The day after the Election Jinnie slept late, in fact the whole house did. By the time she got downstairs and put the TV on the Reform Party had a 99 seat majority with two seats still to come one in Northern Ireland where a second recount was to take place at noon, after the tellers had got some sleep, and another where there had been problems getting some of the ballot boxes from a couple of remote Scottish islands. The DUP and Alliance were contesting the Irish seat while the Reform Party were tipped to win the Scottish one. If these predictions were right then Farage would have a 99 seat majority and could pass just about any legislation they wished.
Jinnie had surprised herself by being first up. She busied herself making tea and toast before her sister and mother put in an appearance, but Dad was still exhausted, both physically and mentally, from the previous day’s efforts. Sitting in front of the TV eating their very late breakfast the Walsh women watched helicopter shots of Farage’s car driving him to Windsor Castle to have an audience with the King and to be asked to form a government. An hour later Farage entered Downing Street and strolled over to the podium to speak to the nation for the first time as prime minister. He thanked everyone who had voted for his party and said he was going to spend the next few days appointing his government and organising the handover of power from the military. Then he intended to get on with the business of governing and implementing his manifesto. He turned on his heel and headed for the door of No 10, only pausing to stroke Larry the cat who was patiently waiting on the doorstep to greet him.
Saturday was new car day. It was supposed to be ready for collection at noon but over breakfast, the salesman rang. Mr Walsh thought he was going to be told the Jaguar was not going to be ready, but he was wrong they wanted to know if he could be an hour early. So there was a panic to get ready. Jinnie had already paid for it by bank transfer so that was no problem, a quick call had to be made to the insurance broker to ensure the new car would be covered. Once at the showroom, the paperwork was all signed and sealed and someone was sent to get the new Jaguar from around the back somewhere. As it pulled up outside the showroom it looked stunning, it positively gleamed and Jinnie watched the look of pleasure spread across her dad’s face.
Mr Walsh drove home extremely carefully and parked in his normal spot. Mrs Walsh and Penny had been watching and waiting. As soon as the handbrake was on they were coming across the green to inspect the new car. Penny was clearly impressed and Jinnie suddenly realised that she was the only family member not to be able to drive and without a car. Jinnie took her to one side and whispered to her, in French, to go and book driving lessons and she would pay. Adding that as soon as she had passed her test she would buy her a car. Penny yelled with joy and hugged the sister causing mum to ask what they were conspiring about.
Following Sunday lunch, this week it was roast shoulder of lamb, Jinnie set off back to Cambridge. She was becoming familiar with the route and hardly had to use the satnav. She was the first to get back to the flat and made herself a mug of coffee before heading back to her room to put away the clean washing her Mum had done for her. Jinnie was sitting on her bed, propped up by her pillows, surfing the net for news of the latest cabinet appointments, when she heard the front door open and the sound of voices. Nigel, Carol and Jason were all arriving together. Having arrived at the station on the same train they had decided to share a taxi rather than wait nearly an hour for an infrequent Sunday evening bus.
As always, Jason was hungry, so Jinnie suggested she should order a meal to be delivered. Then came the discussion as to what it should be Nigel wanted curry, Jason wanted a burger, chips and a milkshake, while Carol favoured pizza. Jinnie said as she was buying it was going to be Chinese and on hearing it wasn’t going to cost them anything they all set about deciding what dishes to order from the menu that had been delivered when they first moved in. In the end, it was a set meal for 4 that arrived 3/4 of an hour later and they all sat down around the table in the kitchen diner to tuck into the various items. The chat turned to what they had been doing during the week and Carol suddenly said to Jinnie that she knew what she had been doing. Jinnie was shocked, how did she know about the medal? But no, she had seen her picture, with Nigel Farage, in the paper.
Monday’s lectures went well for Jinnie. She had spent the last week speaking French with her sister and was sure it had helped them both. However, it had been the visit to the Italian restaurant that had shown her just how much she was progressing with her Italian and she had actually been looking forward to her session with Cate. Entering the professor’s study she immediately felt at ease and the session was spent with Jinnie talking to Cate about her week. Of course, Cate was familiar with her background so Jinnie was able to tell her all about her visit to Windsor, her encounter with Princess Charlotte, her invitation to nursery tea, her dinner in the Italian restaurant and finally about meeting the prime minister to be. All the time Cate was helping with her pronunciation and to find the right words. At the end of the session, Cate said she was happy with the progress of her spoken Italian but felt that they now needed to concentrate more on her reading and writing.
Monday evening was student bar night and when Jinnie walked in she was immediately called to one side by Steve, worrying her that she had done something wrong. It was quite the opposite, he wanted to say thank you for pushing him to get a cask ale in. It was selling far better than he could have dreamed possible and takings were up considerably since it had become available. He then asked her how she and the rest of the staff she was working with were coping, was he going to have to look for additional staff? Jinnie said that it was not too bad on the days she worked but Friday and Saturday were always much busier, perhaps he should ask the staff who worked those evenings. He said that was a good idea, but to let him know if her evenings got too busy.
Wednesday evenings were getting to be fun, the section had cracked drill and were working as one. The drill sergeant had noticeably eased up on them now that he didn’t have to shout at them so often and was threatening to let them drill with real rifles if they continued to do well. First aid classes had been introduced and Jinnie had been intrigued to learn just how a life could be saved by the prompt application of a field dressing, tourniquet and fluids. Dr Bill was a huge help he had been in the Red Cross for years and knew a lot about first aid. Of course, military first aid was a bit different to civilian first aid as it tended to concentrate on bullet wounds and blast injures. Treating the victims of a road traffic accident was not quite the same as treating high-velocity gunshot wounds or the victims of an IED. However, speed was important in both cases and in the Army it was a case of stabilising the injured for a quick evacuation to a point away from the battlefield for treatment.
The coming weekend was to be their first weekend on exercise. The whole unit were to be bussed to Salisbury Plain where they were to play the enemy in an exercise involving the newly formed 3rd Battalion (TA) Royal Anglican Regiment. Most of the weekend soldiers were experienced troops who had fought the Germans who had been discharged at the end of the war but wanted to remain available just in case. They were to play the Blue army while the cadet force were the Red army defending a village. Able, Baker and Charlie sections being this term’s intake and inexperienced were to play the headquarters company while the more experienced cadets in years two and three were to defend the village and were issued with real weapons, but no ammunition. Instead, the rifles were fitted with laser designators and every cadet wore a jacket that reacted to a laser strike and indicated an injury or a death. As the only cadet in Able section with any military experience, Freddie Smyth was much to the disgust of the rest of the section put in charge for the weekend. Lucy was muttering “anyone but him” and even mild-mannered Dr Bill said to Jinnie, “It should have been you”.
The coaches had picked them up outside the barracks at 5 pm sharp and deposited them at Larkhill Barracks in the early evening, where they were shown their cots, the cookhouse was indicated and they were told to get some scoff down them while they had the chance then to get their heads down as the exercise started at 05:00. Breakfast was from 03:00 and transport to their positions would pick them up at 03:45 and woe betide anyone who was late.
Jinnie set the alarm on her watch for 02:30 and ensured the girls in the section were all waiting for breakfast when the cookhouse opened. Dr Bill and Mike joined them but Freddie was nowhere to be seen. Mike said he had given him a shake but he had just looked at his watch and turned over. Freddie walked in just as the others were leaving. The rest of the section were in the back of the SV when with seconds to go Freddie arrive clutching a half-eaten fried egg sandwich. A sergeant overseeing the truck bawled him out as he started to climb on board and much to the amusement of the rest of the section asked him if he thought he was in some greasy spoon and to get rid of the egg banjo double-quick.
The HQ of the Red defenders had been set up in the cellar of a pub in the middle of the village and those in the headquarters group were all allocated tasks. A couple of the second years were allocated as guard/lookouts and positioned in upstairs windows but Able section were looking after communications and were in charge of taking incoming radio messages, updating positions on a map for the officers and transmitting outgoing messages. Typical of the Army the fact that Jinnie had operated an identical radio in the war of liberation was ignored and she took on the responsibility as one of the runners carrying messages to and from the radio operators and the map markers. Things were fairly relaxed initially and most of the messages were simply position reports. The umpires were sitting in the corners of the room observing and continually making notes were a little disquieting at first, but as things got busier with an attack coming in Jinnie learnt to quickly ignore them.
In the middle of the afternoon, Jinnie heard a yell from upstairs. Freddie, anxious to recover from his poor start to the day, went to investigate. He shouted back that one of the lookouts had been shot and injured and needed medical assistance. Dr Bill said what is wrong with him doing the emergency first aid he had the training, but made his way upstairs anyway. The next thing Jinnie heard was a crash and a bang and Freddie tumbled into the room having fallen down the cellar steps. Jinnie quickly examined him and guessed that he had either badly sprained or broken his ankle and was in a lot of pain. Dr Bill joined her and agreed with her diagnosis and immobilised the ankle. One of the officers approached an umpire and was given permission to get an ambulance to extradite Freddie as this was a genuine injury and not an “exercise injury”.
The umpire called a brief halt while a Land Rover ambulance collected the moaning Freddie and took him off to hospital. Jinnie looked at Mike and said someone has to take command he immediately said, “It should be you,” and the others all nodded their agreement. Then the battle was back on and very quickly the second lookout was “shot” by a sniper. Jinnie told Mike to take over and headed upstairs. The first lookout was sitting in a corner with a field dressing on his supposed wound, while the flashing red light on his colleague’s jacket indicated he had been fatally injured. Keeping her head down and away from the windows, Jinnie picked up the “dead” soldiers SA80 and quickly thought if I try to get to a window the sniper out there will get me too.
Jinnie’s mind went back to the SAS men who had used her Potters Bar home to watch the German headquarters unit. She now knew what to do. Watched by an umpire in the uniform of a major, she belly crawled to a dropped pair of binoculars and keeping below windowsill level crawled out of the door and out to the loft hatch on the landing. It was too high for her to reach but she called on Lucy, who was a big girl, and she gave her a leg up into the loft. Walking on the joists Jinnie made her way to the tiled roof. She could see that this wasn’t the first time someone had done this. Several of the tiles had been moved previously and put back badly letting in daylight. Carefully Jinnie moved a tile making a hole big enough to shoot through then she moved more tiles giving her different fields of fire and views. It was only then that she noticed the umpires head sticking up through the loft hatch carefully observing what she was doing.
Jinnie settled down to try to spot the sniper. She only hoped that the sniper was within range. The L85A3 model she picked up was an upgraded model but it only had an effective range of 600 metres she wished it was a sharpshooter L129A1 which the sniper out there was probably armed with as it had another 200 metres range. Even better, the full sniper rifle the L115A3 which was said to be one-shot accurate out to 850 metres and officially good for up 1000 metres in favourable circumstances. There were even stories of an expert sniper putting a bullet in the head of a tank commander at 1.2 miles but she dismissed that as Dit. She just hoped the lookouts had been useless and had let the sniper get up close to the pub.
After about 10 minutes Jinnie caught the flash of light reflecting off glass in a nearby tree well within range. Using the binoculars she could make out a man in camouflage. Holding her fire she wanted to see if this sniper was alone. Next was movement in the church graveyard. The binoculars weren’t the best, she wished she had a pair like those SAS men had, now they were powerful and light enhancing and with the light fading would have been handy. Suddenly the shape in the graveyard moved a little and she could see an officers insignia and a colleague with a man-portable radio. The question was could she take the both out and turn and hit the sniper before he realised what was happening and got a shot away.
Jinnie decided to take the chance, this was similar to target shooting and she knew she could hit these targets accurately if the laser illuminator shot straight. To move the odds in her favour she decided to fire two shots at each target giving her an opportunity to adjust her aim if the first shot either missed or was not a kill shot. She shot at the officer first, the first shot was a little low and through the site she saw the injured light come on, before the officer could react the kill second shot was away and the kill light was on. Switching to the stunned radio operator the first shot turned on the kill light. She swung the rifle round to the sniper and fired twice, another clean hit the red kill light gleamed brightly in the gathering gloom.
Jinnie kept an eye on the approach to the pub but could hear the umpire behind her talking on the radio. As darkness fell whistles started blowing and the umpires called off the exercise for the evening. The SV arrived to take them back to Larkhill and as Able section climbed into the back the umpire whose head had protruded through the loft hatch pulled Jinnie to one side and asked her where she had learnt the “slipped slate” technique. Jinnie told him about the SAS men and he replied, “But cadet they didn’t teach you to shoot like that and now that we are close I see you are wearing a George Cross ribbon how does a cadet earn that?”. Jinnie replied in, “Working for the Resistance in Berlin sir.” Before the major could pursue it any further the truck started honking and she said, “My transport is about to leave, sir,” saluted and was hauled into the back of the truck by Dr Bill and Mike.
Over dinner in the food hall, Jinnie had to answer questions from Able section on what had happed in the loft. The tale of a remarkable piece of shooting had been circulated by the “dead” and “injured” lookouts who had heard the umpire major on the radio net and had put together part of the story. Jinnie played down what had happened telling them how she had seen SAS troopers use the “slipped slate” technique during the war but not her part in the destruction of the German HQ Unit. The shooting she dismissed as lucky, the SA80 being an automatic rifle she told them that the rapid-fire had allowed her to take out the officer and the radioman in a single bust and the same thing had happened with the sniper.
As the section left the food hall, Sergeant Thompson appeared. Firstly he had news that Cadet Smyth had a very badly sprained ankle, but would be fit enough to join them on the coach back to Cambridge tomorrow after a night in hospital. He designated Mike to get Freddie’s kit together and onto the coach. The coach would depart for Cambridge promptly at 14:00 hours. The section were to report for a debrief at 10:00 but there would be time for lunch before they left. He then dismissed the section, but as they turned to walk away be called Jinnie back. He explained that a number of the umpires and Blue army officers didn’t believe that a young cadet was responsible for the “death” of three of the Blue side and had accused the Red army of bringing in a ringer. He said the good name of the COTU was being besmirched and he went on saying that having seen her shoot he knew just how good she was, but he couldn’t convince them. Consequently, he had arranged for her to skip the debriefing and instead to demonstrate her shooting ability on the Larkhill range. He added he had arranged for transport to pick her up at 09:00 hours and he hoped it was OK.
In Chapter 13 – Jinnie has tea with royalty.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file