In May 1940 the German advance into France exacerbated fears that the invasion of Britain would soon follow. Then, on the evening of 14 May 1940 the Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, gave a radio broadcast announcing the formation of the Local Defence Volunteers and called for volunteers to join the force.
On May 17th Mr. Gwilym Griffith of Goldieslie Road duly enrolled in the Sutton LDV at the local police station, and later recorded in his diary that his first duty, on June 4th, had been three hours of stopping traffic to check identity papers and driving licences, followed by two hours of rifle drill. Most of the time was spent on guard duty - Mr. Griffith was in the guardroom on June 14th when the news came that Paris had fallen, and on the 17th they heard that France had capitulated.
It was feared that the invasion would be airborne, with an army landed by parachute, and on the 17th June the LDV was mobilised to meet a German force that had landed by parachute near what was then Elmdon Airport - Mr Griffith and his friends believed they were going into battle poorly armed against a far superior force, but it turned out to be a false alarm.
There were night air raids over the Midlands on June 26th, and on 30th June the Ministry of Information announced that the invasion was expected within days, perhaps hours - Mr. Griffith bemoaned the lack of preparedness of the LDV - “I am no more a “parashootist” today than before I joined”. On July 24th “The name Local Defence Volunteers has been changed to Home Guard. Germany refers to the LVD as gangs of murderers.”
August and September - the months of the “Battle of Britain” passed with frequent air-raids and long spells of guard duty. Mr. Griffith was out on the night of August 24th “to watch the sky. It was a great spectacle for the searchlights and A.A.guns were in full play. The interlacing beams of the searchlights, sweeping up to a tremendous height, were really beautiful, and the sparkle of the bursting shells, twinkling like sudden stars, was fascinating to watch.”
There was a bad raid on October 15th, and Mr. Griffith met a shopkeeper who had been in his bedroom above the shop when a bomb exploded only thirty yards away in Station Road, Wylde Green. “He was unhurt, and, as far as I could see, unshaken. His wooden shop was slightly damaged, whereas I would have expected it to be blown clean away, for it has no foundations. Workmen were busy filling in the hole while I was there. The explosion blew tons of earth from the road and over the railway bridge onto the line, yet this wooden shack stood up to the blast”.
The diaries end in July 1941, though the air raids continued. On the 4th June he noted “turned into Redacre Road today and was surprised to see two houses shattered by bombs. Then on to Jockey Road where I knew there had been devastation. The surrounding houses were almost unscathed and in one of them a very large and handsome doll had been put in the window with its head turned archly to look at the damage. And now the sirens once again.”