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15 October 2014
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06 August 2005

Peter Foweraker (Callington U3A) — Memories of WW2. Story two


Around about 1941 after the Home Guard was formed in South Zeal, just outside Okehampton in Devon, we as boys used to go down and watch them practising rifle shooting and various other things, like a bit of commando training, in the local quarry. The local quarry had rifle buts all fitted up where they fired from elevated positions into the side of the quarry. Most of these chaps were either first world war soldiers and experienced using 303 rifles, or, farmers who were very expert with shotguns, but couldn’t handle the 303. The Home Guard had these farmers’ shotguns tested using buckshot, with targets about 75 yards away. They were very efficient and could blast great holes in the targets, so had anybody been on the other end, they would have been very unhappy!

One day when we were watching, the officer of the group said to one man on the end of the buts,
“Bill Kane”, he said “What are you aiming at?”
The reply was, “I be aiming at the target sir”
“No you’re not”, said the officer “You’re aiming up in the air” he says “and the only thing up in the air is Farmer Dart’s goat”
“I bain’t aiming at Farmer Dart’s goat”, he says
“Yes you are”
“I bain’t sir”
“Well, fire then”, said the officer, so he fired and the goat fell down on the other side of the quarry!
Everybody cheered, but, sad to say, someone had to reimburse the farmer for his goat.

There were a lot of funny little antics going on in the Home Guard. Most of the chaps, even though they had their officers, had a will of their own and were all independent men. They even went out rabbit shooting with sten guns, and we never worked out where they got their spare ammunition from, but I wouldn’t have liked to see a rabbit after it had been hit by half a dozen sten gun bullets!

On another occasion, four Home Guard chaps were checking on Follygate airfield - they had arrived there in the butcher’s van (which was their usual means of transport), and like good citizens they immobilised the van and proceeded up the lane to the airfield. About three-quarters of the way up a white face came through the hedge and, being unarmed at that time, they all ran back to the van and took half-an-hour trying to start it — forgetting they had immobilised it! They later found the white face belonged to a donkey — least said, soonest mended!

All through the war they did some very brave things really. There were a couple of them who went out on the moor when a plane went down, and they brought back one of the pilots, who happened to be a RAF Spitfire pilot who landed on the moor, but to confront someone who might have been armed with conventional weapons was very brave in those days, because they only had the darkness to conceal them, and after all they were just part-time soldiers, but, nevertheless, very serious about their job.

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