Our Century

King sees bombing machines

King George visit
Royal visitor - King George tours the Rover aero factory at Acock's Green in Birmingham

As the second world war loomed, King George headed for Longbridge to see how the fastest "bombing machines" in the RAF wree shaping up for the coming conflict.

His Majesty took a keen interest in the Fairey battle bombers at the Birmingham Austin "shadow" factory and also studied the machines turning out aircraft parts during a tour of Rover's factory at Acocks Green.

The King stepped from the royal train at Longbridge sidings and a short while later was watching the various parts of the air frames for the Fairey battle bombers being produced.

The King had a long talk with Mr G Ledgard, general manager of the factory about the "shadow" scheme and was told that three parts of the British Mercury V111 engines were being built at Longbridge.

Other parts were being made in another four factories which the royal guest was to visit later.

During the day the King toured five of the shadow factories where fighting aircraft were being made.

It was a continuation of his series of visits to aircraft and munition factories involved in the armament programme.

The King also spoke to workers along the assembly lines, congratulating one on the way he was carrying out his task.

He then visited a section where the testing of engines was so loud workers had to wear special ear plugs. The King was offered cotton wool but didn't use it.

Workers lined up to cheer the King as he went through the factory gates where a large crowd was waiting to catch a glimpse of him.

Football Fever 1938 Express & Star
Flashback to the Express & Star's front page from Saturday, January 22, 1938, recording the queues at Molineux for Wolves' fourth round FA Cup clash with the mighty Arsenal. Wolves lost 2-1.

Dazzled by a natural light show: West Midlanders thrilled in January to the Northern Lights which hung over Britain for two hours.

Astronomers said the brilliant display in the sky was due to "the outsize in sunspots" which had made their way to the other side of the sun.

The phenomenon also had some side effects. It was responsible for delaying express trains on the Manchester to Sheffield line after electrical disturbance hit the signalling apparatus.

The Midlands got the best display of the aurora borealis where the sky was spasmodically lit up by strange lights.

One Express & Star reader reported them over Sedgley and said the sky was filled with "bright red, luminous, feathery clouds."

Another observer at Wolverhampton's Goldthorn Hill, said there was a deep, red glow in the sky like the reflection of the glare from a blast furnace fire.

Numerous false impressions were aroused among Cannock Chase people.

One person thought there was a big fire at a local colliery and phoned the fire brigade.

In some quarters it was said the world was coming to an end

Classroom . . . or fairyland? Wolverhampton's first nursery class got underway in February and was thought by some to be going into fairyland mode when they actually taught 20 four-year-olds to behave with "sweet obedience" instead of naughtiness, being managed without threats or raised voices, and combing their hair and cleaning their teeth without protest.

Disbelieving mums only had to take a peek into class attached to Redcross Street School to see the children put into an environment which gave them the surroundings and conditions to develop their minds and bodies.

Some said the new system was encouraging mothers to shelve their responsibilities - while others thought it was giving the child a good start in life.

Everything but the kitchen sink: The famous "Tin Pan Alley" took on on a new musical meaning in February as two Wolverhampton girls belted out some popular songs using wine glasses, pots and pans, spoons, empty biscuit tins trays and saucepan lids as their instruments.

They tried a couple of overtures, and a well-known military march before heading into the popular "Little Old Lady".

An Express & Star reporter thought the first first few bars were pretty bad, but felt the girls improved as they progressed.

Generation gap: "The young people of today!" is a complaint we often hear, but a couple of news items from 1938 show the battle of the generations is nothing new.

In February, a pair of runaway lovers from Dudley, 21-year-old Leonard Merris and Iris Jones, 17, hit the headlines when they eloped and were married at Gretna Green.

Then in June a Wolverhampton headmistress was confronting the problem of growing girls.

Miss W Cordon of Graiseley Senior Girls School reported that girls in the town as young as 14 were wearing make-up "to attract older boys with cars".

Bryan Summers

Television, when it came, was a novelty, nothing more. Something you went nextdoor to watch because your parents couldn't afford one.


1938 Madame Doreen's ad