|Joy Phillips's notes on her brother, Ralph|
From handwritten note by Joy Phillips:
The younger son of Christianna Elizabeth and John Alfred Stafford born in Loveday St Maternity Hospital Birmingham on 20th December 1919. The family home was 136 Golden Hillock Road, Small Heath, Birmingham. He was batpised at All Saints Church, Small Heath, on 11th January 1920.
Ralph went to Greenmore College, a private school in Carrs Lane, Birmingham. - he and his brother John travelled by tram. At the age of 11 he transferred to College Road Senior School and then passed the entrance examination to Sparkill Commercial College, Stratford Road.
When he was quite young Ralph had his legs run over by a lorry delivering wood at Oakwood Road. The lorry had solid tyres. He and John used to jump on the board at the back of the lorry and as it backed up the builder’s yard Ralph fell off. hewas taken into the front room of the house and Dr Gordon, the local Physician and surgeon was called and operated on his legs there and then. Fortunately he made a very good recovery.
Ralph remembered staying with Uncle Jim (mother’s brother) and his wife Nell and daughter Muriel at 8 Railway Cottages, Seven Tunnel Junction near Newport, Monmouthshire for holidays. There were plenty of fields to play in and plenty of trains to watch! Did this spark off his train spotting days with Stan Checketts when he was much older?
Before the war, in 1936, Ralph went to work for an export firm in Birmingham - A W Price and Co.
Ralph enlisted in the Army on 13th March 1940 during WWII. He first went to Longmore training centre Aldershot for one month. He came home for 48 hours and was then mobilised for France but Dunkirk took place in May 1940 and they were stopped.
Ralph was in the Transportation Division of the Royal Engineers (Rolling Stock). He had two ‘false alarm’ embarkation leaves (one was leave before departing for Iceland and the other to the Middle East).
On 29th June 1940 they finally went to France (ie the 197th Unit). They sailed for Arramanches in landing craft and actually landed on Mubery Harbour in Wagons. A detachment of Royal Engineers was already over there.
Ralph served under Major Boack who was the Director of Transportation. Just outside Bayeux Major Baulch (quite a nut case in Ralph’s eyes) and Ralph (the Orderly Sgt) went to the 1st Army Headquarters - the hierarchy would not let the Major in because his orderly wasn’t an officer. The Major was 6ft 3in, Ralph 5ft 8in.
Ralph was the youngest serving Warrant Officer in the Regiment. At the end of October 1943 Ralph was back in Melbourne and at a Halloween Dance held at Bleak House Melbourne he met Barbara Doyle. She was stationed in Melbourne Hall.
At the end of July 1945 it was decided to send the unit to Japan. The Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and so they were never sent.
At one time Ralph was sent to Bayeux in readiness for a very heavy raid on Caen (one thousand bombers were sent!) Everything was so secret that not even the Senior Warrant Officer was allowed to see the maps of the intended raid. The Transportation Unit was moved from Bayeux to Eindhoven then on to Osnabruck and Hamburg.
The unit was moved from Beedon, Derbyshire, to the Essex Coast, Gosport in April 1944. The V1 “Doodle Bugs” on London were still passing over at this time. The men were doing P.T. about 6.30am when a German plane came over and machine gunned the camp. There were 200 men in the camp but only one was killed. The men were billeted in the pub rooms and it was also used as an office.
Ralph was stationed in the Rhine Army HQ at the latter end of the war. Montgomery came up to Hamburg. It was certainly spit and polish beforehand - it was quite unbelievable.
Ralph came back to England in February 1946 from Hamburg where by now there were huge sidings. They came by train from Hamburg to Cookshaven, then across to Hull. On the docks at Cookshaven there were hundreds of captured German trucks loaded with V2 bomb casings. What might have been!
At Christmas 1945 they were stationed in Hamburg. Four men and two interpreters went to a farm five miles away to buy a pig. The unit had at this time two German cooks attached to them. A good Christmas dinner was eaten by all!
The Dutch people were extremely friendly to the British troops - much more so than the French or the Belgians.
On one occasion Ralph had the opportunity to go down in a diving suit in the River Rhine near Cookshaven - he said it was jolly good fun.
In March 1946 Ralph went to Paris on 72 hours leave.
After the war he worked at Ariel Motors then at a wholesale greengrocers (Baragwanaths) and finally at Dolland and Aicheson (opticians) until he retired.
Ralph married Barbara Doyle at the Chapel of St James in the parish of St John the Baptist Cardiff on 11 September 1948. After they married Ralph and Barbara moved to Dora Road, Small Heath and lived there for several years before moving to Stonor Road, Hall Green.
Ralph has always been a very keen supporter and shareholder of Birmingham City Football Club and also a member of Warwickshire County Cricket Club.