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15 October 2014
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The Night Dad Went Off to Win the War

by East Sussex Libraries

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Contributed by 
East Sussex Libraries
People in story: 
Herbert Britt aka Joey Britt
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
04 November 2005


This is a story my mother told many times. I was too young at the time the
incident happened to remember it. I was five and a half years old when war
on Germany was declared.
My father had joined the local unit of the Home Guard that met at the Drill
Hall. His group were issued rifles and uniforms. Dad kept his rifle in the
space between his wardrobe and the wall.
At the beginning of the war it was decided that churches would no longer be
allowed to ring the church bells to announce services. They were only to
ring in cases of extreme emergency such as an invasion. It would be a
signal for members of the Home Guard to get ready for an attack.
In the summer of 1940 it was anticipated that an invasion by the German army
could be expected at any time. Most of the children were evacuated from the
Sussex coast, together with many women. My mother elected to stay in
Bexhill. It was a very anxious time, and the invasion was on the minds of
One night my mother woke up, shook my father awake and told him she had just
heard the church bells ringing. They listened for a while but heard
nothing. Mum, however, insisted that she really had heard the church bells.
The Germans were coming!
Dad got up and put on his Home Guard uniform. He was meticulous about his
appearance, carefully brushing his suit jacket and pressing his trousers
every Sunday and polishing his shoes till they shone, ready for work on
Monday morning. Dad's uniform received the same treatment. As he put on
his jacket he asked Mum whether the pleats in the back of his jacket were
alright. Mum said, "Don't worry about the pleats in your jacket Joey, the
Germans are coming!"
Dad took his rifle from the corner of the bedroom and went off. First he
went next door to wake up the neighbour who was also in the Home Guard. He
then went down the street to the home of another neighbour and woke him up
telling him the invasion had begun.
They arrived at the Drill Hall were they were supposed to meet other members
but they were they only ones there. They waited for a while, but still no
one came so they decided to march on down to the seafront.
When they arrived, again they were the only people there. It was absolutely
quiet, not a soul to be seen or heard. It was a lovely clear moonlit night,
perfect weather for an invasion. Finally they saw someone coming towards
them. The person shone a torch at them and said "Halt, Who goes there?" It
was a local policeman patrolling his beat. They identified themselves and
explained what they were doing. The policeman laughed and said he hadn't
seen or heard anything and certainly hadn't heard any church bells.
Someone must have dreamed about hearing church bells. Feeling very foolish
the three men marched off home and back to bed.
Of course, Mum was the culprit, the one who had dreamed of hearing church
bells. Mum always enjoyed telling this story, but Dad never did appreciate
it and would leave the room muttering to himself.

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