- Contributed by
- Severn Valley Railway
- People in story:
- Paul Bailey
- Location of story:
- Stafford and Aldridge, Walsall
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 31 May 2005
I recall being in Stafford walking along the road past the hospital with my mother one day when the sky was filled with aircraft towing gliders. You saw the odd glider at Aldridge from time to time but these were large military gliders. The whole of the time we walked from the town centre to Tillington Street, where uncle Joe lived, the 'planes and gliders kept coming over and looking back this must have been the time of the allied invasion of Europe in June 1944 - D-day. I can still see my grandfather cleaning his rifle, issued as part of his Home Guard duties, and I have his Defence Medal issued by Lieut-Col Cowan, Secretary of the Staffs TA Association to him, Pte E Sleath, after the war.
Some weekends the home guard (of modern 'Dad's Army' fame) would train in the local streets - jumping in and out of local gardens as they exercised. Very often they would make their way down Paddock Lane into Dumblederry Lane and over the canal bridge to fight a mock battle either side of the canal. Local children would follow knowing that any explosive thrown into the canal would stun the fish and bring them floating to the top.
During the war all iron railings were removed for the iron and steel and aluminium pots and pans were collected for air frames. Everyone had to carry an identity card and had a ration book. There was a gun battery on Barr Beacon Hill and Aldridge airfield was in use with fighters, spitfires and hurricanes, and bombers, Lancaster and Lincoln, in evidence. There were regular flights of two winged aircraft (known as biplanes) used to train pilots. At the start of the war the road to Pool Green took a detour against some open ground on the left while the land in front of the council houses on the right had a row of oak trees. During the war the road was aligned as it is today, straight, using German prisoners of war.
These spoke good English and their base was the air raid shelter at the end of Tynings Lane. Here they would brew their strong black tea and eat tins of corned beef and hunks of bread - better rations than we had. They were all very friendly and one later married a Satchwell daughter. I have no idea where the prisoners were kept at night. After the war many German prisoners decided to stay in this country rather than return to their own country.
After the war, in 1947, I heard and saw my first jet engine. It was mounted on a flat truck on the railway and was being used to clear the track in the cutting on the Sutton Goldfield side of the railway bridge. All the aircraft in the Aldridge area during the war had piston driven engines, English and German alike. When petrol did become available, after the war, that supplied to essential services, tractors and transport vehicles, was dyed red in an attempt to prevent its illegal use by private motorists.
(This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from Wyre Forest Volunteer Bureau on behalf of Paul Bailey and has been added to this site with his permission. Mr Bailey fully understand the site's terms and conditions.)
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