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The Most Decorated Birmingham Police Officer of WW2

December 12, 2017

Delving into the records held in the Police museum details have been found of an officer who received two prestigious awards whilst serving in World War II.

 

On the 9th August 1910, Harold Etherington Wood was born in Oldham Lancashire. Not much is known about him other than he was a grocer prior to joining Birmingham City Police in July 1931 at the age of 20 yrs. On joining he is described as being 5'10", fresh faced, brown eyes with fair hair.

 

Harold Wood clearly settled in the police service very quickly and by June 1932 he had passed his final police exam and was given a 2nd grade. The following month he received his first of seven awards and compliments when he was awarded a guinea for the arrest of a motor car thief, a rare offence in those days, one would have thought. His other accolades all involved further arrests for motor vehicle thefts, administering first aid and the arrest of a person loitering.

 

When joining the police I doubt he would have imagined that the country was to be plunged into another World War but it is apparent the signs were there by 1936 as his service records show he completed his anti-gas course. By September 1939 Britain was again at war. The duties of the police officers changed greatly as officers took on the responsibility to protect the citizens of Birmingham. The 'big hat' was to change to the steel helmet and all officers now carried gas masks in anticipation of enemy air attacks.

 

The personal file for Harold Wood shows that he was promoted to Sergeant  D39 on the 1st July 1940.  Birmingham (indeed the country) braced itself for the anticipated visits from the German Luftwaffe. Between the months of August, October and December 1940 Sgt Wood attended numerous air raids.  Showing great devotion to duty and always willing to attend incidents he put himself in harms way on many occasions. He searched for delayed action bombs, tackled fires caused by incendiaries and high explosive bombs. He took control at incidents and arranged for the evacuation of those in danger, co-ordinating other emergency services. For these cumulative actions he was awarded the British Empire Medal.

 

PS Wood clearly took this in his stride, only two weeks later he was complimented for attempting to stop a runaway horse on the High Street Aston and further complimented in April 1942 for his actions when dealing with a person attempting to commit suicide.

 

On the 28th July 1942 PS Wood was involved in another air raid. On this occasion bombs had fallen on the underground shelter at Gabriels Ltd Coleshill Street in Birmingham. For his actions that night in rescuing persons trapped he was awarded the George Medal two months later in September. He is believed to be one of only three police officers to have been awarded the George  Medal and the only officer to have been awarded both the British Empire Medal & George Medal

 

There is no documentation in his file that gives reason for him resigning on the 27th January 1946 after 14 years service.

 

Perhaps it was to enter politics as in his file there is a newspaper cutting from the Birmingham Mail, the date given as 1950. It states 'Councillor Harold E Wood, Washwood heath representative since may 1949, is a member of the newly appointed Housing Managent Commitee. It is, however, as a member of the Civil Defence Committee that Councillor Wood should prove particulary useful, for he was awarded the George Medal and the British Empire Medal for his work during Birmingham air raids'. The article also mentions that Councillor Woods was at this time running a catering business and that he got his interest in public affairs whilst a sergeant representative on the Police Federation.

 

This article ends with the comment 'A Lancastrian, Councillor Wood is not quite 40, and with luck at the polls he should have a long career of civil service'.

 

Sadly, this was not to be. The final newspaper clipping from the Birmingham Post dated 1st July 1952 informs us that he had suffered from a serious illness during the latter part of 1951 and appeared to be making a recovery but had died the previous day.

 

Throughout his police service there is not a single blemish on his record and upon leaving it is marked Exemplary.

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