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Island of Steel - Introducing the Heroes

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Operation Hawkwind

Memo no. 27: Brigadier Wilson to the Hawkwind Committee, 25 March 1944.

Because the operation has failed disastrously twice, there is strong opposition to a third attempt. Nonetheless, with the dramatic appearance of this small band of servicemen and French Resistance fighters in our field of vision, it warrants serious consideration. The main objection raised is that while these chaps have proven their capability individually, we don't know if they can work together successfully as a team. For a collection of strong personalities can often prove counterproductive.  Added to this is the question of whether they are suitably trained for an operation of such significance.

Only RAF Squadron Leader Hartley-Penrose and USAAF bomber navigator  Lieutenant Olson have a seemingly clean bill of health from their superior officers, although they both have reputations for occasional reckless behaviour. Sergeant Haines of the Royal Engineers has an adequate service record except for going absent without leave in France for eighteen months in 1940/41 after Dunkirk. His secondment to the Commandos for their raid on the Abwehr HQ in Nantes is indicative of his ability to act as a rogue element. Special Operations Executive agent Eric Baker presents worries due to the breakdown of his network in Berlin. There is a history of lack of focus in his conduct report. As for he two French Resistance fighters, known to us only as Claude and Marie-Claire, we are also unsure of them, although their Free French compatriots in London offer some optimistic if vague recommendations.

There was also mention of a German civilian named Karl Kruger when the request to be picked up from Normandy was initially transmitted to their regiments. Nothing has been said about him since then, nor do we know whom he might be.

It appears that the Committee will simply have to trust in God’s good grace.

Eric Baker

Eric Warren Baker, thirty-years old, wiry, narrow-faced and prematurely balding lay on his rough blanket bed in the corner of a dull brown room and stared bleakly at the cracked cobwebbed ceiling. Berlin had suffered a night of intense bombing. The American 8th Air Force having a Fourth of July firework show all of their own. Baker felt it was still happening. Inside his head. The SOE training psychiatrist had not only failed to detect his manic depression but also the fact that he liked the odd drink or ten. His haphazard memory recalled leaving a transvestite club where he had got drunk and had been forced to dance with his spy contact before making a belligerent fool of himself and getting thrown out. Then staggering home, the distant explosions over rooftops and the fires turning night into a ruddy mock dawn. The fearful howl of sirens that dried the blood in his veins. The crump of detonations and the shuddering pavement under foot. Masonry falling and windows bursting. Like the London Blitz. Tit for tat. This is war, lad. This is what it’s all about, my son.

But two of his boys had performed their first mission and it had been worth the celebration. A little hasty for he didn’t know the result, but he had to see his contact at the club anyway, so the few extra drinks were justified. He was toasting their success and hoping he was absolved of another failure.

Church bells rang somewhere far off. It was a wretched Sunday morning. Memories of childhood flicked through his mind. Sermons and hymns. Boiled beef, cabbage, and carrots for Sunday lunch. He turned over in his comforting womb of body-warmed blankets with the mild bouquet of urine. Bollocks to the world.

Yet something had awakened him from his pig-like slumber.

A sharp rat-tat-tat on the door was repeated. Then he knew. A pause and another rat-a-tat. Then two rat-tats. Cursing, Baker rolled onto his knees and clutching a chair back, eased himself to his feet. He had slept in his trousers, shirt and tie and pullover, so he got to the door in a presentable state. Excepting that everything was creased and soiled. But that was the spy trade for you.

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