L/Cpl. G. E. WAGG
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Wednesbury was defended by the 36th Staffordshire (Wednesbury) Battalion, Home Guard, commanded in 1941 by Lt. Col. T. Hollingsworth. He was supported by no less than 73 other officers including Majors G. Elwell, H. Howard-Smith, G.B. Partridge and J.S. Wesson. It was clearly a large Battalion of well over one thousand men.

The appointment of some of these men, including Messrs. Hollingsworth, Howard-Smith, Partridge, Wesson, Wilson, Jackson, Pritchard, Cockburn and Gent and indicating their specific responsibilities, was the subject of a report in the local press (right). This probably dates from early 1941,

One of the Battalion N.C.O.s was L/Cpl. G.E. Wagg.

George Ernest Wagg (1903-1979) lived at 363 West Bromwich Street, Delves, Walsall and later at 80 Hawthorne Road. He was around 36 years of age when he joined the Home Guard and 41 at stand-down in December 1944. He was a railwayman - and son of another railwayman - and worked at the Bescot depot on the outskirts of Walsall.

Little is so far known of his Home Guard service. His membership of the 36th (Wednesbury) may however be significant. His wartime address might have suggested his joining the 27th (Walsall). But his place of work, the large Bescot railway marshalling yard, was located further out of the town in the direction of Wednesbury. It could be that all or part of this vitally important area fell within the responsibility of the 36th, in which case L/Cpl. Wagg was probably a member of a unit - a platoon or a company - which would certainly have been based there and charged with its defence.

On Friday, June 19th 1942 a dinner was held for the officers of the 36th Battalion in Wednesbury Town Hall. This was almost certainly to celebrate the second birthday of the Home Guard. As an N.C.O. Ernie Wagg (as he was known to his family) was either a special guest at this event or had a role of some sort in organising it as he certainly seems to have been present. A signed menu survives within his papers; this bears the signatures of several of the Battalion's officers and of various dignitaries in attendance including some of the military guests representing many countries in Europe and beyond - but no Americans who have yet to reach the U.K. in large numbers.

A magnified image of the signatures:

Those which are decipherable include :

Home Guard
Col. C.A.B. Lindop
(C.O.- South Staffs. Zone, No.2 Group)
Lt.-Col T. Hollingsworth J.P.
(Battalion C.O. and later Mayor of Wednesbury)
Maj. G. Elwell
Capt. C.E. Gent
Capt. T.L. Lort
Capt. B.S. Prichard
Capt. R.L. Rentoul
(rank in all cases as at 1st February 1941)

A.H. Johnson Esq. O.B.E. (Mayor of Wednesbury)
Gen. S. Larkorski (Poland)
Lt.-Gen J.A. Morin
Maj.-Gen H.J. Phaff
(A.D.C. to Queen of the Netherlands)
Wing Commander Norman Hulbert, R.A.F., M.P.
Lawrence Kimball Esq., M.P.
Leonard Whitehouse Esq., J.P.

In common with that of every other Home Guard, Ernie's service came to an end at the beginning of December 1944 when the service was stood down and formal parades were held throughout the country, Walsall and Wednesbury being no exception. In due course the service rendered over so many years by him and his comrades was recognised by the Boroughs of Walsall and Wednesbury and he received from them two very splendid expressions of gratitude.

The Mayor of Wednesbury in 1945, Lt.-Col. T. Hollingsworth, had been Commanding Officer of the 36th (Wednesbury) Battalion.

Ernie Wagg retired from railway service in 1968 and continued to live in Walsall until his death in 1979.

In memory of
George Ernest Wagg
(1903 - 1979)

and all his comrades in
36th Staffordshire (Wednesbury) Battalion, Home Guard

We are much indebted to Mr. R.B. Hillback of Cheshire, the grandson of Ernie Wagg who is currently researching the Wagg and Hillback families, for the information on this page and his generous permission for its publication. He would welcome any further information about his grandfather's HG service and working life in Walsall.  If you can help, please use the Feedback link below.    
(Images © RBH 2009-2016).





x65 - 2009, updated January 2017