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Pelsall's Home Guard

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Commanding Officer Tom Chapman of Pelsall's Home Guard

The photograph above was taken around 1918 and was loaned to Pelsall Times by Mrs Appleton, daughter of Tom Chapman.

Commanding Officer Tom Chapman was decorated twice during World War I with the Military Cross.  In addition to these, all of his decorations and memorabilia were donated to the 

Royal Warwickshire Museum

When writing the Pelsall Times magazine in 2004 I was given the contact number of the daughter of Mr Tom Chapman who was the Commanding Officer of the Home Guard based at The Sycamores in Church Road Pelsall during the Second World War.

Back in 2004 I contacted Mrs Appleton to find out more about her father's role in Pelsall's Home Guard.

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Mrs Appleton who lived in Walsall loaned me a number of photographs to include in the article, together with a fascinating insight into what it was like coming to Pelsall from her home in Birmingham during the Second World War.

She recalled:

Being bombed out of Birmingham in 1940 we had to find accommodation quickly.  It was extremely difficult to move in such circumstances from a Birmingham suburb to what was then the village of Pelsall.

I don't know why Pelsall was chosen except to say that my parents were born in Brownhills and Clayhanger and their married life was spent at Shelfield, so I suppose they returned to their roots.

My mother found it most difficult of all for she had left very good friends of eleven years or so, behind.  She was a shy person and found it very difficult to make friends all over again.  My brother and father remained in the jobs they were in at the time.

My father a head teacher at Birchfield Road, Perry Barr and my brother was articled to a firm of quantity surveyors in Birmingham.

I too found it difficult at first, but after attending Miss Westwood's Commercial College in Lichfield Street, Walsall, made a lot of good friends many of whom I still see today, 60 years on.

My father was decorated twice during World War I with the M.C., but as all of his decorations and memorabilia were donated to Royal Warwickshire Museum, I cannot readily check up on these incidents.

I have no idea who nominated my father for his post of Commanding Officer of the Home Guard in Pelsall, but I suspect that it was more to do with him being a teacher.  There were a number of them in the Home Guard of that age, around 45 to 50 at the time.

I recall that the men met at The Sycamores on Church Road.

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Pelsall's Home Guard

Back Row L - R: ?,?, Ernie Pell, ?, Jim Fowkes, ?,?,?,?, Gordon Chapman, ?

4th Row L - R:?, Tom Chapman, ?,?, Wilfred Davies, ?,?

3rd Row L - R: Mr Davies, Don Smith, Mr Lock,?,?,?,?,?,?,?,?,?,?, Archie Wilkinson

2nd Row L- R: ?, Mr Tilson, Larry Pell,?,?,George Malpass,?, Norman Ashford,?

Front Row L - R: Arthur Brindley, James Miller, Reg Wilkinson, Bert Williams

In the first instance armbands were worn with ordinary clothes with LD Vol (Local Defence Volunteers).  Uniforms when issued were ordinary regular army battle dress, rather prickly and most unpopular.

As far as I remember, the only difference for officers were the 'pips' on their shoulders, 2nd Lieut etc.

I think everyone could become a member of the Home Guard, but when the drilling etc started, faint hearts dropped out, after all they did a full day's work, sometimes very physically hard before going on duty sometimes all night.

If you look at the photograph you wil notice that some members were quite young, although they looked so much older in their uniforms.

I really can't remember many incidents to do with the Home Guard apart from a rather unfortunate incident when Albert Snape was badly injured on one of the manoeuvres.

Many years later a member of my father's teaching staff became headmaster of Pelsall School and remained there for many years.

After publishing the first article about Pelsall's Home Guard in Issue 28 of Pelsall Times in 2004, Mr Joe Miller was quick to respond.  To begin with, he told me that the photograph of the Officers was taken over the canal from the Royal Oak Pub (now called The Fingerpost).  The building that can be seen behind them was one of the derelict cottages that were still on the common at that time.

As seen below the photograph above Mr Miller was able to name many of the men in the photograph.  He told me that Mr Davies was a school teacher, Larry Pell was a butcher and James Miller was his father.

Mr Miller was also able to shed further light on what happened to Albert Snape.  Albert was somehow knocked over by an armoured personnel carrier, luckily after the event he saw the funny side of things.

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With regards to the photograph above, this is of all the Officers of the Brigade.  Note the ages and medal ribbons on a number of them.  Presumably these would be World War I decorations.  At this time my father would have been Captain.  I have a wallet which was presented to him bearing information about his position although unfortunately it has no dates.

The Officers in this photograph came from Aldridge, Rushall and Pelsall.

If you look closely at this photograph you wil notice the man at the centre has a dog on his lap.  This man was the Colonel.

Mrs Appleton recalled that the Colonel took his dog everywhere with him.

If you would like to add your memories of Pelsall's Home Guard please get in touch, I would be delighted to hear from you.

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