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15 October 2014
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My Dad in Dad's Army

by David J.Miles

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Photo and part of National Identity card of Ernest Miles

Contributed by 
David J.Miles
People in story: 
Ernest Miles
Location of story: 
Nutbourne and Bosham, West Sussex
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 January 2006

Ernest Alfred Miles - my father - had been temporarily commissioned in the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force at the end of World War 1, in 1918. With the outbreak of World War II, he found himself at age 41 in a "Reserved Occupation" by working in the Food (Bread Baking) Industry.
In April, 1941 - just after I had left home for boarding school in Southbourne, Bournemouth - our house in Portsmouth was bomb damaged in an air raid and my parents moved "into the country" to a cottage at "Cut Mill", Bosham, on what was then the A.27. (Both my parents continued to work in Portsmouth and commuted there daily, using Southern Railway's efficient electric train service.)
At some time during the next year, my father must have answered the "call to arms", for I came home on school holiday to find that he was a fully enlisted Home Guard. He had a khaki battle-dress with a lance corporal's stripe on each sleeve, which, he explained, was because he had been designated "Intelligence N.C.O." and was probably due to his former rank in the Royal Flying Corps. Forage cap, heavy army boots and gaiters completed his "turn-out", but the prize, as far as I was concerned, was that he had been issued with a "Winchester" .300 rifle (yes, .300, not.303). He allowed me to handle this, since I had become familiar with the Lee Enfield rifle as a member of my school's O.T.C.
In order to attend Home Guard parades - and his Unit's Headquarters was the "Barleycorn" pub at Nutbourne - my father had managed to buy a war-time economy version B.S.A.bicycle. This was a basic and black machine with wooden pedal rubbers but sported a set of dropped racing handlebars - quite unlike my Dad's pre-war very upright Hercules/Raleigh with Sturmey-Archer gears and chain oil bath !
I was never allowed to know what the local Home Guard got up to but it all seemed very serious and dedicated and, I suppose, their thinking related to defence of nearby RAF Thorney Island. Who was their "Captain Mainwaring", I know not, though one or two names of local volunteers come to mind.
My abiding memory, though, is the slightly comic one of my father in uniform, with "Winchester".300 rifle slung across his back, mounting the drop-handlebar B.S.A. bike and wobbling off to Home Guard parade.
I bless the memory of a father who "did his bit" for his country in two World Wars and who conveyed to me a patriotic pride, which I retain.

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