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AND INFORMATION - STAFFORDSHIRE HOME GUARD
34th STAFFORDSHIRE (BILSTON) BATTN.
Bradley, Coseley, Ettingshall,
Bratch Water Pumping Station
Associated pages in this
Bilston section of the website:
(Bilston) Battn. (this page) -
Maj. H.G. George -
1943 Battn. Parade/Review
1944 Battn. Display
Bilston and adloining
areas were defended by
the 34th Staffordshire
(Bilston) Battalion and the latter comprised
several Companies which in turn contained various factory
units, including Sankey's,
John Thompson, Cannon and
Stewarts & Lloyds. In
1941 the Battalion was commanded by
Lt.Col. J. Pitkeathley, M.C. and comprised some 30
officers and an unknown further body of NCOs and Other
of its role comprised the guarding of many Vulnerable
Points within the town, e.g. the
located, as it still is, near the junction of Mount
Pleasant and Mountford Lane; and at the time close to the
Theatre Royal, the Globe inn and the Police Station);
the ARP centre
behind and under the Library;
the Telephone Exchange at the main
GPO; and the pumping station beside the canal at
One memory is
that the sections involved in these duties were normally
of one or two NCOs and a further five men. Each venue was
reached by marching except for Bratch which, because of
the distance, required transport in the form of Johnny
Toole's coal wagon. Duty was normally every eighth night
from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the shifts were 2 hours on, 2
Like almost every Home Guard throughout
the country, members of these sections were often
operating in conditions of low visibility and occasionally
of heightened tension when an invasion alert seemed to
have been sounded (marked by the ringing of Church bells). They were therefore liable to problems
in correctly identifying the threat offered by an object
approaching out of the gloom, especially if it resembled a
parachute and if it failed to respond to a correct
challenge. On one such occasion at The Bratch when the
ringing of Church bells could only mean one thing,
imminent attack, the combination of poor visibility and
high tension resulted in a dead cow, an extremely aggrieved farmer and a
compensation bill for the Battalion.
No full list of the membership
of this Battalion survives, although there were certainly
many hundreds of men involved, if not more. Amongst them
will have served the following, whose names have appeared
in various memoirs or records:
(Ranks may or
not represent those held at stand-down in December 1944. Further
possible Battalion names are included at the bottom of this
page and also the
Guard page mentioned above.)
W C Armstrong, Lt.
H. W. B. Beasley, 2/Lt.
J T Bill,
- J. Blackham, 2/Lt
H. G. Dawson, Capt.
W Edge, Lt.
Bob Ford, Lt.
A. Fortnam, 2/Lt.
K. A. Foy, Capt.
-. Gandy, Lt.
H J George,
E. H.Gilbert, 2/Lt.
A E Hayes, Maj.
R H Hopton, Maj.
Bob James, Cpl.
S.(?) Leadbeater, 2/Lt.
K C Lowe, Lt.
H Marchant, Maj.
E. Meeson, Lt.
A F Oatley, Capt.
W Parkes, Lt.
W S Peach, Lt.
G M Pickard, Lt.
Pitkeathley, Lt.-Col., M.C.
H. Powell, Lt.
E Probert, Lt.
E E Richards, Lt.
D A Richmond, Capt.
A E Seedhouse, Capt.
J McE Sinton, Lt.
A E Smart, Lt.
W H Smith, Maj.
F J Timmins, Capt.
-. Turpin, Sgt.
J E Ward, Lt.-Col.
D E Wells,
-. Ted Wilson, L/Cpl.
The Men of the Coseley Home Guard
of these Battalion members was Ken
Southwick, a young man who was employed at
Bradley & Foster in
Darlaston, producers of pig iron and other products. He
has generously provided
about how the unit was organised and operated and also his
of those times, 75 years ago. The information he has
provided forms the basis of this web page.
Ken had left school in 1938 at the age of 15 and well
remembers William "Bill" Peach who was his
Headmaster at Bilston Boys Central School, Fraser Street.
Bill had served as an officer in the Great War.
Chattin was another officer in the Battalion - he is
remembered as a member of a family who had a bakery
business in Bilston. (Just as in "Dad's Army" many members
of the Bilston Home Guard had links with local
businesses). Bob Ford is also remembered as one of Ken's
himself left the unit in 1943 to serve in the RAF.
The Battalion's role was to
defend several areas in and adjoining Bilston: Bilston
itself, Bradley, Coseley, Ettingshall,
Bratch Water Pumping Station
(which provided the water supply for Bilston). Battalion
HQ – or at least HQ of two of the Battalion Companies –
was at the Drill Hall
(on the Bilston-Willenhall Road opposite the
Theatre Royal and now the
Robin 2 Music Venue).
We are also indebted to
Ken for details of the dead cow mishap. (This may have
occurred on the night of 7/8th September 1940 when the
code word "Cromwell" indicating that invasion was imminent
- i.e. within 12 hours - was incorrectly signalled to Home
THE HOME GUARD WINDS DOWN
By the summer of 1944 many of those still serving
in the Bilston Home Guard had given four years of their
life to their duties; and the end was still some way off.
D-Day had taken place at the beginning of June.
There followed the anxious weeks whilst the Normandy
beachhead was being reinforced and the break-out was
awaited. Eventually that occurred and the Allied forces
surged eastwards across France. Every member of the Home
Guard knew that the end of the war was in sight; but
equally that nothing could be taken for granted: nobody
knew what surprises the Germans could still provide - a
feeling reinforced when, out of the blue as far as the
British population was concerned, a rain of new,
unimaginable weapons started to pour down on London and
the south-east in the form of the V1 and V2 rockets.
Nevertheless it was increasingly obvious that outright
invasion was no longer a possibility and other forms of
incursion were becoming ever more unlikely.
The Home Guard plodded on throughout the autumn
with those in authority doing their best to maintain
motivation and the standards of proficiency which had been
achieved with so much effort. Training continued - for
example in September men from the Midlands and elsewhere
were still learning about house-to-house
courses at the
Birmingham Street Fighting School. But,
quite suddenly, it all came to an end. An announcement of
stand-down was announced and on Sunday, 3rd December 1944
every Battalion held its final parade, including the men
Four-and-a-half years of comradeship and common
endeavour were now at an end. Many units marked the
occasion by social gatherings of varying degrees of
formality. In Bilston, the record of one such celebration
has happily survived. 2/Lt. Fred A. Pardoe
(seen right, then a
sergeant, leading a section of the Coseley Home Guard
through the centre of Bilston in the summer of 1943)
preserved his copy of the programme for an officers'
dinner held on Thursday 14th December 1944 at the Pipe
Hall Hotel, Bilston.
Fred Pardoe (d.
1990) was a toolmaker at the Cannon and met
his wife there. She was canteen manageress and later they
became Steward and Stewardess of the Sports Club. From a
difficult early start, Fred clearly made a success of his
life: with regard to his Home Guard service, appointment
to senior NCO rank and eventually the granting of a
commission - all without the Great War military experience
which most of his senior comrades would have shared -
suggest very special personal qualities.
Their signatures can be
interpreted - with varying degrees of certainty - as
Armstrong, Lt....H. W. B.
Berklaw (?), 2/Lt....E.
Biggs (?).... - J.
Causer (?)...J. C.
Davies, 2/Lt....H. G.
2/Lt....K. A. Foy,
Capt.... - Gandy....H.
J. George, Major...E. H.
Gilbert, 2/Lt....A. E.
Higgs, Lt....R. H.
Leadbeater, 2/Lt.... D
or W. G. Leido/Ludo,
(?), 2/Lt....E. Meeson,
Lt....F. Pardoe ,
2/Lt....W. S. Peach,
Lt....T/J. H. Powell,
Lt....H. A .S. Shree
(?), 2/Lt....Arthur Smart,
Lt....W. H. Smith,
Timmins, Capt....J. E.
few of the signatures are wholly undecipherable. Also known to be present were:
Supt. F. W. Orland...Capt.
Pitkeathley, Lt.-Col., M.C.
It was no doubt a jolly evening and one of quiet
satisfaction and even relief. But it was probably tinged
with a little sadness as well as they contemplated a
parting of the ways and the loss of that feeling of
comradeship in a common cause whose intensity they were
unlikely to experience again for the rest of their lives.
In Memory of
Members of the
INFORMATION ON THE 34th BATTALION
Further pages of the website contain many more
images of, and information about, the 34th Battalion.
Issues 956, 957 and 960 of the
Country Bugle include much original material about
acknowledgement is made to: Ken Southwick and John
Ashmore; Anne Southall (for images of the Dinner programme
preserved by her father
and generous permission for their publication); the
Coseley pre-1970 Facebook page; the
Wolverhampton History and Heritage Website;
Country Bugle: and Home Guard List 1941 Western
Command, by Jon Mills (Savannah Publications).
x142 - October 2016, additions Feb 2017, September