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In the Home Guard

by Barrington31

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
Barrington31
People in story: 
William James Fox
Location of story: 
Knowle, Hengrove, Bristol
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A7093749
Contributed on: 
18 November 2005

The following is a group of poems about William James Fox, my father, in the last war. I took down his words verbatim and then structured them. They are part of a longer poem about life before and after the war in our area of Bristol.

Guarding Whitchurch Aerodrome
Arresting a Man in Cadogan Road
The Shooting Competition
Have My Rifle, He’s a Good One
Expert Advice
The Scores in the Evening Post
What Ruined my Sight

With HomeGuard
Guarding Whitchurch Aerodrome

The Dutch pilots,
When the war was more or less starting,
They, many of their army and air force,
Came over here to fight, over to us.
If they'd stopped there they either got killed or else.

And these huge transport planes
Were left on the ground
On the aerodrome down there.

There were no English planes down there.
All Dutch.
(When I say “all,” don't get me wrong.
There wasn't hundreds of them.)

We were there to protect those planes
From any landings.
Parachutists was the thing,
Germans.

I suppose if it was forced
They could have landed planes down there
But they never did
Because we had guns there to protect it.

No, don't joke; it was a serious business really.
There was a fellow in training in our lot.
We used to run up hills with guns
And all our equipment, training really seriously
And he collapsed and died.
It wasn't a case of checking up to see
If you were fit enough to be in the Home Guard.
You could have had all sorts wrong with you,
And people did.

We were there for the whole night, until daylight
Not allowed to sleep at all
And I’d been to work all day.

I wasn't on guard every night, mind;
Sometimes we’d be training up at Broad Walk
But a certain amount of men
Would always be over there
Might have been from the Tenth Battalion
(We were the Tenth) It could have been
The Eighth or Ninth.
We had a duty to do every so often
To go over and guard that place.

For eight hours.
As I say I finished work at five o'clock.

You just went out to walk round
For about two hours, all the way round the drome,
And behind you at intervals
Of probably quarter of an hour to twenty minutes
There'd be another two. And when you'd got back
To your quarters then another lot would go out.
And you'd stay back in and probably sit down
And have a smoke for awhile.
And you might get another duty in the early hours,
Perhaps from 4 o'clock till six.

I got the plans of the trenches.
I wrote them on this piece of paper
Just to make sure.

You could see the aerodrome
From where we lived, just across the fields;
But we had to form up and march back to Broad Walk
And then we'd walk home.

If we'd been on all night
We'd be excused from work.
Probably go in lunch time.

Other days I’d do a 12 hour day. I’d leave
Home for work in the morning about six o’clock
Catch the bus, then get home about 7.


Arresting a Man in Cadogan Road

Well four of us went to this house.

We walked down in the road,
(In the road,
Not on the pavement
Not in the middle of the road),
Four of us with guns
An officer as well.
We went to this house.
Two of the privates stayed in the front
And two walked round the back.
(I mean that was done by us, but God knows
It must have been done all over England.)

And when he came out,
(Naturally he had to come out, if he was home)
He would walk in between the four people.
And walk up to headquarters
And he’d have to report.

And once he’d reported
He was a Home Guard and signed.
So if he didn’t turn up he was a deserter.
For which the punishment would be greater.
That’s how it was.

I was in one of the details for Cadogan Road.
Marched all along, up through Salcomb Road,
Up onto the main Wells Road,
And back round to the headquarters in Broad Walk.
It sounds strange to people I suppose.

It didn’t matter how he marched.
If he didn’t march in time
He was going to get his heels kicked up.
Wasn’t he? He didn’t probably know
His left foot from his bloody right foot.
You didn’t know the characters.
So that’s what we used to do.

He was probably a decent sort of a bloke,
But perhaps he may have been
A conscientious objector.
Could have been.

But even then they had to join the Home Guard.
I mean
It’s no good letting them lie around doing nothing.

Other blokes, some of these fellows, died
Because they weren’t fit.

They were doing Home Guard duties.
It was strenuous.
I remember one fellow--
We had all sorts of weapons
One was a Lewis gun
Which were things on the ground which you fired --
Who got a nasty cut across his eye
When we were out on duties,
Where he got too close
And the gun came back.

But there you are.
You had to defend the country.

The Shooting Competition

When I went up to join,
The first time,
The same day
I had a letter asking me to go,
Straight up, no messing.

I joined with this fellow Ron Pool
And a couple more.
But Ron and I got palled together.
We just struck up a friendship.
We both liked a pint.
And we were both very good shots,
Very good shots.

We always used to say
We could fire better if we'd gone in the Talbot
And had a couple of pints
Before we used to go on duty.

Or at least I did.
I could fire just as well if not better
After I'd had a couple of pints
Which proved the point
Because I got the cup
For the best shot in the Home Guard.


I’d never fired a rifle before,
Till I went in the Home Guard.
Never.
One had never been in my hands.
And when I joined the Tenth Battalion
Of the Home Guard, Knowle,
We weren’t using the big thing, 303s;
We were using 202s, a smaller edition.

We never had the ammunition to waste too much.
So we would practice probably once in three weeks
Or it might be a fortnight or a month.

And when you qualified you'd go on
Through to the competition which I did,
And Ron Pool did,
But his marks dropped down.
So I went on and I got to the final,
Best shot in the Bristol Home Guard.

There was the 8th Battalion
10th Battalion and
9 th Battalion.
Every area had their own number.
We were the Tenth at Knowle.

They had to keep firing regularly
Until a few of them dropped out,
And a few more; till at last
There was eight of us left altogether.
That was Frank Bennett, an ex-Bisley shot,
And two officers.
Out of the eight there was only two privates,
That was myself and another young lad.

They give us our bullets.
We'd load our guns
And we started off
Five or six hundred yards at a target.

My eyesight was brilliant then.
At a target about the size of a man 's head
So you had to get down with a really steady hand.
And then you'd fire.

Your score would come up
And the officer would come back with it
Then you'd move forward
To four hundred yards.
Fire five shots in a certain time,
Lying down; then 200 yards;
Then it was 100 yards rapid fire.
We were close to the targets.
You didn't get much time to get down.

When the score come back
It was printed in the paper
I got it upstairs somewhere.
I think I had 8 bulls, and 2 inners.
It was a brilliant score.

Don was in the army then.
When Don used to come home on leave
He was a regular army bloke.
But it didn't mean that he was any bloody better
Than anybody else.
Ted Moreton used to think he was a good lad--
He was in the army.
Anyway, I proved my point with the rifle.


Have My Rifle, He’s a Good One

The strange thing about winning the cup is,
(If Ted Moreton was alive he'd tell you)
The rifle we were using was put in your charge
And you had to hand it back in after you’d been firing.
If you understand what I mean,
There was rifles and rifles.
The one you walked around with wouldn't be
The one you'd use in the competition.

When it come to, of a Sunday morning,
I went to the headquarters to get my rifle.
Everybody else had theirs.
I looked for mine; it wasn't there.
I reported it--it had my name on it.
And they said,
“Well, somebody must have took it out.”

There was a sergeant there, a Scotsman,
Ted Moreton knew him quite well.
He said “Bill, have my rifle. He's a good un.”
I said, “Well, I'll take your word for it.”
And I used it;
I used a rifle that wasn’t my own!
Not as it made much difference,
They're all made on the same lines.

Ted Moreton knew all about that.
He used to see the bloke, Jock he was,
In The Friendship
And he told Ted all about it.


Expert Advice

Frank Bennett who was an ex-Bisley player
(He never got through to the final.
I was the only one out of the Tenth that got through.)
Used to tell me
When we used to go on the range,
(He knew very well how good I was)
(I'm not blowing my own trumpet)
He used to say,
“Bill why don’t you slow down a bit
You're going at it too fast.”

But what happens is that
When you bring the rifle up
You sight, you see,
You sight your target up

(I can't do it now, arthuritis.)

You bring your rifle up
And you look through the sights.
And when you're on target, you fire.
But if you come up
And you're not sure
Then you have to get down again
Hold your head down,
Close your eyes,
Then come back up.

I used to come straight up
And as soon as I was on the target
I'd fire.

It paid off.
Any way,
As I say,
I got that cup for it.

The best shot in Bristol.

I never had anything printed on it, though.

I always dreaded they might pick me to be a sniper
If the Germans ever invaded.
I mean, he probably didn’t want to fight,
No more than me.



The Scores in the Evening Post

That 99 I scored in the competition
Would be out of the hundred,
Out of the possible hundred.
That was my score. On the target.
Understand?

I’m not saying that happened every time.
I had a couple of possibles.
But most times I was 98 or 99.
And you could see the scores in the Evening Post.

I got slips of paper in an envelope upstairs.
Some of the people in the competition
We were firing against
Were down to about 80 odd.

And that’s the honest truth.
Yeah, my sight was brilliant.
Well, it must have been.

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