Bill's Diary 1946 (Part 2)
First edition: 2012
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1946
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1946
Type: Continuation Books
On This Page...
Allie and I went back into the sitting room and after pulling the sofa nearer to the fire that was dying in the grate, we sat down and sipped hot tea. A plate containing a few cupcakes stood on the side table but they stayed untouched - we just sat together and talked. Once again I went over my trip to the airport and what had taken place afterwards right up to when I had left. Allie's classic features expressed the wistfulness of a child but her strength of character is marked and she'd obviously resigned herself to the fact that the kids may be gone a long time and it would be of no use at all to wail and bemoan. She still didn't hint that I'd been negligent as we concentrated on figuring out what was most likely to follow and I was able to help a little regarding that. We kept close to each other and I even managed to bring a smile to her face with a suggestion that whoever had the kids also had Kiki - a bird that had proven to be more than a match for villains in the past. Allie gave the impression she was totally confident in whatever powers I might have to sort things out although I hadn't even begun to think of a plan - that would have to wait until I got back to London. She asked if I could stay overnight but I wouldn't have entertained the idea because she was in a very vulnerable and receptive state of mind and it was also imperative to join the manhunt as soon as possible. She understood. The car arrived and before I turned to leave, she grasped my hand and looked closely at me. I didn't have to speak. A nod and a powerful hug sufficed and then I was off ... bound for Blackbushe, and then the Metropolis.
August 21st (Wednesday)
It was past 03:00 when the front door was opened and I was out cold until just before 09:00. Washed, brushed, grabbed a bunch of negatives from the bureau and was away to Bow Street before visiting the Yard where I sought out Matt who treated me to brunch and received a synopsis of events. Afterwards we joined other key participants on the Project Artifacts operation in one of the conference rooms upstairs. Much sympathy forthcoming for which I was grateful because it was genuine and I knew that every single one of my colleagues would be only too eager to help out in whatever way possible. After a few minutes of debriefing a summons came through and shortly I was ensconced in Scottie's office with a whisky in hand. Scottie demanded every relevant detail I could possibly drag up whilst an aide took notes in shorthand.
The first thing to do was to wait for news of the plane, which almost had to have been on an international flight because, comparatively speaking, Britain is rather tightly knit up at present so the assumption is a reasonable one. Most of the wartime intelligence agencies are still functioning and the call for assistance, which has backing from several highly placed individuals, has gone out via diplomatic channels.
Accordingly, our intelligence services have already received detailed reports from Eastleigh and further requests for information have gone out via Teletype, radio, and by courier to airports, customs offices, and even military bases in various parts of the globe. Information leaflets containing descriptions of the kids with their photograph will be sent to every police station in the land just in case they turn up on these shores. I handed over the negative of the shot I took at the Sullivans' place because it's a reasonably good one and shows the kids' faces clearly - they just needed to edit out Alison's image. The extent of feeling held by the authorities was fairly evident when Scottie gave me a rather calculating look and then told me he'd made a request that had been Okayed. We now had access to "S.Y.P.R.A."
I was baffled by that remark.
Scottie told me that because of their involvement in a couple of important affairs of State, the Mannering/Trent children were not unknown to the Intelligence Centres normally reserved for only the most urgent cases. I understood that. His manner somehow conveyed to me that our conversation was an "Ask No Questions" one but when he saw me staring at him, his shoulders shrugged and he gave me a "wink-nudge" morsel of an Official Secret. S.Y.P.R.A. (as in Cyprus) is a Super-Secret and pervasive worldwide Intelligence gathering network developed just before the war with capabilities that are legendary. Its most valuable asset is its anonymity. The reason this agency hasn't put a million miles between its regular work and the search for four kids is that a request had been made from someone with considerable influence. To my surprise, Andrew's name came up. Apparently when I'd been mentioned in dispatches, someone had lost no time contacting him and I realized it made sense. Out of curiosity I asked his whereabouts. Scottie looked up from a ledger he'd pulled towards him and said that was something to which even he wasn't privy due to naval secrecy regs. However, "Between We Two," he had an idea the naval commander was somewhere off the Eastern coast of South America - possibly near Florianopolis; a place that sounded reasonably handy seeing the suspects had connections with that part of the world.
Many intelligence links were not functioning of course and Scottie cursed the war disruption because it meant that a host of borders weren't being sufficiently monitored but the fact was that we had to accept the times we were in. A picture of Lucy-Ann kept appearing in my mind and I found it a little hard to concentrate. I saw Jack's face and Dinah's also and then an image of Philip appeared. A thug-like person whom I saw as a crook was striking him. It had happened again; those lovely kids could be in the hands of villains! I noticed Scottie looking intently at me - I think he realized how concerned I was. Getting up, he came round the desk and patted my shoulder.
"Cunningham," he said. "According to the record, those kids are as resourceful as any of their age might be and from what I've heard, they have more than a fair chance of handling themselves in a tight spot. Agreed?"
I nodded because what else was there to do? He continued, "My assessment of what you've passed on and also things I've learnt independently, tell me there's a possibility they may be able to extricate themselves from whatever fix they're in and make contact. I've told you a little more than I should and I'm going to add to it partly because I want you to realize our deep concern for the children and their mother. S.Y.P.R.A. has already informed us there's no way the plane could have landed in Britain or its territories and that alone is something we can work on. Now I must ask you not to bring up any confidences I've shared because the agency I've mentioned thrives on secrecy and few know of its existence let alone their monitoring capabilities."
I felt grateful for his trust in me.
"OK," he went on. "They're likely to be on the Continent because Far Eastern borders are also ..." - and that's as far as he went. He shut up just as my eyes were wandering over to the faded Careless Talk Costs Lives poster pinned up behind his door. Scottie's a careful chap and his wariness has profited him on more than one occasion, but what he'd said was encouraging and I listened intently as he spoke once more.
"Wherever they are, there may be persons who can help them if they're able to get out and about."
Yes, there always was that possibility and the only thing needed would be a little optimism. Scottie surprised me again when he mentioned a couple of people who had offered help, as they were personal friends of Alison's. I'd thought I was rising fairly steadily on the social scale but when I heard the names 'Shawcross' and 'Bartlett,' I became aware that Allie also has Friends in High Places. I'd met Vernon Bartlett very briefly in the normal course of work during a call to the House of Commons and he'd impressed me considerably with his urbane and gracious manner.
Scottie finished up with some encouraging words that further showed his commitment and I left the office with the full knowledge that a dedicated and international band of investigators were now searching for any sign of an aircraft that may have carried the children off. I left the Yard and went back home where I made some coffee and relaxed a while sifting through the recent events. Made some calls - one to Jim, and also received messages from one or two colleagues with very sympathetic leanings. A few telegrams had arrived as well, all with encouraging remarks. Had more coffee, and then feeling dead on my feet, went to bed. (19:04)
Called into the Yard again this morning and went through a question and answer session with the deputy communications officer. He's new and Pete introduced us - darned if I can remember his name, but that's not surprising seeing my thoughts have been so tied up. He's a good chap and after we'd shot the breeze a little he telephoned, using the number Alison had given me. A man answered – name of Kenneth, and when I told him who I was he sounded pleased so I guess Allie's been singing praises to him as well. He said the "patient" was bearing up quite adequately and passed me over. Allie's first question was the obvious one and although I couldn't lighten the load in that respect, she hung on to my every word and sounded relieved just to be talking to me. Said she hadn't been out much at all and preferred to pass the time scanning the newspapers and listening to the radio bulletins. Didn't seem to want me to hang up so I tried the "No News is Good News" on her and advised her to get out and roam the green fields of Tadley. She promised me she would and the conversation ended with a request that I let her know the moment anything turns up.
Rather behind with things but at last I've managed to catch up with the everyday chores. Yesterday had near a dozen calls from various agencies but there's nothing as yet that can be actively worked on. Alison rang twice and we had long conversations. She's being well looked after by Irene and her husband. The Sullivans have been contacted and given a reasonable summary of the incident with an accent on the "No News is Good News" factor and the idea has been passed on that the children are not necessarily in a position where they're confined. I tried every way possible to put Alison at ease with as encouraging comments as I could muster. We also kept reminding each other how resourceful the kids are - "These kids aren't ordinary kids!" - and they aren't. "They can look after themselves - and they've proved it more than once." I think there may have been the hint of a smile when I suggested that Philip, with Jack's help, might be able to charm a flock of birds and hitch a ride to safety. Poor Allie, what a terrible thing to happen just when they were settling into their home and finding new friends but I think she felt a little reassured at the end of both conversations.
Had lunch with Charles and Gwen at the Strand Lyons Corner House and realized for the nth time how lucky I am to have such good friends. Called into the florist on the way home and arranged for a bouquet of flowers to be routed through to Tadley. Hopefully, they'll divert Alison's thoughts for a few moments. She's in good hands and I'm sure Irene and Kenneth will see to it that she "Follows Orders!"
August 24th (Saturday)
Not really looking on the last few days as "leave." Hardly had time to keep the diary up to date what with telephone calls and three (so far) trips into the office. The lads have rallied round and offered all kinds of suggestions, which I've followed up although not with unadulterated hope. Still they're doing their best. Scottie, the Honourable Sir Harold Scott, has taken up the Griffith cry "All Stops Are Out" bless him. Once again I was summoned. He told me that ABC has put him into contact with Sir Frederic Charles Dreyer who's semi-retired but still active and it turns out he'll be monitoring all shipping as well as diplomatic consulates which means our department can transfer assigned personnel to other duties.
The Admiral has also passed on another item of interest that hasn't yet found it's way through channels - S.Y.P.R.A. has turned up a record of someone residing in the city of Linz with the surname of Mueller or Muller who worked with the resistance and apparently knew Adolf Hitler in his very early years. It's reported he knows of one or two people who may be connected with Project Artifacts. That's my pigeon of course and further information has come to us via Records. The workers there, with my interests in mind, have systematically combed the stored data and come up with the file of a suspected criminal who resided in Scrubs for a few months - name of Luis Costa. Apparently he was connected with a group of crooks who'd been dealing in plundered artifacts but the evidence in his case fell down so he was released and then disappeared somewhere on the Continent. I committed his face to memory from the mug shot that Matt handed me. The Leads Cometh and the Leads Goeth, and are assessed accordingly, but there's still nothing one can really get one's teeth into!
Associates keep in touch and they're welcomed ... the gnawing pain of being ignorant as to where the kids are is lessened when there's someone to talk to. The report concerning the altercation at Eastleigh has gone public but the children's part in it has been killed - a tactical move, because for all we know they may have managed to leave the plane unnoticed. If word got out about the suspicion of their presence on the criminals' aircraft, there could be a "manhunt" by the criminals in case private conversations had been heard.
A call came from Scottie mid-morning and it concerned a lead that had filtered through from "Sources," so I gathered that S.Y.P.R.A. has Trinity House sewn up into their network as a matter of course. He thought it'd be best if Yours Truly took care of it and I thanked him inwardly - he must have gauged that I needed something to work on. An elderly lighthouse keeper, who'd been caught up in the dragnet, had information that he wasn't prepared to telegraph and he didn't want to take part in a telephone conversation. Matt's been in touch with the cop shop in Broadstairs and was informed that the man is an eccentric who's maintained little contact with anyone but now, having something to offer, he wants to make the most of it and talk to a "real live person." Matt had assured him a meeting could be arranged and that's where I come in.
This afternoon, determining to get out and about at least once during the current period of depression, I drove to Hertford with Pete and sought out Tim Webber. We spent about four hours on motorbikes racing in and out and around Box Wood with Tim narrowly avoiding a spill in Stevenage Road when a truck suddenly shot from round a corner. Tim was ahead of us and as Pete and I roared up we saw a towering hulk climbing down from the cab and looking as if he was about to dispense rough justice. This was rather unfair because, like us, he'd been way over the speed limit - both parties were in the wrong; however, when the truck driver saw Tim and I pulling up in a cloud of dust ready to support our pal he decided against taking the law into his own hands and, shrugging his shoulders, he got back into his vehicle and disappeared. Jumping on to our bikes again we tore off again at high speed. After feeling so low over the last few days it was a tonic to whiz past colourful landscapes with the fresh breezes assailing us. Visited a small café nearer the city to consume ice cream and ginger ale before speeding back to Tim's garage and returning the motorcycles to his cluttered workshop. After partaking of an aperitif, Pete and I returned to London for an early nightcap at Pete's fiancée's place in Highgate. Arrived home before 22:00.
Caught the train to Broadstairs and located the police station in High Street where a friendly sergeant extended a hearty welcome. Over a cuppa he filled me in a little on the "cantankerous old man" who runs the lighthouse and giving due thanks, I took my departure in a taxi seeing police transport is limited. The cabby drove at a fair pace to North Forland Avenue then turned into a driveway and dropped me right outside the imposing old landmark.
Took a brief walk around the structure with its accompanying whitewashed administration and accommodation buildings and just as I was about to knock on one of the doors, it opened and a man came out. I memorized what I saw ... short, straggly white beard, moustache, and frowning eyebrows that gave him what I call the "rhesus monkey look." He had on a white shirt with a large necktie and a rather shabby pair of slacks topped with a woollen jacket plus a waistcoat. I introduced myself and he eyed me suspiciously as I handed him the telegram he'd sent to HQ. Perusing it, he peered at me again before shaking my hand and giving his name as Thaddeus. Jerking his finger towards the lighthouse, he made his way over with and I followed him whereupon he produced a set of keys but finding the stout door already unlocked, he opened it and we climbed a metal staircase that was almost a ladder. We reached an area about halfway up that widened out into a kind of office and waving me to a chair we sat down and I gave him a brief summary of why I was here.
We seemed to relate quite well and once he'd sounded me out, the old chap opened up and assailed me with some humorous anecdotes that were enhanced by his broad Irish accent. He chuckled loudly after each of them and gave me the impression that, although he was an antisocial character, like most people he welcomed an audience and would open up provided the company was acceptable. Mine was it seems because he nodded away amiably enough as I brought the reason I was here into focus and filled him in on a few salient points. I also managed to convey an appropriate measure of urgency. Getting up and moving over to a tiny desk, he retrieved a sheet of paper and got back into his seat again to explain his interest in the matter. It turns out he's a fanatical plane-spotter and from his elevated position on the coast, he notes down whatever he can of the traffic that drones past his outpost. Some of the observations are official and this originated from the urgency brought on by the nightly raids during the blitz on London. Using his finger to follow words printed on the sheet, he told me that on the 20th a plane had passed over the coast, bound for the Continent at exactly 00:27.
Getting up again to scrutinize a paper full of diagrams that was lying on his desk, I joined him whereupon he pointed out that no air traffic had been due at the time in question and confirmed his statement by stressing that all communications in his area, despite the war's disruption, were reliable. He then picked up a chart and, pointing to various figures and lines, endeavoured to show me how courses were plotted according to his observations over the last twenty or so years. I couldn't understand all that much but it was certainly impressive in that it was a kind of graph with numbers around the sides and more numbers and signs very delicately printed in little bunches. He kept up a ceaseless patter whilst pointing to sections of the diagram to illustrate the various points he was making and then showed me another chart that proved more familiar because it was basically a map with grids drawn over it. The Kent landscape was visible with added diagonal lines intersecting each other. This chap appeared to know exactly what he was talking about but my interest was in the tiniest piece of evidence relating to the mavericks that had presumably kidnapped the children. We resumed our seats and Thaddeus, embracing his chart, looked at me. I felt he was about to say something of note and I was right.
"The war office paid me the odd sum when I tracked enemy aircraft," he said.
I immediately assured him that should his notes be of assistance with the current project he'd be amply rewarded but he sat back and chuckled.
"No, I'm not after rewards or anything," he assured me. "I merely passed that on to assure you my judgments are trustworthy. The plane was headed due east and according to the calculations I have down here," he tapped his chart, "The same aircraft entered Britain at 16.11 on the 20th and landed at Marden."
Apparently there's a disused airfield over that way so I asked him for a map reference and he pointed it out, seemingly eager to fill me in on anything he could - I guess I was lucky to be one of the rare individuals who "clicked" with him. He said that a fellow enthusiast had informed him of the plane's detour to Marden but I couldn't see any need to nip over there with any urgency because the subsequent destination was already known - namely Eastleigh. However I'll inform the Marden authorities just in case.
Thaddeus then got down to the nitty-gritty and explained that the lines and grids on yet another paper that he drew from the bunch, needed interpretation and he set about providing it. I wrote furiously and copied some of the diagrams as well. Going on his expertise and tinged with a degree of instinct, the plane that left our shores was headed for Belgium, Germany or Austria - and that was based on his knowledge of fuel capacities, continental airport amenities, and contact with fellow observers in those countries.
The authorities have their own networks but the lighthouse keeper's knowledge comes from various individuals who often possess more intimate facts gleaned from spotters who have an almost obsessive interest in flight patterns. Furthermore, in certain countries, many of the government services are static due to the effects of war, so refueling facilities are known only to a few which means the suspects could hardly risk entering those places. The laxest entry points are currently the three in line - Belgium, Germany, and Austria. I found some commonsense in all this and recalled some of the reports that dealt with the plundering of various institutions and private collections in those particular countries even though it was fairly certain many of the items had been very well hidden. What if some of them had been discovered though? Good point.
When Thaddeus had exhausted his store of information, he escorted me down again and across to his quarters where there was a cozy little sitting room with red and black patterned wallpaper and a couple of comfy chairs. An old print of the lighthouse hung on the wall above the fireplace. The chap seemed to enjoy my company and kept up a continuous chatter as he brewed a pot of tea in the modest kitchen and felt round in a cupboard for a jar containing biscuits, which he unscrewed and offered to me. I'd like to have taken a photograph of Thaddeus In His Chair By The Fire – it'd look nice on the wall. Spent a pleasant half hour chatting. I told him as much as I could of the urgency connected with the investigation and he seemed quite moved when I hinted that some children may have been abducted.
Dusk fell and the evening sky turned purple and pink as the sun began to set. The surging waves reflected the colours and presented a painter's seascape. Looking through the window towards the horizon I thought once more of the kids and wondered for the 1000th time as to their whereabouts. A taxi was summoned, and when I passed through the doorway, Thaddeus said that if there was anything more he could do, I just had to ask. Didn't think there would be but I thanked him for his help and said I'll inform him of the outcome.
Got back to Whittaker Street at exactly 20:40 still not feeling hungry, so made it an early night after phoning Matt. (21:33)
August 26th (Monday)
Seems as if most of the day was spent on the blower. Friends rang and there was also a call from Tadley. Irene Johns on the line - told her to hang up and I'd get back seeing any tolls that had a direct link with the case (and that included sympathy calls) were 'on the house' for me at this particular period in time. Allie's bearing up although I think the burden's becoming a little heavier as each day goes by. If nothing happens tomorrow I'll visit her - think she'd like me to. One thing I do know is that all the agencies involved are working non-stop to produce whatever they can. Did some housework and got up to date with correspondence and other stuff. (11.23)
Some information has been relayed to me via Scottie who happened to be in the Whitehall Cryptology Centre for some reason or another – there've been no unrecorded flights over the American continent. That was handy to know because it cuts out a considerable amount of ground. Later on, he rang again and revealed the latest - the plane's destination was either Germany or Austria. I was bold enough to ask how this, and the earlier information had been obtained because it narrows the search down a good deal more. The Boss made an obscure remark just as he was inadvertently called away - "S.Y.P.R.A. Informants!" An "On the Ball" organization if there ever was one – it seems that once you've been granted the privilege, they don't waste any time.
This latest intelligence brought into mind a picture of an entity having recourse to thousands of people from the planet's four corners and ranging across the full spectrum - doctors, lawyers, and maybe politicians, as well as farm labourers, clerks, teachers, pilots, blue collar workers from every strata and possibly ... even lighthouse keepers. Persons who are the eyes and ears of humankind. Wonder how it is that Bormann remains at large with such a pervading organization in existence and, come to think of it, Zander was captured fairly recently. That Thaddeus chap from the lighthouse must be a contributor although I doubt if he knows it. Any information wouldn't be filed directly - more likely it would pass through various intermediaries before reaching the "Melting Pot." The latest finding has been a real boost and I'm picking (hoping) that at the rate information is arriving, who knows, by tomorrow there may be a fair chance they'll come up with the actual location of the plane. Wishful thinking maybe, but it's essential to remain optimistic in order to raise Alison's spirits a little the next time we speak. (22:40)
Taking in mind the potential gravity of the children's' circumstances, today was one of ultimate relief both to myself and to Alison. Hard to believe what occurred but it's "True" and that's all that matters.
This morning a call to the Yard from up North was relayed to Del and it took him only two shakes of a dog's tail to inform Matt who lost no time contacting me. I was about to leave for Bow Street when the phone rang just as I was opening the front door. Never have I felt so relieved although, when I was running over it on my way to the Yard, I figured that things could still be dodgy.
Philip had been found!
On entering the briefing room where business was already in session, I was welcomed with faces wreathed in smiles and such a touching scene once again showed the warmth of feeling held by all those involved. They felt "good" for me because of what I'd been through. Now there was a glimmer of hope. We went straight into a high-level discussion as to contingencies seeing it was essential I get off immediately. Del's not too good with Scottish dialects, which is no surprise, and when he'd passed Philip's location on to Matt, it was put down as "Gairdon." Maps were produced immediately and the area pinpointed as Gourdon, a small town on the southeast coast of Scotland. Couldn't think how on earth the boy could've got there?
Matt had anticipated my thoughts and already the station at Tadley had been contacted and told to pass the news onto Alison. I had no time to lose so I left it in their hands after handing over the Sullivans' number in case Alison wasn't able to get through to their part of the coast. I was escorted home to change and to collect a few things and then whisked off to Blackbushe accompanied by Henry and Matt who took care of procedures in a "Top Priority" mode and I was aloft in record time with information flowing through intermittently as I headed north towards Fourdon aerodrome. However, a later dispatch reported it was apparently closed so the instructions were to land at Edzell.
This I did, and arriving round 14:30 it was obvious that my colleagues' efficiency had taken care of everything. After landing at the small airport I was met by a constable who led me to the common area for a few words with an Inspector Morrison and his Sergeant, before being taken to a sleek black car that was standing outside the terminal. I set off at high speed with an "I'll believe it when I see him in the flesh" thought in mind but that dissipated as the miles were eaten up. Followed the directions I'd committed to memory and at 15:35 entered Gourdon and was lucky to find a parking spot in the central area just down from where the police station was located.
Just as I got out of the car, a boy materialized at the station door and tore down the footpath towards me. I examined the dishevelled figure closely because it was a little difficult to recognize Philip seeing he looked as if he'd been camping out in the woods for a couple of weeks and suffered for it. I hugged him spontaneously and then, holding him by the shoulders, looked carefully at his general appearance. He was covered with debris and needed a haircut but those thoughts made way for the more pressing ones.
Where in hell had he been?
Why no contact with anyone?
Where were the others?
Why weren't they with him?
I swung the boy around and inspected him all over again and as I did so he reassured me on a couple of points. The others were all right as far as he knew, and they were immersed in a dangerous environment once again. It's becoming a habit!
We entered the police station and I introduced myself to the lone Sergeant - a portly gentleman by the name of Tindall who shook hands and seemed quite overcome at the thought of being host to a visitor from the Yard, not to mention the publicity that may arise from the search. He's in his mid-forties with brown hair, a face with few lines, a rather pointy nose, and he speaks with a very distinctive Scottish accent. He directed us to a small interview room where there was a table, a couple of chairs and a rather threadbare sofa underneath a small barred window at the rear. On the wall was a faded picture of Inverbervie to which the Sergeant drew my attention saying that he and his wife lived there and after pointing out a little stone cottage he withdrew so that I could grille young Philip before he fell asleep. He looked about ready to drop and I think it was only the excitement that kept him awake.
Facts: The children had been flown to a valley in Austria. The very men who were being questioned at the airport had unknowingly abducted them but the kids, realizing they were in a predicament, had clammed up at the back of the plane and were successful at getting off undiscovered. Philip poured out a tale of mountains, burnt out dwellings, an extraordinary waterfall, a fern-covered grotto that was a Home Away From Home, visiting planes, and treasure caves straight out of The Boy's Own Paper, but I'm prepared to believe him ... I have to! He filled in his account with vital information that included details of a landing strip and the number of men they'd seen. To escape from the valley a plan was devised that needed courage, and plenty of it. The boy concealed himself in a plane and simply waited for it to leave, then crawled into a large crate to take the place of a looted statue, and sweated it out.
What a kid! The name Muller slipped into the conversation when he related how Jack had spoken to an elderly and rather frail man called Engler who'd been brought to the valley as a prisoner. The men are connected with the Artifacts Operation all right and I was astounded when Philip handed me a notebook he'd swiped from a coat hanging up in a hut near where the planes were parked. It contains coded information, which I'm sure the lads will be able to decipher, no sweat. Ron in cryptology showed me a sample just the other day that contained a string of sentences with numbered sequences – "Someone's had the 'bright' idea of using an obsolete Nazi encryption technique that yielded to Bombe machine cryptanalysis," he'd told me. Unwise move! My rudimentary introduction to the specific coding in the notebook has indicated actual contact points including addresses plus a host of other stuff that the Profs will no doubt summarize in a few paragraphs for the fieldworkers to act on. I think I may have told Philip he deserves a medal and if I did, it wasn't in jest.
First port of call was the telephone. The sergeant allowed me take over his desk and began scribbling notes. Philip was allowed to listen in seeing he was part of it all. Had to get clearance from Matt who said that after talking with Scottie he'll organize some troops – asked for five including Pete, and Henry, naturally. Done! Spent another five minutes reading out facts and figures from the notebook Philip had supplied and then left that side to the team. Rang Jim in Aberdeen and gave him instructions - he'll get an extra five staffers including Bruce who's just back from some exotic location. Be nice to meet up with him again - been at least a couple of years since we were on the Galashiels Assignment. Contacted other departments to get necessary clearances, and arms, and also included an enquiry about Engler who'd appeared to be in very poor health according to Philip. Next on the list was to sit back and await responses. The Sergeant made a call and in a matter of minutes a messenger arrived and placed something on the reception desk. Tindall's an organized individual ... it was a map of Austria that he'd requested from a local bookstore!
I hadn't actually thought of including Philip on the trip but I should have reconsidered without having to be prompted. "Not Fair!" he said, looking at me in disbelief, and I couldn't blame him for his attitude. The others would be right in the middle of it and, furthermore, he'd be useful as a guide when we arrived. Yes, we did need him but he'd have to be kept away from any rough stuff. The boy's face lit up and as I was about to get out of the Sergeant's chair he produced a creature from one of his pockets and let it run onto my lap. It was introduced as "Busy Lizzie" and my admiration was justifiably expected ... Philip has a gift all right and this time he's managed to cast his spell on an extremely handsome-looking lizard not unlike a miniature dragon. The creature is bright green with a long tail and a few enormous toes on its back feet and Jack, an avid reader of nature books, has apparently identified it by the scientific name of Lacerta Something or Other. This furthered my belief that the budding ornithologist could well end up as an eminent scientist or professor in his chosen field. As far as birds go, he's another Gerard Darrow, but maybe more so, because his knowledge and interest involving the natural world is so wide-ranging although I hadn't known reptiles were included in his repertoire.
The responses eventually began arriving and the operation was sealed up - we'd be setting off to the airport at about 19:00. Sergeant Tindall attended to our needs. He took us to a small kitchen off the main passage with a curtain for a door and after showing us where everything was, went back to man the desk. Sent Philip out with half a quid and he came back with a loaf, some spam, and a can of vegetable stew, which we heated up on the stove. Fetched butter and jam from the larder and when the kettle boiled, we sat down in the interview room and partook of a rough but very welcome meal. Philip, having forgotten his weariness, was in a high state of excitement and chattered away at a fast pace bringing me up to date with the news from his side of life.
That gypsy girl they got to know in Glenfinnan has been writing to him almost weekly from her school in Newton Village. Philip passed me a crumpled letter he'd found in his pocket and told me that Tassie can write quite well although she finds it difficult to describe things. A monitor assigned to her welfare makes the odd correction and adds a few newsy items so it's been possible to interpret that the girl is thriving in her new surroundings after a somewhat shaky start when she was placed in a special class with a few others. She was gradually assimilated after an expected altercation or two and has apparently won accolades in the gym where she equalled a record set by an ex-pupil who'd previously come from a circus background.
Tassie's extremely grateful to her benefactors (I and a few others) for providing her with a "gwych" (sic) education at the school run by a very understanding principal. I translated the bi-lingual monitor's gwych as "great" for Philip's benefit. He's hoping to visit her in the near future although it'd probably be a three-hour trip, but if we can reinstate the expedition to my old home that'll cut about forty minutes. Perhaps we could have a day out – I think it'd be good for the little heroine to meet her "Hero" again.
While Philip and I were having our meal, a call came through that dashed our plans. A notification from Henry advised that the weather up our way had been reported as "threatening." Correct! Even as we spoke a strong wind started up and there was nothing we could do except wait for it to settle. Showed Philip where we'd be heading and that took his interest up for the next quarter-hour as he studied the map to see if any landmarks could be spotted. Couldn't make out all that much as there wasn't enough detail but Henry and his crowd will bring what we need in that line.
Sometime later a chap in overalls called from the local garage. He'd come for the car to place it where one or two other police vehicles are stored so I gave him the keys and he disappeared.
Hung around the interview room playing cards and perusing journals with the odd visitor being attended to by Tindall and then a little later there was a telephone message to the effect that one - Otto Engler (the prisoner) had been located. According to Matt he'd been found lying in an alcove near some steps leading up to the Salzburg State Hospital. Apparently he was in a critical condition but the latest news had him classed him as "stable." Philip showed relief when he heard the news - told me the poor man had been subject to a lot of abuse and, no doubt, had been forced to reveal where the "treasure caves" were.
A gale had definitely decided to forestall our plans and as it built up a report came through that some telegraph wires were down but we managed to get a line out to Tadley using a bypass with the help of the local exchange. A few minutes were allotted so I let Philip take them all and at the end of the conversation he told me his mother was elated by the good news and in a very optimistic frame of mind. He sounded quite emotional poor chap - the effect of his escape and the ongoing tension as he thought of what was yet to come, had caught up with him as evening approached. Put my arm round him and gave needed reassurance at one point by relating a few facts:
The pending operation would be successful because we had the benefit of surprise on our side. Added to that was the advantage of intelligence from related Government agencies both here, and in Austria, and we'd be matching any strength the criminals had with our own which was made up of highly-trained staff including one or two with commando expertise. To my surprise, the "pep-talk" cheered him up somewhat ... I've never considered myself a counselor.
Not knowing whether or not the Sullivans had been kept up to date, it was worth trying to get through to them although I was fairly sure their rather isolated part of the Pembrokeshire Coast would be incommunicable due to the current situation. Sure enough, it was completely cut off but we managed to get through to Inspector Meredith at the Goodwick Central Station. Ever efficient, he copied down my instructions and said he'd get one or other of his patrol men to call in should they pass anywhere near Pwll Deri.
A little later we were notified officially of the gale warning so everything's off until tomorrow God-Willing. The obliging Tindall has made up a bed for Philip in one of the cells and I've got a comfy chair in the interview room seeing we haven't had time to arrange anything else. Thought it best to stay here in case I have to be contacted straightaway, so the sergeant has given me a number to ring if there's an emergency and gone home. The relieving cop is taking advantage of my presence by staying on at some function and will be coming in later on. (20:52)
August 28th (Wednesday)
Summary of Proceedings. After I've transcribed the relevant data it'll be written up officially so I'll record everything more-or-less in the same vein and produce it for reviewing purposes later on.
After a stormy night it was all go from about 05:00. A burly policeman, who'd briefed himself on the current operation, woke me and introduced himself as Constable Leith - the early morning shift, and he seemed just as pleased as Tindall to have me at the station. Henry rang with some instructions while the coffee was brewing and we exchanged information before I went along to wake Philip. He'd slept well and after a wash and some breakfast we turned to face the day head-on. It was fine except for a fairly strong wind that seemed to be dying down as we waited for the car to arrive then, after we'd thanked the good constable profusely, we headed off through the village and on to the road that leads to Aberdeen.
Making fairly good pace we got to the aerodrome at 08:35 and were directed by an official to a group of personnel who were gathered round Matt and Henry at a spot bordering the tarmac. Nice to see Jim again, and Bruce whom I've always looked upon as a dead-ringer for Errol Flynn. Apparently he's been in Kashmir on some under-cover assignment so no doubt he's got the dinner-party circuit to look forward to in later years if his assignment doesn't remain in the Top-Secret drawer. Come to think of it, the rest of us aren't short of Tales To Tell when the time is ripe.
As we shook hands Jim introduced me to Alan Hobbs - a recent transferee who'd been directed his way. Greeted the rest of the chaps and made sure Philip was introduced to everyone and if he wasn't in the 7th Heaven he would have been close to it at the thought of accompanying a group of agents on a rescue mission to another country. Shortly a small van drew up and a rather lean guy with red hair got out. He put on horn-rimmed spectacles and produced a clipboard with a couple of papers that Matt signed. The man then extracted a padlocked case from the rear of his vehicle and handed it to Matt with a friendly wink. "Don't thank me, thank GPH." Wishing us luck, he re-entered the van and trundled off. Did he mean Grampian Police HQ?
Matt answered my question in the affirmative and then unlocked the case to issue a .38 Colt to each of the crew. Whilst I was comparing a few charts with Henry, the rest were ordered into either my plane or the modified Lockheed import that Henry uses occasionally. A few minutes later we joined them.
Both crews should be recorded -
Donald Avery (Pilot qual.)
Cunningham (I/C) (Pilot)
Leo Harper (Pilot/Navigator)
Cliff Lewis (Pilot reserve)
Rodney Smythe (Pilot/Navigator)
Henry Tate (Pilot)
Matthew Wootton (I/C)
HQ had wisely covered the contingencies at the emergency meeting - Leo, Don, Cliff and Rod are qualified of course. Unfortunately, S.Y.P.R.A did not have young Philip under their widespread wings but that superlative organization still came an excellent Second Place. Just before we left, Matt received a notice that singled out two Austrian locations recorded in Philip's purloined notebook and one of them jelled! I'd give my grandma's best bonnet to know just how they came up with intelligence like that.
Airport Control had given us priority and we took of just after 09:40 heading South East with gusts buffeting the aircraft initially but the weather eventually settled down as we moved out of range. Radio messages streamed in and Leo concentrated on his maps and graphs as we flew out over the ocean's expanse. Navigators back at HQ had already made good use of the information I'd passed on to them and the route had been accordingly planned so that it was more-or-less direct. Philip was well looked after by the lads who were set back on their haunches at one stage when he produced his pet lizard. That created a good ten minutes of conversation and produced many anecdotes seeing that some of the lads themselves had been to a few of the more out-of-way places. The lad also came up to see what Leo and I were doing every now and again but had the nous not to attempt a prolonged conversation.
The planes sped on through clear skies and we managed to keep good radio contact with Rod who was passing on supplementary info as well as keeping Henry informed. Round 10:40 we approached the Continent and passed over the coast heading towards Rotterdam and then on to Strasbourg. Thank God for Scottie's organizational skills and contacts; according to Matt, he'd lost no time in gaining permission from the European Chancelleries for unimpeded entry across borders. They know us! Followed their recommendations to a "T" and together with the weather information being checked constantly by Leo, it seemed as if the oiled machine was working very well indeed. As for the guys, they continued chatting amongst themselves as if they were on a Sunday outing. Round 12:45 (allowing for the time difference) I was thinking idly of the Sullivans for some reason or another when Leo interrupted and directed me onto a more easterly course seeing we were headed towards the Austrian border. Zoomed across the delineated chart lines and there we were above Innsbruck and within half an hour the Achental Valley came into view.
As we approached there was no cruising around to see who or what was visible because we might have been spotted - that is if we weren't already. There was no airport with beacons and marked tarmacs but I was receiving data from Leo, and occasionally from Henry who added support by assisting with the pre-landing check. As we flew lower, Philip suddenly let out an exclamation and directed my attention to four specks that were sitting on a flat section of grassland some miles from a presumably bombed out village that was visible in the distance.
Everyone buckled in as we passed through wispy clouds and were greeted with a spectacle of hilly terrain interspersed with flattish sections of green sward. A hut came into view with four planes parked nearby. Reduced revs, levelled, lowered the undercarriage and concentrated. Have to admit I was a little apprehensive about landing on such an uneven and grassy section but Henry, with his pupil's welfare always in mind, came on the air again with encouragement and hints that I followed avidly. We floated downwards with just a few minor bumps from up-draughts and at 13:07 we skimmed over the broad green area towards the aircraft belonging to our quarry. Raised the nose and managed a fairly bumpy landing before taxiing to a halt, closely followed by plane number two that executed a flawless descent at the hands of my tutor.
Welcome to Krimml!
That may have been the chant had our destination been populated, but in this particular location there wasn't a person in sight. Picture postcard surroundings though but with an atmosphere of mystery brought on no doubt by apprehension of what might lie ahead. Watches were reset as we waited a minute or two but no one appeared so we clambered down and after a few words from Matt, we fanned out for a little reconnoitering. The nearby hut was examined briefly as well before we set off along a track that Philip pointed out to us. Passing a few burnt cottages and outhouses, we climbed a little higher and were nearing some birch trees when we heard a yell from Dan who'd taken a small detour towards an old broken down cowshed. Tramping over we found him standing by a tall tree to which was tied a bedraggled man with a moustache and plenty of stubble on his face. His hands and feet were roped and he looked at us with some trepidation as we approached. Philip actually recognized him and told us he was known as "Pepi" - a word that rang a bell somewhere. Mentally, I ran through various mug shots and despite the year they were taken and the man's present state, there was a resemblance to the suspect Diaz. Philip, giving a sudden shout, pushed his way through some bushes and rummaging around amongst them, re-emerged hauling a couple of battered suitcases which upon opening revealed a pile of clothing and personal items. Thought they'd looked a little familiar and Philip told us they belonged to him and the others, and had been hidden up in the tree to which Diaz was now trussed. The man began stammering out something in Spanish that sounded like "aqua." Matt told Dan to take him down to the hut near the planes, give him a drink, hog tie him securely, and lock him in. He handed Alan a set of keys and told him to go along as well. "Pepi" was hauled to his feet and escorted down the hill while we waited and tried to figure out what had happened here. As we hadn't had time for a bout of grilling, we could only ponder over the mystery - Who had overpowered and trussed him? Did the children have a Good Samaritan somewhere in the mountains?
Shortly, Dan and Alan rejoined us and we set off once again on a fascinating tramp through magnificent scenery although a little depressing when we passed the odd ruined cottage or barn but there weren't all that many seeing the township itself is a few miles distant from the more rural area we were in. Trekked along for another twenty minutes or so and then Philip suddenly broke in on my thoughts and informed us that the "wonderful waterfall" was very near. That explained the noticeable rumbling noise as we progressed along the trail and sure enough the sound became louder and louder and then quite deafening, as we rounded a corner and confronted the spectacle.
What a mass!
An incredible volume of water accompanied by a thunderous roar came rushing down from a great height and disappeared into a liquid Hades that somehow made more of an impression than Niagara - possibly because it was more compact. We stood there gazing at the breathtaking spectacle for a few moments because it was one of those hypnotic sights that that made lingering compulsory. Rainbows danced where the sun caught the spray and clothing was dampened as we fought down the impulse to shout out our impressions to one another. No one would have heard us but caution was the keynote. Matt rallied the stragglers after a while and we moved on with one very excited boy leading the way every now and again. We began climbing a steep part of the cliff and after a time reached a ledge near an enormous hole from where the water tumbled out at an alarming rate. Heaven help the unfortunate climber who falls in!