Robin Bird, Bearwood
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Before the start of the First World War he worked as a tool setter in the local coal mines. Registering for military service in 1915, he was called up in 1917 and first served as a gunner, then a lance-bombardier in the Royal Garrison Artillery on the Western Front in both Belgium and France. Whilst in Belgium he contracted malaria and suffered occasional bouts for the rest of his life.
After leaving the army in 1919, he joined the Staffordshire Police Force in which he served as a police constable, firstly in the Staffordshire Moorlands then from the 1930s onwards, in Bearwood. This photograph was taken by my mother on an evening in 1942 and shows him standing outside their house on Rathbone Road, just before he went on night duty. At that time my grandfather, my grandmother Rhoda (who he married in 1922) lived there with their three children — my mother Brenda (now Brenda Bird) and her two brothers, Dereck and Ken. During the Second World War Dereck served in the RAF as a ground engineer, while Ken served first in the Police Auxiliary Messenger Service and then later in the Royal Artillery.
When he was on night duty patrolling the blacked-out streets of Bearwood, my grandfather would sometimes come across soldiers who were on their way home on leave. It is said he would often take them to his home and allow them to rest there before continuing on their journey. There was an American base in Bearwood and my grandparents made friends with a number of the American soldiers there. I have a letter written to them by a soldier, dated 1945. It was written to them on his way home to the USA, thanking them for their hospitality while he was in Bearwood.
In 1947, having been a member of the Staffordshire Police Force for 28 years, my grandfather was forced to retire due to severe arthritis in his legs. He then gained a position as a member of the security department at the Birmid Works in Smethwick.
I was only three years old when he died but I can remember playing with him at the house on Rawlings Road where he and my grandmother lived after he left the police force. We often put boxing gloves on and I would hit him on his nose which would go completely flat, this was the result of having no bone in it. It had been removed after it was frequently broken by cricket balls while playing cricket for various police teams.
I have heard it said that some people were scared of him, but I know he was very well respected by people both in and out of the police force. He would and did talk to anyone and would help them in anyway that he could, including helping to find jobs for some people after they came out of prison. After his death at his home in Rawlings Road, Bearwood, on Christmas Day 1956, serving members of the police force came and acted as coffin bearers at his funeral.