Gallant Huthwaite volunteers joined various British armed forces through two world wars, although majority were locally recruited into the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiments of Sherwood Foresters.
Commandeering use of the New Hucknall Miners Institute upon Newcastle Street presented the Huthwaite Drill Hall. Sutton Market Place sights local recruitment of WWI troops into those Mercian battalions, who'd be billeted and given basic training in this largest of village function rooms. The 'tute' long retained alternative Drill Hall addressing when resuming peacetime use for popular public social dance parties, before and then again after likewise recommissioned for the next necessary billeted training of WWII recruits.
Localised WWII recruitment of army volunteers and conscripts would again swell ranks of the proud Sherwood Foresters. Memory of the Huthwaite Drill Hall was recalled by Bob Moseley, one of the Birmingham conscripts to complete basic training here.
My family and I were living at Marston Green near Birmingham when I was called up. I joined the 79th Royal Army Service Corps attached for transport to the Sherwood Foresters. It was autumn 1941, two years since war had begun, and I was 26.
About 10 or 12 of us local lads travelled together to Huthwaite just north of Nottingham. When we arrived we had to fill our mattresses with straw and then go down to the stores to collect our battle dress, boots included. To this day I can still recall my Army number: 10661666. Then we marched along the road to a big school where we had our tea. I had never seen such big tins of jam!
The next day we were on parade for our jabs. I can’t remember what they all were – I may never have been told – but they included TB. One chap fainted! He fell to the floor and the medics pulled him aside and left him until he came around. Meanwhile they carried on with the jabs. We thought ‘what the hell’ – we’d never seen such a thing in our lives. He could have been dead for all we knew and they just shifted him to the side and carried on! They were tough times in those days and it was a taste of what was to come.
Soon we started our training. Most days we marched, sometimes we did physical training exercises too. At this point my pay was 7s 6d a week, after I’d sent something home to Mother so that if I was killed she’d get a pension. On pay day, you had to march to where the officer was sitting, wait until your name was called, step forward, salute, take your pay, sign the book, salute again and step back. Once the money was in our hands as often as not we would head to the NAAFI for a cup of tea and a chat.
Day after day we marched and did PT. It was more interesting when we marched with our 303 rifles and finally did some target shooting. Then came the driving test; I think most of us could drive okay. I had joined as a Private but was promoted to Driver.
After about a month we were sent on a week’s leave which was very welcome. Shortly after we returned, we passed out at Huthwaite and were posted further north to Mansfield where we were billeted in a huge garage. I remember we had to march along the road to a school for our meals. A lantern was carried at the front of the line and another at the back. It was in this school that we had our first Christmas dinner away from home - in December 1941. One lad sitting at the table next to me was crying his eyes - homesick.
Some time later we went to Yorkshire where we practised anti-tank shooting and shot down balloons for practice. We were there for about a fortnight, billeted in an old mill with rain coming through the roof. It rained like hell so we’d scuffle around trying to find a dry spot to sleep. We were glad to return to Huthwaite for more drilling and marching. ...
There were times when the Drill Hall couldn't billet all trainee soldiers. Additional armed troops were sometimes given temporary bedding room among homes. Ashfield Road appeared crowded for a few weeks, when Trev Ashmore recalled many houses helped accommodate soldiers. His grans front room slept four, one being a former school teacher who entertained them playing the family organ. Greater use was made of the older commodious Blackwell Road school house hall and class rooms, before further needing to commandeer the Sutton Road Methodist Chapel as another welcomed Rest Room used by all uniformed military personnel.
Childhood memories very familiarly recalled troops being drilled upon a Huthwaite Market Place parade ground, marching around streets and other exercises. Differentiating simultaneous training between army soldiers and a uniformed Home Guard was little noticed following playful imitation. Only by sighting either a .303 Lee-Enfield rifle or a Thompson Machine Gun could an indelible impression be left of its owners ranking. Guns were only issued after ensuring basic discipline from regular square bashing.
Soldiers pose 1942 around their machine gun dugout equipped with search light. Although only for training purposes, they were placed atop Strawberry Bank close to one of the unused air raid shelters, plus a few wooden huts once forming an LDV Home Guard training campsite. Youngsters apparently ended up taking great delight eventually making a mess of everything remaining.
Land opposite the Blackwell Road church school offered room to practice trench digging, or Home Guard defensive warfare. That school hall had provided each force a day canteen. They only mixed when social nights opened up a Drill Hall bar.
My grandmother Dora Elliott left memory of witnessing three uniformed marchers passing her Blackwell Road home. Armed soldiers had also been employed to guard both German and Italian prisoners of war. They were securely held in a Common Road PoW compound, but escorted out to work farm lands.