Day 258: Reluctant Heroes

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!