Sunday, 3 October 2010
Sgt. Wilson's motorbike (part one)...
Dad’s Army – Sergeant Wilson’s motorbike
(Walmington Home Guard (Vicar’s) Office. Captain Mainwaring is writing at his desk. He looks up at Sgt. Wilson.)
Capt. Mainwaring: “You feeling alright Wilson? You look distinctly pale! Anything wrong”?
Sgt. Wilson (mopping brow): “Yes I’m fine Sir, I really am - just a little - er - fraught at the moment”.
Capt. Mainwaring: (leaning back in his chair and fiddling with a pencil): “Oh? Really? Fraught? You can –er - tell me you know, I’m your friend and confidante as well as your commanding officer”!
Sgt. Wilson: “Yes I know Sir, that’s very good of you to enquire, but I assure you, I’ll be alright very soon”.
Capt. Mainwaring: (pausing, then leaning forward): “Wilson, I need you to help me run this Platoon. If you’re wandering around in a daze, it does nothing for the morale of the men, and I can’t have that”!
Sgt. Wilson: “Yes I know Sir - well - , there is something actually - er - don’t you know".
Capt. Mainwaring: (triumphantly) “I thought as much! I’m not an Officer and a bank manager for nothing you know! I earned these positions! (points to his right epaulette) Now come on, out with it; tell me what this is all about”!
Sgt. Wilson (resignedly and running fingers through his hair): “Well you see Sir, it’s like this - er - I’ve - er - lost my motorbike”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “Lost your motorbike? What on earth happened? There’s a war on, you can’t just lose a motorbike”!
Sgt. Wilson: (waving his arm) “Well it’s gone, and I don’t know where it is at all. It’s all very distressing”.
Capt. Mainwaring: “Well where did you lose it then? Outside the bank? In Eastbourne? Where man”!
Sgt. Wilson: “Well it’s all a little embarrassing Sir, because it was parked outside Frank Pike’s house”.
Capt. Mainwaring: (leaning back in his chair and looking slightly bemused): “Pike’s house? But why, he’s been away hasn’t he? I gave ‘C’ Section 48 hours leave! When did you lose it then”?
Sgt. Wilson: “Last Sunday, you gave us the weekend off, yes, and Private Sponge took over the watch at Beachy Head”.
Capt. Mainwaring: “But how long were you there; half an hour, an hour? Not long enough for a thief to call by is it”?
Sgt. Wilson: “Well it was a little longer than that Sir”!
Capt. Mainwaring: (pompously and losing his patience) “Wilson, as your Commanding Officer, I have to know! This is serious, and I don’t want the police coming round here asking questions! It might impinge on the bank, and there’d be hell to pay! How long were you there”?
Sgt. Wilson: “Well, it was actually all weekend Sir”! (looks away in embarrassment)
Capt. Mainwaring: “What; all Saturday and Sunday? For God’s sake man, what did you get up to for all that time?
Sgt. Wilson: “Well Mavis – Mrs Pike, needed some work done around the house. She needed an extra pair of hands, taking a few things down, and putting things – er - up, you know - and I – er - said I’d help out”.
Capt. Mainwaring: “Why couldn’t Pike do it then; he’s mended a few things at the bank, and knows a little about carpentry, well, what he learned at school that is – probably better at that than financial matters”.
Sgt. Wilson: “Well Sir, he wasn’t there was he; he was away at camp with the Scouts".
Capt. Mainwaring: (beginning to understand at last) “Oooooooh I see! Hmmm. Look Wilson, er - I’m a man of the world, but this has got to stop you know! We’re a finely honed fighting force, ready to take on Hitler’s hordes, and we can’t carry out our duties if half the platoon is – er - carrying on this way”!
Sgt. Wilson: “I know Sir, but Mrs Pike was desperate for someone to see to her curtain rails. The blackout curtains were only nailed up by Pike, and were letting in the light! Warden Hodges had been very rude and threatened her with arrest! He’s an awful man I know, but he was always looking for lights showing through. He spent a long time peering though the gaps with that awful grin of his! So, anyway, she asked me round to help”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “Well, it doesn’t take that long to fit a few curtains, let alone what else you got up to! And, oh my God, I’ve just realised; there’s another problem! Was your motorbike disabled while you were – er –er – putting things up inside her house”?
Sgt. Wilson: “No, I lost the ignition key years ago, so I use a paperclip”!
Capt. Mainwaring: (fuming) “A paperclip! This is disastrous Wilson! It could have been a Nazi spy poking around! HQ will ask questions and I won’t have any answers! You’ve done it this time man”!
Sgt Wilson: (fiddling with a piece of paper on the desk) “Yes Sir, I know, I’m terribly sorry Sir, it’s all very worrying”.
(there’s a knock on the door which opens and Cpl. Jones marches into the room and salutes into various directions, eventually facing Capt. Mainwaring. He salutes him twice, and then salutes Sgt. Wilson, does a complete turn, looks bewildered, starts for the door again, realises he’s facing the wrong way and returns to face Capt. Mainwaring).
Cpl. Jones “The men are fell in Sir and awaiting your countenance with expectancy”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes thank you Corporal, return to the ranks and we’ll be out shortly”!
Cpl. Jones “Right Sir, thank you Sir”! (starts saluting everywhere again and eventually reaches the door, and goes out to the hall)
Capt. Mainwaring: (thoughtfully, after a long pause) “Listen Wilson, I’m going to stick my neck out for you”.
Sgt. Wilson: “Oh, that’s awfully kind of you Sir; what do you have in mind”?
Capt. Mainwaring: “I’m going to get the platoon out on patrol and look for it! Simple as that! What sort of motorbike is it”?
Sgt. Wilson: “It’s a BSA Sir. A lovely 500cc machine, I bought it from the Post Office Garage for £4.7s.6d before the war! It’s very fast. We drove at nearly fifty miles an hour on the Old Downs road near Eastbourne last summer”!
Capt. Mainwaring: (smugly) “Oh yes? Fancy yourself as a latter day Lawrence of Arabia don’t you? Tearing round the country at high speed, with hair blowing in the wind! You public school people are always trying to get one over us chaps who had it hard”!
Sgt. Wilson: “Oh come, come Sir, it’s only a motorbike, not a Rolls Royce; (regretfully) although my governess used to take me out in the family Rolls saloon on picnics when I was very small”!
Capt. Mainwaring: (wistfully and not listening, and fiddling with a pencil) “Elizabeth didn’t ever like riding on a motorbike you know. She was a skilled horsewoman when she was a young girl you see. She said that it was unnatural sitting astride something that throbbed like that”! (stares at nothing out of the window)
Sgt. Wilson: “Well I don’t want to cause any trouble you know Sir, but if anyone’s seen it, I’d like it back at some stage”.
Capt. Mainwaring: “Trust me Wilson, I’ll get to the bottom of this! Fall the men in”!
(The Drill Hall. The Platoon is standing at ease)
Sgt. Wilson: “Platoon! Platoon ‘shun! Bit quicker Jonesy, if you can”.
Capt. Mainwaring: “Now listen men, I have to report a very serious matter, which will need all our skills and local knowledge”!
Cpl. Jones: “Permission to speak Sir”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes Jones, what is it”?
Cpl. Jones: “I would like to volunteer my skills, and local knowledge, for your serious matter Sir”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “But you don’t know what I want to ask yet Jones! This involves National Security! We may have to be asked to explain ourselves at High Command”!
Cpl. Jones: “Then I’d like to volunteer to not know what you need local skills and knowledge for Sir”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “Jones – er - just wait a moment will you, (aside) Wilson, I have to tell them a little more you know, just be prepared to answer – er – any questions as you see fit”!
Pte. Frazer “Permission to speak Sir, if it’s anything to do with the hearse being parked on the crossroads; that was my fault! It ran out of petrol and I’ve run out of coupons”!
Pte. Walker “I can let you have some Taffy! Cost you five bob, no questions asked".
Capt. Mainwaring: “Walker! Frazer! That’s enough! No, it’s not about that, although – er - parking has got something to do with it”! (Looks haughtily at Wilson, and sniffs) There you see Wilson, I knew I’d get the men round to the subject in hand pretty quickly, its leadership you know! (To all) Now listen men, I have a delicate matter to discuss with you, and it has to stay within these four walls. (everyone cranes to listen to the announcement) One of our essential pieces of fighting equipment has gone missing”.
Cpl. Jones: “Permission to speak Sir”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes Jones, What is it”?
Cpl. Jones: “I’d like to volunteer to search for our missing vital, important and essential equipment Sir”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes thank you Jones, we may need your van at some stage, but everyone must take this information very seriously. Now gather round please, we don’t want Hodges or any of the Vicar’s staff listening in”.
(everyone crowds round Capt. Mainwaring and he emerges with glasses askew and in general disarray).
Cpl. Jones: (from the bottom of the scrum) “The men are gathered round in secret Sir”!
Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes I’d noticed Jones! Now men, (quietly) Sergeant Wilson has had his motorbike stolen”!
(There is an embarrassed hush, followed by a few of the platoon muttering and looking at each other with questioning faces).
Pte. Frazer “Well Sir, so what”?
Capt. Mainwaring: “So What Frazer? This is a huge problem for us all! These vehicles are a major part of our armoury, and we are responsible for everything within our control, which can be used in the event of invasion”!
Pte. Pike “Is that the motorbike that you and Mum ride about on Uncle Arthur”?
Sgt. Wilson: “Yes it is Frank, have you seen it”?
Pte. Pike “No, but when you come round for your tea, Mum always asks me to put it round the back, so it won’t get seen”!
Sgt. Wilson: (hastily) “Yes Frank but this time it was out on the road”!
Pte. Pike “But I didn’t see it, did you see it Mr Godfrey”?
Capt. Mainwaring: “Er – Pike, just be told that it was near your house when it went missing”!
Pte. Godfrey “My sister Dolly used to have a motorbike with a sidecar. It was Rudge Sports. She called it Boadicea, and we used to keep a posy of wild flowers in a little metal cup attached to the sidecar’s windscreen”.
Cpl. Jones “When we were in the Sudan, we used to have despatch riders on Royal Enfields. And one day, one appeared on the horizon in a cloud of dust, and we could see him from about three miles away! And we saw him getting closer and closer, and all the time, the dust cloud was getting bigger and bigger, until just a few yards away from us, he vanished from sight”!
Pte. Walker “What happened then Jonesy”?
Cpl. Jones “He drove straight into our trench and killed himself”!
...to be continued.