Dancing on the Docks 2

In July 1941 the men of 27 Line Section stood waiting (as soldiers spend so much time doing) at Liverpool docks to embark on their troopship for a distant unknown destination. The Scotsmen in the section decided to while away the time by dancing an Eightsome Reel. Sergeant Pawson (from Glasgow?) was the leader and he made up eight separate Eightsomes – 64 men. Their captain, my father Barry Baker, attempted to play the mouth organ for them, while the Scotsmen taught the Englishmen the steps and the moves. Then they danced.

Barry remembers:

The reel was such a success that it gathered quite an audience of porters, sailors and others, so we did it all through once again. After that came the order to board, so my last memory of England for more than four years was dancing on the platform at Liverpool Docks.

18 thoughts on “Dancing on the Docks 2

  1. I have read everypost.
    I really enjoyed everything.
    This last post about the 64 men dancing I could visualise.

  2. If they made the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, they should think about this one story. Can you visualise Sean Connery has the leader of these men (younger though) dancing on the docks?

    • Indeed. I have wondered about taking a TV scriptwriting course. I have real 16mm footage of my parents both before and after the war. My father watched Tenko with interest, but didn’t think very much of The Bridge on the River Kwai.

  3. That movie is supposed to be a classic…
    If your father did not think much about it, then that’s good enough for me.

    • The Bridge over the river Kwai was originally a novel by a Frenchman who knew the territory, had intelligence training and had lived undercover in the jungle. He had talked to many ex POWs, so he knew of their lives. He had plenty of
      authentic material for his novel, but the story he told was fiction – his message, the pointlessness of war. Then the French novel got the film treatment (add heroic American, make British Colonel thoroughly blimpish, throw in some pretty Siamese girls). Filming, due to conditions and disagreements was miserable, but the result was an absorbing film.

      What it wasn’t was a film of real life on the Railroad. In 1958 there was a special screening for ex POWs. They found it offensively glamorised, and totally wrong about the bridge construction and a slur on the real man (Colonel Toosey) who had been in charge of the camp at Tamarkan – the setting of the real and fictional bridge. The POWs dreaded that people would think that the film showed it as it was… which of course is what happened. The only upside is that the world heard about the building of the Railroad.

      There are plenty of really good accurate accounts, though they make grim reading. A new film on the Eric Lomax story, The Railway Man, should be out this year.

      • Thanks for setting the record straight.
        I always take war movies with a grain of salt.
        This is a very good example.

        There is another one about A Bridge Too Far where Americans took the spotlight because the movie director wanted to have Robert Redford in the picture doing a mission the British had really done. I can’t recall which mission.

        A distant cousin of mine died in Operation Market Garden. He was a paratrooper.


        This is what got me interested in Gail’s blog.

  4. About hero…

    If you want to write a post about your uncle and pay homage to him on my blog Lest We Forget, I can format it and publish it.

    I will also reblog it on my 23 Squadron blog after.

    Please keep it under 20,000 words. No deadlines.
    I will use this post to talk about you, your blog and your book project about 27 Line Section.

    No pressure

    • This is a wonderful suggestion, and I could certainly write about the personal side of my uncle, but I feel that it is Richard de Boer’s story. He has kept Johnny and Maurice’s names alive all these years and gone to the trouble to find the families and do all the research. Shall I get in touch with him and ask what he would like to do? He has a lot more material about the flying side and about Canada that I do.

      • I think if Richard does something with all this, then he should be the one doing it.

        I thought he was not doing anything with all the information you gave him.
        It would be sad if all this is not published one way or another.

        On the other hand, you can write something on your blog about your uncle and I will reblog it on mine. This way people will have a follow-up story to this…


    • I have been in touch with Richard, who is wholly occupied, at the moment, with meeting deadlines on the restoration of a Mosquito and a Hurricane, and is happy for me to write a personal piece on John. I have plenty of photos and a couple of years ago, with Mike’s help, I talked to two pilots who still remember him. I will put something together over the next month or two. Thanks again for asking.

      • Can I double check the length of the piece about Johnny Baker? You said not more than 20,000 words, did you mean that? or did you mean 2000? I wouldn’t want to err on such a scale.

      • About the length of 20,000 words, that was just a pun intended remark.
        You write whatever you want and I will post the pictures and format the whole thing on my blog to pay homage to your uncle.
        As I said also, you can take all the time you need. There is no pun intended here.

  5. Thank you so much for reblogging this. I agree it is powerful image and these were really ordinary men, making the best of what life was throwing at them. Perhaps one of my men or their relatives will come across it.

  6. Pingback: Who’s Hilary? | A Very Unlikely Hero

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