Day 250: William – the Salvage Collector

The facts

“Go to sleep,” said Mrs Brown. “It’s long past your bed-time.”
Sleep?” echoed William in disgust. “I jolly well wouldn’t waste an air raid sleepin’ in it.”
He stopped and listened for a few moments. “That’s a Dornier,” he pronounced with an air of finality.
“On the contrary, it’s a cow,” said Mr Brown, without looking up from his paper.

  • Number: 23.7
  • Published: 1941 (same year in magazine form)
  • Book: William Does His Bit
  • Synopsis: William collects scrap iron.


William’s family shares its Anderson shelter with the insufferably chatty Mrs Beverton and her daughter Bella. They grate on Mr Brown’s already thin wartime temper:

“Can’t I have some chocolate?” asked William.
“Not yet.”
“I think you might let me have a bit of chocolate. I might be blown up any minute, an’ you’d be jolly sorry afterwards that you’d not let me have a bit of chocolate.”
Mr Brown glanced up from his paper. “Your nuisance value, William,” he said, “is so inestimably high that I’m sure you’re the last person in
England Hitler would wish to bomb.”

The maid entered.
“It’s that there William Brown, ’m,” she said. “He
says, thank you very much for the scrap iron an’ he’s come back for the lot he left here.”
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!” groaned Mrs. Brown. “I had a feeling all along that William was at the bottom of it.”

William finds the Bevertons a little irritating too, but he is excited to overhear Mrs Beverton’s prattle about how important it is that people gather scrap iron to help the war effort.

What follows is a brilliant Williamesque chain of events taking in an exhibition, Miss Milton, Mrs Monks, cross-purposes and many more classics.