In the channel on Commander Peter Dobiecki’s submarine Agamemnon the sensors picked up four sets of propellers and engines. The computer matched the acoustic signatures to German Navy vessels, a diesel submarine, a frigate and a pair of transports. The computer spewed out firing solutions and recommendations. It resolved the threats in order of severity and placed the submarine first, followed by the frigate and then the transports. Dobiecki ordered four of his Spearfish 2 heavy torpedoes to be readied and then thinking about it ordered two more to be readied. His boat could carry 38 rounds and he had loaded 19 Spearfish and 19 Tomahawk Block lV on sailing from Faslane. Both weapons were fired through the six torpedo tubes and his order was cautious, providing cover in case one of the first four missed. In simulation and testing the weapon had proved to be highly accurate but it was new and he didn’t want to be unprepared for a failure. As far as he knew he was the only commander to have fired one in anger and it currently had a 100% success rate. The Spearfish 2 was designed to attack both surface ships and submarines and Peter had practised with it against towed targets but war was different and he wanted to see how it performed.
The target information was transferred from the boat’s computer system to the torpedoes in tubes 1 to 4 in seconds and Peter had a green light on all four tubes. He gave the order to fire and the four Torpedoes were launched with 5-second gaps between them. In the forward compartment of the submarine the ratings sprang into action. Unlike boats of old, reloads weren’t manhandled into the launch tubes but it was all done with hydraulics and electrics at the press of a button or two. As soon as the tubes outer ‘muzzle’ doors were shut and watertight the tubes were blown dry, the inner doors opened and reloads inserted by the mechanical handling system. The umbilicals were attached ready to download instructions from the boat’s computers. In this instance Commander Dobiecki had ordered two more Spearfish and two Tomahawk cruise missiles to be loaded.
The boat’s sensors confirmed four detonations and the noises emanating from the submarine, frigate and one of the transports indicated they were dead. There were still engine sounds coming from the second transport and it was putting out radio SOS messages. It was unclear whether it had been damaged or it was acting on behalf of the other ships in the small convoy. Peter came to periscope depth and raised one of the boat’s two optronic masts. On the screens, he saw only one transport with a small fire towards the bow, but it was still underway. Dropping the mast he obtained another firing solution and finished off the second transport with his sixth Spearfish of the day.
The XO entered his Captain’s cabin with fresh orders from the Admiralty. He was to make full speed into the southern North Sea where several German warships had been sighted. Peter issued the order to his XO to plot a course to the grid position of the reported warships and then to make 30 knots submerged to that point. When the XO had gone, the commander returned to his dinner and looked forward to a few hours sleep while the boat was in the capable hands of the XO.
In the Northwest the BCN/NAA advanced forces had bypassed Kendal and was heading for Lancaster. Joey Jones was amazed at the progress and lack of serious resistance so far. He had expected to be attacked from the air but all he had seen so far was allied air support. He had heard that the civil airports in Carlisle, Newcastle and Middlesbrough were in military possession and were now officially RAF stations. Canadian and Mexican ground troop were being flown in and were releasing British troops and US from the rear areas and setting up and running camps for the growing numbers of POWs.
Joey’s tank regiment was sidetracked to head towards Barrow-in-Furness where the Germans were building U-boats. The locals in the town and shipyard had heard the BCN were coming and had revolted. Work had come to a total standstill, a line had been thrown up around the town and the resistance had emptied its armouries. The German forces had the power to crush the revolt but didn’t know which way to face, the town or the approaching Allied tanks. They were stuck in the middle, on a peninsula with the sea on three sides with no chance of reinforcement or extraction. They were between what could be a nasty bit of street fighting to no real end and the tank army racing towards them. The general in charge did the sensible thing and raised the white flag.
Joey’s tank never had to enter Barrow, it was firmly in the hands of the Resistance and they were already busy setting up the preliminary civil administration. The German sympathisers were already being detained and replaced by anti-Nazis and the shipyard workers were preparing to go back to work producing their submarines for the BCN.
Joey’s tank squadron was racing down the M6 to catch up with the advance. Someone in the Logistics Corp had calculated that it would be quicker for them to move under their own power than to wait for tank transporters. They had met the fuel bowsers near Carnforth, had all filled up and a few bits of minor maintenance had been done. A field kitchen had served everyone their first hot meal in a couple of days as this was now considered a rear area. After a couple of hours out of the tank, they were off again and moving south to their next scheduled refuelling halt near Lancaster University.
Joey was riding with his head out of the turret so that he could stretch a bit when out of the corner of his eye he saw the flash of an anti-tank missile being launched. Instantly dropping into the turret, he ordered a turn to face the threat as the sloped Cobham reinforced electric reactive armour on the front offered the best protection. He ordered HE to be loaded and was one of the first to fire at the flash. The missile hit a tank 3 up the line. Thanks to the tanks all having the ERA switched on, as per standing orders in a war zone, the damage was light. The shaped warhead penetrated the outer armoured plate and the electric charge vaporised the jet of molten copper, generated by the shaped charge, before it penetrated the inner skin.
The pair of Typhoons flying top cover zoomed in and the wood from which the missile had been launched disappeared in a mass of explosions before the cease-fire was called over the regimental radio net. In Joey’s first action he had got off three HE rounds and they had all hit the point he had seen the flash come from. The regiment was soon underway again including the damaged tank which would be taken to a mobile workshop as soon as possible. Joey had learnt a valuable lesson, even recaptured areas needed to be treated with caution.
Jinnie and her family were trying to keep up with events from radio and TV reports. If you were to believe ZDF the BCN were stalled and taking a hammering, everything in the South was normal. People in the big cities should carry on as usual. The loss of territory was ignored by the propagandists, as were the terrorist attacks that were happening all over the country. Penny reported that a chalkboard at Potters Bar Station said that there were no services North of Welwyn Garden City due to “overhead line failure”. Fred had been in touch and told them the attack had brought down the two piers, effectively three arches and the East Coast Main Line out of London was out for the foreseeable future.
However Jinnie believed what she heard on the BBC World Service more, but she was sure it couldn’t be as easy as they were making out. They were now reporting fighting in the Middle East where the allies were driving hard out of their Egyptian bases and over the ceasefire line which divided Libya into 1/3rd BCN, 2/3rd German/Italian and British paratroopers had retaken Malta and were being reinforced by troops from India. In Europe, both Turkey and Russia had both declared their neutrality as had Japan and China, who having fought each other to exhaustion just didn’t have the stomach for another war. Portugal had come out for the Allies and BCN forces from the English speaking countries had been landing secretly for months and were ready to attack Spain when war was declared. The Spanish Resistance was happy to facilitate the attack and a major attack was driving at Madrid aiming to split Spain in half.
Jinnie didn’t know what to make of the British claim of a new submarine captain hero who had so far sunk 5 German Navy ships in the channel. It sounded a little far fetched, but she hoped it was true. Some of the things being claimed she knew were true, like air superiority and devastating attacks by the resistance.
Amid all this good news came the sad news that in Vancouver Queen Elizabeth II had passed away in her sleep. Jinnie had wanted to see the monarchy restored and Queen Elizabeth back at Buckingham Palace once the German administration had been ejected. The BBC said the new King, Charles III, had flown into Scotland and was ready to move to London as soon as possible, but the coronation was going to have to wait until it could take place in Westminster Abbey. She also learnt that Charles’ two sons, the Princes William and Harry were on active service. Having both served in earlier years, they had both volunteered to return, with William flying helicopters and Harry as an officer in the Royal Marines.
When Jinnie went to put the old radio away in its home in the greenhouse it was just getting dark and she thought she saw people and lights in the woods at the bottom of the field. She watched for a while but couldn’t be sure. Back indoors she asked her dad if he had seen anything. He said he had seen someone in the field the day before but as he had a dog with him he thought it only a dog walker. She decided to watch from her bedroom window for a while and slipped into the room without putting the light on. The longer she watched the more she was sure there were people moving about and the occasional flash of a torch. Penny crept into the bedroom without putting the landing light on and joined Jinnie at the window. She had the little two-way radio Fred had given her in her hand and suggested she should report to him. Jinnie wanted to get a bit closer first, so that she could report who it was and what they were doing. Suddenly she had an idea.
Jinnie rang the Williams doorbell and asked if Bonnie needed walking this evening. The dog heard the word “walk” and went daft. Bill went and got her lead and Jinnie set off with her cover walking at her heel. She walked around the block a couple of times then headed for the road that went past Dame Alice Owen School, led down past the woods and then on as a cut through to the A1000 to Barnet. It was a favourite with dog walkers and she passed two or three, who said hello to her and Bonnie the Beagle. Just past the school, there was a barrier across the road with a no through road sign on it. Two German soldiers stood by the barrier surreptitiously smoking. One saw her and speaking in German told her the road was closed and to go back. She replied in her fluent German, asking how long was it likely to be closed for, because she always walked her dog here and in the wood. The Guard, surprised to be addressed in German, replied that he really didn’t know, he was only a private.
While talking to the Soldier Jinnie could see behind him that the stile she usually used to get into the woods was gone and instead there was a wide entry where the ground had been churned up by tracked vehicles. She saw headlights coming up the back lane from the direction of the A1000, so she decided that discretion was required, said good night to the guards and started to walk back towards the school. As the noise from the vehicles got louder she turned her head and waved to the two soldiers. The timing was good and she managed to see a staff car flying small pennants on the front, followed by two box trucks with high whip aerials mounted on the roof.
She took Bonnie home. The dog seemed disappointed that the walk that evening had been curtailed. It wasn’t only the dog who thought it was a quick walk, Bill Williams mentioned just that to Jinnie, who explained that the back road was closed and access to the woods barred. Bill said that didn’t surprise him as he thought he had seen soldiers in the woods erecting camouflage netting that afternoon. Back in her bedroom, Penny was still watching through the window. Dad had found her a tall kitchen stool to sit on and a dusty pair of Binoculars that Jinnie had never see before. Mum had brought her the ubiquitous ham sandwiches and a mug of tea, which were balanced on the window sill. She reported she had seen 3 sets of headlights among the trees.
Jinnie told her what she had seen and they decided it really was time to use one of the little radios. Jinnie expected to hear Fred’s voice answer her radio call but was shocked to hear Ethel’s voice answer with a cautious “Hello”. Remembering Fred had said Ethel and the oldies were going to man a comms centre, Jinnie explained the bare bones of the story and Ethel replied “Oh you need the gas company, the fitters will be with you to deal with that shortly”, and cut the call.
In Chapter 18 – The Gas fitters call.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file