Jinnie woke and reached out across the double bed for Paolo and found there was no one there. At first she panicked and then realised she was in the Vauxhall Travelodge. She switched the light on and checked the time on her phone. Six forty-five. Jinnie had plenty of time to shower, dress and indulge in a full English before she had to meet Paolo to pick up some clean clothes before work. Heading out of her room she caught a glimpse of herself in the full height mirror, she was delighted she had taken the time to hang her things up before collapsing into bed, they looked quite acceptable. Some of her team had beaten her down. She had a bet with herself that Gretel would be last, she always struggled to get out of bed.
Jinnie picked up a little pack of Rice Krispies and tipped them in a bowl and added cold milk from a jug. Kellogg’s cereals were new in Britain since the war and she was still trying all the different varieties. Making herself a cup of strong breakfast tea, she joined her team grouped in a corner. Within a few minutes, everyone was there, except Emma, even Gretel. Jinnie headed back to the buffet and, for a moment, was tempted to have her favourite boiled egg and soldiers, but she changed her mind and went for a full English as she doubted she would have time for lunch. She decided on a fried egg, fried bread, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, sauté potatoes and black pudding. The only thing she didn’t take was baked beans. Her dad always said they were American and had no place on a full English.
The team met in reception and walked together to the office, even Dirk was with them but Emma was still missing. Gretel had knocked on her room but reported there was no answer. Jinnie was too early to meet Paolo, so she decided to pop into the office and check for overnight messages before going back down to the station. Reaching her office, Jinnie was surprised to find the door unlocked and inside Emma was bustling around. She had already typed up an action list from yesterday’s meeting, there were printouts of half a dozen messages on her desk and most importantly she had got the coffee on. Jinnie thought, ‘I don’t know how much ‘C’ pays here but it can’t be enough.’
Jinnie met Paolo, had five minutes chat with him, asked after Larry, told him she loved him and expected to be home late Tuesday or early Wednesday. She lugged the hold-all into the office and, despite getting some odd looks, put it in the corner. She grabbed a change of clothes and a big plastic bag that Paolo had added for her dirty washing and headed for the ladies to change. Back in the office, she felt a load better.
The items on the action list were slowly being ticked off as the various services checked in and by seven on Thursday evening when they called it a day, just about half the items had been cleared. Jinnie knew that it was only human nature to do the easy tasks first so that the pace of completion was certain to slow up. Jinnie and Dirk headed for the Hotel Gretel, Carole and Emma grabbed a cab and headed for the closest late opening M&S to get some fresh clothes particularly underwear. The two girls loaned to the team decided to head home for the night as they both lived in South London and wanted a change of clothes. Jinnie’s core team, as she thought of the five who were staying in the hotel overnight, decided to meet in the restaurant to eat dinner together.
After another big breakfast, the core team headed into the office. This time Emma was with them, Jinnie had spoken with her and told her that she really appreciated her efforts but she didn’t want her making herself ill with overwork. The long hours the team were putting in were quite sufficient. Amongst the overnight messages was one from Steven. He had been back to his barracks to clear up some odds and ends and was now ready to join them for the duration. The message said he was driving up from Hereford that morning and could they arrange accommodation for him with parking. Emma booked another room at the Travelodge and a space in their car park and then texted him the address.
As Jinnie had predicted, progress on the action list had slowed a bit but items were still being ticked off. Shortly after arriving in the office, Jinnie took a call from ‘C’. He asked her to go on scrambler and somehow messed it up and had to call back and make a second attempt to scramble the call. This time he got it right, admitting that he was missing Emma who would normally sort out this sort of thing for him. Jinnie told him she had been invaluable and however much he was paying her it wasn’t enough. He said he would like to pay her more but she was already on the top secretarial grade. Jinnie snorted and said, “Then make her your personal assistant.”
‘C’ was being pressed for a progress report by the PM and Jinnie gave him a quick review of progress, suggesting that she and Steven would like to travel to Germany on Saturday night if everything was ready, otherwise it would have to be Sunday night. Jinnie pointed out that if they could travel on the Saturday they would have a chance to see the chosen attack site in daylight and a time margin, just in case something went wrong with the travel arrangements. After all didn’t the railways do their maintenance at weekends! ‘C’ agreed with her and said he would apply as much pressure as possible to get the mission on for Saturday night.
Having put the phone down, Jinnie wondered why the PM hadn’t phoned her on her mobile? He nearly always phoned about the same time, as she was travelling to work. Then she realised she was now in the office at the time he phoned and for security reasons the mobile phone signal was jammed in Vauxhall Cross, making it impossible to contact her that way. He could have rung on the scrambled land line but then he probably had no idea she had an office with a scrambler phone.
Jinnie called the team together and warned them Steven would be joining them shortly and revealed her hope to be able to travel on Saturday night. Finally, she asked them to redouble their efforts and to keep on the backs of everyone who was still to deliver. One or two of the team said they had come into messages this morning that had cleared nearly all of the outstanding items. Jinnie scrubbed the whiteboard clean and started a new list of the few outstanding items –
- Finalised Travel Arrangements
- Update from Mick Sheppard
- Final Approval from ‘C’ (PM?)
The team got down to chasing the first three items, the last was down to Jinnie once the other three were done. Emma got down to clearing a space for Steven, who had just arrived, at the meeting room table and Jinnie brought him up to date with what the plan now entailed. Emma was her usual efficient self and did the rounds of the team members to sort out what they wanted before heading to the local sandwich shop so that they could all eat lunch at their desks.
Jinnie was enjoying an egg mayonnaise and tomato sandwich on crusty bread when Dirk sat down in front of her and was joined by Steven, He was always well ahead of the liaison group with news from Berlin. His report was all good news. Mick had been in contact with Hanna and they had over fifty agents ready for Monday night. Vehicles were arranged, as were safe houses for over 200. Resistance friendly doctors and nurses were on standby. Routes into Poland had been agreed and the liaison group had put them in touch with the Polish Resistance who had multiple escape routes across the country to the coast ready. Other German Resistance groups had got routes organised to the Swiss border. Mick and Hanna had come up with a plan on how to assault the train once it was stationary. A fuller reconnaissance had found there was an ideally placed signal in the cutting. The revised plan was to halt the train by turning it red and Jinnie to shoot the driver either through the windscreen or as he got out of the train to talk to the signalman. Jinnie rather hoped he would get out of the cab as then she could shoot to disable rather than kill and the Resistance could be on him quickly. With the driver out of the way, the overhead power was to be dealt with with the aim of bringing down at least 3 miles. Shooters were to be positioned on either embankment to suppress the guards in each carriage while assault teams hit each coach. One extra suggestion by Hanna was that, as they withdrew, the two road bridges over the cutting were blown to add to the general confusion and deter pursuit.
Steven and Dirk spoke together for a moment and then Steven said he was generally in agreement with the plan, but he would really like to see the ambush site in daylight and to make preparations for demolition charges as early as possible as there was a lot for him to do over a wide area. Dirk said he had reminded Mick that the train was high off the ground and short ladders or step ladders would be needed. He had also suggested flash-bang grenades hurled in through the carriage windows. Mick had confirmed they had plenty and a choice of explosives for Steven to pick from. Jinnie looked at them and said, “OK to tick it off the list?” They both agreed.
Later that afternoon Carole joined Jinnie saying, “We could have a problem. The RAF say the plane at Shoreham has ‘gone technical’ and won’t be available until Sunday evening.” Jinnie looked at her half annoyed and half disbelieving saying, “Surely the RAF has more than one aircraft!” Carole replied, “Exactly what I said, apparently the nearest replacement is being used to transport the Home Secretary on a tour of Scotland and they are reluctant to pull it.” Jinnie called over to Emma, “Do we have a secure line to someone very senior in the RAF?” “Yes,” she replied. “We have a direct line into the office of the Chief of the Air Staff. Off the top of my head, I believe it is Air Chief Marshal Powderham.”
Jinnie got through to the Air Chief Marshal’s office and demanded to speak with him immediately, saying she was speaking on behalf of the Director of the SIS. Much to her surprise, she was put straight through to him. She wasted no time on pleasantries and told him that the plane currently being used by the Home Secretary was urgently needed for a mission out of Shoreham the following evening. The ACM replied that he couldn’t just take the plane off the Home Secretary. He would never hear the end of it. A livid Jinnie replied, “If you don’t do it now, I’m afraid you will have to answer to the Prime Minister. Don’t think I am making empty threats, I am a personal friend of Nigel and this mission is reporting directly to him. Any interference will see you cleaning the loos on RAF Stornaway.” She remembered a similar thing being said to an army officer who had been a problem to her in the OTC and it had just popped into her head. The ACM promised to be back to her within the hour. Jinnie put the phone down and Emma said to her, “I’d hate to see you when you were annoyed.”
While she had been on the phone Gretel had entered Jinnie’s office accompanied by a young man holding two big gusseted envelopes. Gretel indicate that he was from printing and he had instructions to hand the contents of the envelopes over to Mrs De Luca and Sgt. Ellis. No one else would do and the envelopes had to be signed for. Jinnie and Steven signed the proffered paperwork and the envelopes were theirs. They contained all the documentation for the trip, ID cards, rail tickets, bank statements, Berlin monthly bus passes, Jinnie had a letter from her father, Steven had several household bills everything used the same address in Berlin, they even had driving licences and just as importantly they had documents for Jinnie’s ‘mother’ bearing a photograph of Kirsten obtained from the PM. If stopped they had enough to pass an inspection, they would have to be forensically examined to raise suspicions.
Nearly everything was in place now, Jinnie only needed confirmation of the plane from Shoreham so she released the two extra helpers back to their regular jobs in mission planning after thanking them profusely. They wished her a safe and successful trip and Jinnie said they would probably hear about the attack through the media but not to believe everything they heard or read as the propagandists were sure to be spinning things. Jinnie suddenly remembered she had to get to Portsmouth and her car was in Cambridge, but Steven came to the rescue, his car was at the Travelodge.
Very nearly the full hour had passed since Jinnie had spoken to the ACM and she was beginning to wonder if she was going to have to speak to the PM when her scrambler phone rang. The ACM said, “Mrs De Luca, you must have incredible clout. The Home Secretary objected profusely to having to fly home on a commercial flight even complaining to the PM. I understand he was quite upset when the PM told him that national security overrode his ride home tomorrow evening. The aircrew reports that he was even more upset when he further complained to the PM that he had no knowledge of any current important matters of national security and the PM told him this one was nothing to do with him and if he didn’t like it he could resign.” He continued, “You’ll be pleased to know the plane is on its way to Shoreham right now, giving plenty of time for it to be prepared for tomorrow’s mission. May I wish you every fortune.”
Jinnie said, “OK Team, it looks like we are good to go. If Emma can get me in to see ‘C’ and he agrees, it looks like you may be able to sleep in your own beds tonight.” Emma accompanied Jinnie in the lift as her fingerprint was accepted on the button for the executive floor. Emma tapped on ‘C’s office door and without waiting walked straight in beckoning Jinnie to follow. ‘C’ looked up and smiled saying, “Good news I trust ladies, please tell me.” Jinnie reported the situation and asked for final permission to proceed with the operation. ‘C’ asked Emma to get the PM on the scrambler phone and put it on loudspeaker. As Emma did so Jinnie said to ‘C’, “I bet you are delighted to get your secretaries back.” He replied, “No, I’m delighted to get my personal assistant back.”
The PM got Jinnie to go through the preparations with him and once he was satisfied he said, “If you are happy Director, then so am I, let’s get on with it. Good luck Jinnie.” So that was that, the mission was on. Jinnie and Emma headed back to Jinnie’s office where the girls quickly got on the phones to give everyone the heads up that it was happening. Jinnie’s core team decided that they would have one last night in the hotel so that they could have a good luck dinner with Jinnie and Steven. Tonight they decided they would all eat out as the Travelodge had rather a limited menu, all Pizza, curry and burgers and tonight was a steak night so they chose the Waterfront Restaurant just over the road from Vauxhall Cross.
After rib-eye steak and chunky chips all round followed by a selection of desserts and coffee they all strolled back to the hotel, had a good night drink and headed to their rooms. Jinnie rang Paolo to say she would be out of touch until Tuesday or Wednesday when she got back she would ring him. She told him she loved him and to say hi to Larry, turned out the light and went to sleep. After breakfast Jinnie headed to reception to settle her bill only to be told it was sent automatically to Vauxhall Cross and settled by them, so she handed her keycard in and waited for Steven. They walked to his Vauxhall Astra, dumped their bags in the hatchback and headed for Portsmouth.
From the moment they got in the car, Steven switched to German saying they had better get used to it as they were going to hear an awful lot of it in the next few days. On the way down they chatted happily about anything and everything. Steven was a huge rugby fan and told Jinnie he had tickets to go to England vs Scotland in a few weeks. Jinnie said she had never watched rugby and didn’t understand the rules she had been brought up by a dad who followed Football. He had always supported Arsenal, but only on the TV, she didn’t know if he had ever been to a match. Consequently, she and her sister claimed allegiance to the Gunners. But she also had an interest in Barnet, who had been her nearest team and told him about their regular Christmas outings to watch them, as they always had a home match scheduled sometime over the holidays. How last year her dad had got lost going to their new ground, how they had nearly missed the kick-off and how they traditionally had a pie and Bovril at halftime. Steven told her it was similar in his house to this day, except it was rugby and Exeter Chiefs.
The journey passed rapidly due to the easy conversation and they pulled into Portsmouth dockyard in a light mood not thinking too much of the task ahead of them. Jinnie and Steven split, he headed for the gents clothing store and she to the ladies. The Wrens were waiting for her and as usual had already sorted out things for her to try. Jinnie reflected on how after several visits they had her style spot on. They now knew the sort of things she liked, they knew her sizes, they know the shades and brands of Third Reich make-up that suited her complexion even the brand of contraceptive pill, all without asking. They even remembered she preferred a hold-all to a suitcase. Soon she was attired in her regular Third Reich travelling gear of French jeans, sweater, sensible shoes and a jacket as the early autumn evenings could be cool.
Jinnie had remembered to bring the German-style engagement ring she had used on her previous mission and the Wrens promised to keep her engagement and wedding rings safe while she was away. The fact she now wore a wedding ring got the Wrens chatting and asking about her wedding. She told them how he was Italian how they had met in Berlin and been reunited in Rome by the matchmaking of the PM and the Italian PM and how they had only been married a month. The junior Wren suggested the tale would make a good book, which rather amused Jinnie.
Jinnie and Steven’s transport was ready for them when they emerged from the clothing warehouses and they were on their way along the A27 to Shoreham. Jinnie pointed out that they were really early as the flight wouldn’t be leaving until dusk which wasn’t until about 19:45. Steven suggested to the driver that as they were in no hurry and it was a decent day they should make a detour via Worthing seafront. They had a walk along the promenade, a stroll on the pier and even bought an ice cream which they sat on a bench eating while a dozen seagulls swooped overhead. The little bit of normality was soon over and they headed for Shoreham. The RAF squadron leader in charge said they were still early and pointed them in the direction of the Art Deco terminal building and suggested they get something to eat while they had the chance as who knew when they would get another opportunity. The restaurant and bar was very pleasant with huge windows offering views over the airfield. Jinnie read the menu and commented to Steven that it was better than the Travelodge. Jinnie decided that the visit to the seaside had given her an urge for scampi and chips, while Steven got stuck into ham, egg and chips.
It was virtually dark when the RAF Cirrus SR22T G6 took off and headed east skimming the channel just above wave height heading for Germany. The return trip fell well within the aircraft’s commercially stated range, but the RAF version had extra fuel tanks added so they had plenty of range. Jinnie settled down to what was expected to be a two-hour flight and promptly dropped off to sleep.
Jinnie awoke because Steven was gently shaking her. They were over land and on approach to land on a meadow somewhere north of Hamburg. As they came in just above treetop height lights came on to mark the improvised runway. The plane bumped across the grass and swung around through 180° as the lights flicked off. The pilot said, “Right, out and DON’T go towards the nose of the plane, the prop is still turning.” The co-pilot opened his door which hinged up and forward and got out of the way so that Jinnie and Steven could step onto the wing and drop to the ground towards the tail where they were greeted by the local Resistance who had pulled their baggage from the small luggage compartment. They were rushed to a nearby lane and a waiting car. When Jinnie looked back the Cirrus was on its take-off run and shadows were collecting the landing lights.
The German Resistance man driving the car hardly spoke, other than to say they were in no hurry as it was Sunday and the first ICE wasn’t until just before 06:00. But as the journey was direct and only took two hours they would be in Berlin nice and early in the morning where they would be met. Vauxhall Cross had lashed out for once and bought them First Class tickets so they had a table and they bought a typical German breakfast of black bread, butter, cheese, cold meat, cherry jam and coffee which was served at their table and helped to speed the journey. As the ICE pulled into Berlin, Jinnie wondered if she would know the person who was meeting them. They got to the ticket barrier and Jinnie saw someone head and shoulders above the throng. Big Willie was there to meet them.
In Chapter 6 – Reconnaissance.
© WorthingGooner 2022