grown-ups shown to be hypocrites

The facts

Ginger went to peep at the Auxiliary Fire Service. “They’re doin’ drill,” he said when he returned.
“All right,” said William. “We’ll drill too.”
For the rest of the morning William’s band of AFS followed the procedure of the mother branch next door.
Ginger was sent round at frequent intervals to report any change in the programme. “They’re cleanin’ the trailers now.”
And at once the Outlaws set to work upon the wheelbarrow, turning it upside down and dusting it with handkerchiefs already so grubby from various other activities that a little dirt more or less made no difference.
“They’re squirtin’ their hose now.”
And at once the Outlaws took down the bucket of water and set to work with the garden syringe.
Passers-by looked with amusement at the four boys busily intent on imitating their neighbours, but the Outlaws were too much occupied to have any time to spare for passers-by… If Section Officer Perkins knew of this caricature of his dignified proceedings taking place on the other side of the garage wall, he gave no signs of it. His face still wore its expression of portentous self-importance.

  • Number: 23.4
  • Published: 1941 (1940 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: The Outlaws join the Auxiliary Fire Service – without its knowledge.


When William’s request to join the local Auxiliary Fire Service is turned down, he organises the Outlaws into their own detachment and closely mimics the activities of the real branch.

But he knows that they will only achieve true glory when they find and successfully extinguish a fire before the grown-up branch of the AFS.

The village appears stubbornly free of fires however (to the equal chagrin of the Outlaws and of the ‘grown-ups’) – until the Outlaws find, and successfully extinguish, a fire in the home of the Real AFS’s most smug and objectionable member, Section Officer Perkins.

“Gosh!” said William at last, irritably. “You’d think with all these people there’d be a fire somewhere. Wouldn’t do ’em any harm to let us have a little one,” he muttered pathetically. “Mean, I call it.”
“Well, they don’t want fires,” Ginger reminded him mildly.
“No, but… well, you wouldn’t think a little one’d do ’em any harm. I mean, when you read of all the fires there are in the newspapers it seems sort of mean of ’em to start bein’ careful just when we’re lookin’ for one.”
“S’pose we couldn’t start one ourselves,” suggested Douglas.

He is of course hugely embarrassed by the whole thing, especially when his Dad’s Army-style rivals in the professional fire brigade turn up and establish that the cause of the conflagration was his own failure properly to put out a cigarette.


The facts

The journey was fairly uneventful. He annoyed an old gentleman by playing on a mouth-organ that he had brought with him to while away the time, and an old lady by passing continually from one window to the other, always treading on her toes on the way and never failing to apologise profusely. On one occasion he leant so far out of the window that he nearly overbalanced and had to be hauled back to safety by the combined efforts of the entire carriage.
Aunt Florence was at the station to meet him. She did not fail to notice the look of relief on the faces of his fellow travellers as he leapt exuberantly out on to the platform, followed by his suitcase, which he had forgotten and which the old gentleman threw out after him with what seemed unnecessary violence.

  • Number: 23.3
  • Published: 1941 (1940 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William ruins two men’s vegetables.


While Mrs Brown recuperates from a sprained ankle, William is sent away to aid her recovery.

Aunt Florence somewhat reluctantly receives him, though even her acid tongue is rendered speechless when William announces: “Why, they didn’t want me to come away ’cause I’m such a help, but I’d got a bit overworked an’ they thought a holiday’d do me good.”

Aunt Florence’s locale is atwitter with the excitement of the local Flower Show, at which Colonel Summers and Mr Foulard are perennial and bitter rivals in the peach contest and in the asparagus contest.

One of William’s first acts, on arrival, is to make Colonel Summers’s acquaintance by semi-intentionally eating all of his prize-winning peaches. Colonel Summers is livid, but Mr Foulard is so grateful that, positivly brimming with schadenfreude, he forgives William for beating up his grandson: “Boys will be boys,” he tells the little lad’s enraged mother.

Unfortunately, the second round of their fight takes place in amongst Mr Foulard’s prize asparagus. Mr Foulard fires off a furious letter to William’s father, but Colonel Summers’s attitude has mellowed somewhat: “Boys will be boys…”

Aunt Florence looked at him helplessly. “I simply can’t understand it, William,” she said. “Can’t you move without damaging people’s property?”
“Haven’t you enjoyed havin’ me?” said William pathetically.
“No,” said his aunt simply. “I didn’t expect to.”

Unfortunately, when leaving Colonel Summers’s house, William leaves the gate open and thus allows a passing herd of cattle to trample his prize asparagus.

Mr Foulard, safe in the knowledge that his rival now has no vegetables whatsoever to exhibit in the Flower Show, smiles upon William.

But in a final twist, the war intervenes in an unexpected way to leave both men happy. William’s father is baffled by the succession of contradictory letter’s he’s received; but all’s well that ends well.

hyThe facts

William’s pocket money was mortgaged for a month to pay for the crockery he had broken while training to be a juggler. “Well, they’ve all gotter learn , haven’t they?” he had protested, when sentence was passed on him. “Gosh! D’you think jugglers can throw up plates like that without practisin’? D’you think they’re born throwin’ up plates like that? They’ve gotter break a few plates an’ things practisin’. Stands to reason… Well , how’m I goin’ to earn my livin’ bein’ a juggler when I’m grown up if you won’t let me practise? Anyone ’d think you didn’t want me to earn my livin’ when I’m grown up. It’s gain’ to be jolly expensive to you keepin’ me all my life , just ’cause you won’t ever let me start practisin’ to earn my livin’ jugglin’…”

  • Number: 22.7
  • Published: 1940 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William and the Evacuees
  • Synopsis: William wants a tin hat; and Robert has a competitor.


William, envious of the tin hats that every other boy in the village seems to own, tries to gain permission to borrow Robert’s.

But Robert has other problems on his hands, because his relationship with the delightful Philippa Pomeroy (William and the Begging Letter, 21.8) is under pressure from an airy newcomer called Claude – who would, as a child, undoubtly have fallen into the ‘insufferably virtuous’ category.

For while Robert plays at soldiers with only slightly more realism than has William – his duties in the ARP seem to revolve around “battles won on
the darts board and tense moments at draughts” – Claude abounds with stories of bravery and pluck, and says he intends to ‘join up’ to the Royal Air Force as soon as possible. Philippa is enchanted (or should I say ‘fooled’).

William sat down hopefully. It was about tea time, and you generally got a jolly decent tea in other people’s houses, much better than you ever got at home. He looked from one to the other cheerfully, ready to play his social part and take his share in any conversation that might be going.
“I’m sure your friends are missing you,” said Claude.
“Yes, I ‘spect they are,” agreed William pleasantly.
There was a short silence, then Claude said: “I can’t tell you how much we enjoy having you here, but I don’t think we ought to deprive your friends any longer of the pleasure of your company.”
There was nothing subtle about William. He took
things at their face value. “Oh, no, that’s all right,” he said, flattered by the compliment. “I c’n stay here as long as you want me. I c’n stay,” hopefully, “anyway till after tea.”

This leads William to a brilliant fundraising idea, hopefully brilliant enough to net him a new tin hat: he offers to concoct some stories of bravery and pluck for Robert to tell Philippa. Robert, fairly sensibly, declines.

But then William witnesses Claude walking home in the black-out and acting in an unplucky and disbrave way; and, without for a moment losing his faith in Claude’s genuineness, accidentally and unintentionally blackmails him.