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.
The 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.