Battalion 202: Worm in the Apple by Jonathan Doering – Free Story Extract

“Worm in Apple” is the next instalment of Battalion 202 by Jonathan Doering: “For all I know, you’re dirty as well.” Christopher felt his chest flare. “Alright then, if you don’t believe me, shoot me.” A worm enters an apple. It is seeking food, shelter. It is only acting on its nature. But sooner or later the apple will turn rotten. Everything will explode. There is a traitor in Pontefract Auxiliary Unit. A traitor who places his own survival and success in the new Nazi state ahead of everything – even the lives of his comrades….

Visit the page for Alt Hist Issue 6 if you want to order a copy to read more of this and other stories.

Free Extract from Battalion 202: Worm in the Apple by Jonathan Doering

Author’s Note: Battalion 202 is the story of Christopher Greenwood, a young man recruited into an Auxiliary Unit (AU)—an armed resistance “stay behind” team tasked with fighting a successful Nazi invasion. The episode “Into the Darkness” related Greenwood’s orders to assassinate the most senior local police officer, Chief Superintendent Frederickson, to prevent the Nazis from forcing him to reveal intelligence on the local resistance network. “Worm in the Apple” now follows Christopher and his AU colleagues through the initial days of the Occupation…


Christopher Greenwood stands trembling, staring at the slumped body of a man on a couch. The standard lamp casts a yellow light onto the man’s face; the rest of the room is in shadow. He is in his late fifties, but looks older: his hair is more white than grey, and he has red splotches on his cheeks and neck. His skin has a raw, boiled look, but the loosened tie and the softened stare make him look vulnerable, a sacrifice ready for the knife. There is a neat, dark hole on his right temple, with a red explosion on the cushion by his left temple, where the bullet  has exited from his head, bringing blood and brain with it.  His lips start to work, first jerkily, then more smoothly, muttering: “Had a good innings.”

Now his dead gaze sharpens and he turns to look into the boy’s face, his lips twisting into a sneer, taunting him over the blare of the music in the background:

“Go on! Shoot me!”

Greenwood raises his rifle, feeling the butt against his shoulder. The man’s gaze becomes more sympathetic and he speaks on, the voice changing now, becoming younger, barely audible over the music. The music’s thrumming is palpable in Greenwood’s temples, a buzzing that increases to such a pitch that he cannot focus on anything else …

“Chris? Are you alright?”

Tommy’s voice bursts in over the gramophone music, and Christopher Greenwood realises that he has been experiencing a flashback to half an hour before, and the operation that they carried out this evening. Then his mind is filled with the splashes of red, and he runs to the edge of the field they are in, knocking earth up in little clouds as he falls to his knees and vomits once more. There is little left to be thrown up from his guts, this time; he retches helplessly, forcing up saliva and black bile, wondering what will happen if he continues in this way. After a second he feels a nudge at his elbow, and sees a canteen of water being proffered by Tommy. He takes it, rinses his mouth and drinks a sip.

“Thanks. I’m better now.” His voice isn’t convincing. There is an exasperated sigh, then the older man kicks earth over the tiny pool of sick.

“Christopher, you need to pull yourself together now. We can’t leave clues all over the place. The Nazis’ll track us. And you need to prepare yourself for when we meet up with the others.”

Greenwood looks far off, into himself, into his memory. He sees the corpse of Chief Superintendent Frederickson, crumpled on his couch. Once again, Tommy’s instruction is in his ear: “Now take the revolver and shoot him in the head.” Once again he sees the sightless eyes, the slack mouth, the hand lying palm upwards. He feels the trigger of the revolver tightening under his finger, hears the spring squeak as he aims the weapon at the dead man’s head.

He shudders slightly, then takes a breath, becomes aware of the earth under his feet, the cold air cutting his lungs.

“I know.”


The Eve of the fall of Britain, October 1940, Pontefract AU’s Operational Base….

Cosmin  was on guard when they arrived. Strode, Adamson and Fisher  were waiting inside the OB.

“Welcome back, you two. Report, please.” Strode opened a notebook and uncapped his pen.

Tommy straightened slightly, “As ordered, we entered and secured Chief Superintendent Frederickson’s house. We were expected. After a short interview, Christopher shot him once through the chest and twice through the head. We took some extra provisions from the house and returned here.”

The three of them looked from Tommy to Greenwood. Even Fisher now seemed to show something like respect in the way he watched the youngest member of the AU. Adamson rose and turned to the stove, slowly stirring a cooking pot.

Fisher held his jacket in his lap, and with precise movements sewed a small tear in the sleeve. Snipping the thread, he placed it and the needle in a sewing box before returning his gaze to Chris’s face. Strode motioned with his pen. “I’ll make brief notes.”

Tommy shifted, “No names, though.”

“That goes without saying—as I would have thought would be the proviso that we don’t help ourselves to the property of the public. We’re not looters.”

Tommy reddened. “We hardly looted. I saw that there were some provisions that could be used, and he had made it clear that he didn’t hold any grudges, so I didn’t think he’d mind.”

“That sounds charitable of him.”

“The poor bastard was about to die, wasn’t he? It wasn’t like he was going to take any of it with him.”

Strode eyelids flickered. “Alright, you’ve made your point, Thompson. Now Greenwood, could you please take us through what happened, in your own words?”

Again, Greenwood’s stomach clenched, a hand gripping his innards. They had discussed what he should say, even briefly rehearsed it, although Tommy had said he should do it off the cuff, make it seem more spontaneous. As he drew breath he realised that he only had one chance to convince them. He swallowed on a dry throat.

Look them in the eye. Focus on Strode. He’s Patrol Leader.

“We got there. He was expecting us. He’d been drinking. He told us about how his wife had died and how he’d been destroying files so the Germans wouldn’t get them. Then he turned the music up louder and I shot him in the chest. Then I used his revolver to shoot him in the head. I shot him twice.” He heard his voice slurring slightly.

Strode traced a few words into the ledger. “Why the revolver? Where did that come from?”

“He had it out on the table.”

“But he didn’t threaten you with it?”

“No. It was out on the table, as if…”

“As if what?”

“As if he would have done it himself if we hadn’t arrived.”

“Why two shots to the head?”

“I—don’t know. Got carried away, I think,” he fixed the solicitor’s gaze. “Is there something wrong with that?”

“No, it just seems a little extreme….”

“Extreme? Extreme? You sent me to kill a police officer tonight. So I did it and I feel bad about it. I threw up I felt so bloody bad…”

“That’s enough, Greenwood.”

As quickly as it had burst in his chest, the hot anger withered like autumn leaves. He felt cold and ashamed again. “I’m sorry, Mr. Strode.”

The solicitor smiled politely. “That’s quite alright, young man. You’ve been through a lot. We know that. Believe me, I understand the… tension you’re feeling right now.” His face clouded for an instant. “But you have proved yourself and you have performed an invaluable job for the AU. Absolutely invaluable. Well done.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Do you think you could manage some rum?”

Greenwood looked from Strode to Adamson, on to Fisher, then finally to Tommy, who was staring at him as closely as the others.

They believe me. I’ve done it.

“Thank you, Mr. Strode, but I’m not sure.”

“He was sick, Mr. Strode,” Tommy put in.

Adamson turned and stirred some stew that was sitting on the stove, ladling it into bowls and passing them round the table. “That’ll be the shock. Here, try some of this.”

The stew was warm and filling, and as he ate, Greenwood felt the clenched fist in his guts ease a little, but then he remembered Tommy’s words as they returned to the OB.

“You’ll need to watch your P’s and Q’s from now on, Chris. You can’t be caught off-guard. Don’t drink too much. Don’t get too cosy with any of them. And don’t unburden yourself to anyone but me. Got that?”

His spoon scraped the bottom of the bowl. Adamson pointed. “More?”

“Yes, please.”

The farmer filled Greenwood’s bowl again, setting it down and taking his place beside the scribbling solicitor and watchful farm hand. Fisher cleared his throat and spoke.

“We had a firework display and a half at the railway line.”

Greenwood forced a smile and ate more stew. Does he want to impress me?

“Did you?”

“We laid out a load of charges along the line. Take ‘em a while to fix all that.”


Tommy pushed his empty bowl away with no second helping and brought out a tobacco pouch. Strode finished writing his entry, closed his ledger and looked at Greenwood again but said nothing. Suddenly Adamson spoke.

“I killed a bloke at the Somme.”

Are they all going to confess their killings now?

“Did you? Who was he?”

Adamson’s eyes grew glassy. Then he blinked and refocused on Greenwood. “Don’t know. Didn’t ask his name.”

There was a murmur of laughter around the table, not unkind, but Christopher felt as if he had said something gauche. Fisher cut a piece of farmhouse cob and passed it across the table to him. Adamson said, “Enjoy it, there’s not much.”

Greenwood took the bread and dipped it into his bowl. To fill the silence, he asked, “How did you feel?”

“Feel? How did I feel?” Adamson looked at him blankly. The bottom fell out of Greenwood’s stomach. Should I know how he felt? Then Adamson’s  eyes acquired that glassy stare once more and he seemed to stare far off over the young man’s shoulder:

“To be honest, I don’t think I felt very much.”

There was a pause. Strode cleared his throat.

“Have you finished, Greenwood? Good. We’d like you and Fisher to relieve Cosmin.”

Order Alt Hist Issue 6

Enhanced by Zemanta

Interview with Jonathan Doering, author of Battalion 202


Jonathan Doering has now contributed three stories from his series about a German invasion of Britain in WW2, so it’s about time we heard a bit more about him. His story Battalion 202: Rotten Parchment Bonds appeared in Alt Hist Issue 5, and the previous stories appeared in Alt Hist Issue 4. Here’s some more from Jonathan.

This is a photo of Monika, Noah and Jonathan on holiday in Germany last summer. Jonathan is the one on the right!
This is a photo of Monika, Noah and Jonathan on holiday in Germany last summer. Jonathan is the one on the right!

Three stories from your series Battalion 202 have now appeared in Alt Hist. Can you tell us what’s next in store for the people of Pontefract?

Unfortunately, things are going to get far worse before they start getting better. The Nazis have been gradually consolidating their power, as they would have done in reality had they successfully landed in Britain. The next story, “The Sheep and the Goats”, again focuses on the local police officer Harold Storey and his growing awareness of the sinister aspects of the Nazi project, and how he reacts to this. The next story that I’m working on now deals again with the local Auxiliary Unit which has a traitor in its midst.

What’s the historical background for your story? Was there really an organisation called Battalion 202?

Yes, there really was an organisation called Battalion 202. In 1941 there was a growing realisation in Britain that Hitler intended to invade Britain. Churchill ordered for a nascent resistance movement to be organised against that possibility, with the umbrella title of ‘The British Resistance Organisation’. The spine of this organisation was to be dozens of Auxiliary Units, teams of between four and eight men who had been trained in clandestine warfare and who were to go to ground as the Nazis swept over Britain. They were actually supposed to focus on sabotage and interference rather than fighting and assassination, but there is little doubt that there would have been a lot of violence, both on their parts and that of the German occupiers. Administratively, they were organised into three battalions: 201 covered Scotland, 202 the North of England, 203 the South of England. AUs were established in Wales, but were not organised under an overarching title as in other parts of Britain. Their uniforms were ordinary Home Guard uniforms, apart from the shoulder patches which identified their Battalions – although the numbers would have been meaningless to anyone not in the know. George Orwell, with his experience of front line warfare in Spain, was involved in training AU volunteers in London. Many of these men served from D-Day onwards in the regular army.

There were also “observers”, civilians who had been trained to gather intelligence which they would then pass on via intermediaries to radio operators. These operators would transmit the intelligence to AUs in the locale, which would then plan attacks. Finally, there were deep-level agents, members of local and national government and the civil service, primed to apparently collaborate with the Nazis, who would also be sending intelligence out to the Resistance and doing what they could to frustrate the Occupation. These people were known as “the other side” and would have walked a daily knife edge as well. Although some members of the AUs have been identified, as far as I know no one in the “the other side” has ever been made known to the public. They would have all been taking appalling risks for their communities and their country, and in researching and writing these stories, I’ve heaved several sighs of relief that history spared us the horror of occupation. So, yes, there was such an organisation, and they really were told that in the event of the Nazis arriving that they could expect to live for fourteen days.

For our readers not familiar with Pontefract, can you tell us a bit more about your home town?

Truth to tell, I’m a bit of an interloper, not being a native of Pontefract. I was born in Stockport and as a child lived just South of Manchester. My father was an engineer, so we moved with his job. When I was eight we went to North Berwick, near Edinburgh, and when I was thirteen we moved to Southport, near Liverpool. Since leaving home and taking my degrees, I’ve lived and worked in Japan, France, Norwich, Oxford, London,… and now Ponte! Pontefract is ace! It’s a market town of about 30,000 inhabitants. Previously it relied heavily on mining, and retains quite a bit of farming. There is still a sweet factory (one of its products is the world-famous liquorice Pontefract Cake). Pontefract is a fairly tightly-knit community which has weathered a lot over the years. Its castle was where Richard II was imprisoned and died, and where Richard III was declared king. It was also besieged during the Civil War by Cromwell’s Roundhead forces (if you look at the town crest that I use on the Resistance newspaper, it includes the town’s motto: Post mortem patris pro filio – Latin for “After the death of the father [Charles I] we are for the son [Charles II]”). It occupies a central position, being fairly central in the island of Britain if you look at the map, as well as central to the North and to Yorkshire, which means that although it was and is relatively small; its strategic significance has led to its involvement in several historical developments. It also meant that I could imagine the Nazis being keen to establish themselves here.

I met my wife whilst I was teaching in North London, which is another lovely place, but my wife prefers to visit London rather than live there, so being a Northerner I started to look for teaching jobs in quieter, leafier climes North of Watford Gap. The job I have now came up, so we moved here. Pontefract is a hard-working, good-humoured place to have fetched up in and I think we’ll be here for quite some time to come.

How did you get into writing?

I think many writers are similar in that they have always felt an urge to write. When I was young (five or so), one of my aunts visited us from Canada. I was already making up little stories in my head and playing around with words, and one day she had me tell her a story, which she wrote down and then read back to me. That sense of pleasure from making up stories stuck with me and I carried on doodling away. In school I wrote Science Fiction stories for fanzines that some friends were printing, and at university got involved in the campus newspapers and magazines, and so on.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Be with my family, day dream, teach English at a sixth form college, read as much as possible, listen to music (Folk, Jazz and Classical mainly), watch films (just watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid again for the first time in twenty years, and it’s still brilliant!), attend my local Quaker Meeting, dig over our allotment,  go walking….

Are you working on any other short stories or novels at the moment and if so can you tell us a bit more about them?

Beyond Battalion 202, I’m mulling over a story set during the witchcraft trials in Seventeenth Century Scotland, which I first heard about when I was growing up there, so that would be interesting to return to. I’m also thinking over a short comic play about allotment holders, just for a bit of a change! I used to write comic sketches for my friends to act in at school, so it would be good to have another go at that kind of writing. On top of that I’m hoping to write about Quaker communities in Prague and Budapest for the national Quaker magazine, The Friend.

What are your ambitions as a writer?

To keep writing and getting my work read! I enjoy writing short stories and articles, so that’s where a lot of my energy goes. I have an ambition to communicate with other people about the things that I find exciting, interesting and important. If someone enjoys reading something I’ve written, and also gets something useful from it, that’s fantastic. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed developing a series of interlinked short stories in Battalion 202 – it’s been very challenging and rewarding. I hope that people who have read the stories have enjoyed them and are looking forward to more – please do keep reading!

If anyone would like to read another of Jonathan’s stories (which is set in the present day and doesn’t deal with WW2 at all, please follow the links below to read ‘Magic Christmas Snowballs’ online, or to purchase a print version of Gold Dust Magazine.

New Novel Explores the Dark Ages: Review Copy Available

I was recently contacted about a new book coming out about the Dark Ages. The publisher is offering a review copy of the book. If you are interested in getting hold of the review copy and writing a review of it for Alt Hist then please contact the publisher at the address below, and also let me know that you intend to review for Alt Hist at You will need to submit your review through our Submissions website. Please note that your review will be subject to editorial approval: i.e. I don’t care if you like the book or not, but your review must be well written!

Here are some details about the book:

Discovering Roman ruins in his field led Cheshire author R.W. Hughes, to write his first novel, Aurthora

Cheshire-based author, R. W. Hughes, was inspired to write his first novel Aurthora  after discovering the remains of a Roman checkpoint in the corner of his field! The checkpoint was alongside the old salt road that ran from the mines in Borthwich and over the Pennines to the rest of Britain.

”It was at the checkpoint in our field that Roman soldiers would inspect that all the loads of salt has been stamped and approved by the local Governor to show they had paid their taxes,”  says Rod.  ”Imagining the Romans who had used the route set me thinking about what happened to Britain, and specifically this area, after they left. After doing lots of research, my first novel was born! ”

Hughes  novel, Aurthora, is based on the legendary British warrior. It takes place in the years immediately after the Romans leave Britain and describes a land undergoing massive change – with no leader and no army to defend its shores. It’s a time of fragile alliances between Chiefs and tribal Leaders, held together by the personality and fading power of a sick King. It’s a time when the people must fight for their very existence.

This carefully researched book brings England during the Dark Ages vividly to life.

ISBN: 9781848765542
Price: £7.99

If you’d like more information or a review copy please get in touch with the publisher:

Jane Rowland
Troubador Publishing Ltd
5 Weir Road
Kibworth Beauchamp

Tel: 0116 2792299
Fax: 0116 279 2277

Follow us on Twitter @matadorbooks!

Enhanced by Zemanta
%d bloggers like this: