Jinnie was up early, she had fed and changed the twins who were now peacefully sleeping. She had also fed a persistent Larry and was wondering whether to return to bed to try to get another hour or so sleep, when the news she had been expecting came on the 6 am radio news. Of course she knew the date of D-Day, it had been an operational need for her to know the exact details. Paolo hadn’t been home for the last two nights so she had assumed it was still on. The first details were scant, simply that at the request of Austria and Slovenia, Allied forces had mounted action to free those nations from their Nazi occupation. The bulletin added that the initial attacks seem to have taken the Germans by complete surprise and British forces had seized a port and established a bridgehead.
Going back to bed was now off the agenda, so Jinnie turned off the radio and put on the TV on and searched the news channels until she found one who had a reporter embedded with the troops. The reporter stood on a quayside and had the camera pan around. All she could see were grey-painted ships disgorging troops and equipment. Cranes were lifting 20-foot containers from a ship and dropping them onto a line of waiting 8-wheel trucks, Leyland, Foden and Scammell DROPS trucks. The reporter was careful not to mention his location, but it was obviously Slovenia as Austria was landlocked! It was broad daylight in the port and behind the reporter a pall of black smoke was rising. The reporter pointed to it and said, “That smoke is coming from a German naval dockyard that I am told no longer exists as an effective base. It was hit by a combination of the Resistance and Fleet Air Arm F-35s.” That confirmed it for Jinnie, the man was in Trieste.
The reporter told the studio that the Resistance had been responsible for securing the port and so far it had been ominously quiet allowing Sky Sabre and Starstreak missiles to be put into place. He then pointed the camera at a Globemaster passing low over the port heading inland. Commenting on the plane, he reported that it was only the latest of many that had passed overhead and he had been told that the bridgehead now included at least one airport. He had no idea if it was a civil or military airport but he was assured it was firmly in British hands. Jinnie shivered, now she was certain that all this was the work of the Resistance unit that her sister was involved with. Before handing back to the studio, the reporter had the camera focus on two hospital ships moored out in the bay and pointed out that even though he had seen a fleet of military ambulances leave the port he had only seen one return and the casualty had walked to the cutter that took him out to one of the hospital ships.
Jinnie continued channel hopping, but had picked up very little more information other than that the French had thrown their forces into the battle. The PM was shouted at by reporters as he crossed Downing Street but all they got was a smile and a bright, “Good Morning.” However, the 8 o’clock news revealed that the PM would speak to the nation on TV and radio at 10 o’clock and there would be a mid-day briefing by the MoD.
Maya got the message over the net that Allied armour was coming down the motorway from the airport with the aim of meeting the Italians advancing from the border. However, her scouts had remained in place a few miles up the motorway and had been watching for a German follow-up column. What they had seen was a dust cloud on the horizon which never got any nearer. After a short discussion Maya ordered the reconnaissance team to send up a small Desert Hawk drone. The tiny hand-launched, battery-powered craft located the Germans digging in for their own ambush 8 km up the motorway. Using the secure Bowman radio she had been issued with she reported the GPS position of the ambush. She was told to stay in place and that the Allied column would be with her in less than five minutes and the CO would make a decision once he had a chance to view her live video from the drone, but in the meantime they would launch a Watchkeeper drone that had longer endurance and could be used to direct artillery and aircraft.
By the time the Army arrived, the Desert Hawk was nearing the end of its battery life but the lieutenant colonel saw a few minutes of footage before the Hawk was directed to crash into woodland a couple of kilometres from the ambush site. His detachment of Royal Engineers quickly cleared burnt-out German armour by simply using the bulldozer blades on tank recovery vehicles to push the German vehicles onto the hard shoulder. The column then moved up but spread out so that it was scattered over several miles. The colonel ordered two GMLRS units to set up back down the motorway and to be ready to ‘shoot and scoot’ just in case the Germans had counter-battery radar and guns. Then he asked his commander if the Americans had any Warthogs circulating. When told they did, he asked if a flight could be made available, but to be told to hold off. As soon as the Watchkeeper was in position he would fire a volley of 24 rockets loaded with bomblets. He explained to Maya that the 12 rockets on one launcher would drop over 7,700 bomblets blanketing a square kilometre. He planned to hit the GPS position for the centre of the planned ambush with a spread of rockets then follow up with the Warthogs to clear up any armour which he expected to survive the bomblets that were chiefly hand grenade sized and an anti-personnel weapon.
The pictures from the Watchman were remarkably clear considering the height and distance it was operating from. The colonel now had direct satellite communication with the flight of Warthogs, who confirmed the six aircraft had a full load of Maverick air-to-ground guided missiles and seven-barrel 23mm cannons were carrying a full war load. Their mission was explained to them and that the GLMRS attack should take out any anti-aircraft defences. It would then be their job to destroy any armoured vehicles, especially AFVs, APCs and tanks.
The roar of 24 rockets being fired in under a minute was considerable even though they were a mile away from Maya’s position and the sight of them passing overhead was impressive. But it was watching the pictures coming in from the drone that amazed her. The complete area seemed to be erupting with overlapping explosions. As the smoke from the explosions cleared she became aware of numerous bodies but undamaged armoured vehicles were beginning to move. Suddenly one and then another exploded as the infrared-seeking Maverick missiles struck home from many kilometres away. By starting their engines to move position the Germans had inadvertently aided the A-10s find and hit them. By the time the Warthogs started firing 2-second bursts of depleted uranium shells from 1,200 metres, few targets remained and those that did were soon eliminated.
The leader of the Warthog flight reported that on their third pass they had detected no targets and were returning to base to refuel and rearm. The colonel thanked them for their assistance and wished them good hunting. He then issued the order for the column to form up and move on this time he sent a troop of reconnaissance AFCs out in advance of the main body. Before joining the column he thanked Maya and her unit who were staying in place until ordered to stand down.
Now that the airport was firmly in control of the Allies, Steven was able to stand down his unit who headed for the transport that had brought them there the previous evening. Penny accepted a lift in Steven’s van. He was under orders to collect Troopers Pearce and Fenton and await further orders. All the drive back into Trieste, Penny was astounded by the number of military trucks on the move. Tanks on transporters, lorry loads of troops, towed Howitzers, tracked Howitzers, Land Rovers, engineering vehicles, military construction vehicles some on transporters and some self-moving.
But it was the sheer number of 8-wheel DROPS trucks which Penny found incredible. Trucks loaded with 20-foot containers and netted 20-foot pallets were heading inland while empty trucks were heading back to the port. Steven explained to Penny that the containers were loaded in the U.K. with everything an army could need from ammunition to rations via clean uniforms and spare parts. The basic trucks could slide the containers off the back onto the ground or use its crane to help pick up empty ones to transport back for a refill. A second version allowed containers to be slid off sideways so that by parking alongside a flatbed freight train it allowed transfers between them.
Steven picked up his two troopers and headed for the safe house which he said should perhaps now be just called their house as everywhere was now safe. While waiting for further orders they decide that the most important thing was to get some food and some sleep. Graham raided the fridge and found loads of eggs, bacon and milk, there was even a slab of lard, so out came the frying pan for a fry-up and kettle for tea. However the bread was mouldy so Penny, as the best Italian speaker, was volunteered to go out and buy a loaf. She was halfway back with two loaves when she saw four rockets take off from the port. As much as she searched the clear sky she couldn’t see what they were aimed at. Then out over the sea she saw another pair of missiles take off from a Type 45 destroyer.
Penny followed the smoke trails of the missile pair launched from the destroyer and saw they were heading in a different direction to the ones from the land. The first explosions came from the destroyer’s missiles and she had the impression they had taken out a pair of stand-off missiles heading toward ships waiting out at sea. The next explosions came at a much greater height and further away. Penny guessed these were the launch aircraft being destroyed. This was the first time she had seen the Luftwaffe in action.
Steven was more interested in the food than what Penny had seen, saying the missile defences had only done what they were supposed to do, he said he would more interested if the Germans had succeeded in sinking a ship. Then hacking at one of the loaves he asked who wants banjos and who wants it on a plate. Penny was the only one who went for a plate but that was only because she wanted fried bread.
Jinnie was ready for the PM’s 10 o’clock broadcast, once again she had fed the twins in what seemed to her to be a never-ending four-hourly cycle. She had them at her side in a twin Moses basket where they were sleeping. Jinnie used the remote to turn the TV on and the volume down and Larry settled down sprawled across her lap. Spot on 10 the PM appeared on screen sat behind his desk. He told the nation that he had to tell them that once again they were fighting the Germans. That at midnight CET they had delivered a note to the German embassy in Geneva warning the German Chancellor that if by 3 am CET the Germans hadn’t agreed to start withdrawing their occupying forces from Austria and Slovenia the allied nations of U.K., US, Canada, Spain, Portugal, France, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies would come to the aid of the Resistance forces to free them from occupation. The Germans hadn’t replied so at 03:30 CET or 04:30 BST Allied forces had commenced actions.
He explained that mostly British and Italian forces had moved on the Germans in Slovenia, while the Americans, with the aid of French and Canadian ground forces had moved against the Germans in Austria. The other allied nations were currently supplying aviation and shipping support. He continued saying that with immense assistance from the Resistance the Port of Trieste and Trieste Airport had fallen to the allies in the first hour creating a large bridgehead. So far two German armoured columns had been decimated, the British force had met up with Italians who had crossed the border. Air superiority had been established over the bridgehead and just before coming on air he had been told that British forces had reached Ljubljana where the Resistance where fighting the occupiers. He was happy to report that so far casualties were minimal, in fact way below predictions.
The PM explained that he was not so well informed on the fighting in Austria as it was an American theatre. However, he understood that things were going well. ‘Liar,’ thought Jinnie, ‘You have loads of SIS, SAS and SBS people there, I bet you know better than the American generals what’s happening.’ The PM continued saying that the offer to the Germans was still open, if they sent a message saying they were withdrawing the Allies would not attack the retreating Germans. He then promised a daily update from the Ministry of Defence and that he would broadcast any really important news.
Joey and his tanks were in the western suburbs of Ljubljana when he first contacted the local Resistance. A woman with red and white bands around her left arm and carrying an SA80 had waved down the lead reconnaissance AFV. She had warned them that the Germans were planning a trap half a mile down the road. Joey halted the column and spoke to the colonel on the net. Once the GPS coordinates of the trap had been established the Resistance contact was given 20 minutes to get all the Resistance observers and any civilians out of the area before the 155mm Howitzers pounded the location with a mixture HE and air burst shells.
Once the barrage was over the APCs unloaded their infantry and advanced on a broad front, a mixture of armour and infantry. The few surviving Nazi troops put up a token resistance but soon either surrendered or retreated. The Germans swiftly constructed defensive positions had mostly been destroyed in the short barrage but those that hadn’t been were quickly overwhelmed by weight of fire. The column was quickly back on the move with the Resistance becoming the new police force.
Reconnaissance drones were now flying high well ahead of the advancing armour but the high magnification cameras were showing a steady stream of German vehicles heading south east down the A2 to Croatia and Zagreb and east toward Maribor and Hungary. Instead of chasing them, the decision was taken to harass them from the air while turning much of the column north to take the city’s civil airport as reinforcements were hard on the column’s tail.
The column rolled around the undefended ring road and turn off on the E61 for the airport. The road passed close to the west of the airport but to get to the terminal buildings on the east side you either had to cross the open airport and its runway or continue past the airport to the junction with the 104 and come back to the other side. The officers back at HQ split the force into three so that it could attack from the east, west and north where the 104 passed the airport’s perimeter fence close to the northern end of the runway.
The hastily prepared plan had Joey’s group crash through the fence, cut across the grass, and race down the taxiway that ran parallel to the main runway and onto the apron. They were free to fire on anything but the reconnaissance drone showed only civil aircraft and abandoned defences. On the order, two Challenger 3s crashed through the fence and moved across the grass fanning out enough for the AFVs and AFCs to come racing through. They charged past several abandoned sand-bagged abutments before disgorging their infantry who raced into buildings and hangers finding only civilians going about their normal tasks. There were even queues being processed at the check-in desks and a Lufthansa flight about to leave for Berlin which was deplaned. The control tower fell in seconds and within ten minutes the airport was under British control without a shot being fired. An hour later the latest RAF heavy transports, the A400M, a joint venture with the French was unloading reinforcements.
Steven and his two troopers movement orders arrived, it was back to the airport for a helicopter flight into Austria to assist the Americans. Penny said her goodbyes and decided she needed to catch up on her sleep. She was woken by Maya banging the front door. She had learnt that the whole area was being turned over to the Italians who had announced that it was being returned to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and she and the Resistance were to be the local police until a proper civil government could be established.
Then Penny’s orders arrived. Her task was done, the whole west of Slovenia was in Allied hands from the Austrian border in the north to the Croatian border in the south and the Nazis were in a full retreat. The Allies had halted at the southern border as they, as yet, had not had a request to assist Croatia, but the generals were considering a ‘hot pursuit’ policy before the Germans were able to construct any serious defences. Penny was to locate Irena and the pair were to report to the civil port where the Navy would take them to Port of Venice. Maya took Penny to Irena’s home where she lived with her parents.
Like Penny had been, Irena was sleeping and her mother went to wake her before returning and getting the coffee pot on. When she joined them she was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes and happily accepted the steaming mug of coffee, offered by her mother, who left them because she said, “You obviously have important secrets to discuss.” Penny told Irena about her orders and that she should pack a bag immediately. Irena replied, “But where are we going, I have no travel documents?” Penny chuckled and explained, “Neither do I, but I doubt it will worry the Royal Navy, they will be expecting us. My British passport is in Venice and I suspect there will be documents waiting for you there. But as for where we are doing next I really have no idea.”
In Chapter 30 – D-Day evening
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