Author's Note: This is to tell everyone that once again thank you for volunteering and yes I am going to go ahead with this mini-epic. Both P&P and Persuasions will be set in this era (Captain Wentworth was shooed in by a landslide!) It seems that lots of us have either military backgrounds or actually have relatives that was involved during WWII and one in D-Day so I hope to do you folks justice for history asks nothing less. Please realize that there are some liberties I will take as an author, but I will try to do my best to keep faithful to the campaigns and timelines of this greatest conflict. The following will hopefully set up the stage for the story and bring everyone up to par. The place is Europe, the time is 1939 and Hitler is exploding across Europe like The Plague...
By the end of March 1939 Hitler had totally dismembered the nation known to the rest of the world as Czechoslovakia. Now he turned to Poland to see how he can cure himself of this country. It was no surprise that Hitler turned to Poland because he firmly believed in the need for "Lebensraum," the place where pure and true Germans can flourish - and Poland was ripe. Poland trusted its pact with the British, French, and its own forces, but this was in the end a trust misplaced. They have miscalculated not only their own military prowess but also the Germans. In July 1939 Hitler using the thinly disguised "truth" that his Wehrmacht needed to practice he began to line his military forces along the Polish border. Britain trying to convey its threat of war declared a full-blown alliance with Poland in August 25th. This did not deter Hitler and on September 1, 1939 he began his attack against Poland. Great Britain and France declared war.
From here the core idea of the Wehrmacht was revealed. Hitler did not want a long drawn war. But a lightening strike against the enemy and its defenses now forever in our English language as the word "blitz." All his military cunning and strategy came from this fundamental concept and it proved to be totally successful. Russia marched in afterwards and by September 19, 1939 Poland fell. And from this nation would come some of the most horrific war crime stories to ever been exposed to the human civilization.
Then Finland came under fire from the Russia. They refused to agree to a treaty putting them under great risk and heavy burden. Thus Russia created basically a fictional "incident" on November 26th and began its war against Finland. The nation was far readier than Poland and since winter set in they had some advantages using their terrain and their native know-how. They fought valiantly but the attrition of numbers was heavy on their side. On March 12th the Treaty of Moscow was signed and Finland was now out of the picture as a military force for the Allies.
In Denmark on April 9th the German representatives promised the Denmark government as long as they do not interfere they would not be harmed. However in case they refuse an armada of bombers were already along their way to destroy Denmark into oblivion. Denmark had no choice and capitulated that morning.
Norway was more difficult for the Royal Navy interfered and the Norwegian King Haakon VII escaped capture making a peaceful overtake impossible. The Norwegian army consisted of less than 20,000 bodies of which at least half was located in the Arctic border because of the Russian-Finnish War. Additional forces from the Allies came but they collapsed as June approached. On June 9th the Norwegian army signed the armistice and now Hitler controlled the Northern Wall of his Fortress Europe.
On May 10th German parachutists landed in a vital area in the Netherlands greeted by Dutch Nazi-sympathizers. French forces located in this tiny country were driven back but Queen Wilhemina and the government escaped to England. The rest of the Dutch troops fell back into Fortress Holland, which covered Rotterdam. On May 14th to show their superior power the Luftwaffe flew over Rotterdam and razed a section of the city without warning. 30,000 (a conservative estimate) suffered or died in that one sweep and the Dutch surrendered later that day. Hitler using parachutists and glider soldiers attacked Belgium next and due to serious miscalculations and trusts the Allies were cut off from each other. In this conflict two of the most well known Blitz commanders Rommel and Guderian were present and they were in their full force. Now the Allies could not stop the onslaught of the Germans from the North nor the South and the German breakthrough was complete. Both Calais and Boulogne were unavailable for withdrawal making Dunkerque (Dunkirk) the only port open. Then something that is still unexplainable to this day happened. The German Armed Forces suddenly stopped. Some say it was Hitler and some say it was the commanders because they incurred heavy casualties. But what is sure was that on May 27th the British government began Operation Dynamo - the total evacuation of all British military persons from the shores of France, any other military personnel regardless of nationality who survived , and the total destruction of any equipment that was to be left behind. British, French and Belgium troops peppered by soldiers from many other countries protected the perimeter knowing they would be left behind. But they fought and held their ground, some literally with their bare hands.
The above mentioned nations might no longer have armies that fought but they began a totally different warfare called the Resistance. Composed of women, children and men (who survived the war) they declared outright and covertly their stance against the Wehrmacht and all Hitler stood for. The time for soldiering was over and now the people rose in their place. Their stories though I cannot touch every one are all remarkable, from Annie Frank to Raoul Wallenberg, the remarkable Swede to the Dutch's yellow roses these nations though are out of the war will become invaluable Allies during WWII. For every sentence of information delivered to the Allies during the war, the Resistance sacrificed a human life.
This is the stage, this is the time, and this is Dunkerque.
All The Bets Are On The Table...
We begin in the middle of Operation Dynamo. Mercifully there was fog protecting the beaches from total air strike by the Luftwaffe but the men trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk knew no reprieve and despaired of ever being rescued.
Thursday, May 30th
12,ooo feet in the air
Darcy wanted to see a bandit; he wanted a German, and any German would do so long as he gave Darcy the dubious relief of killing him. Never in his existence on this earth was life as frustrating as this. He thought he had seen the worst when his Hurricane landed in Manston bleeding fuel and falling apart. That was suppose to be his darkest moment Darcy raged but no, this was worse, much worse. He stared at the beaches that were on fire below. Dunkirk has become Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell. There was no doubt about it as he saw the black dots representing men being pulled off the shores and into the dangerous arms of the ships. Suddenly, Charles his wingman and his best friend shouted, "Stukas!"
Darcy's eyes whipped upwards as that signature screams of those dive-bombers became audible above the roar of his Spitfire's engine.
Good. Thank you Herr Goering for answering my prayers. When Stukas went into a dive they had to slow down their flight speed to the point that they become vulnerable to fighters, especially those flown with such savage ability as Darcy and his squadron. Pyro, one of the youngest in the squadron, began humming some popular tune as the pilot always does in the moment of contact with an enemy squadron. Nervous habit, thought Darcy but forgave the youthful pilot for this tiny fault.
"Break this is Alpha climb angel 2. Contact silence. Good Luck." (angel = 1000ft) His orders were given and they began their climb to meet the diving Stukas. The Germans did not know of the British presence for their concentration was on the large ships below. Suddenly one in their midst disintegrated in a ball of fire and this snapped their attentions to the roaming Spitfires. It was a full squadron. Damn, where did those things come from? In less than a minute three more Stukas crashed to earth and the rest pulled out of their dives darting for high cloud cover and hoped the RAF will not follow them out of Dunkirk's air space. They were lucky for the Group Commander Park had specifically told the RAF patrol planes that they must stay within Dunkirk and protect the evacuation.
Keith Park, a lean, cold-blooded leader; a born fighter pilot and a survivor of Gallipoli in WWI, had given specific orders for the air cover to do only that, to protect and cover the forces down below. They could not afford to lose neither one fighter nor a pilot to any stupid mistakes and chasing Germans around France was the biggest mistake a RAF pilot could possibly make.
Suddenly a dot on the horizon caught Darcy's gaze. He grinned humorlessly. "Gentlemen, we have company."
His squadron all noticed the approaching ME-109s from the west. Pyro began to hum a happier tune. Charles smiled, as insane as it was they were actually happy to see combat. Finally they can do some good, even though it was 10,000 feet up in the air and above the smoke and the clouds.
Dolpho Galland saw the Spitfires exactly where Captain Dalmer, the leader of the badly mangled Stukas, said he would. Those Spitfires were a lot smaller than the Hurricanes but Galland knew better than to judge a fighter by its size. And the pilots in those cockpits made all the difference in the world. This was what Galland liked, a one-on-one confrontation in the air rather than the mindless killing he was told to perform below. Suddenly, the Spitfires split into all different directions. Galland blinked ... what the hell that was a German fighter tactic. His wingman swore out loud at the same time and they all began to scurry around their positions looking for sneaky Spitfires.
A spray of bullets anointed the empty air right beside Han's cockpit as Charles's bird came rolling from nowhere. The fighter pilot quelled the instinct to jerk and began a dive at a precarious angle. However, the Brit on his tail mimicked his move to perfection and Hans made a right turn only to face Darcy. Too late he thought as his plane exploded; it was a perfectly maneuvered trap.
The hunter tipped his wing at the shooter and the two now visible to the rest of the Germans climbed to meet them. It was obvious to both squadrons that the opposition were experienced pilots and that the Spitfires do live up to their reputation. Galland and his boys left the air only after they realized that their fuel was extremely low. His squadron was in the air for most of the day and used up much in their tanks. Darcy saw them disappear into the clouds but refrained from rising with them. Those ME-109s can climb real fast and maneuver as quickly in their climbs making the bandits too dangerous for a chase.
"Dear G-d..." Charles whispered as they broke below the clouds and Darcy looked at the sea. For the first time in his whole life Darcy was speechless. Pyro heard Charles's whisper and looked about for some new and fantastic fighter, then he too looked below. A great rendition of "Danny Boy" began to fill this pilot's cockpit.
Wentworth was still ordering his men to pull in the soldiers. His old and rickety destroyer was beyond its bearable weight but he didn't care. The soldiers were still coming and he could not abandon them. Frederick heard Lij's light steps and turned to face the Dutch youth. "Captain, we have to pull anchor or even we won't make it out of here! We have already sunk two feet below the last measure and if we continue doing this we'll never make it to the Channel."
"Then start chucking out furniture and anything we don't need. Do it sub-lieutenant."
The officer frowned but never broke his clear gaze from the Captain of Avalanche. Suddenly coming to a private decision the officer whirled around and began yelling orders to throw tables, anything that wasn't tied down and not used to shoot the Germans to be tossed into the sea. Desks, bedding, chairs, tables, pots and garbage cans began raining out of every opening of the destroyer. Even typewriters were discarded and the ship began to lighten. But the stream of wounded men were continuous and to the despairing Wentworth, endless. The rescue by Avalanche and her crew went for another 30 minutes when Lij yelled to his captain,
"Sir! Sir! Come here!"
Wentworth, for the first time, lost his temper on the good youth and snarled "Do not interrupt me Lij while I'm trying to keep us alive!"
The desperation in the officer's voice made Wentworth turn around and join the boy. What shocked Darcy into silence brought tears to the salt-hardened men of HMS Avalanche. Wentworth blinked then blinked again. This has to be some delusion; something the Germans cooked up then he saw the car ferry "Wootton" and knew that it was no mirage, no cruel trick played by the enemy. He rushed to the radio in time to catch the call from Croft,
"Frederick, are you seeing what I'm seeing?" The older man's voice was in total shock.
"Yes Admiral I certainly am."
"They are English are they not?"
"Damn bloody right they're English!" Was the gleeful howl from the younger captain.
Croft began to laugh a little, "Ridiculous, stupid, and dangerous but I would medal them all if I could!" The admiral ended his call on that note.
What the men in the air and the men in the sea saw was a phenomenon that was in its conception and execution totally original and which would never be repeated again. For the last two days boats that the Royal Navy did not have in order to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force in Dunkirk were being formed all over Southern England. From Ramsgate, Dover and further, almost 1000 strong they came. The people that manned these boats came from all walks of life, the rich, the poor, Chinese and Swedes it mattered not. They heard the call and abandoned everything for pay of 3 pounds a day, which most never collected. Pleasure boats, tugboats, racers, schooners, pontoons even and old and disused navy boats replugged for their final voyage slowly made their way out to the rough Channel and to the bloodied shores of France. A hospital boat was slowly ransacking the waves closing in from behind. There were even fireboats recruited from London wrestling with the harsh conditions but determined to take at least a dozen soldiers home. Skippers ranged from age of 20 to one navy captain who saw WWI in his "dying years". There were businessmen who left their desks and got into their boats still wearing their bowlers and three-piece suits. Among them even a monk came to join this diverse crew as if to look up to heaven and say please ... it was an armada totally composed of civilians and orphaned sailors. They were simply told to head towards the sound of the roaring guns of Dunkirk and this proved to be more accurate than any map. It brought tears to Wentworth's eyes and even Lij could not find decent words in his native language to describe this foolhardy venture. Among them unknown to Captain Wentworth was one Miss Anne Elliot, the woman who refused him over eight years ago.
Anne scanned the scene shocked at the devastation. The sea and the beaches were on fire! How in the name of G-d could anyone survive this destruction? She increased the speed on her craft Coronation and the boat responded with a purr. It was her mother's boat left to her after Mrs. Elliot's death. Anne took many hours of pleasure in it navigating the Thames and other riverways that cut through the English countryside. It was just last night she heard the call of distress and responded immediately. She sold her mother's garnet necklace to buy the precious petrol the boat needed. Her heart ached to see the heirloom taken away but she knew that her mother would not have minded that her little Anne do this thing. The rest of the night Anne scrounged for food and medical kits. Unlike some she was instinctively aware that there would be great trials facing her. When she tried to register her boat this morning Commander Wharton of the Small Boats Pool said that women weren't allowed. Anne lied saying that her father, the Baronet Elliot from Kellynch was going to join her at Dover. Her innocent face and those guileless eyes did the trick and the boat was approved.
The Coronation was made especially for her mother. A sleek craft of dark wood and white trim it was the typical pleasure boat that could be found cruising in the Thames during a nice spring day. However this one had a look of a deer and the speed of a cheetah. Her mother loved speed and had an engine installed in this one that could rip any comparable boat in a race. Anne never brought the craft to that level but today Coronation was going to make up for all the days it never showed its prowess. She felt the smoke bring tears into her eyes and the smell of burning fuel was unbearable but somewhere in that chaos Frederick could be hurt and waiting to be rescued. This fear though in many ways futile and outright stupid would not die and ate at her until she decided to join in the armada. She abandoned him eight years ago after a wrong decision and not a day went by when she did not regret it. Anne had another marriage proposal afterwards but she could not accept for her heart still belonged to the dark-haired boy she casted away when she was not yet twenty. He could be somewhere in that beach she thought and maybe if she did this one selfless act perhaps G-d would direct another of these brave souls to help Wentworth climb aboard to safety and to England!
Katto just about had it. He dragged at least dozen soldiers from the brink of annihilation not a day earlier but now he was stuck at this beach and unable to evacuate! Katto wanted to stay and fight the Germans but his British friends convinced the tank commander to escape to Dunkirk, so yesterday, the young Frenchman finally abandoned his position and fell back onto the beach only to find that there was nowhere to go.
Suddenly he saw a truck careening down the beach towards the water and there were at least five more that followed. That has to be last act of a truly desperate man, he thought then suddenly understood what those idiots were doing. The drivers of those trucks pushed the vehicles far below the water until they could literally go no further. They are building piers, Katto realized. My G-d!
His voice ripped through his bedraggled men. "Start any trucks! Grab them and follow me!"
The exhausted men were too tired to care and too scared to not move. Katto rolled down the windows and started to drive his truck straight into the water. Soon the cold ocean flooded the compartment but he held his breath until the truck could go no further. He swam up and was actually able to stand on top of his truck waist deep in the water. The drivers all followed and even the few who weren't able to swim obeyed their leader. This was how desperate it was on the beaches. And the same scene was being replayed over and over the whole length of Dunkirk. The boats that were unable to approach the shallower shores could approach these man-made piers and soon began coming with furious speed.
Katto and his men redid this insanely brilliant act until one French soldier tugged at his commander's sleeve. Silently he pointed towards the horizon and Katto turned to see what he at first could not believe. The binoculars confirmed the sight and for the first time in nearly a month the French commander felt his heart race in joy. Arrogant and brave are those weird islanders. A small boat named "Bunny" pulled along one of the piers made by Katto, and a sailor, who looked all of thirteen, immediately took aboard him and his men.
The young man gave a brash smile and said, "Sorry I'm late, but at least I didn't miss the party. There's brandy in that box over there. You gentlemen look like you might need a tipple." The small boat chugged out of the French shores carrying six very grateful and exhausted soldiers.
HMS Good Intent
Anne was ferrying soldiers to the bigger warships. Her voice, though low, was brisk and very matter-of-fact as she ordered the soldiers to stay low or go into the cabin. Admiral Croft saw Coronation pull aside and unload her precious cargo onto his ship. He suddenly realized the skipper of this pleasure craft was a woman.
"Miss what are you doing here by yourself?!" He asked in real alarm. Ann stared at him, blushing for she was finally caught. "I'm doing my duty sir," she replied calmly as she could under the rain of flak and gunfire.
"Get off that boat. I'm having one of my men take over!" Ordered the admiral, privately admiring the young woman.
Anne thought furiously and her brilliant mind came up with a tactical question. "Sir, your power ranges far in the Royal Navy but I am not in the military so I do not see where you can usurp my authority over my boat. Granted this is a time of war, but it is Commander Wharton in London who has the only authority over myself and the Coronation."
Croft was stunned for the second time that day. How could this woman in the middle of this hell form such a calculated argument? Then her face broke into a smile and Anne tried to mollify the man.
"I am looking for someone sir. Surely you cannot deny me the right that every woman has in trying to rescue the man she holds dear above all others."
The earnest words softened Croft and finally gave her a little nod. Anne waved good-bye and once again headed for the shores.
"You know I am actually jealous of the man she's looking for," commented one of his officers, as Coronation became a small aberration in their sights. Croft barked orders at this poor fool for making such an inappropriate remark and had everyone scurrying in no time. However his eyes were the last ones in the whole ship to leave Coronation and her determined skipper.
On May 27th the number of soldiers evacuated totaled less than 8,000. On May 30th the number reached 54,000. Many ships were blown apart by Luftwaffe and mines strewn in the waters. But they never stopped coming and everyone braved the dangerous waters to get one more soldier. By the end of Operation Dynamo the number was approximately 340,000.
June 4, 1940
"Lieutenant! Lieutenant!" Lieutenant Spring cringed to hear his rank abused so loudly in the hall. Barely surviving the evacuation and still black and blue with bruises the tense officer was recuperating in St. Michaels with a grudge against his superiors and the whole damn BEF in general. The fresh-faced boy who screeched his rank came to a respectable stop in front of the soldier who was responsible for great deal of destruction in Dunkirk. This fellow was an expert at explosives and was rumored to make those dangerous things with some flour, acid and copper. Whatever the truth was this poor sod was about to be dragged back into the fray in spite of heated protests and nasty phone calls from the man in question. Lt. Spring landed in London via plane not three hours later and entered into a non-descriptive building. There were at least dozen others all in as bad a shape as he and just as upset. An officer whose medals screamed respect entered the room and immediately made an announcement,
"You blokes are as of this moment captains. Congratulations and my sympathies. These are your new assignments."
After their briefing the whole group went to the nearest bar and proceeded to get ripped as quickly as possible.
"Hil! Hil!" Mrs. Bennet's voice shattered the peace that Hilary needed in order to study for her nursing certification. Mr. Bennet threw her a sympathetic glance before escaping to the garden. Mrs. Bennet found Hilary in the library and asked her, "could you be a dear and deliver this bag to Lydia when you return to Benton? She forgot her scarves last time and I don't want her running around exposing her head to the damp night air."
Lady, you have no idea what Lydia's been exposing in the night air, Hilary thought sarcastically but voiced nothing out of kindness.
Hilary came down from the North Country to study and become a nurse. She was assigned to Benton Hospital, located not 12 miles from Biggin Hill, a RAF station. Her roommate in Benton was Lydia Bennet who was definitely not suited for nursing and who confirmed that belief from the beginning of the term. The oldest sister Jane Bennet was also studying to become a nurse and unlike her younger sibling this one was intelligent and dedicated to her goal. The nursing students took shifts of four days at the hospital then two days off. Lydia invited Hilary to stay with her at Longbourn during the off-days and the girl was grateful at first for the invitation. However, as she became familiar with the Bennets, she could not help but wonder at the wisdom of accepting the offer. Longbourn was only couple of hour's drive from Benton but due to rationing and shortages the daughters and their friend could only visit on their off-days. And sometimes their schedules didn't even coincide with each other's so Hilary was alone in this last trip. Mrs. Bennet disappeared mumbling about another package for Jane, some cream that was supposed to help her daughter's flawless complexion. Hilary groaned out loud as soon as she knew she was out of earshot and started to bang her head slowly and methodically against the desk. Three more hours and she'll be motoring out of this madhouse back to the hospital...
Benton Hospital, Near Biggin Hill
Jane finished nursing the wounded mechanic's hand. She saw his grimace and flashed a sympathetic smile that had the poor fellow blushing red and blue. Chief Nurse Lisa Frei saw the blush and had to smile quietly. With Jane Bennet around painkillers were about as useful as a car without fuel. And bless the girl but wasn't she a damn good nurse. Equipped with intelligence and a great instinct of care, Jane was flying through her certification and her grades were excellent. On top of all that the girl had a great resemblance to that actress, oh what's her name ... Gene Tierney that's it. So she had to peel men off her back every day, but Jane did it with such good grace that the rejected men came out of the fray without much hurt.
The oldest Bennet was determined to be a nurse and get involved in this ugly war against Germany. So all her time was concentrated onto that one goal. How Lisa wished that her younger sister was just as dedicated - but no such luck. What was plentiful in one sister was totally lacking in the other. Lydia was constantly late for class and once mixed up medications for the patients, which provoked an allergic reaction from the poor men. The only reason Lydia was in Benton was the fact that Biggin was nearby with all its flyboys and young men. See a group of men assembled around here and Lydia was smack in the middle of it. However the girl was far from malicious and did bring much youthful joy to the hospital. And Lisa knew that in the days to come they were going to need as much as they can get.
Biggin Hill, South of London
Lizzie closed her books in German colloquialisms and shook her head once to clear the crowded words out of her head. Moaning a little she took a peek out her windows and saw clear sunshine. She decided to step outside in spite of the warnings that there might be enemy flybys. Let the damn Luftwaffe come, she thought I'd repel them with my bad German!
Smiling at her own folly, she strengthened her resolve in improving her linguistic skills. Elizabeth Bennet, commonly called Lizzie, was a WAAF officer assigned to Biggin because of her language abilities. Fluent in German, Italian, and French, she was the local linguist in case some unlucky Luftwaffe pilot ended up in her backyard. She also listened in on the German airwaves and translated pages and pages of information that was most of the time total nonsense to her. Then, sometimes like yesterday, she was actually listening in on a conversation between two Luftwaffe pilots and was able to name one of them as Papa Mölders. When her superior read that name he snatched the whole notepad from her grasp and ran like a rabbit to his Hurricane. Lizzie was so surprised that she just sat there in the empty office for a minute before returning to her quarters. Suddenly, a Spitfire roared above her head as it lowered its landing gear.
Darcy smoothly landed his bird and climbed out of his Spitfire Georgiana, named after his only sibling, Georgiana Darcy. Bingley came running to the squadron leader and reported that the rest of his men were hanging around nearby. Darcy gave a nod and sat down on his lawn chair situated less than 40 feet from his fighter. He recalled how he, Bingley, and Pyro, landed in England not long ago.
The three exhausted Hurricane pilots landed in Manston's airfield only to have some officious corporal try to kick them off.
"What flight is this?" asked the annoying mite and Darcy replied with his icy Oxford tone,
"This is a squadron you idiot."
And that was the ugly truth for the rest of his boys were literally spread all over France in the most morbid sense of the description. The man cringed at the whip in the tone and asked for the name of the squadron.
"We're the Lost Boys," quipped Bingley and that did it. Pyro began to chuckle then exploded into laughter. Lord Darcy cracked a smile through his furious demeanor then let go and joined in. Bingley actually held out the longest but he too ended up laughing his head off.
The three were hospitalized, released, congratulated and given Spitfires. Bingley actually liked his Hurricane better because of its size but the smaller plane did have a way of handling itself in tight turns and it was a beauty with its elliptical wings. Also due to the size and shape of the wings the Spitfire carried no less thaneight machine guns, a great comfort to its pilots. Darcy's squadron was accompanied by other Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons in Biggin which was located directly south and no greater than thirty miles from London. Biggin was one of the bases that composed Group 11 which was led by Air Vice-Marshal Park. Group 11 protected London and everything south and southwest of London. Everyone in this sector knew that they would see the worst of the air battle as soon as the Luftwaffe got their act together and fly over the Channel. North of London Group 12 came into sight and this sector was led by Leigh-Mallory. Both Air Vice-Marshals reported to Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. An introspective, sarcastic but brilliant tactician it was on his somber shoulders to make sure England withstood what rest of Europe could not - the mighty Luftwaffe.
Anne entered into the beautiful office with its mahogany-trimmed walls and dark leather seats. Very impressive, very somber and very English, she thought and took the most comfortable seat. Dr. Hanson, one of the leaders in what was affectionately named "Boffin Command" entered his office. The gentleman warmly greeted Anne and gingerly sat down resting his cane next to him. Anne Elliot was never formally educated in England but studied abroad. At the age of sixteen her mathematical abilities were well-known among the more educated circles in that particular branch of studies and when she returned to England at the tender age of 18 she had solved no less than three "Impossibles" - problems that were supposed to have no solution whatsoever.
She was working for the War Department simply as an "advisor." But her real job was very simple, very critical for she was a cryptographer, someone who created codes that were suppose to be unbreakable unless the person had the "key". MI checked her background almost on a weekly basis and he knew that she was in the Dunkirk foray. This did not annoy him and he admired her more for it.
"I'm sure you know why you're called in."
She nodded, "Am I being moved to Oxford?"
"Yes, Anne, London is going to be attacked any day now so we're moving all our people to either Oxford or Cambridge. I chose Oxford for you because you would be closer to Kellynch..." he saw her flinch and felt sorry for the young woman. Her family was never a point of happiness with Anne and Hanson wondered if the reports of her family's behavior and attitudes were true. If it was, then it was a good thing that Anne got away from them.
"My family is moving out of Kellynch for the duration of the war. They're moving to Bath to be with their friends and society. So, it's really no trouble for me no matter where I go, Richard." She was in no hurry to return to her family folds for she found their society unbearable and even cruel. While she was working with the Dr. Hanson she felt useful. And she was constantly surrounded by people who shared the same narrow interests enabling her to form some friendships with her fellow mathematicians.
"I'll keep that in mind, Anne, but for now pack for departure in seven days. All your equipment will be shipped tomorrow night. If you need help just ring Diana and she'll send over the proper people."
Anne nodded and said good-bye. Dr. Hanson stared at the small figure and prayed that the rumor was true; that Hitler will not bomb Oxford or Cambridge as long as England showed the same respect to their college towns.
Admiral Croft was finishing his late lunch with his wife and Captain Wentworth not two miles away from Dr. Hanson's office. This was the first good meal the two gentlemen had after the Dunkirk and both savored every bite. Mrs. Croft stared at the two most important men in her life - her brother and her husband, and sent a prayer of thanks that both were spared. She was a navy wife and a good one but the news she received was harrowing and the relief she felt when she heard her husband's voice over the phone was indeed great.
"I kid you not my dear, this young woman was all alone on this boat that's fit for Thames and bent, bent on going to the beaches to find her man!" The Admiral said between mouthfuls.
The wife shook her head in amazement. The whole lunchtime conversation seemed to be dedicated to that one unknown woman Admiral Croft brushed against on May 30th.
"She could not have been over twenty-three maybe twenty-five. Small, dark, maybe Welsh, and her accent was very educated one. A girl of some learning I think but standing on that boat she looked all of twelve. I finally had to let her go because she would have argued to stay in her boat."
"What was the boat's name?" Asked Wentworth. He was as amazed as his sister about this English woman and was rather curious to find the lady.
"I think it was ... now wait a minute ... the Crown? The Throne? The Carnation? I don't rightly remember but it had something to do with the monarchy. I wish I asked her name because she's just the type of sailor I'll need!" He ended with a hearty laugh. His wife laughed with him and the two gentlemen decided to approach the next topic in covert unity.
"My dear, I was wondering how you'd feel about leaving London for a while, at least until the winter season." Admiral Croft's voice was soft and supplicating but his wife would have none of it.
"No, I am not leaving you. I am going to stay here and wait through this war. Do not ask..."
"I can't function properly knowing that you could be in danger. Please, I've already inquired about a place near Bath and it's perfectly suited for you!"
Wentworth looked up in surprise. He had no idea that his brother-in-law already went this far.
"It's a small but beautiful estate called Kellynch." Pleaded the admiral.
Wentworth felt his heart stop. Where is Anne? Where is her family? Oh G-d, were they trapped in Europe? His face lost all its color but regained some at the next sentence.
"The family that owns the place is moving to Bath to be with their friends and comrades. The owner is a Baronet you know so the grounds must be gorgeous. Please dear, think of it."
Mrs. Croft turned to her brother; "Did you not stay nearby, Frederick?"
He nodded and said, "Yes, the estate is quite lovely and the grounds excellent. You can't go wrong there. Give in sister, otherwise he'll take it out on my hide."
She smiled, "But I thought there were children, daughters?"
The Admiral nodded. "Yes, three actually, and from what I hear all jewels. The oldest is suppose to be lovely and the youngest is already married."
Wentworth needed no prompting, "The second?"
"Oh, she's the mystery in that family. From the local gossip and their solicitor she disappeared into the War Department over a year ago. She is by all accounts brilliant and schooled to the teeth. I heard that she studied in America, Switzerland and even France. Mr. Shepherd did say that she was engaged or was to someone. Heaven knows what those situations are during wartime. I wasn't paying attention to the man because the house was occupying my thoughts."
Wentworth sighed in frustration for that was the one piece of information he wanted above all others. Of course Anne was engaged, the faithless girl must have found somebody now that her whole damn family and Lady Russell would approve of. He felt the familiar pang of pain and loss dig into his heart and closed his eyes for a brief second. It could be two, six, eight or even ten years the pain was never going to go away. What he felt for that girl was beyond reconciliation and her rejection of his offer of marriage even further. His jaws tightened on his face and his sister saw it.
"Frederick, are you all right?"
He snapped his eyes open and gave a weak smile, "Yes, yes, just a little headache but seriously could you stay there? It would do the men in your life so much good!"
Arguing against one man was difficult enough for Sophy, but faced with two pairs of pleading eyes and whining voices the hard lady gave in. They ended the lunch in a good mood and the lady went off to pack.
"Thank you Frederick." Murmured the admiral and the younger man gave a hardy smile. The two were off by special invitation to hear Prime Minister Churchill address the House of Commons.
House of Commons, London
Meesh yawned yet again. Working for Churchill and his staff was like commanding the Dreadnought and not having any experience in boating. She did not see her own bed for two days now and Churchill was demanding more and more of her time. She heard this damn speech at least five times before and wanted to go home but the man demanded that his staff be here to show support and some steel. Unfortunately, half of the staff was as exhausted as she was and nodding off into coma all around her. Show of steel indeed!
Suddenly, the House stood to attention and Churchill entered the room. If there was a person that personified determination this half-American, half-English PM was it. His eyes glared out of their sockets and seemed to almost resent being attached to his face. The man nimbly climbed the podium and began. Meesh quelled yet another yawn. Then every sleeping head was jarred awake when his thunderous and melodious voice began echoing in the Hall.
"...Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."
Meesh wasn't sleepy anymore, no indeed she was wide-awake. She heard this speech over and over when the PM was practicing it but until now she had no idea what it was really saying. Well Herr Hitler, she thought with a grim smile, you think you know us but let me assure you have no idea what you're up against. And we'll make you bleed for what you have done!
Admiral Croft turned to Wentworth, "Brilliant speaker isn't he? But for all the money in the world I wouldn't want to be him. I don't think anyone wants to be."
Frederick muttered, "I can think of one. And that psychopath is warming up across the Channel right now."
Croft gave a loud harrumph of disapproval of such a hideous event ever occurring. Among the throng listening to the speech Wickham was paying the most attention. Well this definitely answers his question for the man means to keep on fighting the Nazis. The young attaché began to think fast and furious about what he would need to do in the coming days.
Wentworth was correct in his estimation. England was now holding its breath watching and waiting to see what that unstoppable evil was planning for their country and Hitler would not disappoint.
Left to Fight Alone...
This story is progressing somewhat slowly I know but I am trying to be thorough in introduction, presentation and discussion of ALL the Austen characters not to mention the folks who kindly volunteered for this story!
"Oh Build, assemble, transport, give,
That England, France and we may live...
Lest...we be left to fight alone..."
~ Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, -The New York Times
June 10, 1940
Virginia, United States
Carolyn just heard the news on the wireless. Italy has declared war and is siding with Hitler. Roosevelt response was immediate and damning, "On this tenth day of June, 1940, the hand that held the dagger has stuck it in the back of its neighbor."
Neutrality was over. She calmly put down her music books and gave a small prayer. Carolyn was getting ready to fly to NYC for an audition with the Columbia Broadcasting Service. They called her yesterday and said she was eligible to try out for a small spot in their variety show next week. She was ecstatic and fairly dancing in her apartment but that was yesterday and this is today. She still remembered that shy but brilliant English girl Anne who spent a semester so many years ago when Carolyn was still in college. Carolyn wondered if the girl was still alive and what was she doing now?
Massachusetts, United States
Michael Tenby also heard Roosevelt's speech as he was finishing fiddling with his dad's Ford. The young man meticulously put back the many tools to their designated spots and wiped the grease off his hands. We haven't gone to war yet, he mused in the messy garage, but we probably will. Johnny thinks that we're ok because we have the oceans ... obviously the idiot never heard of U-boats. And I am half-English so this is not something I can distance myself from. He went to his dad's "personal" closet and took a hunting rifle and a box of ammo. After taking the keys to the Ford he left a note telling his mom he'll be back by 6 for dinner. Tenby drove out to a deserted area commonly used for shooting practices and began firing his dad's rifle. It helps to be ahead in class.
June 14, 1940
All over France
Marguerite and her daughter Leah listened to their wireless nearly 500 miles from each other. Marguerite was trapped in her small village and was unable to reach her daughter who was studying in Paris. Leah wisely decided to stay in the capital until all this was over. Well, it looked like it was over. Next to her was a fellow classmate Lisa-Michelle Olivier who was studying to become a writer. The girl was never without her notebook and she was furiously scrambling down what was said on the wireless. The speaker was a woman, Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain.
She talked of her visits to the hospitals for the badly wounded French soldiers and they all told her that they were "ça va" in spite of their many wounds, and those who were dying also spoke the same phrase. "I do believe with all my heart that when these dark days are gone the time will come when our two nations will be able to say with one voice once more ' ça va' ".
Suddenly, the university students heard something down the street and peeked out the café's door. It was the Wehrmacht. The Germans have now entered Paris and a new era has begun. Leah began to cry quietly and Lisa-Michelle held her tightly in anguish. What will happen to them now?
Marie Lallier was listening to the same broadcast from the hills. The approaching Germans already confiscated her family estate and she had the audacity to slap the Oberst who treated her so rudely. He hit her back and she replied in kind. Now she was a fugitive in her own country! Her eyes though shed no tears, only anger. If these Nazis think that the French, especially the French women will take their abuse without a struggle, they were going to be sorely disappointed. Very disappointed. She turned to Alain who accompanied his lady to safety. Hell will freeze over before he poured French wine for the invaders. The two whispered and began to plan. Unbeknownst to them, this very conspiracy was already being repeated in every village, city and region. War has begun for them.
Anne was grateful to Mary for taking her in while she was looking for a place to live. But her sister's house was indeed a place where a body could not think for any period of time. She dearly loved both her brother-in-law Charles and her sister, but they were constantly talking to each other or to her, often voicing small but constant complaints about their spouse. Mary was a hypochondriac that needed constant looking after. And Charles was a hardy sporting fellow who would have enlisted save his eyesight was so poor he would have shot one of his before the enemy's. There were also two little boys running about generally causing a ruckus but Anne loved them too with all with her kind and constant heart.
Charles also has two younger sisters Henrietta and Louisa who came to join them after their education was finished in Exeter. They were staying in their own flat and were hoping to do something "grand" for the British cause though neither knew what. But they were unfailingly cheerful, naturally gifted, youthfully exuberant, and to top it all off they loved Anne. So Anne would go to work encased in total silence save the scratchings of pens and whispered discussions with her fellow "advisors" then come back to Uppercross Cottage and face a riot.
In the beginning everyone was somewhat curious about her job so Anne developed a routine that never failed. She would start talking about math, about theories and curves and odds and chances, about percentages and logarithms using the most difficult language possible; that cured any curiosity and after the first two conversations no one brought up the subject again.
One evening the phone rang during supper and Henrietta ran to get it. It was Lady Russell. Anne answered the phone in her happiest voice,
"Hello! How are you?" She asked, brightening to hear the gorgeous voice of her dearest friend.
"The question is how are you? The place sounds like London during lunch hour. Dear Anne, I miss you here in Bath. Elizabeth just talks away and that odious Mrs. Clay is making a great show of being your family's lapdog. I don't know how your father can miss such a disgraceful behavior but I cannot intrude too much you know. Anne, make a guess! I'm going to visit you in three days. Please tell me you're happy. I know that this is short notice, or no notice actually but I do miss seeing my little Anne!"
Anne laughed at the last sentence and promised her that it was no trouble at all.
Lady Sabine Russell was a family friend of the Elliots and was around when Mrs. Elliot was alive. After the mother's death Lady Russell slipped into the role of mother and friend to Anne. Both were women of high intellect and they soon found each other to be of extremely agreeable company. She didn't much care for Elizabeth or Mary but took good care of both and Mr. Elliot found the woman to be faultless in society and breeding. It was this friend's advice that convinced Anne to reject Frederick's proposal of marriage almost eight years ago but Anne did not hold her to blame for the decision. She felt that at the end it was her choice and that she made a bad one. Anne hung up the phone and told the Musgroves about the impending visit from Lady Russell. Everyone was delighted to have such high company though Mary complained that the visit was long overdue.
June 18, 1940
The waiting was almost as nerve wrecking as the actual battle itself. The pilots were all wondering what the heck was happening across the Channel and what was Hitler waiting for?
Bingley though found something to amuse them. It seemed that there was a popular tavern that was not only frequented by the locals but also the pretty nurses in nearby Benton. An attraction that could not be resisted by the charming wingman and he was trying to figure out the days when there would be the largest number of nurses dining at the establishment. Darcy was amused at Bingley's attempts to find some company with the opposite sex even during wartime, but how could he blame his best friend for his good-natured follies? The wingman finally declared that Tuesdays and Thursdays were the magical days and wrangled Darcy to join him in a meal next Tuesday.
And that was the date the Bennet sisters decided to eat at the same tavern and Lizzie was very much looking forward to the meal. She wanted to see her sister Jane very badly and would endure even Lydia's constant chatter to spend time with Jane. Hilary was also invited and the girl was grateful for the hospital food was made for invalids and not healthy young women.
Mrs. Croft was packing away last of her photos in her personal attaché. Her husband was staring at her with sad eyes, how hard it is to be a woman, he thought. They had to have twice the patience, three times the courage and four times the hope that we men have. How else can they survive a war without going mad? Inaction is the very diseases of the soul yet here was his Sophy humming Purcell and taking care of those lovely mementos of their younger years. She told him that she was going to Oxford to visit an old school chum of hers and he gave a smile. Oxford was doable distance from London and in spite of his behavior in wanting her to leave Croft wanted to see her as long as possible. He knew that the Royal Naval Command was forming some plans that might very well end up killing him so he wanted to spend as much time as possible with his wife.
Frederick briskly walked in and kissed his sister's cheeks. He was to drive her to Oxford tomorrow and see her settle in. He was planning to spend some time in Oxford because he was still on leave. Frederick like Croft knew something was cooking in the War Department and treasured all the free time he had. The Admiral will join them for a little while but he had to return to London within 4 days to see what the Royal Navy had in store. The gentlemen once gain marched to hear the PM address the House. Two seats from them sat a certain Colonel Elliot who just returned from France. His mouth was set in a grim line and his eyes were cold but within burned a fire that will not be satiated anytime soon.
"...What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.' "
On June 17, the new leader of France Marshal Philippe Petain asked for Armistice. On June 25th France fell and Britain now stood alone. Prime Minister Churchill's words became prophetic for the RAF and the Royal Navy had no choice but to make the following months and years "Their Finest Hour".
Meetings and Clash of Wills...
Personal lives are thrown into chaos when old lovers and new enemies are reintroduced or introduced to each other.
Friday, June 21, 1940
The handsome group, a lady flanked by two elegant Royal Navy officers, entered into a popular little restaurant near her friend's house. Frederick made sure her belongings reached Bath safely and the servants were diligent in unpacking them, but his main concern was the fact that Anne Elliot might be around Kellynch. He was tormented by the fact that he was totally lost should such a confrontation arise. What would he say? What would he do? In all likelihood he would lose his dinner and hide behind a tall piece of furniture. The idea was funny in a ludicrous manner but Frederick feared it might not be far from the truth.
"I don't believe it!" Cried out the Admiral in a booming voice. So loud was that one sentence that his companions faced him in shock. His voice also traveled through to the other end of the restaurant and attracted the attentions of the busy clientele. Croft whispered in embarrassment, "Remember that girl I told you about in London? The one with that boat in Dunkirk? She's sitting at that corner over there ... the one with the beige hat who's looking at us like a deer to headlights. Come! I must talk to her!"
Actually, Frederick was also doing a great imitation of deer staring at an oncoming lorry. The woman in question, the brave and fearless lass that braved the guns and the Luftwaffe was Anne Elliot. His Anne went through those treacherous waters with him! Maybe she passed by him ... to find her lover. That thought ended all his shock and jarred him to steel himself. She did that all for someone else you idiot so stop panicking.
Anne wanted to run; she wanted to hide; she wanted a Stuka to dive-bomb the restaurant right now. The older gentleman she immediately recognized, as the Admiral that she insanely argued with in Dunkirk but next to him was Frederick. And he looked like he wished himself anywhere but here. Her heart broke slowly, after all these years he still hasn't forgiven her and probably thinks her vile for being weak. If a sin could be pinned on Frederick's character it was this; the inability to accept weakness in others for he had so little himself.
You had nothing dear Frederick but believed yourself to be king. And in that magical and imaginary kingdom I was your queen. What I would give to have that throne back. What I would give to have you sitting next to me watching the sky and the...
She forced her tears back and gave a somber smile. "I see I am discovered, Admiral. Please tell me that the Royal Navy had not dispensed you to waste your precious time in finding this shameful sailor."
He laughed and shook his head, "No, but my dear I must tell you that you have occupied my time greatly. Tell me, what is your name?"
"Her name is Anne Elliot an heiress to Kellynch the estate where Sophy is going in a few weeks. How are you Miss Elliot?" Frederick's voice was so cold and impersonal even Sophy flinched.
Nevertheless, Anne bravely ignored the impolite if not outright hostile tone in Wentworth's voice. "That is my name but as to being an heiress that title rightfully belongs to my older sister Elizabeth. I am just Anne."
The correction though lacking in any barb and meanness lashed at Frederick deeply.
He wanted her changed, he wanted her vicious, weak and selfish so he could rip at her but she wasn't any of those things and he knew he was the weaker man for hurting her so. She was paler, thinner and more somber. The soft and gentle gaiety of her youth was gone and replaced with something graver and deeper. But her bravery wasn't lacking he thought for she never broke her gaze from his. The admiral realized that something was happening beyond his knowledge and Sophy desperately wanted to separate the group from the poor girl. She suspected something years ago but this confirmed it. Suddenly a voice broke through, "Anne, here you are! I didn't see you behind all these splendid uniforms."
Dr. Hanson who came down from London yesterday evening was the reason why Anne was having lunch outside her office. Frederick stared at the gentleman. Her guest was older than he was and pale to the bone. But his green eyes were like high beams and the face was that of a predator. His whole persona shouted intelligence and academic achievement.
Richard took one look at Anne's face and knew she was deeply disturbed. Anne's body language was very subtle but he spent years in her company and knew that the slight knitting of her brow and the tightly clasped hands marked a troubled mind. He stared at the uninvited group and saw the dark captain whose eyes were very hostile and hard. Here was the reason for Anne's distress and he didn't like it. Richard sat down carefully, favoring the crippled leg - a present from a beating he received from his headmaster when he was ten.
Sophy knew that someone would explode in a few minutes, "We are so sorry to have disturbed your meal, Miss Elliot. But we came by to say hello and that we admired your courage greatly. Please excuse us."
She had to fairly drag both men so they could take a table far from that corner. The three ordered their meals and Frederick started it off with a glass of whiskey.
"Well at least we know that she got her man off safely," Commented the Admiral.
Sophy groaned inwardly and Frederick knew he was going to order a second drink. Both men noticed the cane and incorrectly assumed the injury was caused by a piece of shrapnel from Dunkirk.
During the meal Frederick took many covert glances towards the corner table. Anne was indeed subdued when her soup came but by the time the main meal arrived she was animated as ever. And the discussion at that table must have been lively because her partner, whoever he was, made extraordinarily huge hand gestures and even brought a pencil out from his pocket scribbling things on his small notepad. Richard has introduced Anne to a new challenge. Create a crypto for the Royal Navy subs. It was a difficult, hair-raising problem because there was a guarantee that the enemy will intercept the messages. The Key is simple but how does a person make the problem so difficult that unless you had the answer literally in your hands you could not understand the problem itself?
"Well she does indeed travel in high circles," remarked Croft and two pairs of eyes turned to him. "I just realized who that man is. His name is Dr. Richard Hanson; the fellow came to lecture us once about a year ago on some trash or another. I fell asleep but he is rumored to be the Boffin for the Royal Navy. Creates do-dads for us to totally confuse and frustrate Canaris's boys. Brilliant, determined, and ambitious from what I hear. And totally obsessed with all things difficult and numerical ... is her specialty in math or physics?"
"Anne was good in Math. Actually frighteningly proficient with numbers. I don't think I ever seen a math problem that she couldn't hammer out under two minutes."
The reply was telling for both Crofts. The admiral phrased his last question very carefully to see how Frederick would reply and he answered it exactly the way Croft thought he would. And Sophy being his wife for many years saw the trap and her brother falling into it. Now there was a history and a tragic one between that brave young lady and this bitter sailor. The married couple stirred the rest of the dinner conversation away from the corner table.
Saturday, June 22, 1940
Oh dear not her again, moaned Rachel as the elegantly dressed woman entered her small store. I really, really don't need to deal with Caroline Bingley on such a nice day as today!
Caroline wrinkled her nose in disapproval at this small variety shop on the corner of her street but it was the closest to the house. She picked up a pack of cigarettes and the Times. With great disdain she threw the money on the counter and left. She nearly smacked Katto on his face as she swung the door open.
"Watch where you're going!" She hissed and turned to walk away from the irate Frenchman.
What a b*@$&, he thought as he entered the store to pick up some papers and a smoke. The lady behind the counter threw him a sympathetic glance and gave a shrug. Katto gave a charming smile and left the store. His face then turned back to its original look of puzzlement. After his recuperation from Dunkirk, like many other homeless nationals, he was situated in Dover until yesterday. Then, all of sudden, he gets pulled into London because the Royal Navy wanted him. Now, why in bloody hell would the Navy want a French tank commander?
Rachel sighed and put the money in the cash box. How she disliked Caroline Bingley, the local terror of the block. The woman was an unmitigated witch and then some. Taking another sip of her watered down tea Rachel got back to reading the pamphlet in her hands. It told her how to build a bomb shelter in case the Luftwaffe came swinging by saying their hellos in the usual manner. Realizing how deep the trench was, Rachel casually wondered if she could hide a body in it.
Caroline entered into the Bingley's London townhouse, determined now more than ever to go down to Biggin and join her brother and Darcy. Louisa was still eating her breakfast and her husband has gone back to sleep. This was too suffocating for Caroline. She wanted excitement, adventure and Darcy. She wanted that man with every single thought in that narrow mind of hers. He was the epitome of everything she ever wanted in a man. Rich, powerful, handsome and proud, Darcy could open doors for her that she could only dream of. But then this stupid war came up and her plans were all in ruins. However Caroline was never the kind to let something go by her well-manicured nails. She called down and reached Charles. The conversation was awkward because he was determined to make her stay in London because Biggin was too dangerous for her to come frolicking into but she would have none of it. With her usual ferocity and cunning the girl overran her brother's wishes. The next day she and the Hursts all went down to visit Charles.
It was thirty minutes before his family's arrival that Charles dropped the news onto his friends' laps. Pyro immediately responded by running away and locking himself into a hangar. He feared Caroline more than Himmler and Mr. Hurst was positively the most lethal thing on earth. The youth once went hunting with the man and the fool nearly blew his head off in an accident. Pyro wanted to live to a ripe old age and hanging around the Hursts and the Bingleys was a guarantee that he wouldn't.
Darcy wished he moved fast as Pyro but stayed to greet Caroline and the whole entourage. Once again he was struck with the difference between brother and sisters. Bingley was carefree and kind to a fault while his sisters were the most selfish creatures that Darcy had ever known. And Mr. Hurst's inertia mixed with narrow-minded opinions made him a person that Darcy could hardly stand. But he was unfailingly polite and conversed with them as he was taught to do.
Caroline positively purred along his person throughout the whole damn day and Darcy felt like he needed a bath afterwards. Charles later quietly apologized for the intrusion but Darcy could not hold him to blame for his sister's improper behavior. He knew that it pained Charles greatly to have Caroline act in such a manner and commiserated with his wingman instead.
Tuesday, June 25, 1940
Hart's Inn, located somewhere between Biggin and Benton Hospital
The din inside the place was quite loud but it was friendly cheer so the Bennet women ignored it. Hilary was seriously enjoying the meat pie with the heavenly flaky crust and the ale was indeed hearty. Lydia was pointing out some of the pilots and waving at most of them. Lizzie wondered if she was passing any of her courses this term. Jane was regaling her with some hysterical stories when the owner tuned the wireless to the nightly music program. A small part of the dining hall's floor was cleared and couples began to dance to the latest from across the pond and London. The women were soon scooped off their chairs and were dancing on the small floor bumping into each other and strangers but having fun through the whole friendly mess.
Darcy heard the ruckus from outside and flinched. G-d do these places ever play any other music than that atrocious noise?
Caroline voiced out loud his thoughts, "For heaven sakes Charles, an establishment such as this can hardly serve food that can be palatable!"
"Well, you're welcome to stand out here if you want but I'm going in and I have the keys to the car!"
With that parting shot the blond swiftly entered the open door. Darcy had to crack a smile and follow with the more gentleman-like degree. Charles entered the front entrance, turned right and smacked into a twirling girl doing the latest craze from America. He forgot that he needed to exhale in order to continue breathing. For a split second there he thought he was holding Gene Tierney from Laura, but this woman was lovelier if that was possible. She looked up at him, gave her apology, before breaking away to join her annoyed dance partner. Bingley just stood there watching her in the arms of another man and knew that he would have cheerfully committed a felony to get her into his.
"Bingley, stop gaping and let's get a table first before we start a fight." Darcy whispered with some amusement. The girl was very pretty and elegant looking but the corporal she was with did not look like he was going to release her anytime soon. The owner quickly saw the monetary possibilities in this group and sat them on his best table.
Caroline refused to eat food here and ordered some wine instead. Mr. Hurst ordered a good solid meal and Louisa, fear of offending her sister, ordered wine too. Darcy had the meat pie and was astonished to find it so savory. Bingley ate something then drank something and was soon on his way to the bar looking for the lady he crashed into earlier. By miracle of miracles she was sitting in the corner surrounded by friendly, pretty and single women. No rings, no precious stones in situ, and even better, no boyfriends. If she had someone the fool deserves to lose her for leaving her alone and without an armed guard.
"Oh my, Jane. I think we've got a problem, three o'clock, blond, wiry, freckle-faced and looks about fifteen."
"Lizzie! He's in the RAF! He has to be at least a flying lieutenant!" Exclaimed Jane.
"Really? I had no idea they recruited so young."
Lizzie was thanked with a swift kick underneath the table and the girl moaned in mock pain as Jane blushed furiously. Hilary laughed a little and took a look. "Yep, definitely taken with you. He came from that table over there. The one with the Chanel lady and the older couple. They don't look like they're having a good time though."
Lydia gave a very inelegant snort and said, "Then they could bust off. Who do they think they are?"
"Proud aren't they? I be they think themselves above our company. Disagreeable lot; you're right, Lydia I wish they'd go away but leave that smiling blond behind." Marked Lizzie, teasing Jane still further.
Hilary took a more studied glance. "But that one is handsome you know. Tall too - look at the length of his legs."
"Yes he is, but he reminds me of a portrait by a Dutch painter I once saw when I was young. Pale, thin, distant and proud. Untouchable was the word that I thought then and that one over there reminds me of the painting. Untouchable and cold, Hilary, not a good combination in a man who is handsome as that."
Hilary gave a nod and Lydia turned the conversation by talking about a certain gorgeous hunk of maleness named Malan - an Afrikaner - he was guaranteed to be an Ace when all hell breaks loose. She went on great length about his form and face and soon the table was diverted by Lydia' outrageous discourse.
Bingley finished his ale and approached her table. "Excuse me but may I have this next dance, Miss?"
Jane gazed at him, then accurately judged him to be a good man and agreed. The two left for the tight dance floor.
Lizzie smiled broadly. "If it weren't so useless I would be jealous of Jane."
Lydia looked at the handsomest couple on the dance floor and felt a spasm of jealousy and shame. Jane was beautiful because she was even more gorgeous on the inside. Something Lydia could not compete with and did not even dare to try. She turned to Lizzie and gave another grimace. Lizzie was shorter, a bit more on the bone but very intelligent and kind. Her tongue could be sharp at times but Lydia knew it could be sharper. She was the favorite with their dad and Lydia could not help but be jealous of such a good relationship between their father and the second daughter. Lizzie could hold her own in any conversation and even outright duel of wits with the best of men and women. And men admired her for her intelligence, honesty and wit. Her face was always open like a flower looking at the sun and those dark eyes were jewels set in the freckled face. Lydia quit her self-destructive comparisons and turned to the conversation at hand.
The hours slowly passed away and Charles never left Jane's side from the beginning until she returned to her table. He spotted Darcy in a crowd and quickly made his way to his friend.
"Isn't she beautiful? Isn't she gorgeous? Good G-d talk about the jewel in the crown! Come, let me introduce you to them I swear they are all very nice, eligible and witty. A combination you don't see often these days. Come, Darcy!" Bingley exclaimed with honest cheer.
His friend stiffened and refused, "That is hardly the case though your partner might be exception to the rule. I will not make myself into a dancing monkey because some silly nurse wants a turn on the floor."
Bingley stared at him but refused to give up so quickly, "Come, I know Jane's sister and she's quite pretty too!"
"Bingley, I know the lady you speak of and I would hardly call her pretty. She looks like a milkmaid and could not drag me to dance with her for the whole world. Go back to your lady and leave me in peace."
Bingley frowned at his friend's harsh words so left Darcy to fester by himself. Lizzie was standing right behind the men during the whole conversation and was incensed. A milkmaid! Then she saw her best friend Charlotte from Biggin enters into the establishment.
"Excuse me," Lizzie said as she brushed by Darcy.
He turned and saw the woman he just insulted to his best friend. Oh dear L-rd, he thought, she heard everything! He opened his mouth to form some kind of apology but she quickly scooted to the door leaving him standing by himself and feeling foolish. He stared at the two women as they greeted each other and whispered in some great conspiracy. Charlotte heard the insult and could not help but laugh as Lizzie expertly imitated Darcy and his imperial tone. And the Squadron Leader knew it. He saw the laughter and the covert glances to his person by the newcomer and knew that he was the object of their mockery. Feeling embarrassed and sheepish he wished that Bingley would either marry his partner or return to Biggin.
He took another serious glance at this sister of Jane's. Raphaelite, he decided, she looks like a figure from that great artist. Milkmaid might have been too cruel a description, he thought as he saw her beaming face among her companions. She was never without a smile or laughter he realized as he kept his examination of the newfound subject. And she was intelligent, though he knew not where that judgment came from. Her hands were elegant, astonishingly so from the rest of the body. Long fingers and short-nailed unlike the claws Caroline had, they were adorned with only one ring on the right hand, a flashing emerald of some brilliancy. He frowned, was it a token of affection from a boyfriend or a lover? Judging from this distance it was an antique. He startled himself awake from his reverie.
Enough of this, we're going back to the base right now! He hunted Bingley down and dragged the poor boy back to the car.
The whole drive back Caroline and Louisa complained of the night. How awful it was and how loud the music! The food was so below their experience that they thought it fit for dogs. Charles was indignant and came to defend the folks.
Darcy replied back a bit sharply, "I don't know how you could possibly think that, Charles. They are savages and really have no idea what good company is. I never want to go back there again."
Charles was shocked at the verbal lashing from Darcy but kept his courage, "Don't then I'll go by myself Thursday and meet with the Bennets. No need for you to force yourself into undesired company."
Darcy closed his eyes in shame. Bingley did not deserve that and in all honesty not the locals either. Why did he bark so loud?
The Royal Navy Engages In War...
The Royal Navy begins its strike announcing to the world that England was far from over.
Tuesday, June 25, 1940
If Wentworth wanted to avoid Anne, Fate and his sister planned against it from the start. Sophy's friend from her schooldays lived no less than 4 houses down from Uppercross and Sophy took advantage of the arrangement. She introduced herself to Anne one day, ambushing the poor woman coming home from work and soon found herself in the chaos that is particular to the Musgroves. Among them was Lady Russell, a woman of great intelligence who was mercifully staying somewhere else. Mary, always eager to make a new acquaintance, made sure Mrs. Croft was invited to stay for dinner that very day. Anne was in some distress but said nothing. She kept her company subdued and paid attention to the two little boys who were more than content to have their aunt's undivided attention.
Mrs. Croft judged her to be quiet and good-natured woman. Her sharp eyes noted that the children adored her and so did basically her whole family who cheerfully and carelessly abused the good woman's patience and care. Anne said nothing during the whole meal and the dinner ended in Sophy's great vexation. This Anne Elliot was positively an enigma, Sophy decided but she wasn't a Croft for nothing! She wrangled yet another dinner invitation for the next evening, and since her husband had already left for London, Frederick escorted her.
Both entered in Uppercross with some trepidation only to have Mary inform the guests that Anne was delayed in her office and in all likelihood will not be able to dine with them. Henrietta and Louisa were both very glad to have such a handsome officer among them and talked with him every chance they had. Frederick was infinitely relieved that Anne would not be able to join them so he was much more relaxed and charming . Because of this emotional relief, by the end of the meal, the two young women were mad for the man in blue.
It was nearly nine when the front door opened and Anne stepped into the dinner party. Putting away her hat in the corner closet she peeked in and saw the whole group sitting in the parlor. She was determined to go to the kitchen without being noticed but her two nephews immediately foiled the plan by screaming towards her legs. She laughed and stroked their hair, asking them if they were good boys.
"They were absolute monsters Anne. They nearly destroyed dinner." Teased Henrietta and Anne responded by smiling sweetly.
Frederick saw her interaction with her family members and remembered what it was like to be within that warm circle of friendship and kindness.
"So what did you do today?" Asked Mrs. Croft, not realizing how deadly dull Anne's job was to others. Louisa moaned a little in fear but Anne made it brief.
"Numbers, Mrs. Croft. I deal with numbers and the subject is not one which should be discussed after dinner. It's liable to act as a sleeping pill."
The woman smiled at the clever dodge and did not push the subject any further. Frederick had no such qualms. "It must be interesting though for you to stay after work."
She stared at him a bit pale then replied; "Math is always interesting to me, Captain Wentworth. It's not the subject's fault that I cannot convey the fascinating depth of the study."
"Not to mention that Dr. Hanson would make such studies even more interesting." The double barb in that sentence was totally missed by Anne.
"Richard could make gardening potatoes a fascinating topic if he chose to but mercifully his focus lay elsewhere. And better for this country that it is. I've never met a man more intelligent and dedicated than Dr. Hanson. Excuse me but Mary do you have something left for me? I am actually famished."
Her sister led her to the kitchen where she saved her some soup and bread. Anne took her meal in silence, quietly scribbling away her latest crypto series - but it was no use trying to work while Frederick was in the same house.
"Anne, Anne! Can you play the piano for us please?" Henrietta pleaded from the other room and Anne moaned quietly. She did not want to return there at any cost but forced herself to march back into the room.
The reluctant pianist made herself comfortable and soon began to play Chopin, Beethoven and other composers. Frederick was surprised for her talent on the piano greatly increased since he last heard her perform. She ended her concert with some marvelous versions of current greats and the listeners clapped in true appreciation. But Anne refused to turn around for some reason and acknowledge the clapping.
Charles quietly asked her, "Anne? Are you well?"
She nodded and replied, "I am just tired. Please everyone excuse me. I must rise early tomorrow for the office did precious little today." She did not really meet anyone's eyes as she said her good night and retreated to the hallway.
"I swear that Dr. Hanson's working her to her grave," Mary declared with some venom, "You'd think she was his only assistant."
"How many does he have?" Asked Sophy.
"No one knows but he demands the most from Anne you know. And Anne being Anne would do everything under the sun to please. Work this, work that, do this, solve that. Never talks about it but comes home looking like an escapee from a lunatic asylum. She doesn't even eat proper meals anymore. Always with a notebook and pencil scribbling this, writing that. When she was in London I'd be lucky if I get one call from her every couple of weeks! Captain Wentworth, you knew Anne before all this, don't you think she's changed?"
Captain Wentworth was caught off guard, "Yes, she has, greatly."
Anne was sitting by her desk sobbing her heart out. But if you stood outside her door or even next to her chair you couldn't hear a sound as she caved underneath the pain of her broken heart. She dried her face and looked at the now-soaked notebook. She wanted to tear it into two but stopped herself. This was all she had now so she'd better make the best of it.
She sat in that darkened room with her desk lamp on and diligently began a sequence of numbers that showed promise earlier that day. She heard the guests leave but did not come down and was silent as a mouse, hoping to fool them into believing she was asleep. She didn't know but after escorting Sophy to her door Frederick stood by her window and stared at her until she fell asleep. He saw her studious face and the eyebrows knitting with some degree of concentration as her pencil flew and pages flying even faster. Frederick was always amazed at her ability to conquer a subject that he failed with great regularity during school. But he saw something even more here. When she was eighteen that genius was untrained and unfocused. Now, another man equal to her in every way honed it to a dagger's point. A man that she faced death for and maybe even rescued from the guns of Dunkirk. He saw her stand and turn the light off but he was able to see her stagger to bed and curl underneath the covers. Her window was left open to enjoy the cool night's air but he did not disturb her sleep and went to his hotel room. There was a message waiting for him from the Admiralty.
Come to Dover at once.
He was glad, so glad to get away from here. Even with all the changes wrought by time and by war he saw flashes of his Anne, his Anne Elliot who charmed his heart so long ago with her dedication, kindness, courage, and undeclared beauty. But now it all belonged to someone else and he was left a stranger at her door. Frederick packed his belongings with some violence of speed. At 3 A.M. in the morning he was roaring to his other wife, the one who would never abandon him for anything, HMS Avalanche.
Thursday, June 27, 1940
Lij heard his captain's footsteps in the hall and flung open the door as the tall man walked in. Neither missed a beat as Lij rattled off the newest happenings with his destroyer. The desperately needed improvements were being made even as they spoke. After the work detail was looked over Wentworth opened a sealed envelope to read a real piece of bad news from France. The new leader Petain of France made Darlan, the commander in chief of the French Navy, part of his cabinet thus rendering the man part of the new Vichy government. Darlan's promises that the French Navy was not be used by Germany were made moot with this appointment. The War Cabinet had been debating on how to deal with the problem if and when the French Navy, the fourth largest in the world came under Hitler's control. The answer was simple - make sure it doesn't.
In other words, give the French Navy a chance to join Britain and if they refuse, destroy them. The idea of destroying a group that one declared allies no less than two weeks back revolted the Royal Navy but the orders were given and they had to be obeyed.
Frederick was indeed very grim as he and Lij entered the Nelson Chambers for their briefings. What he saw made his temper rise even further. Dr. Hanson was the chosen speaker and the man was very impatient to get on with his lecture. He succinctly told them the wave frequencies in which the French fleet would probably end up using and basically what to expect in regard to the French naval intelligence community. The biggest logistical problem was that the French Navy was scattered to the winds, and no one attack would cripple or disarm them. So the Royal Navy was broken into groups with a specific target of French ships.
Frederick was to join the hunting pack set to go to Mers-el-Kebir where the largest battleships, Dunkerque, Strasbourg, Bretagne and Provence were in port with six destroyers. The air was indeed heavy with worry and trepidation but the officers hoped that the French would join forces with them and fight to liberate their beloved France. The lecture was done under an hour and the officers quickly filtered out of the rooms, all in hurry to finish their land duties before fulfilling their orders.
Dr. Hanson was erasing the scribbles on the blackboard when he felt another presence in the room. He turned around and saw Captain Wentworth. Richard wasn't surprised really; he expected some kind of confrontation though he knew not why.
"I see that you are indeed heavily involved in the war effort."
The professor gave a shrug of acknowledgment but voiced nothing. He was under total secrecy to never reveal his sector of covert operations.
"So how many do you have under you?"
"Not enough I'm afraid, Captain. Not enough. But we do with what we have at hand." Richard's voice was very cautious because he knew he was treading on dangerous ground with this sailor.
"I hope that's not your personal opinion of your group," The sailor shot back.
Dr. Hanson had more than enough from this seabound brute: "If you mean Anne Elliot, Captain, no, I don't treat her in a flippant manner. The woman is one of the best mathematicians I have ever come across and the work she does is unparalleled. And if you're really interested I do not treat anyone in my periphery of care with such callous disregard unlike you."
Frederick's face hardened even further but before he could get in a word the lecturer continued on, "I do not know what you have against Anne, Captain, and frankly I don't care. But I would appreciate it if you would refrain from abusing my workers, especially Anne, since she is a good and dear friend. The woman deserves to be canonized and not tormented by some pig-headed, no-educated scrum like you.
"If that is so difficult my dear chap, follow the old mantra. If you can't say anything nice or witty stick to the weather. And in your case that ought to be incredibly easy."
Frederick sat there shocked as the man took his cane and exited the room. He wasn't expecting the vicious diatribe so it took him totally by surprise. And every word landed with full impact as Richard planned it to. The professor turned the corner and found an empty office in which to control his breathing. His crippled leg hurt him even more when he's near the sea so his temper was short to begin with. And when Captain Wentworth approached him with that same cold and harsh manner he so obviously treated Anne that one afternoon, the professor decided to make the man pay. It had taken Richard nearly half-hour of serious attempts before she cheered up after the confrontation. It wasn't that Richard was in love with Anne, but felt more like her brother, for she seemed very much orphaned in the world.
Lij found his captain in his office pale and absorbed. He quietly knocked on the door to get the man's attention. "Sir, this is tank commander Katto who will be accompanying us. He's French and hopefully he can help us."
Katto gave a curt nod and expressed his annoyance at being kept in the dark but the Captain of HMS Avalanche would not go into any further details either! Katto was spitting nails as he was unceremoniously hauled on the destroyer who by the looks of it was on its last voyage. Then he took a glance around the rest of the fleet. Slowly he quieted down, with HMS Avalanche was HMS Hood, HMS Resolution and further out HMS Valiant.
This was no small affair he was dragged into. What was happening?
Outskirts of London, England
Captain Spring was sweating profusely under the hot lights. His breath was deadly quiet and the only sound that was audible was the ticking of the bomb that the good captain was trying to defuse. He had forty-six seconds left before it detonated. He had some serious misgivings about his new job.
Next to his room was another poor fool going through the same thing. There were actually twelve compartments located in this building where the newly honored heroes of Dunkirk were learning the good and the bad about being a captain in their newly-formed division.
July 3, 1940
The French were honestly indignant that the British would demand absolute surrender, but in all actuality they weren't totally taken by surprise. The British had to have the domination of the seas to guarantee the safety of the British fleet and the lifeline between England and United States. However, this didn't take away the right of the French to be extremely upset and their French temper was indeed flying.
Holland, the English emissary who was to meet with Gensoul and convince him to either demilitarize the French Navy or join in with the British, was denied the very entrance to Gensoul until after three pm. By this time Churchill was having a fit in London and the Naval Command wasn't in a better mood. Captain Wentworth, slowly and with dread, went to battle-ready position. Katto, not being familiar with the workings of the ship, had no idea the desperate situation his fellow countrymen were in. And neither did the French Navy for they really didn't believe the English were ruthless enough to destroy them.
The British Navy had intercepted a message sent from the French Admiralty to its ships - respond force with force. What they also knew was that Gensoul misrepresented the four terms England gave into two, and the French Admiralty, only knowing those two, started to make decisions.
Katto was pacing up and down the deck as he began to realize the high tension on his destroyer. He understood that he was there to influence any Frenchmen into abandoning ship or turning themselves over. But nothing was happening and the captain of Avalanche was looking grimmer by the minute. The time was now after five and the Captain Wentworth was suddenly pulled off deck with his Dutch officer following in great hurry. Katto stared at the sight and slowly loaded the revolver he smuggled in. His bad feeling just turned into something worse.
It was almost six when the Royal Navy fired upon the French Navy. The French had no chance really for they were not battle ready and were incapable of returning fire. Katto stood on the deck of Avalanche with his mouth wide open as the French fleet caught fire and exploded. Bretagne was ablaze and the great ship began to sink almost immediately under the shelling. Provence cracked in half spilling men into the dangerous sea and sank also. Mogador exploded from its own depth charges, nearly killing everyone inside its hull. Katto stared at the guns of Avalanche as they reached their crescendo with the other destroyers. Suddenly all the guns were silenced as the Royal Navy stopped. What was left could not even be bothered to salvage.
Katto made it up to the cabin and saw Frederick looking over a map. Strasbourg somehow managed to crawl away but it would only be a matter of time before it was hunted down and destroyed. Without a sound Katto raised his pistol to aim at the head of the captain who was responsible for thousands of his fellow Frenchmen dying in these waters. Suddenly, everyone in the cabin noticed the French officer but no one could not move in time to prevent the man from killing their captain.
Katto heard a click next to his head and felt the cold barrel of a gun. Lij quietly asked, "Please give me your gun, commander. I do not like what I've witnessed any more than you, but this is war and those are the consequences. The question is how angry are you really, and what are you willing to do to see the tyranny end in our countries?"
There was silence as the Frenchman pondered the Dutch officer's words. Slowly he released his hold on the trigger and gave the gun to a sweating ensign. Wentworth asked the guest to be settled into quarters until they dock. This was a heavy day in his conscience and knew that it would be a burden in his soul for the rest of his life.
The fourth largest fleet was no more. In the other ports the French surrendered peacefully but with the ending of this day France lost 84% of its battleship capabilities, 48% of its cruiser capabilities and all of its aircraft carriers. The fight was not a fight but a massacre and the Royal Navy knew it.
Winston Churchill was duly informed of the outcome and nodded in accepting the consequences of this most unfortunate action. But the message was clear to both sides of the Atlantic - the Royal Navy will fight and will continue to do so no matter what the cost. A message that Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted with some admiration and Hitler with some fear. It was now more than ever up to the Luftwaffe to neutralize this fleet. All that was to go against this mighty air armada were some "5,000 pink-cheeked pilots."