William and the Brains Trust

The facts

“What were they like?”
“Filthy ragged little urchins. I took it for granted that they were children from the East End of London who’d come out into the country for the fruit picking… And yet – it’s odd,” she added thoughtfully.
“What’s odd?” snapped Mrs Bott.
“There are two boys here who are extraordinarily like them. They can’t be the same ones, of course, because these are quite well-dressed and clean, but-they are extraordinarily like those two little urchins.”
“Show me them boys,” said Mrs Bott between her teeth.
But William and Ginger had not waited for the end of the conversation.


William and Ginger are going to pick gooseberries to help the war effort as part of a school group, but they miss the train and have to make their own way to the (unknown) gooseberry farm.

“Did you enjoy the day?” asked Mrs Brown.
“Yes, thanks,” said William, deciding that it would serve no useful purpose to describe the various complications the day had offered.

Inevitably they go to the wrong farm and abstract the wrong gooseberries – and Mrs Bott is not happy.

Sadly the story itself is a bit overlong and thematically rather similar to the immediate previous story, Feasts for Heroes, 25.11 (in the sense of ‘boys try to do a wartime favour but end up doing it in the wrong location’) and William’s Invention, 14.9 (in the sense of ‘boys do something outrageous to Mrs Bott but serendipitously help her out and so get away with it’).

The facts

“I’m goin’ to see if anyone’s in,” said William. “I’m goin’ to knock at the door.”
“What’ll you do if someone comes?”
“I’ll ask if Mr Jones lives there,” said William promptly. “I always do that if I want to find out if anyone’s in a house.”
“S’pose Mr Jones does live there?”
“He never has yet.”

  • Number: 25.11
  • Published: 1945 (1944 in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Brains Trust
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to organise a celebratory tea for a decorated war hero.


Henry meets a girl whose father has gone up to London to be decorated by the King for his military achievements, only to come back to a larder empty due to the ration. Considering this to be “jolly hard lines”, and considering it to be his patriotic duty to improve on the situation, Henry enlists the Outlaws’ help.

“It’s not stealin’,” said William. “It’s takin’ it from people what don’t need it an’ oughtn’t to have it to give it to people what do need it an’ ought to have it. It’s what Robin Hood did an’ no one ever thinks it was wrong of him. There’s plays an’ poems wrote about him.”
“Well, I bet if anyone catches us they won’t write plays an’ poems about us,” said Henry.

They patriotically obtain eatables, table decorations and other essentials from various houses around the district – from one in particular, which had a sumptuous tea set out until the Outlaws relocated it.

Unfortunately, the only flaw in Henry’s plan is that he mis-heard the name of the house of the gallant officer…

The facts

“It’s a long time since we did anything about the war,” said William.

  • Number: 25.10
  • Published: 1945 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Brains Trust
  • Synopsis: William tries to help the war effort using a shapeless toy knitted by Aunt Florence.


The Outlaws organise a bring-and-buy sale “in ade of the Prisoners of War”.

The sight of Aunt Florence knitting at the open window gave William an idea.
Aunt Florence noticed a stream of village children passing the window and gazing in at her. To each she gave a pleasant greeting, murmuring at intervals: “So nice and friendly, these country children.” She did not know, of course, that above the open window was fixed a notice: “WOT IS SHE NITTING NOW? PENNY A GESS. PRIZE FOR WINER.”

But two things go wrong; firstly, the boys of the village are far more interested in swapping toys than in buying them (leading to very little benefit for prisoners of war). And, more seriously, Aunt Florence is staying with the Browns and keen to help. Aunt Florence has recently read a book on toy-making, but even with the benefit of such expert knowledge she still manages to knit only a “shapeless repulsive object”.

William rather cleverly manages to turn Aunt Florence’s contribution from an embarassment into a triumph by holding a popular competition: “The green mistry. Wot is it? Penny to ges. Prize to winer.”