Jinnie’s Story, Chapter Eighteen

The Gas Fitters Call

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Two German frigates out of Hamburg.
The two German frigates side by side,
European Union Naval Force
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

It was less than 30 minutes later that the large Deutsche Gas van pulled up on the other side of the green in front of the Walsh’s home. Three of the biggest burliest gas fitters possible got out of the van, retrieved tool bags out of the rear of the van carefully locked it and sauntered across the green. Jinnie opened the front door and the leading fitter said in a loud voice with a strong West Country accent, “You reported a gas leak, Ma’am.” Thinking on her feet Jinnie replied equally loudly “Yes, please come in”.

Inside the front door, the gas company overalls came off instantly revealing the battle fatigues of a corporal and two privates. Jinnie couldn’t see any unit markings. The corporal asked “Where is the best view, Ma’am?” and Jinnie led them to her bedroom turning the landing light out before she opened the bedroom door, where Penny was still watching. She saw the corporal looking around, while the two privates opened their tool bags and out came tripod-mounted binoculars, folding stools, machine pistols, a couple of military radios and two sniper rifles. Jinnie was interested in the sniper rifles, which were each broken down into three parts, barrel, body with telescopic sight and stock which the two privates rapidly assembled.

The corporal saw her looking at the firearms and asked “Do you shoot, Ma’am?” Jinnie explained that she had been taught by the Resistance and that both she and her sister had been on missions and she had been involved in several actions when she was in Germany. The corporal asked, “Do you speak German?” When she said, “Yes and we can both speak French”. He turned to the privates saying “We’ve fallen on our feet here lads. Two pretty girls who are bright, can shoot, and speak French and German”. Turning back to Jinnie he asked, “Can we access the loft?” and “How well do you know your neighbours we would like to use their loft as well?” Mrs Walsh answered from the doorway, “There is a loft ladder and it’s boarded.” Over her shoulder she called, “Dad where is that stick thing you get the loft ladder down with?” Turning back to the corporal she said, “I’ve got the door key to Daphne’s 3 doors down, she is staying with her daughter this week and I know the house is empty, except for her cat Sooty. Now how do you take your tea?”. The corporal muttered, “This job just gets better and better.”

In a matter of minutes, the two privates were installed in the two lofts, where they had slipped roof tiles aside slightly, just enough to fire through while seated on the folding stool and keeping the rifle fully inside the building. A second moved tile allowed the sniper to use the binoculars to observe the woods. All three men had earpieces and throat mikes so that they could alert each other should the need arise. The corporal put down his mug of tea, nodded at the pair of binoculars and said to Jinnie in German, “Would you like to try them Ma’am.” Jinnie guessed this was a test and replied in German, “Yes please I’d love to”. She sat on the stool and looked through them. They were vastly superior to the dusty old pair Penny had been using and the picture they gave was as clear as day. The corporal switching back to English said, “Low light amplification, clever isn’t it?” Jinnie panned the binoculars very slowly across the woods and could clearly see what looked like the shape of vehicles under camouflage nets and camouflaged tents.

Jinnie was in the kitchen making more tea which Mum was going to deliver to the sniper in Daphne’s house, together with ham sandwiches. He had been pre-warned over his earpiece that she was coming. The other neighbours knew Mrs Walsh had a key and that she popped in a few times a day to check up on and feed Sooty the black cat. As she waited for the kettle to boil Penny whispered in her ear, “SAS or Commandos?” Jinnie answered, “Definitely SAS, no unit markings.” When Jinnie took the tea upstairs she asked the Corporal, “ What happens now?” He replied, “Well it’s clearly a headquarters unit and not a fighting unit, so we observe, listen and report until told otherwise. Are you any good with a radio?” Jinnie said, “No, but I can learn.”

In the Southern North Sea, HMS Agamemnon was making a steady 30 knots underwater and the crew had been stood down from action stations allowing the cooks to get some simple hot food on for the crew. It was amazing what a hot meal and a couple of hours bunk time did for a tired crew. Once again the seemingly inexhaustible XO had a message for Commander Dobiecki. The satellites had eyes on 2 German frigates out of Hamburg that were closing fast on a convoy of several British container ships heading for Newcastle with supplies. Could they intercept? A quick calculation showed there was no possibility of them getting into a position where they could mount a torpedo attack before the frigates were in range to use their ship to ship missiles.

Peter asked how good the satellite data was. The reply was it was real-time with military GPS accuracy. The military GPS was of several degrees of accuracy better than civil GPS. In fact, both came from the same satellite but for commercial use the accuracy was dialled back by several levels of accuracy. Peter decided the answer was to launch two Tomahawks at each frigate and put them under terminal guidance from the satellites as the range was at least 500 miles and beyond guidance of the boat’s sensors. He just prayed that the satellites didn’t lose eye of the Frigates.

Two Tomahawks were already loaded but the plan called for four. One fired at each ship might be within the warships defensive capabilities, but two programmed to hit from opposite directions simultaneously almost certainly was not. He gave the order to load two more Tomahawks, calculate and load the firing solution. The crew were well drilled and the Tomahawks were up with green lights far more quickly than Peter imagined possible. Peter fired the Tomahawks and waited. Once out of the water the missiles flew at around 500 mph and had around 500 miles to fly. An easy calculation, it would take about an hour before he knew if he had succeeded.

Jinnie was sat on her bed in the dark wearing army headphones listening for German troops being ordered to do things. The odd thing was the orders were in plain German that she could understand, she had always thought that the messages would be scrambled but these didn’t seem to be. The corporal explained that it was down to the cleverness of the receiver she was using and a spy somewhere who had acquired a bit of software. The Germans were using agile frequency radio where the transmitter breaks the message down into tiny fragments and broadcasts them on many different wavelengths and the receiver has to jump around as well to reassemble it. Thus the message was rendered meaningless to the casual listener. Of course, the receiver had to know when and where each jump was to be made and this was broadcast as a code at the start of the message which told the receiver which of many thousands of patterns this particular message was going to use. It was this code the spy had obtained, while a sample transmitter and receiver had been stolen and cloned to make use of the patterns.

Jinnie was busy listening to one radio operator and the corporal a second different one. They both had pads on which the scribbled times and messages. Many were useless routine like messages that simply said “nothing to report” and requests for additional milk as a fridge had failed and a load had gone off. But occasionally a movement order for troops or supplies was picked up. These the corporal relayed on another tiny digital radio to his base somewhere. The corporal claimed these messages were secure as they were “compressed and sent as microbursts” whatever that meant. He told her HQ would not act on every message received as that might indicate to the Germans they were being listened to. But if it could look like, say, a particular movement of ammunition was attacked by a random air patrol, it would be. Jinnie was getting very tired and struggling to concentrate, she hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and was surviving on adrenaline, when the Corporal announced they were to be relieved by another team in ten minutes and he had requested a four-man team so that she could rest.

True to his word four more “gas fitters” arrived and took over. Jinnie wondered out loud just many SAS and other special forces were operating behind enemy lines. The corporal chuckled and replied that he’d love to know that too. He said his team would be back in 24 hours and he hoped to have an additional German-speaking member so she could stand down. As he went out of the door to cross the green to the van, he asked as a casual aside, “When you were in Berlin did you meet Major Scholz?” Jinnie answered, “I don’t think so, the only Scholz I met was Professor Dirk Scholz at the University.” “That’s him,” replied the corporal, “Major Dirk Scholz, I’ll give him your regards”.

Commander Peter Dobiecki sat in the submarine’s control room in front of a bank of flat digital colour TV screens. Someone had hastily labelled 4 of them missile 1 to 4. All four were currently blank. The Tomahawk missile had a TV camera built into its nose that was switched on for the last moments of its flight. The idea was that the operator was able to observe if the missile hit the target or not. This also gave the operator one last chance to steer the missile if it was off target. This was hardly likely, as normally when the missile was under Military GPS guidance it normally hit within 25 centimetres of the aiming point, but this was a moving target. The expired flight time was displayed on a digital clock above each screen. In each case, the time was already slightly over the hour, as the missiles had not flown a straight line from launch to target. The flights had made several random turns to disguise the launch point and to throw off any possible watcher.

One by one the screens flickered into life each displaying a German Frigate. The missiles were very low, skimming the waves to get lost in the radar returns from the sea. The 1000 lbs warheads were set to a 5-second delay as they didn’t want them exploding on contact, more damage could be done if the hull was penetrated and the warhead exploded deep inside the ship. As the mass of the missile was around 3,000 lbs it should easily cut through the ship. Suddenly the picture on screen 1 changed, the missile had flipped up to hit its aiming point. The frigate had seen it and turned hard to port to face it and offer a reduced target area. The operator moved a joystick and a cross appeared on the superstructure just below the ship’s bridge. The picture wobbled slightly as the missile adjusted its path to aim at the centre on the cross. The picture blanked out as the missile hit the cross. On screen two, the Tomahawk had already flipped up and the cross was over the open Helicopter Hangar door. Again the picture wobbled slightly, but the cause this time was as missile 2 was buffeted by the explosion of missile 1’s warhead deep in the bowels of the ship. Missile 2 flew through the hangar door and the camera blanked out as it was destroyed by the missile hitting what appeared to be the rear bulkhead of the hangar.

Missiles 3 and 4 hit the opposite sides of the second frigate within a few seconds of each other one aimed at the ships control centre and the second at the ammunition store. As the final missile hit it picked up the ship shudder as missile 3 exploded deep within it. Dobiecki sat staring at the blank screen until the XO said, “Sir, the Admiralty messages that satellite pictures indicate target two is sinking and target one is blazing from stem to stern and the crew is abandoning ship.” Dobiecki used the Tannoy to thank the crew and order a can of beer each to be served with tonight’s meal, which would be steak. The groan from the ship’s galley was audible throughout the boat.

In Chapter 19 – The Skewbald Mare.

© WorthingGooner 2021

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