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15 October 2014
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Guns and guard duty in the Home Guard

by astratus

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Sydney Brooks
Location of story: 
Uttoxeter, Staffs
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 January 2006

This is a story told me by my father, Sydney Brooks (1917-92). He was unfit for military service but was called up into a reserved occupation, and joined the Home Guard. He was a member of the North Staffs regiment and was stationed at Uttoxeter.
The weapons issued to members of the Home Guard mostly did not work. His platoon had a machine gun that reliably fired one round and just as reliably jammed. It had to be stripped down and re-assembled before it would fire another round and jam again. The joke was that you would have to ask the Germans to delay advancing while you unjammed the gun.
Gallows humour of that kind was a staple. One of my father’s duties was to guard an ammunition dump. He was issued with a rifle and two rounds, but was forbidden to load the rifle. When the Germans came, he was to call out, “Halt! Who goes there, friend or foe?”. On the obliging reply, “Foe!”, he was to say, “Hang on a minute while I load my rifle.”
One day, nine Italian prisoners escaped from a prison camp. It turned out later that they hadn’t so much escaped as got lost on the way back from a working party some distance from the camp and were trying to find their way back. There weren't as many as nine of them and they were harmless and frightened. At first, however, the word went round that they all had long knives stolen from the camp kitchen and were on the rampage. All Uttoxeter was terrified. My father loaded his rifle that night, and put one in the spout - and be damned to the corporal who might put him on a charge for it.

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