William Carries On

The facts

“My mother dothen’t want peath with Mith Milton,” said Violet Elizabeth. “Thee thayth thee’th a nathty dithagreeable old woman.”
“Well, she won’t feel like that when Miss Milton’s rescued you from a train.”
“But I don’t want to be rethcued from a train,” persisted Violet Elizabeth, bringing the conversation round to its starting point.

  • Number: 24.7
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: William seeks to reconcile to feuding villagers.


William has something of a religious awakening after hearing a passionate wartime speech from an unnamed houseguest: “He said we’d gotter prepare for the peace bymakin’ up our own quarrels. He said it would bring peace nearer.”

So he sets out to reconcile Miss Milton and Mrs Bott, who have been refusing to speak to each other for several months (for unspecified reasons probably linked to the fact that they’re both insufferable).

“I’d gone to all that trouble to make ’em friends to get the war over an’ they went on at me as if I was ale Hitler himself,” said William. “I couldn’t help ole Violet Elizabeth gettin’ stuck in that loft, but everythin’s gotter be my fault.”

He fails, but not before creating a whirlwind of chaos that draws in multiple branches of the Milton family, the Vicar’s wife and a lawsuit for kidnapping…

The facts

“It seems wrong to a great man like Guy Fawkes,” said Douglas in a tone of righteous indignation, “lettin’ people forget him jus’ ’cause of the war.”
“He wasn’t a great man,” Henry reminded him. “He tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.”
“Well, that’s where the Gov’nment lives, isn’t it?” said Douglas, “an’ to hear my father talk when his Income Tax comes in you’d think it was a good thing if someone did blow it up.”

  • Number: 24.6
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws try to organise a wartime-suitable alternative 5 November.


The war means that Bonfire Night cannot take place with its usual festivities. But the Outlaws are undeterred and decide to go ahead with a firework-free re-enactment instead. They even deign to include a girl:

“Hello, Joan,” said William. “We’re havin’ Guy Fawkes’ day to-morrow without a bonfire. Would you like to be in it? You can’t be Guy Fawkes,” hastily, “because I’m him.”
“Nor the Gov’nment nor executioner,” said Ginger, “’cause I’m them.”
“Nor the p’liceman,’ said Douglas, “’cause I’m him.”
“Nor the judge,” said Henry.
“Can I be his mother?” said Joan.
“He didn’t have a mother,” said William.
“He must have done,” put in Henry.
“Well, I mean she didn’t come into it,” explained William. “She didn’t blow anything up.”
Joan considered. “Did he have a wife? Did she do anything?”
The Outlaws looked nonplussed. “Someone in history had a wife,” volunteered Ginger.

“What’ll we do to get rid of the Gov’nment?” said Ginger, and added “Gadzooks!” with an air of conscious erudition.
“Nay, marry anon gadzooks!” said William, rather overdoing it. “We might miss it. Then we’d all get shot. I tell thee what! Let’s blow it up.”
“Hearken unto me,” began Joan.
“That’s too Bible,” interrupted Henry. “He’s not out of the Bible, Guy Fawkes. He’s out of history.”

They are particularly keen to make the most of Joan because she is facing the prospect of being whisked off to a boarding school in Scotland run by a relative of her mother’s (kind of the feminine equivalent of Finding a School for William, 7.5).

As it happens, the relative has a nice little chat with Joan, at the very moment that Joan – in the character of Mrs Fawkes – had swapped clothes with her husband to allow him to escape prison. And the relative finds ‘Joan’ to be not the right sort of girl at all…

The facts

The war seemed to have altered life considerably for William. Sometimes he thought that the advantages and disadvantages cancelled each other out and sometimes he wasn’t sure… Gamekeepers had been called up and he could trespass in woods and fields with comparative impunity, but, on the other hand, sweets were scarce and cream buns unprocurable. Discipline was relaxed – at school as the result of a gradual infiltration of women teachers and at home because his father worked overtime at the office and his mother was “managing” without a cook – but these advantages were offset by a lack of entertainment in general. There were no parties, summer holidays were out of the question because of something called the Income Tax, and for the same reason pocket money, inadequate at the best of times, had faded almost to vanishing point.

  • Number: 24.5
  • Published: 1942 (1941 in magazine form) – originally titled Reluctant Hero
  • Book: William Carries On
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws launch an audacious attempt to capture Hitler himself.


William and Hubert are getting on a bit better during the war, in part because Hubert is dim enough to believe William’s invented tales of Robert’s military prowess (including that he personally captured Hess: “They keep him a second lieutenant just to put the Germans off the scent”).

Yet Hubert is still not averse to a little chicanery, so when a cousin and friend visit to stay with the Lanes, and it turns out that the friend has an extraordinary resemblance to Adolf Hitler, Hubert decides to tell William a story of his own.

“I’ll have a jolly good laugh at him to-morrow,” said William to himself. “I’ll have a jolly good…”
His mouth dropped open. His eyes goggled. For at the side door appeared a figure long familiar to him from photographs and caricatures. It was bareheaded. The short moustache, the dark lank forelock, the pallid morose face…
“Gosh!” gasped William, going suddenly weak at the knees. “Gosh! It’s him!”
And, without stopping to consider anything further, he turned to flee as if the whole of the Gestapo were at his heels.

Once William is totally convinced that Hitler is a guest in his village, he is eternally grateful when Robert comes home on leave – a chance for Robert to be a (genuine) hero with the whole world watching.

Turns out that William isn’t so good at helping the war effort as he supposes!