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Dad’s Army: a modest election proposal

29 May 2024 6 minute read
Dad and Gerry on manoeuvres on the Rhine Summer 1959

Lewis Davies

I am delighted to learn that Mr Sunak has been listening to the moral majority in this fine union of countries and will be reintroducing National Service.

I don’t think he has gone anywhere near far enough and is forgetting a whole cohort denied the opportunity that my father’s generation enjoyed.

Why should it be restricted to the young? They have enough advantages as it is. They are young for a start, pumping with hormones that don’t need to be replaced and have colour in their pubic hairs, if they didn’t keep shaving them off.

Give us a chance Mr Sunak — it should be back-dated at least to 1965.

Thrown in the towel

Anyone still walking and able to remember their name, get them signed up. Most of my friends, men of my sort, have already thrown in the towel and can be found wandering around Morrison’s on any given weekday wondering why the price of olive oil has doubled in a week or calculating if their index linked final pension will cover the nursing home expenses in twenty years’ time.

This will give us a new sense of purpose.

I’m fifty-seven. This could be my last chance to fire a gun. So come on Mr Sunak it’s a vote-winner. I can see battalions of us yomping across the Beacons, in khaki, knee-supports and sunscreen. After a few weeks we’ll be ready to invade someone.

I’d start with an air-borne assault on Spain. We can land at Alicante on Easyjet and book into the Costa Del Sol for a fortnight. The Spanish Army won’t even know we’re there.

My father had a great time in the army on National Service. His mother had written letters to her local councillor Mrs Hobbes, the MP and the Prime Minister to get him exempted but he went anyway.

I grew up with fabulous stories of his basic training in the Hightown barracks of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, outside Wrexham: playing cricket for the regiment while the sergeant-major called him “daisy” and running up Snowden.

Gerry Simpson, Glyn Westlake, Randall Davies, Minden Barrack Square Winter 1960

Square-bashing was a challenge; he couldn’t march in time.

He was then shipped off to join the British Army of the Rhine.

As a secondary modern boy after taking the English Eleven Plus in a language he couldn’t speak before he was seven, there was no chance of university.

A revelation

He’d never been out of Wales before. It was a revelation and a life-changing experience. He met men from all over the country, thrown together in a common cause or forced to endure two years of purgatory.

It was what you made it.

I’ve talked to a few men of the generations ahead of me who went, my two father-in-laws, one to the Navy as an officer cadet between terms of teacher training, the other to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, a great preparation for a Chemistry degree at Cambridge; they all took something out of it — gained.

There were opportunities. Dad was a high-jumper and took part in the British army athletics championship, clattering through the bar like the Neath back-row forward he was, when the starting height was above his personal best.

He played rugby in the Olympiastadion in Berlin and guarded the perimeter of Spandau prison while Elvis Presley and Americans surrounded Rudolf Hess and other high-ranking Nazi’s on the inside.

He even claimed to have helped build the Berlin Wall. This seemed plausible enough to me as an eight-year-old. My dad was a builder, he had big hands, a van and built houses.

He had been in the city at the right time. I could see him on the weekends getting some piece work as he did re-lining the furnaces at Port Talbot steel works. I still believe it really.

I have black and white pictures of him and his mates all cross-dressed up as frauen de nacht in the barracks. So that’s where I got it from.

He could not have done that in Neath. And there’s all those experiences he couldn’t tell an eight-year-old across the tea table.

Of the Hamburg red-light district and Berlin under occupation. He saw a continent in ruins but rebuilding.

Memories I am too polite to ask about now and will imagine in a novel in time.

Enthralled

My childhood was enthralled by these stories and of mates from the army turning up to see him. There was Glyn Westlake from Barry who would turn up driving a Tate and Lyle lorry and leave us six bags of sugar.

Or Gerry Simpson, the welder from Wrexham, who would write letters all the way from north Wales. Another mate from the valleys who now owned a pub. He would colour in these men for me; Glyn was a good footballer who had been persuaded to join the rugby team.

Gerry would travel to my parents’ wedding. My dad pointed him out on the flickering cine reel film of the event, lined up in the crowds outside St David’s Church in the August sunshine.

The Royal Welch Fusiliers became the Welsh Borderers when they ventured overseas and then became the Royal Regiment of Wales.

The regiments represented a distillation of the working-class male Welsh. Some took exemptions through mining or farming, but I think in later years they would regret it.

The men who went shared something unique and enduring. A comradeship and experience they would come to treasure and value.

This is our last chance Mr Sunak. Men of my sort and generation. You won’t even need to pay us.

It can be part of our pension triple lock guarantee.

You can, of course, join us. Apollo’s winged chariot rides ever nearer.

I can hear the hooves on the asphalt.


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Les Cargot
Les Cargot
19 days ago

Loved this, cheered me up no end. Hope Rishi reads this and takes note. We all have to do our bit.
I’m so confident Rishi’s latest plan for 18 year olds will be an election winner that, despite my having no military experience, (apart from building Airfix models), I’ve started saluting youngsters on the street to help prepare them for their National Service. Mind you, quite a few have saluted back but not in the way I’d hoped.

Last edited 19 days ago by Les Cargot
Richard Davies
Richard Davies
18 days ago

Lewis, Once you and your fellow conscripts have completed your training and are ready to undertake an invasion, you should consider the location with the postcode of SW1A 1AA as a prime target!

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