Jinnie loved her weekly whist classes, but she knew better than to discuss what she learnt with anyone, especially her boyfriend Hans. He was in the Hitler Youth (HJ) and took it very seriously. He was currently a corporal (kamardschaftfuhrer) and working hard to be a sergeant (oberkamardschaftfuher) as he would get privileges when he did his National Service. Jinnie had joined the Band of Deutscher Maidens (the BDM), the female arm of the HJ, but she had only done so because it was the thing to do and suspicion fell on you if you didn’t join, but she had never progressed through the ranks. The BMD were not very military, leaving that to the HJ, but into camping, sport and the roles of housewife, wife and mother. They also heartily approved of voluntary service which suited Jinnie. What she wasn’t happy with was the BDM nickname, the Band of German Mattresses.
Week by week Jinnie learnt more about what happened during the invasion, as well as becoming quite a proficient whist player. Fred told her of the events that occurred in London and Jimmy and Bert told how the second defensive line was breached and the subsequent military collapse. Fred had been at a primary school in Finchley, just north of Golders Green, living right next to what today would be called an urban farm, where his dad worked in a reserved occupation. In effect, the farm was a couple of large fields, a herd of cows, a milking parlour and a dairy serving the district by horse hauled milk carts. Finchley was a traditional English Christian suburb divided from the Jewish suburbs of Temple Fortune and Golders Green by the North Circular Road. Because London was declared an open city, the Heer just rolled in and quickly set about running the services through the existing civil administration. The farm was seen as an asset and Fred’s dad, a typical Londoner, had simply carried on working, although half the milk production now went to the Heer. Not that it caused much of a problem as milk deliveries to Temple Fortune and Golders Green were now off-limits by order of the SS.
Fred had been evacuated to his Gran’s cottage in the Hertfordshire countryside between Hadley Wood and Potters Bar, but when the Heer advance had been stalled he had returned home. His Grandad took him on a bus to Barnet where he met his Mum who was a Clippie on the 645 trolleybus that ran from Barnet Church to Cannons Park via Finchley and Golders Green and virtually passed his home. Shortly after he had returned home and the Germans had turned up, the route was abruptly terminated at the North Circular. The first time that Fred noticed that something was wrong as when one or two of his classmates failed to turn up one morning. He heard a couple of the mums saying that the families had “gone north” while they still had the opportunity. Then the barbed wire went up permanently cutting the trolleybus route and the milk deliveries, strangely the wire went around behind Henley’s Garage so that it was still accessible from the North Circular Road. Listening to the BBC Radio, now broadcasting out of Newcastle, became an offence and instructions were issued to tune in to Britain Free Radio, broadcasting from Alexander Palace, where all special decrees would be announced first.
Slowly it became apparent that all was not well south of the barbed wire. Instead of the regular troops from the Heer, the gate near where the 645 trolleybus turned round at Henley’s Corner was guarded by men in black uniforms who the children quickly learnt to avoid. What was also noticeable was that very little went in or came out of this main gate except what he learnt were SS soldiers. For a year or so nothing much happened to Fred except that he sat and passed his 11 plus and transferred to Christ’s College Grammar School just up the road in Church End.
Meanwhile, the Heer had deliberately halted its advance north to consolidate its occupied area and resupply in readiness for a spring offensive. The only exception was a virtually unopposed push west to take Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. With all the south coast ports in their hands, resupply became easy but fuel was always a problem. The only natural oil available to the Third Reich came from Romania and this simply wasn’t enough to satisfy the Heer and the Luftwaffe. In fact, the Luftwaffe was 85% flying on synthetic fuel made from coal. At first coal from the mines in Kent was sent to by rail to Dover for shipping to the synthetic fuel facilities in the Rhine valley to be converted, but this was soon realised to be wasteful and dangerous as the Royal Navy was still attacking channel shipping. Organisation Todt were commissioned to build a synthetic oil plant close to the Betteshanger colliery which was mostly constructed using slave labour imported from Poland and equipment manufactured by Krupp.
During this dummy war period, it wasn’t only the Germans who were resupplying. The British were turning out armaments as fast as the Northern, Midland and Scottish factories could work. The ports of Liverpool and Glasgow were unloading raw materials and imported equipment from the United States as fast as they possibly could. Troops were being trained and defensive positions installed. The shipyards on the Tyne, Wear, and Clyde were churning out warships in months instead of years.
In the occupied zone in the South, German thoughts turned to politics and the installation of a civil administration. Joachim Von Ribbentrop was appointed Reichkommissar (Imperial Commissioner), head of the civil administration and he moved into Buckingham Palace. Under him were the existing county and town councils. MPs to make a House of Commons were appointed with the promise of future elections, while the Lords were abolished. The British Union of Fascists party leader Sir Oswald Mosley was appointed Prime Minister. Finally, the Duke of Windsor was restored as King Edward VIII with Queen Wallis at his side and installed in Windsor Castle.
Franz Six was appointed Sicherheitsdienst (Commander). His was a job that combined the worst of all things from the Secret Police and SS. He had a black book of 2820 prominent people who were to be arrested on sight and disappeared. Churchill was No 1. It was also his job to deal with Britain’s 300,000 Jews, lunatics and the incurably ill. It was him who set up the ghetto’s of Golders Green/Temple Fortune and Stamford Hill and later Leeds. Six’s plan was to divide England into six military regions each with its own HQ all reporting to him in London.
Towards the middle of March 1941, the OKW (German High Command) told Hitler that they were ready to resume their advances in Britain. Hitler had already issued secret orders to prepare to invade Russia on June 22nd and sort assurance that Britain would be overwhelmed by then so that he could transfer all but an army of occupation to bolster Operation Barbarossa. The OKW promised Hitler that it would be all over by mid-May, so the attack went in immediately.
The Heer struck out along the lines of several main roads. The A40 into South Wales, the A1 to the north and northeast and the A38 towards Birmingham. The defensive line was punctured on the first day and the Weer’s progress was rapid by the beginning of April Cardiff and Newport had fallen and the South Wales coalfields were nearly secured. Coventry was overrun and the leading units were in the southern outskirts of Birmingham. The third line of attack was the most successful and the Heer had reached Doncaster in South Yorkshire. It was obvious that the main coalfields were priority targets. The Nottingham fields had joined Kent and South Wales in German hands and South Yorkshire were certain to join them soon. On this line of attack, the North East would be obvious targets. Instead, the eastern attack split heading east towards the ports of Goole and Hull, west towards Sheffield and then to threaten Manchester from the eastern side while other units still pushed north towards Leeds and Bradford. When Manchester fell, feelers were put out to the Germans for an armistice.
The Germans agreed to a meeting under a temporary cease-fire. The British were unaware of the deadline the Heer were up against for withdrawal of forces, but the Germans were delighted to agree a settlement in which they took the whole of England, the area of Wales they occupied including Monmouth, Cardiff, Newport and the South Wales coalfields. This left Britain as the Welsh mountains and Scotland. The Germans demanded the Royal Navy but it had already scattered to all corners of the Empire, the Royal Family had sailed on a heavily protected convoy to Canada and other naval elements had headed to the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Hostilities officially ended on 1st May and Hitler was able to move his battle-hardened troops to be ready to attack Russia. Churchill had moved the remnants of the British Government to Edinburgh and the rump of the BBC was working out of Edinburgh. Great Britain was now a toothless tiger and Hitler had achieved his aims, he had freed up his army to attack Russia and the Empire was intact meaning that none of the other major powers had swept up any of the nations to the Third Reich’s detriment. He was happy to leave Churchill’s little country alone as it offered no threat to him
In London, Fred was a dutiful schoolboy mostly untroubled by the fighting. Of course, there were rumours about the ghettos like the one that claimed that residents where being systematically removed on special tube trains from Golders Green Underground station after the system was closed to the public at night. It was said that the passengers were taken to London Bridge, marched onto the Dover boat train and never seen again. By the time Fred left school the barbed wire was coming down as the ghetto was empty and the construction companies were turning the area into homes for the upwardly mobile. Fred went off to university in Bristol and by the time he returned to the family home in Finchley Golders Green had become a desirable place to live.
Fred followed his Mum and went to work for London Transport, not as bus crew, but in planning. He worked on a number of projects for the Underground. In the early day of his employment, he worked on small projects, new station lighting, redecoration, replacement escalators. Slowly the jobs got bigger and he moved up the tree. He worked on the new Victoria Line and later on the Piccadilly Line extension to Heathrow when he became Head of Planning. He moved out of Finchley preferring to raise his family in leafy Brookmans Park which is how he landed up in the same Potters Bar retirement accommodation as Ethel, Jimmy and Bert.
As part of the armistice, all British forces in England and occupied Wales had to surrender to the Heer. Ethel was a civilian clerk and able to return to her home in Barnet only to discover it had been destroyed in a bombing raid. Her Husband as a serving soldier and officer was interned and sent to a camp in France never to heard of again. Ethel moved just a short distance to Potters Bar where she eventually qualified as a chartered accountant and joined a practice in the high street. Ethel’s practice prospered and she eventually became Senior Partner. She bought a large detached house in The Drive and saved for a rainy day that never came. When she retired she enjoyed the house and garden until it became too much for an old single lady, so she sold it and moved into the sheltered accommodation.
Jimmy and Bert were both interned, but only for a short while as they had never risen in the ranks. Jimmy eventually went to work for a transport company where he worked his way up to became manager, bought into the business using his savings and retired as chairman. When his wife died, like Ethel he sold up and moved into the sheltered accommodation. Bert had got a job working on aircraft electronics for Lufthansa. Once again he worked diligently and was promoted to a well paid senior position, choosing to move into the same accommodation as Jimmy and Ethel on retirement.
The four oldies had been placed on the same table for lunch and although they appeared to have little in common they hit it off. Every day they chatted and chatted over lunch until one day they realised they did have something in common, they all hated the Nazi’s who still had England under the thumb. The only other thing they had in common was a love of whist and so their cover for their anti-Nazi chats was born and never suspected. But their meeting hadn’t been random, the home’s manager was in the resistance and had deliberately brought together four like-minded people. Then along came Jinnie and her thirst for knowledge about the war. Initially, they were suspicious but Ethel liked her and decided to take a chance and talk to her. Ethel talked to her initially without mentioning the others so as to protect them. It was only when Ethel was satisfied that Jinnie was safe that she was invited to join them for whist.
In Chapter 3 – Jinnie learns about Operation Barbarossa.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file