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Family History - You Must Remember This

Another perk was spending time in town in an official capacity. This contribution to the war effort helped foster public relations and gave the boys a break from constant and overbearing army discipline. Generally it required standing guard on "things of National importance", like the odd bomb crater, an easy enough job considering the bomb had already exploded and it was just a matter of minding a hole in the ground. But it did mean doing the night shift, and not for any penalty rates. George was okay with this, having the amazing ability to sleep standing up. Supper was even provided by the locals who would sneak the sentry a serve of fish and chips - wrapped in newspaper, of course. The closest any of the band boys probably came to military action was during one such assignment when failure to answer the call: "Halt, who goes there?" resulted in a shot being fired into the dark, killing a cow!

The incident would have seemed hilarious at the time, except to the farmer, but it would have added to a particular growing reputation that The Blue Rockets could have done without. They were being labelled "Toy Soldiers" and although the jibes could seem mild enough in retrospect, at the time they cut so deeply that it was almost the end of the band. Perhaps the Army knew of this, or maybe they were just being beastly again, but it was decided to cast the boys in a propoganda movie for the Americans, showing the British Tommy in training. The "real" soldiers had only to complete the gruelling assault course once. The director, however, needing everything Hollywood perfect, had the band boys repeating it many times over, cut after cut until he was satisfied. Not bad for a bunch of musicians.

They did finally make it to Germany, but not until after peace was declared. Entertaining the troops overseas, they were able to witness first-hand the terrible consequences of war, a sour taste of the harsh world their talents had so far shielded them from. There was nothing glorious about cities reduced to rubble, and they weren't issued enough chocolate to give to every orphan wandering among the devastation. The experience certainly laid to rest the notion that war was fun. Now it was time for the Toy Soldiers to do their bit to help ease the situation with their music. This they did until they were returned home and the members of the RAOC Blue Rockets were eventually de-mobbed.

This was the end of George's war. No more stupid orders, no more jankers, no more baked beans. It had definitely not panned out the way he'd imagined, but no-one, not even George, could deny that it was responsible for a dream coming true. The Blue Rockets went on tour around Britain, continuing to delight audiences for a few years until it disbanded and the boys went their separate ways. George carried on playing until he retired from music at the end of the 1960's. To my knowledge, he never played another note after that. He never told us the reason. I suspect he only ever had one dream, and he had simply lived it to the full.

George Hawkins portrait photo
Dedicated to the memory of George Vincent Hawkins
1910 - 1982

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