- Contributed by
- Ron Tarling
- People in story:
- Bob Tarling
- Location of story:
- Watford, Herts
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 April 2004
As an ex regular soldier, dad volunteered to join the LDV (later to become the Home Guard) at 9am on the day recruiting started.
For some time afterwards an armband was to be their only 'uniform', whilst a naive enthusiasm took the place of weapons - in my dad's case he supplemented the armband by wearing my toy forage cap!
Eventually some weapons did arrive in the form of First World War Lee Enfield Rifles, however since there was a distinct shortage of bullets to go with them, the Wehrmacht, if it put in an appearance, was to be confronted by fixed bayonets and empty rifles (this may be why they didn't come - but it is unlikely).
The fictitious events portrayed in the Dad's Army TV series bear an uncanny similarity to those of real life in the Garston Platoon of the Home Guard - even to their CO, a bank manager who, unlike many of his men, had never served in the armed forces.
It was accepted wisdom that the Germans were unable to pronounce the letter 'W' and so the password of 'Wendel Wilkie' (an American politician of that time) was demanded of anyone challenged by guards or patrols.
On one occasion, my dad and a colleague, whilst patrolling at night in woodland near to Garston Church, spotted a suspicious figure flitting to and fro between the trees - and after a good deal of 'halting and who goes thereing' they pinned the hooded figure to a tree and invited him to say Wendel Wilkie. He tried unsuccessfully to oblige but proved to be quite unable to say these, or indeed any other words and was in serious danger of being skewered to the tree by a bayonet when he pulled off his balaclava to reveal himself as the local vicar (who suffered from a serious stammer). It was never clear why the vicar was in the wood at night, but since by that stage in the war the Home Guard were using the church hall as their headquarters it was probably diplomatic not to enquire!
With the imminent prospect of having to face an airborne assault by the Nazi hordes, the top brass of the local Home Guard came up with what no doubt to them was an ingenious counter-measure.
A car bench seat was 'secured' in the top branches of a large tree situated behind the Home Guard Hut - precarious access to the seat was gained by a series of ladders attached to the tree. The master plan was that two of the more physically able members of the platoon would watch the night sky from their lofty vantage point and at the first sign of descending paratroops would blaze away at the luckless Hun and so save England - well at least Garston - from falling under the Nazi jackboot.
There were of course some snags to this ambitious plan - the Lee Enfield was a two-handed weapon, but in order to avoid plunging to certain death from the treetop it was necessary to hang on with at least one hand to the rudimentary safety bar on the car seat - and in any event anyone misguided enough to fire a rifle from a swaying perch in a treetop could expect the recoil to launch him into oblivion!
The near impossibility of spotting a descending parachutist on a dark night - and shooting him with an old rifle from the top of a swaying tree doesn't seem to have deterred the 'brains' behind the plan - and the five rounds issued to the wretched guards would hardly have constituted a fusillade of defensive fire.
My dad and his mates felt that all things considered, it would have been a good deal safer to be a German paratrooper!
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