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  • Keith Johnstone

IN THE WAR

Updated: Mar 13

POLITICS

Each week I used to enjoy stories in my comic about the wonderful Finns, adept on skis and swooping down to kill the evil Germans. But then, in the next issue, the evil Finns were being blown apart by the wonderful Russians.

Why did they continue writing about Finns? Did they think we wouldn’t notice?

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CURIOUS INCIDENT I was walking down New Road on a pleasant morning with my Mum and my little sister. This was early on Sunday (we were sleeping each night at Fred and Ella Buley’s house that was well away from the harbour – the harbour being a target). We were just crossing the entrance to Lower Manor road when an armed British Soldier stopped us. Armed soldiers were common because Brixham was being used to practise the sort of street fighting that they would encounter in France, but this soldier wasn’t looking to ‘kill’ fake Germans. He said: “I am taking you the town hall, Madam.” Mum balked, even though we were just two minutes from passing the town hall on our way home. “I’ve got two young children with me.” “Makes no difference.” “We’re going to the harbour. We can get there by going up Manor Road and around by the church.” “I am taking you to the Town Hall and if you won’t come quietly I shall carry you.” I wondered how he would carry her? In his arms? More likely over his shoulder in a ‘fireman’s lift’. Mum relented, and he shepherded his prisoners along the few hundred yards to the curve of New Road and into Bolton Cross where we stood in front of the town hall. Many other people had also been ‘corralled’ by armed soldiers and were not being allowed to leave. If you look at the town hall from across the road, you’ll notice a ill-placed balcony. I’m imagining that a swastika flag hung from it but I’m sure that there wasn’t one – although there should have been. Hardly had we arrived when a man disguised as Adolf Hitler appeared on this balcony and harangued us in bad German gibberish - I'm sure it was bad, although I'd never have known that as a child - never relaxing, just non-stop sustained screaming from a fake Hitler. Then he stumbled back into oblivion and the solders guarding us walked away.

The dragooned audience was unresponsive. This was a trivial war-time incident but it seems almost unbelievable, and not like anything I've ever heard reported. If they tried the 'fake Hitler' stunt in France they'd think we were mad. I would have liked to see the soldier carrying my Mum to the Town Hall. Perhaps I could have carried his rifle. ******************************************************************************************************

ANNOYING

It annoyed me that the Germans seemed to do things better than we did (like conquering most of Europe in half an hour). For another example: draw an oval for a face, add a nose with a small black moustache under it, dot the eyes, and put a slash of straight hair at a forty-five degree angle on the right side of the forehead (‘right’ as seen from the front) and the result will be seen as Hitler.

Every child knew this and could chalk Hitler’s face on walls and pavements. We would rather have drawn Churchill, or Roosevelt, or General Montgomery but they hadn’t designed faces for themselves.

German soldiers had helmets that looked better than British helmets because they seemed to protect the back of the neck better.

Even in British propaganda movies the German officers looked more impressive the English officers (better designed uniforms). Some SS uniforms had little skulls for decoration – small boys love skulls.

The swastika had been used as a sign for power for thousands of years. Compared to it, the circles on spitfires’ wings seemed feeble.

English aeroplane looked ‘nice’ but German aeroplanes looked ‘wicked’. The most ‘evil’ German aeroplane was a dive-bomber called the ‘Stuka’ which could have been designed especially to excite small boys (its fixed undercarriage reminded me of talons).

English tanks were called the Churchill, and the Cromwell, and the Tetrarch and the Centaur – none of which sounded as good as the German Tiger Tank.

I could go on!

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