Huthwaite Drill Hall

Gallant Huthwaite volunteers joined various British armed forces through two world wars, though majority were recruited into the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiments of Sherwood Foresters. Foresters Their Mercian Regimental Memorial proudly stands at Crich, its prominent light house tower visible on the skyline from Huthwaite heights used to regularly flash a reminding signal.

Other Sherwood Forester troops however, came first to Huthwaite for basic training in the Huthwaite Drill Hall. The memories quoted below are short extracts from full war time experience given by Bob Moseley, found presented on the BBC People's War.

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.

1983 New Hucknall Colliery InstituteSome 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. ...

The Huthwaite Drill Hall was in fact New Hucknall Miners Institute upon Newcastle Street. It was first commissioned for WWI troops and the large function room retained an alternative Drill Hall addressing thereafter when resuming to host social dance parties. The commodious building was recommissioned to billet and drill WWII recruits.

Armed troops were also given temporary bedding room among some homes. Specifically recalled by Trev Ashmore upon Ashfield Road, when for a few weeks, appearing crowded by so many houses helping accomodate soldiers. His grans front room slept four, one, a former school teacher played the family organ. The old hall and primary room in the Sutton Road Methodist Chapel were also taken over by military personnel, additionally opening up the new hall as a welcomed Rest Room for members of the Forces

Childhood memories are familiar with troops being drilled upon a Huthwaite Market Place parade ground,1942 marching around streets and other exercises. Differentiating the 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, and they were only issued after disciplined square bashing.

The soldiers shown here by Mrs. Betty Smith face a machine gun dugout with search light in 1942. Although only for training purposes, it was placed atop Strawberry Bank fronting the later built Clegg Hill Drive. Close by stood one unused air raid shelter and a few wooden huts once forming an LDV training camp. The local kids took great delight eventually making a mess of it all.

Land directly opposite the Blackwell Road church school gave room to additionally practice trench digging or defensive warfare. The building itself appears having provided each forces with a day canteen, although they only really mixed when able to share social nights in the collieries Drill Hall bar.

My grandmother offered living memory of when both forces marched past her home on Blackwell Road, plus the prisoners of war farm workers who were held by soldier guards in a Common Road PoW Camp.

Written 17 Mar 12 Revised 05 Aug 12 © by Gary Elliott