Yes, well I'll try not to laugh, but... We were called up into the Home Guard, I think, at seventeen, and being employed in the GPO I had to join the GPO Home Guard. The GPO had it's own Home Guard because the intention was that, that battalion of Home Guard were there to defend the Telephone Exchange, and that's where I nearly start laughing, when I say defend the Telephone Exchange, because, it does cause one to smile when you think of what went on! There were a lot of... thousands of Americans at... that place near Warrington - Burtonwood, and they had nothing to do before D-Day and in order to find them something to do, they used to do exercises. Certainly on a Sunday - that's when we came in contact with them - attacking Bolton. And their objective, so we were told, was to capture the Telephone Exchange and capture the Town Hall. And once they got into the Post Office yard, we had an old postman there, he was about seventy with a revolver strapped round his waist... He was the only one that was armed. We had our rifles, but we never saw any bullets! Maybe they had some hidden away somewhere, but... We had a bayonet, 1914 style, the ones about 18 inches long... And the Americans used to come in on trucks, and I know for a fact that they disembarked at the bottom of Chorley New Road at the junction with St George's Road. Because, on one or two occasions my point of duty was to go and stand at the end of Vernon Street and St George's Road and watch for any trucks coming down, and as soon as I saw them, we had people that we could wave to, and get word back - mind you we were in the telephone service and we didn't use telephones! We either waved or shouted to get word back to our officers at the Post Office that the Americans had been sighted. Sometimes, the Americans would go down Chorley Street, and that would deceive us, and then they would go along the bottom by Brydson's Croft, following the River Croal, under the high level bridge and onto the back of the Post Office. I can't remember that the Telephone Exchange was ever captured. I know the Town Hall was captured because I actually saw American troops at the top of the Town Hall steps, and that said that the Town Hall had been captured. On one occasion, we'd finished, I was going home... going to catch the tram home and I was crossing the Town Hall Square when someone, foolishly - and I don't know which side had done it first, whether it was the Americans, or the Home Guard - had fixed their bayonets and that had caused some upset between one side or the other with some choice language being used about the you come near me with that, about what would happen and it all had to be smoothed out by an officer coming and telling them to keep their cool and (laughs) nothing was meant by it and shaking hands!
Anthony Eden, I think, made the announcement at about quarter to nine on May 8th. My brother and I got up, they said to apply to the police station, we were down there by about ten to nine. They hadn’t heard the notice that they were supposed to be doing it, so they said come back in the morning. Now, it always annoys me - Bob and my number were 120 and 121, because by the time we came back in the morning other people had got in front of us. Our numbers should have been one and two, because we were the first there (laughs) It always annoyed me! We were the first to go down there, before they even knew it had happened. And we joined up, of course, straightaway, and we had a headquarters at Walker’s Institute.
So you were at Great Lever really?
Yes, but our post was on Raikes Clough, that’s what it was called, you now, Raikes Clough. The other side of Manchester Road, you can walk through to Darcy Lever. Well, we had a hut, just part way down the hill, on a ledge. And we used to cover all that to more or less down to where the racing track was, up to, what’s the road that goes down, just before Moses Gate? Goes down to Darcy Lever? Raikes Lane - We had that area, between there and Darcy Lever to cover and we used to go round. We started off with a pitchfork, as our only weapon, then we got one rifle, and, by golly, you used to squabble who had the right to hold the rifle (laughs). And then, eventually, and this always amazes me, they issued us all with a rifle and five rounds of ammunition and we took it home with us! So in effect we had to cover all that area there, from the racing track to Raikes Lane and down to Darcy Lever. And we used to patrol it and we eventually got our own rifles and we brought it home, five rounds of ammunition, left it at home. You know, any thief could have got it! I don’t know whether they lost any, I didn’t lose mine, but...
How many nights did you train?
Well, it seems daft to say it... I went to night school two nights a week, I was in the Salvation Army band and we had one night’s practice a week there, I did all kinds of things, but I used to go on duty at least two nights a week, sometimes three nights a week and we’d patrol that area. We never found any Germans! It used to be known as lovers walk down there, you used to disturb courting couples, you went round, it was most embarrassing, every time you turned a corner, tucked way out of sight, a couple were there! (laughs) It was an interesting place to do it, but we never saw any Germans. Every time an aircraft came over and we only had the pitchfork and one rifle, we used to fight to get it, you know, so we could be on the receiving end, when they floated down, but nobody ever floated down.
I volunteered in June 1941, aged 17 years, at Bradshaw Police Station, and reported for duty at Bradshaw and Harwood Home Guard headquarters at a house on the corner of Lea Gate and Church Street, Bradshaw. The Quartermaster had a room for ammunition etc, and there was a notice on the wall which attracted my attention. It said, “The Lord helps those that help themselves, but Lord help those found helping themselves here.”
We had .303 Lee Enfield rifles which we took home and had to take great care of. As a result of going on the rifle range at Entwistle, I was sent on a Sniper Course, which was held over 4 weekends. We would finish work at Saturday noon, dash home and report for duty at 2pm. Transport took us to Wallsuches, Horwich where the course was held, and we arrived back home about 7pm. We were there all day Sunday, dinner provided for us. We also practised throwing live hand grenades on Belmont Moors.
When loading rifles we were taught to press the cartridges into the magazine, then slide the bolt home, making sure we did not push a cartridge (up the spout) into the barrel, then point the rifle in the air and pull the trigger, this ensured that no one could get hurt. One Sunday Morning Parade, we were given live ammunition, the idea being to give us the feel of live ammunition. We were stood around in groups in Church Street, Bradshaw and one man (I know who it was) pushed one up the spout. Instead of pointing the rifle to the sky, he had it horizontal - pointing across Lea Gate. He pulled the trigger and there was an almighty BANG! The bullet hit the stone wall across the road and ricocheted off the wall. People came running out of their houses thinking the Germans had arrived and it was lucky there was no one standing in front of the rifle. An enquiry was held about the incident.
Ex LDV Member
In 1940, I joined the Local Defence Volunteers and become a member of G company, 5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancs Regiment. Being on Daubhill, our company headquarters were at Haynes Street Mission, off St Helens Road. The officer and NCOs in charge had all served in the First World War. Drill night was once a week and sometimes on Sunday morning. As we had no weapons at first, drilling was done with pieces of wood representing rifles.
One night a week was taken up by patrol duty, which lasted from 7pm until 6am. We would go and patrol the areas around Plodder Lane, Salford Road, Watergate Lane and around Daubhill itself.
Now, the best part of it was that we had no uniform - only an armband with the letters LDV - and when on patrol we had a pocket full of stones, a catapult and a stick. If a parachutist had landed we would have probably have stuck to our nickname - the Look, Duck and Vanish brigade. Eventually we did get uniforms and arms: 1914-18 American .300 rifles and the Home Guard, as it was then called, became a home fighting force. I kept with them till joining the RAFVR in 1941. Incidentally, ‘G’ company had one of the best Military Bands in Bolton, composed of old Rechabites, Daubhill Temperance and some - believe it or not -from the Salvation Army bands.