To celebrate the 75th-anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, a special commemorative video was produced by the Walsall for All team, with contributions from the public. We pay tribute to the enormous contribution and sacrifice made by all of our communities during the First and Second World War. Let it serve as a reminder too that during difficult and challenging times community spirit, support and sacrifice can help see us through to a brighter future.
In addition, we would like to encourage further contributions from the public about their connections to the Second World War. If you would like to submit any photos or stories, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add your contributions to this page.
From Barry Crutchley
Bill Crutchley (Barry's father) was born in 1920 and raised in Hollemeadow Avenue, Blakenall. He attended The Sunshine Primary School and R. C. Thomas Secondary Modern. After leaving school at the age of fourteen he joined his dad in a brass foundry as a castor’s helper.
Bill’s ambition was to join the Royal Navy which he did soon after his eighteenth birthday. In August 1938 he volunteered to serve for 12 years. After basic training at HMS Pembroke, Chatham he was sent out to Auckland, New Zealand, with the rest of the crew to join the recently refitted, HMS Leith. Six weeks later on September 3rd, 1939 war was declared and HMS Leith and its crew were hurriedly recalled to England.
For the next three years, the ship escorted convoys from North Africa and the North Atlantic to various ports around the UK. She was involved in many actions against German U-Boats, the most significant being Convoy SC-7 (October 1940) when, using the ‘wolfpack’ tactics, 20 out of 35 cargo ships were sunk.
During these three years, Bill progressed from being an Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman and by 1941 to a Leading seaman. He had also received training to become part of a gunnery team. He joined the minesweeper, HMS Selkirk, in December 1941 as an Acting Petty Officer. The Selkirk was employed around the coast laying mines to protect ports or clearing existing mines to allow safe passage for allied warships intercepting enemy traffic off the French coast. In November 1943 Bill was promoted to Petty Officer.
In the spring of 1944 Bill was sent to Alexandria, Egypt to train as a naval diver. His training took place at HMS Nile which was a shore-based establishment rather than an actual vessel. In September he was assigned to HMS Guardian, a net layer, used to protect naval bases in the Indian Ocean. A net layer's primary function was to lay and maintain steel anti-torpedo or anti-submarine nets. Nets could be laid around an individual ship at anchor, or around harbours or other anchorages. As a diver, Bill’s work was critical to the objectives of the net layer. While Europe celebrated peace on May 8th 1945, Bill and his shipmates had to wait until September 2nd when Japan surrendered before they could relax.
On his return to England in April 1946 Bill enrolled in the Royal Fleet Reserve until 1955.
Additional photos from Barry Crutchley
Photo 1: HMS Leith
Photo 2: Bill and his team, on HMS Guardian, awaiting inspection by the Captain.