War Crimes Part Twenty-Eight – Edge, Destruction of a Witness

Blown Periphery, Going Postal

Day Three

It was a blustery day and driving rain rattled the windows of the Sennelager Courts Martial Centre. The weather seemed to match Edge’s mood perfectly, anxiety twisting like a nest of vipers in his guts. Cutler had noticed his client’s despondency with concern.
“I spoke with your mother last night. She of course sends her love and I gave her an update on how the trial is progressing.”
“I wish I could speak to her, but I can’t. I couldn’t keep it buttoned up.”
“For heaven’s sake, Edge, pull yourself together. This will be the hardest day for you. Don’t let her goad you into saying something that will incriminate you. Let her do all the work. Channel your anger.”
“It’s my anger that frightens me, Mr Cutler.”
“Then think of your mother. Fight for her and for God’s sake don’t mention your anger at all, ever!”
Edge was the first witness.
“Lance-corporal Edge, would you care to outline the injuries you were treated for at the RAF Hospital at Wegberg, after your release from German police custody.”
“Yes sir, I had an operation on my face where the surgeon had to put a titanium plate in my cheekbone and something called silastic sheet to help rebuild my nose, which was so badly broken that I couldn’t breathe through it. My back and legs were bruised, my kidneys were also severely bruised, contused they called it. There was blood in my urine for a couple of weeks caused by the beating I received in the cells of Gütersloh.”
“So there is no room for doubt, how did you receive the injuries, Edge?”
“The ones on my face were caused when Polizeiobermeister Brauer hit me with an iron bar. The bruises on my body and kidneys were caused when two German police officers beat me in the cells with plastic hosing.”
Edge nearly added: As per Gestapo standard operating procedures, but fortunately he didn’t. The members of the jury turned in interest to the spectators’ enclosure, where two German Landespolizei were observing proceedings. They shifted uneasily in their seats.
“Why do you think you were illegally abused whilst in German police custody, Edge?” The question was directed at Edge, but Cutler was looking directly at the police when he asked it. He waited for the prosecuting council to object, but she wisely kept quiet. She wasn’t going to fall into that trap.
“Because I had injured one of their colleagues and he had been carted off in an ambulance.”
Cutler turned to the Judge Advocate, “I have a copy of Lance-corporal Edge’s medical treatment and discharge notes from the hospital, should the court wish to scrutinise them. Blue folder, sir.”
“Thank you Mr Cutler.”
“No further questions. My learned friend’s witness.”

She stood up, “Lance-corporal Edge. You have already admitted that you had been drinking since the afternoon, on the day you assaulted Polizeiobermeister Brauer. I put it to you that your injuries were caused when you drunkenly fell in the park.”
“No ma’am, I didn’t fall over and I didn’t beat myself around my kidneys with a hose pipe either.”
There were titters in the court and some of the jury members looked at the floor. Cutler scowled. Don’t get too bloody clever, Edge. But she wasn’t giving up.
“It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that you were set upon by another group while you were drunk, and sought to blame the German police for your own stupidity. Isn’t that the case?”
“Except I wasn’t drunk, ma’am.”
But the seed had been sown.
“No further questions, Judge.”
Cutler called SAC Scotton as his second witness. Edge had to give himself a shake as Scooby took the stand in his No 1 Best Blue uniform. The lank and foppish hair had gone. So had the heavy-rimmed spectacles, which were now wire frames. Scooby’s hair was cropped close to his skull, so close that you could make out recently healed scars on his head and his demeanour seemed grim. He looked not unlike a younger version of Tom Courtenay’s “Pasha” Antipov in the film Doctor Zhivago.
After Scooby had taken the oath, Cutler opened the questions, “SAC Scotton, could you tell us why you left the Zum Keiler bar alone on the night you were assaulted by Polizeiobermeister Brauer?” Cutler saw the prosecution begin to stand in righteous indignation, “Sorry, Judge, your alleged assault, SAC Scotton.”
Scooby had been well briefed. No nonsense about howling at the moon. No stupid accents of voices.
I was feeling a bit like a spare part. My friend Orinoco was with his girlfriend and Edge was with Al…” Cutler’s face froze, “A girl he had met in the All Ranks club. I didn’t have anyone, so I went outside for some fresh air. The bar was heaving and very smoky.”
“Why did you decide to go into the park?”
“Because I thought it would have seats. I’d been on my feet all day.”
“Could you describe what happened in the park, SAC Scotton.”
“I was sitting on a bench and this German copper came past and stared at me. He said something, so I stood up and came to attention. I think I might have said: “guten Abend, Herr Flick.”
Once again there were a few, muted titters in the court.
“Perhaps a rather silly thing to say to a German policeman. Then what?”
“He dragged me by my hair and pulled out a piece of metal tube, kind of flicked it and it extended into what looked like a metal bar. He started to hit me with it. I saw stars and went down, but he kept hitting me on the ground. I started yelling but he wouldn’t stop.”
“Were you in pain?”
“He broke my glasses and smashed my front teeth. I couldn’t see because of the blood in my eyes.”
“Was it this man who was beating you?” Cutler showed Scooby a photograph.
“That’s him, Brauer.”
“Then what happened?”
“Edge, sorry, Lance-corporal Edge came into the park with… Err, SAC Meredith, although I couldn’t see them as I was rolled in a ball on the ground. They ran towards where I was. I couldn’t see what was happening, but SAC Meredith and then Edge dragged me up and helped carry me out of the park.”
“Where was Polizeiobermeister Brauer?”
“On the ground, moaning. I don’t know how he got there. Lance-corporal Edge waited outside the bar and SAC Meredith took me in and phoned for an ambulance.”
“What do you think would have happened if Edge and Meredith hadn’t have arrived?”
“I think he would have killed me, sir.”
“Objection! Supposition.”
Cutler bowed courteously to his prosecution counterpart, but Scooby’s words hung in the air, “Judge and the Board. SAC Scotton is still traumatised by his ordeal, but you have in front of you a run-down of his injuries, including photographs, and the ongoing oral and maxilla-facial surgery that he still requires. I have no further questions.”
“Can I just say one thing, please sir?” Scooby interjected, “I think Edge is a bloody hero! Sorry, sir, but he is. You can call it supposition if you want, ma’am, but you weren’t there and that Copper wasn’t beating you.”
“That’s quite enough, Mister Scotton! I do apologise, Judge,” Cutler said with exasperation. That morning he had told Scooby exactly what to say and when to say it.
Follow that.
To say that the learned lady for the prosecution had been rattled by Scooby’s “entirely unexpected” interjection would understate matters. She regarded Scooby like he was a particularly loathsome, newly-discovered species.
“SAC Scotton, on the day in question, did you watch the rugby match?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“And there were refreshments laid on I believe, such as a beer tent?” the way she said it made it sound like a whore house.
“There were.”
“What time did you start drinking?”
Scooby floundered so she helped him, “Before kick-off, half time or after the final whistle?”
“Err, before kick-off.”
“And the incident in the park occurred around 21:00. That meant you had been drinking all day.”
Scooby couldn’t deny it.
“And yet you have a clear recollection of going into the park and provoking a member of the Landespolizei by addressing him as “Herr Flick”, whom I believe is a character portraying a Gestapo officer. A particularly offensive and stupid remark to say to any German. It showed an astonishing lack of judgement and yet you would have us believe that you clearly recall Polizeiobermeister Brauer beating you with an iron bar, which no trace has been found of, and Lance-corporal Edge riding in to your rescue like a gallant member of the 7th Cavalry. Really Mr Scooton?”
Scooby looked at her angrily, “You tend to sober up very quickly when you’re being beaten on the ground.”
“Yet despite having blood in your eyes, you were able to identify Polizeiobermeister Brauer.”
“I was able to identify him before I got blood in my eyes, before the fifty-six stitches in my head and the extraction under general anaesthetic of four teeth.”
“No further questions, Judge.”

There was a brief recess or comfort break and Cutler went into an interview room with Edge.
“That went well this morning, my young friend. Ms Campbell was unable to put an effective dent in either your or Scooby’s version of events. She will always have to fall back on the alcohol dimension, without really understanding the vast quantities of the stuff, you and your ilk consume on a regular basis. It’s to your advantage most of the jury are warrant officers. But stay focused and think about everything before you say it.”
Edge felt a lightness in his heart, but the lightness would turn to aching sorrow during the next session.
SAC Meredith was called as the third witness and took the oath. If Scooby had been “Pasha” Antipov, Alicia Meredith was Julie Christie’s Lara Antipova. She looked trim and business-like in her Best Blue, her hair swept back in a French bun and the uniform couldn’t hide her femininity. Edge was stunned that this was the person who had wanted to sleep with him and he felt like howling with frustration.
Cutler also seemed captivated, “Good morning, SAC Meredith. On the day in question, did you watch the rugby match, 3rd Infantry Brigade verses RAF Gütersloh station team?”
“Yes sir, I did, but it wasn’t really a station team in the strictest sense. There were a few ringers from the RAF Germany team on our side.”
Good girl! That will endear you with the jury, mainly Army warrant officers.
And I’ll establish straight away for the benefit of my learned friend, you had not been drinking.”
“Not at the match no. German beer makes me want to keep going to the toilet.”
There were low snickers in the court. The defence council was scrutinising a light fitting
“I had a couple of beers in the bar, later that night, two or three small ones.”
“And you ended up in the same bar as Lance-corporal Edge.”
“Only because my friend Orinoco was playing for the RAF team and he and the Lance-corporal had a bit of needle, but they kissed and made up after the game. Orinoco invited Edge to go with us into the town. Scooby went as well.”
“What is your relationship with Scooby?”
“A friend only, sir. But I was on Sharkwatch and noticed he was missing.”
“What is Sharkwatch, SAC Meredith?”
“One of us stays sober and watches out for the others, suspicious people, Dickers, packages and bags left unattended. The IRA is still knocking around in Germany.”
“So you were sober when you went into the Park. Why was Edge with you?”
“I didn’t want to go on my own, so I asked him to come with me.”
Alicia described what she had seen in the park, the German policeman beating Scooby on the ground and then hitting Edge across the face with an iron bar. She described the policeman squaring up to administer a beating and Edge’s incapacitating kick.
“It happened exactly as Lance-corporal Edge and SAC Scotton described, sir,” she looked at the defence council pointedly, “And I hadn’t been drinking to excess.”
“And what happened to the weapon the policeman was using against your comrades?”
“I picked it up and kept it until you interviewed me and I gave it to you.”
There were audible gasps in the court. The German police observers looked nervously at each other. Cutler beckoned the court usher who brought something in a box and laid it on the evidence table. Cutler put on gloves and lifted the object out of the box.
“Judge, this is called an Asp. It is nothing more than a telescopic club made of thin gauge steel and it is not Landespolizei issue. I’m handling it carefully because I suggest it has the DNA of SAC Scotton, Lance-corporal Edge and more importantly, Polizeiobermeister Brauer on it,” he turned to Alicia, “And you are quite certain that you saw this object being used by Polizeiobermeister Brauer on both SAC Scotton and my client.”
“Yes, sir. Absolutely.”
“Why did you pick it up?”
“So he couldn’t use it again.”
“Why didn’t you tell anybody you had it?”
“Because I didn’t want to get into trouble.”
“Your witness.” Follow that, fragrant Ms Campbell.
She stood up, smiling at Alicia Meredith.
“SAC Meridith. Your Christian name is Alicia, I believe?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“An unusual name, not easily forgotten. And I see you have the Operation GRANBY medal, so you’ve been around a bit.”
Cutler stood up to protest, but Ms Campbell continued smoothly, “Of course I mean you have operational experience. Where did you serve during the Gulf War?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that, ma’am. Harrier operational deployments are caveated.”
“Oh really? Well I didn’t know that. But you can tell me about the rugby match that you watched but didn’t drink at. Did a certain fly-half catch your eye?”
Oh bugger! Cutler thought.
“Did you admire his footwork? I believe the fly-half was none other than our resident Sir Galahad, Lance-corporal Edge. Am I correct?”
Alicia looked at the floor.
“Are you the person Lance-corporal Edge is referring to when he said and I quote: Because I had met a girl after the rugby match and we both wanted to have sex. Are you that girl, SAC Meredith? And you are under oath!”
“Yes ma’am,” she said miserably.
How the hell did she find out?
“So you are not quite the impartial witness that Mr Cutler would have us believe. It’s not beyond the realms of probability that you would fabricate a story to get your would-be lover off the hook. That this story of Polizeiobermeister Brauer beating your friends is just that, a story and an invention. The asp that you conveniently “found.” It’s nothing to do with what happened in the park. It is a fabrication so you and Edge could conduct your sordid liaison at a later date. For all I know you might already have done so. You are not a credible witness and the board would do well to disregard your entire evidence! No further questions.”
At the lunchtime recess, Cutler approached the Judge and requested an adjournment until the following morning. As he put it: “My learned friend has rather forced my hand in this matter and I need to introduce a final witness until Herr Brauer takes the stand. That is if Ms Campbell has no objections and she shouldn’t after this morning’s hatchet job.
“And I must protest it the strongest terms at Ms Campbell’s treatment of a witness. We’re not trying the Kray Twins here. These are generally decent people who have military law come down on them like a ton of bricks for an offence they would receive a caution for in civilian life. What must that poor girl think of us? It must be plain to an idiot that Edge acted with the noblest of intentions.”
The Judge agreed to the adjournment, despite any objections Ms Campbell would put forward and Cutler went in search of the defence council in the Officers’ Mess.
“I’ve asked for an adjournment until tomorrow, Ms Campbell. Do you object, because the Judge has already agreed?”
She shrugged, “It’s only postponing the inevitable, but if you insist, I have no problem with it.”
“Ms Campbell, what you did to that girl this morning was a disgraceful and despicable act. You destroyed not only her credibility but questioned her morality in open court. Everything that happens from now on will be down to you. You will regret this morning.”
“She shrugged again, “Mr Cutler, all’s fair in love, war and the law.”
“That glib comment will come to haunt you.”
He went in search of Edge who was in an interview room, ensconced with his black dog. The early morning’s despondency had returned with a vengeance.
“That’s it isn’t it, Mr Cutler. Game over.”
“It’s a setback. Market-Garden was classed as a disaster, but the Allies prevailed in 1945. This afternoon’s sitting has been adjourned while I tee up another witness, whom I didn’t want to call, but now I must.
“You must dig deep into your resolve, Mr Edge. This is a bad time in your life, but there will be other bad times, some possibly worse than this. This is about you as a man and whatever happens, I know that you behaved honourably and did what you did for the best of intentions. I will try and speak with Miss Meredith and offer my profound apology for her ordeal today. Please stay strong, Mr Edge and remember, it’s not over until the fat lady has sung and the orchestra has packed up.
”Let me recite a poem I learned in boarding school as a child. It always held a macabre fascination for me as I’m a damned coward, but I think you would appreciate it:”

There’s a breathless hush in the close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

The sand of the desert is sodden red-
Red with the wreck of the square that broke
The gatling’s jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed its banks,
And England’s far and Honor a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks-
“Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with joyful mind
And bear through life Eke a torch in flame,
falling fling to the host behind-
“Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

 

© Blown Periphery 2018
 

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