- Contributed by
- People in story:
- George Pearson
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 January 2006
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Jim Donohoe of the CSV BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Action Desk on behalf of George Pearson and has been added to the site with his/her permission.
Coventry kid and young Home Guard
At the start of the war, I was still at school, being not quite fourteen years old. I lived with my widowed mother, three brothers (one older and two younger) and two sisters, both younger than me. My elder brother quickly joined up, going into the Fleet Air Arm. One of my younger brothers had a faulty heart valve and died tragically young.
My mother, like so many others at that time had a hard and difficult life, and when my brother went into the forces, she lost the breadwinner of the family. She still managed to keep the family together and look after us.
I joined the Home Guard at age fifteen with three of my mates. Our bit of the Home Guard was attached to the 5th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and its headquarters was at the Bull and Anchor pub in Wheelwright Lane.
We joined the Royal Corps of Signals at the same time, which were based at Westfield House, a derelict mansion alongside the railway bridge on the Radford Road.
My first guard duty was at Radford Road Bridge. The four of us went up and we each had to do twenty minutes guard duty at a time. I went out first, it was scary. I had a rifle with no ammunition, it was pitch black (there were no lights because of the blackout), I could hear rustling noises in the undergrowth and I was frightened to death.
I scrambled down the slope, backed into the tunnel under the bridge and pressed my back against the wall. When I was relieved, everybody laughed because my back was covered in soot from the tunnel, but when the other three came back, it was all the same.
Whenever we came back from the Home Guard after drill or instruction, we would go back to the Bull and Anchor, and talk in the snug about what we'd learned over half a pint of beer, and we'd have a game of dominoes.
Six months after joining, the company sergeant got hold of some ammunition and he set up a target alongside the railway track, so we got our first ammo. We fired at a target, and I got two woodbines and a few matches as first prize. I was as proud as punch. I didn't smoke, and I kept them for nearly a week before sharing them with my mates for puffs all round.
When we were packing up, I noticed a 303 bullet in the long grass. It wasn't one of ours, ours were all counted. It must have dropped out of our ammunition case and rolled into the rough grass. I put my foot on it, accidental like, to hide it, and when no one was looking, I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I kept it for ages in my pocket, taking it out and polishing it, but I never loaded it or fired it.
At the big blitz, the raid started around seven o'clock. My mother, myself and my two younger brothers were all sitting around. We got under the table in the living-room. As the raid worsened, plaster was falling from the ceiling and tiles were coming off, then something smashed the window, and we had to switch the lights off because of the blackout.
We then moved over the road to a brick bomb shelter. Inside the shelter was a young girl with her baby. The baby was crying, and my mother was comforting the terrified girl, when a shout came "Parachute!"
I grabbed my rifle and dashed outside, but it wasn't a German, it was a landmine floating down on its parachute. I was blown off my feet by the explosion, and the house next to my sister's was destroyed. Apart from being knocked over I was unhurt. My mother said to me "Go nd put that silly rifle back in the house."
We were living in Nunts Lane, on the outskirts of town when the raid happened, and after the landmine exploded, we all moved out of the shelter and walked away from the town across the fields. We ended up at the Hare and Hounds pub, where a kind lady found sleeping space for us all. I was allotted a small barn, and I stood outside it watching the raid, turning the .303 bullet over and over in my trouser pocket - I had forgotten to load it into my rifle before dashing out of the shelter!
There were a great many courageous people in those days who never donned a uniform. On one minor raid, I was with a great friend of mine who wasn't accepted into the armed forces because he had a faulty heart valve. We were making our way home when we came across a house that had smoke coming from the back, where there was an incendiary device. I rushed up to the front and banged on the door and the windows, getting no reply, and my friend went round the back, found the door unlocked, and was in the back bedroom when I arrived. Luckily, the incendiary had landed on the tank covering the coal cellar. We watched it fizzle out without it doing any damage, then we left the premises without touching anything.
In those days it was common for houses to have their doors left unlocked at night - it's a pity it doesn't work that way nowadays.
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