The photo was taken at an unknown date but the group is clearly assembled (for reasons unknown) on the front steps of the Empress Cinema in the Parade. Advertised are two films, "King of the Open Road" and "Eternally Yours", the latter a Hollywood film which had appeared in 1939 and starred David Niven and Loretta Young.
Douglas and my father used to go out on Home Guard duties, and my father taught gunnery. One night he came home to say that he had been nearly shot as someone had an extra bullet up the spout and when discharging the magazine the trigger fired the bullet and the round went through a blanket he had folded on his shoulder. I think that he became a sergeant, but he has no stripes in the photo. I do not know why he stopped going on duty, but it may have been due to tiredness from going each day to the Adderley Park works of Morris Commercial cars, about 12 hours a day round trip.
The document below shows the arrangements made between the Home Guard unit and the company of which William Thornton was an employee in the event of a need for the emergency mustering of the unit - in this case "D" Coy. of the 6th Warwickshire Battalion.
We had a shelter under the house which was reached by going down some steps from the dining room, which for a period was routine each evening. One night Douglas came racing down the stairs and down into the shelter shouting that something was going to hit the house. I think that this was a German plane that had been shot down and crashed into Sutton Park. The Park was used for tank training which was good to watch. At the top of our road the U.S. Army constructed the Army Post office, and this was later manned by German prisoners of war. One day I was playing in the Tudor Hill road outside our house (it was a cul-de-sac) when a prisoner escaped; with much shouting the U.S. sentry fired an automatic over my head at a vanishing person. The bullet holes were still visible in the wall when I went there in 1980.
My last memory of the war in Sutton Coldfield was when General Montgomery came to Crystal Palace in Sutton Park and we kids played on “his tank”.
My father and cousin, in common with most Home Guards, will almost certainly have received a personal message of thanks from King George VIth in the form of a certificate, examples of which may be seen elsewhere in this website. These have regrettably not survived. On the other hand, his note of gratitude to me, acknowledging my personal contribution to the war effort, has happily not been lost: