Day 244: William Does His Bit

The facts

William had offered himself at a recruiting office in Hadley. “Can I be a drummer boy?” he said. “I can make a jolly fine noise on a drum. An aunt of mine said it made her head ache for weeks. I bet it’d scare ole Hitler off all right.”
“No vacancies for drummer boys at present,” said the sergeant.
“Well, will you let me know when there are?” said William.

  • Number: 23.1
  • Published: 1941 (1940 in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William thinks he’s found a double agent.


When William hears about “Grisling” (or, to be more precise, Quisling) he is determined to help the war effort.

By pure luck he immediately comes across two people who, he feels sure, are ‘Grissels’. Following them, he finds what is – to be fair – a genuinely suspicious scene: a huge group of uniforms huddled over a large table map, muttering demoralising untruths such as, “Fire raging in Pithurst Lane… Houses in Hill Road collapsed… Marleigh police station blown up…”

William thought they must be talking in code. Perhaps “Aren’t greens a price?” meant “Let’s kill Churchill”, and “There don’t seem to be so many lettuces about this year” meant “Heil Hitler” – or something like that.

Of course, it was obviously a military exercise, but William wasn’t to know that…