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The image of the book cover of A Wartime Schoolboy - Memories of Fradley by Colin Russell, published by Léonie Press

A Wartime Schoolboy
Memories of Fradley

Written by Colin Russell

ISBN: 978-1-901253-59-7

96 pages, paperback, 148mm x 210mm.
22 photos, 1 map

Published by Léonie Press, March 2020.

Price: £ 7.99 UK Postage and Packing:

e-Book versions
Kindle format ISBN: 978-1-909727-24-3
Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN): B0852RK5NX
Click here to buy from Amazon

About the Book

Colin Russell, aged 8


Wartime Fradley was an exciting place to live for schoolboy Colin Russell. The Staffordshire village - once a quiet agricultural backwater - was home to RAF Lichfield, the busiest airfield in the county, and the lad's house, church and infants' school were all under the flightpath. The planes flew so low at take-off and landing that he and his friends were able to wave to the pilots, and residents soon became used to the almost constant roar of aero engines.

Massive hangars were constructed all over the site and the runway was so close to the Coventry Canal that planes sometimes belly-flopped across it.

Fradley aerodrome, as it was known locally, was initially used for aircraft maintenance and flying training for Commonwealth air crews. Sadly, the combination of old planes and inexperienced pilots meant accidents were common. Word of a 'prang' would soon get round the boys in the village, who would set off in search of souvenirs from the wreckage.

When his bricklayer father was called up into the Army, leaving his mother on her own with two children, young Colin became 'the man of the house'. A growing lad and always hungry, he planted vegetables in the back garden and earned extra money by delivering papers and picking potatoes.

Colin enjoyed learning and after attending St Stephen's infants' school at Fradley, and Alrewas C of E School, he passed the Scholarship to go to King Edward VI Grammar School at Lichfield. He played rugby for the Colts and First XV.

About the Author

Colin Russell, aged 86 in 2020


After leaving school Colin spent 18 months working in the quantity surveyors' office of J R Deacon Ltd, a large building contractor in Lichfield, awaiting his call-up into the forces at 18 years old, to serve two years' National Service.

He chose the army as he had been a member of the Army Cadet Force during his final two years at school and after initial training with the North Staffordshire Regiment at Whittington Barracks near Lichfield, he spent the remainder of his two years' service in Northern Italy with the 1st. Battalion as part of The British Element Trieste Force on the Yugoslav border. Quite a contrast from his life in Fradley Village! He was fortunate whilst there to play rugby for both the Battalion and 24th. Infantry Brigade teams.

After being demobilized, on of all days, April Fools' Day 1954, he walked home knowing that he would again be able to enjoy his mother's lovely dinners and to sleep in his own little bedroom.

He decided to change his sport from rugby to play football for Fradley F C when the club was formed in 1954. It was a lovely change to be playing again with his friends in the field where they had played together as youngsters but were now representing their village.

Colin returned to his job at J. R. Deacon Ltd. where he met Lydia, who eventually became his wife, but he had to complete five years of evening classes at college to obtain his qualification to become a surveyor before they were married in 1959. They had two children and two granddaughters.

He worked for two other contractors before having the satisfaction of being self-employed for the final 35 years of his working life.

Although moving house four times Lydia and Colin have always lived within ten miles of his childhood home of Fradley and now, in retirement, live a mile away in Alrewas where he also spent three years at the village school.

His original memories of his school life, from which this book has been taken, were written in 2004 and were intended to be a record for his children and grandchildren to read how he remembered his school life during wartime.


Sadly the launch party for the book on Sunday, 29th March 2020 in Fradley Village Hall had to be cancelled as part of the global battle again the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we couldn't let it go out into the world without a send off of some sort so we decided that we would put what we would have said on-line. We hope that we can have a real party for the book later in the year when Colin can sign copies of the book and you will also be able to see the exhibition which the Heritage Group were planning to put on.

Jack introduces Anne Loader Publications...

and Anne speaks about how we came to publish the book.


Colin also mentions the explosion at RAF Fauld, a massive underground ammunition dump a few miles from Fradley, on 27 November 1944. The school building shook and the desks rattled when about 3750 tons of bombs were accidentally detonated. At least two farms were blown up, leaving an enormous crater, and around 70 people were killed. The bodies of many of the victims were never found. It is thought to have been the world's greatest non-nuclear explosion. You can read more about this in the excellent "Voices from the Explosion: RAF Fauld, the World's Largest Accidental Blast, 1944", by Valerie Hardy.

For more information about the life of a Wellington bomber pilot, like those trained at Fradley, we recommend "They Also Served - An Autobiography of a Wellington Bomber Pilot" by Les Hather.


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