DAVID Norwood has been a fan of Dad's Army since he was a boy - and was determined to one day bring it to the local stage.
So when script writers David Croft and Jimmy Perry released three episodes for the amateur stage the Harlequins Players director snapped up the chance to put the show on in Northwich.
The show, at the Harlequin Theatre, Queen Street, until Saturday, has brought memories of the real Home Guard's brave defence of Mid Cheshire back into the spotlight. Its ranks included Jim Withenshaw, a former railway worker who was 16 when he joined the Acton Bridge platoon, lying about his age to do his duty.
'In some ways it was quite like Dad's Army especially the camaraderie between everyone,' said Jim, now 83. 'There was a lot of fun as well, but we never lost sight of the real reason we were there.'
'Our remit was to defend strategic points around the area such as Acton Swing Bridge, Dutton Arches and Dutton Locks - just in case the Germans mounted an attack.
'We were always ready and raring to go if needed and would sometimes get sent out on defence exercises with our neighbours from the Weaverham Home Guard.
'We had to imagine that the Germans - actually members of the Weaverham Home Guard! - were attacking and we had to go out and try and capture them. I can't remember there being winners or losers and there wasn't fake blood or anything like that - but it kept us all on our toes!'
Jim was based at the parish rooms in Acton Bridge. Drill was a regular feature of platoon life and everyone had to stand guard through the night just in case they were needed.
'In those days there were no such things as mobile phones and even telephones were few and far between so our commanders needed to know where they could contact us in a hurry. We had a rota and every so often three of us would have to stay at the parish rooms overnight in a little 6ft-square room. There was a coal fire in the winter and we could take it in turns to get some sleep, but we always had to be ready to dash out if needed.'
Jim, of Lilac Drive, Castle, spent nearly two years in the Home Guard before joining the Royal Navy then the Army. He was waiting to be dropped into Burma when war ended.
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MID Cheshire's own Dad's Army - or more precisely the 12th Cheshire (Northwich) Battalion Home Guard - was formed in May 1940 by Major H.B. Denton OBE, of Parkes Steelworks fame.
The History of the Cheshire Home Guard says Major Denton called a meeting of former servicemen and those who had registered with the police for service after war secretary Anthony Eden's speech calling the nation to arms.
More than 500 attended at the Drill Field, Northwich and Local Defence Volunteer work started immediately with the establishment of night observation posts throughout the district. Ex-servicemen with experience as instructors were enrolled to pass on their knowledge to others though because rifles were in short supply they had to be transported around the units in turn so that everyone could get an hour of weapons training.
The unit, known as 'N' company, was based in Middlewich and covered a large area of Mid Cheshire. Very soon the company had grown so much that it received Battalion status, with the new Northwich Battalion formed in July.
By the following May the 12th Cheshire (Northwich) battalion, Home Guard, consisted of six companies: A Company, Hartford and Davenham; B Company, Barnton, Great Budworth and Pickmere; C Company, Rudheath, Lostock Gralam and Wincham; D Company, Battalion HQ Northwich town; F Company, ICI factory defence with sub units at Winnington, Lostock Gralam, Wade and Plumley (later split into E and F); G Company, a rural company with platoons at Goostrey, Allostock and Cranage.
Arms training was held on ranges at Shipbrook, Anderton and Wincham, with weapons including machine guns and automatic weapons.
During the early days there were several scares and alarms including a civilian who mistook a swan landing on a local flash for paratroopers and reported it to the police. However real excitement came when a Junkers 88 crashed at Lostock Green on its way back from a raid on Liverpool. Two airmen who baled out were quickly rounded up by number 8A platoon, E company in Wincham. The body of the third crew member was found later.