- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Stan Simpson
- Location of story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 April 2004
LEICESTER UNDER ATTACK
During 1942 I was a member or a factory Home Guard unit in Leicester. The platoon was run on feudal lines. The managing director was the commanding officer, the works manager was the sergeant, and the corporals were foremen As a newcomer and junior factory hand it figures that my position was pretty far down in the pecking order, although did have one thing going for me. I was the only one who knew the Morse code.
An antique signalling flag was dredged up from heaven knows where, and on Sunday morning manoeuvres while the rest of the platoon were flattening themselves on the ground to avoid enemy fire, I would stand on a piece of high ground sending messages back to an imaginary HO. As a military tactic it was suspect to say the least unless, of course, you were interested in a posthumous Victoria Cross.
I mentioned earlier that the works manager was our Sergeant. We didn’t dispute him the right to his high rank, but we were concerned that being a martyr to sciatica he was a little less nimble than he might have been. It didn’t seem right somehow that when we were in full retreat we had to keep stopping in order that our leader could catch up
Anyway one Sunday there was a gigantic scheme involving all the Home Guard units in the city. The object was to capture the Town Hall. I was in a small group of about twenty who were deposited on the Fosse Road on the outskirts and at the appointed time we started to do all the ridiculous things. crawling on our stomachs, peering round corners, sprinting from doorway to doorway and even hiding behind lamp posts. It is surprising how little time it takes to get fed up with this sort of thing. We were therefore, overjoyed when some client wearing an umpire’s badge came up and told us we had just been wiped out by withering fire from a window above the chip shop across the street
So that was it so far as we were concerned. We opened our sandwiches and settled ourselves on a low wall to await the whistle for the end of the game.
When this moment came, we were told to assemble in a nearby field for the inquest there were hundreds of us in this field and we were addressed by a regular army Brigadier standing on a small hill at one end. Valuable lessons had been learned. We were most happy for him because education can be a wonderful thing
One small group he said, in spite of impossible odds had penetrated the defences and captured the Town Hall. Their sergeant would now tell us how. this was achieved Then to our utter dismay, our sergeant followed by a foreman and a couple of lathe operators, limped up the hill and took up their positions beside the Brigadier. Clearly we had underestimated the man. Tell us in your own words Sergeant said the Brigadier beaming at the hero of the hour.
Well began the sergeant “I can’t walk very well so we got on a tram, went upstairs, lay on the floor, got out at the Town Hall and went inside”. There was a short silence. The Brigadier’s face was changing colour like a crazy traffic light, and his left epaulette roiled up like a carnival squeaker. “Did you say tram?” he seemed almost afraid to ask. “Yessir. Tram” replied our sergeant who had not yet realised that his popularity had slumped in the ratings.
The Brigadier was the nearest thing to a broken man we had seen all morning. He motioned to the sergeant and his fellow heroes to get back amongst the rift-raft where they belonged and gave us a brief lecture about public transport which, as I understood it, meant that with the streets full of German tanks there would not be any trains running. But knowing the British. wouldn’t like to bet on it. would you?
Author’s note. This story was originally written for DRAGNET, the Joumal of the St. George Amateur Radio Society, some months prior to my retirement as a Boeing 747 pilot with Qantas. Most of us take air and air travel pretty much for granted. Maybe we shouldn’t!
Written by the late STAN SIMPSON G4ITM. Submitted by kind permission of his wife. Published in the Vital Spark the magazine of the Hastings Electronics and Radio Club in Octobert 1988
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