Jinnie was once again in the wood walking Bonnie when the burner phone rang. This time she had half expected it and didn’t jump, but Bonnie the beagle did. Fred Bear had to be somewhere near to know she was walking the dog and on her own. She was told that she and her sister were going to be held in reserve on the morning of the 3rd and that someone would be in touch during the afternoon to tell them where they would be needed. However because the phone network could be down, the contact may need to be in person so please could she stay in tomorrow after lunch. She agreed and Fred rang off.
Jim Smith checked in to the “Le Shuttle” at Calais using the touch screen, just as he had done many times before. It had become routine, his company had booked his slot on this train days before, knowing when he would get to the terminal from his regular journey times. He had got to Calais late the previous afternoon and had got his head down in the sleeping compartment of his cab, while parked in the terminal secure truck park. He had been on this run for three years now. Pick up a load of seafood in Bridlington, mainly lobsters, but some pallets of prawns and crabs. Drive his huge refrigerated Volvo articulated truck down to Almeria in southern Spain. Unload at the fish market. Then on to one of the giant market gardens where they grew all sorts of vegetables and salad goods under acres of glass. Swap his trailer for one already loaded with salad stuff for the Morrisons distribution depot in York and then back home to Hull. A day off and then the trip all over again. There were six other trucks on this trip so that a daily service could be maintained.
Jim was early for the 3 am train just as he liked to be. He was second in the queue to load so he could get out of the Folkestone terminal and on the road quickly with today’s load that was mainly tomatoes and cucumbers. Not only that, he was close to the laughingly called Drivers Club Car, allowing him to get a seat near the weak Wi-Fi router giving him a fighting chance of picking up the signal on his tablet computer. The queue behind him was growing, looking around he saw a couple of chemical tankers that had been separated and would be loaded at the back of the train. At last he was called forward, he drove up the slope onto the train and parked as he was instructed. He climbed down from the cab, locked it and clutching his tablet computer headed for his favourite seat in the club car that was directly behind the locomotive. The great thing about the railways under the Germans was that you could rely on them to run on time. At precisely 3 am the shuttle started off on its 35-minute trip.
At exactly the same time Commander Peter Dobiecki brought the nuclear powered Astute Class attack submarine HMS Agamemnon to periscope depth and viewed the shipping off Dover through one of the two optronic masts. The replacement for the optical periscope included CCTV, Thermal Imaging and low light systems. Two days ago he had sailed from Faslane under orders to head for a grid reference point in the channel off Dover and at 02:30 to open the sealed orders that were in the safe in his cabin. Thirty minutes earlier, accompanied by his XO he had opened his sealed orders and for a moment he had been staggered. What he had longed for and trained for all his life was finally happening. The orders told him that the war against the Third Reich and its allies would resume in 30 mins with a simultaneous declaration delivered by courier to the Fuhrer and attacks by the combined forces on many fronts by the combined armed forces of the BCN and the NAA. He now understood the rush to get his boat completed ahead of the original timetable and to get it equipped with the new Spearfish 2 that had only recently gone into service. His specific task was to stop reinforcement being shipped in from the continent. He was not to attack cross channel ferries until told as, the chances were, most had sailed before the resumption of hostilities and were extremely unlikely to be carrying anything other than normal civilian trade. However, other shipping was fair game, especially warships, troopships and tankers. He was to respect hospital ships, neutral ships and where ever possible civilian shipping.
Commander Dobiecki was, as his name gave away, from Polish stock. His grandparents had escaped to England when the Germans had invaded in 1939. They had barely settled in Newcastle before the Germans had invaded England and they had uprooted themselves again and headed for Glasgow where Peter had been born. His grandparents had worked hard and raised a family. His mother and father had owned a fish and chip shop but had never forgotten their roots and raised Peter to love Britain and Poland but to hate the Germans. Peter had done well with this education and chosen to join the Royal Navy as an officer cadet. He had opted for the silent service and had steadily moved up the ranks where he had earned the reputation of being a firm but fair officer and was well-liked by those serving under him. He had served as XO on several boats, but Agamemnon was his first command and was only a few weeks old.
The view through the optronic mast revealed mostly civilian shipping but a German destroyer was preparing to make its way slowly out of Dover harbour. He ordered an attack solution and sank back into deeper water. In seconds he had both a Tomahawk and a Spearfish 2 solution presented to him by the attack computer. He liked the Spearfish solution, he could set the warhead to acoustic/proximity mode and it would run deep, exploding under the destroyer and with any luck breaking its back and blocking the harbour entrance. Running deep it would not leave a wake and reveal his position and he preferred to keep his Tomahawk load for later when its over 1,000-mile range might be of more use.
Peter gave the command to fire a single torpedo and at approximately 5 minutes past 3 the air defence frigate Hamburg sunk in the harbour entrance. Peter had been technically wrong, what he thought was a destroyer was in fact officially listed as a frigate, but was clearly the size and carried the equipment of a destroyer. The Spearfish 2 heavy torpedo had performed perfectly on its debut in action. A tiny mid-course correction had been transmitted over the guidewire, the Torpedo had exploded under the ship and broken its back as hoped. HMS Agamemnon slipped away to mid-channel to take up a new watching position and wait for potential targets and/or additional orders.
Sergeant Joey Jones sat sipping his brew in his Challenger 2 tank at the start line ready for the 3am go order. As far as he could see there were tanks, both Challenger 2’s which had been rolling off the Scottish production lines in huge numbers and American M1 Abrams which had been secretly arriving with their crews for months. His division was tasked with pushing down the route of the A74, and then further south down the M6, from their jumping-off point just north of Gretna Green. The initial target was Carlisle The major obstacle in their path was the river Esk. There was both a road bridge and rail bridge over the river and the intention was for the pathfinders, in their APC’s, to race off ahead of the main tank army and to grab the bridges. The condition of the bridges was unknown as they hadn’t been much used for years as there was very little travel over the border between Scotland and England. The Royal Engineers were on standby, if needed, to reinforce either or both bridges. But bridge layers and many prefabricated bridge section were ready just a few miles north of Gretna Green if the bridges were unusable.
A 2:58 the order came to start the engines. Joey gave his driver the order, threw the dregs of his brew out of the turret and put his enamel mug into a cubby hole. Technicians were everywhere in case engines didn’t start, few were needed. He tightened the chin strap of his helmet for the sixth time in the last half hour and waited for the order to go. The luminous dial on his watch indicated 5 seconds to 3 when the first fast jets passed overhead and at exactly 3 o’clock, as the artillery opened up on the border posts and defences with their guided multiple rocket launchers, the order came to advance.
Joey’s Challenger was in the second wave of tanks, followed by the main body of the motorised infantry in their APC’s and Armoured Fighting Vehicles. As they raced down the A74 around Gretna they came across a broken down M1 from the first wave that had lost a track but he was pleased to see a recovery team were already in attendance. They were over the border and into England almost before they realised it. The immediate border defences had been flattened by the bombardment and the first wave of tanks. So far he had only seen a single allied battle casualty and the one casualty he had seen looked like a mechanical failure. When they arrived at the Esk he could see that both bridges were standing and the Royal Engineers were hard at work strengthening the structures. Armoured vehicles were streaming across both bridges but were well spaced out to avoid too much stress before the strengthening was completed. A third Bailey bridge was going up a little way to the east.
Back in the Channel Tunnel, Jim’s train to Folkestone came to a grinding halt under the midpoint of the channel. The driver announced that there was a small fire in a truck at the rear of the train. It had happened to a train Jim had been on before. A refrigeration unit had failed and a few quick squirts from a fire extinguisher had sorted it out. But this time it was different. The two chemical tankers at the rear of the train were blazing. After a disastrous fire some year earlier a fast decoupling system had been installed to allow the unaffected railway wagons to escape the fire. This was quickly activated and the rest of the shuttle ran on to the Folkestone terminal, where it was met by the police who were looking for the chemical tanker drivers.
As drivers were paired with their trucks it soon became apparent that the tanker drivers had disappeared into thin air. It was then that the first explosion occurred as a tanker in the tunnel went up. This was quickly followed by an explosion from the southbound bore where a similar scenario was playing out. After an hour or so Jim was cleared by the police to go, as a regular tunnel user he wasn’t a suspect besides it wasn’t his lorry that had exploded, it was still there and it was full of perishable produce. However, it looked like the tunnel was going to be unusable for some time.
As soon as he was able, Jim did exactly what any driver would be expected to do. He rang his depot and explained he was running a little late and told them why. He suggested that they should consider re-routing traffic via ferries for the foreseeable future. 45 mins later Jim parked up in a dark corner of the Clacket Lane services truck park and let the two SAS men out of the back of his truck. Seconds later he was in the services having a piss, buying a large coffee and then back on the road as if nothing had ever happened. He wanted to be on the M1 as soon as speed restrictions would allow it.
Jinnie woke around six in the morning and switched on her bedside radio. Nothing. It was just a normal day on every station she tried. Had things started and the Propaganda Ministry were suppressing the news or had things been postponed for some reason? If the attacks had failed badly, she knew the Ministry would be all over the airways crowing of a great victory. A huge roar seeped through the double glazing and Jinnie leapt out of bed and ran to the window just in time to see the jet pipes of two aircraft, flying at treetop height, flash down the valley, swiftly followed by another pair. In the early morning darkness, it was impossible to pick out and markings on the aircraft, but she had never seen German aircraft that low or using that valley. So it was definitely happening!
In Chapter 15 – Jinnie gets involved.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file