- Contributed by
- Brighton CSV Media Clubhouse
- People in story:
- Wally Little
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 25 June 2004
The home guard brass band at Chippenham Town Hall
When I went for the medical, I stood there with nothing on, and three doctors were viewing me. One said, “I like his stance”, but they still refused to accept me because I had a very badly damaged right leg — it was smashed by a lorry. I was only 21 at the time.
I was turned down for Active Service because of disability, so I joined the Home Guard instead. We did guard duty, two on and four off, guarding a railway bridge and a garage. 2 o’ clock one morning, a shadow came across that went into the garage. I called out the guard and we fixed bayonets and covered the doorway, four of us. When he came out, he was frightened to death because he’d only been in to spend a penny.
I was also a messenger in the Home Guard, and I had to strap the rifle to my crossbar and charge across the fields on a Sunday with messages for another platoon. I was in the guard hut, and we had to unload the breech for the rifles and press the trigger, facing towards the roof. I blew a hole in the roof. We had difficulty explaining what had happened to the bullet, as we weren’t supposed to fire them.
I was also asked to drive the ambulance, which consisted of a jeep, with a couple of planks put up on the sides to carry two stretchers, and a red cross painted on the canvas. There was a civilian parade in celebration of the war effort. We were on duty as first aid, and we had a woman brought to us with a fit, and she was in a poor state. We put keys down the back of her neck, the cold contact made her go steady again.
During these times, if there was a raid or the sirens went, we all had to get under the stairs because that was the safest place in the house. Except for me — I’d be out on the streets, as a warden. Where I lived, we were in line for the direct route for raiders, between Europe and London.
We had a band — this was the 1st Wilts Home Guard Band, probably the only one in the country. My brother was in it with me, and on VE day we held a huge concert in a large hall — the band was on the stage, and we were stacked up in a pyramid about 18 foot tall. I was the one on the apex, right at the top, with a set of drums. It’s surprising that you can’t see the audience from up there, especially against the lights, and it felt a very lonely spot.
I also joined the Civil Defence, where we had to do various jobs, one of which was the distribution of gasmasks. We had to take gasmasks to the families, especially the ones with babies. We could then train the mother in the use of the gasmask, which had to be pumped up with air when the child was in it. This was in case they got hit, and whereas an adult could breathe through a mask a child couldn’t so air had to be pumped in to save the babies life. This also included Fire Watch at night, in case of incendiary bombs. How we found the time to sleep I don’t know, because of course we had to work during the day.
One night, while I was Fire Watch, there was a raid and a German plane dropped his load in a farmer’s field. The pilot developed a fault in his plane we reckoned, and dropped the load to reduce his weight as he turned back. Course, we didn’t know that at the time. This was discovered about twenty years later, and they were dug up and disposed by the army. At that time, there were a lot of unexploded bombs undiscovered, so they had the bomb disposal squad. They were the only bombs dropped in Chippingham, and that was by accident.
At that time, I was making transformers for the Post Office. Where I worked, they had an orchestra. Now I played different instruments, including percussion. During this period there was something called Workers Playtime, which was on every day. We played for 2 of these sessions on different occasions. I played percussion, and during one of them we played in a monastery garden where of course I had to play the bells. I was second tenor in the choir — because the works had a choir, they asked me if I would like to join. How I found the time I don’t know, but I was second tenor, and we used to give concerts. Course, the brass band I played as well.
We also had a small dance band, all to do with the works place really. We used to do the dances in the evening — old-time and modern, but the old-time I like the best. We used to play for the workers. One day, the bandmaster was late, so I picked up the bass and started to play it. After about quarter of an hour he came in, and asked me how long I’d been playing the bass. I told him, about quarter of an hour. So he offered to teach me, but I turned it down. It was a bit of fun more than anything else.
In the early days of the war, I was working in a different job, and it meant travelling, so of course it was difficult in lots cases — trains running on time (the trains then had to run from signal to signal. Where lines and tracks had come down, they only had telegram to go by. The train had to go from section to section till they got where they were going, with each train letting the other by. This of course often made people late) and petrol was almost non-existent, so I was trained to do every job in the factory which, by the way was making tyres. I had to be able to carry on working the job of anyone who didn’t turn up. This was to stop any blockage in the process. I was called a Key Man. This job I had to give up because of my leg. The Doctor said I either gave that job up or lose my leg. So that was that. After that I had to have a sitting down job.
What with working, the band, and doing Fire Watch and Home Guard at nights, your week was gone before you turned round.
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