With my tale – Doug's War – in The People's Friend this week I thought I would give the story behind the story.
It's all about my dad, Douglas Havers, and just like the setting in the story he was a Norfolk lad, born and raised in a tiny village called Syderstone a few miles north of Fakenham.
It is true that his desire to enlist in the navy was thwarted by the fact that he worked on the land and was therefore in a reserved occupation. When he was finally accepted into the armed forces he was put into the infantry. This was a little disconcerting as prolonged marching was painful due to him having part of his leg bone removed as a child. He had contracted some sort of infection which affected his fibula. However, like many others, he just got on with it.
I've probably exaggerated his mischievous pranks but the incident with the school bell is true. The real reason for him being let out early was because he could simultaneously rub his belly with one hand and pat himself on the head with the other. A trivial skill you might think but apparently it impressed the teacher.
It was dad's younger brother, my uncle Frank who told me about the vicar being the LVD captain, unlike in Dad's Army where they are two different characters. It was him that told me about the firecracker incident too. I have a photograph of the whole platoon with the vicar/captain centre stage minus dog-collar.
As a footnote - I've always been a fan of Arthur Lowe, Clive Dunn etc. in Dad's Army. My dad always maintained that the programme wasn't all that far-fetched. In his view he characters portrayed and the antics they got up to were a fair reflection of real life. Still heroes though.