Jinnie was still looking out of the window when she sensed a movement at her side. Her dad had silently joined her and was also looking out at the valley. Suddenly another pair of fast jets shot by seemingly skimming the treetops. Mr Walsh whispered to Jinnie, “What’s going on?” Jinnie shrugged, not trusting herself to speak. Then the explosions started in the distance, as with a thunderstorm the flash came first followed a few seconds later by a bang. The sky was lighting up somewhere slightly to the west of due south. Jinnie said, “Dad, where’s that?” But it was her mum who had joined them with Penny who answered, “I think it’s Mill Hill Barracks”. The Inglis Barracks at Mill Hill had been there for years. Back before the invasion, it had been the home of the Middlesex Regiment but it now housed a German Army unit, or what was left of it.
Mum went off downstairs to make tea and toast as no one else wanted to leave the window in case they missed something. As it began to get light the 3 pairs of jets shot by again but this time in the opposite direction. The attack was over and there had been no losses. Just as they were thinking about moving away from the window Penny point out that the traffic had disappeared from the motorway. It was the start of the rush hour and more than often at this time of day the traffic was nose to tail. But for there to be nothing on the road was exceptional. As they contemplated what this meant, a convoy of German military vehicles appeared heading anti-clockwise towards the A1 and M1 and probably north. There were trucks, tanks on transporters, APCs, fuel bowsers and crew buses crawling along at a slow speed for a motorway. As they watched the clack of rotor blades came from behind them, a flight of helicopters came low over the house and pounced on the convoy. Mr Walsh pointed at the helicopter and said, “Apaches, look at the markings, RAF roundels and American stars.”
The helicopters buzzed around the convoy like a swarm of angry wasps. Diving in, picking off an armoured vehicle with guided rockets here, then raking a soft-skinned truck or bus with their heavy machine guns there. In ten minutes the convoy was decimated and the helicopters clattered away back to the north leaving a heap of blazing wrecks spread across both carriageways of the motorway. Suddenly Penny turned and said, “Dad, how did you know they were Apache helicopters?”
Mr Walsh was silent for a while and eventually said, “Well, now the British have obviously started hitting back, I suppose there’s no harm in telling you. Your mother and I have been working for the Resistance since before you two were born. When we moved to this house we were asked to observe military movements on the motorway. Have you ever wondered why I spent so much time in the Greenhouse, it has a great view.” Jinnie and Penny looked at each other and Jinnie saw Penny give her the slightest of nods. Jinnie explained to her parents that both she and Penny had joined the Resistance and expected to be made use of that afternoon or evening. Their mother burst into tears, not of joy or anger but of a mixture of relief and anxiety.
The mobile phone network was down, the landline was down and the internet was down, they may have been targeted, but almost certainly had been taken down by the Nazis. The radio and TV were now reporting fighting, with the Allies clearly having air superiority and seemingly attacking at will all over the country it was impossible to deny. Of course, the radio and TV reported what the propagandists demanded, the invaders were being pushed back on all fronts, the glorious Luftwaffe were in control of the sky. Reinforcements were being rushed to the front and more would be arriving from the continent shortly. The message was keep calm and carry on.
In mid-afternoon, a yellow Deutsche Post van pulled up on the other side of the green. A postman, carrying a small parcel, crossed the green to the Walsh household and rang the doorbell. Jinnie had been expecting a contact and was already opening the door when the bell rang. The postman was Fred Bear. He handed over a parcel and said, “Be ready to talk in ten minutes”, turned on his heel and strolled back to the van. Jinnie opened the parcel, it contained two small two way radios of American manufacture. She assumed they were for her and Penny.
Fred was as good as his word, ten minutes later one of the radios buzzed and Jinnie answered it. Fred didn’t waste any time on niceties, he simply told the girls to be outside the main entrance of Dame Alice Owen school at 19:15, ready to be collected, dress warm and waterproof as rain was forecast. He had a mission for them.
In the channel, Commander Dobiecki had been hanging about all day. Every so often he raised one of Agamemnon’s optronic masts and had a good look around for a target. So far nothing had presented itself to him. The quick look only confirmed what the boat’s sensors told him, that only neutral ships were passing through the shipping lanes. A moment later and the XO handed him a message slip. The flash message had been received through the aerial in the optronic mast and informed the commander that they had eyes on two military transports that were loading troops and equipment in Boulogne and ordering him to intercept. With Dover out of use, Peter had consulted the map in his head and told his XO to set a course to intercept the transports which he thought would head for Folkestone and retired to his cabin to get a bite to eat. As soon as he entered the cabin his steward was there with a mug of tea and two bacon rolls.
The submarine was loitering, in stealth mode, off Boulogne a few hours later when the message was received that the satellite had observed the transports were preparing to sail. The boat’s sensors showed nothing much was moving in the channel, neutral shipping had decided to avoid a war zone and even German warships were being cautious. The tactic to stop reinforcements crossing the channel seemed to be working. Peter could afford to play a waiting game.
The first actual fighting Joey Jones saw was on the northern outskirts of Carlisle. The Germans had hastily thrown a defensive line in front of the first wave of tanks and the concealed Leopard 2 and Puma infantry fighting vehicles had some success temporarily halting the advance and knocking out 3 of the leading M1 tanks. As the afternoon light began to fade the A10 Warthogs swept in. They opened fire with their armour piercing rounds at about 5,000 metres, close enough to penetrate the armour, far enough away to be able to react defensively. The Germans had no answer to the specialist tank busters, a few handheld anti-aircraft rockets were fired resulting in one damaged plane, but the Warthog had been designed to survive ground fire. As all the A10s headed for home leaving many smouldering wrecks behind them, the Apaches moved in to mop up.
Before it was fully dark the tanks were rolling again. Most went around Carlisle but Joey’s regiment, accompanied by APCs was ordered to enter the city. He proceeded with trepidation having been warned of the perils of street fighting. The sight that met him shocked and delighted him. Crowds were on the street cheering them. Groups of German soldiers stood around waiting to surrender and one or two bodies hanged from trees. The sheer number of people on the road forced a halt. A dismounted infantryman passed escorting a group of half a dozen POWs to the rear. He explained the prisoners were a mixed crowd of conscripts, mainly French and Poles who hated the Germans as much as the British did. The bodies in the trees were a mixture German officers, hanged by the conscripts or collaborators and Gestapo hanged by the people. Joey decided it was time for a brew.
Jinnie knew that it was strictly illegal but just so long as she kept the volume low who in the house was going to report her for listening to the BBC broadcasting from Edinburgh on the old radio dad kept in the greenhouse. She was itching for news of what was happening and she couldn’t trust what the official stations were saying. A bit of messing around with the old fashioned radio located BBC World Service. The BBC were claiming multiple successes on all fronts. The armies attacking down the west of England were past Penrith. Over on the east side, Durham had fallen. The troops had not bothered to attack Newcastle and Sunderland but had bypassed and blockaded them. However, there were reports of the population rising up against the occupation and many of the foreign conscripts deserting and joining the English side. In North Wales, many troops had been infiltrated into the BCN area and had struck south reaching the Bristol Channel and cutting off a large number of German troops in South Wales. They were now being reinforced by US Marines being landed near the Severn Bridge at Chepstow. Ross on Wye, Monmouth and Chepstow had all fallen within hours of the fighting starting.
Jinnie had wondered what had become of the Luftwaffe, so far she hadn’t seen a single example of what the propaganda had told her their undefeatable aircraft flying over Potters Bar. From the radio, she gleaned the information that the answer was simple. A large number of Allied aircraft carriers off the east and west coasts and the south-west approaches and launched coordinated 3 am attacks on Luftwaffe bases catching them with nearly every aircraft on the ground. Those that were able to get into the air met the new stealth F35s which were equipped with state of the art weapons systems, allowing them to fight from a distance without ever being seen. By first light the allies had air superiority over all of England and Wales and B52s flying from continental USA had carpet-bombed every Luftwaffe airfield near the Channel, extending air superiority to over the Channel as well. The approaches to Southampton and Portsmouth had been mined from the air. The Channel Tunnel had been disabled and the Port of Dover was blocked by a sunken German warship.
Jinnie turned the radio off and returned it to its hidy-hole in the Greenhouse. She told her family what she had heard and speculated that the Germans had been subjected to their own blitzkrieg tactic. Sneak attacks from all directions by quickly moving overwhelming forces had caught them completely unprepared. The German’s ability to reinforce their occupation army was severely restricted and conscripts were uninterested in fighting.
When it came time to go to their rendezvous point, Mrs Walsh wanted to pack her daughters up with sandwiches and a Thermos of hot soup as she said it was going to be a cold night. The girls diplomatically refused, explaining that a pack of sandwiches and a flask would almost certainly hinder them. Jinnie and Penny were picked up by a small Citroen van in water company markings. The driver handed them both pistols and said there were automatic rifles for them all in the back. As he drove north, towards Hatfield, the driver explained that their job was to attack the Digswell railway viaduct. The girls looked at each other and Jinnie finally said she had never heard of it. The driver laughed and explained that they probably knew it as the Welwyn Viaduct, which was the case. The Welwyn Viaduct was an infamous pinch point on the East Coast Main Line where four tracks were reduced to two to carry the railway 30 metres over the valley of the river Mimram. The Viaduct was built in the 1850s on 40 brick arches. The resistance had been asked to try to bring down a couple of the arches and the van was loaded with EPX-1, a new more powerful plastic explosive, smuggled in especially for the job. The aim was to stack the explosive around one of the brick piers, while a second team from Stevenage did the same with the next pier. They would escape in the vans, but if there was not enough time for that process, they would simply park the vans against the piers blow them up that way and escape with the men in the two cars that were to meet them to assist.
They passed through Hatfield and then Welwyn Garden City and kept heading north on a quiet back road. The road turned sharply left and passed through an arch of the railway viaduct. The other van, also in water company markings, had arrived before them and had an area at the base of a pier closed off with plastic barriers marked Affinity Water. It looked like they were last to arrive as two cars were also parked up one ether side of the viaduct facing away, ready to go. The girl’s driver pulled up by the pier on the opposite side of the road, ran to the back of the van and handed each girl an M4 Carbine and several loaded magazines. On the journey up the girls had been briefed to take up hidden positions on either side of the road, about 100 yards south of the viaduct. The position had been prepared for them previously and was well hidden, giving a good view of what was coming up the road from Welwyn. Their job was to protect the demolition crew.
The men from the cars had already thrown up the water company barriers and were stacking the explosive under the direction of a man the girls assumed was a demolition expert. The girls ran to their positions, dropped in and waited. After a couple of minutes, a car approached from behind them, swept past without altering speed and continued going south. Another ten minutes passed with no activity whatsoever. Then another car approached from the north with their van right behind it, a hand doing a thumbs-up sign appeared from the front passenger window as the car went by. The van pulled up, the girls put the automatic riles in the now almost empty back, under some water company bits and pieces and climbed into the cab. The driver pulled away easily and without hurrying headed south. They had almost reached Hatfield when they first saw the flash and then heard the explosions behind them. Their driver never hesitated, he just kept going. Dropping them off outside the school where he had picked them up he suggested they keep the pistols as they may come in handy later and the resistance had an ample supply. He even opened the glove box and pulled out additional magazines and boxes of bullets.
When the sisters opened their front door they found Mum and Dad sitting in the dark in the living room, waiting for them. Mum hugged them both and went into the kitchen to make tea, her answer to everything. Dad explained that Mum had been on edge all evening. When they heard the distant explosion they had turned the lights off as they didn’t want any of the neighbours bothering them. He wanted to know what they had been doing and was the explosion anything to do with them. They told him what had occurred and that although they had heard and seen the explosions they had no idea if they had succeeded in their task.
In Chapter 17 – More gains and more action.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file