Hope you all had a good Easter! Here’s another extract from one of the stories in Alt Hist Issue 7.
Battalion 202 returns with two new stories written by Jonathan Doering. Battalion 202, for those who haven’t read recent issues of Alt Hist, is the what-if tale of British resistance to a Nazi invasion in WW2. The first story in this issue, “The Sheep and the Goats”, takes us back to Harold Storey, a local policeman in Pontefract who is forced to work with the occupying Gestapo. Will Sergeant Storey risk his own life to aid the British resistance? “Set Britain Ablaze” reveals a significant part of the back-story to the Battalion 202 series through a variety of personal records of figures such as Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill and the Head of the SOE, Major General Gubbins. You can read in their own words, how these historical figures might have responded to a Nazi occupation of Britain. We anticipate that there will be another four stories in the Battalion 202 series and that will be published in the next few issues of Alt Hist, concluding with the finale in Alt Hist Issue 10.
Here’s an extract from the first of this issue’s Battalion 202 stories: “The Sheep and the Goats”.
Author’s Note: Battalion 202 has previously told the story of a local police officer, Harold Storey, who witnesses the gradual moral depredations of Nazi occupation. Following the killing of the German military commander for the area in an accident caused by another German officer disgusted by the corruption of his own side, Pontefract Gestapo Lieutenant Kürten threatens reprisals. At this point a message from a member of the Resistance Operational Patrol arrives, offering to betray the OP. ”The Sheep and the Goats” now follows Storey over the following hours as plans and preparations are made for an assault on the Operational Base of the local Resistance, and the events that follow.
For I was hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in …
The Gospel of St. Matthew, 25 v. 35
The Third Day of the Occupation …
Whispers ran around the room: The Major’s car has crashed … The Major is dead … The Lieutenant driving the car has also been killed …
Kürten was shouting alternately in German and English:
“Wie? How? Finden Sie die Täter. Find the men responsible!”
The Fifth Day of the Occupation …
A door at the end of a corridor outside of the prisoner’s cell is thrown open, echoing. The prisoner, who had finally, blessedly, slipped into unconsciousness, starts awake, as if this echo is another blow landing on his already bruised body.
He coughs, and every cough wrenches through him; the tip of each rib shrieks with pain. With each cough he wonders feebly if he will have enough energy to cough again, to breathe again.
Perhaps they will bring a little food today. Perhaps he will be able to eat it if they do.
The heavy sound of boots moves inexorably along the corridor. The prisoner’s ear drums wince with each dull thud, receding further and further inside of his skull. Nerves flinch within his skin, his frame retreats beneath the flimsy blanket, desperately seeking any camouflage. Every muscle, every tendon jars as the thuds grow nearer.
The Second Day of the Occupation …
Internal Gestapo Memo #A907
Date: 16th October, 1940
From: Lt. Col. Dr. Franz Six, Commander of German Security and Intelligence Operations in British Territories, Gestapo H.Q., London (A).
To: The Regional Heads of Gestapo Einsatzgruppen in Birmingham (B), Cardiff (C), Bristol (D), Leeds (E), Liverpool (F), Newcastle (G), and Edinburgh (H).
I congratulate you on your swift and efficient institution of the agreed policy of discreet introduction of Gestapo policy into British society. In terms of intelligence gathering, recruitment of informers and collaborators, processing of suspects, and in all other particulars you have proved yourselves admirably capable of the task in hand. The next stage of our work can now begin.
I refer to the full scale imprisonment and processing of all enemies of the Reich. These criminal minorities must be removed with ultimate force in all haste but, wherever possible, with the utmost caution and discretion. The dog will not feel the rub of the leash when its ears are tickled. These criminal minorities fall into two broad categories:
Nationalistic resistance movements;
Various sub-human groups such as Jews, homosexuals, Roma, Freemasons, and so on, who must be stopped from spreading their poison through society any further than they have already done so.
It is of paramount importance that this next phase of Operation Sea Lion be conducted in co-operation with willing local citizens who are clear-sighted enough to understand Nazi policies in these areas. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we review and update not only our Black Lists of undesirables, but also White Lists of favourable individuals and groups. It may also be useful to draw up a Grey List of individuals and groups of whom there has not as yet been sufficient evidence gathered to make an informed decision as to their support for the Occupation.
As to our new friends and collaborators, I suggest that they be given the paraphernalia of office and the dignity that goes with it. It will also serve us well for Britons to consider that the unpleasant but necessary work of processing minorities is being conducted mainly by their own citizens rather than by us. Perhaps we can now appropriate the title of the British ‘Special Branch’ for this group of people, which strikes me as having a pleasingly descriptive ring to it, whilst being somewhat different to our own Gestapo?
You will, as ever, keep me fully informed of your work. I commend you to the successful discharge of your duties in Stage Two of Operation Sea Lion.
The Third Day of the Occupation …
Internal Gestapo Memo #E379
Date: 17th October, 1940
From: Major Heinrich Schmitt, Commander, Leeds Area Einsatzgruppe.
To: Captain Bernhard Schlimm, Commander, Wakefield Sub-Area Office.
Thus far the security situation in the Wakefield Sub-Area has been highly satisfactory and you are to be congratulated. However, your communiqué this morning regarding the unexplained deaths of Major Svartelheim and Lieutenant Weiss, alongside reports of increasing terrorist activity in your area, lead me to exhort you to take firm and immediate action. Lieutenant Kürten, Pontefract District Gestapo Officer, as you know, is an exemplary man. He distinguished himself well in the initial processing in Poland following our successful regaining of our stolen territories, and I am sure that he will bring his experience, expertise and enthusiasm to the job in hand. Of all of the smaller towns in the West Yorkshire region, I am particularly concerned to see Pontefract brought smartly to heel. Its central geographical position, coupled with rail and road links, as well as the plentiful coal fields, agriculture and proximity to both Wakefield and Leeds, make it a test case for smaller communities. It could prove to be a cradle for incipient terrorist activities if mishandled. However, should we successfully pacify local residents, it will not only serve as a positive early success but also stand as an example to other communities unsure of their response to Occupation. Let us leave them in no doubt as to which course of action represents their better interests.
Our previous orders were for a concerted but highly discreet presence in locales. As of this instant you may consider this order rescinded; employ as much force as required in order to quell rebellion in this town and pacify any growing discontent amongst the locals. You may requisition whatever manpower, equipment and financial support you need from Leeds Einsatzgruppe.
Kindly inform me of all developments.
Internal Gestapo Memo #E380
Date: 17th October, 1940
From: Captain Bernhard Schlimm, Commander, Wakefield Sub-Area Office.
To: Lieutenant Kürten, District Officer, Pontefract.
The Second Stage of Sea Lion is to be implemented, effective immediately. The gloves may be removed, my friend. Locate the local Resistance hideout with all haste and destroy with ultimate force. Locate any other individuals involved in the terrorist murders of Svartelheim and Weiss, and treat appropriately. Any requirements you may have will be fully supported by Wakefield H.Q.
Storey attended Confession on his way home that evening, knowing in his heart that soon he would need to find alternative ways of speaking with Father Mackintosh.
St. Joseph’s Church was empty. A trusted cleaning volunteer was sweeping by the door, ready to raise the alarm if anyone entered. Storey drew back the curtain in the booth. “Forgive me, father, for I have sinned and may sin again very soon. It has been one day since my last confession.”
There was a slow sigh from the other side of the screen.
“Never mind the dramatics, Harry, just tell me what’s happening.”
After the crash had been reported, Kürten was a man possessed.
“There will be immediate reprisals!”
Storey handed across the note that had been sent into the police.
What else could I do?
Kürten was screaming blue murder, and eyes were looking everywhere, constantly searching out any clue that could be reported. He had the sheet of paper in his hand—it had been seen by at least one other person.
What else could I do?
Kürten snatched it from him, studied it. Then …
“I require all senior police personnel to attend a conference in my office immediately.”
Storey prayed that Inspector Knight would go and that would be that. Or if not, then let Balks go and poke his nose up an arsehole if he wanted to. But Knight said, “All Acting Sergeants to accompany me, please.”
Upstairs the immediate conference was ten minutes in the preparation, as the British police stood kicking their heels in the corridor whilst staccato German conversation rattled back and forth behind the closed door. Then the door snapped open. “Enter, gentlemen.”
As they filed in like boys going for a caning in the headmaster’s office, Storey noted that Kürten and four colleagues were seated in a half crescent on the far side of his desk. There were no chairs laid out for them. Kürten was slightly calmer, or at least appeared so. Without looking up from the note that was spread out in front of him on his desk he muttered in a parody of hospitality, gesturing to the space in front of his desk with his letter knife: “Thank you for joining us, gentlemen. Please do come in.” The British group stood half to attention, shifting slightly this way and that, as Kürten stared at the scribbled sheet, poking at it now and again with his knife.
“Fate has a sense of irony, perhaps.” Kürten said this without looking up. Storey felt an exquisite tension between hanging on the man’s every word and the urge to step forward and strike him out of his stuffed leather chair. An instant passed, and then Knight cleared his throat. “How so, Lieutenant?”
Kürten looked up and leaned back at the same time. “Because we have lost two outstanding officers in one morning, in the middle of a region that ought to pose little if any threat. And yet now, apparently, a member of the local Resistance network offers us the opportunity to eradicate armed terrorism from the Pontefract district at a single stroke.”
“Does the … contact make any demands?”
Kürten looked at them, his head swaying slightly; he appeared to catch sight of Knight only gradually, then offered an alligator smile, sliding the note across the desk with the point of his letter knife, “Please, Inspector, read the message.”
Knight stepped forward, the flesh on the back of his neck glowing red, hands clasped behind his back, craning his neck to read without touching. Storey had already read the note twice, and noticed Balks’ involuntary shift forwards, wishing to be taken into the Nazis’ confidence. Knight stepped back again.
“So, there is a traitor in the organisation…”
“Traitor? A sensible individual who has realised that his best interests coincide with ours, surely?”
Knight’s neck glowed redder. “Clearly he does think that, Lieutenant. Will you attempt to make contact?”
Kürten again gave that lazy alligator smile, then pursed his lips and shrugged. “What else is there to do? Other than institute a house-to-house search for all people likely to be involved?” No one spoke for a moment, then the Gestapo officer led a brittle chorus of laughter from the German side of the desk.
“Please, gentlemen, we are not tiere, animals. We understand that the majority of Pontefract’s citizens are reasonable people. And the assistance that you have given us already in identifying those who are not can now be utilised in deciding who to remove.”
Storey felt himself sway dizzyingly but caught his body back. Knight didn’t turn to look at his men, but brought his hands from behind his back to clasp them in front of him.
“Lieutenant, we still don’t know how the officers died. The car careered off the road, nothing has been found near or inside the car to suggest—”
“You suggest that it was an accident?” Kürten exploded. “You are presented with the most professional, highly-trained and capable army in the World and you suggest that a German officer simply drove off the road by mistake? Well?”
If only you knew, Lieutenant.
When Knight spoke it sounded as if he was a mile away, but at least he spoke up. “Lieutenant, you cannot throw hundreds of people in prison because of what might be a tragic traffic accident.”
Kürten sprang up from his chair, knocking it backwards. The officers flanking him didn’t even flinch. Storey wondered if they had rehearsed this. The Gestapo officer threw his hands down on Superintendent Fredrickson’s and leaned across the desk as he shouted.
“Cannot? Cannot? We are not in your country as subjects of your rotten empire! We are here as victors! We are entitled to take what we wish, to do what we wish, when we wish to whomever we wish! Is that clear, Inspector? Who will stop us? You?”
“We were assured that the Law would be observed. The Law does not make provision for people to be locked up without clear evidence.”
“Two officers dead. And this on top of a constant wave of insurrection across the town. Graffitti. Resistance newspapers. Sabotage of vehicles, cutting of telephone wires, a constant accumulation of animosity against the rightful victors of a necessary war… Your laws ultimately now are subjugated to Occupation Law. Pontefract must learn who is now in charge!”
Kürten made to sit down again and one of his impassive colleagues retrieved his chair from the ground as he did so. Storey had to fight the urge to clap at the performance. Kürten picked up a glass of water from the desk and took a sip, replacing it softly. He stared into the mid-distance before speaking again.
“You ought to know that we have a directive to remove all able-bodied men between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five from the area.”
As the automatic gasp escaped from Storey, and, to his relief, from all of his colleagues, the Gestapo officer raised his hand in a half salute. “Please, gentlemen, that directive is completely unworkable. We do not want to tear the heart of this place. Which the loss of so many men would undoubtedly bring about. This order has not been obeyed in any other occupied territory either, thus far.” At this, the German allowed himself a conspiratorial smile. Storey half-expected him to wink. “But the resentment and frustrations of the local populace are coming to the surface now. We are entitled to remove all men who would be able to offer any resistance to our presence. But as I said, we are not animals. This we shall not do. But some must go. And the lists you have been kind enough to provide us with offer us the best source of information as to who should be selected.” He raised a finger. “Please do not trouble yourself about this. We shall organise and oversee that operation. You have already provided sufficient assistance in terms of the intelligence given.” He allowed the implication of those words to sit in the air before continuing. “The resistance operation, however, is another matter.”
Storey felt as if he was floating just below the ceiling, watching the interview whilst being in the centre of it, being addressed by this monster. He had to admit, objectively, it was brilliant. Kürten was offering them the chance to keep their hands clean of any deportations, whilst reminding them that the deportations could only occur thanks to their information on criminal affiliations and behaviour, membership of organisations and groups, that had been requested of them over the previous days, whilst driving home the message that in return for this kindness, they would have to assist the Germans in removing Pontefract’s Resistance.
Kürten leaned back, like a businessman satisfied by a successful negotiation. It crossed Storey’s mind that that might have been what he had been, before all of this. A ruthlessly strategic businessman.
“The note requests that we arrange for an aeroplane to fly over the town at a certain time this afternoon. Clever. This will be visible from many locations, ensuring that we still do not know the hideout of the group. We will be reliant on his next communication, promised during the night. We shall organise the flyover, and the commandoes who will then storm the hideout. However, gentlemen, we do expect that you assist us in … processing these criminals after they have been taken into custody.”
“If they are taken into custody.” The words were out of Storey’s mouth before he could stop them. All eyes turned to him, and he felt the blood rise in his ears. After a moment, Lieutenant Kürten stretched his lips back in a thin smile and nodded. “Yes, Sergeant … Storey is it? If we take them into custody. However, we have men stationed here who have fought against the finest troops offered by half a dozen countries. A ramshackle gang of thugs should not, I hope, prove a match for them. Thank you, gentlemen. Please return to your duties. I will contact you as and when we need to consult further.”
END OF FREE EXTRACT
Don’t forget to order your copy of Alt Hist Issue 7 to read the rest of this story and others.