The Machine Gunners

The Machine Gunners

by Robert Westall


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With Nazi planes raining bombs on England night after night, every boy in Garmouth has a collection of shrapnel and other war souvenirs. But nothing comes close to the working machine gun Chas McGill pulls out of a downed bomber. While the police search frantically for the missing gun, Chas and his friends build a secret fortress to fight the Germans themselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781447284161
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 10/01/2015
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 9 - 11 Years

About the Author

More than a decade after his death, Robert Westall retains his reputation as one of the most powerful writers for children. He was awarded two Carnegie Medals (for The Machine Gunners and The Scarecrows) and used his own childhood experiences of the Second World War in his books.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

When Chas awakened, the air-raid shelter was silent. Gray winter light was creeping round the door-curtain. it could have been any time. His mother was gone, and the little brown attaché case with the insurance policies and bottle of brandy for emergencies. He could hear the milk cart coming round the square. The all-clear must have gone.

He climbed out of the shelter scratching his head, and looked round carefully. Everything was just the same: same whistling milkman, same cart horse. But there was too much milk on the cart and that was bad. Every extra bottle meant some family bombed-out during the night.

He trailed round to the kitchen door. His mother had the paraffin heater on, and bread frying. It smelled safe. There were two more panes of glass out of the window, and his father had blocked the gaps with cardboard from a Nestle's Milk box. The lettering on the cardboard was the right way up. Father was fussy about things like that.

Father was sitting by the heater with his pint mug of tea. He looked weary, but still neat in his warden's uniform, with his beret tucked under his shoulder strap.

"You remember that lass in the greengrocer's?"

"The ginger-haired one?" said his mother, still bending over the stove.

"Aye. A direct hit. They found half of her in the front garden and the other half right across the house."

"She didn't believe in going down the shelter. She was always frightened of being buried alive." From the way his mother hunched her shoulders, Chas could tell she was trying not to cry.

Chas's father turned to him.

"Your rabbits are all right. Chinny had some glass in herstraw, but I shifted it. But there's six panes out of the greenhouse. If it goes on this way, there'll be no chrysanthemum for Christmas."

"It won't be the same without chrysants," said his mother. Her lips were tight together, but shaking slightly. "Here's your breakfast."

Chas cheered up. Two whole slices of fried bread and a roll of pale pink sausage-meat. It tasted queer, not at all like sausage before the War. But he was starting to like the queerness. He ate silently, listening to his parents. If he shut up, they soon forgot he was there. You heard much more interesting things if you didn't butt in.

"I thought we were a goner last night, I really did. That dive bomber ... I thought it was going to land on top of the shelter ... Mrs. Spalding had one of her turns.

"It wasn't a dive bomber," announced Father with authority. "It had two engines. He came down on the rooftops 'cos one of the RAF lads was after him. Right on his tail. You could see his guns firing. And he got him. Crashed on the old laundry at Chirton. Full bomb load. I felt the heat on me face a mile away." Mother's face froze.

"Nobody killed, love. That laundry's been empty for years. just as well-there's not much left of it."

Chas finished his last carefully cut dice of fried bread and looked hopefully at his father.

"Can I go see it?"

-Aye, you can go and look. But you won't find nowt but bricks. Everything just went."

Mother looked doubtful. "D'you think he should?"

"Let him go, lass. There's nowt left."

"No unexploded bombs?"

"No, a quiet night really. Lots of our fighters up. That's why you didn't hear any guns."

"Can I borrow your old shopping basket?" said Chas.

"I suppose so. But don't lose it, and don't bring any of your old rubbish back in the house. Take it straight down the greenhouse."

"What times school?" said his father.

"Half past ten. The raid went on after midnight."

War had its compensations.

Chas had the second-best collection of war souvenirs in Garmouth. It was all a matter of knowing where to look. Silly kids looked on the pavements or in the gutters; as if anything there wasn't picked up straight away. The best places to look were where no one else would dream, like in the dry soil under privet hedges. You often found machine-gun bullets there, turned into little metal mushrooms as they hit the ground. Fools thought nothing could fall through a hedge.

As he walked, Chas's eyes were everywhere. At the comer of Marston Road, the pavement was burned into a white patch a yard across. Incendiary bomb! The tailfin would be somewhere near -- they normally bounced off hard when the bomb hit.

He retrieved the fin from a front garden and wiped it on his coat; a good one, not bent, the dark green paint not even chipped. But he had ten of those already.

Boddser Brown had fifteen. Boddser had the best collection of souvenirs in Garmouth. Everyone said so. There had been some doubt until Boddser found the nose cone of a 3.7 inch antiaircraft shell, and that settled it.

Chas sighed, and put the fin in his basket. A hundred tailfins couldn't equal a nose cone.

He knew the old laundry would be no good even before he got there. He began finding bits of the plane, but they were only lumps of aluminum, black on the sides and shiny at the edges, crumpled like soggy paper. They were useless as souvenirs -- other kids just laughed and said you'd cut up your mother's tin kettle. Unless it was a piece that had a number on it, or a German word, or even ... Chas sighed at the tightness in his chest... a real swastika. But these were just black and silver.

The scene of the crash was a complete catastrophe. It was the partial catastrophes that Chas found interesting -- picture frames still hanging on exposed walls five stories up;

The Machine Gunners. Copyright © by Robert Westall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Machine-Gunners 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book a must read
Guest More than 1 year ago
This action packed book is full of fun and will keep you reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The name of the book I read was The Machine Gunners the author is Robert Westal. The main character is Chas McGill of age 14, and he lives in Garmoth, England. In 1941, Chas, his family, and friends are in the middle of World War ll. One day after an air raid, Chas went to survey the damage that had been done. Wandering through the woods he eventually found a downed German plane. In the plane he found a dead tail gunner and a machine gun still intact. Chas gets his friends (including a girl) to help him get the machine gun out and hide it. Chas and his friends build a fort were nobody usually comes. They dig out a bomb shelter and line it with concrete. This would be their new fort where they try to defend the town against Germans. One day an enemy tail gunner finds his way into their fort. He puts his hands up at the sight of their machine gun. They eventually make friends with him and teach him English. The end of the book his all of the kids parents find out what they have been doing and the tail gunner turns himself in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
i dont like this book at all!! It has nothing to do with machine gunners. it has about 3 scenes which involves a machine gun. I dont recomend it at all!! read the hobbit instead
Guest More than 1 year ago
The machine gunners is a brilliant book it is set in the north of england,Tyneside the star character Chas McGill lived in the 2nd world war & his friends Audrey,Cem,Clogger and Nicky the book starts to hook you when Chas,Audrey and Cem find a german machine gun. Recommend it to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book to read if you are just starting to read
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is about a group of English kids from WWII that find a german machine-gun. they build a fort and hope to stop invading germans. i feel like this book focused on to much other than the main story line. but if you start to read it dont stop because as the book goes on it picks up and becames more adventures.