The training was going better than Jinnie could possibly have hoped. She had seen a lot of all the members of the group and had worked out who could shoot, who could operate a radio, who was only bright enough to run errands and carry messages, who could drive and who, despite their enthusiasm, they would really be better off without. She discussed with Penny and Simone her ideas and they all agreed that it was important to ensure that when the word came they all knew their tasks backwards.
Word came back from London that the concealed army camp would be the target of several cruise missiles and they were not to go within a couple of miles of it until two hours after getting the word the invasion was on and certainly not before the cruise missiles had struck. They were to await the SAS, who would allocate the targets from the suggested priority list Jinnie had sent. The exception was to be the two lookout/guard posts they could see, they were to be eliminated, the SAS would deal with the third. In the meantime they were to acquire several hundred 7-foot sturdy stakes and as much plastic tape as possible, together with a number of powerful torches, half to show a green light and half a red light.
The three girls read the message twice, most of it made perfect sense but the last sentence made no sense to them at all. Still, orders were orders and they set about getting what was required. Simone knew of a fencing company and sent one of the group to see if they could acquire the stakes. The tape was another question, it didn’t appear to be something stocked in DIY stores. Finally one of the group pondered if police “crime scene” tape would do. Jinnie said, “Now that sounds perfect but how do we get our hands on it?” The answer was easier than she thought. Among the group were several members of the gendarmerie and they volunteered to supply reels from their cars and to get more from the stores. They were certain they could ‘borrow’ several thousand metres. The torches were purchased in ones and twos from hardware shops and DIY stores and Simone found sheets of green and red translucent polythene in a hobby shop. Problems all solved.
Joey’s regimental tanks had been training landing on a southern Italian beach that was roughly similar to Nice. The promenade was some six feet above the beach, but just like the reconnaissance photos showed, at several points a slope of large stones had been piled up in front of it to protect damaged sections. Perfect for a tank to climb. In some other areas, armoured bulldozers were quickly constructing slopes. The aim was to have 10 points for tanks to exit the beach. Then it was pointed out that on the actual beach there were two access slopes that were used by specialist beach cleaning vehicles every morning. They were guarded by a padlocked gate that might deter a casual motorist but were not going to stop a Challenger or Abrams tank. The two extra exits were added to the plan.
The designated paths up the beach and the guiding lights worked perfectly. Every time Joey’s squadron hit the beach they were off it more quickly. The colonel was reported to be delighted that training was going well but concerned that even if they caught the Germans ill-prepared they would react quickly. The plan was to flood in reinforcements and stores as quickly as humanly possible. The main part of the Royal Tank Regiment were to swing left and head an armoured column to take the civil airport that was at the western end of the promenade. The tanks of the Blues and Royals were to land on the eastern end of the prom and head for the old town and the port while the tanks of the Household Cavalry were to land in the centre of the prom and take the city before consolidating with the RTR and pushing north as fast as possible.
But Joey had been given a special mission, he was to lead a small column of Warrior AFVs and Ajax APCs. They had the GPS location of their target but were to meet the SAS and Resistance to be guided in. Joey rather hoped that it would be his pal Steven, who he knew would be in the area. He also hoped some of the French Resistance spoke English. He had hated French at school and had only a few words like “merde” for when something went wrong.
Jinnie was happy Simone’s group were as ready as they could be and hoped that the provisional date for D-Day she had been given in London was still good as that was the day the group were being prepared to peak on. The June weather was wonderful, warm and sunny with calm seas. On the morning of D minus 2, the message from London was to standby and be prepared. Simone told the sisters that Juliette was grumpy because she wanted to go to the beach, play in the sand and swim in the sea and she had said, “No. Mummy is going to be very busy for the next few days.” Simone was contacting her forces and she got the armourer retrieving the weapons and explosives and distributing them.
That afternoon they got the ‘go’ signal, the invasion was on. Simone’s group were to collect the SAS troop from the same beach as Jinnie and Penny had landed on and then transport them to the secluded wooded area where they would be setting up an HQ area. Simone had organised all sorts of transport; motorbikes, cars, vans and trucks, some old and some new and half of her force. All were armed with rifles, several, like the sisters, also had pistols and Jinnie even saw some murderous-looking commando knives.
The Resistance’s arrival at the wood was staggered with each vehicle magically disappearing into the trees and the fighters slipped into the woods where they too vanished from sight. Penny stayed near their Mercedes as a guard/lookout and watched as a pair of fighters headed down the coast road towards the next bay to act as a tripwire should any Germans come from the lookout post there as when she had arrived. Jinnie and Simone headed through the woods to the treeline to await the SAS troop’s arrival. Simone’s digital radio double-clicked and she said to Jinnie, “They are on the final run into the beach. Flash your torch at the sea 3 times every 20 seconds.”
The launches cut their engines short of the beach and used their momentum to hit the shoreline. The SAS men leapt ashore and were only halfway up the beach when the two launches were already backing into the sea and swinging around to race back to Italian waters. Jinnie kept flashing her torch and the huge heavily laden trooper’s crashed down around her. Steven’s voice suddenly said, “Evening Ma’am, I think we are all here safely and ready to move.”
By 3 o’clock in the morning of D minus one, the SAS troop had their temporary HQ virtually set up. The guards were out, the camouflage nets were up, the radio operator had checked in and most importantly a brew had been made. Jinnie, Penny, Simone, the captain and Steven were holding a planning meeting. The list of targets suggested by the Resistance was worked through and allocated to either the Resistance or the SAS to action. In a few cases the proposed targets were rejected on the grounds that that particular bridge or tunnel was strategically valuable to the invading troops. In several cases the Resistance were to transport the SAS to their targets. In general, the Resistance were allocated fixed unguarded targets while the SAS were to take on the more ‘delicate’ targets.
Jinnie and Penny were allocated the two lookout posts local to their apartment, Simone was to drive two SAS men to the third lookout post. She had already acquired an electronic pass to the building’s underground parking and master keys to the building. Another SAS pair were tackling the local microwave tower, the Powers That Be didn’t want it destroyed, only put out of action until it was behind the front line and could be recommissioned by the Royal Signal technicians. The local radio and television transmitter and the telephone exchange were to get similar treatment.
Although the Resistance were free to start their operations immediately they were not to actually launch any attack until 03:18 on D-Day. That was the co-ordinated time for every attack in France. SAS, SBS, US Special Forces, Australian SAS, they had all been infiltrated and were working in conjunction with their local Resistance groups. Simone set her fighters moving. They had multiple targets to prepare, mostly with explosives to be hidden and digital timers set in place. It was important to get as many of the fighters to the beach immediately those explosions went off as possible. They had just over 10 minutes to get the tank lanes set out with the stakes and tapes and to guide them with the red and green torches. The SAS troop were to gather by the beach exit point that Joey’s column was to use in their charge to the German camp.
Jinnie had collected two rifles, a sniper one for her and a sharpshooter one for Penny and they were safely stowed in the boot of her Mercedes alongside two of the SAS’s favoured close fighting weapon, UICW compact carbine based on the American Colt M4. The 22” long gun was lightweight and took the Allies’ standard 5.65mm ammunition. Both were fitted with suppressors and red dot sights. She fully intended to blag a trip to the German camp, it looked like the only place there was likely to be any action.
It was just getting light when the sisters parked in the apartment’s underground car park. They decided to leave the long guns in the boot and headed up to bed, both were in need of sleep. A tired-looking Cleo woke them at 9:30 to say that cook was worried they weren’t up yet, Jinnie said, “Tell her we were at a party last night and didn’t get in till the early hours.” Then winking at Cleo she said, “Tell her we won’t be up until after lunch and if she leaves the coffee machine set and the croissants ready she can go as we will not require lunch, tea or dinner. I suggest you too go home and get some sleep, we all have a busy night ahead of us.”
In the mid-afternoon sun, Jinnie and Penny took a stroll along the prom and halted at the point they were to construct their tank path. It was to lead from the water’s edge to one of the beach maintenance slopes. Penny pointed out that the slope ran parallel to the promenade meaning the armour had to make a 90° turn onto it and another 90° turn off it at the top. Jinnie replied, “I don’t think that will be a problem these drivers are good, they can turn a tank on a sixpence”. A laughing Penny said, “But we no longer have sixpences.”
With the apartment empty the sisters decided to check and clean their weapons. The long guns, despite having been kept in underground storage, had been kept in perfect condition by the armourer. Jinnie made a mental note to ask Simone to thank him. With the guns ready, the sister’s thoughts turned to food. They decided to visit the restaurant in the old town by the port. Before going to eat they took the opportunity to have what they wondered if it might be, a last look around the port. A couple of overnight ferries to Corsica were preparing to sail and they pondered what would happen to the morning’s incoming service.
They were greeted enthusiastically by the manager who led them to an excellent table that gave them a view over the restaurant. He suggested a bottle of Champagne, but they turned it down, deciding to stick with water as they needed clear heads. They happily agreed to have the complimentary fillet steak. The manager explained he wanted to empty the fridges of the expensive items as he expected power cuts and little business for the next few days. Jinnie whispered to him, “Is it too late to stock up on beer, the ingredients for a full English breakfast and sirloin steak, peas and chips for the squaddies? Chuckling he replied that tonight’s special offer on lobster had already sold out and he was considering closing early as he wanted to get some sleep before he had to get up early.
Jinnie and Penny were in place on the roof terrace long before 03:18. They had decided to take out the off-duty observer first. He was always nearest to the hut and what they guessed, due to the tall whip aerial on its roof, was equipped with a powerful radio. If he managed to get off a warning there could be a disaster. Jinnie had a glance at her watch, two minutes to go. That was it. No more looking at the watch she wanted to ensure her eyes were adjusted to the light level. She would listen for its alarm.
Aboard HMS Armageddon Commander Powderham had just watched, through the optronic mast, the last of his 32 Tomahawk missiles blast from the sea and head for land. The thirty-two missiles were all aimed at grid reference points. The first away had the farthest to fly and the last three the shortest, to a point that his coastal chart showed as a wood to the north of Nice. For a moment he pondered on what the target was in a wood? People with bigger brains than his had selected the targets. He gave the order to dive to cruising depth and set a course to the temporary rearming base at the Italian port of Civitavecchia.
Joey Jones was in his tank with his head out of the turret to get a little fresh air. Fortunately, the sea was dead calm. He reflected on the recent training exercises and thought the 16 tanks in his squadron could not be more ready. As the LTC sat just over the horizon from Nice he suddenly became aware of the cruise missiles passing overhead, they were flying around Nice, not over it. He felt the ship surge forward and called down to his crew, “Ready lads we are underway. Not long now.”
The girls saw the flash of the missiles, at the same time Jinnie’s watch alarm went off and fired at their first targets. As the rumble of explosions rolled across Nice the second lookouts went down. The girls went back and put a second round into each body, just to be certain, met in the middle of the roof, high-fived each other and headed for the Mercedes. They placed the specialist rifles in the boot, donned their R for Resistance armbands, took out their UCIWs and jumped in the car. Driving out of the garage Penny pointed out just how many people were out on their balconies and how many windows had lights in them.
Jinnie parked in the street off the promenade which she knew the armoured column would take for the army camp. As they climbed out of the car a taxi pulled up behind the and out jumped Pierre, Simone, Steven and a trooper. While Simone and Pierre donned their armbands and found their SA80s Steven wanted to know how Jinnie and Penny had got on, they both gave a double thumbs up. Steven confirmed that he and the trooper had taken out the two Germans with cheese wires and then rendered the radio useless, just in case. By the time they reached the promenade a couple of pickup trucks loaded with fence stakes and police tape had arrived. They all grabbed an armful of stakes and headed for the beach. As they did so a flight of British F-35Bs followed by a flight of Marine Corp AV8Bs flew low overhead heading inland.
Steven looked up at them and said, “The F-35s mean business, they are in beast mode.” Simone looked at him clearly, not having a clue what he was talking about. Jinnie answered for him. “They are British F-35Bs, flying off an aircraft carrier over the horizon. Beast mode means they are carrying weapons on every hard point and probably a full internal load as well. I wouldn’t want to be under that lot when they drop them.” With them all working, the first row of stakes were in and while the others started the second row, Penny went back to the truck for a couple of rolls of police tape and a big industrial stapler to fix it to the posts. From the promenade Penny could see other gangs building the tank lanes and she was sure she could see the shape of vessels on the horizon.
With the lane complete, Resistance fighters took up positions by the tape, torches in hand. The girls, Simone and Steven withdrew to the promenade and suggested to the pickup truck drivers they clear the promenade as it was going to get very busy very soon. No sooner had the warning been issued than landing craft started to hit the beach and soldiers started racing up the beach. Several carried aluminium ladders to get them up the 6 feet onto the promenade. The soldiers seemed to fly up the ladders and started forming up into squads that disappeared into the seafront buildings and the side streets.
Joey had his tank engine nicely warmed up and as soon as the clamshell doors were wide enough open for the Challenger 3 to pass through he told his driver to go for the gap. The LTC was spot on, bang in the middle of the tank lane. The tank charged up the beach followed by the rest of the squadron. The captain was in the fourth tank and, when Joey broke off with the first three tanks in the line, he was to lead the remainders to take the airport. There was no opposition heading up the beach. The only casualty Joey saw appeared to have fallen from one of the aluminium ladders.
At the top of the beach Joey gave the order to halt and pivot right on the spot, the tracks went in opposite directions and the driver soon had the tank facing up the slope and Joey gave the order to go forward slowly. At the top he stopped again and this time pivoted left on the spot. Going forward he saw the second of his 3 tanks was halfway up the slope and no 3 was turning at the bottom. The gate was no obstacle to a 60-tonne tank and he was on the promenade with squaddies running everywhere. He halted on the far side of the Promenade to wait for the rest of the column to get off the beach and to look for the SAS to put in an appearance. As he wondered where they were, Steven slid out of a deeply shadowed doorway and shouted, “Hello Joey. Did our preparations meet with your approval?”
With the rest of the column beginning to form up behind him, Joey called back, “Hi Steven, I suppose you want a lift now.” Steven answered, “No thanks. My friends in the Resistance are going to take us in their cars and vans, it’s a bit more comfortable than sitting on the hull of a tank.” With that 3 female Resistance fighters and an officer joined him. He continued, “Head on up the first turning on the right and we will follow right behind.” SAS troopers seemed to appear out of nowhere and sprinted round the corner. Joey rubbed his eyes and thought, ‘I must be getting old, I didn’t see any of them.’
The column headed up the hill away from the seafront, armour in the lead followed by the cars and vans carrying fifty Resistance fighters and the 16 SAS troopers, their captain and sergeant major. They passed several groups of infantrymen who had already penetrated nearly two miles inland. At one point a corporal waved them down and explained to Joey that this was the front line and they were being held up by a heavy machine gun firing at them from a concrete pillbox on the other side of a field. Hardly hesitating, he called for an HE round to be loaded. Dropping into the turret he pulled the tank out of the protection of a building and fired at the machine gun emplacement. As soon as the round was away he reloaded HE and fired again. The machine gun fell silent and the infantry raced on across the field while Joey led the column on up the road.
Now they were ahead of the front line, Joey decided that keeping the tank buttoned up was safest. The column moved steadily on and half a mile from the target Joey began to worry about the civilian vehicles at the tail of the column. The armour at the front was impervious to small arms fire but not the cars and vans. He called the column to a halt and slipped to the ground. Calling the leaders together he showed the target on the map and suggested that now was the time to split the column into a three-pronged attack. SAS captain suggested that he and the two sergeants withdrew for a minute or two. He suggested that the SAS would like to try to infiltrate the camp on foot with a few of the Resistance fighters who were sharpshooter trained. They would signal them forward with a double green flare, if they needed assistance it would be double red flares. Any other flares would mean they were in urgent need of help.
The plan was agreed and the group of SAS troopers together with Jinnie and Penny slipped away into the darkness with a couple of men on point and all the others widely spread out on either side of the lane. After 500-yards the left-hand point man raised his arm calling a halt just before a curve in the lane. A minute later he was waving Steven forward. He whispered he had smelt cigarette smoke and on halting the men he had used his night vision glasses and had spotted two cigarettes being smoked at the side of the road just round the bend.
Steven dropped back and had a whispered conversation with his captain. Following the discussions, Jinnie, and a trooper trained as a spotter, set off to circle round to the right, while Steven and another spotter circled round to the left. They agreed to start shooting in exactly 8 minutes. Jinnie had her sniper rifle with its night sight and quickly discovered the two smokers were controlling a checkpoint barrier across the road. As she waited for the time to fire she noticed movement in bushes at the side of the road. She pointed it out to the spotter and he used his night glasses to reveal a machine gunner and assistant. He kept searching knowing that somewhere there would be an ammunition carrier. He was finally located 50 yards away with several ammunition boxes and in a little fox hole. After a whispered conversation Jinnie and the spotter agreed that the order of attack was to be the machine gunner, his assistant, then then the ammunition carrier. Steven could look after the two guards on the barrier/checkpoint.
In Chapter 27 – D-Day – Late Morning.
© WorthingGooner 2022