Wednesday 13 October 1915
The men had quickly come together as a friendly, cohesive team, and for three weeks, they studied and practised with explosives, fuses and detonators. As a team, they learned how to cleave rocks and throw boulders with accuracy, and they practised with shaped charges to cut metal beams. Whenever they were away from others, they spoke German among themselves.
The team was outfitted with rugged mountain-walking clothing and boots. Georg showed them effective clinker and hobnail patterns, then led them on a four-day trip to the Scafells to practice rock climbing, rappelling and wilderness living.
They had also spent time inside, learning encryption and wireless telephony and being tutored in current German colloquialisms and social news. David had joined them on as many occasions as he could while he continued his commissioning course. He was now in its final two days, and Herman had left Friday evening for a week and a half's leave at home.
On Wednesday afternoon, David met with the group in the Port Meadow range building and briefed them. "You'll store your uniforms and your Army and personal kit with the Quartermaster and take nothing with you which could identify you as British subjects nor as soldiers. You will receive grants to purchase Swiss clothing when you arrive so you'll blend in. Do not use military ranks, jargon or tradition. From now onward, I'm David to you."
He pulled a bundle from his portfolio. "The seven of us who have Swiss papers will travel at separate times and by different routes to Bern. I've your tickets and hotel and dining vouchers here." He distributed them, then looked at the other seven men.
"You'll leave next Sunday for France with nothing but your small backpacks so you'll appear as if you're on a hike along the high ridges as you cross the border. You'll take with you only things that would look appropriate in a pack for a day hike. Extra layers of clothing, dry socks, safety items, first aid, soap, towel. We'll buy new clothes and kit for you when we get to Switzerland.
"Manny will take charge while you're travelling. He'll have tickets for the trains, your orders for French Customs when you disembark at Boulogne, as well as the vouchers for your meals on the ferry, the trains and at your hotel in Lons-le-Saunier in the French Jura.
"You'll be met at the hotel Monday morning at eight by Marcel, who speaks both French and German. He'll take you to Prémanon where you'll stay Monday night. From there, it's less than two miles to the Swiss border. Marcel will guide you for the first bit, then show you the way to continue. The details are all in here." He handed Manny a packet of tickets, vouchers and written instructions.
"I'll meet you at the edge of the forest to the west of Givrins, Switzerland next Tuesday at noon." He unfolded a map. "The terrain is gentle forested ridges. You'll cross two of them for a total elevation gain of about a thousand feet and a total descent of twenty-five hundred. The distance is just over seven miles." He ran his finger along the route.
"Unless they've done extensive land clearing in the two years since this map was drawn, you'll be able to stay in the trees all the way to the edge of Givrins." He pointed to the map. "Here. This is where we'll meet. It should take you under three hours."
David refolded the map and handed it to Manny. "You can carry this with you, but destroy the instructions, the used tickets and all other travel papers in France before you begin your hike. Also, if through some unforeseen circumstance we miss the rendezvous Tuesday, then you'll regroup, and we'll try again at noon on Wednesday."
He took a bank envelope from the pocket of his tunic. "I'll issue each of you fifty Francs in Swiss gold coins in case you need to regroup or separate. If we don't make the rendezvous or its backup, this should be more than sufficient for you to make your way to the British Embassy in Bern."
He looked at the other five men. "The King is loaning each of you twenty Francs to use in emergency only." After he had distributed the coins, he asked, "Have you any questions?" He watched the heads shake. "None, good. You're all on leave from this moment until your departures. Your passes are in the Orderly Room along with pay advances and a guide of what to see and do in this area. Your lorry is waiting for you outside." He stood. "I'll see you all in Switzerland next week."
Georg shouted a sharp, "Room!" and they all stood.
"No more of that, Georg. Remember, I'm David from now on." He shook hands with each of them, then left. His driver saluted and opened the door as he approached.
As they bounced across the meadow, David thought. Have I missed any details? Were my instructions sufficiently clear? They've a contingency plan and a backup to it. Stop worrying. They're a solid group. They'll all get there.
Friday 15 October 1915
Bryce congratulated David when the graduating class was dismissed following the Friday parade. They walked across the quadrangle together toward David's quarters. "It's been approved. You're now the Aide-de-Camp to the British Ambassador in Bern."
"That's perfect. I'll now be officially in Switzerland under both identities."
"R thought your idea brilliant, and quickly pushed it through. You'll be able to openly take your entire kit with you. Better than storing it here with the quartermaster."
"And Maria and I will finally be able to marry."
"I thought you were married."
"In all but ceremony." David shrugged. "My Swiss identity shows me as her brother, and until now, my Canadian identity has made me an illegal belligerent."
"True." Bryce nodded. "R wishes to meet with you in London this evening. I told him you had plans for a grand evening of dining on Escoffier's creations at the Carlton to purge your system of British stodge." He chuckled. "That got a huge belly laugh from him. He suggested he join you and pick up the tab."
"That would be delightful. I don't like dining alone, but the tab..."
"Tut, tut. He told me it would be his great pleasure. Besides, he could to buy the place if he wished." Bryce smiled.
YOU ARE READING
Back In ActionHistorical Fiction
In the early months of the First World War, a young Canadian soldier uses quick thinking and ingenuity to evade capture after being wounded fighting in Flanders. While escaping through Germany to the Swiss border, he becomes intimately entwined with...