Sunday, October 16, 2011

Family Stories

During the war my Grandfather worked on the railways. However he was also a special constable[1]. Most of his job as a special constable was guiding convoys on his motorbike - getting lost being a serious concern when navigating at night in blacked out countryside with all the signposts removed to confuse Nazi invaders or saboteurs. Many of the convoys were Americans heading to or from Long Marston Airfield, adding an extra layer of possible confusion.

However my Grandfather, a very tall man[2], was occasionally called on by the local constable, a somewhat smaller man, to be the quiet threat in tricky situations. One day some travellers, probably referred to as gypsies at the time, set up camp in a field near the airfield. The Constable called on my grandfather to loom in the background. Arriving at the site, he pulled out his notebook, looked around, then spoke to the men watching him. "Well Gentlemen, I'll be back tomorrow to check on you vehicle and dog licenses."

The next morning they left. Different times.

[1] A lot of this kind of thing went on. With a large number of the country's men in uniform there were a lot of extra jobs that needed filling. Dad's Army gives a flavour of that, with the men of the platoon coming from their day jobs to drill with the Home Guard, and ARP Warden Hodges being the Greengrocer by day. As well as doing needed work, it turns out that being a special constable gets you a fuel allowance, something not to be sniffed at in heavily fuel-rationed Britain.
[2] How tall? I'm not sure. He seemed pretty tall when I knew him, but I was much shorter at the time.
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