by Writer345 ©* * *
Chapter Seven: April 1945 — “Afford all help and assistance.”
The months rolled by and Lieutenant-Colonel Virginia Howard, FANY, sat in her office speed-reading her way through stomach-churning reports that often more than hinted at vivisection and other forms of experimentation that were just too unethical for a normal scientist to consider. Sometimes she would make a note to include the intelligence report in her weekly summary and occasionally she would initial the report for further study. By mid-March, as a result of her systematic work, MI16 had a list of potential targets for the teams on the ground to investigate first hand and this work had already commenced in the areas already in allied hands.
On the 17th Virginia Howard was speed-reading yet another intelligence summary when something caught her eye... It was something associated with the Lebensborn Projekt which she knew to be an SS initiative to breed more Aryan children... She stopped and then frowning, re-read it in detail. She demanded all of the documents listed in the summary and then, latter that day, for everything relating to Lebensborn. After re-reading the documents several times and making copious notes of her own Colonel Howard realised that something did not quite add up.
After dinner she presented her findings to her commanding officer, Brigadier Martingale, who scratched his head after reading it. “Ah, why do you think that this is important?” He asked her.
“The care of premature babies is one of the major problems still faced by Obstetricians. Lebensborn was all about producing and rearing babies so if they’ve made any worthwhile breakthroughs then it should be one of our priorities, Sir.”
The Brigadier hesitated: this hadn’t been quite what he had had in mind when he had got Howard seconded to his department. “But, baby milk?”
Howard nodded. “I’m sure that there is more to this than meets the eye and obstetrics will be a high-priority feature of the new ‘National Health Service’. Surely you’ve read the Beverage Report and Nye Bevan’s proposals?”
Martingale hadn’t, mainly because he had been too busy fighting in a rather dirty corner of the war: a war that was almost over. He sighed. “Alright, Colonel, leave it to me.”
“With all due respects, Sir!” She snapped. The Brigadier smiled coldly as he well knew that when someone used that phrase, ‘respect’ was usually the last thing that was on their mind.
“Ah, Virginia, I take it that you want to handle this personally?” He sighed again.
“What other specialists do you have? After all there’s no point in sending a team in without having someone who can actually make on-the-spot decisions, now is there?”
“You are too valuable to risk and besides, you have no combat experience!” He stated making one last attempt to dissuade her.
“Then find me someone who has!” She retorted.
Martingale chuckled. “Ah! I was afraid that you would say something like that!”
Then, with Howard sitting in a corner of his office, doing her damnedest to keep quiet, the Head of MI16 made a series of phone calls. The third ending with: “Send Lieutenant Weaver to see me immediately...” There was a pause followed by. “Yes, sober her up first, but get her into my office as soon as you can.”
His expression was serious when he turned back to face Howard. “Lieutenant Weaver is ex-SOE and has spent most of the the last three years in occupied France either fighting alongside the French resistance or forcing the different groups to stop fighting each other. She’ll be your bodyguard so I’ll be counting on her to keep you alive.”
Weaver prove to be a tall, wild-eyed ash-blonde with short hair, a slim figure and a hostile expression. When she eventually entered the Brigadier’s office she eyed him with suspicion reinforced with more than a little hostility. “You wanted to see me, sir?”
“Ah, er, yes, Weaver. I’d like you to meet Lieutenant-Colonel Howard.” Martingale said.
The lieutenant half turned to look in the direction that the man indicated. “Ma’am!” She said by way of acknowledgement, but her hostility vanished when she met Virginia’s gaze. Utilising body language only the two women were able to communicate a degree of recognition that was totally lost on the normally astute Brigadier.
“Weaver, I know that you’ve been through the mill and are supposed to be stood down from active service, but I really need you to do one last job.” Martingale said affably.
“Fuck off, Sir!” The lieutenant spat.
The man carried on as if nothing had happened, his voice and manner ignoring her out burst. “I need you to accompany the colonel here and go into the occupied part of Germany acting as her aide and bodyguard: nothing dangerous. Just make sure that nothing happens to her, what?”
Weaver glanced at Virginia Howard and smiled knowingly. “Be glad to, Sir!” she said very softly.
...and so it all began...
Four days later Virginia Howard was sitting in the back of a jeep somewhere in western Germany arguing with a British Military Police sergeant who was commanding a section manning a road block. All around them the trees of the oppressive forest seemed to glower at them menacingly as if they too resented the presence of the invading army.
In the distance the crump-crump of mortar fire provided a background to the argument which was punctuated by the intermittent thud of rifle fire and the occasional snarl of a machine gun although none of this seemed to bother the sergeant.
“Look, Ma’am, the woodland hasn’t been fully cleared... The infantry are still fighting about a mile ahead. By rights you shouldn’t be this far forward.” The sergeant had had a difficult morning, and the last thing that he needed right now was a jeep full of women complicating things—especially when two of them were officers.
Suddenly the tall blonde lieutenant seated besides the colonel turned to face him. “Sergeant, what’s the local opposition?”
He frowned... There was something about her expression particularly her eyes... “We think they’re some sort of SS Police Battalion. The infantry’s pushed them back but there are probably some stragglers in the undergrowth.”
Suddenly there was the sound unlike anything that Howard had ever heard before: a sound like a sheet of canvass being torn apart: only much, much louder.
The MP sergeant threw himself flat on the ground but the lieutenant reacted faster, diving out of the jeep and bringing the colonel with her, she landed by the sergeant, pistol drawn ready.
“Christ! What was that?” Howard asked.
“MG-42... German machine-gun!” The lieutenant muttered as she looked around.
“Bastard’s close!” Added the sergeant just before even more canvass got ripped. A short distance ahead one of the military police trucks forming part of the road block began to burn.
The lieutenant Weaver’s eyes narrowed as she snapped “You two stay here!” At the colonel and their driver who had also piled out of the jeep. Then grinning like death, she turned to the military copper and hissed “Come on, sergeant!” Before crawling around behind the jeep.
Virginia Howard and her driver lay huddled together in the shadow of the vehicle for what seemed like hours but was probably less than five minutes. The MG-42 had fired again but a small explosion had caused its staccato snarl to end abruptly. There had been one—two—three pistol shots and then silence. A silence so deep that Howard’s ears hurt trying to make out anything at all; yet so overwhelming that it had seemed as if everything had died in that short burst of action.
“’s okay, Ma’am, all done now.” Lieutenant Weaver’s voice seemed to come out of nowhere,
Virginia Howard gasped and jumped in surprise and then the tall, blonde Lieutenant helped her to her feet. The Military Police Sergeant was there also: he looked more than a little grim and seemed to be trying to distance himself from Weaver who he kept giving questioning glances.
“Sorry, Ma’am, but in my last job, we’d call that murder.” He muttered.
The blonde shrugged then gave him a piercing look. “C’est la guerre, sarg!” She said dismissively. “If your grenade hadn’t landed where it did then I wouldn’t have had to shoot them.”
“But they were wounded and trying to surrender...” He muttered shaking his head almost as if trying to clear it.
“Were they? I never noticed.” She replied ironically although her ghost of a smile seemed to indicate that she was clearly enjoying herself and didn’t give a damn.
Colonel Howard decided that I was time to move things along. “As you can see, Lieutenant Weaver is quite capable of protecting me, so are we clear to proceed?”
The intervention seemed to move him back onto firmer ground. “Sorry, Ma’am, but there’s probably others of them dotted around this wood... They might be pulling back, but you never can tell with the fucking SS.”
Howard removed her briefcase from the back of her jeep and extracted a sheet of paper which she unfolded and handed to the man. “Christ,” he muttered as he read it, “seems like I ain’t got no choice!” He handed the paper back. “Where do you want to go?”
Besides, he had already noticed that they all wore FANY cap badges and so were not under military law: if the Colonel really wanted to press on there was absolutely nothing that he could do about it other that to use force to restrain them, although he didn’t fancy anyone’s chances of restraining that lieutenant—and he had got a pretty good idea about how well it would go down with the Provost Marshall.
“There’s some sort of Medical Establishment up ahead that’s a part of the Lebensborn Institute, I really need to get there... Perhaps you could provide an escort, like it says in my letter?”
The Sergeant nodded glumly. “I’ll do what I can, Ma’am, if you’ll write an entry in my police notebook... Just in case it all ends in tears, so to speak.”
He had reread the letter before handing it back and could safely say that he had never seen one quite like it:
To whom it may concern, please afford all help and assistance to Lieutenant Colonel Virginia Howard in the furtherance of her mission which is of vital importance to the outcome of the war.
But that wasn’t all: it was the collection of signatures at the bottom that really grabbed his attention, the main one was some Brigadier called Tristram Martingale, whoever he was, this one could be safely ignored. However, the ones who had countersigned it couldn’t, namely: Winston S. Churchill; Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery and General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Christ, the whole of the bloody allied war effort is at this woman’s beck and call! He thought bitterly to himself.