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15 October 2014
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Only 16 and I had a Browning automatic rifle

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
John Wallace
Location of story: 
South Norwood
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

In 1940 when I was sixteen, my mother and the younger children were evacuated to Wales. Meanwhile I stayed with my grandparents in South Croydon and I was in the Home Guard during this time. I was one of the youngest men to join the Home Guard. Contrary to popular belief that we were armed only with broomsticks and pikes, I was equipped and fully trained to use, a Browning automatic rifle among other weapons including live hand grenades.

We firmly believed that the Germans were going to invade at any time, and were therefore eager to be able to use these weapons if required. I used to cycle from my grandparents to South Norwood and would often cycle through the air raids wearing only a steel helmet for protection against schrapnel. I had to man my post at the South Norwood junction railyard, being a target. Standing on the bridge one night there was a stick of bombs falling with each one getting nearer. We threw ourselves down and took cover, simply hoping for the best. Fortunately the last one wasn’t close enough to do any damage to us.

This was one of the many experience I had before joining the Royal Air Force in 1942, which is another story.

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