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15 October 2014
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Home Guard Days in Clayton by Dan MacFarlane

by Stockport Libraries

Contributed by 
Stockport Libraries
People in story: 
Dan MacFarlane (DanMac)
Location of story: 
Clayton, Manchester
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A3374246
Contributed on: 
06 December 2004

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Elizabeth Perez of Stockport Libraries on behalf of Dan MacFarlane and has been added to the site with his permission. He fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I joined the Clayton, M/c 11 Unit of the Home Guard at age 15. The unit was based at shop premises a few doors up from the Humphrey Cheetham Hotel. The Commanding Officer was John (Jack) Redditt V.C. Jack had a cobbler’s shop with living accommodation in West Street opposite the unit headquarters. His descendants sold Jack Redditt’s V.C. a couple of years ago, I hope that it finished up in his regiment’s museum, but I just do not know. The Second in Command was Tommy Lang, licensee of the aforementioned “Humphrey Cheetham”. Tommy was a mountain of a man with a typical “Chesters” complexion.

The unit comprised mainly of W.W.1. Veterans. Quite a few had M.Ms., D.C.Ms, and various other bravery awards to their credit. One member whom I remember vividly was Cpl. Fred (Wilkie) Wilkinson, M.M., who had a baby-wear shop a few doors up from the units headquarters. Wilkie and another member of the unit suffered from “Shell Shock”. This affected their speech and gave them a distinct tremor. This disablement was, of course, due to their service in W.W.1. I have never come across anybody suffering from this complaint due to service in W.W.2. This is amazing as shell bombardment, especially in Italy and the desert, was horrific.

Another member of the unit was an ex school friend Ken Sharples. Ken spent the war road testing motorbikes for Fred Fearnley’s, prior to the bikes being delivered to the army. After the war Ken rode for, and captained “Belle Vue Aces”. At the close of his riding career, Ken was appointed to manage the vast entertainment complex at Belle Vue. Unfortunately Ken was killed driving one of the huge yankee automobiles that fascinated him.

After parade was dismissed most members adjourned to the Humphrey Cheetham. Tommy Lang usually treated me to one half pint of Chesters Best Mild and then pointedly said “ Good night lad, see you at next parade.”

Eventually the unit outgrew its accommodation and moved to a large detached house. This was situated up North Road on the border of Clayton and Droylsden (where the rich people lived). At this time I moved on to first the R.A.F.V.R. and eventually the Army. Moving the unit always seemed a shame as it removed the central pivot. The nearest pub was half a mile away and only stocked the dreaded “Swales Ales”. To men used to drinking Chesters Best Mild this was a disaster. Dedicated drinkers of Chesters eventually acquired a “Chester’s Conk”. This was a bulbous red, yellow, purple and blue veined, and considered a mark of distinction.

I have many happy memories of being with the unit. There was several “Dad’s Army” members of the unit, I think every unit had them. However, in spite of being figures of fun, their intentions were sincere.

Apart from Jack Redditt, I never knew how any of them acquired their bravery awards, these things were just never discussed. I only knew of Jack’s actions because they were publicised in his obituary.

I have always considered it both a privilege and pleasure to have served with these veterans of WW1. The only regret I have is that WW2 interrupted my age-group’s education. On top of earning a living, getting married (and other mad commitments) it is difficult to catch up by part time education. The only thing I envy the current school age children is the educational opportunities they have. I do not however envy them the financial penalties they incur. Imposed by people who received free education to degree level.

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