Bill's Diary 1947 (Part 3)
First edition: 2013
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1947
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1947
Type: Continuation Books
On This Page...
May 20th - 21st
I left him nursing his thoughts and decided that when the crunch arrived, I'd come out fighting. Even if three escorts arrived to seize us I could still hold out some hope, provided only one of them had a weapon. Fell into a doze whilst running over the most effective methods to use. Later I came to and found Horace slumped on the bench beside me, still awake with a glazed expression on his face. His watch read 00:35 and just as I was asking him again how he felt a sound came from outside. It was the bolt to the hatch being slid back and the threat of doom came a notch nearer as we looked up expecting to see one of the Syndicate. Instead, a boy looked down on us, holding a finger to his lips.
Couldn't believe it! Jack with Philip beside him. Jack, and Philip! Fortunately my training came right in on the beam: - Forget whether or not you're dreaming. Confront what you see. Evaluate, five secs max. Shut up, and concentrate on the first move. If Jack and Philip had been the enemy there's a fairly reasonable chance they'd have been grossly injured within about three seconds - all I had needed was to swing myself up and over the rim of the hatch. That's where the evaluation came in and once again I was thankful for the hours of instruction beneath my belt. Just as I was about to leap up and join the boys an angry shout came from Horace. He'd recognized them as "those horrible kids" who'd held him prisoner and treated him so brutally.
Curse the man!
I leapt up and out just as the guard appeared. Philip rushed over and tried to push him over the side but the burly individual lunged out and Philip himself disappeared over the rail, landing in the sea with a splash. Feeling my way along and using the advantage of surprise, I hit out at the man and simultaneously tripped him up. He collapsed in a heap on the deck and Jack who'd jumped on his legs helped me to drag the man, still struggling, to the open hatch and drop him in. Tipperlong had already climbed out but he was no help - he just stood there looking terrified. The guard broke his fall somewhat by grabbing at the side just before I slammed down and bolted the door and then he started up a frightful noise, banging on the sides and yelling for all he was worth as I made my way to the cabin wishing I'd knocked him senseless.
Lights sprang up and the sound of men calling out came to our ears. Figures could be seen running down to the shore so there was no time to think of hijacking the boat but Jack yelled out that Horace's was nearby. We'd swim for it. A few words with Tipperlong convinced me he wouldn't be joining us - couldn't swim anyway and despite my offer of support he refused to be part of it. The poor chap huddled down on the deck in a kind of dream so we had to leave him there. Jack and I dived into the sea and it was quite a shock to the system after the warmth of the hold. Swam alongside the rocks and then out a little way to where a dark shape was visible just outside the range of any lights. A couple of torch flashes guided us to the stern where we clambered up and next moment I was embraced by Lucy-Ann and Dinah. A dripping wet Philip was there as well having swum from the enemy's vessel after the forced departure.
No time to lose. Started up the engine and ordered the girls to lie flat down on the deck with the boys on top of them, despite their urge to be active. I understood ... a feeling, almost of hilarity, had engulfed us - due partly I think to the urgency of the situation and also because we were together once again. As soon as the men heard our engine, the sound of gunfire came through the night. As we pulled away I zigged and zagged to lessen the chances of being hit as the speed increased. Bullets were flying all round us and then a close call with disaster was illustrated with a loud squawk from the parrot. Kiki was sitting on top of Jack so she was the most exposed and a slug had obviously passed extremely close to her head. It meant of course that Jack missed death or severe injury by about a foot but he was concerned only with his bird and I had to order him to shut up and lie down again before he collected a bullet. Kiki was making her presence felt very loudly so I gauged there was no real injury otherwise she would have flown off. Felt sorry for Jack but it was a shock to all of us and then, just as we were recovering from that, the sound of another engine was heard and the sea was lit up by powerful searchlight. The enemy was in pursuit.
Increased the throttle and the boat sped across the waves sending up showers of spray every now and again when it hit a swell. The moon had been darting in and out of the clouds initially but now it was more hidden, which was helpful when the lights were turned off for short periods as we raced along. So far we were holding up well but the petrol supply was a worry - wouldn't help matters at all if we ran out. Jack got his bearings somehow, at least he said he had, and told me to look out for a small island with a lagoon they'd discovered near the enemy base. With that in mind, I kept the speed up and to our great relief the pursuing boat veered off and headed in another direction with it's great light sweeping the darkness all round. We were now absolutely lost because no landmarks were visible and all I could figure out was that we'd overshot and were headed south. An hour or two went by and the only consolation was that, while the going was good, we'd been putting as much distance between us and the enemy as possible. We had to, because I knew only too well that if they spotted us, there'd be little chance of survival.
I think Philip's magnetism was in one of its best phases because those birds of his (Huffin and Puffin) were with us! They were staying with their master through thick and thin despite all the shooting and disruption as the boat raced away taking them further and further from their territory. It was comforting to hear their Arrrrrrring sound again and to realize I was no longer a prisoner but just as these thoughts ran their course, the motor started spluttering and in a matter of minutes we slowed down and came to a halt. Out of fuel!
As I figured out the odds, Philip and two rather squashed girls got back on to their feet and began jumping up and down to increase their circulation while Jack examined Kiki minutely without finding any evidence of injury so it must have been a near miss that had caused the loud reaction. Consulted a map from the cabin locker to see if the lagoon island was anywhere near but it didn't seem to be, however Jack and Philip claimed they could see it in the distance so we located some oars and a slight adjustment to our course had us heading towards land at a snail's pace in silence. Silence, broken by a shriek from Dinah when she discovered a shape moving around a cloth that was lying on the ledge beside her. Never thought that anyone in our particular situation would give a second thought to an exploring rat but Dinah's abhorrence of creepy-crawlies and vermin takes precedence!
We got nearer to the island thank God but then something else had to happen as befits our Frying Pan into Fire existence. A scraping noise sounded and then the boat tipped up with a horrible grinding noise. We'd landed on some rocks that were poking up just below the surface of the water. Fortunately there didn't seem to be any major damage and as we were so near terra firma the decision was to wait through the night until an opportunity to extract ourselves arrived when the tide turned.
The boys and I went into the cabin and changed into dry clothes - Dinah produced some garments of Tipperlong's that didn't fit me all that well considering the difference in our builds but they sufficed. Horace would need to be recompensed for the unfortunate experiences he's had to endure at the hands of the children. Little Devils! I puzzled for the thousandth time over their skill for surviving in adverse circumstances and an ironic thought reminded me that I was supposed to have been looking after them. The complete opposite had taken place! The girls busied themselves gathering together what food they could find and then we snuggled down together under the moon that shone down on our little craft - a speck in the vast ocean.
We talked and we talked with Kiki interrupting every now and again - none of us felt tired at all! It was the first opportunity we'd had of finding out what had happened since I'd disappeared and there was some consternation when they heard of my unsuccessful attempts to contact HQ. Told them not to worry, something may have got through. Filled them in on my trip to the enemy hideout, glossing over the violence that had taken place, and remarked how coincidental it was to find the very people I was after were based in the area we'd chosen to hide from them. The Wales connection leaked to the Department may have been authentic earlier on or else they may have just led us to believe they were holed up in those parts. I explained to the kids a little about gunrunning and how we'd been chasing the ringleaders of a fairly extensive operation.
Their jaws dropped as I went on to tell them how I'd been lumbered with Horace Tipperlong who'd spun what seemed rather tall stories regarding his treatment at the hands of some kids camping on an island he'd visited and that the Syndicate was sure he was an associate of mine. Told them also how I'd kept mum regarding my association with "those kids" for fear it would get back to the enemy and luckily they didn't seem to believe Horace when he'd told them his story. In the fleeting time the children had known old Tipperlong he hadn't impressed them as to being eligible for consideration as a "nice guy" although his reaction when he sighted the boys has to be excused because he wasn't in on the plot.
Taking their turn, the children filled me in on their side of the action. Interrupting each other every now and again I was party to a fascinating report about their discovery of packaged guns on the 'lagoon island' and their later observation of a seaplane landing there. Jack spoke of how they'd heard the noise of machinery that may have been used for retrieval of the weapons that had been parachuted down into the lagoon. Here was an explanation for the 'puff of smoke' Lucy-Ann had seen falling from a plane in the distance when we were on the island together - probably dropped prematurely. Recalled a remark made by one of Dave Petrie's men at an MI5 briefing that described the broadening map of potential destinations for smuggled arms. He'd made mention of a potential uprising due to Palestinian reaction regarding the admission of Jews into their territory. No doubt about it, the children had demonstrated once again their extraordinary ability for turning up where they're not supposed to be and, in this case, supplying intelligence of which not even UNSCOP would be aware. Another thing they told me was that they hadn't hit Horace Tipperlong AT ALL!
So here we were snuggled up in blankets and rocking up and down on now-serene waters with the slightest hint of dawn in the eastern sky. The hours had gone so quickly and I wondered if it was time to take stock of the tide but I had one more thing to ask the kids. I couldn't figure out why they hadn't headed away to safety on the main island and when asked, Jack waved his hand towards the others and said the choice was - "To Rescue Bill!"
I gulped on hearing that that and felt blood rush to my face. Tears? Surely not, but I had to turn away and brush my eyes when I saw the three looking at me. Dinah, and Philip so matter-of-fact with their trademark tufts of hair, Jack with small creases on his freckled face as he smiled at me ... and little Lucy-Ann looking earnestly into my eyes with such feeling and confidence in my powers as a "Grown-Up." An electric moment! I put my arms around the four and gave them such a hug that I heard a gasp from somewhere. Could hardly trust myself to speak but just hoped I was able to convey my thanks adequately and let them know I was proud to have them as friends ... very proud indeed. They seemed quite thrilled at the compliment and Lucy-Ann voiced their acceptance of a lasting friendship. Dinah seconded it and the boys sat there silently while I read their faces. Wonderful!
On the horizon a red glow mirrored in the water was heralding the sun, and rising from the ocean was a rainbow that extended over the edge of a cliff further off and where one lonely seagull had winged its way past us a little earlier, there were now an increasing number. Jack was the first to realize we weren't near the lagoon island at all and then Lucy-Ann remembered a place pinpointed on the map when we were travelling North on the train and wondered if it could be the Isle of Birds. Going on what the boys had indicated, we should have approached land long before we actually did and my feeling was that we'd gone right past their lagoon place and deviated south along the side of the main island. Whether or not we were at the bird isle or not didn't really matter but I don't think there could have been more life anywhere else around these parts - must have been millions of the critters practically enveloping the boat and making an enormous din. It was overwhelming! Birds in the sea, birds in the air, and birds nestled into every cranny and crevice on the cliffs that towered above us. One of Philip's puffins flew down to catch some fish for his master and returned with a couple in its beak. Hard not to imagine existing in a slightly fairy-tale dimension when I'm with these children. Fluffy little rats running round inside a boy's clothing, an incredibly talented parrot, and now puffins supplying our breakfast! A parrot with a few feathers less it appears - Jack noticed some missing on Kiki's crest but fortunately there's no other injury.
The boat seemed undamaged so it was just a matter of getting off the rocks as soon as possible because the enemy would be searching for us with renewed energy now that it was light. The boys and I thought a swim would freshen us up while the girls "played house" and tidied up the bedding, so we dived in and splashed about. On boarding again there was a pow-wow as to what action we take if the searchers arrive and Philip suggested we drape seaweed over the boat to disguise it a little so that from a distance it might blend in with the rocks. Good idea!
The girls also had a suggestion about where to hide; get into the water amongst the hundreds of birds floating there. Another excellent idea! I was beginning to see how the four of them manage to survive so well when the odds are against them. Lack of sleep was now catching up so I told them to strip off and snuggle down while I settled down to a spot of camouflaging. They were almost comatose as I tucked them up in their rugs and then turned my attention to the boat. Spent some time carefully pulling up handfuls of kelp and placing it fairly generously over the seaward side so that from a distance it would hopefully be distinguished as an odd-shaped rock. Having completed that task I went and sat in the cabin to keep watch.
Noticed a small compartment with a hinged cover underneath the controls, which I opened just to be nosy and could hardly believe what I saw. Why hadn't I thought of it - Tipperlong wouldn't have gone cruising the isles without a transmitter of some kind in case of emergency. Jack woke, having heard my exclamation, and when I enquired of him he mumbled something about knowing it was there but as they didn't know how to send messages, it had been overlooked. Thought it'd be an idea to give the boys some radio instruction when we get back to civilization because it would have been extremely valuable to them if they'd known the rudiments. I'll think about it, although they're hardly likely to end up embroiled in another situation like this ... touched wood when I thought back a little. Jack managed to direct me to where the aerial was stored before falling asleep again.
This was a golden opportunity and I got down to the task. The radio was an old RMCA that looked second hand - bought perhaps from some military surplus outlet, and it looked in working order? A light went on at the back when I pressed the main switch but the pilot flickered madly until I reconnected a wire that was partly disconnected from its terminal. Examined the inside and my heart sank when I saw the mess it was in. Poked at a trimmer screw, reconnected a valve that had come loose, moved a couple of waxy capacitors and checked the connection of a dubious-looking resistor. Blew out a cloud of dust, checked the rest of the wiring and connected up the aerial - then crossed fingers. Spelled out the code and began transmitting although it seemed a vain hope because the console didn't seem "live" but after studying the map carefully I sent out a message asking for help and giving our location as somewhere near an island south east of St. Kilda suggesting the more northerly Stocaigh. Also gave any details I could of the enemy and after repeating the message several times, considered broadcasting a Mayday as well but shelved the idea because an enemy craft in the vicinity could have intercepted it and been first in the queue - but not to rescue us.
Couldn't do anything else so called it a day and settled down to a period of waiting and hoping.
Sat there listening for a while and then heard the unmistakable sound of a motor somewhere in the distance. Leapt up and yelled at the kids to get overboard immediately. The urgency in my voice did its stuff - they woke and, although still half asleep, managed it to the stern where we all let ourselves down into the water. Hung on to Lucy-Ann for a few moments until she started paddling and suddenly found myself wondering what my horoscope had to say in today's paper. We'd now gone from the frying pan into cold water and the people approaching us had to be the enemy so what would be our fate? The boat came nearer and one of the men could be seen at the bow sweeping the nearby island and shore with field-glasses as they moved past us and around, before reappearing and then heading off in another direction with the engine growing fainter and fainter until it was no more. The girls' plan had proved itself quite satisfactorily although, not wanting to leave concealment entirely up to the birds, we'd kept ducking under just in case.
This was classed as a tiny bit of good luck - for a change, but if we'd been spotted, Philip would probably have been the last one caught seeing Huffin and Puffin had perched on his head! Helped the children back into the boat and we sank down in relief, wondering what the next scare would be. Hungry as wolves, we opened a few cans and partook of a welcome breakfast before drying off and changing our clothes seeing the sun and a cool breeze had wafted away most of the dampness. The puffins came on board again and watched Kiki eating a large chunk of pineapple, which she held tightly in her claws and to complete the family gathering, Philip began feeding his rats, at a reasonable distance from his sister of course. They'd been nestled in a towel and were thus spared the pleasure of an early morning dip.
Spilled the bad news about the message attempt but said we'll remain optimistic. The tide was rising and soon the boys were able to use the oars again to pull ourselves away from the rocks and out a little way. Thought we'd better distance ourselves as far as we could in case the next attempt to locate us came from above ... a plane zooming over our boat was all we needed. Horace's boat! As we rowed along I began thinking ... wouldn't Horace have included spare fuel for his trip? Stood to reason surely. Got the boys to look under some stuff lying around at the back and Bingo - a small storage compartment revealed six containers of petrol neatly placed in a row. Cheers all round as I was handed two cans which I emptied into the tank, then started up the motor, and worked out a South Eastern course from the sun's position. Plenty of high spirits now as the water started churning and the boat began moved swiftly across the sea.
I already knew what was printed in my horoscope without seeing it: Today will be a period of Ups and Downs. We'd already had plenty of them - fleeing the enemy, running out of petrol, reaching an island, having to hide, discovering more fuel, and now it was time for a "Down" because suddenly the drone of an aeroplane sounded, coming nearer and nearer! Sitting ducks! Looking up we watched it descending slightly to fly around us before rising again, and taking off to the east. This was the "crunch" although I didn't let on to the children. Our only hope was to continue on course as fast as we could so I gave it full throttle and on we went thrashing through the water at top speed. After an hour or so I yelled to the boys for more fuel and once again, predictably, our luck plummeted to rock bottom. Another "Down" when it should have been an "Up!"
Either the petrol supplier had taken advantage of Tipperlong's naivety, or else a short trip had been planned because the rest of the petrol cans were empty! The two selected by the boys had been the only ones with fuel in them.
This day will live in memory but at least whenever depression descends I'll be able to think back and make a contrast - any future series of ups and downs will never equal this lot. We'd been spotted by the enemy, were about to run out of fuel again, and weren't anywhere near land, so now what? Once again, fate would inform us and, sure enough, after about twenty minutes had elapsed the engine spluttered again and the speed gradually dropped until we came to a full stop and just sat there moving up and down on troubled waters. There was nothing we could do - the Syndicate was bound to send either a seaplane or a boat and that would probably be from the Northwest if Tipperlong had been right in his estimation.
Spent the day talking with the kids and trying to keep the tone up although I was quite sure the enemy would be arriving at any moment. Told Philip there was no need to worry about rationing food for the present because a search party could arrive and take us aboard at any moment. To while away the time they started up a few word games and quizzes attempting to amuse each other - another aspect of their ability to make the best of things when the chips are down. At one stage Philip had them in paroxysms of laughter when he played the part of an elderly man calling out to an imaginary "Jeeves" who was supposed to be sitting in the cabin. When 'Jeeves' didn't arrive to tidy up the boat, Philip pretended to be very angry and strode about the deck in a 'fury,' falling over ropes and buoys and earning himself a few bruises in the process. For my part, as the day went on with the kids having the occasional dip to cool down, I tried to predict what would happen to them. I'd be "dumped" - there was no doubt about that because the gunrunners couldn't afford to have me around any longer than was necessary. But the children? I gave up thinking about it because I didn't want to speculate.
We had a meal in the late afternoon and I examined the radio again to see if a little more life could be coaxed out of it. I think my depressed feelings were affecting the children a little because they became rather quiet. The only members of our group who were as chirpy as ever were Kiki, the puffins, and (I guess) the rats! The kids started wondering what was happening at home and at their schools and spent the early evening talking about what they'd get up to when we at last managed to extricate ourselves from the current run of bad luck. The sun dipped - a spectacular sight in normal circumstances but with the current uncertainty, I couldn't really appreciate the display. Lucy-Ann voiced what we all felt -
"... lost on the Sea of Adventure!"
Dinah was just contemplating supper and I was about to have another try at the radio when we heard a familiar sound. Looking upwards, a seaplane was spotted rapidly approaching from the east with orange sunlight glinting on its windows.
The children jumped when I barked out the order, "DOWN!" They acted instantly and dropped to the lowest part of the deck quickly pulling blankets over themselves but leaving their heads uncovered to observe. Lucy-Ann looked scared as I helped her, adding a hug and an "assurance" she'd be all right - what else could I do? The others looked concerned as well but were bearing up under the strain. As it was useless to conceal myself I just sat there and waited.
The plane landed causing waves to shoot forward and rock the boat violently and when it stopped, the door was pulled back whereby three men pushed a rubber dinghy out and boarded it. As they rowed nearer one of them stood up holding a megaphone.
"AHOY THERE! SHOW YOURSELVES!"
Told the kids not to be afraid. "The loud voice is only a man using a megaphone. Relax!" The order came again informing us there were guns trained on the boat and it may be blown up. Couldn't possibly prevent the kids from hearing that and I now knew it was reckoning time. How many men were there altogether? That was crucial! I ran over the fighting techniques that had been part of my studies.
According to Rex's buddy, I was not only an expert in Shotokan and Kenpo but I'd also shown "remarkable" skills in Combat Samooborona ... and that was after only three weeks on the course. Dangerous as it can be, I had taken to the art like a trouper. Perhaps it was my urge to be an all-rounder and prove my worth. Sambo it would be! I had no choice. Deadly? Yes, but there was no time for sentiment because in this particular position an all out effort was required where 'death' would simply be a byproduct and, I reminded myself, they'd be likely to shoot me down at any given moment.
Problem! The boat had three people in it and one held a gun pointed at me. I could still handle them if they got close but were there any others? Why should there be more than three? O.K, I'll take it as read - only three! The moment they pull alongside will be their demise I told myself. I was ready for them. Hated the thought of the kids having to witness what was about to happen but I had to go through with it.
The boat drew nearer and then, glancing over at the plane, I saw a movement. A man holding a machine-gun suddenly appeared at the door. Now it was Absolute Curses! If I attacked the enemy in the boat, more than likely we'd be blasted to infinity. No use! Stood up and raised my arms to show I was weaponless. Closed my eyes and stood as near to the side as possible so that when the bullet ploughed its way through I'd drop away from the children and into the water.
"It's true - life is flashing by. Blackness, then ... sunny days ... hollyhocks and primroses in the garden ... I crawl amongst them following a cat ... it squeezes under the lattice fence and disappears ... tantrum ... Auntie Lena grabs me ... placed in the bath ... grocer hands me a lump of icing sugar from the big can on the shelf ... always look forward to that ... mother thanks me for carrying the wicker basket ... it's early evening ... Father's in the garden ... hose sprinkling water on the strawberries ... I can smell the wet earth ... in my togs and Betty from next door is wearing hers ... she runs through the spray ... I follow her ... Sunday ... Auntie Lena and Uncle Owen have left early for Dolwyd - ... can't say that word ... nest in the oak tree has a bird's head sticking out of it ... Mrs. Tate in her Sunday bonnet ... man with the bucket walking the back street off Corporation Road lugging a sleeping bag and all his worldly goods ... why the bucket ... does he sleep in the park? Everything so real ... fifteen ... I'll marry June ... sent Carol a Valentine ... Bev, my one and only ... (NFP). I'm with father at Portsmouth ... ABC ... he's related ... kind ... impressive ... shows me round his ship ... sailor hands me a model ... it'll go on my dresser ... Hendon ... Class Honours ... "Brilliant Future" ... words bestowed on us all during prize giving ... did he mean it? ... here now is the "Brilliant Future!"
" ... Eyes shut ... helpless ... waiting for the shock ... aim the gun ... why do you hesitate, man? ... the kids ... sick to my heart ... Lucy-Ann ... my foot is touching her ... I hear something ... is she crying? Terrible moment ... Dinah, Philip, Jack... trust me. You'll live and be with your mother very soon. You will! You will! Allie! What have I done? Your dear children. Are they to float down with me ... to the bed of the sea? This can't be! Allie, what are you thinking ... yes, the kids ... my responsibility ..."
" ... Second floor conference room ... Bow Street ... Pete, Nigel, Joe, and I ... lingering back ... heavy day ... on couch by window ... fallen asleep ... someone calling my name ... "Bill, Bill, wake up ... we're off to the canteen ... Bill! Bill!"
"It's happening again ... I can hear Joe calling ... "Bill! Bill old chap!"
Snapping back I heard the sweetest sound in all Christendom - Joe's voice!
Opened my eyes and almost collapsed - the relief flowing through every sinew made me light-headed and I staggered back. There was Joe standing in the dinghy and looking at me with a rather perplexed expression. I glanced down at the children still huddled together in the rugs and when they saw my face there was a scramble to see what was happening. Hoisted Lucy-Ann into the air and gave her another hug, then looked round at the others:
"Everything's fine. We're on our way home kids!"
The excited looks on their faces set the tone and I was back in the real world. For a few moments I'd been in a kind of surrealistic environment hovering between life and death. The fifty/fifty chance had favoured me - HQ had received the messages but it'd been one way. Horace's radio hadn't picked up the replies. Grinning widely, Joe introduced us to his two companions - Liam and Oscar. Liam had a cheery face with one front tooth missing and Oscar looked slightly older with sharp features, gingery hair and unshaven face.
I reciprocated with the greetings, and introduced Kiki who had flown to my shoulder and was now swaying from side to side uttering my name over and over "Bill, Bill, Pay the Bill!" The guys were suitably impressed and there were more surprises when they saw a rat's nose followed by two more, appear out of Philip's jumper.
"Quite a family you have here!"
It was, and then down to business! I helped the children onto the dinghy and climbed in with them as Lucy-Ann enquired,
"Are we rescued?"
"You bet!" she was told and her face lit up. Being the youngest and most sensitive she's always taken adventures a little harder than the others but if fate frowns down, she's up there with the best of them. The dinghy began moving towards the plane with the understanding that arrangements would be made to collect Horace's boat and have it delivered to the beach near Ramasaig. Top priority of course was to rescue the owner. What a relief it was to be with colleagues after the nightmare we'd been through. The kids were not as affected as myself because they had been with a Grown-Up and Grown-Ups solve everything - they "knew" I would never have let them down. Yet it could've happened so easily.
My lack of a welcome when the plane touched down was explained when I reported on what we'd been expecting - enemy bullets and I also pointed out to Joe the lack of an insignia. On their side, Joe explained how my message had been relayed North to Garston where Henry and himself had been attending a seminar - something to do with their imminent transfers. The airport facilities at Burtonwood had been mobilized and a seaplane located for the trip to Balivanich where Search and Rescue had supplied Oscar and Liam. Charts had been consulted and a marine geology team they contacted in Liverpool had advised on the most likely positions to check, taking tide and currents into the equation. Added to this was a file from records at the Yard listing a possible Syndicate location somewhere on the northern coast of Lewis and right at this moment a major operation on the targeted zone was about to begin with our "mansion" and a spot further around targeted.
Two more of "The Family" appeared and Joe grinned when he was given their history. Had to dash Lucy-Ann's hopes for taking the puffins with us but it was for their own good. Huffin and Puffin flew after the boat a short way making Arrrrring noises then dropped to the water and watched us sail away. Asked Jack if he had anything to contribute and he confirmed my own thoughts - they'll forget us almost immediately and return to their normal lives he told us and sure enough they were last seen diving for fish and looking quite comfortable bobbing up and down on the water as we glimpsed them for the last time.
Arriving at the seaplane we received a tremendous welcome from Henry who was looking very tanned and healthy. The children greeted him enthusiastically as an Old Friend! We shook hands and he asked if I'd like to assist him for old time's sake - was only too happy to oblige. As I sank into the co-pilot's seat, Joe enquired after the lagoon where the guns had been dropped and Jack described what he could remember of the island while the plane readied for take-off. Henry started the engines and I began checking the avionics as we began gliding forward at a steady speed and then as readings were confirmed the speed increased. Henry eased the control column back slightly, and a few seconds later we rose from the ocean and hurtled into a clear sky heading North East.
"By the way." Henry looked over at me. "Spotted another unmarked seaplane on the same route!"
Enemy coming to "blast me out of existence!" No doubt at all.
I asked him what had happened and Henry said he'd been under instructions to get to us first and, if necessary, take priority over other aircraft. Appears he'd overtaken it by making a highly illegal pass, forcing the other plane to veer away. When it had tried to regain the advantage, a series of threatening manoeuvers by a top-class flight instructor had sent them "flying for their lives!" He doubts it will be reported!
The kids were in great spirits and couldn't stop shouting to one another as they kept their eyes glued to the windows. Surprisingly, Kiki was quiet once again as if overwhelmed by all the excitement, but not for long! Liam, who was particularly entranced by the bird, buttonholed the boys and they conversed animatedly when they found he was a member of the British Empire Naturalists' Association. To their delight he said he might find a space in the magazine for an article about their particular talents.
Very soon Joe, who was looking at a chart, announced Pabaigh Mòr. Thought it was just another foreign word (I'd been getting used to them) but he pointed out of the window towards a small hunk of rock off the coast of the main island, which the kids had already staked out. Liam and Oscar joined them to gaze down at one of the central points of interest. Henry nodded to me and we began descending, then proceeded to circle so that everyone got a reasonable glimpse and Philip pointed down to where the clearer parts of the lagoon revealed indistinct packages of weaponry. The children could be called as witnesses if necessary but I doubt it seeing the island will be crawling with government agents very soon.
Flying upwards again and a little further east we looked down on the building where Horace and I had been imprisoned. The main area of enemy operations, according to Joe who'd just received some information on the radio, was actually further around and extremely well camouflaged. Stands to reason the Syndicate couldn't place themselves too far away from the facilities offered by the larger island and it put paid to our speculation they'd all packed up and headed for the remotest place possible. Henry started noting instructions that began streaming from the radio as I gave Joe's seat back to him and joined the kids suddenly thinking all over again of the danger Tipperlong and myself had been in. Horace was still down there and we could but hope that he'd be rescued very soon - could have been up here with us. A recurring thought presented itself once again - I was alive purely because of the children's decision; had they chosen to think only of their own safety, the Department would have been one officer short. No doubt about it! They'll be rewarded I'm sure, and not only by the State because I'm going to make sure my personal gratitude is conveyed as well. Next time they're in London I'll be using my bonus for an expedition to Hamleys where I'll let them loose! By God I'll "Let 'em Loose!"
Looked over at Liam and Oscar who were writing furiously in their notebooks. They're responsible for the in-house publication and were already outlining a separate article describing their part in the search and rescue expedition. According to Joe they're both extremely qualified and if things had become sticky their expertise would have been invaluable.
Messages had gone through to London, including one to be rerouted, with priority, to Overton. Allie would be notified within minutes. The teletypes were busy according to Joe who was monitoring the traffic - personnel from other sections of the Northern Constabulary were already supplementing the Western Isles Area Command. I think Philip and Jack wanted to be in on the action because they joined Joe and listened eagerly to the communications flying back and forth. One that came from Glyn carried good news - Allie had a clean bill of health. Another from Stu O'Neil advised us that Scottie's incommunicado at present but he'll be fully briefed the moment he gets back from Ellesborough. Henry turned the plane round and headed west again for a little more reconnoitering, and to familiarize himself with the locations.
"Soaigh," we were informed after a spell.
Dinah recognized the island as Joe spoke and we all looked down with interest. The blackened patch where the fire had been was plainly visible ... a good idea that bore fruit in the scheme of things. Henry flew lower and a mass of birds took off from various parts of the island but their shrill calls were unheard over the sound of the powerful motors that sped us past and then skyward again. Lucy-Ann came out with one of her remarks that caused much laughter.
"I can see Huffin and Puffin!"
Sure she could ... they all look alike anyway! The little girl had been sad to think the friendly puffins that had followed them around during their days of uncertainty would be seen no more. The plane turned east and we cruised along until the course was adjusted southwards where we were due to touchdown at Burtonwood within an hour and ten minutes according to Henry.
The excitement didn't subside - the kids continued their talk back and forth with the occasional request to Henry or Joe for information on the lay of the land or the expected arrival time. Even the taboo subject of school was discussed seeing their classmates had been attending each day while "we were adventuring." Jack voiced the thought,
"They're probably doing their homework as we're flying through the skies!"
No further news regarding the operation came through but that was as it should be seeing it was a top-secret undertaking as far as the public were concerned.
The sun went down in a blaze of glory and we watched the spectacle culminate with a sky full of stars waiting for the moon to make its entrance. The plane sped on and as we neared Warrington I felt it wouldn't be bad idea to indulge in a little rest and recreation. I asked myself -
"Wonder what Allie's up to!"
Due to renovations taking place at The Admiralty, the Office of Central Command was utilized for the examiners to continue their work. A "leak" was uncovered at one stage that involved Mr. Tipperlong and Det. Inspector Cunningham. A journalist who was attending a conference in the same building was eventually located, and questioned. His material was deemed of little or no consequence and he was released with no charges.
NFP: This abbreviation simply means "Not For Publication" and may deal with state secrets, personal thoughts considered sensitive, or anything else that is to be withheld from the public. Det. Inspector Cunningham has agreed to all terms.
When a Criminological Journal advertisement requested volunteers for a session in hypnosis to further a project on the use of such methods when cross-examining witnesses, Det. Insp. Cunningham stepped forward. He wished to recall some past images of which he had become acutely aware during a time when he believed his life was about to end. The session provided a valuable insight and some of the results are printed as an addition to the diary entry for May 21st, 1947.
A related entry was made in the Cunningham Diary on May 27th, 1947:
Checked my horoscope for May 21st purely out of interest because the subject had crossed my mind at one stage. It was as follows: Today is for writing letters and finishing chores that have been put aside. Pick up a ticket to your favourite show; someone you meet there may be a future sweetheart. The star positioning indicates the weekend as being particularly opportune for receiving honest answers to questions; On Saturday canvass a relative or friend to determine their true regard for you. An invitation is pending. Examined it back and front, up and down and managed to find the word "Oscar" spelt out by the first letters of some words in a sentence! Definitely have to SHUSH that up - if Charlie in the canteen gets hold of this, none of us will hear the end of it seeing he's the Resident Conspiracy Theorist. Probably get it into the Police Gazette!
Canteen Charlie is marked down as a 'reformed' reprobate employed by the Police Dept. He enjoys considerable freedoms in his association with employees.
Going on information supplied by Sir Harold Scott, Detectives H. Tate, P. Croft, W. Cunningham, and the children in his care, the Home Office confirmed these individuals were more than instrumental in the completion of Operation Sonora.
Full insurance value was paid out to the Kyle Marine Club for the loss of their boat.
Horace, Archibald Tipperlong was brought to safety by representatives from Area Command. He had suffered minor injuries and when agents stormed the unused dairy where he was being held it was learnt that instructions were on the way for his execution. He was treated by a nurse and transported with an escort to Glendale. A police officer and a fisherman left Dunvegan on May 22nd to retrieve his boat and reported it as missing. Horace Tipperlong's insurance company has reimbursed him for the full amount and Mr. Alexander (Defence) has also arranged for an appropriate sum of money to be awarded because his vessel was of help during "threatening activity."
Mr. Tipperlong has expressed a wish to meet up with the children who were innocently tied to Operation Sonora. He states that complete ignorance coloured his attitude and insofar as their activity in the hijacked boat ultimately netted him a new one, and a reward, he'd like to express his gratitude.
Two more entries in the Cunningham Diary:
November 17th, 1947: "HQ passed on a letter received from Tipperlong yesterday. In it he shares a few thoughts and reminisces of the time spent together in 'our cell.' Says he received some cash from the State and also a handy sum from his boat club who had invited him to talk of his experience (twice). He's leaving his job with the Civil Service and, having invested his money, is now about to start a boat charter business. He'll be shunting tourists around the various islands (safety in numbers I guess) and would like me to visit if I'm up his way. Will do if I'm ever that far out again but I can't see it in the near future. Sent him a short note of thanks and said I'd pass on any letter he may have for the children."
February 3rd, 1948: "Received Xmas card from Horace Tipperlong! Must have lost itself while being channelled through the Department. Said he's begun his charter service and has two boats so far with a couple of staff although customers are sparse. His ornithological interests as far as studies go, have gone by the board but he's gaining more than he'd learn from his correspondence course seeing he's "In the Field" almost every day. He may however, have to rejoin the Civil Service and run his business only during the holiday season. There was another card addressed to: "Jake, Lucian, and the other boy." Said he couldn't remember their names very well although he'd seen the write-up but was spending a couple of days in Carloway and had no access to the cutting. The kids were also invited to his place (he printed his address) should they happen be in the vicinity of Glendale. I wish him luck."
Cosmo Loukas, and Dorek Bujnowski were the fourth and sixth in the hierarchy attached to the gunrunning operation. Their prison sentences were among the lengthiest of those handed out to the Syndicate members that numbered one hundred and sixty-nine. As of date the suggestion is that at least three arms of the Syndicate still exist with their affiliated subsidiaries.
There is an unconfirmed rumour that Thor Heyerdahl mentioned the Mannering family during a lecture in Oslo when he was questioned on his attitude to trends as regards the monitoring of children.
On October 10th, 1947 an unofficial branch of the newly formed Mont Pelerin Society hosted the participants of Operation Sonora during a congratulatory ceremony held in the Burlington House rooms of the British Royal Society. An extension to their charter allowed the presentation of a special Junior Tribute Award to Jack and Lucy-Ann Trent/Mannering, and Philip and Dinah Mannering. Several members of the London Constabulary attended, as did two of their colleagues based in Scotland, and members from Search and Rescue on the isle of Lewis. The presentation, originally scheduled for June 13th had been postponed owing to the indisposition of one invitee (Dinah Mannering) who was confined to bed with suspected melanoma disease.
A Think Tank to analyze captured data and also to determine procedures during future tasks was set up shortly after the conclusion of Operation Sonora. It dealt with varied aspects and estimated that the gunrunning organization had bases worldwide with the following localities named - Gdansk, Rønne, Beàrnaraigh, Sonora, and Mar del Plata amongst other locations where they are classed as subsidiaries of known criminal groups.
One subject that was eventually presented involved future access to the network known as S.Y.P.R.A. War related activity is apparently covered in their structure but arms smuggling in peacetime has not yet been accepted as a reason for use of the facility although, according to sources, it is only a matter of time. It was learnt however, that an incident during May of 1947 has been instrumental towards a slight alteration to protocol: - Lawmen under British jurisdiction who are undergoing threatening circumstances are now included as eligible grounds for involvement. Because of this change to their basic guidelines, and as the communication originated from, or via, the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, there is considerable speculation that Viscount Cunningham who is second cousin to William (Bill) Cunningham may have a less than remote connection to the secretive organization.
Information from Germany arrived via a researcher,Erich Seil, who had been contacted to supply additional background. The following was received: -
"Had Det. Inspector Cunningham and the children in his care been 'removed,' the Syndicate (originally formed in the city of Constanta) would have been completely eliminated from the face of the planet with all bases neutralized within a matter of days."
When pressed about this claim, Seil attributed it to his knowledge of S.Y.P.R.A and its massive resources, about which there is rumour that suggests the deployment of 'Private Armies.' Nothing more could be learnt from the contributor so the implication is recorded purely as part of testimony.
© T. Gustafson