Dark Deeds at Brandhall School

By Bill Yates

For me, the joy of transcribing the logbook for our society is that now and again I come up with information that is completely ‘out of the ordinary’.

A typical case was the Brandhall Infant and Junior Log Book. In the book the headmaster, Mr George J Green, had written the following :

1944
February 5th.
Called to school at 9.45pm, as the school had been broken into and hand grenades thrown into the building.
February 6th (Sunday).
Attended school during the morning and afternoon. Extensive damage had been done to Classroom 3 and the Head-Teacher’s room by hand grenades. Blast from bomb in quadrangle had damaged windows in Staff Rooms, Medical Room and Classroom 4.
February 29th
Miss P Edwards, Miss Rudge, Miss Hall and Miss Johnson. (teachers at the school) attended court in connection with the grenade throwing.

The present head of the school, Mrs Elaine Fitzgerald was contacted but said they had no other records of the incident but would appreciate any information I could find and send to her.

I was so intrigued by this incident that I visited the sixth floor of Birmingham Public Library in order to see what I could discover. I found it on microfilm in the Birmingham Gazette, dated Tuesday 8th February 1944.

“Grenades Explode in Warley School”

Damage estimated at £250 was caused at Brandhall Council Schools Warley, by the explosion of two hand grenades. Many windows were shattered while furniture and equipment were blown into pieces. Oldbury police are seeking information about the theft of 36 hand grenades and 3 tins of detonators from two Home Guard Stores on Saturday. They suspect juveniles are responsible and that they forced an entry into the school. The police have recovered eight of the grenades and are anxious to trace the remainder. They ask, in view of the dangerous nature, that anyone who has information about the thefts should communicate with them immediately. The grenades are chocolate brown in colour and bear the number “M36”.

Wednesday 1st March 1944

“Oldbury Bomb Danger Removed”
Two Boys on trial on grenades charge.

Two boys aged 13 and 15 respectively who were committed for trial at Oldbury Police Court, were alleged to have stolen 36 hand grenades and 36 detonators from a Home Guard Store, fitted the detonators, subsequently broken into the Brandhall School where they exploded some of the bombs causing damage to the extent of nearly £200. It was alleged that the younger boy, in a statement, said they threw the bombs through a window into the headmaster’s room. It was stated that the Commanding Officer of the Home Guard Unit after careful investigation was satisfied that all the bombs and detonators had been accounted for and the potential dangers to the district removed.

June 1st 1944

“Explosions at Oldbury School”
Two boys bound over at Assizes

Two boys aged 13 and 15 committed from Oldbury were bound over for 3 years at Worcester Assizes yesterday charged with breaking into a Home Guard store and stealing 36 hand grenades and 12 detonators. The younger boy was further charged with schoolhouse breaking and stealing a watch and other articles and causing an explosion likely to endanger life or cause injury to property. Mr G T Meredith, prosecuting, said there had been two explosions on the lawn outside the headmaster’s study at Brandhall school, another in the study and still another in a classroom.

The damage was estimated at £183-14s-0d Ultimately the younger boy said he and the other lad had forced the lock of the store door. They tried half a dozen grenades on the golf course, but as they did not explode thought something was missing. They forced the store door again, got detonators and then exploded some of the grenades on the golf course.

Footnote:-

On July 28th 1942 a delayed action bomb landed in the Infants’ playground. The school was closed and on July 31st, the Royal Engineers removed the bomb. Little did the school know that nearly two years later it would be attacked and damaged by English schoolboys with hand grenades.

Obviously the boys were not named, and whether or not they came from Brandhall we shall never know. I am letting the headmistress have a copy of this article, as I always like to keep the people who help us informed.

Ed’s comment- Bill does sterling work for the society and he really enjoys what he is doing. No doubt we can look forward to more fascinating stories from the past.
Bill mentions Pax Hall in his letter and he has is trying to discover some information regarding this old Quinton building.
Thanks to Bryan Palser and Peter Alford we have some more photographs of the building, below is the one supplied by Peter Alford-Can anyone put a date on it?

pax-hall
Pax Hall is located in the centre.

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