A CHANCE remark at a meeting between members of Fradley Heritage Group and a book publish-er from Cheshire whose ancestors were rooted in the village for more than 200 years has led to the publication of the wartime memories of a Fradley schoolboy.

In December retired journalist Anne Loader, of Northwich, visited group members in Fradley to share the material she had amassed while researching the history of her mother’s family and its con-nection with the ancient Old Hall Farm. She mentioned in passing that she and her husband Jack, a retired research scientist, had published many books of people’s memories, hoping to capture them for posterity before it was too late.

She was shown a copy of Colin Russell’s “A Wartime Schoolboy” which he had written in 2004 and circulated privately among his relatives and friends as a simple typescript.

Anne took the story home and was so impressed with it that she and Jack immediately offered to publish it as a conventional book through their imprint, Léonie Press, so that it would be available to a much wider readership. It will be on sale from March 29.

“It felt like a gift that we could give to a village that has always been dear to my heart,” she ex-plained. “My mother was born at Fradley and generations of my forebears have lived in Fradley and Alrewas.”

“The book is a valuable social history showing the impact of a busy WW2 aerodrome on a quiet ag-ricultural backwater, as well as being an eye-witness account of a boy growing up in wartime condi-tions.

“It traces the author’s early life through his days at Fradley Infants’ School, Alrewas C of E School and King Edward VI School at Lichfield.

“We hope that lifelong residents and new homeowners alike will find the book both entertaining and instructive. As we live some 70 miles away, we are very grateful to the heritage group members for doing much of the work in setting up the launch of the book. It has been a real village project.”

Colin (86) is a retired quantity surveyor and lives with his wife Lydia at Walkfield Road, Alrewas. He says: “My original memories of my school life, from which this book has been taken, were writ-ten 15 years ago and were intended to be a record for my children and grandchildren to read about how I remember my school life during wartime.”

He writes how his home, church and school were all under the airfield’s flightpath. The planes flew so low at take-off and landing that he and his friends were able to wave to the pilots, and residents soon became used to the almost constant roar of aero engines. The runway was so close to the Cov-entry Canal that planes sometimes belly-flopped across it.

Massive hangars were built all over the site, which was used for aircraft maintenance and Com-monwealth aircrew training.

Sadly, a combination of inexperienced trainee pilots and unreliable old planes meant that accidents were common. Word of a ‘prang’ would soon get round the boys of the village, who would set off in search of souvenirs from the wreckage.

When military funeral services were held for those who perished, Colin was responsible for pumping the air in the church organ. And after peace was declared he was asked to ring the church bell for the first time for six years.

While his father was serving in the Army, young Colin became the ‘man of the house’, growing veg-etables to supplement the family’s rations and earning extra money delivering papers and picking potatoes. As an adventurous lad he was always getting into scrapes and his school experiences in-cluded a whack from the headmaster’s cane.


* “A Wartime Schoolboy – Memories of Fradley” (96 pages, 22 illustrations, 1 map) was due to be launched at Fradley Village Hall on Sunday, March 29. However due to the coronavirus crisis, this event has now been cancelled. On that day, the publishers hope to put a short “virtual” book launch, with video-ed messages from themselves and the author, on their website: www.leoniepress.com which will be left in place for several weeks.

How to Buy

Print copies of the title (£7.99) are available through Fradley Heritage Group. Please either email us or ring Julia Usher (07718 077868) or Lyn Tyler (07817 913063). The publishers are Leonie Press, 13 Vale Road, Hartford, Northwich, Cheshire CW8 1PL