Historical Blokes

"The Battle of Britain was in full swing," James Lees-Milne recalled. "I was posted to Dover. Hitler's invasion was expected at any moment, and we lived on the alert. An officer was kept on duty day and night awaiting the code signal 'Cromwell.' When this ominous name came down the telephone the officer knew that invasion was on the way. At 3 o'clock one morning it was my turn to be on duty. The telephone rang. I picked up the receiver. 'This is High Command QE2X,' came from a rather cissy voice a long way off. 'I say old boy, sorry to tell you -- Oliver Cromwell.' 'What!?' I screamed, my heart in my boots. 'Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure?' I had no reason for questioning the man's words, beyond the absolute horror of the announcement.

"'Well, I may have got it wrong,' the voice said affectedly. 'Thenfor dear Christ's sake,' I pleaded, 'do get it right.' There was a pause, during which I had my finger on the special telephone to the colonel's bedroom, as if it were on the pulse of England.

"'Sorry old chap,' the voice came back. 'It's only Wat Tyler. I get so confused with these historical blokes.'"

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