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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Birmingham Blitz

by newcastle-staffs-lib

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Syd Bailey
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 January 2005

At the beginning of the war I wanted to start a career in the Police Force but I was too young to be a constable. I obtained a post in the office of the Chief Constable of Birmingham and joined 3 other Boy Clerks who were all preparing for careers in the city Force. We all lived together in a house in Handsworth and worked in various departments of the City Police headquarters in Newton Street during the day and did firewatching duties at night. This was the period of 'The Blitz' when air-raids on the city were almost nightly events and bomb-damage was extensive. Every morning on the way to work in the city centre we had to thread our way through shattered streets, past ruined buildings and over what seemed like miles of hoses where A.F.S. firemen still struggled to control fires and traffic skirted bomb craters and crunched their way over glass from broken shop windows. Few people had slept much, but there was no thought of missing work. Those people who couldn't drive to work or catch a bus simply walked. People whose shop windows had been blown out set about sweeping up broken glass and wreckage and stuck up notices saying " We are still open -more open than usual." Everwhere there was a spirit of 'togetherness', a feeling of co-operation. That was when the Boy Clerks got together and formed what we called "Police Messengers". Equipped with 'tin hats' we travelled around, often on bikes, during air-raids and generally helping where necessary. We helped to dig people out of wrecked houses and saw some very strange sights. Sometimes we saw houses almost completely demolished but with shelves still fixed to inside walls and bearing unbroken glass jars.We found people who had been blown out of their beds into the streets, but almost completely uninjured. One night we stood outside Handsworth Park and watched the destruction of Coventry when the distant sky flamed as incendiary bombs rained down on the
cathedral city and shrapnel from the antri-aircraft guns spattered round us. Whether we did any good is open to question, but we felt that we were doing our bit - and I suppose it was good training for what came afterwards.

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