The Westminster Home Guard Part1 of 2

The Very Odd Home Guard ExerciseOur office platoon of the Westminster Battalion had to perform the odd exercises, which could take place in parks, on Wimbledon Common, anywhere. Of them all this was the oddest. They generally consisted of creeping about in an ill-fitting uniform with an empty rifle, drinking tea at an all night stall with big wedges of sandwiches and /or a pink and white coconut cake to fill the corners, and riding in the back of the Rolls.
However, one night we were told we were going to enter into an exercise with another HG unit from, I believe, Transport House. The idea was we would be the invading army and were to attack HQ, which was to be Transport House, while they, the enemy defending Transport House, would stop us. I forget the details but several things stand out clearly; there were no ground rules laid down about how the sortie was to be carried out, we were formed into groups of about four and sent out to follow different routes. We set off. Half way between our office and theirs, standing in the centre of a square, was a church that had recently been severely bombed. My mate and I, with a couple of others, started walking towards our objective and it soon dawned on us that there was absolutely no hope of passing undetected in those streets unless one could hide. There were a few buildings with steps leading down to a basement entrance, but they were traps for sure. Then we saw the church. Immediately we realised that if we could climb into the half-torn bell-tower and stay there undetected, the defenders would pass us by, which is exactly what happened, although our perches were precarious, to say the least, and today the Health and Safety Act would preclude soldiers from being allowed to take cover like that for merely a practice, We duly arrived at our goal and said that we had captured it. This was obvious as there was only one man there manning a telephone, and there were four of us. When we retired to the basement of our office we felt pretty satisfied with our evening’s work.
During the following week all hell broke loose. We thought we were going to be praised for initiative and inventiveness, instead we were castigated by the powers-that-were for not playing to rules they had thought up after we had beaten the enemy, though not by Sir, who agreed that we were right. The British Military seem to be totally crazy and have strange ideas about war. I sometime wonder if it has dawned on them even now, as it seems to have done on every other nation, that the idea is to kill the other side by any means at all and not get our own chaps killed at all – after all dead is dead. I often think they have always had it the other way round – ‘it’s not cricket, old man, to hide in a church.’

Categorized as General

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