The Home Guard at Wedgwood

During the early stages of the Second World War many British men that had not been called upon to serve in the forces, either through being too young, too old, or in reserved occupations, also expressed a desire to fight for their country. In October 1939 Winston Churchill suggested to Sir John Anderson, the head of the Air Raid Precaution service (ARP), that these individuals should be given the opportunity through the formation of a new defensive organisation. Anderson agreed with Churchill’s proposal although it was not until the following year when Germany launched its Western Offensive that the idea came to fruition.

 

The government had been largely unenthusiastic about the idea. One of the first MP’s to raise the issue of a home defence strategy had been Josiah Wedgwood IV back in May, urging that the entire adult civilian population be trained in the use of arms and given weapons with which to repel the invader. A number of individuals began forming themselves into armed bands for detecting and dealing with parachutists. Faced with the prospect of trigger-happy vigilante groups with no proper organisation the government was forced to act. On the evening of May14th, 1940, Anthony Eden, the Secretary of State for War, broadcast a message emphasising the real danger of invasion by German troops. He appealed for men between the ages of 15 and 65 to volunteer for a new home-based part-time force to be known as the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) although the initials were occasionally referred to as standing for ‘Look Duck and Vanish.’

 

The Staffordshire Newsletter of May 18th reported the immediate local response. ‘Within a few minutes of the end of Mr Eden’s speech on Tuesday night men were applying to enlist at police stations in all parts of the county. By Wednesday morning nearly 100 had registered at Stafford and volunteers were continuing to arrive in a steady stream. A similar response was also evident in the villages and hamlets around Stafford. At Gnosall, a man who listened to the broadcast ran the whole length of the village so that he could be the first to enrol’.[1] The following week more than 10,000 Staffordshire men had volunteered.[2] The Government had expected about 150,000 to volunteer but in less than a week 250,000 men had registered across Britain. By the end of the following month the figure was in excess of one million, a figure at which it remained until the organisation was stood-down at the end of 1944.

 

The main objectives of this new formation were to track enemy landings, prevent their movement, and to safeguard key areas such as aerodromes, railways, telephone exchanges and vulnerable rural villages. In reality the expected invasion never materialised and their main functions became capturing German airmen that had been shot down, guarding munitions factories, organising roadblocks and checking people’s identity cards. It was organised in a similar manner to the Regular Army. Regiments were formed that were divided into Battalions. These were divided further into Companies to which the individual platoons were attached. Barlaston was included in ‘C’ Company, attached to the 17th North Staffs (Stone) Battalion, being part of the North Staffordshire Regiment. At this time ‘C’ Company consisted of six platoons: Darlaston (11th), Swynerton (12th), Norton Bridge (13th), Tittensor (14th), Barlaston village (15th) and Moddershall (16th).

 

Likewise a regular chain of command was also instigated through the hierarchy of ranks. Members wore their own civilian clothes but were recognisable by an armband with the letters LDV. By the middle of July the name was changed from the LDV to The Home Guard, and shortly afterwards a uniform was issued consisting of a coarse denim jacket and trousers usually worn by the army for dirty jobs around the camp. In November these were superseded by the more conventional battle dress. Where supplies permitted this included jacket and trousers, boots, gaiters, cap, steel helmet, greatcoat and army-style respirator.

 

The public were asked to donate shotguns and any other firearms they possessed. Within a few months over 20,000 weapons had been handed in, although some were no more than museum pieces, while others had not been used since the previous war. Due to the drastic shortfall some members armed themselves with pickaxes, crowbars, spears and dummy rifles.

 

The initial idea of forming a Home Guard platoon at the newly-built Barlaston factory appears to date from the summer of 1940.[3] A letter from Josiah Wedgwood V to Sir Percival Heywood in mid-June states ‘When I was in London about ten days ago my father asked me what we were doing at the factory in the way of forming an LDV unit. I told him that it would be very easy to get volunteers but to the best of my knowledge factory units were not being asked for. My father then introduced me to Sir George Schuster who said that the government would certainly be glad to have factory LDV units formed, and it was suggested that I should consider the scheme with regard to our own factories, both at Etruria and Barlaston.’

 

After consideration it was deemed unnecessary to form a unit for the patrol of the Etruria factory. Located in a built-up area it was already under an existing platoon that covered the area, and the factory’s fire precautions were covered by its own ARP unit. However a unit was formed, mainly for the purpose of training volunteers in rifle drill and shooting practice that would be useful for those who later volunteered for LDV duty at Barlaston. By the end of July the 143 volunteers were divided for the purposes of training into ten groups, each headed by an instructor who was an employee with military experience gained during The First World War, such as Arnold Austin and Tom Lyth. Training sessions were held after work during the evenings and on Saturday afternoons, and after the groups had become proficient in the rudiments of rifle drill, shooting practice commenced in a miniature rifle range set up in the unused kiln building at the china end.

 

The acquisition of firearms for training purposes was to become a continual problem and a letter from the authorities informed Josiah Wedgwood that ‘the number of rifles currently available is small compared to our needs and it is therefore suggested that shot-guns and possibly pieces of lead or iron-piping and knives can be used with advantage.’ Josiah’s response was that ‘I hope it will not come to tackling well-equipped parachutists with iron-piping and knives, particularly as any German invader is likely to have a Tommy-gun or something of that sort.’

 

In June an observation post was erected at the new factory and furnished with a stove and camp beds. The nocturnal patrol consisted of three or four volunteers, one of whom remained awake while the others rested. Again the unavailability of firearms caused Wedgwood to inform the authorities that ‘the real snag is that we have a nice defence post but nothing to defend it with.’ There were no plans to patrol the estate of almost-completed houses until their occupation, when it was expected that a sufficient number of volunteers living on the estate would form a new unit. As those that had volunteered for patrol of the new factory still worked at Etruria and lived in the Potteries training still continued at the old works. Plans for camouflaging the new factory included painting the roof to appear as a lake when viewed from above although this proposal was never carried out.

 

The first meeting of Home Guard at Barlaston took place in the factory’s new canteen on August 28th, with Captain Arthur Campbell, Commanding Officer of ‘C’ Company, to which the embryonic unit would be attached. By this time over 60 of those employed at Etruria and still living in the Potteries had volunteered for the new factory platoon at Barlaston. On September 9th Josiah Wedgwood wrote to Campbell enquiring over the availability of weapons. Campbell’s almost humorous response stated that ‘I cannot let you have any rifles permanently out of my area. I could let you have six rifles each Thursday from 12 noon until 7pm. They would have to be drawn, used and returned between those hours, by a responsible person of the Home Guard with some personal weapon of defence on the car journey.’ A few days later the Etruria LDV unit was officially disbanded with members transferring to either the Shelton or Newcastle units.

 

On September 18th Campbell enquired about the area that the Wedgwood Home Guard intended to cover. Two days later Josiah’s response was ‘I would like our people to be at the disposal of the district, but to work and train as a Wedgwood unit, as I think that way you will get the best service and the best espirit de corps. Therefore, if the authorities wish us to defend our Barlaston estate we will do our best to do so; if they wish us to defend our factory only we will do our best to do so; if they wish us to defend neither, but to man some other defence post in the vicinity, we should be agreeable to that also. Norman Wilson is coming back on Monday next and I am asking him to take over our unit and to see you regarding its further training and operations.’ Shortly afterwards Campbell enlisted Wilson in the Home Guard at Barlaston, making him platoon commander to train the Wedgwood unit. It appears that Wilson corresponded briefly with Campbell over Home Guard issues, but by the end of the year he had been replaced by Felton Wreford.

 

By the middle of October there were 63 volunteers working and training at the Barlaston factory, with a further 15 at Etruria who could be available at Barlaston should an emergency arise. Added to this total of 78 were a further 30 men who were fire watchers in the ARP service at Etruria who wished to train with the Home Guard.[4] At first the unit did not have a platoon number and were simply referred to as ‘Wedgwoods’. They had managed to acquire at least some arms by this time as two LDV rifles, along with a revolver, were sent to Carryer Brothers at Newcastle for repairs. Early the following year the platoon was in possession of 30 rifles (Eddystones, Winchesters and Remmingtons), along with bayonets and scabbards.

 

During the winter of 1940 recruiting of the Home Guard was temporarily suspended to allow those already enlisted to become fully trained and for the overhaul of existing units. The Objectives were outlined in the ‘Wedgwood Home Guard Memo No.1’ issued on October 2nd 1940. They were ‘to train quickly a minimum of one hundred men to become competent amateur part-time soldiers that will form a Wedgwood platoon. Approximately seventy men will train at Etruria and about thirty at Barlaston, although it is intended that all training would eventually be carried out at Barlaston. In the event of an invasion, particularly by air, the whole platoon would be required at Barlaston (not at Etruria). If this were to occur the platoon would either be ordered to join with the rest of ‘C’ Company in defence of the whole Barlaston area or detailed to defend the new factory and its approaches.’ The memo also states that in view of the urgency of the problem there was no time for much of the usual army training and neither was there the necessity. ‘A German landing party will not be at all interested in whether we can present arms smartly or whether we can give an “auctioneer’s description” of a rifle.’ Therefore training was to be focused upon fighting essentials and to ‘acquire sufficient knowledge of routine drill to hold our own with other Home Guards on a Company parade. Lest it should be thought that ALL drill is nonsense it should be pointed out that the people who did well in the retreat to Dunkirk were the smart and well-disciplined troops. The sloppy and badly-trained people got lost and were shot or taken prisoners.’ Therefore the training was to centre upon: elementary knowledge of weapons; the ability to kill a man using both a rifle and a hand grenade; the ability to throw a petrol bomb into a vehicle; erection of road blocks; simple map reading; writing clear coherent messages, such as in the rain on a dark night so as to be intelligible to an uninformed stranger; intimate knowledge of the immediate countryside and the ability to judge distances; stalking; signalling and squad drill. These points were expanded upon in detail in further training memos issued throughout October.

 

In January 1941 a further 18 volunteers were posted to the unit. Some had transferred from other platoons within ‘C’ Company, while some had been ARP wardens at Etruria. Tom Wedgwood had previously been recruited into a platoon attached to ‘D’ Company, although by June had been granted a transfer to the Wedgwood unit. Through illness Tom was never able to participate fully as an active member of the Home Guard. In February 1942 he wrote to Campbell concerning this, to which Campbell replied ‘I am still quite willing to retain you as a member of my company. It is up to me to lay down the amount of training that anybody has to do, and I do not want to debar you from having a shot at the Germans if they arrive in this country!’ Not all employees were attached to the Wedgwood Home Guard. Arnold Austin, for instance, still living in The Potteries, was Sgt Major of the Newcastle Home Guard.[5]

 

The attendance register, kept on loose sheets from the middle of 1941, records the platoon’s average turnout of just over 30. They were divided into three sections of twelve men, with a further five at H.Q. The official register books are more detailed and reveal the hours of attendance. Beginning in 1942, shortly after the introduction of conscription into the Home Guard, up until this point joining had been voluntary, the platoon spent 21/2 hours training and 101/4 hours on operational duties each week. By the end of April the operational duties were reduced to 9 hours and by the beginning of June reduced further to 7 hours. By August they had increased again to 9 hours and by October to 10 hours. They remained at this figure throughout the winter before being reduced again the following summer. Monthly periods of duty therefore usually ranged from 51 hours down to 38 hours depending on the season. Rare exceptions included the 24-hour training exercise in February 1942. Reasons for absence included sick leave, hospitalisation and occasionally disruptions caused by the pattern of shiftwork.

 

Although members of the Home Guard were unpaid monthly subsistence payments of 3s per duty had been introduced by July 1941 and claims usually ranged from between 9s to 12s depending upon the number of duties performed. Members usually contributed 1s a month to platoon funds. As the hours of duty reduced during the summer so did the subsistence allowances claimed for. From January 1942 payments also included an extra allowance for travelling expenses.

 

In addition to fares for public transport, petrol for private vehicles used by the Home Guard could be claimed for. The platoon appeared to have four vehicles at their disposal. Along with Wreford’s own car, Pte. Wright drove a Jowett 8hp for duties and parades, the remaining two vehicles being an Austin 12hp and a Morris commercial van. Regular journeys were made to and from the battalion and platoon HQs, the ‘C’ Company QM stores, Etruria, Hanley, Oulton, and the Tittensor Range.

 

Training was continual within the Home Guard. Periodic instructions were issued on subjects such as German fighting tactics and enemy uniform identifications, camouflage, gas attacks, custody of POWs, night manoeuvres, battle craft, defence against airborne attacks, and manning observation points. Lectures were held at Oulton Vilage Hall, Barlaston Parish Hall and also in the Wedgwood canteen. More practical subjects included  ‘Village Defence and Village Fighting’, some being supplemented with training films.

 

Volunteers were also trained in first aid. The first aid point for the platoon adjoined the main factory entrance and was equipped with two beds and two stretchers along with blankets, dressings and splints, with a nurse present during working hours. By August 1941 all units also had to appoint a ‘platoon guide’ with good local knowledge, a duty that fell to Pte. Massey.

 

Training also took the form of practical exercises, what we would now term as ‘role-playing’. Possibly one of the longest undertook was the 24-hour exercise beginning at 6pm on Saturday February 7th 1942 in which 36 members of the platoon took part. The object of the exercise was to instruct fighting patrols in minor tactics with lessons in attack, use of ground cover and inter-communication. The narrative was that German parachute troops had landed in Derbyshire and North Staffordshire, some of which had now taken possession of Barlaston Hall. The orders were that No.1 Section was to concentrate on Cresswell Wood and attack from the north. No.2 Section was to concentrate on the Oaks east of the fishponds and attack from the west. Half of No.3 Section was to occupy a defensive position on Fishponds bridge giving covering fire if required. Assistance was also given by platoon 15 (the Barlaston village unit) who would attack from the south.

 

Tom Wedgwood described the event in a letter to his sister Joy, then newly-married and living in Rhodesia. ‘The works Home Guard Contingent did a 24-hour exercise parade last weekend which was great fun. We mustered 36, a good turnout under Wreford’s command. He and I shared a small room in the canteen as a bedroom with camp beds. The cooks appointed from the Home Guard turned out some excellent meals. We paraded at 6pm and between jobs we had some great games of Peggety on Saturday evening, Massey, Richardson, Arthur Wright, Mason, Wreford and I. And Wreford beat me rapidly and decisively at chess. The CO Arthur Campbell turned up to inspect us late in the evening and I managed to turn up a bottle of rum from the larder to regale him. At 4am having got Wreford’s permission the night before I turned out as the enemy. I managed to creep out of the room without waking Wreford and for the next hour and three-quarters wormed my way up to the back of the east lodge where sentries were posted. It was a lovely bright moonlight morning so I had to go wearily not to be caught. Silent approach was made more difficult by the fact that the ground was partially covered with snow frozen on the surface. When I got up to the back of the shed there were two sentries either inside or by the gate. When I had lain behind the shed for about fifteen minutes the sentries were joined by a third from the west sentry post (west lodge) and shortly after two or three marched off to the west post, leaving the third in my power. I took his rifle out of his hands almost before he knew there was anyone there, he turned out to be Longshore. Having silenced the guard it was an easy matter to walk into the canteen and take the rest mostly asleep, including Wreford. On Sunday, a lovely day, we should have dug rifle pits, but as the ground was frozen hard Wreford put us on to sawing down the dead chestnut in the middle of the sports field. It was tremendous fun, but it took thirty of us most of the day, as 90% of us had never seen a cross cut before. However the standard of sawing improved greatly as the day went on. Massey was skilled and a tower of strength and did some very successful axing. In the afternoon we coupled belts to the end of the saw and had teams of three or four on each end’.

 

Other parades included tank hunting demonstrations and shooting exercises. One of these held on the 100 yards open range at Tittensor in June 1941 revealed L/Cpl Clenton to be a marksman shot, coming top of the platoon and only the forth member of ‘C’ Company to obtain the 4” Group. The platoon also participated in various battalion parades, including Rudgley, Tittensor, Barlaston Green and Barlaston Downs as well as the Stone War Weapons Week in May 1942.

 

It would appear that Wreford also addressed others besides his own platoon. In February 1942, at the invitation of Captain Pollard, commanding officer of No.1 Company Army Cadet Force (Stone and District), Wreford spoke to the cadets at their headquarters in Stone. The talk was ‘The Duties of a Sentry by Day and by Night’. ‘I hope you boys all hold Capt. Pollard in the high esteem and affection he deserves. I did. Until he asked me to talk on such a dry subject as ‘The Duties of a Sentry – by Day and by Night’. One day I met one of your cadets whom I know and asked him how he had enjoyed Capt. Campbell’s talk the previous evening. He told me it had been very interesting – ‘not dry like a lot of the talks we get!’

 

Now lads – it is easy to teach the tactics of football, cricket or boxing – because Britishers are keen on these sports – your interest is already stimulated. If you take the same interest in military training as you do in these sports – the learning of war tactics can be just as interesting. So look upon your cadet force training as part of a game. That is the spirit in the British character which the Germans cannot understand, and which beats them because of their lack of sporting instincts and lack of sense of humour. So let’s get as much keenness, and where possible humour into our training and fighting as we can.’ Wreford followed this with an hour-long talk on the duties of a sentry with demonstrations of the wrong and right methods, including the following dialogue.

 

A FOOL OF A SENTRY.

 

STRANGER -  Hello chum, I’ve just come over to see if you would like a fag or two. They’re hard to get nowadays aren’t they?

 

SENTRY   -  Yes, they are - and I’m dying for a smoke. Thanks, you’re a toff

 

STRANGER -   Are there many more of you here, will it run a fag each?

 

SENTRY   -   There are forty in our little mob.

 

STRANGER -   Including the boss – what’s he like?

 

SENTRY   -   Our Company Commander, Major Campbell? Very keen, keen as mustard - but very good.  Our Platoon Commander doesn’t know much – he’s no good.

 

STRANGER -   Oh! You’ve a full company here, have you?

 

SENTRY   -   Yes, but only our Platoon’s on parade today.

 

STRANGER -   What’s the rifle - a Yankee? (Picks it up) Are they any good?

 

SENTRY   -   Yes, damn good.

 

STRANGER -  Have you only got rifles in your lot or have you any machine guns?

 

SENTRY   -   Mostly rifles.  A couple of Brownings and Sten guns is about all we’ve got.

 

STRANGER -   What are you guarding - the railway? There’s a lot of traffic on it nowadays, isn’t there?

 

SENTRY   -   Rather, That’s one of the main lines through the Potteries to London.  If you’re down here you can see a train go through with forty or fifty tanks on, all with gallons of petrol,  some load I’m telling you!

 

STRANGER -   Gosh! a bit risky that lot. Is that a private road leading to the works, or is there a way out at the top?

 

SENTRY   -   It leads into the Blurton Road at the top, with Meir Aerodrome on the top side.

 

STRANGER -   Oh well, I must hop off.  I could just eat a drink of beer.

 

SENTRY   -   You aren’t the only one mate.

 

STRANGER -   What’s the nearest pub from here?

 

SENTRY   -   The Duke of York. Up the road and round past the Hall, about 10 minutes walk.

 

STRANGER -   Think I’ll go that way.  Do you get in there at all?

 

SENTRY   -   I’m hoping to be in there about eight tonight.

 

STRANGER -   Good lad,  I’ll see you there at eight tonight. We’ll have a swell time together, Cheerio until tonight then.

 

The ‘C’ Company Christmas dinner in 1941 was held in the Wedgwood canteen (as each successive one would be) on December 19th, attended by 249 Home Guard members and 16 guests. Beer was donated by Joules, Bent’s and Parker’s breweries. Entertainment for the event was provided by Mr Ted Eley and his Concert Party. Felton Wreford was asked to provide an insight into some of the Commanding Officers of the different platoons within the Company with which Ted Eley would incorporate into the songs. His victims included:

 

a) Captain Arthur J Campbell. Known to his friends as ‘A. J.’ Is known to be a most popular and conscientious Company Commander. He has the enviable or unenviable reputation of sending in more chits, indents, requests and returns to Battalion HQ than any other Company Officer and treats his platoon officers in the same generous manner. At a recent tank demonstration in Trentham Park, after giving ‘C’ Company the order to retire in column, Captain Campbell proceeded to retire down a rabbit hole while the Commanding Officer of the tanks simultaneously disappeared down a neighbouring rabbit hole. The Company maintained its composure in laudable manner. It might be mentioned in passing that having arranged for the Company Dinner to be held on Friday December 19th, Captain Campbell proceeded on a Course of Minor Tactics at Ludlow from the 13th to the 19th of December inclusive, hoping, no doubt, that all arrangements for the dinner would work themselves out satisfactorily.

 

b) Lt. H B Hackney, Commanding Officer of the 14th Platoon is notably punctual in timing all evening training programmes to end at a convenient time before 22.00 hours and is noticably dejected should any occurrence prevent the conclusion of the proceedings in good time to get one in before closing time.

 

c) Lt. G Fairbanks, Commanding Officer of 16th Platoon at Moddershall. Not altogether unconnected with The Boar Inn public house. Might be nick-named ‘the dead-end kid’ as all documents circulated by the Commanding Officer of ‘C’ Company to be read and passed on appear to come to a full stop in his hands.

 

d) W Norman Baden, Sgt of 14th Platoon. Never fails to give the correct fire control orders: Description, Range, Indication of target, Number of rounds, Kind of fire.

 

e) Lt. E Robert Holmes, 13th Platoon, Norton Bridge. Works for the LMS Railway. Let us hope that his platoon keeps better time than the railway.

 

Throughout the existence of the Home Guard a number of social activities were regularly held for its members. Some of these, including dances and Company Smoking Concerts, were often held in the Wedgwood canteen. Occasionally platoon suppers were held at the Plume of Feathers public house in Barlaston. During the last weekend of August 1941 there was a fruit, vegetable and flower show in the Home Guard canteen at the Company’s headquarters in Stone. There was also a children’s section, open to all who had a father or brother serving in the Home Guard. Prizes were given and proceeds from the show were donated to the ‘Stone War Comforts Fund’.

 

By 1942, after Hitler’s invasion of Russia, the threat of invasion in Britain was lifted although the Home Guard was still retained. However, over the two years since its formation it had changed. By 1943 its average age was barely 30 and only 7% were ex-servicemen from the First World War.[6] Men over the age of 65 were now compulsorily retired. Most factory, railway and postal units were disbanded and their men transferred. Some Home Guard members had also enlisted in the Regular Army.

 

By July 1942 L/Cpl Clenton was with the Regular Army and stationed near Plymouth. ‘One or two of the boys could do with coming down here and see what is happening to this place, this place alone would make them realise that there is a war on and that they are not just playing games. Give my best regards to the boys of 25th platoon and tell them that most of the boys here think highly of the Home Guard. Of course quite a lot were in the Home Guard before they were called up.’ By December 1942 Clenton had been transferred to Leith, Edinburgh where Wreford congratulated him on being the first man serving in the forces previously with his platoon to have got to the stage of presenting himself to an Officer Selection Board.

 

Private Kettle joined the General Service Corps in Oct 1942. He spent six weeks training in Warwickshire. ‘It is a big change from civy life but the open air is doing me good. The Home Guard drill has helped me and has come in very useful, and the physical training is the same here, only with more added to it. We have every comfort, a NAFI, pictures, variety show and recreation room. The only drawback is that we have to queue up for a glass of beer.’ The following February, after completing his training, Kettle had been posted to Pontypool in Monmouth. ‘I landed in South Wales from southern England. That part of the country I left behind was good scenery, but here is much better. On arrival I expected to see pits which this part of the globe was noted for, instead its hills and dales. My work is most interesting, meeting special service trains, giving times of arrivals and departures from and to stations on the line. I cannot tell you anymore because of secrecy. There is no camp on barracks here for us as we are in private billets and very good they are. It’s quite a change to sleep on a decent bed again instead of old straw and blankets. I didn’t know until now that there were such cushy jobs to be found in the army. I can count myself very fortunate to land in one of them.’

 

The largest exercise that the Wedgwood platoon participated in was ‘Exercise Gam’ between January 27 and 31st 1944 that involved the majority Companies in the North Staffordshire Regiment. This was organised to provide training for paratroopers who were to take part in the invasion of Europe and to give the Home Guard practice in dealing with the sabotage raids which were expected to be made against the British supply lines when the invasion commenced. The exercise was spread over a period of five nights with a general call-out on the last night at 6pm lasting 12 hours. This was undoubtedly the most strenuous exercise that the platoon had undergone in addition to which they still had to carry out their civilian duties. Thirty-three members of the Wedgwood platoon participated, all of whom undertook one or two duties of between 8 and 15 hours, while in addition 16 did a continuos duty of between 15 and 24 hours.

 

One of the last exercises that the Wedgwood platoon were involved in was the defence of its Barlaston factory in July 1944. Along with the platoon from the village they were divided into 6 squads and instructed to defend the factory to the last round and the last man from six platoons who may attack from any quarter.

 

No.1 Squad was to take up its position at the Wedgwood Railway Halt with 360 degree protection. Riflemen and bombers were to be on the west side of the station and a BAR (Browning Automatic Rife) group to the east. If ordered to retreat to the factory they would do so either west of the railway and then through the culvert and into the factory, or along the road east of the railway.

 

No.2 Squad would place a BAR group through culverts, with men in the wood on the west side and by the mouth of the culvert on east side. The BAR group would retire through the culvert if enemy pressure on the west side of the railway became severe and would then come into the factory grounds over the boiler house stile and take up positions on the ground covering the east end of the culverts. If the enemy came through Newpark Wood the BAR group would remain west of the culvert and hold their fire until they could enfilade the enemy or fire into their rear as they passed towards the factory. Riflemen and bombers were to take up position on the boiler house roof[7] and trip wires attached to grenades were to be laid in the culverts.

 

No.3 squad BAR group would take up positions inside the north east corner of the wood on the east side of the factory. Two riflemen and bombers would take up position in the wood behind the hedge running east from the main factory gate. One rifleman was to go forward through the gate to take up position behind the bank on the factory side of the road. Another rifleman was to go forward through the gate across the road and take up position (and I quote) ‘up in the second last tall bushy-topped tree and will remain there to snipe, particularly at officers.’

 

No.4 (MMG) Squad would take up position on the factory side of the wire behind the earth mound approximately 50 yards from the north side of the factory, and were told to be prepared to move to spinney (Canteen Wood) on the south side of the factory if ordered to do so. A Spigot Mortar group were to take up position behind the reinforced concrete walls on the roof over the packing house and were to fire on instructions from the commanding officer or on seeing a target after the first orders to open fire. In addition four Riflemen were to be sited on the ground at each corner of the factory, with two riflemen at spinney by the north east corner of the boundary fence. All HQ staff were to be armed and ready to reinforce any position when ordered. Reserves squads Nos. 5 and 6 were stationed in the Pay Hall.

 

The orders were that the squads were to hold positions unless ordered to retire back into the factory. If so ordered they were to fight every yard back. Once back in the factory they were to take up the same relative positions as occupied outside covering the same firing arcs and giving supporting fire to adjacent squads. All fire was to be held until the enemy was within 100 yards, except the spigot group, who were to open fire on the commanding officer’s order. The Company HQ was sited in the entrance hall to the offices. No.1 Squad was also equipped with a cyclist with which to relay messages to the Company Commander giving enemy location and strength. The outcome of the exercise, or whether it did actually take place, unfortunately was not recorded.

 

During the autumn of 1944 it was clear that the Home Guard was no longer needed and the organisation was officially stood-down in December. The battalion marched through the town to Alleynes Grammar School Playing Fields where they reformed for a final address and dismissal. Instead of the annual ‘C’ Company Christmas Dinner, a stand-down social evening and dance was held at the Wedgwood Canteen on Friday December 29th, in which ‘wives and/or girlfriends of members of the Company are invited.’ The programme included an ENSA concert, local entertainers, dancing and competitions, and a total of 81 gallons of beer was donated by local breweries. The following month the Wedgwood Platoon hosted their own stand-down supper at the Duke of York, Barlaston on the 31st of January 1945. Lance Corporal Warner’s reply to his invitation from Felton Wreford was that he ‘should be able to touch the struggle and strife for a bob or two. It will be very pleasant indeed to meet yourself and the rest of the platoon after an interval of six or seven months during which time I have thought of various incidents with the Home Guard which I always recall with a certain amount of pleasure. No doubt you yourself will remember that enjoyable evening we spent at Stone when we demonstrated to the local cadet corps how to mount guard. I would like to wager that some of those lads are still waiting for us to go and show them the correct method. I think the least said about ‘Exercise Gam’ the better until we are fortified with about nine pints of George Kent’s bitter. We then may be able to mention some of the least distressing incidents without breaking down.’ Company Sgt Major Massey’s reply to his invitation simply stated ‘I feel great pleasure that I am able to accept this opportunity to meet again a platoon of which I have nothing but pleasurable recollections’. 


[1] Staffordshire Newsletter, May 18th 1940.

[2] Staffordshire Newsletter, May 25th 1940.

[3] On August 12th Josiah Wedgwood (V) wrote to The Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs in London enquiring ‘if we become members of your society would we be able to purchase two or three .22 rifles for our Home Guard at this factory, comprising of 135 volunteers’ (possibly inflated figure).

[4] Letter to A J Campbell from Josiah Wedgwood, Oct 19th, 1940.

[5] HG Circular, December 12th 1941.

[6] ‘The Home Guard’. Staffordshire Study Book 6. Staffordshire County Council, 1976. P16.

[7] A note dated March 5th 1941 mentions ‘it is likely that a Home Guard Observation Post may be set up on the roof of the works.’ In a letter to his sister in August 1942 Tom Wedgwood wrote ‘(Jo)siah and I did an evening round of factories last night in his car. On the way back we looked in at Barlaston and called on the Home Guard people on the roof