BNC Text F8P

[Walsall Local History Centre: talk about Home Guard]. Sample containing about 7960 words speech recorded in leisure context

4 speakers recorded by respondent number C56

PS1PN X f (Joyce, age unknown, interviewer) unspecified
PS1PP Ag5 m (Ernest, age 70, retired) unspecified
F8PPSUNK (respondent W0000) X u (Unknown speaker, age unknown) other
F8PPSUGP (respondent W000M) X u (Group of unknown speakers, age unknown) other

1 recordings

  1. Tape 082001 recorded on 1987-11-18. LocationStaffordshire: Walsall ( Walsall Local History Centre ) Activity: talk about Bloxwich and the home guard

Undivided text

Ernest (PS1PP) [1] born in Church Street ... I, I was only one, there were no brothers or sisters which ... for the record, I regret ... because ... all around me I had cousins, dozens of them ... and erm the families round me was big families and it was the, there was er times ... when it was bad weather or something like that and you couldn't congregate outside, you'd go to somebody's house, are you coming?
[2] No I'm stopping in with our kid, you know, and you couldn't impose on, on [...] so er if there was ... fisticuffs, fights, falling out, I'll fetch our kid, I'll fetch our wench, I mean there we you used to, honestly and truthfully, you, you used to feel it, you know erm ... because when there was any trouble, problems or like that there was always somebody to share it well ... it had the advantages in some ways, perhaps you was er had a little bit more luxuries than the f bigger family, but i in my mind that didn't make up for the companionship of brothers and sisters, no b b b b that, that's w how I put it anyway.
Joyce (PS1PN) [3] Where did you go to school?
Ernest (PS1PP) [4] Well I started school at the erm national school in the High Street by the fountain.
[5] Erm ... nineteen twenty one [laugh] .
[6] Erm ... I remem erm y you used to erm ... erm ... take, have to take exams and if you passed the exams you could go to Alma Green Secondary School.
[7] Well I was t taking piano lessons, studying for the exams ... I went over the top, I had to give it up and I didn't go to school then for another eighteen months.
[8] ... Well when I started to school I went to, back to school er I was eleven or er ten or eleven then, and I went to Field Road School that er what er Thomas's, is it, was it school?
[9] What's the name now?
[10] But anyway, Field Road Schools and that's
Unknown speaker (F8PPSUNK) [...]
Ernest (PS1PP) [11] that's where er that's where I finished with school.
[12] I finished school when I was fourteen there erm ... then
Joyce (PS1PN) [13] What work did you do ... when you left school?
Ernest (PS1PP) [14] When I left school, which was in nineteen thirty, it was a bad time for ... employment, there was a lot of unemploy unemployed people ... and I tried and tried and eventually I was offered a job at the Bloxwich Lock and Stamping Company in Bell Lane ... Alexander works, it was er er Squires's were, er it's a family er ... er concern, and erm it was the first ... offer I'd had for employment so I took it.
[15] Me mother wasn't very pleased with me going to work there but I said well it's a start so I stopped
Joyce (PS1PN) [16] And why wasn't she pleased?
Ernest (PS1PP) [17] Anyway to finish that story about stopping and starting, I stopped there for [laughing] fifty years [] ... and me mother was still alive when er when I ... at ninety three ... and when I retired ... in nineteen ... seventy nine, nineteen eighty ... I told me mum that I was finishing and she looked at me ... I told you that job wouldn't last ... and I, I, I mean I'd done fifty years all but a few months. [laugh]
Joyce (PS1PN) [18] Why didn't she want you to work there?
Ernest (PS1PP) [19] Well er er ... it hadn't, well ... I dunno whether I should record this, it hadn't very good reputation for ... pay and employment, but anyway
Joyce (PS1PN) [20] She thought you could do better than that.
Ernest (PS1PP) [21] Yeah.
[22] Anyway I, that's what happened, I was there, I, I started.
[23] Mind you er ... I started and finished there ... but erm
Joyce (PS1PN) [...]
Ernest (PS1PP) [24] we was engaged, oh I have talked to other people but ... we was engaged in making locks but most of the locks, well they did do a, er wardrobe locks, small cabinet locks, lever locks but one of the biggest kind of locks we di er made was the locks for car ... cars and vans which, in them days, was [laugh] was fantastic because most of the ... car bodies was of wood, the, the, the, the framework was wood, so erm the locks er were three or four, four by five er seven by eight and selvedges on them fourteen inches long, er bolts er the, the bolt mechanism would be anything from five eighths to an inch in di er er square with a radius on the end erm ... th there was er there was the sidecar locks which were smaller ... erm that was the sort of locks they made.
[25] Now ... in the lock museum I've taken some locks th that I collected and took them over there they used to do speed locks ... butted locks ... sidecar locks ... er then, as the ... motor trade changed from all wood frames to metal frames, other types of locks, I took there ... but this is what is amazing me, they, at the lock museum ... they highlight all the Willinghall locks which are the padlocks, which are [...] locks er ... wardrobe locks, cabinet locks and all the smaller type of locks ... but there was the biggest industry, I mean Walsall locks are still in existence now, they made er er locks for, for, for cars, the Bloxwich lock, that was their biggest trade was er, was er the bigger locks.
[26] There, there d they don't seem to be no mention of th this ... side of the lock industry.
Joyce (PS1PN) [27] Were there any other lock manufacturers in Bloxwich itself?
Ernest (PS1PP) [28] Pardon?
Joyce (PS1PN) [29] Were there any other lock manufacturers in Bloxwich itself?
Ernest (PS1PP) [30] Not as er er er erm Wilks's er ... well I don't think they er ... Wilks's that's i in, where ... [...] works
Joyce (PS1PN) [31] By the gardens?
Ernest (PS1PP) [32] By the gardens, in the corner, they made er ... parts but I mean I've never been in, in the factory, in their factory, but I do know that they made erm things for the motor industry.
[33] One of their products was erm ... you, when you see in the cars th th that they can er make them open top and they close the backs down, there's a bracket on the side that er hinges up and well they used to special you know, it had come from the ... landaus of the horse drawn vehicle, the same sort of thing, well they used to specialize in that and they used to make some kind of locks but I'm ... I have never talked to anybody that worked there so I, I don't know, but that's the only other one as I, as I'm aware of ... er was the, was Wilks's and er ... Bloxwich Lock.
Joyce (PS1PN) [34] Mm.
[35] So you were at Bloxwich Lock in nineteen thirty nine when ... the second world war broke out then?
Ernest (PS1PP) [36] That's right, yes.
Joyce (PS1PN) [37] What impact did that have on ... what impact did that have on the factory?
[38] Did they
Ernest (PS1PP) [39] Well we cha er
Joyce (PS1PN) [40] move over to war work?
Ernest (PS1PP) [41] Yes we changed to war work and er one of the, something, we made a, a lock ... which was a very very heavy duty, was the lock for the tanks.
[42] Oh it was er ... it was about six pound in weight when you put it together anyway, and erm ... used to make parts for aircraft and parts for the ... dropping of the bombs which we called drop bars.
[43] This was a bar that er went under the bomb like that when they fastened them up, and then when they dropped the ... bombs this bar was in a clip, like where me finger is,i in a clip so when they released them it dropped out of this clip ... the bar went as well of course, down that went ... down went the bomb drop bars with it ... used to be ... make them day and night ... and things like that and er of course there was er Bloxwich Lock and Stamping we used to do odd stamping, odd forgings and things li and er that was other part of the war work.
[44] But it was then, it was from er ... shop floor ... that I ... that the, when the ... call went out for volunteers for, for the armed forces which initially was called Land Defence Volunteers, L D V, which eventually was broken down to ... [laughing] look, duck and vanish [] ... army.
[45] That was before it was nominated as the, the Home Guard, that's what it originally was, the Land Defence Volunteers.
[46] Well when it was started up, the first unit that I was with was from the shop floor at Bloxwich Lock and Stamping ... and erm ... it took the nucleus of people off the shop floor and then after we'd finished our ten hour shift during the summer or when we could, we started foot drill training in the yard of the factory.
[47] That's when Major , who was on the photo, he was Major in the army of nineteen fourteen eighteen M C ... Major M C, military cross ... well he took charge ... and er a chap off the shop floor, well he was an old contemptible of the nineteen fourteen to eighteen war, name of Bert ... he was made Sergeant because he was only one who had got any military experience, and he started with us on the shop floor in doing foot drill.
[48] Unfortunately one day when it was earlier on he, he got his commands mixed up ... and we was m marching down the yard and the drive, and we was marching towards the factory ... up and down and right wheel and about turn, left wheel, basic foot drill you know ... it had been going for about ten minutes and all and we was going down towards the factory and erm ... we kept on going, we was getting close to the factory and he, he ... he forgot his ... words [laughing] forgot what er command he wanted to give and he shouted stop you'll be in the bloody factory in a minute [] instead of sa shouting halt, you know, he, he got flummoxed.
[49] [laugh] Oh [...]
Joyce (PS1PN) [50] Were you issued with any uniforms?
Ernest (PS1PP) [51] The first er things we had was arm bands which had, had L D V on, that was the first uni type of anything we had for recognition was them.
[52] And then we had the er ... the battledress was issued, the khaki, and erm ... we was ... had our head headquarters were started, the headquarters were started in an office at, one of the office rooms at the ... at the Bloxwich Lock and Stamping Company by the, the top offices we used to call them, by the gates, we had one of the rooms there for ... and it eventually became the armoury when we got some ... equipment because rifles etcetera was in very short supply after Dun Dunkirk ... So eventually we had a few ... rifles and er ... when the er we got a few rifles and er the sirens went ... it was the practice at the beginning when the sirens went in this area for everything to stop and everyone down the shelter ... but it happened ... four or five times, everybody realized how non-productive this was, that the time that was lost ... and there was nothing happening in this area ... so it was decided by the R T B that we, the, the people off the shop floor wouldn't stop work until the attack was really imminent or it had started ... because if this, this was happening all over the Midlands area and of course if you, if you multiply that by the number of people at work you can imagine how much production was lost erm ... and also when the sirens went ... Major at the factory used to get the chappies out ... from off the shop floor, get the few rifles we'd got, take we in to King George's playing fields ... there was a, a brook running across King George's playing fields then, it hadn't ... and a trench which was extended to stop er aircraft from landing in King George's cos it was just a big open space.
[53] Well when the sirens went at the beginning, what few rifles we'd got, he'd er take us out and string we out along this brook, a rifle every so often and ... and facing one way and ... looking round to see when anything goes up and in case anybody come over or anything come over ... and er that was the initial start.
[54] But ... afterwards, as things got, there was erm ... a look out post built on the flat roof of one of the buildings at the factory and then er there used to be, when the sirens went, there'd be look outs in this er observation post on top of the factory.
[55] Well [...]
Joyce (PS1PN) [56] So how did that work then if, if ... if the look out could spot some aircraft
Ernest (PS1PP) [57] Er they they could er we er ... ring a buzzer in the factory, ring the buzzer in the factory then, the factory buzzer would go then.
Joyce (PS1PN) [58] And then production stopped did it [...] ?
Ernest (PS1PP) [59] And they went down the shelter.
Joyce (PS1PN) [60] Was the factory camouflaged in any way?
Ernest (PS1PP) [61] No it wasn't.
[62] No.
[63] I mean it stuck out like a sore thumb, I mean er by King George's playing fields ... erm ... cos of the, they hadn't the,th the, the s other story for that was as I said was ... we ... they sent er some of us to a class in Walsall for er aircraft recognition and er ... the days I went to this class, cos I went as er, er both for the factory and for the Home Guard, so that I could cover both the factory and when I were on duty, Home Guard ... and we was at a building on the corner of Corporation Street and west, and we was taking classes in there.
[64] Then we was taken out of there into the ... Corporation Street where the fair used to be held and we had silhouettes of different aircraft on poles and holding them up and we er so as we could recognize them.
[65] We came back from there back into the rooms that we ... having instructions in and continued with our lessons.
[66] Then when we finished and come out we er there was such a commotion in the street ... while we were in there taking aircraft spotting a, a German aircraft had come over and it had dropped a bomb on [laughing] the gasworks had the plane, and we had known nothing about it [] .
[67] Fortunately though this bomb didn't explode else i i we should of known about it.
[68] But when I got back to work the people that was in the observation post on the factory, they saw this aircraft, it came down low over the King George's playing fields and they could see the markings on it ... and they'd sounded the alarm but ... but course the aircraft went straight over.
[69] But that was, well I was at aircraft spotting class when that happened.
Joyce (PS1PN) [70] Did you have any special instruction in first aid or fire fighting?
Ernest (PS1PP) [71] No.
[72] No, none at all.
[73] We had a basic training for, for the, for the arms ... for ... weapons drill ... and erm, course none of us had ever er had a rifle in our hands until this, never mind fired one.
[74] Well after er we, things be begin to get more organized, people from outside the factory was drafted into the unit so i it began to be build up on that.
[75] Chappies off the shop floor were called up so they gradually ... less from the factory cos er er er ... there was less male employees in the factory, they went in the servi so outside uni outside people as had volunteered and got their names down that things got organized, the unit was from all over Bloxwich then.
[76] But that w that was how it was started was at, at the Lock at Bloxwich Lock.
Joyce (PS1PN) [77] So the whole of Bloxwich Home Guard really started
Ernest (PS1PP) [78] Yeah
Joyce (PS1PN) [79] at the Bloxwich Lock
Ernest (PS1PP) [80] Yeah that's right
Joyce (PS1PN) [81] and then it
Ernest (PS1PP) [82] that was the first
Joyce (PS1PN) [83] it gradually became Bloxwich Home
Ernest (PS1PP) [84] first unit yeah.
Joyce (PS1PN) [85] Guard.
Ernest (PS1PP) [86] Course eventually the, I mean, there was er ... there was Sergeant who was a butcher out the High Street ... there was Alf was a barber out of the High Street ... there was er ... Frank, Frank he was another butcher out of the High Street ... there was er miners ... er teachers, I mean there was quite a ... mixture of occupations in, in the, in the Home Guard.
Joyce (PS1PN) [87] How did you get on together, alright?
Ernest (PS1PP) [88] Yes, yes.
[89] We ... we was ... I can't recall any falling out, you know what I mean?
[90] Er there was good companionship, good comradeship amongst everybody.
[91] Erm ... course the first guard duties, guard unit was at the Bloxwich Lock in the office that was allow er allocated to us.
[92] It became the armoury then and er we used to do guard duty on the armoury every night ... there was someone on guard duty.
[93] ... One night ... Major , Deekie as he was known, came down to inspect and the young chappy who was on guard, he challenged him properly er before he allowed him to advance towards him ... but after he'd advanced toward him and he'd been recognized Major says is the rifle alright?
[94] And he says yes, he said can I have a look?
[95] And he gives it to him!
[96] [laugh] Anyway that, that ... I mean ... lack of experience, lack of knowledge and, put that down to, probably [...] but that's just another story.
[97] Well then ... as the unit got bigger, as I said, the room at the ... offices in the Lock wasn't big enough so we moved from there to Alma Green Infant School, that's the school now they used for all kinds of social activities during the day and th on that side by the ... car park.
[98] Well we had a r a sch classroom in the infants school there for our headquarters and er storing cos ... we used to make use, we had a palliasse on the floor for when we was on night duty erm ... but I can never understand why we had our he headquarters over there but we had to do guard duties over in the elementary school on th school on the other side because that was the only one that had got a telephone ... and we had to man the telephones from the Brigade Headquarters or the ... to be able to phone to should they want us to be called out and so we had to do the guard duty over there but we slept in the, when we was off duty we was in er Alma Green School ... and that was there and then the ... we moved from there eventually and th th the ... longest part of our life of the Home Guard, the headquarters was at the cottage, I've been trying to think what the name of the cottage is, it ha it, it has a name ... it's the cottage next door to the Sir Robert Peel public house in Bell Lane.
[99] It's the er cottage that's still, the other buildings all around it have gone, it's the cottage that er next to the Sir Robert Peel, that was the ... that became the, that house became the headquarters, er
Joyce (PS1PN) [100] How many men would be in the Home Guard after you moved your head
Ernest (PS1PP) [101] Eh?
Joyce (PS1PN) [102] How many men were there actually in the Bloxwich Home Guard?
Ernest (PS1PP) [103] Well I mean that photo
Joyce (PS1PN) [104] When you
Ernest (PS1PP) [105] that I've got, that was the complete unit for the Company.
Joyce (PS1PN) [...]
Ernest (PS1PP) [106] I've been trying to think what we what the n whether it was D Company or C Company but I can't recall, that was the Company, that was, I just ... D Company of the er South Staffs ... of the whole Walsall area you see, that was D Company.
[107] I er
Joyce (PS1PN) [108] Did you ever join forces with any other Companies for training?
Ernest (PS1PP) [109] Oh yes yes, I can [laugh] ... yes.
[110] Well er I was saying er we, we went to the ... the cottage by the Sir Robert Peel and that, that was our final headquarters, that was where we was until the Home Guard was stood down.
[111] Because they, they ... they'd got cellars in that cottage so that the cellars became the ar armoury and there was ... erm ammunition and everything in there and the back of there, which was the garden, we could use as, as parade area so it was ... it was very central and that's where we finished up as headquarters for ... I'll say D Company, for Bloxwich.
[112] Yes we was, we got out with others.
[113] I remember once we was called out on the actual ... called out for actual sighting of s there was supposed to have been some activity over er Bentley ... so we was all called out and the assembly point was at Tolbertstead's works in Green Lane and we assembled er in the, at Tolberstead's and then we was sent out as search groups er from there right across ... Bentley.
[114] Now when you say right across, I mean you ... you've ta seen the photos of, of er ... shell pitted ground with the nineteen fourteen eighteen war, well that's how Bentley was then cos it had been ... rooted for coal and nineteen twenty six strike everybody got it all out cos there was a lot of top surface coal, course it was just left ... there was a lot of mole holes, stuff from ... the furnaces when they tip tipped the slag, it was ... up and down and there was Buttons Brook, wasn't it Buttons Brook ... across there, called Buttons Brook ... there was a pool across there called Leg of Lamb [laugh] ... but I mean it, it er you can imagine what I'm trying to say, what the ground was like to go over in pitch black night, to go over there and we went out and course we was issued with er ammunition which was ... one of the o only times I can remember when we went really out prepared with live ammunition, and er ... we scouted and scouted till daybreak and we didn't find nothing.
[115] Then when we come back to ... stand down, we came back to Tolbertstead well we was in Tolbertstead so the Tolbertstead canteen staff got some hot ... prepared some hot drinks and so when we come back we was able to have a hot drink and erm ... it was the duty of er the sergeants to see that the rifles were empty ... free, no am no, there wasn't er ... there wasn't one up the spout, one bullet left in the, in the rifle ... and er Sergeant , the barber, was checking our rifles ... anyway he, he was ... check, check, check, check and er alright ... he mischecked one and pulled the trigger and there was a bullet through [laughing] the roof in the, in the ... he was holding it up or otherwise there'd have been somebody on the floor but er he, he missed this one [] ... bullet through the canteen roof.
[116] [...] And then we used to do erm ... exercises with er from different areas, they'd come and attack our area or we'd come and try and in il infiltrate in their area and er we had, we had a night exercise and we was erm ... went out ... Saturday afternoon, we was out all Saturday night and Sunday and on the Sunday mid day we was still er out and we was in the farmyard ... at the farm at end of Brierley's Lane ... by Bell Lane, off Bell Lane, Brierley's Lane ... right at other end, we was in their farmyard and their outer buildings and we was ... str put out on guard duty from the Stafford Road to Broad Lane, and we was protecting that area, they were supposed to be coming from the Cannock area towards us ... and er ... we was in the, in the farmyard and course ... the m muck and stuff and all that out of the farmyard was there and the ducks was wallowing in it.
[117] Anyhow we was supposed to, they ... set a field kitchen up in the farmyard to, as part of the exercise, to feed us er and er ... they handed out some meat pies, you know, we just had one ta oh taste and well
Joyce (PS1PN) [laugh]
Ernest (PS1PP) [118] you never tasted anything like it in all ... Anyway nobody would eat them, the ... ducks
Joyce (PS1PN) [...] [...]
Ernest (PS1PP) [119] well they were they was rolling in all the muck in the farmyard but they, they went to the pies ... just put their noses round them and turned them over and then they s and true as god made little apples they started walking round these pies and they left them and they were still there [laughing] when we went away [] .
[120] But they wouldn't, they wouldn't eat them.
[121] That was our first [laughing] attempt at ... a field kitchen [] [laugh] ... We erm ... when we got back to s be stood down ... we was told by the er ... umpires that was stationed there that our headquarters had been wiped out.
[122] [laughing] They'd come from the other way [] ... from er Snade Lane ... not Broad Lane, they'd come up from [...] ... they'd come farther round, round and come in th in ... round the back sort of thing and we ... we'd got no headquarters [laughing] any more [] .
[123] So we'd had a ... we'd been out all night and all day and achieved nothing but it was, course it was exercises.
[124] But erm ...
Joyce (PS1PN) [125] Tell me something of the hours you used to work at that time.
Ernest (PS1PP) [126] Pardon?
Joyce (PS1PN) [127] How many hours a week did you use to work ... at your job?
Ernest (PS1PP) [128] Oh we used to work er f er six days a week, er all day Saturdays ... erm eight to eight ... and er eight till eight at n at er eight till seven at night ... or er or eight till eight at ... erm ... most shifts was early, they used to have a ... a ... an hour er an hour break of a dinner time er ... [...] sometimes they only used to have half an hour at night because, I mean well once you've got er y y you was there, once you get you shift done it was no good sitting there doing for an hour and er it, it varies on what production ... what was wanted and how far advanced you was or how far behind you was, you know, but er the average hours was as I say was ten hours a shift ... that was working shift, you worked ten hours and then a break in between, ten minutes, half an hour
Joyce (PS1PN) [129] And what hours did you have to put in for your Home Guard duty [...] ?
Ernest (PS1PP) [130] You used to have to do er all night from seven till seven ... erm you was on, called out for er on weekends you had to parade every Sunday morning.
[131] See th this is what I'm saying, you'd done all them hours and then you was at it again on the weekend.
[132] You'd g had to parade on the Sunday erm ... for ... weapon training, and one Sunday ... we ... earlier on, we hadn't fired a rifle, so ... it was arranged for us to fire a rifle at a rifle range.
[133] So we was ... er ... called out at nine o'clock on the Sunday morning ... transport was laid on and we was taken over to, to fire in woods at Fradley, the other side of Lichfield.
[134] ... We was there till six o'clock in the afternoon ... and it took us from the er ten o'clock in the morning, say about ten when we got there, it took us from ten till six to fire five rounds of ammunition [laugh] because there was that many there and you had to wait your turn.
[135] While they went into the firing ... blackboards to fire your rounds and you, all you was allowed to fire was five ... five and then you had to wait, take your turn course ... everybody had got to go in, they'd got to check them ... as everybody got ... had fired their five there weren't one left up the spout like there was before, course it took time see, and it took us a day, I would say a day, to fire five rounds of ammunition.
[136] And that was the only time that I've fired a rifle [laugh] ... cos, well actually ... I ... went ... got, rose to a corporal ... I was a corporal when they finished and erm ... I was in er made cor lance corporal and then I was ... er with a heavy Vickers machine gun, that's the one with the ... has water cooled casing on it ... the big heavy one you see, and I was with that, that team.
[137] Then ... when I took er you'd ... you could take a proficiency test which was held at, at your Company Headquarters by a visiting officer and erm ... I then, we'd, by then we'd had some American weapons come, one was the Browning automatic which is a very very good ... good er weapon, you could r fire single shots or rapid shots.
[138] It was the American equivalent to the Bren gun only it, it was more like a rifle, it hadn't got a stand, you know, more like a rifle butt, you know.
[139] And I, I was issued with that and er I took ... lessons on it up at head at headquarters and then when I took me proficiency test, I was asked questions on the Browning automatic and ... other ap things appertaining to the army and I passed me proficiency test.
[140] That's the certificate which I regret now ... is with South Staffs museum at Lichfield.
[141] Also a photo of all the officers of Walsall that I saw in a second hand shop and I went and bought it for a few pence.
[142] And I'd got them here and I thought well I don't know what to do with them and I b b interested in ... I'm interested in ... going back in time, I'll go anywhere where I can see something ... and I'd been over there and they'd got some Home Guard stuff in a case, only a small show, and I asked them if they'd like it and they said yes.
[143] Well I've took that, I took that some years ago ... but I've never seen it on show ... you know?
[144] And I, I, I mean I've r now that we, Walsall's got their own department I wish I'd of kept on to it, it'd of been interesting.
[145] But that's
Joyce (PS1PN) [...]
Ernest (PS1PP) [146] where it is.
[147] And me proficiency c certificate, I took that as well and they had that as well.
[148] And so you, you, you ... I had stepped up a bit in, in ... in rank, I'm a ... but erm ... there was ... being, on the social side ... course being next to the Sir Robert Peel, when we went down there, it was quite handy ... although I'm not a drinking man, I never have been, I'll go and socialize and I'll have half a pint or two halves but I'd never ... I've never been one to go out drinking [...] .
[149] And of course when you was er ... wasn't on guard duty at the f early evening, course there used to be ... used to pop into the Peel and have a couple of halves or some would have a pint and there was a chap in, in the Home, Home Guard he, he used to be able to play the piano so we used to have a singsong in there for a social, you know.
[150] But erm ... the comradeship there, I mean you very often see chappies now ... I d know them from the Home Guard, but otherwise I shouldn't have known them.
Joyce (PS1PN) [151] You were telling me erm a little while back that erm you were made to go and work at Bilston.
Ernest (PS1PP) [152] Yeah.
Joyce (PS1PN) [153] Can you tell me about that?
Ernest (PS1PP) [154] Well this was a Manpower Board that came round and they was inspecting erm ... what people were doing in the particular factory [...] at and if they thought you'd be more ... useful somewhere else then they'd direct you to another factory.
[155] So this is what they did, directed me to Bradley's at Bilston which I ... er stayed at until the war finished.
[156] Er ... it was ooh all female labour.
[157] ... There's some of them was Irish.
[158] ... Some of the labourers, the male labourers, was Italian prisoners of war [laugh] ... And the things that they used to make in their spare time, well some of them was very very clever, you know.
Joyce (PS1PN) [159] Such as?
Ernest (PS1PP) [160] They used to make like ornaments out of scrap things, you know ... oh ... they was alright, they, they used to bring them in a ... a lorry used to bring them ... er in a morning then collect them at night you know.
[161] And they used to, not make anything, but they used to do the labouring, movement of work and all like that.
[162] They didn't make things but they was responsible for moving things about.
Joyce (PS1PN) [163] Where did they come from?
[164] Where were they kept?
Ernest (PS1PP) [165] I don't know where they was actually, somewhere on The Chase I think but I'm not sure where ... I'm not sure where they come from.
Joyce (PS1PN) [166] What did they actually make at Bradley's during the war years?
Ernest (PS1PP) [167] During the war ... they made er [...] mortar bomb fins.
[168] Erm ... fifty pound, bigger bomb fins the er the, the fins.
[169] You've seen the er round, say th looking fro on the top of the bomb i it's round ... and then there's fins down to the bomb itself ... er you follow me?
[170] ... Well we used to make those rings and put the fins on, rivet them on, and the bombs, the, the, the ... the rings was ... erm ... seamlessly weld on a ... a welder that you ... two w wheels which were electrically driven ... and the power was put through them and, and you overlap the two seams like that, and it, as the wheels went round it'd weld them straight along, they was about eight inches deep ... seam weld them right down.
[171] Er [...] mortar bombs, they used to weld the fins on that, do those on stitch welders, they'd go up and down similar to these things you see now.
[172] It was the beginning of these automatics, you've seen these photos on the, on the television where these welders come down and they go in like this, well these was ... the beginning of that sort of thing because it was worked ... with a motor and a cam which er er the cam went round and it'd lift the arm up and when it was went past the, the knuckle it'd drop down ... and the speed you ... [...] them out or the speed you sent them out [...] how fast the arm would go up and down, and that was stitch welding.
[173] Another was spot welding and ... they used to make er different containers for ... the, the army.
[174] We still made a certain amount of buckets and bins and things like that which was their stock in trade, but mostly it was erm ... was erm ... bomb fins and mortar bombs ... aerial bombs erm er and er things like er fins for bombs like that.
[175] But they still did do a certain amount of er ... the stock in trade course the bins for g for transporting stuff in and all like that.
[176] They had, there, there was a small section still made kettles during the war cos I mean kettles wore out, wear out just the same, you've still got to have a kettle or a bucket, but erm ... that's like everything else there was only, only a small section so they was in short supply.
[177] But erm ... I stopped there till the war was finished and then er ... I went back to the Lock and as asked them if th there was any chance of coming back to work there, you know, cos ... and er they said oh yes, as long as you like.
[178] So the first opportunity I had I left Bradley's and went back to the Lock so ... it'd been war direction, war service ... we asked and it counted as me service with the Lock, that I hadn't interrupted me service being as I was directed so that's how I say I had fifty years at the Lock.
[179] I've got the watch upstairs for twenty six years, when I did twenty six years.
[180] Erm ... but er ... when the war finished, when the war finished and the Home Guard stood down, I can't remember who was the mayor of Walsall at the time, but they had a reception in the town hall for the Home Guard and everyone that was in the Home Guard was invited before we hand before we st handed our uniforms in, was invited to attend ... and I must say with great pride that I was ... can still remember it now, that the wife and I went to the reception and I was in the uniform and it'd be the mace bearer I presume that was at the door and he asked your name and er rank ... and ... he shouted out your name and rank when you went in and you was greeted by the mayor and mayoress inside the ves the ... hall of the town hall, and erm ... I mean er ... quite proud to be ... Corporal and Mrs [laughing] you know [] and it ... I mean everyone that went, I mean their rank and name and ... who was with them, you know, was ... it was quite ... quite a er er quite a ... something of ... to look back to of interest that was, you know, when we stood down.
Joyce (PS1PN) [181] Was there a ceremonial parade to mark the standing down of the Home Guard?
Ernest (PS1PP) [182] Yes we m yes there was.
[183] This was be this was er er there was a ceremonial parade when we stood down but this was er erm something that like that the ... town ... in recognition of the Home Guard [...] ... Cos when the Home Guard was stood down it was a national ... er a national standing down so everybody all over the country er everybody in the country there'd be a er ... a parade of some sort but this was for the Walsall detachment of the South Staffs Home Guard that was invited to, to the town hall for er a reception, it was quite ... it stood in re er I still can remember about it quite ... quite something to look back on that was really.
Joyce (PS1PN) [184] Did, did they parade through Bloxwich?
Ernest (PS1PP) [185] No.
[186] Well the parade was er a er er in Walsall ... erm in front of the town hall where they normally ... when they have a military parade or a parade of that sort, you know, [...] is at the front of the town hall.
[187] It was ... there, Lichfield Street isn't it?
[188] Yeah.
[189] Yes, no we, we er er all the, see, it was all the units.
[190] We did once ha er have er exhibition i er for the Bloxwich people erm ... one, one Saturday.
[191] We put on a display ... of marching or ... and er weaponry we'd got ... in King George's playing fields and er ... talk about the weapons er er er br brings to mind ... we had a, a weapon that was a anti-tank weapon and it was a Robin Robinson Heath er contraption made up of a tube, cast iron tube ... on a three legged tripod ... with er a hinge ... ring on the one end which had a recess for a cap and a trigger to, to fire this cap.
[192] Now it was a anti-tank weapon ... only you put a bottle in the tube, or a, a container that had got a i a liquid, I've been trying to think what it is, can you tell me a liquid that bursts into fl flame when it's exposed?
[193] Er er it was like a Molotov co bo cocktail, a thing like that and you put it in the, in the tube and you put a wad of cotton, gun cotton behind it ... closed the ... flap at the back onto er just a latch, like a, a door a gate latch which locked it, then fired the ... cap which fired the gun cotton which sent the ... well then we ... we're trying this out ... on the waste ground where the, that was then, where the waterworks' offices are now in Green Lane, well there that was, at that time, that was a ... glue factory ... that was the glue factory there ... ooh.
[194] Well we was in that area trying this gun out in one of the mole holes that was over there and ... we'd fired one, that was alright.
[195] We fired another one but the container broke and the vaporized stuff, it was vaporized er with the explosion, blowed on to us and it burnt.
[196] Fortunately w the canal was close to, we all er rushed to the canal and wash our hands in the canal and wash our face cos the vapour had gone on to us.
[197] That was the Roberts that ... that was another Robinson.
[198] Also when we was giving this demonstration for the people ... in Bloxwich for the, our unit in King George's playing fields, we'd got all our weaponry on, on, on show what we'd got ... Vickers machine gun, the Brownings rifles ... this ... anti-tank bomb ... anti-tank ... tube, whatever you li gun, whatever you like to call it, but also we'd got what, what was termed a bucket bomb.
[199] It was a big contraption on a cross with er girders like, cross, like ... a cross.
[200] And inside was what tha in the middle was like a bucket container, like er it was a, a, a, a kind of a mortar ... and ... you fired this mortar with a er a charge and it fired.
[201] This was a anti-tank and it fired a bomb ... and of course we put a demonstration on firing this and then we was up the Bell Lane end and right at the top by Bailey's farm there was a row of seats, benches, along the walk there and of course the demonstration was we'd show them ... imagine those ... seats are tanks ... course we never thought in the world we should ever even get near one ... anyway we hit one [laughing] and broke it [] [laugh] Cos they, they, I mean they was only dummies, they weren't, I mean there was no explosive just the dummy shell you know ... and we, we was quite pleased with ourselves being as we'd got an audience.
[202] Yeah.
Joyce (PS1PN) [203] Were there any searchlight batteries or anything of that nature in Bloxwich?
Ernest (PS1PP) [204] There were searchlights but not attached to us.
[205] We, we had them ... [...] about that.
[206] ... Before I left the Lock and I was on nights the sirens went one night ... and this was before they stopped going down the shelter ... we went down the air raid shelter that ... is, now, is the cellar to the club at Bloxwich Lock's club!
[207] It was the air raid shelter then ... and we went down there and we was in the shelter ... and er we'd been down there ten minutes to quarter of an hour ... oh there was such a bang outside we thought this is it, you know, all the bits and stones and rubbish and er that was stuck on the ceiling was ... disturbed you know and it ... down it ... on top of us, you know, all bits and plaster and water th it was er shi [...] close.
[208] Course ... creeps out up to the steps, look out the shelter ... oh the factory's still here anyway.
[209] ... Wonder wh well what's that, you know, [...] be a bang so close ... well it wasn't till, till some time after we found out ... that they'd stationed a naval gun somewhere ... Newtown way ... and they'd f fired this gun to, as a ... practice.
[210] Course that was only time it was ever fired because it was, it had caused that much disturbance and disruption with the gun.
[211] I don't know what size gun it was, you know, or any details but that's what we found out ... what the bang was and it, it moved on to somewhere else, they didn't fire it again.
[212] It was while the air raid sirens was o air raid was ... alert was still on.
[213] But there was no aircraft ... but it was just a practice fire, you know.
[214] Course everybody was, was er in, looking ... fin wondering where the ... what had happened.
[215] But the funniest part about it was ... in King George's playing fields where the cricket club is ... at the beginning of the war that was a A R P ... assembly point for the A R P wardens.
[216] When we eventually came out, when the sirens er all clear went we came out ... look at that there ... in the A R P warden's er in the A R P's ... pavilion, the cricket pavilion there was a skylight ... there was no blackout to it was there [laugh] ... [laughing] beacon of light ... the A R P had caught us [] [laugh] ...
Joyce (PS1PN) [217] Where was the searchlight battery in Bloxwich then?
[218] You say it wasn't by the Lock.
Ernest (PS1PP) [219] I really don't know, I can't say as er er as I ever, ever ... seen a unit in, in this area at all.
[220] ... Course though they had the bombs drop down the road here, they had a bomb drop just down the road here.
[221] There was a bomb
Joyce (PS1PN) [222] Where was that?
Ernest (PS1PP) [223] Eh?
Joyce (PS1PN) [224] Where was that then?
Ernest (PS1PP) [225] When?
Joyce (PS1PN) [226] Where?
Ernest (PS1PP) [227] Just down the road here it was just down in, in Howard Street.
Joyce (PS1PN) [228] In [...] Mm mm?
Ernest (PS1PP) [229] Yeah.
[230] Yes they had one down there.
[231] I mean they weren't badly ... Me father at th er at the beginning of the war he worked ... he worked at the Grove pit, down the mine at the Grove and he used to be on afternoons.
[232] And of course when he was coming home ... in the middle of the night ... from afternoons, biking it ... and the one night they came he was coming home ... you know the finger post at Pelsall?
[233] Norton Road is it?
[234] From there to ... the Watling Street ... where the Grove pit used to be, straight the way along ... go over the railway bridge, you know, it's the turn, well Grove pit was right in there.
[235] Well he was ... well he was coming from the Grove to the finger post to come along ... Wolverhampton Road, Lichfield Road, to come home to Church Street.
[236] The cornfields on each side of the road was on fire from incendiaries.
[237] Yeah.
[238] ... And for ... soon after that me father had to give up the mine be because of his health and he went to work at the depot ... er were the bus depot ... and he worked ... in the battery house where they made all the batteries up, charged the batteries for the buses, looked after the electrical side ... there was electrician, he weren't, me father weren't electrician but he was working with electrician ... but his main job was ... charging the batteries, putting them on in groups in the, in the er battery house and charging house, to keep all the batteries charged up for all the buses ... petrol buses tr and trolley buses.
[239] ... And er ... th they used to make some of the batteries up, the cells, the, the ... used to er ... I don't know if you've ever seen a cell in a battery, it's usually made up of er wood ... er lead and wood.
[240] Well they used to, if a battery couldn't be, you can charge it up but if it breaks through from one cell to the other a a across with sediment [...] in the bottom, so it gaps that cell and that cell so you can charge it forever because the one's discharging the other with the sediment that's arrested in the bottom cos i it's like putting a connection across, so it never actually charges.
[241] So things like, you know ... and erm ... he worked there from, till he was sixty seven, you know, in er ... erm so that's where he finished up were there.
[242] But ... do you only deal with history or have you had anything to do with this exhibition ... as to the trams and, and trolley buses here?
Joyce (PS1PN) [243] Er
Ernest (PS1PP) [244] Er where the bus depot