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15 October 2014
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Dad's Army Memories

by marglingheath

Contributed by 
People in story: 
James Frederick Dickinson
Location of story: 
Thorne Moors, North Yorkshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
06 August 2004

This story was submitted to the BBC Peoples War website by Heather Board on behalf of Jim Dickinson and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the BBC Peoples War project and its aim to create the largest on line archive of stories of a nation at war.

Dad's Army Memories

Thorne Moors are just northeast of Doncaster in North Yorkshire, and are at the edge of the Humberhead levels. Peat has been taken from the moors for many hundreds of years, and in the mid 19th Century the Dutch Moss Litter Company used horse-drawn barges to transport the peat along a network of canals to a mill near Moorends.

My name is James Frederick Dickinson, and I lived on the edge of Thorne Moors with my mother and father from the age of 6 months. There was a Peat Mill that had been burnt out in 1936 for the second time and never rebuilt.

It was around the spring of 1943 when I was poking about in my Father's workshop and discovered a rifle up in the rafters among what was his woodstore for spars and planks. I managed to get it down with a set of household steps and put it in a safe place without telling my Father.

After hunting around in the drawers in the workshop I found ten or twelve .22 bullets. The gun was a short barrelled Winchester .22 long breach, and as I found out later had been in the family since the early 1920s.

I eventually told my Father and he said I could play with it, but I never told him about finding the bullets. I would run with the gun playing cowboys with my pals when any of them came down to the mill.

However, about mid-summer of the same year the Home Guard descended on us for Sunday Morning manoeuvres, ten or twelve at a time. I, for my part, joined in and guided them through the swamp areas which were lethal.

They were grateful and let me join in the manoeuvres.

One Sunday morning, six of them were stood at the end of the old mill which was about 100ft. by 300ft. They were at the end with their .303 rifles resting on a burnt-out windowsill.

They had the brown strips out of party crackers tied to the rifle bolt and the stock, so that when the trigger was pulled, it pulled the two halves of the strip apart which had a cap between sandpaper, causing the cap to fire and produce a loud bang. They were also shouting "Bang! You're dead!!"

Previous to these events poachers had been in the old mill and had hung an old frying pan on a brick pillar that had supported the first floor before the mill burnt down in 1936.

The Home Guard lads were aiming their rifles at the frying pan and pretending to kill it. I didn't join in this 'carry on' but decided to do something a bit more realistic as I was bored with their efforts.

I had brought half a dozen bullets with me on this occasion, in case we spotted a duck in the swamps. I was on the end of the line of Home Guards, so I put a bullet 'up the spout' and fired a hole THROUGH the frying pan.

The resultant BANG!! was much louder than the noise of their caps, and seeing the hole through the pan, the man next to me yelled, "Jesus Christ, the kid's firing REAL bullets!"

I just hoped they wouldn't tell my Father what I had done. Fortunately, he never found out

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Childhood and Evacuation Category
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