Don’t Panic! Everyone into Jones’s Van

Submitted by on Aug 16, 2019

In the hit BBC sitcom Dad’s Army for Captain Mannering, every problem had a solution. Not many of them were very good solutions of course and Sergeant Wilson’s words of “Do you think that’s awfully wise Sir?” were heard with typical regularity. One of the many problems they faced was transporting the platoon on masse places. Petrol was strictly rationed to essential vehicles and the Homefront was constantly told, “is your journey really necessary?” while the poster featured a frivolous trip that was sure to bring about the victory of the Nazis that much sooner. Mannering did not access to a truck let alone a Tank to stem the Nazi horde when they inevitably landed on Warmington-on-Sea. Mannering and the squad had to make do with the following makeshift defense.

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The only available vehicle was Corporal Jones butchers Van. This was the van that he used to make deliveries around the area his business would have been incredibly forward-thinking and much like the Slough Same Day Courier businesses such as that we see today. It was an unarmoured, simple and slow Ford Box Van from 1935 that was a very common sight on British roads. It was also Blue and Cream with Jones’s written down the side. It’s hard to see how it would have stood up to a Tiger tank for more than about 3 seconds not being protected or camouflaged at all. If the Germans had invaded its hard to see how it would have gone well for the boys. Jones drilled holes in the side to allow for firing and in one memorable bayonet practice scene, they puncture the gas bag he is using to fuel the van only for it to come to a stop.

It was though, all that they could call upon. After the British expeditionary force had been forced to leave behind most of its equipment in France after the retreat from Dunkirk. The country was working flat out to train newly enlisted men, make Hurricanes, Spitfires, and Tanks ready to defend the island if the need arose. It certainly looked that way as the Nazis gathered their forces in France for Operation Sea Lion. What was needed was a stopgap. Something that could slow down the enemy advance should they come even if it was only for a few hours. The Home Guard was formed to fulfill that role. These were hardy veterans of not just the First World War but, in Jones case the Boer and even Sudan conflicts and also those not yet young enough to be enlisted or those medically unable. Jones was over 65 and technically wouldn’t have been allowed to join as the Guard age range was Sixteen to Sixty Five.

Luckily the Home Guard was never needed, which is a good thing as it would have gone very badly for them and with the Blitzkrieg of the German Army against them, it is hard to see how these doughty but under-supported units would have fared. No doubt they would have fought bravely and done their best.

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