day an envelope marked OHMS fell on the mat.
Time for my appendicitis, I thought.
Christ’s sake don’t open it’, said Uncle,
prodding it with a stick.
‘Last time I did, I ended up in
Mesopotamia, chased by Turks… Weeks went by,
several more OHMS letters arrived, finally arriving
at the rate of two a day stamped URGENT.
King must think a lot of you son, writing all these
letters,’ said Mother as she humped sacks of coal
into the cellar.
One Sunday, while Mother was repainting the
house, as a treat Father opened one of the
it was a cunningly worded invitation to partake in
World War II, starting at seven and sixpence a week,
all found. ‘Just
fancy,’ said Mother as she carried Father upstairs
for his bath, ‘of all the people in England,
they’ve chosen you, it’s a great honour, Son.’
was now three months since my call-up. To celebrate I hid under the bed dressed as Florence
morning I received a card asking me to attend a
medical at the Yorkshire Grey, Eltham.
‘Son,’ said Father, ‘l think after all
you better go, we’re running out of disguises, in
any case when they see you, they’re bound to send
you home.’ The card said I was to report at 9.30
be prompt.’ I arrived prompt at 9.30 and was seen
promptly at 12.15.
We were told to strip.
This revealed a mass of pale youths with
thin, white, hairy legs.
A press photographer was stopped by the
recruiting Sergeant: ‘For Christ’s sake don’t!
If the public saw a photo of this lot
they’d pack it in straight away.’
arrived in the presence of a grey-faced, bald
do you feel?’ he said.
right,’ I said.
you feel fit?’
I walked here.’
evilly, he wrote Grade I (One) in blood red ink on
my card. ‘No
black cap?’ I said.
"It’s at the laundry,’ he replied.
The die was cast.
It was a proud day for the Milligan family as
I was taken from the house.
‘I’m too young to go,’ I screamed as
Military Policemen dragged me from my pram,
clutching a dummy.
At Victoria Station the RTO gave me a travel
warrant, a white feather and a picture of Hitler
marked ‘This is your enemy’.
I searched every compartment, but he wasn’t
on the train. At
4.30, June 2nd, 1940, on a summer’s day all
mare’s tails and blue sky we arrived at Bexhill-on-Sea,
where I got off.
It wasn’t easy.
The train didn’t stop there.
Milligan, Hitler – My Part in His Downfall
comedy extract was not meant to be taken wholly
seriously, and Spike Milligan was not the coward he
makes himself out to be; can you find the clue in
the text which tells us what really delayed
= On His Majesty’s Service.
RTO = Regimental Travel Officer