William Does His Bit

The facts

“I say,” said William, “why shu’nt we start makin’ sweets an’ sell ’em to the sweetshops?”
The prospect was a roseate one. Too roseate, they felt, for reality. Henry voiced the obvious objection. “You’ve gotter have special machinery for makin’ sweets. They make ’em in factories.”
“You can make ’em at home all right,” said William.
“How d’you make ’em?” said Ginger.
“Oh, you jus’… sort of mix things up together,” said William vaguely.

  • Number: 23.10
  • Published: 1941 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William encounters a bully.

Verdict

The words “Look here,” said William, “let’s put the sardines in an’ call the whole thing Sardine Toffee. The sardines’ll give it a more def’nite taste than it’s got now” at the start of this story almost put me off from reading on, but I pulled myself together and continued…

A visiting lecturer in Child Psychology is anxious to find a nice gentle companion to introduce to her son Claude. She fondly imagines Claude to be a paragon of manliness and a good, toughening influence on every other child with whom he happens to come into contact.

Due to a misunderstanding of alarming magnitude, she gets the impression that William is a nice gentle boy, and so arranges with Mrs Brown for him and Claude to spend some time together at her home.

“William’s so much quieter and gentler than Claude,” Mrs Dayford said.
Mrs Brown tried to imagine Claude, and her imagination boggled at the task.

As it turns out, William does make an impact on the horrible bully that is Claude… and probably a positive one at that.

The facts

William wandered thoughtfully down the village street. After much consideration he had come to the conclusion that he wasn’t doing enough to win the war. It was not that he didn’t want to. It was that people wouldn’t let him.
He couldn’t think why the many letters he had addressed to “The Guvnment London” offering his services as a spy and suggesting various ingenious devices for trapping tanks and submarines, had remained unanswered. True, he had not stamped them, but he had adorned the envelopes with the phrase “on His Majesty’s Survise” written round and round the envelope in circles and
occupying all the space not taken up by the actual address.
He had written to several newspapers, urging that education was a waste of public money in the present crisis and that all schools should be closed, and the masters sent to work in the coal mines, but to his great disappointment none had been published.
He had experimented with charcoal, sulphur and saltpetre in the greenhouse, hoping to discover some new explosive, but the only results had been a wrecked greenhouse, several minor injuries and the docking of his pocket-money for months to come. He thought bitterly of the different treatment accorded to other scientists who had risked their lives in such research. “What about that man that ‘sperimented with magnetic mines?” he demanded indignantly. “I bet no one stopped his pocket-money.”

  • Number: 23.9
  • Published: 1941 (1940 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William alters some signage to confuse the Nazis.

Verdict

When William sees the removal of local road signs (a genuine wartime measure intended to make it difficult for Nazi troops to navigate should they make it to England – which somehow seems so ridiculous that even William could have thought of it) he suggests that the plan be slightly adjusted so that the signs are swapped instead of removed, not only impeding the Germans’ progress but actively frustrating it. (“Or else put up ‘Egypt’ or ‘Russia’ or somethin’ to make ’em think they’ve come to the wrong country? Put a bit of sand about to make it look like Egypt or stick beards on to people to make it look like Russia.”)

When his suggestion is spurned, he decides to put it into practice himself, by swapping the nameplates of two local houses: Heather Bank and Laurel Bank.

It just so happens that Robert is ‘crazy on’ Dulcie, who lives at Laurel Bank; and, moreover, the two gentlemen owners of the two properties are sworn mortal enemies.

The one is a fanatical grower of vegetables; the other of flowers. The one is determined to rip out all the pathetic flowers from his garden; the other, to expunge the unwanted vegetables from his.

William assumed his famous expression of bland bewilderment. “Laurel Bank?” he said. “Where’s Laurel Bank?”
“My goodness!” said the exasperated Robert. “Don’t you know where Laurel Bank is? Are you blind?”
“Well, not quite,” admitted William, “but I was saying to Father the other day that my eyes weren’t too good an’ I thought if I stopped at home from school a bit it’d give ’em a rest. P’raps,” he ended hopefully, “if you’d tell him so, too…”
Robert strode from the room with an ejaculation of
impatience.

Unfortunately they each hire an out-of-town tradesman to do the job, and each tradesman relies on local signage to find the garden he is to mutilate…

The facts

They were passing a stile leading to a path over the field which was blocked by a large notice, “Unexploded Bomb”.
The notice had been there for the past three weeks and at first the Outlaws had spent the greater part of each day standing in front of it and trying to circumvent the policeman whose duty it was to guard the path, in order to make closer investigation.
However, it was now known that the unexploded bomb was a “dud”.
“It would be a dud,” said William morosely as they passed. “We never have any luck!”

  • Number: 23.8
  • Published: 1941 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: Mrs Bott refuses to Dig for Victory.

Verdict

William may be enjoying the war immensely, but Mrs Bott is finding it a pain. The shortage of smoked salmon; the rising price of bacon; and now, to add one more trouble to her already overburdened brain, the villagers are demanding that she open up the palatial grounds of The Hall as allotments supplying England with much-needed vegetables.

Mrs Bott is having none of it: “As for veggies, me an’ Botty never ’ave cared for ’em. Rather ’ave somethin’ tasty any day. I tell you, it’d fair take my appetite away to see a lot of common people diggin’ whenever I looked out of the winder.”

“I’d rather be a p’liceman than have to do all the rotten ole homework we have to do,” said Ginger. “Gosh! They don’t know what work is, don’t p’licemen – jus’ goin for nice walks all day same as if they was on holiday. Gosh! I wish I’d nothing to do all day but go for nice walks about the country, same as a policeman, ’stead of wearin’ my brain outover sums an’ suchlike…”

William also has a problem: his conscience is troubling him, because he knows that his (unintentional) destruction of Mrs Beverton’s tasteful exhibition of bits of German aeroplanes in William – the Salvage Collector, 23.7, deprived the Spitfire Fund of desperately-needed income. So he resolves to put together his own exhibition to make up for it.

The first artefact that William and Ginger discover on their optimistic ramble is a large sign warning ‘Unexploded Bomb’, which they hastily abstract from its rightful owner and dump by the roadside pending the arrival of Henry and Douglas to help with the lifting. The precise piece of roadside on which they dump it happens to form the gates to The Hall.

What follows is amusing but, sadly, predictable, and a close mirror of William and the Air Raid Shelter, 22.5.

Innuendo note: Mrs Bott appears to be a precursor to Mrs Slocombe when the story ends with the words, “Well! I oughter be safe for a bit now – pussy an’ all.”