Some lunatic inventor had thought up the Northover Projector.- an enlarged version of a toy cannon I had as a child. The toy worked on the principle of a leaf-spring fixed tightly up against the back end of the barrel while one slid bullets (match sticks) into the business end. They slid down the barrel, when one pulled back the spring the match followed it. On release the spring propelled the match out of the gun and hit toy soldiers with considerable force at least 36 inches away. The Northover Projector had a wind-up spring instead of the leaf-spring, otherwise the thing was much the same as the toy cannon – made by the Germans in the twenties – a symbol of the efficiency of the War Office in general, and their thinking with regard to the Home Guard in particular.
Representatives of all the platoons of the Westminster area were taken by bus to a secret location which we reckoned was Box Hill, formed up and marched into a forest. arranged in a semi-circle in a clearing, at the centre of which stood the Northover Projector (NOP) along with Mr Northover (I think). I remember it was a squat little thing, the gun, not Mr Northover. The NOP was shiny as if cobbled together out of spare aluminium bits. We were then instructed on the ammunition, which was a form of Molotov Cocktail, consisting of petrol with a cube of phosphorous floating on the top in a lemonade bottle. We were informed that the phosphorous would burst into flame when exposed to the air and ignite the petrol, and they were right. Later it occurred to me that, all things considered, I would not like to have to make a Molotov Cocktail, I couldn’t quite see how to get the phosphorus into the bottle without exposing it to the air.
A huge target of corrugated sheet steel had been erected against the forest backdrop and the NOP faced it squarely. We were told how tricky phosphorous was and how to aim the thing, then some one stepped forward and dropped a bottle of lemonade down the barrel, pulled a lever and off went the bottle. It reached the steel sheeting, cleared it by feet and then went on to explode against a tree and start a forest fire, an eventuality no one seemed to have envisaged because it took a while to put out, especially as it was mid-summer. Indeed that was all we saw of the demonstration, we were loaded up, late in the evening and returned home. I never again saw or heard of the Northover Projector from that day.