MARK FRANKLAND

I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

'THE LAST COLONIAL WAR' - CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT


CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT


THE EXIT STRATEGY

FORT GEORGE

Our Situation Room had none of the whistles and bells of the English counterpart. There were six of us. Myself, Angus, two Captains and two tech guys. We had no satellite images, no drone feed. Instead, we tried to judge the course of the battle via a selection of barked commands which were played out through a tinny speaker.

Finally, 'JJ' Jackson's voice brought clarity.

Are you there, First Minister?”

Yes 'JJ'. I'm here.”

The operation was a complete success, sir." The words emerged from the speaker flat and lifeless. I could tell Angus was struggling to find the right way to react.

Have we taken many casualties?”

Some. Not many. It's too early for any kind of accuracy. Less than we anticipated I think.”

Thank God for that. And the English?”

A long pause.

It's a bloody slaughter house.”

An even longer pause.

So you will proceed as planned?”

Of course sir. Is Sam with you?”

She is.”

Message from Wendel. He's fine, but they lost one of the guys. He's heading to Glasgow with the others. He says he'll be with you tomorrow.”

When I heard the two words 'He's fine', a damn burst inside me. One minute I was standing with my arms locked into a fold. The next minute I all but collapsed into a chair feeling like I had been punched in the guts. I only just managed to speak.

Thank you 'JJ'. Who was it? The one who.....”

It was Nazir.”

There was no more to say because there was so very much to say. But this was not the time to say any of it. There would be plenty of time for a million words in the months and years to come. Now a kind of despondent silence took hold of us and held on tight.

I cried in silence as a vast ocean of relief swept through me. I hadn't allowed my brain to consider the prospect of a future without Wendel. Not once. Not for a second. Instead, I had immersed myself in playing my part. I think we all had.

Angus sat very still, utterly lost in his thoughts. His expression was an open book. He didn't speak. He didn't need to.

What have I done?

What have I done?

The bitter pill of victory. Words from Dylan Thomas jumped into my jumbled thoughts.

'The hand that signed the paper felled a city.'

My best friend's dad. All those sleep overs and lifts to after school activities. Barbeques in the garden and trips to the cinema.

And now this. So many dead. So many broken.

*

LOCHIE BRIDGE

'JJ' Jackson went into a kind of furious overdrive. He tore around the field of battle in a 4x4 screaming orders. Soon his screams were echoed by hundreds of sergeants and corporals.

Every Scottish soldier had been briefed about what to do in the aftermath of the battle. They had been told all phones, cameras or recording devices of any kind were banned. Now they took the phones of the English soldiers.

The living and the dead.

The phones were thrown into a growing pile and eventually burned. The five masts which gave mobile phone coverage to the valley had been blown up the moment the Legionnaires had opened fire. 'JJ' and Marc had pulled no punches when they explained their plan of battle to the First Minister. The plan was to deliver the maximum amount of carnage in the minimum amount of time. A win would be an ugly win.

And now the quiet valley floor looked like some kind of medieval depiction of the fires of hell.

Thousands of wounded men were driven to every hospital within a hundred miles. Many didn't make it.

The English prisoners were gathered up and ordered to form ranks. 'JJ' addressed them and told them they would be required to join his men in the task of clearing the field.

Once the injured were patched up and sent away to hospital, the dead were zipped into hundreds of body bags and loaded onto trucks.

As soon as the ground was cleared of the dead and the wounded, scrap merchants were allowed onto the field to collect up the wrecked vehicles. They were also required to give up their phones before driving their vehicles into the valley.

So it was that the battle of Lochie Bridge found something else in common with the battles which had gone before.

Bannockburn and Dunbar and Flodden and Culloden.

There was not a single photograph or snatch of video footage to recall the desperate, blood-soaked minutes when so many men died so badly.

Instead, all there would be for the historians were the stark statistics. An army of over 10,000 had been ambushed by a force of 3100 and had suffered total defeat in a matter of minutes.

The English force suffered a casualty rate of over 80%.

The raw statistics carried enough horror. Angus Campbell knew in his bones that for Scotland and England to have any hope of a decent future relationship, the story of the battle would need to be told in numbers and words.

Not pictures.

For the thousands of words such pictures would paint would poison the future.

The clean-up took three days and many of the men involved left Lochie Bridge with mental scars which would never heal.

*

LONDON

Edward Montford called a Cabinet Meeting for 7.30. In the hours following General Moore's devastating call, he had worked his way through a whole sleeve of Oxys. Now he felt as if a vast blackness was closing over him. He could tell from the faces around the table the news hadn't leaked. Not that it mattered. Nothing much mattered. Not anymore.

I am afraid I have bad news. Our convoy was ambushed this afternoon. Operation Cumberland was completely wiped out. Destroyed. Annihilated......"

He realised he was mumbling. Like an old drunk in a doorway. Like a drooling old fool in a care home.

Enough.

It was all too much of an effort. The blackness was wrapping him up.

Swallowing him. Jonah and the whale.

Just a few more words. The very last words.

Of course I will resign. Of course...”

And there they were. The trees of Birnam Wood. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them. High up on the top of Dunsinane Hill.

Cheering. Cheering trees.

Cheering fucking trees.....

Ten minutes later the Downing Street doctor dragged the Prime Minister out from the warm nothingness of his overdose. An ambulance collected him from the back door.

*

FORT GEORGE

Sir, there's a call for you. The French President.”

Right. Fine. I'll take it in my office.... “

I watched the First Minister straighten himself and step back into his designated role.

Are you OK, Angus?” I asked.

Yes. I think so.”

He did the basics. He left the room. He strode into his office. He sat. He took a long breath and he picked up the phone.

Hello, Valerie."

I have heard the news. Marc has briefed me. A total victory. You should be very proud, I think.”

Not really. I feel..... Christ, I don't know …. polluted....”

The sound of a cigarette being lit brought a trace of a smile to his face.

War is ugly, Angus. In time you will understand there was no choice. You have led your country well.”

Thanks, Valerie. And on behalf of the people of Scotland, please allow me a moment to thank the people of France for being there for us. It will never be forgotten,"

Smoke inhaled and exhaled.

You know Angus, over the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about history. In the past France has made promises to Scotland and failed to keep them. It is good to have finally put it right. It was time, I think.”

They lapsed into silence. Eventually, Valerie broke it.

Shall I make the call, Angus?”

Yes. Please do.”

*

WASHINGTON DC

President James Buchanan had been in the middle of a photo call with the President of Peru when he was called away by a whispered message in his ear.

Minutes later he bounced into the kind of Situation Room the Generals in charge of the English and Scottish armies could only have dreamed of.
There were lots of furrowed brows.

What have you got for me, Bob?"

Things are still unclear. Satellite images appear to show a major confrontation. We can't be 100% sure, but it seems the Scottish have staged some kind of ambush.”

Any indications of what has happened?”

Well, yes sir, we have but we're going to need to check the images closely before we can give any kind of categoric scenario evaluation....”

For Christ's sakes, Bob. Who won?”

Sir. At this time we believe the Scottish army has prevailed.”

Prevailed?”

Yes, sir. You want my best guess? Looks like a turkey shoot."

Buchanan pulled off his tie and demanded coffee. He told an aide to convey his apologies to the President of Peru and promised to call him later. He was going nowhere.

Over the next hour, the story of the battle of Lochie Bridge slowly emerged.

Unbelievable.

Sir. You have a call. It is the President of France.”

OK. I'll take in the office.”

Good afternoon, James.”

And a very good afternoon to you too, Valerie. I hope you are well."

But of course. I presume you have heard the news from Scotland?”

Not really. We have been watching the pictures from our satellites. It looks like the English just got their butts kicked. Are we right?”

Yes, James, you are right. The Scottish have achieved a decisive victory. The English column has been entirely destroyed.”

Entirely destroyed?”

Yes, James.”

Jesus H Christ.”

Indeed.”

Well, many thanks for bringing fully up to speed Valerie.....”

Actually James, this is not the reason for my call."

OK?”

I have been having discussions with Angus Campbell. He has some ideas about how a peace agreement might be reached. He would like you to be the broker.”

Buchanan sat back and lifted his feet up onto the desk. This was getting interesting.

I'm listening.”

Well, there are the basics of course. All English soldiers will be given safe passage back across the border. All prisoners of war will be returned immediately. The injured will be returned home as soon as they are well enough to travel. All the bodies of the fallen will be returned.”

And are there many? Bodies?”

There are thousands.”

Christ. Go on Valerie.”

Angus Campbell is not willing to negotiate with Prime Minister Montford. But maybe he won't have to. My people think Montford will almost certainly resign. The First Minister's main concern is what is going happen in England. First the collapse in the value of the pound and now this defeat..... He thinks there might be total chaos. I agree with him.”

So do I.”

So. He is willing to make an offer. If the Bank of England decides to issue five hundred billion pounds’ worth of ten year Government bonds at 3%, the Governments of Scotland and Qatar will buy all of them.”

At 3%?”

At 3%.”

That's one hell of an offer.”

There is more. The Scottish government is willing to write off the cost of all unpaid electricity debt. Finally, France has agreed to cancel our contracts for 30 water tanker deliveries per month to enable the Scottish Government to meet the needs of England.”

A grin grew across Buchanan's face. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't half a trillion pounds the ball park profit those boys made when they sold the pound short all the way down to fifty cents?"

I do believe it was.”

The sly old bastard. OK. I'm sold. Something tells me you will probably want all of this to go down in the Palace of Versailles?”

A chuckle. “How very perceptive of you, James. Rather a good look for France, don't you think?”

*

Angus didn't really know what to feel when Valerie Latour called him with the news. He knew he really should be punching the air.

He didn't feel like it. Nothing could have lifted the flatness of his mood. I picked up the gist of the news from listening to his end of the call.

It's wonderful news, Angus.”

Yes. I suppose it is. It just doesn't feel that way. I'm going to take some time out, Sam. I'm going to drive down to Lochie Bridge. I need to see it. It would be wrong not to. And before you ask, the answer is no. I'm not letting you anywhere near the place and if you try anything I'll have you locked up. OK?"

OK.”

He ordered a vehicle and refused a driver. He drove south down the A9 and spent three hours in the midst of the horror.

*

VERSAILLES

By the time Airforce One touched down at Charles De Gaulle airport a week later, the Versailles Peace Agreement was already a done deal. The English Government had resigned from power three hours after the resignation of the Prime Minister. A Government of National Unity was announced with the Leader of the Opposition at the helm.

The new all-party Cabinet was in no mood to look James Buchanan's gift horse in the mouth. It took them less than twenty minutes to promise to sign on the dotted line.

England spent the next few days in a state of shock. First, there was the news of what had happened to the army at Lochie Bridge. Then there was the news of the generous peace offer from Edinburgh. The EFP tried to stir up public anger but the mobs they managed to put on the street seldom added up to more than fifty. After three days they gave up and disappeared into the footnotes of history.

The vast, vast majority of the people of England were simply relieved it was all over. By the end of the week, an English pound was capable of purchasing $0.92 and the threat of empty shelves in the supermarkets was beginning to fade.

Four days after the battle, an unexpected belt of low pressure formed up over the North Atlantic and treated the British Isles to three full days of old school summer rain. Many took the grey skies and gurgling gutters as a sign of better things to come.

Of course, there were prolonged celebrations all across Scotland and pubs were pretty well drunk dry. Every town saw huge crowds dancing and singing in the rain. However such celebrations were street level only. The newly restored Government in Edinburgh avoided all traces of triumphalism. A strict tone of business as usual was adopted and press demands for the 'warts and all story' of the battle of Lochie Bridge were batted away.

Wendel and I were both invited to the signing ceremony in one of the Palace of Versailles's many gilded halls. I went along. Wendel said it wasn't his thing.

It has to be said, Valerie Latour put on a hell of a show

First Minister Angus Campbell and Interim Prime Minister Jennifer Saxby signed on the dotted line and shook hands for the cameras whilst the Presidents of France and America looked on.

Nobody smiled.

*

LOCHIE BRIDGE

I finally visited Lochie Bridge ten months after the guns had fallen silent. I visited with Wendel and Omar and Davie and Alf and Faisal and Tariq and Moses.

We laid flowers for Nazir at the newly erected memorial to the fallen. We stood by the small stone bridge and looked up and down the shallow valley. Steady traffic rolled along the A9.

Apart from the memorial, there was no evidence of the battle which decided what people were by now calling 'The Last Colonial War'. There were cows in the fields and sheep on the sides of the valley. A crop of spring barley was starting to fill out. Finches flitted about in a blackthorn hedge. A couple of rabbits showed their faces and then hopped away.
We stayed there for nearly an hour and not a word was spoken. I had wondered if the valley would be haunted by thousands of angry ghosts. It wasn't. Well, none that I could sense.

Instead, everything seemed uncomfortably normal. A quiet spring day in the Highlands of Scotland.

The independent nation of Scotland.

I looked at the faces of the men who had fought for my country's continued independence.

A Scotsman. A Welshman. An Englishman. Three Afghans. One Ugandan.

All fully adopted Scots now. Even the Englishman. My Englishman.

Their eyes said all that needed saying about what had happened on that fateful afternoon ten months earlier.

The day they lost Nazir.

The day the Last Colonial War was settled.

We got into our people carrier and drove out of the valley and into the rest of our lives.

                                             THE END

TO READ ALL PREVIOUS CHAPTERS PLEASE FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW


I HAVE WRITTEN THIS STORY TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE FOODBANK I MANAGE IN DUMFRIES, SOUTH WEST SCOTLAND. OVER THE COMING WINTER OVER 3000 PEOPLE WILL COME THROUGH OUR DOORS AND RIGHT NOW WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH CASH TO HELP THEM ALL OUT. MAYBE YOU MIGHT BE WILLING TO HELP US OUT BY BUNGING A COUPLE OF QUID ONTO OUR JUSTGIVING PAGE? I HOPE SO. JUST FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW. I HOPE YOU ENJOY THE REST OF THE BOOK AND IF DO, PLEASE SHARE IT. MARK.




 

'THE LAST COLONIAL WAR.' - CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN


CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN


INTO THE VALLEY

The plan Northwood Command settled on to move their army from Edinburgh to Fort George was no kind of Blitzkrieg. Well, of course, it wasn't. A classic Blitzkrieg style advance would have involved the use of dive bombing planes and the three American, French and Russian aircraft carriers out in the North Sea meant such an option was well and truly off the table.

Instead, the English Generals deemed their advance would be measured and careful. They decided on the most obvious route: the A9. The road was wide enough for their convoy of over 700 trucks and armoured vehicles to travel four abreast. And this time the column would move as one.

The speed of the advance was governed by the screening force who headed up the column. This unit was a mix of 300 infantrymen and engineers who moved forward in a line two hundred yards wide: one hundred yards to the east of the A9, one hundred yards to the west of the A9. They checked the ground for IED's with scanners and sniffer dogs. Their speed of progress governed the speed of the 10,000 men and 700 vehicles behind them.

Six non-military drones buzzed overhead sending a view of the surrounding area to the command vehicle at the centre of the convoy.

Steady and secure.

3 mph.

On the first day, they set out at five o'clock in the morning and stopped for the night at ten in the evening.

51 miles.

On the second day, they set out at five o'clock in the morning and stopped for the night at ten in the evening.

52 miles.

103 miles in total.

49 miles to Fort George. They would arrive the next evening and start to establish their positions.

The bombardment would commence at dawn the next day.

Steady and secure. Measured.

*

As the forces of Operation Cumberland settled in for their first night on the A9, Marc Romaine and the 813 Legionnaires of 2 REP drove for 30 miles and then marched the final ten miles to a heavily wooded ridge which gave a view down a shallow valley. Their weaponry and ammunition had been stashed over the course of two nights a week earlier. Under the cover of darkness, they dug themselves in. By the breaking of dawn, they had a created semi-circle of firing positions. They hid under camouflage nets and branches through the heat of the day and as soon as darkness fell they started to dig again.

By dawn their trenches and fire positions were complete. Marc Romaine had prepared his kill zone with meticulous care and now as the growing light unpacked a view of the valley ahead of them, he was more than content.

The task 2 REP had been given couldn't have been more up their street. They were to engage and hold for a minimum of forty five minutes. They were 813 and the advancing army was over 10,000.

It was perfect.

A voice from Paris in his ear piece.

They are moving, sir.”

ETA?”

1500 hours, sir.”

Bon.”

The remainder of the Scottish force had also moved through the night in their rag tag collection of vehicles. The Black Watch hid in woodland ten miles to the south of the valley. The Scots Guards were ten miles to the east and a mix of Argyles and Borderers were ten miles to the west.

Wendel and his team had dug themselves a hide in a nest of hawthorn bushes on the low hill which ran up the western side of the valley. Their position gave them a fine uninterrupted view from the point where the A9 entered the valley all the way to the ridgeline where 2REP were waiting.

Four miles.

Half way along the valley there was a small crossroads with a clutch of houses which had been quietly evacuated through the night. A country road wound down over the hills in the west, crossed the A9, and then climbed up over the hills on the east.

The valley bottom was blanketed with mist in the light of the dawn, but by seven thirty it was all brushed away. Yet again the skies above were wall to wall blue.

As he gazed down into the tranquillity below, Wendel felt an overwhelming sadness. Many of the men in the approaching column were his friends and comrades. In a few hours, this postcard pretty place would provide the last pictures their eyes would ever see. The last memories they would ever file away. It was such an inconsequential place. A river which wasn't much more than a stream. Small fields wrapped in drystone walls. Patches of woodland. Splashes of colour in the gardens of the white houses. Buzzards gliding the thermals. Flies and bees. Dotted sheep on slopes.

And a long ribbon of grey tarmac.

The A9.

Closed and empty of traffic. A ghost road in a ghost valley soon to be filled with thousands of ghosts.

This was the place where it all would be decided. One way or another.

Old school.

A thought came to him. The hamlet below him. What the hell was the place called? He checked his map.

Lochie Bridge.

So. Another name to add to the list.

Bannockburn, Dunbar. Flodden. Culloden.

And now Lochie Bridge.

Would it be the last battle of the last war? Maybe. But for hundreds of years men had promised the latest war would be the last war. It didn't tend to work out that way. The only war to end all wars would be the one decided with nuclear weapons.

For Christ's sake, Wendel. Enough already. He forced his mind away from the hours to come.

Come on lads. Let's give the hardware one last going over.”

They passed the countdown hours stripping and cleaning their weapons and talking about anything except the 10,000 men and 700 vehicles which were rolling slowly toward them.

At 3 miles per hour.

*

Three minutes past three on a baking hot afternoon in the Highlands.

The line of screening troops came into view. Then the first of the vehicles started to take shape in the shimmering heat.

The forces of Operation Cumberland had arrived.

It took the screen line forty minutes to reach the crossroads where a stone bridge carried the B9153 over the small river. By now the whole of the convoy could be seen. Vehicles in rows of four separated by a space of 20 yards. Nearly 200 rows of four filling the air with a low growl of engines.

When the lead troops were 150 hundred yards from the wooded ridgeline at the northern end of the valley, Marc's voice spoke into Wendel's ear piece.

Activate Le Frelon, please.”

When General Marc Romain had made his second low level trip across the North Sea he had brought along two large bags.
Packed securely inside were two of the French Army's better kept secrets. 'Le Frelon' in French translated into 'The Hornet' in English. It came in the form of the kind of steel case you could easily imagine a professional photographer carrying.

Omar was the designated operator. He laid the case on the ground outside the bush and withdrew back into cover. The firing mechanism didn't look so very different from a TV remote. He tapped a button and the lid of the case swung open. A shimmer of small objects leaped out from the case with a mechanical buzzing sound. Two thousand 'micro drones' took to the sky like a swarm of hornets and started to sniff out the English drones.

It didn't take them very long. In a matter of seconds, the quiet of the valley was disturbed by a sound like a firework display as the tiny explosive loads carried by the micro drones took down their targets.
*

What the bloody hell is that?” From his place inside the Operation Cumberland command vehicle, the firework noise was little more than a vague popping sound in the ears of General Sidney Duncan.

Sir. We've lost the drone cameras, sir?”

Repeat that please.”

There's nothing sir. The drones have gone dark....”

*

Commence firing.” Marc Romaine's voice was completely flat.
The fire plan had been hammered home. Any Legionnaire who broke the fire plan knew they would face a world of pain for a very long time.

Unsurprisingly, nobody broke the fire plan.

Only thirty Legionnaires opened fire. They used short bursts to drop carefully chosen targets from the approaching screen line. In five seconds, forty advancing troops lay dead or wounded. The remainder of the force hit the ground and started to return fire.

The battle of Lochie Bridge was underway.

*

This is Donnelly. We have contact. Repeat we have contact. Incoming fire from the woods on the ridge line to the north."

Estimated strength?”

Between 30 and 50. Accurate fire. We have multiple casualties."

Hold your position. Wait out.”

Duncan took a moment of calm time to control a surge of adrenalin.

Done

Number One Force, advance and secure the position please.”

'Number One Force' was at the head of the advancing column. It was made up of a mixture of the SAS, the Parachute Regiment, and the Royal Marines. It would be the job of 'One Force' to engage and destroy any enemy ambush.

Men jumped down from vehicles and surged forward to pre-determined positions. The Paras formed up on the left flank whilst the Royal Marines went right. The SAS filled the centre.

It took four minutes for 'One Force' to deploy.

They stayed low to the ground and hid behind what cover they could find. The firing from the tree line continued.

The Colonel in charge listened to their confirmations in his ear piece.

Right flank ready.”

Left flank ready.”

Centre ready.”

OK. Light them up and engage.”

Thirty rocket propelled grenades slammed into the treeline and the ranks of One Force moved forward.

*

Marc stood up from his trench amidst the sound and smoke of the incoming RPG rounds. Somewhere to his left a legionnaire was screaming.

Someone was shouting “Medic!!!!”

Fire at will.”

The effect of the full fire power of 2 REP was devastating. The advancing troops of 'One Force' were cut down like harvested wheat. A mix of bullets and RPG rounds turned the air to white hot metal.
*

Revised force estimate! There are hundreds of the bastards....”

Duncan put some snap into his voice.

How many? Be accurate Donelly.”

Christ.. fuck.. maybe 500? Maybe 1000? We have no way forward, sir. We're going to need artillery support...”

Wait out.”

Time for another calm time pause. OK. Good enough.

Colonel Jones.”

Sir”

Deploy ten guns, please. Your target is the wooded area on the ridge line at the northern end of the valley."

Of course sir.”

How long to deploy?”

Ten minutes sir.”

Do it please.”

Roger that.”

Donnelly.”

Sir.”

Continue to engage, please. Expect artillery support in ten minutes."

Sir.”

*

Fireplan two.”

Within seconds of Marc's order, the volume of 2 REP fire dropped by 80%. The new requirement was to preserve ammunition and keep the surviving elements of 'One Force' pinned down.

Evacuate the wounded.”

All along the semi-circle of dug in Legionnaires, teams of stretcher bearers collected up the wounded and carried them over the ridge line to waiting medics.

Check in please, snipers.”

Ten snipers who were hidden on the slopes of both sides of the valley checked in with their commander.

Are they unloading their artillery?"

They are, sir.”

Engage them.”

*

In the centre of the English column, frantic teams of men were starting the process of unhooking ten guns from their tow vehicles.

When one man dropped to the tarmac nobody noticed.

When three more men fell they were absolutely noticed and the off load teams dived for whatever cover they could find.

We have incoming sniper fire, sir. Both sides of the valley. I have four men down here.”

Can you get the guns off?”

Negative, sir.”

Calm time. Calm time. Calm time.......

Sir, I have Northwood for you.”

Thank you Wallace..... this is Duncan....”

Report please General Duncan.”

Ambush sir. A dug in force at on the ridge line at the north of the valley. We estimate between 500 and 1000. Automatic weapons and RPG. Very accurate. We have multiple casualties. We are trying to off load artillery, but we have sniper fire...”

Wait out please Duncan...... “

Calm time. Calm time. Calm time.....

..... Duncan?”

Sir.”

The satellite shows multiple vehicles approaching your position. South, West and East."

What kind of vehicles?”

Cars, vans, people carriers....”

How many....”

Our best estimate is three groups of over a hundred. They're coming north up the A9 and from both east and west on the B9153....”

*

Wendel absorbed the reports from the approaching forces.

East Force, ETA ten minutes.”

West Force. ETA eight minutes.”

South Force. ETA six minutes.”

Close enough.

On you Omar. Take the command vehicle.”

The second classified piece of French Army kit Marc Romaine had carried over the North Sea was 'Le Couverture Furtif'. The stealth blanket. It was an unremarkable looking piece of grey material not as large as a blanket but much larger than a handkerchief. It was more than large enough to wrap an improvised explosive device. And once wrapped, the IED inside became entirely invisible to any electronic detector or well-trained sniffer dog. Marc had brought ten stealth blankets and over the previous two nights, Omar had used them all as he had buried a line of devices along the verge of the A9.

Now he nodded to Wendel and activated device number five. The growling sound of the explosion rolled up the valley side a couple of seconds after the sight of the command vehicle and many of the vehicles around it being reduced to scrap yard metal.
*

. come in please Operation Cumberland..... Operation Cumberland..... General Duncan...... Sorry sir, they are not responding.....”

But General Moore already knew General Duncan would never respond to anything ever again. The satellite pictures showed a huge explosion in the centre of the convoy.

Holy mother of Christ......”

*

South Force at jump off.”

OK. On our lead.... Omar.....”

Devices one and two threw a murderous hail of shrapnel through the southern third of the convoy. Disorientated men poured down from burning vehicles to be confronted by the sight of over a hundred cars and vans and people carriers heading toward them at high speed.

A few English soldiers managed to get off a few shots, but the vast majority were in a state of utter shock. Those who fired were soon dropped by the snipers on the slopes above them.

The men of the Black Watch leaped from their vehicles and 
advanced on the burning wreckage behind a storm of gunfire.

West Force at Jump Off.....”

East Force at Jump off.....”

Omar......”

The remaining seven hidden bombs broke the spine of the column. Over three thousand men poured bullets into the mayhem.

After three murderous minutes, the battle of Lochie Bridge was over. Operation Cumberland ended in catastrophe. The English Army lost 3245 of its men killed and a further 4798 injured. Every vehicle was destroyed. The only senior officer left alive was a Colonel of the Coldstream Guards who surrendered to Colonel 'JJ' Jackson of the Black Watch.

The Scottish Army lost fourteen men dead and eighty six wounded. 2 REP suffered 22 fatalities and 79 injuries, though these were never acknowledged. Marc Romaine took his men away as soon as the guns fell silent and over the next four days, they retraced their route back to Roscoff. Over the following months a few of the 'One Force' survivors swore blind they had heard shouts in French coming from the tree line on the northern ridge. Nobody took a blind bit of notice. Their claims were written off as some kind of post combat delusion.

The French Government never acknowledged the presence of the Legionnaires of 2 REP at the battle of Lochie Bridge.

The victorious Scottish soldiers were in no mood for celebration. The so called battle had been nothing more than a well-executed turkey shoot. There was no glory to be found in the screams of hundreds of wounded men. Victory meant giving emergency first aid and sealing corpses into body bags. The sights and smells and sounds of the valley would haunt the dreams of hundreds of the winners for many years to come.

Wendel and his team were in no mood for celebration either. A freak bullet had hit Nazir in the right eye and killed him instantly.

They carried his body to their hidden vehicles and returned to Glasgow. Their role in the battle was never officially acknowledged either.
*

A terrible silence fell on the Northwood Situation Room. All they had were satellite pictures. Within minutes of losing all communications with Operation Cumberland, the full extent of the rout was clear for all to see.

Prime Minister.”

Yes.”

I'm afraid I have bad news. The column has been destroyed.”

Destroyed?”

Yes sir. Destroyed. We walked straight onto a sucker punch. You will have my resignation within the hour."

A sucker punch?”

Edward Montford ended the call and stared into space.

A sucker punch. The trees of Birnam Wood had climbed all the way to the top of Dunsinane hill.

TO READ ALL PREVIOUS CHAPTERS PLEASE FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW


I HAVE WRITTEN THIS STORY TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE FOODBANK I MANAGE IN DUMFRIES, SOUTH WEST SCOTLAND. OVER THE COMING WINTER OVER 3000 PEOPLE WILL COME THROUGH OUR DOORS AND RIGHT NOW WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH CASH TO HELP THEM ALL OUT. MAYBE YOU MIGHT BE WILLING TO HELP US OUT BY BUNGING A COUPLE OF QUID ONTO OUR JUSTGIVING PAGE? I HOPE SO. JUST FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW. I HOPE YOU ENJOY THE REST OF THE BOOK AND IF DO, PLEASE SHARE IT. MARK.