The tracks started to hum and the overhead cable sing. Mick put his hand on Willie’s arm and said, “Red now.” Willie pressed the button and the signal went red. Jinnie spotted the headlights of the locomotive and thought it was slowing. As it got closer it was now obviously slowing. It finally halted a metre short of the red light. For a minute the driver sat in his cab waiting for it to turn green. Fed up with waiting he started to climb down and Jinnie fired. The bullet went clean through his right thigh and he toppled onto the track. Mick said, “Go, go, go,” into his radio and the attack teams arose from either side of the track. But not before Jinnie fired again, putting a second bullet through the telephone handset. Jinnie looked at them and shrugged saying, “You can’t be too careful.”
Mick gave the signal to blow the power masts and one after another they were toppled, accompanied by several bright flashes as the 15Kv lines shorted out. Mick said, “Right you three, go, you are now more needed to get Kirsten home.” Jinnie didn’t need telling twice. The rifle was already in pieces and disappearing into the hold-all. As they left, Jinnie stole a glance at the mission below. The driver was trussed up like a chicken but he had a field dressing on his leg. There was the sound of breaking glass and explosions, several carriage doors were hanging off and men were climbing in but there was very little gunfire. Jinnie hoped that was a good sign.
Willie put the gun bag in the boot, under the mat in the spare wheel well, and slid a big toolbox and two suitcases on top, fixing them down with elasticated straps. Willie donned his chauffeur’s cap and started the engine. Steven and Jinnie stood by the Mercedes’s open rear doors listening and watching the tree line. There was still very little gunfire and the explosions had died down. After a few minutes, resistance fighters started to emerge from the treeline helping bedraggled people, one or two still had chains around their ankles and wrists. More time passed and the noises of battle became fewer and fewer.
Then two resistance men virtually carried a blonde woman from the trees and headed towards them. As they neared, Jinnie recognised Kirsten from the photo, but she looked awful, she was dirty, battered and bruised, and struggling to walk. At least her manacles had been removed but there were raw patches on her wrists and ankles where they had clearly been rubbing. Jinnie spoke to her gently first in German and then, she hoped to reassure her in English, telling her that they were there to take her to England and her family. Jinnie knew she understood when her chest started heaving and she began to sob.
Steven and Jinnie put Kirsten between them on the back seat and drove out of the field onto the road and away from the cutting. Willie slowed for a moment and extracted a first aid kit from the glove box and handed it to them. They tried to clean the raw patches with antiseptic wipes but Kirsten winced because the antiseptic stung badly. Jinnie opened the fridge and found several large bottles of water she found gauze pads which she moistened and Kirsten found that more tolerable. Seeing the water Kirsten asked for a drink saying in German she hadn’t eaten or drunk in two days. Steven told her to just sip a little water, not to gulp it down as it would make her ill, she could come back for more in a bit.
With the raw patches a bit cleaner, Jinnie turned to Kirsten’s face and did her best to clean it up with gauze and water. Steven found a tube of salve and applied it to the sores, scratches and cuts. Each slight bump she went over caused Kirsten to wince so Jinnie asked if she was in pain. Kirsten said “Yes” and Jinnie found some aspirins in the first aid kit and handed two to Kirsten that she washed down with a drop more water.
Eventually, Kirsten dropped off to sleep with her head on Jinnie’s shoulder, giving Jinnie and Steven a chance to talk. Steven said he was shocked at her condition. He didn’t expect the Germans to treat her that badly. Jinnie said they obviously tortured her and then decided to dispose of her, she was worried about her mental condition and asked Willie if he was in touch with Mick, he said no but the Hamburg resistance would be. Willie asked if the submarine carried a doctor. Jinnie said she didn’t know but with 100 people on board, they had to carry someone with medical training.
It was still dark when Willie handed them over to the Hamburg resistance on the outskirts of the city. The new team shook their hands and talked about the attack on the train. The Nazis were going mad. They had put out a cover story of a prison train being involved in an accident, bringing down several kilometres of overhead line and two bridges. Some of the prisoners had escaped when the guards were disabled and they were dangerous and being hunted. But they knew better, the word was it was a resistance attack and it had freed over 200 prisoners on their way to a concentration camp as well as some being taken to an extermination camp. They were in high spirits, it was a great success and only a few resistance fighters had been injured.
The Opal Astra they transferred to was a bit of a comedown from the Merc, but it was only taking them to the boat that was meeting the submarine. Now that Kirsten was awake again Jinnie kept talking to her, telling her what they were doing and where they were going. Willie took one of the resistance men aside and asked him to tell Mick of their worries of Kirsten’s mental conditions and that they believed she had been tortured and would need urgent medical assistance on landing. Willie asked for the Glocks back, explaining that they wouldn’t need them now and, in any case, the submarine’s captain wouldn’t like them being taken on board.
The Astra took them to a fishing boat at the Altonier Fischmarkt and it sailed immediately they were on board. It chugged down an ever-widening River Elbe towards the sea. Nearing the mouth of the river the captain told them that a Kriegsmarine patrol boat had just showed up on its radar and it would be coming alongside shortly. They were not to worry it was a regular occurrence, it just checked them out and checked them back in again. They were quite safe provided they stayed below deck and kept the lights out.
The patrol boat came alongside and the two captains exchanged pleasantries. The patrol boat captain enquired why the fishing boat was behind the rest of the fleet and accepted engine problems as the reason. He wished his opposite number, “Good Fishing, see you this afternoon,” and resumed his patrol. The fishing boat chugged on out into the North Sea. The western skyline was lightening when they reached the rendezvous point. Jinnie’s heart sunk, the Armageddon was nowhere to be seen.
It was only minutes before the huge submarine bust through the surface 100 metres away setting the fishing boat rolling from side to side. The captain turned his boat towards the submarine and by the time he got close, the deck crew had slung fenders over the side and dropped scramble nets. Jinnie was first up the net and onto the hull and explained to the deck office that Kirsten was struggling to walk. The reaction was instant. In a flash two ABs were down the scramble net and into the fishing boat. One hoisted Kirsten onto the others back in a fireman’s lift and he was up the scramble net like it was a staircase and he wasn’t even breathing heavily! She was then lowered into the boat to waiting hands below.
Jinnie and Steven were greeted by the boat’s new captain. The man Jinnie recognised as the old XO held out his hand and said, “Welcome back onboard, I’m the new boat’s captain, Commander Colin Powderham.” Jinnie shook his hand and congratulated him on his promotion and new command. They were interrupted by the new XO saying, “Ready to dive, Sir,” and being told to carry on as soon as they were safely clear of the fishing boat. Commander Powderham said that Mrs Mehr was with the medical orderly and asked them if either of them needed to see her. Steven and Jinnie both said they were perfectly OK just hungry and thirsty. The commander suggested that they join him in his quarters and he would get his steward to bring breakfast. Should he ask Mrs Mehr to join them? Jinnie and Steven looked at each other before Steven said, “Captain, I don’t know how much you are aware of but I believe that for medical reasons there is something you need to know. Kirsten is a VIP, we have just snatched her from the Gestapo where we believe she has been tortured, starved and denied fluids. I am worried a full meal now would kill her.”
Commander Powderham yelled for his steward and told him, “Get me Medical Orderly Sealey, now.” The Captain’s phone buzzed and he briefly explained that her patient, as well as her physical injuries, was likely suffering from starvation, dehydration and possibly mental problems as a result of torture. He then listened, said, “Carry on, I will have medical support waiting in Portsmouth,” and broke the connection. Before he had a chance to make a new call Jinnie said, “We had already asked for appropriate medical support in Portsmouth so there is no need to break radio silence.” Powderham said, “Thank you, I was just about to do just that. Sealey says she was not happy with Mrs Mehr’s condition and the additional information has made it easier for her. She already had her on an antibiotic drip, she will now add fluids and glucose and even a little food concentrate gel. She has dressed her obvious wounds but thinks she may have several broken ribs. She has administered pain killers and Mrs Mehr is sleeping. Sealey thinks she might have been subject to sleep deprivation.”
As the submarine slid under the water towards Portsmouth making a steady 30 knots, Jinnie and Steven joined the captain in his cabin for breakfast. The steward had laid out a buffet selection for a full English and all three got stuck in. Powderham told them that the current plan was to dock in Portsmouth. The latest calculations had them docking at around 02:00 on Wednesday morning. He said that as far as he was concerned they should hit that target. As they would be on board for a while he had organised guest bunks for them and if they wanted to make use of them he would have his steward show them to them. Jinnie was suddenly shattered and said she would be only too happy to be shown to her bunk.
Jinnie awoke around 17:00 feeling better. Glancing across the gangway she saw the curtain on Steven’s bunk was back and the bunk empty. Jinnie found her wash bag and made for the heads for a quick wash and to brush her teeth. Jinnie wandered into the control room where she found Steven and Commander Powderham chatting. Steven smiled and handed Jinnie a message slip. The slip was marked top secret and addressed to Steven, Jinnie and Commander Powderham. It thanked them for their recent efforts and continued, I will be on the dockside when you arrive. It was simply signed, Nigel. Steven said please tell the commander who that is, he won’t believe me!”
Jinnie asked if she could visit Kirsten and was told the medical orderly had advised that she was showing signs of improvement, the fluids seemed to be helping but she was still weak, which was probably due to malnutrition. She was welcome to visit the sickbay but to keep it brief as Kirsten was still sleeping a lot. Jinnie found Kirsten awake and looking better. She had clean bandages on her wrist and some of the swellings on the face were reduced although she was developing a black eye. Jinnie spoke to her in English and told her they would be docking in Portsmouth in the early hours of the morning and Jinnie said she thought it would be a good idea if she allowed them to check her over in hospital as the orderly was worried about her ribs. She nodded her agreement and, as she was obviously tiring, Jinnie said she would see her later and took her leave of her.
Steven and Jinnie were invited to dinner in the captain’s cabin. A menu appeared and as Captain Dobiecki had predicted, following minestrone soup there was a lamb leg steak on the menu but there was an alternative, fillet steak. Jinnie and the commander had the lamb while Steven had the steak. The meal was finished off with spotted dick and custard. By the time they had finished and had a coffee, they were coming up the channel and the XO said they might be a few minutes early. Jinnie hoped the PM had given himself plenty of time to get from London. Commander Powderham looked at his watch and said, “Plenty of time before I’m needed to dock. Do either of you play Uckers?” Steven and Jinnie had no idea what he was talking about.
Colin explains that Uckers was the version of Ludo and was hugely popular onboard most naval vessels. He had played since being taught the Navy rules as a cadet, was considered pretty good and was up for a game whenever possible. Steven chuckled and said he hadn’t played Ludo since he was a small boy in Newton Abbot and he was a bit too competitive to get thrashed at the game now. As they chatted the steward came in to clear away and offered another cup of coffee, Jinnie said, “Yes please, but can you make it strong with a dash of milk. I hate the weak stuff they have in Germany.” Steven joined in, “And I thought it was only me.”
The captain left them to pick up the Admiralty pilot who would conn the boat into Portsmouth Naval Base. The approach to the naval base was tricky in daylight but in the dark Commander Powderham was happy for the pilot to be effectively controlling the boat. An hour after picking up the pilot, two tugs were nudging Agamemnon into position under the giant awning that Jinnie learnt had become a permanent fixture to guard from prying satellite eyes. As soon as the boat was tied up and a gangway installed a doctor and nurse came aboard and were shown to the sickbay. Jinnie and Steven were allowed up onto the casing and were surprised at the number of people in the welcoming party that was on the dockside. The PM was surrounded by bodyguards and loads of senior officers from the three services. Further away were the armed Royal Navy guards. An ambulance was parked with the rear doors wide open ready for the patient. Jinnie wondered why the heavy security was necessary, had something happened while they had been in Germany? Jinnie and Steven were encouraged to go ashore where they were pounced on by the PM. He hugged Jinnie and thanked her profusely before moving on to Steven and shaking his hand vigorously only stopping when some of the submarine’s crewmen emerged onto the casing carefully manoeuvring Kirsten strapped into a basket stretcher. They carried her down the gangway and handed her over to an augmented ambulance crew where under the eagle eye of the doctor she was loaded onto an ambulance’s trolley.
The PM approached the gurney and spoke with his estranged wife, putting a hand on her head. They were joined by two young women who Jinnie guessed were their daughters. The tail lift took Kirsten into the back of the ambulance, where she was joined by her daughters and a few minutes later the blue lights came on and it nudged its way through the assembled crowd. The PM waved in the general direction of Steven and Jinnie and departed in his ministerial car. Jinnie jumped when ‘C’ spoke from behind her, “An excellent mission, Jinnie. My congratulations to you and all your team. Don’t bother coming into the office today, I will see you on Thursday for a debrief. Just ring Emma when you get in. I have left your office and team in place and we can chat about plans for the future.”
While ‘C’ was chatting to Jinnie, Steven was talking to what Jinnie assumed was his senior officer. Finishing the chat he wandered back to Jinnie and said, “I am told there’s transport over there to take us back to the clothes warehouse. The captain told me not to attempt driving to Hereford tonight, to find a hotel, get a sleep, drive up tomorrow and report for a debriefing on Thursday. Jinnie said, “Similar for me, but no one has thought about me getting home. I wonder what time the first London train is?”
As always the Wrens were waiting for Jinnie, when she joked with them that they never slept, they just laughed and carried on. However, they did get an RN driver to drop her off at Portsmouth Harbour Station in time to catch the first London train of the day, the 04:25. Jinnie dozed through the journey and arrived at Waterloo at 06:30. Walking to the Tube she checked her watch and realising that Paolo would be awake gave him a quick call to say she was safely back and on her way home and she was going straight to bed when she got there. She said she would ring him when she woke up. He said “Love you” and rang off. Jinnie knew getting from Waterloo to Kings Cross was a pain but years ago her dad had shown her that getting the Northern Line West End branch to Euston and then switch to its City branch and going back one stop was quickest and easiest.
Strolling across the concourse of Kings Cross Station Jinnie spied the morning papers at W H Smiths and the Mail’s headline “Nazis claim massive Commando raid defeated.” Jinnie bought a copy to read on the train. By the time the train got to Finsbury Park she had skim-read the front page and realised the German Ministry of Propaganda had been trying to save face. It claimed 500 British Commandos had attacked a prison train. Guards on the train had fought back and they had been forced to withdraw in failure. German troops were hunting down the infiltrators and expect to have rounded them all up shortly. Jinnie smiled and settled down to read the rest of the news.
In Chapter 8 – Debriefing.
© WorthingGooner 2022