The Machine-Gunners

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

This review was contributed by Ben G

Author: Robert Westall

Publisher: Puffin

Published in: 1975

Age Range: Pre Teens+

Period: WWII

Setting: Tyneside

Genres:  AdventureWar


  • Chas: The hero of the story his gang includes Cem his best friend, who gets his nickname from the fact that his father keeps the cemetery, Clogger a tough Glaswegian evacuee, Audrey the only girl in the group and who is something of a tomboy as well as Nicky whose father was killed at sea and whose mother was killed in a fire along with her partner. They are opposed by the school bully Boddser, especially after they discover the German gunner Rudi.


Set in the mining town of Garmouth during WWII the story revolves around Chas McGill, who has the second best collection of war souvenirs in the town but desperately wants it to be the best. Chas and his best friend Cem discover a shot down German plane before the authorities do and manage to remove the machine gun from it complete with 2000 rounds of live ammunition. Although the pilot is dead the group later discover the plane's other occupant, an injured German soldier whom they befriend and hide from the authorities in order at first to keep prisoner and later, as they discover how human he is, to keep safe from the authorities. Of course the missing machine gun sparks a town wide search for those responsible, including the eventual involvement of the army which nearly results in the death of the children and their prisoner.


Literary: A fairly typical wartime adventure story, however it is nevertheless well written, interesting and engaging, particularly since all the main characters are well developed. It is most certainly a cut above the average wartime experience novel.

Modesty and decency: Nicky's mother is seen as something of a “loose” woman by the town, she lives with a man she is not married to and runs some sort of black market establishment. Her death in the fire that leaves Nicky an orphan is seen as poetic justice.

Lying: The children lie quite frequently for their own ends, namely preventing the adults from finding out about Rudi. At one point Chas even goes so far as to lie while swearing on the Bible, however, this is certainly not condoned by the author.

Saturday 16th July 2005