Ron is still volunteering 77 years on

At 16 he proudly signed up for his first volunteering role – patrolling the streets of Wolverhampton to keep the community safe from German bombs as part of the Home Guard.

Ron is still volunteering 77 years on

Now aged 91, Ron Mattison is still volunteering in an army uniform, although these days it is as a guide at the Great War Interpretation Hut on Cannock Chase.

The former serving soldier from Great Wyrley, who saw action at the Battle of the Rhine as part of Operation Plunder during the Second World War, has volunteered throughout his life.

Following his time with the Bushbury-based 21st Battalion Home Guard, and then on active service, he became a Special Constable after the war, despite his small stature. At just over 5ft 6in, he was reportedly the smallest policeman in the county but rose to the rank of sergeant, a role he carried out for 20 years.

Now the great-grandfather’s dedication to serving the community is being highlighted by Staffordshire County Council ahead of National Volunteers Week.

Mr Mattison, who served with the Cameronian Scottish Rifles in Holland and Germany, has been volunteering at the Marquis Drive Visitor Centre for the last 10 years.

But it was not his first volunteering role at the Chase. In 1976, he was sent as a Special Constable to help protect the beauty spot from a spate of fires during one of the hottest summers on record, and stayed on as part of a special unit formed by the county council to protect the site from arson. Over the years the role gradually evolved to include general guiding, informing visitors of the part the Chase played as a training camp during the First World War, as well as its other attractions.

Ron in his younger days

During his career, Mr Mattison worked as a photographer at Bilston Steelworks, and later as a care worker at Stow Heath Lane day centre, Wolverhampton, and as cycling trainer at various Walsall schools.

But he has always kept up his voluntary work. Speaking about his latest venture, he says: “I’ve always been interested in the Great War and having been in the Army myself I have always had an interest in these kinds of things. I love showing people round the Great War hut and explaining what life would have been like for the troops in the camps. I really enjoy being a volunteer there and it keeps me active.

“We get lots of visitors from all over the country including school children and I think it’s important that we explain about the sacrifice that all those people made during the Great War.”

Gill Heath, cabinet member for communities at Staffordshire County Council said: “We’re incredibly proud to have such a valuable heritage site right on our doorstep and so lucky to have Ron and the team of volunteers to retell it’s story.

“As custodians of this important landscape, we want to bring the site to life and highlight to the world the important role that Staffordshire and Cannock Chase played during the Great War. Ron’s tours do just that and give us a wonderful insight into what went on their back 100 years ago.”

The Great War Training Camps on Cannock Chase trained more than 500,000 men for the trenches from across the UK and abroad. They remain the most complete Great War archaeological sites in the country.

An event to remember the wider history of Cannock Chase and the role of the Great War training camps will also be held later in June. Call 0300 7771207 for details.

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