The shopping center in Redditch is called the Kingfisher center, have you ever wondered why? Well there are several links to kingfishers in the town.
If your grandparents lived in Redditch when they were young, they probably caught sight of a Kingfisher, you may two if your are by a stream or river. Redditch was then crisscrossed by streams and rivers and you would sometimes see a kingfisher flying low across the surface of the water, then suddenly diving to catch small fish, or other water-loving creatures such as tadpoles.
It’s a small colourful bird, moving so quickly that you only see a flash of blue. Many boats and ships were called The Kingfisher. One of them was a warship in action during World War II. The people of Redditch adopted the ship, sending gifts to make the life of the crew more comfortable. For example, they knitted socks and sent books and magazines.
If you walk into the foyer of the town hall from the car park you will see a model of the ship on your right and behind it is the story of The Kingfisher and the bravery of the crew. It says:
“In the dark days of the Second World War in 1941 a former Scoutmaster of Redditch, Lieutenant Arthur George, then serving as First officer on HMS Kingfisher, approached Redditch Council with the idea that the Town should adopt his ship (cities and towns were encouraged in those days to adopt vessels of his Majesty’s Navy to provide comforts for the ships company) and in November that year the adoption was formally completed and HMS Kingfisher became the foster ship Redditch.”
The following year in December 1942 there was an exchange of plaques (pictures) between Ship and the Council to mark the occasion. Also in Redditch Temperance Hall was renamed the British Restaurant but also became known as “The Kingfisher”. After the war the restaurant closed down bur the hall was then known as the Kingfisher Hall.
HMS Kingfisher was a 510 ton corvette launched in February 1935, she was the flotilla leader of seven other sister ships and was built by Fairfield on the Clyde. She was the 14th HMS Kingfisher in the Royal Navy, the first dating back to 1675. Her crew numbered 60. HMS Kingfisher had a 240’’ waterline length, a 26’’ beam and a draught of 6’’. She was fitted with a 4” AA gun and eight smaller guns. Her top speed was 20 knots and she costs £95,288.00 to build.
During the Dunkirk evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in 1940, Kingfisher brought back a total of 640 troops from the beaches and awards of one Distinguished Service Medal and eight Mentions in Dispatches were made to her ships company. She continued on active service in the war years being finally retired in 1947. Throughout these years the population of Redditch maintained a flow of comforts to the ship and there was continuous contact between the Ship’s company and the Town.
Following the designation of Redditch as a “New Town” in 1964, this area of the town centre was re-developed and the Kingfisher Hall was demolished to make way for the new shopping centre which was named the Kingfisher Shopping Centre,
For many year the model of HMS Kingfisher, shown in the picture above, was on display in the shopping centre. It was later moved to its current location in the entrance to the Town Hall.