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Photo Reveals The Forgotten Platoon

by Emily Thwaite

Source: Gloucestershire Gazette, 28th June 2002

WOTTON-UNDER-EDGE supported two sections of Local Defence Volunteers during the Second World War following an appeal made after the Dunkirk landings.

Early in 1941, the volunteer force was reorganised, and the two Wotton sections became platoons. A photograph of one of these has been published in various places such as Geoffrey Masefield's book, Wotton-under-Edge: A Century of Change.

But that picture was not taken until 1944, a few months before the Home Guard was disbanded nationwide,and does not reflect the platoon's former strength.

The other platoon, based in Synwell, has not had as much publicity. Now the record is being amended a little.

Patrick Goulding, 80, who was born and raised in Synwell, sent this picture to The Gazette. He borrowed the original from Cyril Elliot, pictured third from the left in the front row. Mr Goulding joined The Royal Marines in 1942, and lived in London after the war. He said: "This photograph does not appear in any of Wotton's historical publications and I did not come across it during my research of thousands of Gazette records, in the Gloucester Record Office."

There are many familiar Wotton surnames amongst these soldiers, including Chappell, Workman, Sims, Perrett and Cornock. Charles Pearce was the platoon commander - he is sixth from the left in the second row in the picture.

Mr Goulding, who can be seen on the far left on the back row, told The Gazette: "The photograph does not reveal the platoon's full complement. "With most members employed on essential war work it was rarely, if ever, possible to get a full muster.

"A nominal roll of 50 is recalled but numbers fluctuated, with most of the young men seen here leaving in due course to serve in the armed forces proper."

The second platoon was formed under the command of Sgt Russ Witts (pictured on the far right of the second row), who was then promoted to become a lieutenant.

Wotton's two platoons, along with other units from North Nibley to Hawkesbury Upton, were in G Company, Sixth Battalion, South Gloucestershire Home Guard. The company commander was Col Picton-Turberville, from Wortley, formerly with Seaforth Highlanders.

Second in command was Katharine Lady Berkeley School headmaster Capt Cyril Fiske - he had been a captain in the Royal Field Artillery during the First World War. The company's sergeant major was 'Jock' Hickey (seen to the right of Charles Pearce), formerly with Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Both Wotton units had their armoury and headquarters at Baden House, now a private house between The Royal Oak and the former police station in Haw Street/ Bradley Street.

Pictured: Synwell Platoon, Wotton-under-Edge Home Guard, 1941.

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