Category Archives: News

WW2 Arctic Convoy veterans honoured by Russia

Veterans, dignitaries and guests at the presentation of the Ushakov Medal (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)
Veterans, dignitaries and guests at the presentation of the Ushakov Medal (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)

Local World War Two veterans were awarded Russia’s Medal of Ushakov at Walsall Town Hall on Wednesday 25 February 2015.

The Embassy of the Russian Federation hosted a ceremony to award the Ushakov Medal to twenty-two local veterans involved in the Arctic Convoys during the Second World War.

The veterans were accompanied by family and friends at this moving event where they were greeted by the Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Pete Smith, and presented with their medals by Sergey Fedichkin, from the Russian Federation’s Embassy.

The Mayor of Walsall, Cllr Pete Smith, welcomes the assembly (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)
The Mayor of Walsall, Cllr Pete Smith, welcomes the assembly (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)

Councillor Pete Smith said: “This was a proud day for Walsall to see their veterans awarded Russia’s Medal of Ushakov in recognition of their brave exploits during the Arctic Convoys.

“The Arctic Convoys were very dangerous and conditions were among the worst faced by any Allied sailors.

“Over four million tons of essential supplies were delivered to the Russians between 1941 and 1945 and it is truly noble of the Russians to continue to recognise these veterans who risked their lives to help them.”

Third Secretary Sergey Fedichkin from the Embassy of the Russian Federation presented the medals (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)
Third Secretary Sergey Fedichkin from the Embassy of the Russian Federation presented the medals (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)

Third Secretary of the Russian Embassy, Sergey Fedichkin, said, “This ceremony is done for the Arctic Convoy veterans to recognise their invaluable contribution.

“Their heroism will always be remembered both in Russia and in the UK and this will continue to serve as a supreme expression of bravery and kindred spirits.

“I am confident it was not by accident that our nations found ourselves on the right side of history.  This truly critical point of history will forever remain an important part of European spiritual heritage including the ties between our two navies.”

Veterans and guests await the presentation (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)
Veterans and guests await the presentation (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)

Of the twenty-two veterans honoured, some posthumously, seven hail from the borough of Walsall.

Kenneth Taylor, aged 88, from Beechdale served on an Arctic Convoy in February 1945 when he was aged just 18.  His was a hectic journey as they were constantly under attack by enemy aircraft and Kenneth manned gun number two in defence.

Kenneth recalled that their route would be dictated by information received from Bletchley Park whose staff worked out where U-boats were likely to be through the interception of their radio messages.

Eventually his ship was sunk by a U-boat in a strait near Murmansk. They were picked up by HMS Bluebell and taken to harbour. HMS Bluebell later suffered a torpedo attack and was sunk in the same strait with only one survivor.

When asked how he had enjoyed the day’s medal ceremony, he said, “It was alright,” and then with a smile added, “I’m still alive!”

Ivor Oldbury, aged 89, is from High Heath Pelsall and was accompanied by four generations of his family; daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter and great great grandsons.  He too was only 18 when he served as a stoker with the Royal Navy.

His ship left Liverpool in November 1944 as escort to one of the convoys and luckily avoided being gunned or torpedoed.

When asked what it felt like to have the Ushakov medal handed over by the Russian Federation, Ivor simply replied, “Smashing!”

John Kinsella, from Aldridge and aged 91, enlisted with the Royal Navy in December 1941 serving in the Mediterranean at first. He was in the Y Service working for Bletchley Park intercepting enemy radio transmissions from the German U-boats.

John explained, “Whatever duty they wanted us on, they would tell us where we would pick up the ship and that’s what we did, either as escort duty or shooting up enemy ships along the Norwegian coast.”

He did three trips to Spitsbergen taking Norwegian troops and their ammunition on board HMS Belfast.  John once met Randolph Churchill who sat next to him on an RAF plane.  John was with nine others and Churchill remarked, “Bloody hell, flying sailors!”

When asked how he felt about the day’s medal ceremony, John said, “I enjoyed it – I had to get up early to pin all my medals on and now I have the Medal of Ushakov to join them.”

A proud veteran shows off his Ushakov Medal (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)
A proud veteran shows off his Ushakov Medal (pic courtesy Ed Bagnall)

The Medal of Ushakov was created in 1944 and is named in honour of the Russian Admiral Fyodor Ushakov who never lost a battle and was proclaimed patron saint of the Russian Navy.  The medal was awarded to their navy’s service personnel.

The medal was subsequently retained by the Russian Federation who reached an agreement whereby the Ushakov medal can be awarded to any Allied service personnel involved in the Arctic Convoys.

Photos from the ceremony at Walsall Town Hall, courtesy of Ed Bagnall, can be viewed via this link:

Crossroads returns to local TV screens

Benny (played by Paul Henry) and 'Miss Diane' (Sue Hanson) in Crossroads, 1980
Benny (played by Paul Henry) and ‘Miss Diane’ (Sue Hanson) in Crossroads, 1980

Iconic West Midlands television ‘soap opera’ series, Crossroads, is being brought back to the small screen by Walsall’s new local television station Big Centre TV, which launches this Saturday, 28th February, at 6pm on Freeview Channel 8, covering Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.

In a move that will delight fans of the show, Big Centre TV, which has studios at the Goldmine Centre in Lower Hall Lane, plans to broadcast all existing episodes, including some classic early episodes from the 1960s.

Crossroads originally ran from 1964 to 1988 on ITV (originally in the ATV days) and at its peak the show’s viewing figures reached up to 18 million. The show, which was the UK’s first full length daily soap, revolves around the fictional village of Kings Oak, near Birmingham, portrayed as the main location of the Crossroads Motel.

Channel director, Chris Perry, said: “It’s an incredible honour to bring Crossroads back to viewers. More than 4,500 episodes were filmed, but only around 3,000 have survived and these are mostly from 1978-1988. The earlier editions were largely lost and only a few classic editions survive. However, we plan to show all editions available, including those known as the ‘Crossroads Classics’.

“Bringing Crossroads back to the small screen has only been possible because of the close partnership between ITV and me and my team at Kaleidoscope. Arranging this deal was not easy, as checking assets from the 1960s took time, restoration and research, but we are deeply proud to be the new home of such an iconic programme.”

Early photo of the cast of Crossroads including Jane Rossington (centre left) and Noele Gordon
Early photo of the cast of Crossroads including Jane Rossington (centre left) and Noele Gordon

One of the show’s stars, Jane Rossington, who played Jill Richardson, said: “I am delighted that audiences will be able to experience the phenomenon that was Crossroads. We filmed at a number of locations here in the Midlands, so it’s great that Big Centre TV, the local station for the area, has chosen it as the headline show.

“Many people have fond memories of the show and even today I meet people who remember characters and storylines.”

Andrew Gavaghan, ITV’s archive operations manager, said: “ITV and Kaleidoscope have worked together for many years in sharing knowledge and information about ITV’s rich broadcasting history and ITV has donated archive materials to Kaleidoscope to help assist with its endeavours in preserving and exploring past British TV programming.

“The in-depth knowledge and enthusiasm that Kaleidoscope possess, is a valuable resource not only to the broadcasting and production communities but also to anyone interested in this important area of our culture.”

Big Centre TV is the UK’s newest station and will provide an estimated 2.3m viewers with an eclectic mix of local and national programmes. It will broadcast seven days a week and programmes will also be available online, giving the station a potential global audience.

Crossroads will be broadcast weekdays at 9.30am, 6pm and 11pm and will be live-streamed via the stations website at:

For more information on receiving the new station see:

And on Facebook:

Hippo keeps council on the hop!

Hoppy Hippo in the snow (Pic: Stuart Williams)
Hoppy Hippo in the snow (Pic: Stuart Williams)

Walsall’s popular hippo sculpture is moving to a new temporary location this weekend whilst redevelopment work continues in the area he currently calls home. The concrete hippo, affectionately known as Hoppy, will move from The Bridge to outside Walsall Central Library in Lichfield Street in the early hours of Sunday morning. The area around The Bridge is currently the focus of major regeneration work with the construction of a new Primark and Mid-Counties Co-operative food store. As outlined late last year a planning application has also been submitted to create a new permanent location at The Bridge for the town’s historic market.This application is due to be considered by the planning committee in the coming weeks. It is unclear how long Hoppy the Hippo will be at his temporary home but the long term plan is to allow him to relocate back to The Bridge area once all the work in this area of the town centre is completed.

Historical note
Statue of Taweret, British Museum (courtesy John Bodsworth, Wikipedia)
Statue of Taweret, British Museum (courtesy John Bodsworth, Wikipedia)

Hoppy received ‘his’ name by popular acclaim back in the early 1970s, when he was first sited outside Lloyd’s Bank on The Bridge and was regularly jumped over by both youngsters and a mayor of Walsall! Hoppy is, however, technically female, as the children’s play sculpture was inspired by the ancient Egyptian goddess Taweret, goddess of children and the northern sky, which is why it was deliberately placed facing north on the ‘banks’ of the Walsall Brook (representing the River Nile) which flows under The Bridge.

National WWI Commemoration comes to Walsall

Walsall Town Hall

As the nation continues to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, Walsall Town Hall will open its doors to the public and invited guests on Saturday 21 February 2015 for two special events of historical significance.

The day starts at 11am where the Military Ancestry Road Show’s panel of experts will be on hand to help identify medals, uniforms, photos, war records and other ephemera from your family’s military past.

This event is free to the public and starts at 11am giving you the opportunity to meet the members of Military Ancestry Road Show until 2.30pm. They do not give financial valuations as the emphasis will be placed on the historical value of the items. You are welcome to bring along items from any military period.

Following that, Walsall Town Hall will be the venue for ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’, an invitation only event from 3pm that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle which took place 10-13 March 1915.

‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ will commemorate the Indian Army which served with great distinction and bravery. Rifleman Gabbar Singh Negi was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the battle and is one of 4,700 soldiers of the Indian Army who are commemorated at the Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial in France.

The Government has initiated a multi-faith (Sikh-Muslim-Hindu) commemoration of the battle and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, has said that he wishes the commemorations to be relevant and accessible to people of all faiths and ethnicities living in Britain.

The main event takes place in Manchester on 10 March 2015 and satellite events are being encouraged by the Government Steering Group leading the commemorations.

The ‘Shoulder to ‘Shoulder’ event is hosted by the Walsall based ‘1914 Sikhs’ and Walsall Council, with support from ‘Near Neighbours’, and will take place at Walsall Town Hall between 3pm and 5.30pm. If you would like an invitation to ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’, email Walsall Council’s community cohesion & engagement officer, Lutfur Rahman, at

Walsall Council cabinet decisions outlined

Walsall Council House

Walsall Council’s cabinet met on Wednesday 4 February 2015.

Key decisions made at the meeting included:

•       The approval of the Corporate Plan 2015-2019 ‘Shaping a Fairer Future’

•       Changes of over £1m of savings to the budget consultation after feedback from the public, including the withdrawal of plans to charge for garden waste, district centre car park charges,  cuts in street cleansing and maintaining the level of financial support to organisations in the voluntary and communtiy sector, such as community associations;

•       Removal of discretionary bus passes to faith schools from September 2015;

•       An agreement to include the Council in a nationwide search for a mobile phone provider

•       Approve a new model delivery for children’s centre services and deliver savings of £1.85m by March 2017;

•       Conduct further consultation on proposals to strengthen and improve the provision available for children with special needs and disabilities

Reports on all the items discussed by Cabinet can be found at

All the decisions taken by Cabinet will be posted on the decisions page at

Testing, Testing…


This is a test post for the phased return of The Bloxwich Telegraph, the online news magazine for Bloxwich, Little Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Leamore and Birchills in the metropolitan borough of Walsall, West Midlands.

There is still a lot of work to do in updating and testing the site, so please be patient!

Please respond if you came to this post via Twitter (via Bloxwich News Network) and Facebook (on the Bloxwich News Network page).

If you were not aware of the BNN Facebook page, you are invited to give us a Like!  See:

Blaze destroys Blakenall furniture workshop

Peggy's Place yard and workshops after the fire - Ian Morton-Jones

A Blakenall Heath furniture workshop was gutted by fire in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The blaze destroyed stock, fittings, buildings and a delivery van as it ripped through the yard and worksop at the rear of popular dealer Peggy’s Place in Barrack’s Lane around 3am.

All but the shop facing onto the lane, which remains open for business, was destroyed, leaving charred wood, furniture, materials and debris surrounding the van, which was rendered a write-off.

Burnt out delivery van at Peggy's Place - Ian Morton-Jones
Burnt out delivery van at Peggy’s Place – Ian Morton-Jones

Owners believe the fire may have been started deliberately in the workshop area before spreading to other parts of the courtyard.

Co-owner Matthew Cooper has said that around £10,000 – £15,000 worth of stock has been destroyed in the incident.  Apparently the yard has been targeted by thieves and vandals in the past, with tools being taken.

Peggy's Place - still open for business!
Peggy’s Place – still open for business!

Firefighters from Bloxwich Community Fire Station and Fallings Park attended following the alarm being raised by neighbours, and worked for more than four hours to put out the blaze, concluding that work around 7.30am yesterday.

They have not yet been prepared to comment on the precise cause of the fire as an investigation is underway, with investigators examining the scene in detail for clues. Police were also due to attend later.

If any report is forthcoming we will update this news item in due course.

Special thanks to Mr Ian Morton-Jones for supplying the exclusive photographs of the aftermath of the fire above and to Peggy’s Place for the picture of the shop.