MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - WARWICKSHIRE

 SUTTON COLDFIELD HOME GUARD
and
Lt. J. H. KEMP, Lt. H.E. PEARCE,
Lt. R.L. THOMAS and others

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The area of Sutton Coldfield was the responsibility of the 6th Warwickshire (Sutton) Battalion.

In 1941 the Battalion was commanded by
Lt. Col. W. Bigwood, M.C., late of the Indian Army. The officially recorded list of serving officers at that time is far from complete but it included:

     Lts.
  W.W. Green, J. Iveson, H.E. Pearce and J.H. Larard
     2/Lts.  
J.W. Clark, W.A. Butterfield, S.V. Allton, C. Windsor, W.A. Kean, J.               Irwin, D.G. Young and I.M. Purden

Colonel Bigwood lived on the corner of Four Oaks Road and Streetly Lane, adjacent to Burcot Grange School. There are group images of this Battalion to be found on the pages devoted to another officer mentioned below.

Other names who are remembered include Cpl. Peter Geoffrey Bate (see his diary of 1941), Capt. John R. Brosch, Cpl. Douglas Thomas and Sgt. William Thornton,; and, of unknown rank, Messrs. G.W. Bingham, W. Garner, Dennis Hood, Hammond, Killick, F. Norton, Saveker ?, Slater, "Mac" Webb and Eric Westrup. (Click the links to read the story of those individuals elsewhere in this website).

The information below relates to three further officers of the 6th Battalion.

 

Lt. JACK KEMP

Lt. John Herbert (Jack) Kemp (1903-1972) was also an officer in the 6th Warwicks. He was almost certainly promoted in the course of the Battalion's existence, probably in 1942/43, unlike most of his brother officers who would have seen Great War experience and were quickly given positions of authority in May/June 1940. As men with special personal qualities of leadership, ability and specialist skills were identified, they were promoted to appropriate positions and Jack Kemp obviously fell into that category.

Jack Kemp was an engineer by profession and inclination, working for a Sutton company and also pursuing similar interests in his spare time. He lived with his wife and two young daughters at 11 Oakwood Road, Boldmere and is seen (right) with them in 1944.

An interesting group image survives in his papers:

Jack Kemp is in the centre of the back row, 5th from each end and all the men are Home Guard officers.

We cannot be 100% sure of the interpretation of this image. The assumption has to be that it shows him with twenty-five of his fellow 6th Battalion officers. Slight doubt creeps in, however: none of the faces is recognisable as belonging to men known to have been Battalion members; and twenty-six is a strange number for a group of this type - too large for an individual Company within the Battalion and too few for the Battalion as a whole. The other possibilty is a group of men from various units, including Jack, on some training course or other - even perhaps one for newly commissioned officers. We hope to clarify this in due course.
 

Lt. RUPERT THOMAS

A further officer was Lt. Rupert L. Thomas. He lived during the war years, and later, at 37 Walsall Road, Four Oaks, with his wife and daughter, Nora (later the wife of Pte. Graham Myers, 32nd Staffs H.G. and Royal Artillery). Like so many of his Home Guard comrades, this officer, sometime Captain in a Welsh regiment, was a survivor of the Western Front. He joined the LDV in the earliest days and became a platoon commander, responsible for the area around Wishaw. In addition to his skills and experience he brought with him his service revolver and just two rounds of ammunition, to supplement the Battalion's inadequate armoury. For the rest of his Home Guard service Rupert Thomas was known by his comrades as "Two-Shots Thomas". The Company HQ of his unit was within a disused pub on the corner of Tamworth Road and Whitehouse Common Road.

 

Lt. HAROLD PEARCE

We are very pleased to have received from Mr. G.W.A. Pearce, late of Sutton Coldfield, a fascinating memory of another member of this Battalion, his late father, Lt. Harold E. Pearce. We reproduce it below with the author's permission.

My father, Harold E. Pearce, born on 18th June 1893, won a scholarship to Bishop Vesey's Grammar School and was there from about 1903 until 1909. Thereafter he had served in WW I but being too old for Army service in WWII had volunteered at once when the Local Defence Volunteers, LDV, was formed, which was soon renamed the Home Guard.

He is pictured right in 1940 in the denim uniform which started to be issued to Home Guards at the end of May, long before full battledress became available towards the end of the year.

We lived at 40 Beacon Road, Boldmere at that time and almost at once he was appointed as Musketry Officer for the local Battalion, as a Lieutenant. He was a self-employed accountant and auditor by day and did his Home Guard parades or duties on many evenings, including weapon training sessions, and guard duties at the Light Alloy Co Ltd., a company making aluminium parts for aircraft, at, I think, Minworth, near Walmley. He also attended a short course on the Blacker Bombard or Spigot Mortar, a device for projecting a rugger ball sized bomb with a long hollow tube tail, from a heavy metal spigot, about 2 inches diameter and 3 feet long.

I remember him bringing home a Browning automatic rifle, to find out how to strip and reassemble it, before instructing the Battalion on it. I have a vague idea that the Battalion HQ was in Hartopp Road, Sutton.

A good friend of his in the Home Guard was Jim Iveson......

© G.W.A. Pearce 2007

(Please return to the Memories and Information - Warwickshire page to see another mention of Lt. James Iveson and other references to Bishop Vesey's Grammar School).

**********

In Memory of

ALL MEMBERS OF
THE SUTTON HOME GUARD

6th Warwickshire (Sutton) Battalion
Home Guard

1940-1944

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Grateful acknowledgement is made to Mr. G.W.A. Pearce for providing the above information about his father and generously permitting its publication; and similarly to Mrs Joy Frey for the information concerning her father, Lt. Jack Kemp.

Kemp family images Mrs Joy Frey 2018

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x22 Updated February 2018