TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess
Have you seen the new Dad’s Army film? I keep seeing it previewed on the TV and plan to watch it at some point, if only to see some of the locations used in the filming.
Holidaying in Yorkshire last year, we visited the High Street in the historic quarter of Bridlington which had been used to represent Walmington-on-Sea. Despite the filming having finished some months prior to our trip, vestiges of the fictional town were still visible. A crafts co-operative, The Green Rooms, still had the lettering J. Jones Family Butcher emblazoned on its windows.
I always enjoyed the TV series when I was younger; and still do, thanks to the regular repeats that are shown. I’m sure part of the appeal is the knowledge that my own grandfather was in the Home Guard and his involvement was passed down to me, via my dad’s stories of his childhood spent in Ely and Peterborough.
My grandfather, George Arthur Grinsell, was born in 1900 and, although his parents were from Staffordshire, he grew up in Scotland. He lost both his father and mother when he was a teenager and was just old enough to serve briefly in the First World War. By the time the Second World War broke out he had been living for some years in Ely, working his way up from Accounts Clerk to Accountant for the British Sugar Corporation.
He was proud to serve in the Home Guard, first as a sergeant and later as a second lieutenant. Initially the men had no uniforms or weapons but, in order to simulate warfare practices, they used to carry out team-building exercises. One story tells of two teams either side of a small river, one group using pitchforks to hurl discarded sugar beet to attack the others on the opposing side. Just the sort of caper Captain Mainwaring and his men would doubtless have attempted.
As the war progressed, the role of the Home Guard increased and, given weapons and uniforms, they had an important role to play in defending our country. I have a small pocket book in which my grandfather wrote down, in meticulous detail, many aspects of weapons training, including how to use the anti-tank Blacker Bombard and the safe handling of grenades. There are also notes from a street fighting course he attended, suggesting equipment to be carried should include a heavy crow bar, cheese cutters and a catapult.
My favourite story, however, is of Grandfather proudly demonstrating to his young son how to clean a 303 rifle - in the living room. A final inspection, looking up the barrel, led to him swing the rifle upwards where it smashed through the glass ceiling light.
A short silence was followed by the words:
“Well, I never liked that light fitting anyway.”
You can follow Trish on Twitter via @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk