Bill's Diary 1948 (Part 4)
First edition: 2013
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1948
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1948
Type: Continuation Books
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August 23rd (Monday):
Early rise and we were away by about 06:30. The two donkeys laden with panniers and sleeping gear were handed to the prisoners with strict instructions not to deviate from the course one iota 'or else!' The dogs clustered round them at an order from Philip whilst Johns, Effans, and I rode behind. How Philip manages to convey to the dogs exactly what he wants them to do has to remain a mystery, I'm sure he had something to do with the donkeys accepting the critters after some initial wariness. The kids, Trefor, and David led the way along the track taking us from the mountain range that sent out a small tremor as if bidding us 'Goodbye!' Apart from Meier and Erlick, we were all feeling in high spirits - even David, who held a long conversation in Welsh with his brother as we journeyed through the Dyffryn Mymbyr valley.
When we approached the outskirts of the village, the children started feeling very important as the residents began lining the street to watch in awe as we moved along to the crossroads. Wandering donkeys are common here but not with a pack of 'wolves' trailing behind them. It seemed as if every villager and his dog had turned out to watch us - even the shopkeepers although, being a small settlement, that didn't mean we were swamped by any means. Children yelled out questions to the kids as the strange procession went by. Jack, Philip, and the girls were lapping it up and answering back as best they could while managing their donkeys, with Meier and Erlick kept in check by the jostling dogs. There were gasps of awe when Kiki added to the entertainment by flying from Jack's shoulder now and again to address the audience, using her best Welsh accent.
A day to go down in the town's history.
Right hand at the fork that leads into High Street there's a siding with a few trees partly concealing it, and looking over, I noticed five khaki coloured jeeps parked one behind the other, each manned by two uniformed men, from what I could see through the windows. No familiar markings, but each vehicle had what looked like two green double-headed arrows on their hoods near the front. We stopped after rounding the corner because Lucy-Ann had lost one of her shoes. A boy dived after it and proudly held it up for her and while this went on I got a little closer to the jeeps as curiosity took over.
A man in spotless khaki uniform got out of the front one and went to the rear vehicle that had printed on the side panel Geological Survey. It had the green insignia as well and I noticed that instead of points, the arrows had semicircles. Four 'arrows' meaning what? North, South, East, West? The man talking to the driver of the rear vehicle was nothing short of impressive. He must have been in his late twenties and looked as if he'd been freshly rubbed and scrubbed in a Chinese laundry - man and all, right down to the razor creases on his trousers. With a pencil line moustache, and eyes that seemed even more piercing than Meier's, his movie star looks registered notably with the females nearby who nudged each other and pointed. The only markings on his uniform were epaulets covered with a braid that looked as if it was made up of the tiny green double-arrow symbols clustered together. He stood up again, and taking not the slightest notice of two young girls who waved out to him, he looked directly into my face for a few seconds, glanced at the rest of our strange procession pausing briefly as he took in the two prisoners, and then went back to his jeep. Had I caught sight of a camera lens in the second vehicle?
The smitten bobbysoxers made their way over towards the group of vehicles but when they came within a couple of yards or so, an officer stuck his head out of the third jeep with a glance that made them pull up immediately. This man also had a moustache and the look on his face conveyed - "No!" It reminded me of a Horse Guard's expression when a tourist had moved too near his mount, only in that particular case the soldier had drawn a sword and raised it in the air. This man hadn't needed a sword; his whole persona was one of 'Authority!'
Strange indeed, and I wondered if I should approach and ask a few questions using my own clout, but didn't think it wise. The parked vehicles were not disturbing anyone - in fact we were the only persons causing any commotion if it came to that. Also I felt positively primitive sitting on a donkey in unwashed clothes after a few hours of trekking along mountain trails at a dog's pace - especially in front of this lot. Overall, there was something about them that intimated: 'Do Not Approach!' Perhaps it was the sheer symmetry they projected - each vehicle was exactly the same distance from the other with paintwork all 'Spick and Span' as if they'd all been washed half an hour ago.
They reminded me of a picture I'd seen in the Telegraph about four years ago featuring some US soldiers waiting in their jeeps to enter Toulouse for mop-up duties. This wouldn't have been the case now though - perhaps they were part of a survey being carried out by the army, but not our army judging by the green markings. It was none of our business I guess and flicking the donkey, I trotted back to rejoin the others as the procession headed towards the farm. Suddenly we heard engines starting up and we all watched as the motorcade moved out in strict precision turning left and heading off in the direction from where we'd come. I was sorry I hadn't established who they were but there were so many things that needed taking care of at the present time.
The curious cortege filed itself away for future reference.
Leaving the villagers behind, we carried on up to the farmhouse with just a few younger people trailing along behind us and, reaching the track to the yard, we finally arrived at the homestead round 14:00 to a welcome sight. Allie and Mrs. Evans were waiting at the door having been alerted by someone who'd recognized her husband and David. They both hesitated at first when they saw the dogs but after being made aware the pack was under control, Allie rushed up to hug each of the kids, and Effans, and myself as we dismounted. After leading the farm dogs over to a spot under some trees with a healthy distance between them and the Alsatians, Mrs. Effans tied them up and then started talking Welsh at high speed to David and Trefor.
What pandemonium there was with all the greetings and top-of-the-voice talk from the children. After an exchange of news, views, whys, and wherefores, Philip introduced Allie properly to the pack while Jack, Lucy-Ann and Dinah chatted briefly to some local children who'd slipped into the farmyard - no doubt telling them embroidered stories of flight, fantasy and intrigue, which they were entitled to do so. There are strange things in that mountain but I didn't worry as to whether a handful of local urchins might storm the place and come out with state secrets.
With Philip and Jack's help, the ten hounds were herded over to the barn, the prisoners put inside, and the door bolted. Mrs. Evans, ever the provider, came over with a bag containing meaty bones used for the farm dogs and it was distributed to the eager pack before they settled down to their job of guard duty.
We were all hungry so Mrs. Evans called for us to come in and then bustled around with the girls' and Allie's help to construct another of her enormous meals for the hungry adventurers. We talked on and on, mainly answering questions from Mrs. E and Allie who was so relieved that we'd got back all right. It was nice having her beside me once again and taking such an interest in what we'd been doing and it was also entertaining to see the kids all talking at once trying to get across their own versions of what we'd been through. Snowy skipped around everywhere when he realized that sticking his nose into someone's arm would elicit a titbit. Johns seemed amused by all the excitement and joined in to relate his own experiences. David and Trefor mainly talked with each other in their native language whilst consuming large portions of the eatables and Effans was alternating between listening to our accounts with wide eyes and laughing at Kiki's antics when she flew round the table making her gear-change noise to get some attention. Jack could have made himself a small fortune if he'd offered to sell her to our host because he was almost beside himself with laughter when Kiki, who'd been given a plum to eat, dug her beak into it and squirted juice all over him.
Later, when everyone had calmed down a bit I thought we'd better attend to the more official side of things and I asked Johns if he could take the prisoners to the policeman's house in the village and also asked David if he could accompany them, together with a couple of the dogs as escorts. He assured me in his Pidgin English that it would be fine - I think he wanted to get back into everyone's good books so I praised him for his generosity. Johns thought it best to go straight to Betws-y-Coed seeing I wanted a note delivered to the constabulary there requesting transport for the animals.
Henry would have already reported on the operation so I included a short list of contacts and other information. They could radio it to Colwyn Bay and arrangements could be made to rope in some personnel including technicians and engineers who might be able to make head or tail of the mountain laboratory. I'll go with them. Included was a rough summation of the Japanese workers and I advised a minimum contingent of about ten armed agents. The Japs had probably been recruited purely for their labour and if there are any here illegally, deportation orders would need to be sought.
Johns took my car with Meier and Erlick squashed up against two of the dogs in the back seat to ensure good behaviour, although their hands were tied just in case. Interesting to see how the animals no longer look upon them as their masters. The only miserable moment that occurred was when I told the boys they wouldn't be able to accompany the contingent. Allie forbade them to and I was inclined to agree. Goodness knows what would happen if they set foot there again - the likelihood a calamity would occur was very real because those kids attract adventures like blotting paper soaks up ink. In the end, I don't think they really minded, having been right in the thick of it for several days and seen more than anyone to date. Furthermore, if there was any rough stuff I would never forgive myself if they got hurt, especially after everything had turned out so well.
Trefor left us later looking very satisfied. There's nothing like a 'Mrs. Evans Meal' to make a fellow feel good. Another extraordinary moment occurred just after he left; Philip gave a shout and pulling his hand out of a pocket, he opened it and showed us an astonishing sight. His slow-worm nick-named 'Sally,' had given birth! Wriggling around on his outstretched palm were a host of tiny silvery offspring and after we'd all ooohed and aaahed over them I asked for the 1000th time just what it was about the boy that had enabled a slow-worm to reproduce in his pocket.
The kids couldn't tear their eyes away from them and after Allie and I took a long look at the fascinating sight, we left them all in the sitting room with Kiki going Welsh again and Snowy bounding about the place like a mad thing. Effans was about to clear up some stuff in the yard and his wife was in the kitchen, so Allie and I feeling we'd really like to get up to date with each other news-wise, accepted two goblets from our host, each of which contained a generous measure of Welsh Cream Liqueur, and ascended the stairs.
We had 'Grown Up' things to discuss. (22:40).
Due to the easing of restrictions governing official material that appears in journals and newspapers, the examiners have passed over some references that would have been omitted if they had been produced at an earlier stage. Det. Cunningham has also leant towards 'frankness' regarding his personal life, taking the view that he is happy to share some of the more sensitive issues because he takes full responsibility for anything he does. His diary is regarded not only as a project, but also a historical family document and in his view, the addition of more detail in his accounts can only enhance it. The assistance that he has given over the years was another factor that contributed to the examiners negating two attempts to hold back information not quite ready for declassification. The considerable detail in the diary transcription was also regarded as necessary to save further exhaustive interviews when the shorter transcriptions did not establish times, places, and other related information. Conversations have been established as accurately as possible and approved.
On August 24th 1948, Det. Cunningham and three senior officials from the Colwyn Bay and Blaenau Ffestiniog police headquarters accompanied a group of lawmen, scientists and engineers to Glyder Fach, the area being under heavy guard at various points. Upon entry, there was an incident involving two persons who'd been hastily recruited to organize evacuation proceedings. A fight ensued and Sergeant Glyn Llewelyn suffered severe concussion when the aggressors, who were highly proficient in the art of combat jujitsu, attacked him. When turning on Det. Cunningham however, both were immediately felled by the use of a highly developed fighting technique that could not be defined by two of the mountain personnel who gave evidence - Peter Daugherty and Joseph Reis. The rest of the inhabitants were not aggressive and allowed themselves to be taken away for questioning and possible repatriation. The self-styled 'King' was found in a study adjoining the laboratory and immediately taken into custody. Fifteen paratroopers and four Asian females were also remanded for questioning, the latter being kitchen hands or engaged for cleaning and general duties.
A mystery presented itself - the mountain enclosure had already been entered! On August 23rd according to supervisors Daugherty and Reis, who had been recruited because of their backgrounds in physics and who were not aware of the more sinister goings-on, a group of uniformed and armed people had invaded the caves and secured all residents in the throne room whilst other members of the party, wearing white overalls and lab coats, had disappeared into the laboratory. According to one of the engineers who have been charged with dismantling the core, it appears the invaders had removed fuel elements, control rods, a moderator, condenser parts, and other vital sections of the apparatus.
Reis, who had witnessed the entry, said the men had carried out their operation with utmost precision and had impressed him no end with their efficiency, coordination, and knowledge relating to nuclear fission. While being at a complete loss to unravel the reason for such action, scientists carrying out the inspection have admitted that the atomic plant was rendered safe by the invaders who, once they had completed their assignment, disappeared with no explanations and leaving no clues as to their identity! They had also taken away four of the Japanese workers -
one of whom was an exponent of Judo up to the Hachidan level. He refused to cooperate and had adopted a stance, but response was swift - the uniformed intruder struck the man down instantly with a movement too rapid for the witness to take in.
Samuel Mbanefo was debriefed, and after appearing as a witness for the prosecution at a special pre-hearing where he affirmed that several paratroopers had fallen to their deaths whilst wearing wings that had been bombarded with carefully shielded gamma rays and subjected to a conversion process in the mountain laboratory. The ex-paratrooper was rewarded and sent back to his hometown.
Herman Meier and Lorenz Erlick were transferred under escort to Leipzig where prosecutors were put to work defining laws that relate to the fledgling science of atomic power. British authorities relinquished their interest in trying the couple under their own statutes due to the intricate legal processes required when dealing with international aspects of the case. There are also charges of assault, abduction, false imprisonment, and manslaughter. A further charge involving the possession of ten unlicensed dogs was considered frivolous and duly cancelled.
The four Japanese citizens abducted from Glyder Fach were discovered trussed and gagged in the Police HQ yard at Belfast on August 25th, 1948 and they turned out to be immigrants with no papers, and dangerous criminal backgrounds. Officers are at a complete loss as to how their abductors had been aware that British authorities would have automatically sent them to Ireland; the men had originally absconded from the marine customs base at Belfast.
The 'Mountain King' was diagnosed as having a schizoaffective disorder and initially placed in a secure medical facility then transferred a year later to a convalescent home with a security wing. It was found that his technical expertise had not faded in the slightest but his identity and knowledge of the real world had faded. He had taken the name of a close work associate at Los Alamos (1944) - physicist J. H. Manley. The patient's garbled pronunciation was interpreted as 'Monally.' His real name is yet to be determined as passports and other documents were missing but a handful of papers, other than those containing his scientific work, had been discovered with several nomenclatures that required analysis. The 'King's' superior attitude did not endear him to his colleagues although he lasted over a year at the Los Alamos facility because of his incredible knowledge, but was discharged after becoming a risk to the high security requirements of the project.
He disappeared, and before fleeing the country with help from researchers working on liquid-fueled rocket development in Germany, he established a laboratory inside the Cerro Grande caves not far from New Mexico and experimented on electromagnetic radiation and heavy element fission techniques with the help of classified information gained during his work on the Oppenheimer Project. When it became obvious that Germany was due to be overwhelmed, the operations were transferred to Europe by making use of contacts in Britain who had discovered rare elements in a Welsh mountain range. One of the financiers had recruited employees from Monterrey and Colima (Mexico), Cologne (Germany), Valencia and Jerez (Spain), and Khaipur (Pakistan). Persons for general labour had been engaged in Osaka (Japan) with promises of wealth, recognition, and fine uniforms to wear.
The development of an atom bomb during that critical period was crucial, and Necessity being the Mother of Invention, it was imperative the allies cracked it first because the Free World's very survival was at stake. Unknown forces had been unleashed - power that involved the very matter from which our universe is structured, and with the potential for running completely out of control. Atomic material being worked on in New Mexico could have annihilated anything within about twenty miles of source, and burns to approx the 3rd degree would have been suffered by anyone unfortunate to live within a 60mile radius. Thermal radiation in the form of Infrared Rays, X-Rays, and Gamma Rays, plus the possibility of an uncontrolled chain reaction was something of which we had comparatively little knowledge and for all that was known, the experiments may have ended civilization by blowing our planet out of the solar system.
Yet the thousands of scientists and professors working away in laboratories and hidden mountain fortresses were for the most part unknown to ordinary families living their lives during those terrible times. The children attended their schools, housewives visited the grocers and drapers, and everyone read the newspapers each night for information as to the current state of affairs. A twilight walk in suburban streets after dinner was à-la-mode, and returning home the parents and older children would sit by a flickering fire, turn on the radio, and gain reassurance from the Fireside Chats that beamed throughout the nation.
The results of a preliminary examination conducted on the physicist's notes have caused considerable interest in scientific circles and various theoreticians believe they will answer many of the questions that have baffled mankind for years. After being indexed and released officially they will be retained for use by various institutions both in Britain and overseas.
Sergeant Benjamin Johns was with the Colwyn Bay Constabulary until February 1949 then after a brief transfer, returned and took the place of Assistant chief constable Ashe who'd been transferred to Cardiff.
According to the C.S.O, Capel Curig experienced an influx of tourists intent on seeing whatever they could of the place that had been so publicized. Reporters flocked to various parts of Eryri and accommodation was at a premium. Many of the inhabitants rented out rooms and even complete houses as an insatiable public demanded accommodation. The mountain itself was off limits due to the presence of deadly material and related instability, but in a year or two when the laboratory has been fully disassembled and all the components removed, tours may be allowed in certain areas. A few interested parties have already been granted access though, and these include officials from the Ministry of Fuel and Power, a representative from the US Department of the Interior, Dr. Selwyn Price (Colorado), Alex Miller (New Mexico), Profs. Stanley Mason, and E. J. Seil, and two physicists (unnamed) based respectively at Dundee University, and the University College, Aberystwyth.
Those kids should be put on the payroll of the Security Service is a statement recorded as 'Passing Remark.' Levity had no place in the enquiry that followed the action in Wales but as the Honourable Sir Harold Scott had voiced the suggestion, it was duly included, but for reference purposes only.
Currently, the reported discovery of remains at Bracknell is under wraps due to investigative proceedings being taken against three warders previously employed at the Broadmoor institution.
Three further entries in the Cunningham Diary are relevant although the initial one (Sept.1st) was unavailable until war related material had been declassified.
Sept. 1st (Wed):
A note from Scottie brought me to his office this morning. He'd just come back from leave and seeing I'd tidied up my end of things after returning from Wales (Aug 27th) he seemed to think a few congratulations were in order. We settled down with drinks and Stu joined us.
"I think you're entitled to know something the general public won't have learnt," Scottie had said. "Your report included a reference to what you thought might be a unit from either an army operation or a scientific survey ... right?"
I acknowledged, and then he went on to tell me that all their external enquiries point to the group as being made up of personnel belonging to the highly secret organization he'd mentioned to me a year or more back.
I looked at Stu then turned to Scottie and mouthed, "S.Y.P.R.A?"
Nodding, he told me I could say anything I like in front of his secretary.
'You're one of the very few people who have possibly witnessed an operation in progress and later known who the participants were ... at least you might know," said Scottie taking another swig of whisky. "We can't actually be sure!"
Stu, as always, was writing something on a pad. He looked up at me.
"Are you putting two and two together?"
I said I was just starting to ...
Unsupervised atomic experimentation had to come under the list of actions the Organization monitors in order to make the world a safer place. What other explanation was there? The collection of jeeps and the person in charge reeked of efficiency and dedication ... not a hair out of place, but I couldn't think exactly what it was that gave me such an impelling confidence in their abilities. Meier, Erlick, and myself had been given a once-over by the team but there had been no interference! Was it just the atomic side of it that attracted their interest? The message I had tried to get through to ABC ... was that the catalyst?
"You've been mentioned in dispatches once again!"
I looked at Scottie.
A colleague at the Admiralty radioed me yesterday and said that your name, coupled with one or two others had been singled out for favourable comment and it was recommended I pass those of the police personnel on to Accounts.
"A bonus? But what's the Admiralty got to do with it?" I asked.
Scottie offered his pack to us and we lit up.
"There's a certain connection in those quarters of whom we aren't in the habit of speaking all that loud, and as this office is overdue for a de-bug I won't say any more for the present. I don't think I have to."
"Of course not," I said but couldn't be all that sure as to what he was referring. If there's an Admiralty connection it points to ABC ... or The Other. I also cottoned on to the fact that the children's abduction and eventual discovery of atomic secrets would certainly be classed as of 'Immense Importance,' especially when the possible construction of a weapon is brought into the equation. That would surely come under the auspices of S.Y.P.R.A.
Promotion? Quite possibly.
I asked. "What names were coupled with mine?"
Stu puffed out an almost perfect smoke ring. "Benjamin Johns! His name is also being passed on to the boys in Accounts. 'Mannering' is the other one ... they will be rewarded appropriately from a separate source."
Another disbursement for the family! Wonderful news.
Knock on the door just after I got out of bed. Mailman wanted a signature so I obliged and was handed an O.H.M.S. that mentioned my bid to contact ABC (cf: Aug 18th). Usual officialese but the following at least answered my speculation as to whether the Organization had been stirred because of my contact with the Ministry:
"Your request of August 16th was forwarded to Rear Admiral Longley-Cook in the first instance and then passed on to the Lord Commissioner who is recorded as having received it on August 26th, 1948."
The slow wheels of Government Departments! So much for my thinking I'd initiated a move by the Organization, but
Wish more than ever I'd approached that group in the High Street for information as to whom they represent because it had to be them who'd invaded the mountain laboratory. The man that was struck down is apparently a martial arts expert yet by all accounts he was handled with a one-stroke technique that few people I know can even describe adequately and now I'm wondering if it's the same skill that I've managed to master. Wish I'd been there if only to figure out how an aggressor so skilled in his art could be put out of action in a split second. How would I do? I'd probably have a chance seeing my fighting skills are classed in the 'extremely high' bracket but unless I was lucky, a similarly effective move towards a person with Hachidan under his belt, would be difficult to achieve.
Sept. 11th Sat:
Finished transcribing and tidying up the notes written from when we were up north and then spent a couple of hours with Des (opposite) looking at his photographs over a cuppa. He's just back from India and it has to be admitted the man has a talent for composition. There were even a few slides in colour of various natives as well as the general countryside. Said they'd almost been washed away when a cloudburst hit them and that brought up my own experiences with the Indian climate, and the week I'd spent in Mawsynram. Turned out he'd been only 25 miles or so away in Mawkyrwat. "Small world" as they say.
In the evening, it was celebration time. Hadn't been able to arrange a night out since we'd got back, seeing I was tied up with debriefings and other folderol connected with the astonishing series of events in Wales. So at 17:30 it was off to Basingstoke where I found a park just a few doors down from the Crown Restaurant in Church Street. Entering, I spied the Mannerings in the foyer all dressed up to the nines and looking like three young ladies with their brothers, waiting for someone to arrive and take them in charge! Warm welcome from all of them and after I'd taken Allie's arm, we trooped into the dining room where a waiter showed us to a booked table in the corner.
What can be said, but that we all had a fine time? Ordered what we liked from a superb selection listed in great big menus that were handed to us. The maitre d' told us they specialize in combining available ingredients with such expertise that many diners have been fooled into thinking rationing has ended. The highlight of the meal came when I stood up and conducted a small speech making Lucy-Ann blush to the roots of her hair before being presented with a gift from us all. The award was for her selfless offer to take Philip's place when he was about to enter the helicopter to be borne aloft to test the experimental wings. Philip broke in with another instance of 'bravery in the face of danger' by recounting an incident that occurred after David had taken off with the donkeys and they were camping in a cave. Apparently the Alsatian pack had appeared and surrounded the boy whereupon Lucy-Ann had grabbed a stick and ventured out to attack them, futile as it would have been. Lucy-Ann's a little 'tiger' at times I told my audience which included a few customers sitting at adjoining tables who later approached us to ask what it was all about. They'd heard our talk of wild dogs and humans wearing wings, and a 'mad' scientist. Were we connected with the incredible happenings that had been reported in the newspapers recently? They wanted to know - as anyone would!
I gave Lucy-Ann a big kiss, Philip and Jack gave her one as well, and so did Allie. After a big hug from Dinah she got back to her seat and opened the packet I'd handed to her. We'd all contributed something towards a silver bracelet that made her gasp when she unwrapped the tissue paper and laid eyes upon it. Allie and Dinah had purchased it after telling me she'd seen the bracelet in the jeweler's window when they were out shopping in town one afternoon, and had fallen in love with it. Not having a tenth of the displayed price, she'd been disappointed to think that some richer person would eventually purchase and possess the sparkling bauble but now the bracelet was hers and she was thrilled. I noticed the little girl brushing away a few tears.
Yes, it was an evening to remember. The kids chattered with each other, reliving their thrilling experiences over and over and later they were invited to nearby tables where they were shouted ginger beer in return for a few personal recantations of what in any normal circumstance would be classed as 'Tall Tales.' Not in this case though! Allie and I had a good chat as well ... about everything that counts in our lives and also the children's, in fact we stayed on until closing time. I think it was the general excitement and atmosphere ... they know about the pending 'donation' to their coffers. The wine flowed quite freely... at least as far as Allie and I were concerned!
The street was empty when we left the restaurant at approx. 23:30. Our rations of petrol were adequate, and after "Goodbyes" and kisses and hugs, two cars started up and headed for their respective destinations.
Turning and leaving the market town behind, I headed for London. (01:50)
© Terry Gustafson - August 2013