Air raids and night bombing have turned the schoolchildren in the north-of-England town of Garmouth into avid collectors of war souvenirs, but one boy goes a step farther when he gets his hands on a real working machine gun salvaged from a downed German plane. The boy, Chas McGill, soon becomes the leader of a band of children determined to play war in earnest--digging a bunker in the garden of a bombed-out house, firing their gun wildly during a night raid, and even taking their own German prisoner. Keeping their operation secret leads to the brutal thrashing of an inquisitive bully and a lot of lying to worried police and parents. Then; with the whole town spooked by rumors of a German invasion, the children mistake a group of Free Polish soldiers for Nazis and accidentally shoot their by now much loved prisoner in the ensuing panic. The children, alternately tough as nails and audaciously funny, are delightfully individualized Characters and Westall's writing is smashing throughout. Other adults might not be ready to share Mr. McGill's not so grudging admiration of his son's guts, but Westall leaves one free to draw a grimmer moral from the children's ingenious imitation of a grownup game. Seat-of-the-pants suspense with a premise that recalls Lord of the Flies and might provoke the same kind of debate.