My Dad’s Army

MainwaringFurther to yesterday’s post, I was chatting to my dad about his experiences in the Home Guard and as far as he is concerned, Dad’s Army is as much documentary as it is comedy.

He was drafted in to the Home Guard in 1943 when he was 17 and was none too happy about it as it took up pretty much all of his free time.

His Captain Mainwaring was called McAteer and shared many of the Mainwaring characteristics, being pompous, overbearing and generally inept. He invariably wore a revolver that was so big that the recoil would probably have broken his wrist had he ever fired it and though worn at his side, it invariably ended up perched on generous backside after the least strenuous activity.

Like Mainwaring, he also believed himself an expert in army fieldcraft that he insisted on demonstrating, usually with calamitous results. On one memorable occasion, he showed troop how they should go about quickly scaling an eight foot wall. This involved having three pairs of men holding a rifle between them at different to form a makeshift ‘stair’ for him to climb.

Stupid BoyThe wall in question was at dad’s old school, the one that separated the infants and junior playgrounds, and he tried to point out that this was not a good idea, but was silenced by McAteer who walked up the ‘stair’ and disappeared over the top with a wail. Although eight foot on their side, it was a twenty foot drop on the other and McAteer ended up breaking his leg.

Dad wasn’t a good soldier and got himself on a charge when an officer found him on guard duty on a warm evening with his tunic undone and greeting the officer with an ‘how do’ rather than the expected smart salute. Fined £5 and sentenced to painting coal white every Saturday morning for a month didn’t exactly feel like dad was doing his bit for king and country.

For some unknown reason, dad was eventually transferred to the ‘intelligence’ section based on the the third floor above the gas showrooms on the corner of King Street and Astley Street (now a Chinese restaurant). The base had been chosen because it was high enough for the radio to work properly, not that there was much by way of vital radio traffic. Even so, dad was able to cause chaos and confusion.

One night he received a message from Ringway (now Manchester International Airport) that weather balloon parachutes were being released and to pass this information to all units. This he did, but omitting the words ‘weather balloon’ so that it read ‘parachutes over Manchester’ which resulted in Home Guard units across the region being called from their beds to confront the German invasion.

Fortunately the message was never traced back to him and I can tell from the twinkle in his eye that this bit of mischief was the highlight of my dad’s war.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • Reader Wil 27th January 2016

    Dad’s Army is one of the most popular series we know in the Netherlands. We always watched it.
    Thanks for your kind comment.
    Wil, ABCW Team

    Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 2nd February 2016

    I would imagine that my dad and yours were probably contemporaries in the same unit of the Home Guard, Mr P. At the outbreak of war Dad was living at the bottom of Astley Sreet, in Dukinfield – in fact, only a “cockstride” from the Gas Board showrooms building you described above. He was deemed medically unfit for active war service, as was his younger brother, as they were both active amateur sportsmen (football,cricket, rugby, swimming – they did the lot). He often reminisced about his time in the Home Guard – nothing special, just the tedious monotony of having to be trained in the evenings and weekends to be ready in the event of invasion. He took part in dealing with the aftermath of the Luftwaffe aerial “blitz” on Manchester (where the city centre was ablaze for days) and also guard duties at a prisoner of war camp in Oldham . We always had a chuckle when we talked about the day I took him to Ashton Magistrates Court to swear on oath, in front of the magistrates, that the details of his Home Guard “career” were true and correct, as I had applied for the Defence Medal for him and this was part of the process. To see Dad, standing smartly to attention in the dock while he gave his “evidence” brought a tear to my eye. The magistrates said that it was one of the most pleasant duties they had had to undertake. In due course, Dad got his medal.

    Reply
    • Mr Parrot 3rd February 2016

      They probably were part of the same Home Guard unit, although as I mentioned, my dad moved around a bit. He too was later declared medically unfit later on after a week of tests in London as an artificer for those midget submarines. It was only after doing his resurfacing from depth that they discovered he had a perforated eardrum. He had no idea and it was probably caused by an over-enthusiastic GP when he had an ear infection when he was younger.

      Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 2nd February 2016

    Omitted to say that being deemed medically unfit for active war servive seemed strange given that they were both keen and active sportsmen.

    Reply

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