Jinnie settled into a window seat of the 13:47 train from Munich to Mannheim. As yet there was no sign of Steven and the train was due to depart in five minutes. Jinnie had swapped identities in the car to the station and she was now Isabelle Goossens, the Belgium student, returning home for the summer. The time ticked away and still no Steven. Finally the clock on the platform showed 13:47 and the train pulled away. As the carriage Jinnie was in accelerated past the signal at the end of the platform Steven slipped into the seat by her side.
Steven said he had just managed to get on the last carriage moments before departure and had walked through the train until he came to Jinnie. The lunchtime train was not very busy and no one was sat within hearing distance so Steven told Jinnie of his attack. He had been given a team of 15 men to demolish as much of the factory and offices as possible. They had taken a direct route through the main gate after quietly securing the gatehouse. All the factory and office staff had been given permission to watch the rollout and trials of the new aircraft allowing the resistance team to gain access to the workshops and design offices. Under Steven’s direction, all the major plant and assembly jigs had demolition charges attached. Incendiary charges were laid in the offices and everything was ready for the plane being attacked.
When Steven saw the plane explode he gave the order to fire all the charges and withdraw. Just before the charges started going off several armed security guards arrived on the scene and began firing at the withdrawing resistance fighters. However there were only a few guards and heavily outgunned, they quickly backed off only to be caught in the exploding demolition charges. All the resistance men got away, although a couple had minor bullet wounds. The withdrawing force had tried to ensure that they had got away cleanly so their vehicles had split up and had taken various round about routes back to the centre of Munich. Steven’s car had only just got to the station in time for him to catch the train. He was convinced that the attack had been a success and had seen huge flames coming from the office block and heard numerous explosions from the factory.
The pair changed trains at Mannheim, getting onto a train for Cologne, then another change onto a train to Brussels before the final change to Ostend. This time it was nothing posh collecting them from Ostend station when they arrived at 00:41, it was just someone from the Belgium resistance playing the role of Jinnie’s father and guiding them to his very ordinary family car.
Jinnie was sitting in a farmhouse kitchen, across a scrubbed wooden table from Steven tucking into fresh home-baked bread, farmhouse cheese and homemade pickle with a steaming mug of coffee when the farmer came in and suggested they eat up quickly as he had received a message that the plane was on its way and should arrive in the next 15 minutes. Jinnie rushed her coffee and as she waited at the edge of the field with several resistance fighters she was gently exploring her mouth with her tongue as she was sure she had scalded it on the coffee. She had just located a particularly sore spot when the temporary runway lights flipped on and the light aircraft appeared out of nowhere. The farmer told them to come with him and when they reached the already open doors of the plane several large parcels had already been unloaded. Two more crates were dumped on the ground before Jinnie and Steven got aboard. They had hardly closed the doors before the plane was moving and Jinnie was sure it was in the air before she had got her seat belt on. She guessed the plane had been on the ground for less than 2 minutes.
The short trip at wave top height back to Shoreham was over before Jinnie realised it. Officially Shoreham is not open at night, but as the Cirrus came into land, lights along the tarmac runway’s edge popped on. The plane taxied straight into a hanger and the hanger doors were shut behind it as the single engine shut down. Jinnie glanced at her watch it indicated that it was just after five. Surely Jinnie thought it should be getting light by now. Then she realised her watch was still on German time and it was actually just after four.
The Range Rover was waiting for them outside the tiny old fashioned terminal building with its engine running. As Jinnie sunk into the rear seat she realised just how tired she was, she had hardly slept in the last few days. The car pulled out onto the A27 and the last thing Jinnie remembered was driving past a big Toby Carvery on the outskirts of Worthing before being woken up with the Range Rover parked in Portsmouth. A quick trip through the clothes warehouse where the Wrens checked in the borrowed clothing and returned Jinnie’s own clothes. Jinnie wondered if the Wrens ever slept as every time she was there so were they. This time the Wrens little present for Jinnie was the engagement ring which they suggested she keep. Jinnie said goodbye to Steven who was back in his uniform and waiting for transport back to Hereford, he told her that she would be debriefed at home later that day.
Jinnie turned out of the main gate onto the A3 and headed north towards London. She hadn’t even reached Waterlooville before she had to find somewhere to pull over for a sleep. She was woken a couple of hours later by a traffic policeman knocking on her window. Jinnie lowered her window and in a sarcastic tone the officer said, “Heavy night last night miss?” Jinnie replied, “No Officer, I have been working and feeling tired I did what I am always being encouraged to do, I pulled over safely and went to sleep.” The Officer looked her up and down, sniffed deeply and said, “I can smell alcohol so I will require you to take a breath test.” The officer wandered back to his car to get his test kit, while his colleague walked around her car kicking the tyres and looking hard for faults. Of course Jinnie hadn’t had any alcohol in days and knew she was dealing with an officious officer throwing his weight around with a young girl.
Jinnie blew into the nozzle on the device and of course produced a zero reading. The officer then produced a form and proceeded to fill it in to explain the stop. When he asked Jinnie for her driving licence she opened the wallet section of her purse to extract the license ensuring that the officer saw her SIS office pass. Jinnie watched his face change. Suddenly he couldn’t have been nicer, apologising for waking her up and wishing her a good day, calling his partner back to the traffic car driving off before Jinnie had even put her purse away.
It was just about lunchtime when Jinnie let herself into the house. As she expected no one was home. Being Thursday and still June, Penny was still at school, Mum was still at her temporary teaching job in Hadley Wood and Dad’s technical college didn’t have as long off in the summer as Cambridge. It was a warm sunny day, so after a quick lunch of a poached egg on toast, Jinnie got a lounger out of the shed and set it up on the sunny patio, found some suntan lotion and settled back to wait for her debriefer to arrive. The doorbell made a dozing Jinnie jump and when she opened the door she had another surprise, Dirk was standing on the doorstep. She took him into the lounge, where Dirk turned on the record function of his phone and they talked through her mission. Jinnie even included the breathalyser incident which made Dirk chuckle.
Dirk turned off the recorder and said to Jinnie that he reckoned that within a few minutes her car registration would have been on the Police National Computer with a “do not stop – intelligence services” note against it. Dirk then asked what time Penny would be home, Jinnie glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece and replied, “Any time now, you can see her school across the field.” Dirk continued, “And your parents?” Jinnie answered, “Mum will be about an hour and Dad has a regular Thursday after lectures departmental meeting so isn’t usually in before six and then rushes out to a council meeting.” Dirk nodded sagely and asked Jinnie how she thought Penny would react if he offered her a similar deal to hers to study French at Cambridge once she had taken the ‘A’ levels. Jinnie said she thought she would be delighted, but he did realise that she wasn’t due to take her ‘A’ for another year. Dirk said yes, but he wanted to encourage her to apply to Cambridge before she was snapped up by another University and in any case if he signed her up now she could work for the SIS through the summer holidays.
Jinnie explained that Penny had been left money to pay her way through university but if she didn’t have to use it she would be delighted and if she was to be paid a wage Jinnie was sure Penny would react like all her flatmates had. They continued chatting while waiting for Penny and Dirk was just explaining how much he missed being in the field when the front door banged. Penny put her head around the lounge door and looked a little puzzled when she saw Dirk. Jinnie asked her to come in and join them.
Penny remembered Dirk from Jinnie’s medal ceremony and talking with the Queen but was astounded when Jinnie introduced him as her controller and explained he had a proposition for her. Dirk went through the proposal, finishing up by saying that when she graduated from Cambridge there would be a job for her in the Secret Intelligence Service. Penny thought for a moment or two and asked if the post would be as an agent. Dirk smiled and replied that all depended on how well things went during training and with her language skills. Penny was silent for a few more moments and then asked if she would definitely get a place at Cambridge. Dirk pondered his answer and eventually replied that nothing in this world is certain, but if she got 3 decent ‘A’ levels then yes. Penny immediately said, “I accept, I just want to see Mum and Dad’s faces when they find out that both their daughters have got places at Cambridge.
Dirk left before the sister’s mum arrived home, giving Penny the chance to say to Jinnie that now she had agreed to join the SIS Jinnie could tell her all about where she had really been for the last few days. Jinnie pointed out that until Penny was 18 in September she couldn’t legally sign the Official Secrets Act so Jinnie could only let her speculate.
Sitting at the dining room table that evening Penny announced to her parents that she had decided to make Cambridge her first choice for university. Mr Walsh grunted and, looking up from the homemade Shepherds Pie, told her that to have one daughter at Cambridge was luck, to have two would be a miracle. The two girls looked at each other and started giggling. Mr and Mrs Walsh just look at each other not understanding the joke.
It was the last week in July and the school year had just finished, when Penny joined Jinnie and Gretel on the daily commute to Vauxhall Cross. Jinnie had got used to the daily journey. She had initially driven down to the station and parked in the station car park, but three things had changed her to walking. Firstly every evening it seemed that one or two cars had been broken into during the day, secondly she begrudged paying £4 a day to park and finally she convinced herself the 15-minute walk was good for her. They met Gretel on the platform and caught the 07:32 Thameslink train. They changed onto the Victoria line at the train’s first stop, Finsbury Park, by walking down a spiral staircase, for a direct Victoria line tube service to Vauxhall tube station located just over the road from the SIS building. They could be in the office by 08:30, half an hour before starting time.
A few weeks later, on a wet late August morning, the sisters stood at Jinnie’s now regular spot on the platform and as the train pulled into the station Gretel puffed up the slope and joined them. It never ceased to amaze Jinnie that someone who lived so close to the station could cut it so fine every day. They had just sat down when Jinnie’s mobile rang. Seeing that the number was ‘withheld’ she nearly didn’t answer it. However, she was immediately pleased that she had when a voice said, “Please hold for the Prime Minister.” Jinnie sat upright. A couple of clicks and she heard Mr Farage’s voice over the airwaves. He asked how she was and thanked her for her ‘efforts’ in Germany. Then he asked if she was on her own, said no she was with her sister and a work colleague. The PM asked “Gretel?” and when Jinnie said, “Yes Sir,” he said, “Would the three of you join me for a cup of tea at 4 this afternoon at Number 10. I have already cleared it with your respective bosses. I have a few ideas I want to run past you all.” Before she could answer the PM said, “Good, that’s settled I’ll see you at four,” and the line went dead.
Penny looked at her sister who was staring blankly at her phone and asked “Are you going to tell us who that was or are you going to make us guess.” Jinnie blurted out, “It was the Prime Minister and we are invited to tea at No10 at four.” The other two girls laughed and the city gent behind the Daily Telegraph in the fourth seat snorted loudly. By the time they got to the office, Jinnie had half convinced them that it was true, it was only when Gretel’s department head asked her how she knew the PM and when Penny’s boss asked if an official car picking at 3:15 was OK that they were finally convinced. Jinnie popped out to a nearby supermarket at lunchtime, she had heard that Larry liked cat treats and purchased a bag of Felix mixed meat flavours.
The car dropped the three girls off just inside the gates to Downing Street and waited to take them to the tube when they had finished their chat. Jinnie spotted Larry on his favourite sunny window sill at almost the same time as Larry spotted her. He leapt down, squeezed through the railings and trotted up to Jinnie rubbing himself around her legs. Jinnie was delighted Larry remembered her and bent down to rub his neck under his chin which had him purring loudly. Jinnie whispered to Larry that she had a present for him and Larry jogged along beside Jinnie in through the famous black door.
The three girls, and Larry, were led directly into the Prime Minister’s office. The PM invited them to sit on a selection of matching leather sofas and armchairs where he joined them. Larry instantly jumped into Jinnie’s lap and curled up. The PM laughed and said, “Larry is like an elephant, he doesn’t forget people he likes.” Jinnie thought it opportune to give Larry his gift and pulling out the bag of cat treats asked the PM if she could give him some. Larry had seen the packet and knowing what it was, started gently butting the hand Jinnie was holding the bag in. Mr Farage suggested she give Larry a few and he would put the rest in his drawer and give Larry a few every day as he was supposed to be on a diet!
On a side table was a silver tray with a large china teapot, a silver coffee pot and a plate of mixed fancy biscuits. The PM waited until an assistant had poured the drinks, placed the biscuits on the coffee table between the sofas and left the room before he explained what was on his mind. He explained that he was being pressed by a number of nations to help free them from Nazi rule. In particular, the French and Italian resistance forces were vociferous and the Allies who had helped free Britain were split on what to do. The Portuguese and recently freed Spain were in favour of action, the Americans were not sure, the Mexicans would do whatever the Americans finally decided and the Commonwealth would do whatever Britain decided. He was in two minds, he felt he should be doing everything possible to help any nation who wanted to be free from German rule but he was worried that the people of Britain were war-weary. What he wanted of the girls was to find out how the younger generation felt, because it would be many of them that would be called up to fight. Were they patriotic or had they had enough of war? He didn’t want an immediate answer, as any attack would take a year or two to plan and build up to, so it wouldn’t matter if they went away and carefully asked around their friends and colleagues. He suggested he would ring Jinnie in a few months to hear what they had discovered. He added that he had asked the same question of several groups so whatever answer they came up with might not be the final answer, but they should not be surprised if the current build-up in the armed forces seemed to increase as a build-up took a long time and he wanted to be ready if the decision was invasion.
The group chatted on a little longer, the PM asking how they were enjoying working for the SIS before it became obvious it was time to leave. Jinnie gently lifted Larry up, placed him on the floor and got up to leave. Larry followed the girls to their waiting car and Jinnie said goodbye to him and told him they would meet again soon. She was certain he understood every word that was said and thought what a perfect spy Larry would make.
As it was rush hour, the car, instead of taking them to the Underground, took them to Finsbury Park. The train to Potters Bar was packed and although itching to do so, the girls couldn’t discuss what they had learned. They agreed to meet in the pub later that evening where a wet morning had turned into a lovely evening, they could sit in the beer garden, and not be overheard.
The girls found a table in a quiet corner and decided not to put up the umbrella but to enjoy the last of the day’s sunshine. They all agreed that they had not really had any discussions with their friends over Britain helping occupied nations freeing themselves from the Third Reich. Jinnie thought that now would be a good time to reveal to her sister and Gretel how deeply involved she was in the fight against the Germans because she had experience of what people on the European mainland were doing and see just how many were willing to risk their lives for freedom. Gretel sat there open-mouthed, while a smile spread across Penny’s face. When she finished her story Penny said, “I knew you were up to something, disappearing for days on end”.
They decided to talk to their friends, but to be very careful. They realised that if they came straight out and asked if Britain should go to war again, then the answer would almost certainly be no. Instead, they decided to ask if they had heard of the French, Italian or even German resistance, to ask if they thought Britain should help them and to slowly find how far they would go to help.
In Chapter 19 – Jinnie polls her friends.
© WorthingGooner 2021