An orphan, evacuated from the World War II bombing of London, comes to live with his pious aunt in an English village, A bag of liquorice allsorts is knocked out of his hand in the school playground. This trivial incident ignites a series of events leading to a breakdown of relations in the local community.
The newcomer is accused of assault; threatened with an appearance before the School Board, and is arrested for theft. He acquires a black eye, is blackmailed, and cheated of money.
The villagers take sides and become increasingly quarrelsome.
The only person untouched by this conflict is Dummy, the village idiot. The evacuee is secretly trying to gather sufficient money to help Dummy with a medical problem, but is continually frustrated by the predicaments in which he finds himself.
There are disputes over firewood; problems in class; uproar in the air-raid shelter; bickering in church; resignations and revolts; cart races between rival gangs; the theft of some pallets; a hearing before the magistrate; and much else besides that is excitingly human or humorous.
The tension in the village reaches a climax at a fund-raising fete to buy a Spitfire aircraft. This ends in a riotous fight.
An air-raid destroys part of the village. The villagers then discover that by facing up to a grave external menace, they can overcome their internal differences.
The funds raised for the Spitfire are, alas, last seen floating down the river in the twilight and a barrel. What eventually happens to them is another story.
Although this book can be read as a “follow-on” to the previous “Gang Territory”, it is intended to to stand as a complete story in its own right.