( A good many will be familiar with such happenings at the time ) Being single, he went off in search of work, and finished up in Portsmouth, where luckily, he found his skills were of use in the Naval Dockyard. Working for a contractor, his wages were fairly low until 1939, when the country went to war. He had in the meanwhile, learned to rivet, weld, and do a variety of other ship board jobs. Non, he says in his notes, as strange as the task they were asked to do in April 1941. He arrived at work, to find tied up at the quayside, the old Battleship, Centurion. Now this ship had built built in 1911, as one of 4 King George V super dreadnoughts, and had last seen service at the Battle of Jutland.


Sister ship, King George V.


She had been decommissioned in 1924, all her Guns taken out, and used as a target ship for many years. She was full of holes, had been gutted inside, and her old engines were, to put it mildly, clapped out. The job that was planned for her, was of course top secret, but it soon became apparent what was afoot. Over the next months, she was fitted with a false superstucture, a section added to the bow and stern, and fitted with some wooden 13.5 inch Guns. She was destined to be a dummy warship, but where. The answer came in June of 1942, when she appeared, disguised as the still being built HMS Anson, on convoy duty in the Med. The whole excercise was called Operation Vigorous, and part of the escort were HMS Kelvin, and HMS Griffin. This gave the Italians Navy, the impression that a British Capital ship was in the area. Fitted with Anti-Aircraft Guns, real ones this time, she stood guard duty at the entrance to Britains lifeline, The Suez Canal.  Did the ruse work, well, the Italians certainly kept their ships well out of range, of the " Battleships Big Guns ".  In 1944, with the threat to the Canal over, HMS Centurion set sail back to England, and to her final, if in-glorious end. Under the Guns of the Germans, she was sunk as a breakwater for the D-Day harbours. The German thought they had sunk her, with heavy lose of life, as only 70 crew members were seen to escape. In truth, that was the entire crew, and had been so, ever since she had left Portsmouth after her " re-fit in 1941. I wonder just how many more ships were used in such a fashion, and just how many more stories remain untold. Cheers Jim, rest in peace old fella, you did your bit.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 6, 2011 at 4:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Blackcountry Beer.


I have been reminded by a Member, that although War was declared on 3rd September,1939, the Country had been on alert for over 12 months. Gas masks by the thousands were already stockpiled, and miles of trenches had been dug in the Parks and playing fields of the Black Country. Not being covered, they quickly filled with water, and became more of a hazard as time went on. By August, and with the threat of War, ( apparently ) receeding, they were filled in and the grounds restored. Some of the Factories though, were kept at producing war material's which in retrospect was a good job. Like other large industrial area's, those with young families were offered Evacuation. The day before War was announced, this Member recalls his Mother registering his younger Brother and Sister at the local School, although non of them, like the majority of the population, never in the end, went away. One of his abiding memories, is his Fathers never ending complaints about the Beer. Never more than 10 pence a pint, the contents were a bit hit and miss, particulary when grain was in short supply. When someone failed to put in an appearence for work on a Monday morning, it was said they were suffering from D.D.T. No. not the bug killer, but " Died Drinking Tenpenny ". Everyone was cheerful though, it's a good job they didn't know hard the struggle was going to get.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 11, 2012 at 2:39 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Haanbury, Tutbury, Stafforshire. Ammunition Explosion, 1944.


Last week I received an email from a gentlemans daughter, who is getting on in years, and lives in Walsall. During the War. his family lived in Tutbury, East Staffordshire, and his father, and older brother, worked at Fordes Lime and Gypsum factory, just outside Hanbury Village. At nearby Fauld, the RAF had a storage place, in an old Gypsum Mine, for Bombs and Ammunition. On the morning of 27th November,1944, with a roar that was heard 35 miles away, the mine blew up. Debris was blasted over 9 miles high. A  Farm, Cottages, and the Lime works were obliterated, the works by a wave of mud and water when a dam burst. Hanbury, and several other Farms were extensively damaged. The gentlemans father survived, but his brother was drowned or suffocated in the swirling mud wave. It left a crater over 800 feet long, 700 feet wide, 380 feet deep, and killed at leeast 81, although some people say 90. It was, and still is, the largest non-nuclear crater in the world. He has been back many times, and says it one of the most eerie places he has visited. The 12 acre site is still fenced off, with warning signs everywhere, although these havn't prevented mother nature from taking over. Strange old place is Staffordshire.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

February 13, 2012 at 2:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Dudley, Minesweeper 1030, Brades Village, the Boat Inn.


Dudley, as well as adopting HMS Kelvin, had an interest in another ship of war, this one though, was just a bit further down the scale than Kelvin. H.M Minesweeper 1030, otherwise known as the Grimsby Trawler "Taipo", had on board a naval rating who came from the Town. The local Rotary Club, according to the Clubs Secretary, a Mr Crump, supplied this vessel, with warm knitted garments, Tobacco, and other little luxuries. The Trawler survived the War, although they lost a couple of crew members in the process. Dangerous job sweeping for mines, and they were always a target for enemy planes. Anyone have any idea of the Dudley seamans name, or if he did indeed survive, like the ship? While in the area of Dudley, I have recieved some information on War damage. As everyone with an interest knows, in September 1940, the dastardly Germans dropped a bomb, which damaged top Church. They came back on 19th November, and, presumable trying to hit the old Tramworks near Kates Hill, dropped a Landmine on City Road, which killed 9, including 3 small children. On the 21st December, just as folks were preparing for Christmas, they came back, this time dropping a bomb on the Boat Inn, Dudley Road East, near Brades Village. It's a sad fact of life, that not everyone took much notice of  " Old Moaning Minnie ", ( the Air Raid Siren ) and the Pub had quite a few customers that night. In all, including a house that was badly damaged, 12 people were killed in this raid. In a repeat of the raid in Nov 1940, the Germans again dropped a Landmine, aimed at the same works possibly, which this time, fell in Birch Crescent, destroying two houses, and killing 7 people. If anyone has any more information, I would glad to hear it.  Many thanks to the member who sent me the above.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 2, 2012 at 3:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Tividale, The Boat Inn, and the Home Guard.


Now I've just received a bit of information regarding the above post, and in particular, the Boat Inn. My informant tells me, that  the story put out, was that the explosion, which decimated a Wedding Party, was supposedly caused by an unexploded anti-aircraft shell, and not a bomb. Falling back to earth, it crashed through the pubs roof, exploding in the functions room. I am told, that even this " Official " version, may not be the truth of the matter, and that given wartime reporting restrictions, a cover up was carried out. Before death overtook an old member of the Home Guard, his unit being the 40th Worcestershire ( Rowley Regis ) Battalion, he related the following little tale.



The unit were responsible for the defence of part of the region which included the ant-aircraft guns, sited on the Rowley Hills. He said that the damage caused to the Boat Inn, was from a direct shot from the Gun crew, who made a mistake while under practice conditions. He was not aware of an air-raid, at the time the pub was hit, although there was a raid the next night. There are some inconsistences with the eye witness statements as well, non of whom mention a raid in progress, some of them were even standing outside just before the explosion. This seems, on the face of it, to be a bit of a stupid thing to do anyway, as redhot shrapnal rained down like confetti during raids. I can't believe either, that a Wedding Party would carry on, nor any landlord, expose his family or staff to such appalling danger, during a raid. So how could such an accident occur ? For a start, Guns were never left pointing up in the air, they had to be disguised,  protected from the weather, and cleaned and serviced. It's suggested, that after cleaning, the weapon was made ready, and some idiot, to save a bit of time later on, shoved a live round up the " spout ". During the preparations to elevate the Gun, someone, and it's not known who, accidently pulled the firing lever. The shell, unhappily, striking the pub with frightful consequences. The real truth though, is hidden away in the Ministry of War files, and they may be closed for many years yet. Maybe one day, the families of the poor deceased, will find out.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 22, 2012 at 12:52 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Wolverhampton, Boulton and Paul, Pendeford.


In the list of Midland Wartime Airfields, I mentioned the use of Pendeford, and Boulton and Paul Aircraft. The Company moved to Wolverhampton in 1934, after aircraft production fell off. The firm started off in Norwich, and built, during the first World War, a great many types, including the famous Sopwith Camel. They did produce their own aircraft, The Bobolink, although it never got much beyond the developement stage, it being by now 1918. ( Picture in the Gallery )  In 1927, they had another go, and came up with a night fighter, The Bittern, and in 1928, another fighter, The Partridge. Neither aircraft were accepted for service, being underpowered and cumbersome in the air. ( Pictures in the Gallery )  Their most well known aircraft, and which was a familar sight in the skies of the Blackcountry, was the Defiant. Unusual for a front line fighter, it had no forward firing guns, the weapons were carried in a movable turret, behind the pilot. At the start of the war, it did sterling service against the slower German Stukas and bombers, particulary over the Dunkirk beaches. Only having a top speed of around 140 knots was no match for the much faster main German fighters though, and it was withdrawn from the frontline after heavy losses. It did come in useful though, as a temporary night fighter, and was equipped with the new type Radar system. Losses however continued, and it was again withdrawn from front line service in late 1942. This time, it did not return. The Company has now moved on, aquiring a different name and owners, the site is beening sold off, and it's rumoured that the small museum is moving to RAF Cosford. They will of course be taking a defiant with them, pictures of which can be seen in the Gallery, or indeed below.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 23, 2012 at 12:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Black Country, Unexploded Bombs.


Now it's 67 years since the last War ended, and a timely reminder from Germany, that it's left a terrible legacy. On Monday 27th of this month, builders working on a Nightclub in Munich, found a lump of decaying and rusting metal. It was soon indentified as a 550lb unexploded bomb. The ordnance people declared it suicidal trying to defuse or move it, as the chemical detonator was very badly corroded. The Police moved everyone from the area, and cordened it off so that a sandbagged safety wall could be constructed. All to avail as it turned out, for at 9.45pm on Tuesday the 28th, it finally did what it was supposed to do in 1944. It exploded. A huge orange ball of flame shot into the air, lighting up the district, shrapnal and debris were scattered over a wide area, and a bridge was damaged. There were no causualties. There have been a few jokes going the round since, and I won't repeat them on my website, but one thing seems to have escaped these peoples attention. Almost all of our major Cities were also bombed, and not all of the German bombs exploded either. More to the point, and just like in Munich, no one knows where they are, or even how many there might be. One day, as the metal casings rust, and the chemicals get more volatile, we will be facing the same thing. I just hope, that none of the people reading this, are living or working on top of such an object. That nightclub could have been full of youngsters enjoying themselves, they would have been someones sons, daughters, or grandchildren. One thing to bear in mind, they could have been yours. Please, no more jokes.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 31, 2012 at 3:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Black Country Picture Houses. Rationing, Halesowen and Stourbridge.


The War of course left many legacies behind when it finished, mostly remembered by many for the Rationing. Everyone thought, that with the fighting over, life would return to normal: it didn't.



Rationing went on for another 10 years, which gives you an idea of the perilous state of the Country, during the actual war. To take everyones mind off the struggle, at least on the other side of the Atlantic, Hollywood, went into overdrive making Films. Cinema's over here were a favourite attraction during the war, but once it ended, the crowds flocked to see all the lastest release's. A great many in " Technicolor ", and which had not been seen here, since they had been made in the 1940s, and shipping space was at a premium. Cinema's also began to open on a Sunday, although the times were reduced, the first performance was not able to start until 4pm. Not every town allowed this practice for some years, but those that did, found themselves full. So what, in 1946, could you watch, and enjoy a tub of Ice Cream, ( with a wooden spoon ) a soft drink, ( wax coated carton with a free straw ) or a small, ( and I mean small ) bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk Chocolate.


Through the smoke filled atmosphere, ( and at times it could get a bit murky in the Balcony ) and over the whirring of the extractor fans, they all settled down to watch such epics as The Princess and the Pirate, made in 1944 and starring Bob Hope and Virginia Mayo. Well you could, at the Lyttleton, Halesowen, in May, 1946, preceeded by a full supporting programme of Ferdinand the Bull, and all the latest news from around the world. The same week, they showed James Mason and Ann Todd, in the newly released, The Seventh Veil, made in 1945. Twice nightly I should add, with the start time of aproximately 6.15 and 8.15 pm. With cheap tickets from 1 shilling, it was certainly value for money. But what, if you didn't fancy that, could you do?, answer, go the Halesowens other Cinema, The Picture House. The same week they were showing that rather dashing cowboy, Roy Rogers, in a film called Utah, while his wife, Dale Evans, was starring in the supporting film, The Big Show-Off. And to combat the film at the Lyttleton the same week, you could watch that master of diguse, Lon Chaney, in the film, The Frozen Ghost. Concidering the weather as I type this, a rather apt title. Most towns boasted of at least one Cinema, some had more, so if the inhabitants of Halesowen felt inclined, they could have jumped on a number 130, Midland Red Bus, and gone into Stourbridge, where they had Four Cinema's. Playing the same week as Halesowen's offerings, was the 1945 epic, A Thousand and One Nights, starring Evelyn Keyes, Phil Silvers, and the one of the latest Hollywood heart throb's, Cornel Wilde. This Cinema was the rather upmarket Savoy, which, by supposedly popular demand, was showing the following week, that classic, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, the black and white Casablanca. At the Odeon, you could watch Lon Chaney again, this time in the film, Of Mice and Men, and a low budget adventure called Alaska Highway. ( No, I didn't make it up ) Running in competition with the Savoy, they had Claude Rains and Merle Oberon in a classy romantic weepy, This Love of Ours. The following week, they ran a film that my mother took me see a few years later, Charles Laughton as the famous pirate, Captain Kidd. Just the stuff for a young lad with an imagination. Meanwhile, a visit to the Danilo would ensure you had a laugh with Turned out Nice Again, starring George Formby, do a bit of detective work with Charlie Chan In the Secret Service, or get your back against a wall for The Last Chance, starring John Hoy, Ray Reagan, ( brother of Ronald ) and Luisa Russi. Now I couldn't find any listings for the other Cinema, The Kings Hall, and this may be just my memory. I am tempted to say that folk were spoiled for choice, and I may be correct, although the quality of some of the films may not be up to todays specifications of movie fans. If anyone reading this happens to have a favourite amongst them, they are all still available, via the wonders of the Internet, just google in the name.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 18, 2013 at 11:31 AM Flag Quote & Reply

wilkesa
Member
Posts: 7

Alaska. at March 2, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Dudley, Minesweeper 1030, Brades Village, the Boat Inn.


Dudley, as well as adopting HMS Kelvin, had an interest in another ship of war, this one though, was just a bit further down the scale than Kelvin. H.M Minesweeper 1030, otherwise known as the Grimsby Trawler "Taipo", had on board a naval rating who came from the Town. The local Rotary Club, according to the Clubs Secretary, a Mr Crump, supplied this vessel, with warm knitted garments, Tobacco, and other little luxuries. The Trawler survived the War, although they lost a couple of crew members in the process. Dangerous job sweeping for mines, and they were always a target for enemy planes. Anyone have any idea of the Dudley seamans name, or if he did indeed survive, like the ship? While in the area of Dudley, I have recieved some information on War damage. As everyone with an interest knows, in September 1940, the dastardly Germans dropped a bomb, which damaged top Church. They came back on 19th November, and, presumable trying to hit the old Tramworks near Kates Hill, dropped a Landmine on City Road, which killed 9, including 3 small children. On the 21st December, just as folks were preparing for Christmas, they came back, this time dropping a bomb on the Boat Inn, Dudley Road East, near Brades Village. It's a sad fact of life, that not everyone took much notice of  " Old Moaning Minnie ", ( the Air Raid Siren ) and the Pub had quite a few customers that night. In all, including a house that was badly damaged, 12 people were killed in this raid. In a repeat of the raid in Nov 1940, the Germans again dropped a Landmine, aimed at the same works possibly, which this time, fell in Birch Crescent, destroying two houses, and killing 7 people. If anyone has any more information, I would glad to hear it, just give the contact button a click. Many thanks to the member who sent me the above.

My grandmother and her siblings grew up around Kates Hill before, during and immediately after WW2, being born in St John's Road before moving to a new council house on the Rosland estate not long before WW2 broke out. They were pupils at St John's Church School and then Gilbert Claughton School.

My great-grandmother's cousin lived in or near City Road, Oakham, in a council house that was built in the 1930s. It was indeed City Road where a landmine was dropped in November 1940, and according to the cwgc website and the Wikipedia article on Tividale there were 10 fatalities; these included all 5 members of the Roberts family (parents and 3 young children), all but 1 member of the Millington family (parents, older son aged 20 died; 17-year-old son survived), a 5-year-old boy Allan Whitehouse, and a teenager Arthur Smart. As can be seen in local newspaper photographs as well as a picture published in the 1980s Alton Douglas book The Black Country At War; 4 houses in City Road were reduced to rubble, 4 others were left with just their ground floor rooms standing and no doubt other houses suffered some damage. An Express and Star article describes a Mr Smart (presumably father of Arthur Smart) and his son standing on the front of their house when the landmine was dropped and severely damaged their house as well as the surrounding houses, but they escaped unharmed, as did their pet dog who was INSIDE the house. The damaged houses were later rebuilt.

On the same day/night as the landmine being dropped in City Road, over in Dudley town centre a bomb was dropped on a pub opposite Top Church, The Swan With Two Necks, where a public walkway now stands. Top Church was hit by debris, some of the damage still being visible today, and the windows of the then-new Co-op building were shattered. But there were no fatalities although I have no idea if there were any injuries.

A month after the City Road and Dudley town centre bombing, there was of course the tragedy at the Boat Inn down in the Tipton section of Tividale. My grandmother remembers hearing that a wedding reception was taking place when the anti-aircraft gun from Oakham missed an enemy aircraft and artillery shells fell down the chimney of the pub, causing an explosion which according to cwgc and Wikipedia resulted in 12 deaths at the pub (including the bride) and the death of a resident in a neighbouring house. There were many injuries, including the groom who lost both legs. Several of the casualties were member of the Pottinger family, well known around Tipton and Dudley for their transport business.

In August 1941 a landmine was dropped in Birch Crescent, on the Tividale Hall estate, which had only just been built. According to cwgc and Wikipedia, it killed a 49-year-old woman (Ada Lewis, widow), a married couple in their 20s (William and Lily Fenton) and a 5-year-old girl in a house on the opposite side of the road (Marlene Corlett). On the same date, a middle-aged woman by the name of Norah Marlowe (apparently the wife of a local councillor) was killed; although the cwgc does not state which address in Dudley she died at, it would seem likely that she was killed at Birch Crescent. The houses hit by the landmine were 49-51 Birch Crescent which have since been rebuilt. I am unaware of exactly how many houses suffered damage in Birch Crescent.

Would I be right in thinking that the Swan With Two Necks bombing, the City Road bombing and Birch Crescent bombing were the only air raids on Dudley during WW2?

May 6, 2013 at 3:31 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Well I couldn't find any reference to any bombing after the ones you mention. There were a few in other districts, but Birmingham seems to have been the main target.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 8, 2013 at 2:34 PM Flag Quote & Reply

wilkesa
Member
Posts: 7

Alaska. at May 8, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Well I couldn't find any reference to any bombing after the ones you mention. There were a few in other districts, but Birmingham seems to have been the main target.

The death toll in Birmingham throughout WW2 was in the thousands but it was only in double figures in a few other midlands towns. I believe the next worst was West Bromwich with over 50, it was barely double figures in Wolverhampton, 15 in Dudley and about 20 in Tipton. And according to CWGC there was just 1 fatality in Walsall at Beddows Road, Ryecroft.

 

May 9, 2013 at 6:01 PM Flag Quote & Reply

wilkesa
Member
Posts: 7

My aunt actually lived in Birch Crescent for at least 30 years until the early 1990s, having grown up on Kates Hill, and knew exactly which houses had been wrecked by the landmine in WW2. They apparently looked identical to the other houses in the street (built in the late 1930s or possibly 1940) except for slightly different brickwork and tiles. The rebuilt houses in City Road also look identical to the surrounding houses which were built at the same time and are of the same design as those which were destroyed by the landmine.

May 9, 2013 at 6:04 PM Flag Quote & Reply

wilkesa
Member
Posts: 7

And the death toll in Coventry was also well over 1,000, although around half of them died in one night in November 1940, a few days before the raid on Dudley, West Bromwich, Tipton and Birmingham.

May 9, 2013 at 6:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

What got a lot of people down during the last War, wasn't so much the Bombing, but the endless queue's for food. Most of the women had a story or two to tell about this. My mother casually dismissed almost getting blown to bits while working at Longbridge, but bitterly complained of being short of a few Sausages for breakfast. ( she was on shifts and missed the chance to queue at the butchers ) Some stuff just never appeared, and when it did, there was a mad scramble to queue for it, sometimes for hours. Take this snippet from Doris Cartwright. " There were two good Fruit shops in Lye High Street, and there were times, few and far between, when someone who had been shopping would come back and pass the word around, " Brookes or Albert Collins have Oranges ", and it wasn't long before I, and some of my neighbours, would be on our way. We didn't mind how long we had to stand, not only for Oranges, but other goods too, as long as we had some of whatever we had queued for ". Sometimes they had queued for just the one Orange each, which would be taken home, carefully peeled, the segments counted, and shared out  in equal portions. There was though, something my father never had to do, and that was dig the hole for an Anderson Shelter. For those who don't know, this consisted of several pieces of galvanised corrogated iron sheet, rolled to form a half circle, which had to bolted together and then fitted over a hole dug to regulation size. The whole lot was then covered in the soil excavated from the pit. Doris's husband dug theirs, and he made it as comfortable as possible, but others were not so lucky. After digging the hole, many found within a few hours that they filled with water, so it was either get blown up, or get their feet wet. Surprisingly, many preferred to have dry feet. People took many strange things into the tiny shelters when the siren went off, The pet Budgie, Grandma's teeth, ( still in the glass ) wind-up gramophones, all the family papers and photo's, one old gentleman had so much of his precious wine collection in his, they couldn't all get in it. Some, like Doris's father, who had to travel into Birmingham for medical treatment, almost got blown up for their pains, and, on returning home, vowed he would never go again. And he never did, preffering to risk dying from Diabetes, rather than from one of Hitlers Bombs. When asked if she thought the queuing for just one Orange was worth it, Doris was absolutely sure, " I think it was " she said.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 22, 2013 at 3:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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