• U.S.

Music, May 6, 1946

3 minute read

The evening’s first raid was on the Plymouth pub, the Tom Elliott. The Rev. Wilfred H. Mildon, a mild-appearing man, went in alone by the four-ale door (to the public bar) to establish a bridgehead. When he reappeared and gave the thumbs-up sign, all six parsons trooped in, 30-year-old Pastor Arthur Bird’s black & white accordion braying deafeningly.

Straight off, they began to bellow You Are My Sunshine. Some sailors joined in self-consciously. Three fat men playing dominoes in the corner glowered and clicked their pieces resentfully. A thin charlady drinking stout and a fat one drinking gin sang at the top of their quavery old voices.

At song’s end, agile little Dr. Mildon jumped on the nearest bar stool. “Now,” said he in a penetrating, high-pitched voice, “I want you to sing a song we find you people of Plymouth know very well—Abide with Me.” The two chars sang every word without missing a note, sipping occasionally the while.

Then Dr. Mildon went fast into a short sermon. Its catch phrase: “New men for a new world.” “And now,” concluded the parson, “please join me in a short prayer.” He prayed in simple, informal language, thanked God for the safe return of servicemen and hoped for the spiritual safety of mankind.

The sailors bowed their heads. One of the florid old men in the corner turned redder than ever and shuffled his dominoes. “Can’t you show no respect?” hissed the fat char. “Garn!” grunted the old man. “First women—then this!”

“Jolly good luck to you,” shrilled the old ladies as the parsons departed.

Bad Words & Ginger Ale. For ten days the six “Christian Commandos”—all hearty Methodist ministers—had been on an evangelizing pub-crawl in Plymouth. Their reception was not always as hearty as at the Tom Elliott. Said one of them: “Sometimes we’re accompanied by a continual barrage of strong swearing, but Bird here plays the accordion so loud they can’t make themselves heard!”

One night in Plymouth the team converted 34 Navy male nurses. Next night Commandos visited a dance hall, danced with the girls, converted the pianist (female), then eleven of the dancers. Last week, after campaign’s end, Plymouth’s Commandos could count 400 signed “decision cards” reading: “Trusting in the power and presence of Jesus Christ, I solemnly accept Him as my Lord and Master.”

The Commando idea, launched four years ago by Methodists, has been making headway in postwar Britain, now embraces all Protestant sects. Commando teams of 25 to 30 clerics descend on a town in concentrated attack. Biggest objective: London, schedule for April 1947.

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