By Doug Trench, Defence Editor
Plans to bring in Dad’s Army to man Ipswich fire station during next week’s firefighter strike have been ridiculed – after the Suffolk Gazette exposed their chaotic training session.
Our undercover Defence Editor, Doug Trench, watched as the members of Walmington-on-Sea’s Home Guard underwent an exercise at Suffolk’s Fire and Rescue HQ in Ipswich. We make no apologies for printing the whole sorry episode below…
CAPT. MAINWARING: Get the men to fall in, Wilson.
SGT. WILSON: Certainly, sir. I say, everyone. Would you mind awfully stepping into line in front of the fire engine? Thank you so much.
The platoon shuffle nervously in front of the gleaming red engine.
CAPT. MAINWARING: Do hurry up, Wilson. We haven’t got all day.
SGT. WILSON: I do apologise, sir. Really I do. It’s just that the fire engine looks dreadfully difficult to operate.
CAPT. MAINWARING: Nonsense. Even Godfrey’s sister Dolly could drive it.
The men fall into line in front of Suffolk Fire Service’s prized engine.
CAPT. MAINWARING: Now listen up, men. The people of Suffolk need our help, and it’s our responsibility to give it to them. Next Wednesday, the local firefighters are going on strike about their pension entitlements.
CORP. JONES: Don’t panic! Don’t panic!
CAPT. MAINWARING: Oh, do be quiet, Jones.
CORP. JONES: I’m sorry, Captain Mainwaring. But fires are very dangerous things, you know. Those thatched Suffolk cottages just don’t like it up ’em.
CAPT. MAINWARING: Yes, all right, Jones. But we’re a highly-trained fighting force. We’re more than a match for the Germans, so we’ll be professional about this as well.
SGT. WILSON: Excuse me, sir.
CAPT. MAINWARING: What is it now, Wilson?
SGT. WILSON: Well it’s only that I was wondering who will be driving the fire engine for us?
CAPT. MAINWARING: Good question, Wilson, but one I was about to address, if only you’d give me a moment. Private Pike..
PTE. PIKE: Oh, thank you Mr Mainwaring. I’ve always wanted to…
CAPT. MAINWARING: It won’t be you. You can’t even drive yet. Stupid boy!
PTE. PIKE: But Uncle Arthur said I could have a go. My mum will be very cross…
CAPT. MAINWARING: Be quiet, Pike. I believe Private Walker is the right man for the job. Private Walker?
Private Walker is not on parade, but suddenly steps out from the firefighters’ changing rooms.
PTE. WALKER: ‘Ere, anyone want to buy a watch?
CAPT. MAINWARING: What? Get a grip, Walker. These are desperate times. We need to be drilled in answering emergency calls. This is no time for your questionable enterprise.
SGT. WILSON: Actually, Mr Walker, that silver one looks rather appealing. I wonder how much you….
CAPT. MAINWARING: Wilson! Remember where you are. Do I have to do everything myself? Walker, put the watches back in the firefighters’ lockers, and get into the fire engine driving seat.
Private Walker climbs aboard the fire engine, but struggles to start it.
PTE. GODFREY: Excuse me, Captain Mainwaring…
CAPT. MAINWARING: Yes, what is it, Godfrey?
PTE. GODFREY: Well it’s just that my sister Dolly made some exceptional upside-down cakes and I thought it would be a jolly nice idea if we offered some to the nice firemen?
CAPT. MAINWARING: Don’t be ridiculous, man. It’s their fault we’re here in the first place. Leave those cakes in my car and I’ll deal with them later. Now, Walker, give the engine another go.
Private Walker manages to start the fire engine… and it immediately lurches foward and smashes into Captain Mainwaring’s car. The platoon falls about laughing.
CAPT. MAINWARING: Silence! Walker you fool. Look what you’ve done.
Just then the emergency siren goes off in the fire station. It’s a 999 call about a house fire in Ipswich.
PTE. FRAZER: We’re all doomed. Aye, we’ve crashed the fire engine and Ipswich on fire. We’re doomed, I tell ya.
CAPT. MAINWARING: Nonsense, Frazer. They’ll just have to get the real army in to help.
CORP. JONES: Don’t panic!
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