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An Interview with John Birch

When the blitz was on Coventry the men from the station went there on occasions and other stations came here. Well during the War all of the fixtures and fittings were different. The hydrants and the fittings were different in Birmingham to those in Coventry, Oldbury or Wolverhampton. Our fittings were 3 inch whereas other brigades could have been 3 or 4 inch. When the National Fire Service began in 1940, the first thing they did was standardise all of the equipment. They went as manpower because they couldn't use their equipment. When the war started it was the AFS, the Auxiliary Fire Service but later became nationalised and became the NFS, National Fire Service until it was handed over to the Civic Authorities in 1946/47.

The Rose Road Fire Station, which was the regular fire station, but the NFS took over various big houses and turned them into fire stations during the war; there were several in Harborne, Wentworth Road and Somerset Road being two examples. There must have been one or two in Quinton but I can't recall where; all over the place, as well, they had big static water tanks.

When I was a lad Welsh House Farm was Richards's Farm, during the war it was used as a prisoner of war camp, some of the first there were Spanish prisoners from the Spanish Civil War. When the war started the Germans formed a Blue Division, which were made up of Spaniards from the Spanish Civil War. We caught a few in France, before Dunkirk, and they ended up in this POW Camp at Welsh House Farm. Then it was full of Germans in about 1946, there were no SS men, they were all conscripts, and a lot of them were quite old. Some didn't join till the Ardennes; he was called up at the end of the war, when they were calling up the men and the boys. They just waited for the first chance to surrender, spent a time in POW camps then went back to Germany in 1947.

We used to go and play football with them, they layed out a football pitch. You could walk from where Tom Powells's farm was, there was a path along, down to Welsh House Farm and there was a flat piece on the top that they made into a football pitch. There was a bomb disposal squad at Tennal Grange and a chap called Snowy White ran a football team which used to play these Germans and we used to play them as well, I was only about 16 or 17, we had some good times there. There was about 3 or 4 hundred there. No security there, barbed wire or anything, in fact a lot of them worked on the farms. Near the Stonehouse Farm in Stonehouse Lane was a battery of rocket guns. A barrage balloon in Queens Park and Selly Park, we used to help the four WAFFs to put the balloon up but the Germans kept shooting it down. We played football in Queens Park so we used to help the WAFFs put the balloon up about half an hour before darkness. We would take the ratchets off and the balloon would go up by itself, the hard part was winding it in, especially on a windy day.

The first shell they fired misfired and it came down and hit the gable wall of the house on the corner of Wentworth Park Avenue. In fact today you can still see the new bricks in the gable, which is facing Lordswood Road.

© QLHS 2005

 

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