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The Burslem area of the Potteries in North Staffordshire was defended by the 2nd Staffordshire (Burslem) Battalion of the Home Guard. Its Commanding Officer was Lt.-Col. R. Brown (late R.N.) and it comprised four Companies ("A" to "D") and a Headquarters unit. Whilst no NCO or Other Ranks personnel from this Battalion have so far been identified, all or most of the officers who were serving in 1942 happily have been. Their names are listed below and the Companies in which they served. (Other Battalions were responsible for other parts of the Potteries: the 1st - Stoke-on-Trent, the 3rd - Longton and the 4th - Hanley. All four Battalions formed No. 1 Group of No. 3 Zone of the West Lancashire Area).

Lt.-Col. Reg Brown like so many other Home Guard officers was a veteran of the Great War during which he served in the Royal Navy. He was Navigating Lieutenant in H.M. Submarines in 1916-1919 and served on HMS Maidstone from November 1917. He held a Master Mariner certificate and remained a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve after the war. In 1919 he formed Browns Motor Company (Tunstall) Ltd with his brother, Leonard Brown, and they were joined a year later by Mr. William Pendleton and a Mr. Alfred E. Brown. The Company remained in the same ownership until it was taken over by PMT in the late 1950s. At that point Reg Brown left the Potteries and retired to his house at Abersoch on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales, then as now a picturesque haven for sailors.

The Welsh holiday home had been built in a field in the 1930s. Its use in the period 1940-1944 would have been much restricted as Reg Brown devoted his time and energy not only to running his business but also to commanding the 2nd Battalion back in industrial North Staffordshire. But its existence did have one side-effect which  influenced the history of the Home Guard in Burslem in a way which he could never have imagined. During its building Reg used one of his buses as temporary accommodation on the site.

Here it is, nicknamed "Seacar" and newly arrived on site in the late afternoon of a day in the early 1930s.

Three-quarters of a century later the view is still a beautiful one.

The use of a bus as a site office and living accommodation in these peaceful and idyllic surroundings was almost certainly the inspiration which led to a similar vehicle being used as his mobile HQ during his Home Guard days. It is very evident in a fascinating watercolour by Lt. T.S. Harris which shows a scene at Newbold Camp in 1944.

Evidence of the affection and respect in which the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion was held survives in the form of a certificate commemorating his Silver Wedding Anniversary on 12th September 1942. He is shown left with his wife May, photographed later in more peaceful times. The 1942 certificate was signed by all the officers of the Battalion and is reproduced below.



The signatories of this Certificate are repeated below. Many of the names which appear are those of men who appear in the February 1941 Home Guard List of officers. They will have been appointed at a very early stage in the life of the Home Guard, probably in June 1940, they will already have served for more than two years and a further similar period of service still lies ahead. It is a remarkable record of prolonged and devoted voluntary service, shared by many Home Guards of all ranks.

The Battalion artist, Lt. Harris, appears as does Capt. Len Brown, almost certainly the brother and business partner of the C.O. and himself destined for service in the Armoured Corps.

These are the signatories:

Lt.-Col. Brown must have worked in close collaboration with the C.O. of the adjoining Battalion, the 3rd Staffordshire (Longton) Battalion, who was Lt. Col. V.B. Shelley (left). There is information on Lt.-Col. Shelley and the 3rd Battalion elsewhere within this website. These two gentlemen would not have known it at the time but later they were to be linked by marriage between members of their families.


We are much indebted to David Woollam of Shropshire (who as a result of the family link mentioned above is the great-nephew of Lt.-Col. Brown and grandson of Lt.-Col. Shelley) for the information on this page and his generous permission for its publication.
(Images © David Woollam 2008/2016).