“Well, I don’ see why we shun’t have one, too,” said William morosely. “Grown-ups get all the fun.”
“They say it’s not fun,” said Ginger.
“Yes, they say that jus’ to put us off,” said William. “I bet it is fun all right. I bet it’d be fun if we had one, anyway. They have a jolly good time, smellin’ gases an’ bandagin’ each other an’ tryin’ on their gas masks. I bet they bounce out at each other in their gas masks, givin’ each other frights. I’ve thought of lots of games you could play with gas masks.”
- Number: 21.1
- Published: 1939 (same year in magazine form)
- Book: William and Air Raid Precautions
- Synopsis: The Outlaws form a junior branch of the ARP.
So far we’ve had stories in which William prepares for war, anticipates war, longs for war; but now there actually is a war, and William is having the time of his life. This is the first in a lengthy run of ‘William at War’ stories that give William an opportunity to imprint his personality on the home front.
In this story, the Outlaws are embittered that their youth excludes them from joining the Air Raid Precautions organisation. So Ginger makes a sign reading “AIR RADE PRECORSHUN. JUNIER BRANCH. ENTRUNCE FRE”, and they set to work.
“Ladies an’ gentl’men,” William shouted above the uproar, “will you kindly shut up an’ listen to me? I’m goin’ to tell you how to win the war.”
Some of his audience are purely there to make trouble (Arabella Simpkin), some are there in vain hope of a freebie (“A gas attack smells like pear drops… No, I’ve not got any pear drops. I never said I’d got any pear drops… I never said a bomb was made of pear drops”) but some are genuinely interested – especially in the opportunity to ‘bandage each other up’ with equipment stolen from Mrs Brown’s medicine cabinet.
This eventually breaks down in disorder, but, in a wartime re-enactment of William Clears the Slums, 16.8, William then discovers about Evacuation, and promptly evacuates two young boys into his own house, where their voices from a supposedly empty room lead Miss Milton to believe that she has become a clairvoyant.