Trial Rocket Launcher situated over Stonehouse
by Clive Davies
At the outbreak of war, the Royal Engineers set up a searchlight detachment at Howley Grange Farm, which was on the land now occupied by Howley Grange School. This detachment consisted of a searchlight together with its own generator unit, a sound locator, and a Lewis machine gun. This little outfit consisted of a total of ten men, which included a sergeant and a lance corporal. So with time on my hands, I used to run errands for these men to the local shops. Needless to say most of the errands were to Dad's shop, which was a nice little earner for him.
Just after the searchlight moved in, there was another defence unit, in the shape of a barrage balloon. This was moored in an adjacent field, just behind where Wiggins Recreation Ground used to be then. I would imagine that the M5 motorway now encompasses all of that little lot. I also ran errands for the RAF crew who manned the balloon site.
This balloon once broke loose from its mooring cable and drifted across the area, finally coming to rest across the roofs of two houses in Howley Grange Road. The searchlight was used along with many more round the city, during most of the night time raids on the city, but I never remember the machine gun being put to use. There were no heavy anti-aircraft guns in the neighbourhood, most of these were on the other side of the city, and I've no idea why that was. The German bombers used to navigate on Bartley Green Reservoir, and then lay a line of parachute flares into the city.
There was however a trial rocket launcher site situated over at Stonehouse, near Harborne. This was used once, we heard an approaching bomber, then there was this awful rushing sort of noise, followed by explosions, which seemed to go on for ages, but when all that noise had abated, we could still hear the same bomber droning on towards the city. One could imagine the crew giving some sort of "salute" to the rocket gun crews!
© QLHS 2005