Jinnie was waiting outside the barracks when, much to her surprise a Land Rover Discovery pull up driven by a Lance Jack. Opening his window he looked at her with disgust and said, “I guess you are the Doris Crow all the dit is about, grab your daysack and hop in the back”. Jinnie was getting more familiar with army slang, she knew Doris, daysack and dit, but crow was new to her, she guessed it was insulting but would have to ask to be sure. Sergeant Thompson was an old hand and would tell her.
Driving to the range, she caught the Lance Jack glance at her several times in the rearview mirror. Suddenly she realised he was looking at her single medal ribbon like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Jinnie had him marked as a chauvinist but sat there quietly enjoying the ride and the driver’s growing unease. But it had made a difference to his attitude as on arrival he slipped out of the driver’s seat and opened the door for her. Sergeant Thompson was waiting for her outside the range and Jinnie saluted him. He immediately explained that word of the Blue challenge had spread fast and several senior officers would be arriving to observe the mornings events. Was she OK, did she need anything? He told her whatever happened he was on her side. He had seen her shoot and knew just what she was capable of. He also said the umpire who had observed her was convinced it had not been a fluke and was also anxious for her to prove him right.
Entering the range she was introduced to the range master who explained he had drawn various weapons from for her to use this morning a Glock 17 pistol, an SA80, a L129A1 as used by sharpshooters and a L115A3 expert sniper rifle and that he had personally zeroed them in. Jinnie had seen and handled the first three weapons although she had only shot the SA80 for the first time yesterday and that had been as a laser-equipped gun. The SAS had been equipped with the L129A1 and she had handled it but never fired one. However she had never even seen an L115A3, they were a rarity, used by expert snipers. They were said to only be in use with the British special forces and the American Delta force. They came as a “system” with a folding stock, an adjustable bipod support, a fixed fire suppressor and a matched 24X daylight sight. She had heard that they cost the Army £20,000 each.
Jinnie told Sergeant Thompson that the only weapon of the four she was really familiar with was the Glock, she had handled an SA80 and the first time she had “fired” one was yesterday, as for the other two rifles, she had only seen the sharpshooter rifle but she had only ever seen pictures of the sniper rifle. The sergeant walked over to the range master and after a short chat was back. The range master had said that the Ruperts were still having breakfast and if she wanted to shoot a few practice rounds he would clear the range so it was just between the three of them.
Jinnie jumped at the opportunity and was soon trying out the weapons. The range master was as good as his word, they were the only three people there and he had set up the guns nicely. She only fired a few rounds with the Glock before she was happy with it. The SA80 surprised her, it was a far better weapon than she had expected for a semi-automatic rifle and was a match for many of the specialist target rifles she had used. The Sharpshooter rifle she rather liked, it was light and accurate. She shot 20 or so rounds and was scoring mostly 10s with the occasional 9. She was sure that with a bit of practice she could consistently score 10s. However, she struggled a bit with the sniper rifle. It was a beautiful weapon and resting on its bipod meant she didn’t have to worry about its weight. Over shorter distances it was fine but she was struggling with it over longer distances. Sergeant Thompson was doing his best to help but what she really needed was the advice of an expert sniper instructor and that clearly wasn’t going to happen in the next few minutes. It was allowing for the fall of the bullet and the effect of wind over extended distances when shooting outdoors that she was finding testing. Still, she was improving with each shot and perhaps they wouldn’t want her to shoot at a target 1500 metres away.
The range master stepped in and called a halt, the brass were on the way. Jinnie felt a little nervous so she started her deep breathing exercises to steady her pulse rate. The sergeant wished her luck and said he was going to explain to the brass that before 30 minutes ago she had never shot with either the Sharpshooter or the sniper rifle but she was willing to give it a go.
Jinnie and the range master got the word the officers were ready and Jinnie was delighted she couldn’t see them, ‘out of sight out of mind’ as her grandmother used to say. She went through her usual range craft procedure with the range master and she found him calm and measured and without being obvious helpful. She shot 3 magazines with the Glock at various distances and targets scoring a series of 10s before the range master got a message in his ear to move on.
Next up was the SA80, Jinnie added a check to ensure the firing selector was in single-shot mode to her pre-shooting procedures. There were 3 x 30 round magazines ready for her to use. The range master got the word that the watchers were ready so he told Jinnie to say when she want to start and he would set the targets in motion he would count shots and pause things so she could change magazines. He told her the targets were all between 300 and 350 metres. Jinnie pulled on the ear defenders and took a kneeling stance for the first magazine. Having counted 30 rounds she was able to change to standing stance for the second magazine. Again she shot 30 rounds and changed to a prone stance for the final magazine. She had no idea how she was doing as the targets were too far away and visible for too little time for her to see, although she felt she had done OK.
After a short pause, the range master got another message in his earpiece and smiled. He told her that the brass were satisfied that yesterday’s events had neither been a fluke or the actions of a ringer. However, they would like to see how she got on with the two other rifles but they appreciated that she had not had any instruction with either. Jinnie knew better than to refuse an officers ‘request’ so agreed. The range master produced a 30 round box magazine and explained that this time, for the Sharpshooter, the targets would be around 600 metres and as previously to tell him when she was ready. Again she ensured the semi-automatic was in single-shot mode and gave the word to start.
By the time she had got through 20 of the 30 rounds, Jinnie was beginning to enjoy herself. She knew she was scoring high as she could see the rounds impacting through the scope before the targets turned back. At the end of the magazine, the range master asked if she wanted a break or was ready for the sniper rifle. Jinnie thought it better to get this done now while her adrenaline was high.
This time she only had two 5 round magazines to contend with. The range master explained that this was the version that fired .338 Lapua Magnum cartridges and in the hands of a real expert, like the Olympic gold medalist designer, was accurate out to 2,450 metres. At 2000 metres the bullet was said still to have the stopping power of a .45 magnum fired at point-blank range. However, for this trial, he had set up two fixed targets the first at 1000 metres and the second at 1250 metres. She was to fire a magazine at each target in her own time. “OK,” said Jinnie, “Let’s get this thing done”.
The practice Jinnie had earlier proved invaluable, she had familiarised herself with the feel of the rifle and its bolt action. Only 10 shots to go from a prone position with the rifle on its bipod legs and this would be over. The first five shots at 1000 metres were all in the kill zone, if that target was a man he would have been dead 5 times over. The first round at 1250 metres got caught by the breeze and was only in the wounded zone. Jinnie kicked herself, there was no need to hurry the shots she told herself, wait for a lull in the breeze before firing, you’re in no hurry. The next 4 shots were all kills and she breathed a sigh of relief. The range master broke out in a broad smile and said, “Congratulations Cadet, for a novice that was some of the best shooting I have ever seen and believe me I have seen a hell of a lot”.
Sergeant Thompson appeared at her side and handed he a bottle of cold water which she took gratefully, suddenly realising she needed a drink. He said, “Nice shooting Cadet Walsh I knew you could do it.” He added, “I think you and I have earned some NAFFI time. Now where’s that driver?”. That reminded her to ask him what a ‘crow’ was. He asked why and she told him about the driver. He explained it was actually a term that had been termed in the Great War and meant Conscripts Replacement Of War, when barely trained conscripts had been sent to the front line to replace experienced men who had been killed. Now it was usually applied to any new inexperienced soldier. He added chuckling, “Right let’s find that Arab and get a brew. In case you don’t know that’s ‘A Regular Army Bastard’.”
They were sitting in the NAFFI with steaming brews in front of them when a major from the Royal Anglican Regiment approached them. Jumping to their feet and saluting they waved back to their seats where the major said to Jinnie, “Nice shooting Cadet, have you considered a career in the regular Army when you have finished your degree? We could always find a fast track promotion for someone with your skills.” Jinnie replied, “I’m sorry sir, I already have a future employer and they are sponsoring my degree.” The officer nodded and said, “That’s a pity, I hope they can use your skills. Now one further question just for my curiosity, where did you learn to shoot like that?” Jinnie thought for a moment and said, “In Berlin sir.” The major looked at her medal ribbon and continued, “I suppose that explains the medal, I won’t embarrass you by asking any more questions as I guess you can’t answer. Good luck with your chosen career, Cadet.”
The rest of the term progressed well. Both Jinnie’s French and Italian were coming on much better than she could possibly have dreamed. She had an end of term personal interview with her lead French and German lecturers. The French lecturer was happy with her term’s work and had placed her second in the year. Her interview with Professor Shultz was a waste of time, she had done nothing all year and Dirk had placed her third in the year saying if he had placed her higher it might have lead to questions as to who she was. Her OTU was going well too with Freddie spending several weeks with his foot in a boot she had become the de facto leader of the sector and it came as no surprise when she was promoted to junior under officer in charge of Able Section. She had subsequently led them climbing in Scotland and was still working 3 nights a week in the bar and had turned down several approaches for dates. The money she was earning in the bar, tips and her stipend from the OTU were a good cover for her always having money to spend.
Three days before the end of term Jinnie’s mum rang her to say a letter had arrived addressed to her that looked like it was from Windsor Castle and should she open it. Jinnie had a quick think and realising that the date for tea could be before she got home so she said yes. It was an invitation, but not to Windsor instead it was to Buckingham Palace. The refurbishment work had progressed much quicker than expected and enough rooms would be ready for the Royal Family to move back in on December 14th in time to celebrate Christmas there.
The invitation was actually for Wednesday 23rd December, the day before Christmas Eve. The letter included a pass for her to enter the main gate and a car pass for her Mini. Jinnie initially wondered how they knew her car’s registration number and then realised that all the Queen had do was detail a private secretary and the information would no doubt appear. In a handwritten note on the bottom of the invitation, the Queen had added, “Charlotte has particularly asked that you should wear your army uniform.” Jinnie was delighted that meant she wouldn’t have to hunt for a suitable dress for tea at the palace and could get the unit to issue her with a No 2 dress uniform for the occasion. She immediately got on to Sergeant Thompson as he seemed able to fix anything. He got back to her within an hour, to tell her that the major had immediately agreed to the request, well he could hardly refuse Jinnie thought. It being Wednesday and the last OTU of the year, she was to going to be in to the Barracks that evening anyway so she could collect the uniform and he reminded her to sew on the medal ribbon. He seemed more proud of it than her.
Friday 4th December was the last day of term and there were only lectures in the morning. She had bought Cate a little Christmas present for being so patient with her, a token for a meal for her and her partner in one of Cambridge’s better hotels. Cate was delighted and told her she had often looked at the menu there and had promised herself that she would eat there one day. Dirk had asked to see her before she left so just after midday she found herself knocking on his study door. He explained he had a mission for her over the New Year which would involve her being out of the country over the New Year. A courier would deliver details to her on December the 27th but in the meantime, he wished her a merry Christmas and said he would see her next term which he reminded her began on the 19th of January.
Jinnie rang Artie to check if her and her sister’s lasts were ready. Artie told her that they had arrived the previous week but knowing she was in Cambridge he hadn’t bothered to let her know. Could she and her sister call in and he would check the lasts against their feet? If everything was OK then they could sort out their shoes. Penny was excited and wanted to go there and then but Jinnie thought it more seemly to leave it a day or two. The lasts were perfect and the sisters chose the styles they wanted and the leather from Artie’s extensive range of styles and leathers. Artie said, as he always closed the shop between Christmas and New Year, the new shoes would be ready in the second week of January.
Wearing her No 2 dress uniform while driving through London made Jinnie feel awkward but on driving up to the palace gate and presenting her pass she thought it helped as the car in front took ages to get in while she was just waved through and told where to drive to. She pulled up on the central quadrangle under a protective brick awning which saved her getting wet in the drizzle. As soon as she had applied the handbrake a servant opened her car door and helped her out. Another servant took her keys, leapt into the driving seat and her car was gone, she presumed to a car park somewhere. She was led up the steps and into the palace where a liveried footman glanced at her invitation and called a girl to take her to the nursery.
Jinnie expected the nursery to be a single room, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, it was a whole suite of rooms, the children’s bedrooms, a huge playroom, a living/TV room, a library full of children’s books, a dining room, a kitchen, at least two bathrooms and the nanny’s accommodation. Jinnie recognised the brown uniform of a Norland Nanny who introduced herself as Maria. The children hung back until Nanny called them forward. First, she was introduced to Prince George, Jinnie curtsied, George giggled and shook her hand. Then came Princess Charlotte and finally 2 3/4-year-old Prince Louis. Following the introductions, Charlotte grabbed Jinnie’s hand and dragged her into the dining room where the table was laid with enough cakes, sandwiches and biscuits to feed a small army. Charlotte said, “Nanny say we can’t start until Mummy and Daddy get here. Nanny has made three different cakes as she didn’t know what you liked.”
Just as Charlotte finish speaking Queen Catherine walked in, Jinnie and the Nanny curtsied and the two eldest children ran over to her, Prince Louis was too busy in the playroom engrossed in a Peppa Pig video to notice his mother. The Queen looked at the table full of food and said to the children, “Nanny has excelled herself, there’s far too much food for us. Daddy is talking to that nice Mr Farage, shall we get them to come and help us eat it?” Charlotte nodded vigorously while George said, “Yes, he’s funny, I like him.” Turning to Jinnie she said, “William has just finished his weekly audience with the Prime Minister. They were only talking sport when I left them just now, but I know Nigel can’t turn down a slice of Nanny’s Chocolate cake.” A servant was dispatched and the King and the Prime Minister arrived before the children had been seated at the table. Once again Jinnie curtsied and was introduced to the PM who looked at her hard and said, “I’m sure we have met.”
Jinnie replied, “Yes sir, on the eve of the election.” Looking none the wiser Farage said, “Sorry you will have to remind me.” Jinnie explained that they had been photographed on a party stall in Potters Bar and the picture had been in all the papers. The PM said, “Oh, I remember now you were with your sister, but you weren’t in uniform then.” Jinnie explained that she was only a COTU cadet but that Charlotte had particularly wanted to see her in uniform. The Queen chipped in with, “Charlotte thinks you are a spy and that’s why you were getting a medal.” To which Jinnie answered, “You have a very perceptive daughter Your Majesty, I did work for the ERA in Germany, but I am just a language student now.” The King looked at her with added interest, while the princess bounced up and down repeating, “I told you so. I told you so.”
Prince George was getting impatient, he just wanted to eat! His mother spotted this and waved them all to take a seat at the table. Charlotte insisted on sitting next to Jinnie and the Queen sat on the other side of the Princess so that she could be next to Prince Louis in his booster chair. The King sat at the head of the table, while the PM and Prince George sat opposite Jinnie. Nanny Maria poured tea and then discreetly withdrew. The Queen told Jinnie that she tried to have tea with the children as often as possible and it gave Nanny a break. George wanted to start with the Victoria sponge but the Queen insisted on sandwiches first, there were egg, cheese, ham and smoked salmon, a selection to suit all ages.
Charlotte wanted Jinnie to tell her about her time in Germany and she begged her to talk about it. The King said, “please do,” and the PM said he would be interested to hear her story. So between bites of sandwich and then chocolate cake told a highly abridged tale of her recruitment, German education, work for the resistance and the raids she had taken part in. Prince George and Princess Charlotte were intrigued, however, Prince Louis was more interested in pulling the ham out of his sandwich and leaving the bread. The Queen wanted to know how she got away from Germany and Jinnie explained that the war of liberation broke out while she was home for Christmas but her group leader had not been so lucky. The King said, “Go on, what happened to him?”.
Jinnie then told them about Dirk, the accident and his escape by submarine. The Queen said, “I would like to meet him.” To which Jinnie replied, “But you have Your Majesty. He was award a medal immediately before me and was talking to my family group when you spoke to me and issued this invitation.” The Queen said, “What a pity I didn’t know, he could have joined us.”
After tea the King and Queen withdrew, Nanny Maria took the children to wash their hands and faces and the PM said to her, “I think that is our cue to leave, anyway I need a cigarette.” It was only when they were being led down a long corridor that Jinnie realised they were talking in German. Surprised how she had slipped seamlessly into speaking a foreign language she said, “Prime Minister, I didn’t know you could speak German.” He smiled and replied and continued in German saying, “My second wife was German and I had to learn it to communicate with her and I have two boys who are both fluent.” The prime-ministerial Jaguar was waiting, with its engine running, at the door with her Mini right behind it. Before getting into the car the PM shook her hand and still speaking German said: “I hope we meet again Miss Walsh and good luck with your mission.” It then struck Jinnie that he obviously knew a lot more about her than he had revealed.
In Chapter 14 – Jinnie has a Happy New Year.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file