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.
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
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…