Memories of Stoke-on-Trent people - Ken Green


Ken Green


A Life in the Ceramic Tile Industry 
section 2

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A Military Interlude

This was to last for 26 years, from September 1940, when still a schoolboy I joined the Home Guard, until May 1966 when I was no longer required to report in writing annually to the War Office as a member of the Regular Army Reserve of Officers (RARO). The period overlapped my schooldays and covered many years of my industrial career.


The school summer holiday of 1940 was spent with a school group working for 6 pence (2.5p. of present currency) per hour on farms around the village of Weobley, Herefordshire. This was being done country wide, due to a shortage of labour and the need to increase domestic food production because of the naval blockade. 
The master in charge, Harry Cyples, had been our French master during ‘39/’40. That was his first year of teaching following university. He had been Head Boy of Wolstanton Grammar School. Harry made us feel grown up. If we passed a girl of our age group he would call out a remark (always complimentary) in French about her, He taught us to sing “Au Pres de ma Blondine”, a very daring song for those times!
 He took us some evenings to the Red Lion in Weobley where we drank cider at 2 old pence per pint. We were, of course, under age, but no one in Weobley cared and our parents and the Headmaster were not to know. Harry joined the R.A.F. shortly after and rose to the rank of Wing Commander in the education branch


Immediately after our return to Stoke, a school friend, Arthur Turner, and I, now feeling very experienced, went to Stoke Police Station to offer our services to the Home Guard. The sergeant on duty failed to be impressed by our potential military talent. He told us in no uncertain terms that we were under age and advised us to “get back to your schooling so you can get a good job”. However, Arthur’s’ parents kept the Wharf Tavern alongside the canal, Wharf Street Stoke. The A500 now covers the site. Arthur was told by customers to go direct to the barracks and so we did. The HG recruitment clerks were not so fussy and, as 16 year old school boys, Arthur and I became members of the Stoke and Hanley battalions respectively. For my part, it was not patriotism, or the offering of my services in the Nation’s darkest hour, that called me, Far from it, I was much too immature to properly appreciate the peril of the time, It was because I had been told “guns are arriving from America” From my allotment, where I kept pigeons, I could hear rifle and machine gun fire from the rapidly constructed firing range between the two colliery spoil tips just to the west of Cobridge Road. What 16-year-old would not jump at the chance of firing real ammunition from real guns for free? The older volunteers who had experienced the carnage and horrors of the ‘14/’18 conflict must have felt very differently.


In September 1940 I became Volunteer Green of No. 2 platoon, C Company, 4th Staffordshire Battalion Home Guard. I remember the names of several of my comrades:

Bill Birch, self employed painter and decorator of St John St, Hanley. 
Stan Brownsword of Diamond Clay 
Len Cork of Etruria Vale and Wagon Repairs.
Kirkland of North Street (Gypsy Lane) and Diamond Clay. 
Sydney Morris, tailor of Hanley. Sydney has served for many years as lay Rabbi to the Jewish community of North Staffordshire.
Sid Perkins who (with Edna Duffield) achieved national fame as a ballroom dancer and TV personality.
Brothers Harold and Lew Salt of Sneyd Green, market traders of pottery
Colin Taylor of John Street, Hanley. Employed by his father in a property repair business, which Colin later expanded. Colin became well known for his contribution to the restoration of the Cauldon Canal.
Ken G. Wright of Havelock Place, Shelton, optician. Ken helped me with my various home works, which I took with me when on twice weekly, all night HG duties, and was studying for Higher School Certificate. Ken was wounded in the first few minutes after landing on D day. He was later evacuated and, after the war, built up a string of Opticians around North Staffordshire. 
 Sergeant Dowling of Shelton Bar
Company Sergeant Major Hughes, head of the “placing” team of Creyke Potteries, Broad Street, Hanley (the site of the present Hanley Museum)
Lt. Vincent A.McKnight, Platoon Officer, lawyer
Major Creyke, Company Commander, proprietor of the above mentioned Creyke Potteries
(Until a few years ago I had a platoon photograph taken in the summer of 1941. I would very much like to have another copy. Does anyone out there have one?).


Other Company Commanders were: 

Major Martin, dentist, Howard Place 

Major Carhart, gents outfitter, Piccadilly, Hanley 

Major Dewsnap, food warehousing and distribution, Shelton. 

Other officers were:

Abey Slann, carpet dealer of the Westlands and 

Jack Prime, transport officer. 

Most vehicles were from the businesses of HG members and were of all types and ages, but, they got us around.

Three companies of the Hanley Battalion were based at Victoria Barracks, Shelton and the fourth in Bucknall.

The Battalion Commander was Lt. Colonel Wilf Green DFC, wholesale grocer based in Burslem. He had served with distinction as a Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilot in the First World War. He sported his “wings” and always wore flying boots for the monthly Battalion parade. We younger members thought his dashing appearance gave us the edge over other units.

Our Battalion was one of six of 13th Sector (equivalent to a Brigade), Mid West District. The Sector Commander was Colonel William Greene OBE, DL, secretary to Settle-Speakman and the 2i/c was Lt. Col. C.J.Noke, Art Director to Royal Doulton Potteries. Both men had served together in the 5th North Staffordshire Regiment during the 14/18 conflict. Sector Headquarters were at Fenton.



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