The Army and the Guards in particular need no recommendation from me, their records over eons speak for themselves, but the relationship between them and the Home Guard I found amusing and worth relating. Loosely attached to The King’s Royal Rifles, a swank regiment, with a history of valour, we wore a black cap badge in the form of a Maltese Cross, surmounted by a crown, the regimental name on a central roundel, backed by red baize, – very smart. We had been told the badge, had been changed from bright brass to black so it would not attract the attention of snipers in the trenches, all stirring stuff to a sixteen year old.
The discrepancy between the uniform of the Home Guard and the rest of the Army had to be seen to be believed and there was the same steep step between the smartness of the regular soldier and the Guards. If the Germans had notions of infiltrating the Home Guard they would have been discovered in a minute because they could never have duplicated our uniforms. I’m sure we had been issued with whatever had been rejected by everyone else. Nothing fitted and to crown it all the gaiters we were forced to wear were a terrible oxblood colour, which was a badge in itself. The Guards were the other extreme, they were vain to a man, jealous of their reputation and standing, so they bastardised every piece of uniform capable of modification, from the peak of their caps to the surface and polish of their boots I’d guess many had their uniforms tailored as well
THE NORTHOVER PROJECTOR 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 the 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 bits of aluminium. 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. 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 someone 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.