tagNovels and NovellasThe Way of War Pt. 08

The Way of War Pt. 08

byRobinLane©

Chapter 26

Shaun opened his eyes and blinked several times to re-focus. Glancing at his watch, he saw it was 7:10am. He'd slept for over twelve hours. He collected his wash bag and made his way to the showers. It was strangely quite outside, the only sound was of snoring coming from the tents.

After his shower he called in to the mess tent. The cooks had just started, he waited until the tea was ready, sitting down and lighting a cigarette. The cook brought over a mug of tea and a plate with two fried eggs and bacon, another plate contained bread.

Shaun gazed down at his plate, his mouth suddenly full of saliva. The men started to come in, they all had the look of men who had slept too long and too deeply, moving slowly towards the serving table. There was not the usual banter that normally would be going on Shaun realised.

Tim took a place opposite him, gazing in fascination at the fried eggs. "I wonder where these came from?" he murmured.

Shaun smiled, "It's a gift from the gods, aka, Captain Silverman." Tim wasn't listening, his mouth chewing with a look of rapture all over his face.

He returned to his tent and began to pack his valise. The clothes he had worn on the patrol were in a pile ready to be dumped into the trash bins. There was a knock on the tent post, he turned seeing Jack there.

"Will you be staying at the Nile Palace as usual, Boss?" he asked. Shaun nodded, "If I get those items you wanted, I'll drop them off there for you," Jack continued.

"Thanks Jack, do you need any money?"

Jack shook his head, "No, but if you have 200 cigarettes to spare and a couple of bottles of Scotch, it would make it easier to get them."

Shaun opened the wood chest by his cot, "Here, help yourself." Jack was aware that Shaun's Aunty kept him well supplied.

Tim had brought the Ford round for him to load up and Ted came hurrying over to them. "Shaun, I have a message for you from Captain Silverman's office. You are to go to the flat. A key has been left for you under the geranium pot. Does that make any sense to you?" Ted asked looking perplexed.

"Perfect sense, thanks Ted," he replied smiling.

Tim dropped him off outside the flats. He picked up his valise and walked towards the door. Finding the key, he let himself in. In the flat, he looked around the familiar settings before pouring out a large vodka and tonic for himself. After loosening his tie, he sat back on the couch, the war seeming a million miles away as he relaxed.

Sharon found him asleep on the couch, she was appalled at his condition, dark rings were prominent under his eyes, and his face looked drawn and haggard. She brought a blanket out from the bedroom and placed it over him. You poor darling, she thought, what have you been through.

It was early evening when he awoke. He pushed off the blanket and stood up, for a second wondering where he was. Sharon must have heard him, she came hurrying in.

She stopped and just looked at him, "Hello," she mumbled.

He smiled, "Hello," he replied, and then she was in his arms.

When they disengaged they sat down on the couch. "Who organised this?" he asked.

She held his hand, "Dad, he got a report from your commanding officer warning of the condition you all were in. We have been monitoring all the raids. From the reports I saw, you seemed to be doing more than your fair share."

He shrugged his shoulders, "We were in a position to strike back the first, that's all."

She placed her hand against his face, "I'm going to feed you up, and you Captain, are going to rest, that's an order."

He laughed, "Mam, I out rank you."

She looked at him, "Not in this flat you don't. I've been out and bought some fillet steak, so you just sit back and relax."

"I wondered why you're still in uniform," he murmured, "Can I use your bathroom for a shower?" She smiled and nodded.

They eat by candle light, she had changed into a skirt and blouse with her hair brushed back over her head. "How bad was it out there?"

He shook his head, "Not too bad, we didn't have any casualties." She searched his face, seeing the strain etched into it.

He changed the subject, "How's the war going?"

"We seem to be holding Rommel, he's having problems with his supply lines now, thanks to you guys. There's reinforcements coming in from Suez and there's talk of a new commander being appointed."

They finished the brandy and Sharon rose from the couch, "I'm going to wash and put away while you go to bed. I'll be in later," she said smiling. When she did go to the bedroom he was fast asleep.

For three days he never left the flat. Sharon would go out and shop when she got off duty. Gradually she noticed the rings under his eyes had disappeared and his face filling out. They had made love, but initially it had seemed like desperation on his part, as if he needed her to comfort him. But slowly he returned to his normal self. On the forth evening Tim and Ann appeared at the flat.

"Sargent Blake dropped this off for you," he said, handing over a bag. Shaun poured out a drink for them. Ann took hers into the kitchen to chat to Sharon. Inside the bag was a Walther PPK 9mm pistol and what looked like a new Leica IIa camera with two rolls of film.

In the kitchen, Sharon asked Ann how Tim was. "He's a lot better than he was when I first saw him, he was quite frankly, knackered," she chuckled. Then seriously she said, "I think they've gone through a lot on their last mission, but Tim refuses to talk about it."

That night in bed Shaun held her tightly, "When Tobruk fell, then Sidi Barrani followed by Mersa Matruth I thought we wouldn't be able to stop them. If he took Cairo they could have captured you." He hesitated before continuing, "I've heard the stories about the Polish ghettoes and the rounding up of Jews. I felt so bloody useless being so far away from you."

She cuddled him as if he were a child, "Darling don't ever worry about me, worry about yourself and your men, if you have to worry."

"Sharon, if anything ever happened to you..."

She placed her finger across his lips, "Shush... I'll always be here for you," she said, bending to kiss him.

Their leave was nearly up. Shaun had taken to photographing her around the flat, she had objected to some claiming they were too explicit. He had laughed saying the Prof was very discreet. She took some of him as well, asking him to send them to her after he had them developed.

On their last night she wore the scarlet dress knowing the effect it had on him. After diner, she put on some records for them to dance too. She had her arms around his neck, whilst his were caressing her bottom. They swayed to the music as he kissed her neck. She groaned pushing her body hard against his. She felt him unbuttoning the back of the dress, knowing what was about to happen.

The sound of the Ford's horn alerted him that Tim was outside. She was still naked as he took her into his arms and kissed her goodbye.

Chapter 27

As usual, Ted was on hand as they drove up. "Well, you two look a hell of a lot better then you did," was his opening remark. He indicated that they should follow him into the command tent. When they were seated he continued. "Bobby and Bill got back yesterday, they ran into trouble out there. Jocko McPhee and Kiwi Bell are dead and Sargent Haney is badly wounded, he's now in the base hospital." He let the shock of the news register with them before resuming. "Bill's jeep was pretty well shot up, they had to tow it in. I'm afraid it's a write off."

"What was it, aircraft?" Shaun asked.

Ted shook his head, "No, they had troops under the truck canopy with MG34s waiting for them. If it had been the normal crew in the Jeep, Bill would have bought it, he'd had an eye infection, so Sargent Haney replaced him."

Shaun and Tim sat stunned.

"Where are Bobby and Bill now?" Shaun asked.

"Flat on their backs getting some well-deserved sleep," Ted replied.

As the men from the patrols returned from leave they were given the news. It had a dampening effect on the Oasis, the men were unnaturally subdued has they went about the business of getting the vehicles ready.

Shaun had a chance to speak to Bobby before he left on leave.

"Bobby, when you go out next time come over to the cave. The L R D G and the SAS are raiding between Slum and El Alamein and that's were Jerry expects trouble, we can concentrate between Derna and Bardia."

Bobby nodded, "It is getting a bit crowded with the other units," he agreed.

Later, Shaun ran his idea past Ted, who agreed with it. For the next week they ran supplies out to the cave, stockpiling for upcoming operations.

He had a chance to speak to Bobby when they came back from their leave. He told him to pick up the tents and livestock from the outcrop and erect them at a spot he showed him on the map.

"We will meet you there on the 6th. You can then go on to the cave," he said. Bobby nodded understanding.

Four days later they were at the cave. "Home sweet bloody home." Cookie grumbled as they climbed down from the trucks.

Shaun had already spoken of his plans to Tim and Sargent Walker as well as Jack. They would rest up in the cave for two days, then leave on the evening of the second day. He had shown the Prof the position and knew he would select the best course to reach it.

On the morning of the second day, they began preparing the trucks and Jeeps. Four Jerry water cans were strapped to the bonnets of the Jeeps, extra petrol cans were loaded on to the Jeeps and trucks. Ammunition and food had to be loaded, they knew they could be out for two or three weeks.

As the sun began to set in the West, they set off.

At times they stopped whilst the Prof checked their position with the stars. The light of a new day was appearing in the East as they neared the agreed meeting point. Jack spotted a figure waving from a dune.

Bobby had set up the tents in a shallow depression surrounded by sand dunes. Shaun had to admit that the camp with camels and goats looked quite lifelike as they descended into the camp.

After a much needed mug of tea, the men began to change the places of the trucks and Jeeps with Bobby and Bill's. It was decided that Bobby would set off to the cave at sunset, in the meantime he brought Shaun up to date with the happenings at the front.

"Rommel tried to attack but we stopped him cold. We have been getting reinforcements in from Suez and now have a new commander for the 8th Army, a General Montgomery. On a more serious note, the enemy is taking precautions against our attacks. They have spotter planes following the convoys now with halftracks and armoured cars mixed in with them. I've heard that when they spot one of our patrols the spotter plane whistles up the Stuka's."

They waved as Bobby and Bill left. After their meal, Shaun rolled out his bed having scooped out a hollow for his hip in the sand, shivering from the cold as he took off his RAF jacket and climbed into his blankets. He heard the guard changing as he drifted off to sleep.

The next morning the seven chosen due to their eye's being brown, dressed in the Teraquas garments. The Prof, owing to the fact he spoke Arabic, was elected Chief. His garments were finer with a jewelled dagger thrust into his waistband. Their faces were darkened with cream that Tim applied, finally the turbans were put on with the tail of it going around the face so that only the eyes visible. All wore crossed bandoliers and carried a German rifle. Two were dispatched to stand guard on top of the sand dunes.

After breakfast, Shaun gathered Tim and the Sergeants together. "I propose to take the Jeeps out today, leaving at four. The target will be outside Bardia where the road climbs up to the escarpment, we should arrive about six as the sun sets." He looked around their faces for any comments. They just smiled and nodded.

They stopped about five-hundred yards from the road, going forward on foot to scout it. From this position they could observe about five miles of the road below them on the coastal plain, the road was empty. They waited until full darkness but nothing came into sight.

"Perhaps Rommel has run out of trucks," Tim asked at the side of him.

Shaun shook his head, "Or he's changed tactics."

They returned to the Jeeps and drove along the road until they looked down on Bardia. Going forward on their feet they used their binoculars to view the small village.

"There's trucks down there!" Jack said excitedly. Through the glasses Shaun could see troops walking around.

"I'll bet they will move out at dawn, that way they will have air cover all day," he said.

They returned to the Jeeps. "Assuming that they have a spotter aircraft to watch over them," Shaun surmised, "it will no doubt check the route before they set out. They would spot us right away. We'll have to let this one pass, but the next time we come out we need to carry camouflage nets."

They nodded, "Okay, let's return to camp."

***

Over the next week they refined their tactics, arriving at an ambush point in the early hours they would camouflage the Jeeps a mile or so from either a town or village. Once the spotter plane had passed they would attack. By the time the spotter plane was aware of the attack they would be long gone. Any vehicle with a radio antenna was destroyed first.

On the ninth day the lookout warned of two halftracks heading their way. The dried camel dung fire was lit as the men gathered their weapons and hid in the tents, except for the ones in costume.

Shaun had the Cartwright .303 alongside Sammy with his SMLE. "If they start, shoot the radio operator and then the one on the MG34," he murmured, "I'll take the other gunner and the Officer." Sammy nodded.

The halftracks came to a halt 200 yards away, an Officer and an enlisted soldier got out and approached the camp. The Prof had gone forward and stopped ten feet from them. Shaun watched anxiously as they began to talk, sweat braking out on his forehead. After about ten minutes the enlisted man rushed back to one of the halftracks, returning with something he gave to Prof.

He waved to them has they moved off heading southwest. When he entered the tent he handed the object to Cookie. "German Liverwurst sausage, should fry up quite well," he chuckled.

It seemed the Officer had wanted to know if they had seen any vehicles, finding out they hadn't, he cheered up when the Prof had said they had seen dust clouds to the south west four hours ago.

"It's getting a little too hot around here," Shaun told Tim, "we'll have to strike camp tonight and move further east.

They dropped the tents just before sunset, and travelled through the darkness, finding a likely spot alongside some rock outcroppings. The tents were quickly erected and the livestock inflated as the trucks and Jeeps were put undercover.

Shaun consulted with Tim, "We've got enough water for around a week's supply, and then we will have to go back to the cave."

Tim nodded "In some ways, I'll be glad to get under cover again."

Shaun could see the strain of the missions appearing in Tim's eyes, all of the men were showing the strain of living this cloak and dagger lifestyle, himself included. Shaun knew this was when mistakes could happen, mistakes that could cost them their lives.

They carried out three raids from their new location, noticing that the convoys were getting smaller and comprised now of captured British Bedford trucks as well as Italian transport.

On their forth attack their luck ran out.

Titch had just removed the camouflage net, when the snarl of a MG34 opened up on them from behind. Shaun grabbed his MP40 and bailed out of the side of the Jeep. Titch had dropped down drawing his pistol, but Jack had swung the 50 around almost falling into the front seats as he returned fire on something. Shaun snake crawled to some boulders raising his head. Two German halftracks and a light armoured car were behind them. As he watched, the armoured car burst into flames from Jacks 50calibre fire. At the same time Tim's Jeep, four-hundred yards away, opened up with its Vickers Ks and the 50 calibre racking the sides of the halftracks. The gunner on one was almost cut in two by a .50 bullet. In seconds it was all over. The two halftracks had smoke pouring out of them and bodies draped over the sides. Titch retrieved his MP40, and with Shaun at his side, checked them. When they returned to the Jeep they found Jack leaning against the mount of the gun, blood flowing down his arm and face.

They laid him down whilst Shaun applied wound bandages to his arm and face.

Jack muttered, "You best get out of here boss, the spotter plane will be back." Shaun nodded, they got him into the back of the Jeep and followed Tim back to the camp.

Back at the camp Cookie examined Jack after removing the dressings. He came over to Shaun.

"The bullet went straight through but tore up his arm muscle. He's lost a lot of blood but I think he'll pull through. Unfortunately, he's not going to be much good to you now. The face wound is a bullet graze, half an inch closer and he'd be dead. The biggest worry, Boss, is if infection sets in."

Shaun had to make a decision, to continue the fight or get Jack back to the Oasis. He knew that it was only through Jack firing on the armoured car that had saved their lives. He looked around the men. They appeared shaken by the encounter, he knew he was. He called Tim over and his Sargent. "If we go back to the Oasis, have we enough water for the trip?"

Sargent Walker spoke up, "If we leave the tents and livestock behind to lighten the trucks and ration the existing water we could."

Tim nodded, "We could bury the tents along with the dummies and pick them up on another trip."

Shaun nodded, "It's settled then, we leave tonight."

The bedrolls were made into a mattress for Jack in the back of the truck, Cookie was told to give him any water he needed.

Titch tried to reduce the amount of jolting the truck made has they made their way back. A field ambulance was waiting as they drew up at the Oasis alerted by Sammy's signal to base. Jack was quickly transferred to it. After watching the ambulance depart Shaun and Tim followed Ted into the command tent.

Chapter 28

Ted poured out a drink for them as they sat down. Shaun told him of the encounter with the enemy ending by saying, "I want you to put Jack in for an award, he saved our necks for us out there."

Ted nodded, "Speaking of awards, Z patrol is mentioned in dispatches. Bobby, Bill and Tim are awarded DSC's and you, Shaun, a DSO for the aircraft raid."

Shaun looked at Tim and smiled, "We would rather have leave."

Ted laughed, "You'll get that after Bobby and Bill get back. You'll all be going to Cairo to get them."

Shaun later went to collect his mail. There were three tins from Aunt Vicky and four letters from Sharon. He laid back on his cot and began to read them. At some point he fell asleep, a deep relaxing black sleep.

He awoke feeling the chill of evening, the sun was setting. He grabbed his wash bag and towel and headed to the showers. Later in the mess tent, eating spam fritters chips and beans, he told Cookie there was some tinned food from home for him to pick up.

Over the next week the men worked on the trucks and Jeeps, giving them a much needed service. The guns were removed, stripped and cleaned. Tyres were replaced and springs checked. A washing line was strung between two of the palm trees holding their cleaned clothing.

The Prof had developed his photographs and delivered them to Shaun in an envelope. "She's a beautiful girl, Boss," was his only comment. Shaun realised some were a little daring as he gazed at them. Her long, slender legs that merged into her thighs and hips. The flatness of her stomach. Her small but rounded breasts. Her long, slender neck with the heart-shaped face above. The way her eyes were looking into the camera with an impish smile on her face. Shaun was filled with longing for her, seeing Sharon in the red two-piece excited him.

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