The Mercian Regiment Museum launches an exciting new book

Norton Book Front CoverThe Story of Norton Barracks:Home of the Worcestershire Regiment’ by Stan Jobson
This is the story of both the buildings that formed Norton Barracks and of the soldiers and other personnel who were based there as members of staff or who passed through as they underwent training. Stan Jobson has spent much time in the Regimental Archives unearthing both photographs and personal recollections of time spent at the barracks. The result is a tale of British Military history in microcosm, but often seen from a personal viewpoint of hard training, military structures, playful pranks, sporting achievements, patriotic surges, post D-Day traumas and both keen and reluctant National Servicemen. There is also an appendix which gives the background to the names of the streets which now criss-cross much of the site of the barracks, names which are largely associated with the battle honours of the Worcestershire Regiment.
On retiring from a service career in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Stan Jobson joined the American IT company Electronic Data Systems where he worked as an Information Systems Project Manager, primarily for the MOD. Having had an interest in military and aviation history for many years he gained his MA in British First World War Studies from the University of Birmingham, graduating in December 2007. For the past three years he has been researching the history of the barracks at the request of the Trustees of the Mercian Regiment Museum (Worcestershire).  Available through the Museum, priced £7.50 plus p&p.  Please contact us on 01905 721982.

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Hitler’s Clock

Hilter's clock

Adolf Hitler’s Clock

Hitler’s Clock – This electric clock was removed from the wall behind Hitler’s desk in his Conference Room, above the door into his ante-room, by Major H. F. Boddington on 26th July 1945. He was an officer of the Worcestershire Regiment, but had worked in  the British Intelligence Service for most of the war. That day he was escorting Winston Churchill and other important people in a tour of the Chancellery, Berlin, which had been captured by the Red Army.

After deciding to ‘liberate’ the clock, Major Boddington gave it to the museum for safe keeping, where it has remained as a popular exhibit.

Gas! A teaching aid for the WI

A box of gas phials used for training purposes

A box of gas phials used for training purposes

Amongst the curiosities in the collection, we found this box of colourful phials issued during the lead up to World War Two for training ARP wardens, firemen, ambulance men and other civil defence workers. Each test tube contained a very small amount of a different poison gas, including lethal ones such as Phosgene and Chlorine alongside merely unpleasant ones like Mustard Gas. The tubes were passed around so that each worker could have a sniff and learn to recognise all of the different gases that the Germans might drop.

Each gas had different treatments and precautions, and it was important to know which was which. The phials were supposed to contain only a very safe amount of gas, but the label warns that ‘Delicate persons with bad lungs or respiratory weakness must be cautious. The quantity of substance applied is so small that serious casualties cannot occur.’

Evidence that the emergency precautions and training were underway in the county well before the start of hostilities can be found in the minutes of Wilden Women’s Institute, Worcestershire.  The secretary recorded that on 1 Nov 1937:

‘A lecture was given by Mrs Neligan of Droitwich on gas defence work and the action to be taken by civilians in the event of gas attacks.  She illustrated the talk with gas masks and phials of different gases to so that members might become acquainted with their colour and smell’. (1)

Volunteers from the county’s Women’s Institutes contributed a great deal towards the war effort in organising and delivering Civil Defence, food production and public health duties throughout the war. Their records are a mine of information for any researcher into Worcestershire’s Home Front.  The Worcestershire Federation of Women’s Institutes archive is now held by Worcestershire Archives and can be viewed at the Hive.

(1) reference: records of Wilden WI deposited by Worcs Federation of Women’s Institutes, Worcestershire Archives, BA14296/box 7