Dad’s Army at Allhallows
At first we were known as the Local Defence Volunteers and subsequently became known as the Home Guard. Senior boys were allowed to join and we were almost exclusively “the platoon”. The only farm worker with us was excused Bren-gun drill because his fingers and thumbs were too big to cope with dismantling and assembling the weapon – a priority in Army circles was taking to pieces and putting together.
At first, we had little more than members of the School Shooting VIII capable of a half inch grouping at 25 yards with a smallbore .22 rifle. As time passed we acquired some serious weaponry and were a force to be reckoned with.
Molotov Cocktails were stored in secret dumps along the cliff top. We were allowed one practice shot each - spectacular fun! Then we had to practice with grenades (Mills Bombs) and grenade launchers. Crouched behind a wall of sandbags we took turns under the strict control of Captain Horace Lee, to hurl in the officially approved manner, one grenade each hurl – one two three – Observe where it falls duck down and bang! One very good bloke, but not too bright, hurled his grenade up up and away above our heads and nearly blew us all to Kingdom Come; it landed just the width of a sandbag away.
The finest hour came when a report was received that a German Patrol had kidnapped the Coast Guard in his little hut on our pebble beach. The Rousdon Platoon Home Guard under the command of Capt.H.A.Lee, was issued with .303 rifles and grenades. Capt. Lee complete with Hollywood style Tommy Gun was ordered to investigate. Whilst the Platoon deployed along the cliff-top - ready to kill anything that moved – Capt. Lee bravely descended to the beach, kicked open the door of the hut and frightened the life out of the Coast Guard! His telephone line had blown down during the night.
Rather less dramatic was a request from the Coast Guard for the Rousdon Platoon to engage and sink a mine that was floating towards the beach between Seaton and Sidmouth. It was a beautiful summer evening when Capt. Lee and several senior boys took their recently acquired Hotchkiss machine gun to a commanding position on the cliff top. The mine was clearly visible, bobbing on the waves offshore. We had all taken to pieces and reassembled the Hotchkiss so were thoroughly acquainted with it. Careful aim was taken, the order to fire was given, the trigger was squeezed and the barrel shot forward six inches and fell off! The mine turned out to be an empty oil drum.
All this at a time when the average life expectancy of an R.A.F. Rear Gunner was about six months. No dramatic announcements of those killed were made at Assembly. We just learned by bush telegraph that So & So, who had been our Head of House or School Prefect had been killed. No army of counsellors, to help us through the trauma. The fact that it would soon be our turn just did not worry us.
I was proud to leave Allhallows, gain a Commission in the Royal Artillery and return to school to show off my one pip. Second Lieutenant Trewin!!