A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 27

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination with what happened during the second world war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…

Rolf Mayer had only ever wanted to design and build rockets for exploration of space.

Somewhere between the germination of that desire, and where he was right now, in the back of a black Mercedes SS staff car heading south towards Nuremberg something had gone horribly wrong.

Back at Nordhausen, he may have been terrified most of the time from the demands of the Reich, and the horrors of how the Reich was achieving its goals, he was, at least, safe.

Now he was a traitor, with stolen plans, with two Britisher spies, heading for Italy and from there to, well it hadn’t quite been specified where he might end up, but he assumed it would be England.

As yet they had not asked him whether he had the answer to stop this new weapon, and, if he really thought about it, there wasn’t an answer.  Perhaps, with a sense of irony, he could say that in kidnapping him, they might not fix the gyro guidance system which caused a lot of the rockets to go off course and miss their intended targets, but still, a large number would still reach their destination with devasting effect.

As for stopping it, he doubted it could be done.  They were fired from mobile positions, there were no static launching sites so the enemy couldn’t bomb those sites, not could they stop the production of them because it was underground.  A lot of lessons had been learned since Pennemunde.

And that brought another thought to mind.  Who was the enemy now, if he was willing to go with these spies?  He was German, and he loved his country, but seeing what he had seen, it was hard to balance that patriotism with the means to achieve their goals.  Perhaps the blame lay with the Fuhrer, but no one ever spoke of what they really thought, only of their undying allegiance to the mother country and its heroic leader.

No doubt, when he reached his final destination he was going to hear a lot of things that may or may not be true about Reich and its leadership.

Mayer noticed the Standartenfuhrer had a map and at various times they would stop the car and consult the map, an older touring map that predated the war.

Listening to their conversations he had learned that the car had a 50-liter tank that was full at the start of their journey.  From Nordhausen to Weimar had been 120 kilometers and had used about 18 liters of petrol.  From that, he deduced that the car would go about 300 kilometers per tankful.  This means they would need more petrol before they reached Nurnberg.

It was one thing to say they were going to take care of the details but getting one of the most heavily rationed commodities in Germany, or anywhere within the sphere of the Reich was nigh on impossible.  He knew this simply because his superiors at the Nordhausen site couldn’t get any petrol for their vehicles.

At this stage of the war, a war they were continually told they were winning, there seemed precious little of anything still available or not rationed, especially food.  Because they were SS they fared reasonably well, but the others not so much, making him feel guilty that he was not going hungry like everyone else.

In fact, he was feeling hungry now, and he didn’t remember seeing any food in the car.

Some distances from Bayreuth, after passing through another checkpoint, they stopped a further 10 kilometers up the rood, in a layby that sheltered them from any other traffic, not that there had been anything other than army convoys.  Several ties there had been airplanes overhead, either coming or going in small groups, perhaps training runs, so perhaps there was a Luftwaffe station nearby

Outside there was another consultation of the map and then the driver headed towards the rear of the car and opened the trunk.  The Standartenfuhrer opened the door.  “You can get out and stretch your legs.”

Mayer climbed out and found just how stiff and sore he was, and it hadn’t been a very long drive, but the roads were not as good as they once were, before the war.

Then he noticed the driver lugging a large can to the petrol cap, opened it, put a funnel in and with some assistance, started refilling the tank.  When he walked towards the rear of the car he saw six such cans in the trunk.  They had come prepared, and given the nature of how they had collected him, he realized that he had been targeted, which meant someone inside the Nordhausen complex was an agent working for British Intelligence.

They emptied two of the tanks into the car, replaced the cans back in the trunk.

The Standartenfuhrer called him over to show him the map.

It had a line roughly drawn from Nordhausen down to Florence, and notes on the side in red, the most pertinent being the distance by road, if they could take the direct route, which now he knew the circumstances, they could not, was about 1,150 kilometers.

Even in the best of circumstances that would take about three days, maybe more.  And there was certainly not enough fuel in the rear truck to go the whole distance.

The Standartenfuhrer ran his finger down the line, “This is the intended route we decided on, though not exactly sticking to the main roads.  WE do not anticipate problems in Germany, but once we cross into Austria and onto Innsbruck there might be a few problems.  We’re not quite sure what to expect at the border.”

“There is no border, not as far as the Reich and the Fuehrer is concerned.”

“Let’s hope you’re right.  But I think it’s about time we had a talk about what happened if anything happens to the two of us.  We’re not planning to get captured, or killed if it’s possible but there’s a lot of risks involved in an operation like this.”

“You expect me to go on alone?”

“Yes.  With the plans and drawings.  You have to get to a town called Gaiole in Chianti which is about 70 kilometers south of Florence.  There you will need to find a man named Luigi Fosini, who will take care of the rest of your journey.  There is a code you will need to give him, but we’ll talk about that later.  All you need, for now, is the destination.”

Discussion over, the got back in the car and continued on their way.

Then he realized he’d forgotten to ask about food, but judging by the dark expressions they wore, he decided to wait a little longer.

© Charles Heath 2020

3 thoughts on “A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 27

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