Dad’s Virus

Bassman, Going Postal
Home Guard soldiers training with a Blacker Bombard anti-tank mortar in May 1943. The mortar is mounted on a concrete pillar in a pre-prepared pit; of which around 18,000 were dug
War Office official photographer, Taylor (Lt) / Public domain

Music fades. Captain Mainwaring is in his chair at the Church Hall office. Frowns as he looks at the important-looking document in front of him. Sgt Wilson sidles in…


Sgt Wilson: “Good evening, sir. I must say it’s very lovely out there. Warm, and the birds are…”

Capt Mainwaring: “Never mind all that, Wilson. Are the men all here?

Sgt Wilson: “I can’t say I noticed. If you want, I could go and look…?

Capt Mainwaring: “Not now. Listen to this. A top secret message from HQ. Seems there’s an epidemic going to sweep the country. You know what effect that could have on the war effort?”

Sgt Wilson: “Oh dear. Sounds awful.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Awful, Wilson? It’s a catastrophe. Our brave fighting men struck down just when the Hun is pulling out all the stops.”

Sgt Wilson; “Yes, terribly poor show, sir. But what on earth can we do about it?”

Capt Mainwaring: “Typical of you, Wilson. What can we do? We can put ourselves in the front line of the battle. Get the men together, Wilson.”

Sgt Wilson: ” What? Er, oh yes.” (Saunters out)


The Platoon is lined up. Sgt Wilson brings them langorously to attention. Cpl Jones a split-second late.


Capt Mainwaring: “At ease, men.” (Jones late). ‘Now look here, men: we’re on a sticky wicket and the country needs us to act fast. We’ve been informed that there’s an epidemic poised to sweep the nation, and I don’t have to spell out the consequences of that to you.”

Pte Fraser: “Epidemic he says. It’ll mean the end for us.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Quiet Fraser. This is no time for your scare-mongering – and stop rolling your eyes.”

Pte Pike: “Please, Mr Mainwaring: I don’t like the sound of that. I had whooping cough once and it lasted ages.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Stop whining, boy, and pull yourself together. We’ve no time to mollycoddle you. Now, HQ has allocated certain duties to this platoon, and I’m going to make sure that we carry them out to the letter.” (Grumbling in the ranks.)

Cpl Jones: ” Permission to speak, sir. I’d like to volunteer for all those duties.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Yes, very good, Jones, but I haven’t told you what they are.” (Produces HQ message). “Now listen carefully. In order to prevent panic and to stop the epidemic from spreading, a curfew will be imposed on all civilians, and it’s our job to make sure that people obey the instructions. We will therefore undertake patrols of the town to ensure that people remain indoors.” (General hubbub)

Sgt Wilson: “All right, calm down everyone for heaven’s sake.”

Capt Mainwaring: “We’re going to need your van Jones, and once we’ve drawn up a roster we can start at once.”

Cpl Jones: “I shall be honoured to provide it just as soon as I’ve finished the meat round tomorrow.”

Capt Mainwaring: “I don’t think you understand, Jones: our task begins at once. I’m afraid the van is now requisitioned.” (More grumbling) “Now, one important point is that we are instructed to wear our gas masks on the patrols so that we don’t catch whatever the germ is. Wilson – check the men’s gas masks.”

Sgt Wilson: “Yes, very good, sir. Right, come along  – all of you produce your masks.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Yours first, Wilson.”

Sgt Wilson: “I’m afraid that’s awfully inconvenient, sir. I had to leave mine at home as Mrs Pike has mislaid hers.”

Capt Mainwaring: “You should be on a charge for that, Wilson. Anyone else?

Pte Godfrey: “I’m, I’m afraid I had to leave mine at home, too, Captain Mainwaring. My sister Dolly’s cat was breathing very noisily and I thought the mask might do it some good.”

Pte Pike: ” I’ve got mine, Mr Mainwaring, but it’s got a hole in the rubber pipe where my penknife slipped as I was whittling a catapult.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Good grief…”

Pte Walker: “I may be able to help, Captain Mainwaring. I know a geezer who can knock out a few extra gas masks dirt cheap – say five bob each.”

Capt Mainwaring: “We don’t want any of your black marketing stolen goods round here, Walker.”

Pte Walker: “Please yourself, but if you change your mind…”

Pte Fraser: “Ho’d on a minute there, yon Mainwaring: are ye no’ forgettin’ that people have to leave their houses to get tae the air-raid shelter?”

Pte Pike: ” I don’t want mum to be stuck in the house when the bombs drop, Mr Mainwaring.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Stop blubbing, boy. Of course, we shall have to use our discretion when it comes to matters like that…”

Pte Godfrey: “Sometimes my sister sleepwalks in her dreams and goes into the garden. Will she be arrested? I shouldn’t like that to happen.”

Capt Mainwaring: “I’m sure we’ll cope with that, Godfrey. Now, if..”


Air Raid Warden Hodges comes clattering in noisily.

Hodges: “‘Ere, Napoleon, what’s these rumours flying about that we’re all going to be stuck indoors?”

Sgt Wilson: “Oh do sling your hook, Hodges, there’s a good fellow.”

Hodges: “No I won’t sling my hook. I want answers. How do you expect reserved occupations like me and my men to carry on if you’re swanning around like prison officers.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Keep a civil tongue in your head, Hodges. We’ll be doing work of national importance and I haven’t got time for your prattling. Wilson – get him out of here.”

Sgt Wilson: “Come on, now, Hodges, do clear off.”

Hodges: “Get your hands off me. I’m not having this, Napoleon. You haven’t got a clue how to maintain the blackout. And…and you haven’t got any stirrup pumps.”

Capt Mainwaring: ‘We’ll be requisitioning those, so you see, you’ll be redundant when we get this operation under way. Think yourself lucky: you’ll be able to put your feet up while we get on with the important work.”

Hodges (incoherent with rage): “You’ll be sorry for this, Napoleon. We’ll see about it. I’m off to see the vicar.”

Cpl Jones: “Let me march him out with my bayonet, Captain Mainwaring: they don’t like it up ’em.” (Hodges flees, wailing “Ruddy hooligans!”)


Capt Mainwaring: “Very good Jones.. Now, Wilson, carry on with the gas mask inspection while I get on with drawing up the roster.”


(Mr Yeatman the verger bustles in self-importantly.)


Yeatman: “What’s going on with Mr Hodges? He seems very upset. I may have to inform His Reverence about this: he won’t be happy if you’ve been bullying him.”

Pte Walker (taking crafty drag on a contraband cigarette): “Yeah, that’s right. You go running to squeal on us to the vicar.”

Capt Mainwaring: “Now look here, Yeatman, we’re engaged in duties of the highest importance, and I simply haven’t got time to waste on your trivial nonsense.”

Yeatman: “Nonsense! I might remind you that these are church premises, and it’s the Lord’s work that comes first round here.”

Capt Mainwaring: “There is a war on, you know. Tell the vicar he’ll be holding no more services or mothers’ meetings until I give the say-so.”

Yeatman: ” We’ll see what His Reverence has to say about that.” (Scurries off.)


Capt Mainwaring (sighs deeply): “If I could just get on with this roster.”

Pte Pike: “I can’t do it tonight, Mr Mainwaring. Mum’s cooking a special Lord Woolton pie…”

Pte Walker:  “I’ve got a hot date at the pictures later.”

Pte Fraser: “Count me out, Captain Mainwaring. I’m measuring up for a funeral…”

Pte Godfrey: “And my sister Dolly’s baking an upside-down cake…”

Cpl Jones: “I need the van to collect the meat ration from the market. There’s brisket tonight”

Sgt Wilson: “I’m awfully sorry, sir. You see, I was rather hoping to have some of that special pie myself. We haven’t had enough vegetables for ages and you can’t get them in the shops…”


The chatter merges into a background noise. Mainwaring removes his spectacles, puts a hand up to his forehead, and slowly shakes his head.


Cue music.


© Bassman 2020

The Goodnight Audio file