Quinton's Home Guard

by Joyce Barber

“The Twelfth" - A brief history of the battalion

When the call came over the “air” on May 14th, 1940 asking for Volunteers to enrol for the Defence of their Homes, there was created in the Oldbury, Warley, Quinton, Blackheath and Halesowen Districts an L.D. V. Organisation under the command of the then Capt. T. S. Lancaster, M.C. Within a few weeks the number of Volunteers had exceeded all expectations and by the time the Prime Minister announced the change of name from L.D.V. to Home Guard, this local force had become too unwieldy for one command. From it emerged the present 5th Worcs. (Halesowen) Bn., 8th Worcs. (Oldbury) Bn. and 12th Worcs. (Warley) Bn., each over 1,000 strong, Capt. T. S. Lancaster, M.C. assumed command of the ‘Twelfth’ and when commissioned rank was given to Officers he became the first Lieut. Colonel and selected as his Second in Command, Major W. P. Homes, already well known in Oldbury and the county for his public activities.

In the beginning, Battalion Headquarters was at the Drill Hall, Langley, but in November 1941 it was moved to a more central position in Perry Hill Road, Quinton, where it remained until the “Stand Down”. The first recognition of the Home Guard as a Military Unit was the appointment to each Battalion of a Regular Army Captain as Adjutant and Quartermaster, the appointment in the Twelfth being taken up by Capt. H. S. Kemshead, already an Officer in “B” Company and who was called up from the Emergency Reserve. In March 1942, an Army P.S.I. was attached to the Battalion to assist in training and in July an additional Regular Captain was appointed to relieve the Adjutant of the “Q” duties. This appointment was taken up by Capt. F. J. Holder, also one of the original L.D.V. and a member of “C” Company of the Twelfth, who left the Battalion on posting to Civil Affairs abroad in September, 1943, to be succeeded by Capt. A. Stephens of many years experience in the Field Force.

In May, 1941 the appointment of the first Battalion Specialist Officers was the origin of what in August, 1942 became Headquarters Company, composed of Signal and D.R., Pioneer, Intelligence, and Administrative Platoons, the latter consisting of Cooks, Medical, Gas and Transport Sections. Each Platoon and Section of this Company was trained and operated by its own Specialist Officer, and all proved their keenness and efficiency in the many District, Garrison, Sector and Battalion Exercises and in the Training Camps during their three years existence

In the early days of L.D.V. and Home Guard the Twelfth was directly under the command of General Sir George Weir, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., followed by Colonel W. H. Wiggin, C.B., D.S.O., T.D., Zone Commanders, Worcester, but during 1941 it was absorbed into the Birmingham Defence Scheme and from that time came under the Birmingham Garrison Commander for training and operations, and Worcester for Administration and equipment only. Serving a dual Higher Command has not been an easy task, but the Twelfth has done so successfully and has stood high in the estimation of both Commands. From September 1941 until the Stand Down the Battalion has been happily associated with Colonel D. A. Bullock, O.B.E., Garrison Commander during the period when the main development of the Home Guard as a Military Force has taken place.

Lieut. Colonel T. S. Lancaster, M.C. resigned in July 1941 on reaching the age limit and was succeeded by Lieut. Colonel T. C. Fillery, then O.C. “C” Company. Major W. P. Homes resigned for health and business reasons in August, 1942 and Major W. J. Balderstone, O.C. “D” Company assumed the appointment of Bn. Second in Command, until taking over the Command of the Twelfth in June 1944 when Lieut. Colonel T. C. Fillery was posted to the 8th Worcs. Bn. Major Balderstone was then promoted to the rank of Lieut. Colonel and appointed Major A. E. Church, O.C. ''B" Company as his Second in Command.

During its lifetime, the Twelfth has achieved many successes. In New Year and Birthday Honours it has had its share of Meritorious and Good Service Awards; in Garrison Examinations for Signals and Intelligence personnel 95% of these specialists have been granted Certificates and many Officers and N.C.O.'s have collected Gas Instructors Awards in Birmingham Courses of Instruction. The Battalion has also raised large sums for Charity, notable efforts being nearly £8,ooo for the Worcestershire Regiment P.O.W. Fund in less than 8 months; over £2,000 in two days for one Borough's Salute the Soldier Week, and over £6,ooo for another a few weeks later.

Its Officers raised £150 OS. 0d in three days as a gift to the Admiralty towards a new H.M.S. Repulse when the famous ship of that name was sunk, and in War Weapons and Wings for Victory Weeks the Battalion did its full share.

During the summer months of 1943 and 1944 weekend Camps were held at Shrawley and each weekend from April to September an average of 100 enjoyed Camp life and training in delightful new surroundings. Here the cooks came into their own, providing from ordinary rations many varied and delightfully cooked meals under the very able direction of the “Q” Staff.

The Pioneer Platoon apart from its consistent good work in operations and camp, voluntarily took up training in Heavy Rescue and First Aid under tuition from the Harborne A.R.P. Training Centre; and after an abridged course of a few weeks only, received high commendation from the Birmingham City A.R.P. Authorities. This training was additional to the Home Guard parades, and their usual keenness and efficiency was maintained in both spheres of activity. A number of Pioneers also in their own time studied explosives and demolitions tinder the guidance of Officers of the Twelfth whose civilian occupation was connected with such subjects, and these Home Guard explosive experts assisted in a number of demolitions of buildings and stacks in the Birmingham Area. They also supplied the welcome effects used in many of the Training Exercises carried out by the Battalion, thereby giving realism to what might otherwise have been very ordinary mock battles.

During four years nearly 300 members of the Twelfth have joined H.M. Forces, many gaining Warrant or Commissioned Rank. In the last twelve months of Home Guard life, 280 Proficiency Certificates have been presented to members.

Team Work has been the spirit of the Twelfth and from this has sprung the Comradeship, which has resulted in the efficiency of which the Battalion is justly proud.

The above is an extract from a booklet sent to me by Joyce Barber whose father was a member of Quinton’s Home Guard. I am indebted to Joyce, is there any more material out there that we can archive and preserve?

© QLHS 2004

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