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John Black was born in August 1912 in Renfrew, Scotland. He went to the High School of Glasgow where - it would appear - he did rather well at shooting. He was part of the Cadet Force with the school and in 1929, L.Cpl. J. Black won the school's Hamilton Cup for 'Most efficient section commander' and in 1930, the now Sgt. J. Black won the Grant Cup for the best score in the Brock Challenge Shield.

John Black studied at Glasgow University where he gained a Bachelor of Law degree. He became a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (later becoming the Institute's Representative in Scotland) and ended up working as an accountant in London for a company called Quasi Arc. When war broke out John had actually signed up for the Navy and been enrolled for 3 days before it was realised that he was in a reserved occupation and he was shipped back to dry land! His brothers, Jimmy (left) and Tom (below), soon became part of the war effort with Jimmy serving in the Merchant Navy and Tom in the RAF as a pilot (flying Wellingtons over Crete, Tobruk, Palestine and El Alamein; Catalinas from Khartoum to the Belgian Congo and onward to Portugal and the U.K.; and Lancasters, Mosquitos and more Wellingtons in test-flying and training activities.

Between 1939 and 1945 Quasi Arc did a lot of military projects, such as welding electrodes for the D-Day bridges. As the phoney war was coming to an end and the Dunkirk evacuation started, Quasi Arc moved a lot of their workforce out of London, and in this operation John Black was relocated to work at the Quasi Arc factory at Bilston which was engaged on very 'hush hush' war work. This coincided with the establishment of the Home Guard in May/June 1940 and it must be assumed that John volunteered for service at that time.



It was at Quasi Arc that he met his future wife Irene, and they were married in 1940. At some stage Irene became a further member of the Black family to be involved in the war effort by becoming a member of the Ambulance Service.

Little has so far been discovered about John's early service in the Home Guard. It is likely that he was a member of the one of the several Wolverhampton battalions, the 20th - 24th Staffordshire Battalions, depending on where he lived. These would all have been involved in wholly infantry activities in the defence of their areas. But he might have served in the factory's own unit which would have been responsible for the defence of the works itself. The lot of the majority of members of these units would be to continue to serve in a similar role right up to stand-down in December 1944 - for many of them four-and-a-half years of constant, voluntary activity. But for some Home Guards life changed during 1943 as significant numbers were transferred to anti-aicraft duties. John Black was amongst these and evidence of his new role survives - one which, like that of so many Home Guards, could hardly have been more different from the office "day job".

The group image below shows the officers and NCOs of a Wolverhampton anti aircraft "Z" Rocket battery. One of the projectors is to be seen behind the group. It is believed that there was only one battery of this type in Wolverhampton and it was located on the Dunstall racecourse. It was part of 25 AA Regiment, 137 (101 South Staffordshire Home Guard) AA Rocket Battery commanded by Major Leach. Other batteries in this regiment were located in Birmingham. The group is likely to be a sub-unit named No. 7 Relief and was commanded by Captain John Black.

John is to be seen in the middle of the front row. Another officer has been identified with reasonable certainty. Norman H. Shuttleworth (right) is seated in the front row, third from the left; he was a mechanical engineer and worked in the Wolverhampton aircraft industry.

The projector shown is of the most common type: the U2P twin rail/twin rocket type. It is in an unusual location. Perhaps it is where it is stored or maintained at a local depot or even where it has been manufactured. Here (left) is another image of these weapons at an unknown location.

Because of details of the uniform, the date of the photograph is likely to have been taken before February 1944. All of these men are likely to have been transferred from more traditional Home Guard infantry duties during 1943, in the process relieving significant numbers of regular army personnel who up until then had been solely responsible for manning such defences.

At some stage in his later service, John was presented with an unknown object as a token of appreciation by his colleagues: what it was we can only try to imagine from the single item of evidence which survives - a metal plaque which was attached to it.


After the war John Black worked in a senior position in several major companies before returning to Scotland when he retired. He died there in 1977.

The group image has had the benefit of being discussed on the excellent WWII Re-enacting Forum and having expert opinion applied to it. Staffshomeguard is grateful to have this information available and makes particular acknowledgement to Austin J. Ruddy and Steve Bulmer.
Staffshomeguard is especially grateful to Mrs R.K. Cobb (John Black's daughter ) and Matt Cobb (his grandson) for providing the images and information about him and other family members (all of whom contributed significantly to the war effort in different ways); and for their generosity in permitting its publication in this website.

Group and personal images © Mrs R.K. Cobb 2013