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Derek Pennington


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This book is dedicated to my beautiful daughter Kathy, the best daughter in the world, 


my lovely wife Natalia, the best wife in the world 


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The Second World War never happened!

The allied army trapped at Dunkirk in Northern France was resoundingly defeated by the German forces in May 1940 after its planned evacuation proved to be a costly failure.The German Army continued its sweep into France and by mid-June Paris was occupied and an armistice agreed by the French.

A vast swathe of Europe was now under German rule. In the west, only Britain stood alone against a triumphant Germany. A Britain that had lost the bulk of its army and equipment at Dunkirk. Invasion is inevitable.

A worried British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said, “It is my considered opinion that it is highly unlikely Britain could resist a German invasion as things stand right now.”

But an event of world shattering importance impacted on everybody’s perception of the situation in Europe, and indeed, the world.

An alternative history of World War II with a twist. What if the Germans turned out to be the good guys? This is a gripping story that cleverly entwines the fortunes of nations with those of a family brought together in war and striving to make good in a strange peace.

Deborah Mellor, OBE. 


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Alongside a rubble-strewn road, littered with many bombed out vehicles and innumerable discarded weapons, in the war-ruined town of Dunkirk on the northern French coast, the group of senior German officers standing on a mound of sand and soil, embedded with pieces of shell blasted concrete, looked on in awe.

A seemingly endless line of Allied prisoners of war wound its way past them, marching into captivity. Some four hundred thousand British, French and Belgian soldiers. Exhausted and dejected.

At the head of the British troops strode their commander, General Lord Gort, a winner in the Great War of the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry. The previous day he had deliberately disobeyed orders from his superiors in England recalling him back to England before the actual surrender of the allied troops. The General was adamant that he would not desert his men. As Gort drew level with the German officers, to a man they came to attention and saluted their brave opponent.

One of the officers, General Erwin Rommel, turned his head to the young colonel next to him. “Remember this day well, von Altendorf. We will never see anything like this again. This will be written about in all future history books. And it is we who made it happen.” He turned his attention back to the British troops.

Klaus von Altendorf was a recently promoted colonel in Rommel’s panzer corps. He felt impossibly proud and exhilarated to be here today. The might of the British, French, Belgian and Dutch armies had been humbled in the incredibly short space of time of less than three weeks. The world had never seen such a devastatingly successful military campaign.

But von Altendorf was troubled. He found it hard to understand why they were fighting the British. ‘They are not our natural enemies,’  he said to himself. He fervently hoped this mess could be sorted out quickly. He did not believe any sane person in the German army wanted to fight a long war against Great Britain. ‘It will not be easy to conquer their island,’  he thought. ‘They are a proud nation with the greatest empire the world has ever seen. And a long history of winning wars.’ 

Unbeknown to him, Rommel was having similar dark thoughts. But Rommel, along with certain of the other generals present that day, harboured a terrible secret. A secret that would profoundly affect the course of the war — and Germany’s future — once it became known!

Adolf Hitler had effectively been dictator of Germany for the past seven years. In that time he had brought unity, stability, prosperity and pride to his people. He had also, in the end, brought war.

The sheer scale of his territorial ambitions was frightening. And through a combination of audacity and good planning, combined with a measure of luck and weak foreign political opposition, his armed forces had made him the master of Western Europe.

Hitler’s acquisitiveness had begun a little over two years earlier, in March 1938, when, with the connivance of one of Austria’s prominent politicians, the traitorous Arthur Seyss-Urquart, Germany had annexed that country. Austria had been reduced to the status of a province of Germany. This action had, however, generally met with the approval of a majority of the Austrian population. For this reason the German swallowing of Austria provoked only tepid political reaction from the weak or timid governments of the rest of Europe.

Five months later, in October 1938, the same thing happened to the Sudetenland , those portions of Czechoslovakia which had historic German speaking majorities and shared a common border with Germany. Hitler soon found an excuse to annex them. A few months later, what was left of Czechoslovakia was also occupied by German troops. There was no Czechoslovakian resistance.

These were peaceful acquisitions.

War had started in September 1939 with Germany’s unprovoked attack on Poland. As a result of this, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Those two countries were, however, in no position to provide any assistance whatsoever to the Poles. Britain’s army had been neglected for many years before this, as most of the country’s politicians chose to ignore the signs of impending war. France also suffered from weak and divided political leadership. In the 1930s the average duration of a French government was only nine months. The politicians of both of these countries let their people down.

After only four weeks of fighting against vastly superior forces, the brave Poles had no option but to surrender. They had taken a further blow when the Soviet Union attacked and occupied the Eastern part of their country, with the connivance of Hitler.

Britain and France now prepared for war. The British despatched an army, the British Expeditionary Force, to France under the command of one of their most able generals, Lord Gort. The French also acted, and mobilised their troops.

For the next seven months or so, nothing of great significance happened! This was a period that came to be called ‘the phoney war’.

On 9 April 1940 things changed dramatically. Germany attacked Denmark and Norway.

Denmark capitulated after only one day.

In Norway, all important points of control, as well as the capital, Oslo, were in German hands by the end of the first day. The British, stunned and surprised by these lightning moves, attempted to intervene and landed units of their own forces at several locations in Norway. They met with no real lasting success. They were still fighting there at the end of May, but it was expected that it was only a matter of a days before they withdrew whatever forces they had left in that country.

A triumphant and confident Germany kept up the momentum. On 10 May they attacked Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France by way of the Ardennes forest.

Little Luxembourg fell within a few hours. Holland surrendered after five days, but only after a German threat to level the city of Rotterdam by bombing. Belgium put up more of a fight but on 28 May they also admitted defeat and asked for an armistice.

The astonishing rapidity — some thought bordering on recklessness — of the advance of the German panzers through Belgium and into France, had caught the Allies completely by surprise. Their major force, including the BEF, was surrounded and trapped in a narrow pocket of land at the small northern French port of Dunkirk. It quickly became obvious that these British, French and Belgian troops were in an untenable situation.

In England, the newly appointed Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, told a grave and silent House of Commons, “We are facing a colossal military disaster. The whole root, core and brain of the British Army is in danger of being lost.”

Churchill was sixty five years old. He had been born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough. After an early and distinguished career in the army in many different parts of the world, he had followed in his father’s footsteps and entered politics. That was in 1900. He had been appointed Prime Minister on 10 May, only days before the retreat to Dunkirk.

For years he had been the most outspoken and relentless critic of Adolf Hitler and continually warned of the dangers posed by the rise of Nazi Germany. He had watched his predecessor’s policy of appeasement in dismay. ‘Now the chickens are coming home to roost,’  he thought. But the knowledge that he had been right all along, gave him no satisfaction whatsoever.

The British Government and the army Chief of Staff jointly decided that there was no realistic alternative other than to bring the army home from Dunkirk. Otherwise it faced annihilation. A hastily improvised evacuation plan was drawn up under the code name ‘Operation Dynamo’ . This was to be handled by the Royal Navy under the direction of Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsey. His orders were simple. He was to embark ‘as many as possible, as quickly as possible’.

Commencement date was to be 26 May.

Around Dunkirk and on its beaches the allied soldiers dug in and put up fierce resistance as the German forces relentlessly pushed them back. The German pressure was enormous and unending. The British had only rifles and a few machine guns with which to face enemy mortars, artillery, armour and air power. Fighting was often at close quarters and there were many unbelievable acts of bravery on both sides.

In one case, Captain Marcus Ervine-Edwards of the East Lancashire Regiment was holding a line of defence in the face of vastly superior enemy forces. When part of his position was threatened, he and a few volunteers went forward and climbed onto the top of a straw roofed barn. They were armed only with rifles and one light machine gun. Ervine-Edwards personally accounted for seventeen of the enemy with his rifle and quite a few more with the machine gun. Only when the barn was on fire and they were out of ammunition did he lead his men back into the lines and take up their position again.

Captain Ervine-Edwards was awarded the VC for this action.

Treatment for the many wounded among the besieged quickly became a very serious burden. It was far less of a problem for the besiegers who could simply send their own wounded to the rear for treatment and hospitalisation.

The evacuation also had its problems.

It was proving difficult to take men off the beaches. It was a slow process and it soon became obvious that it was not going to work due to the huge number of troops involved. After two days fewer than twenty thousand of the more than four hundred thousand troops had been lifted off.

The boats and ships of the evacuation fleet were continuously strafed and bombed in dogged and ferocious attacks by Luftwaffe  aircraft, despite the best efforts of the Royal Air Force to defend them. There were daring and near suicidal attacks by German E-boats and U-boats. Enemy mines were also taking their toll. Losses were rising.

The men stranded on the open beaches were machine gunned and bombed throughout the day by enemy aircraft, and bombarded by artillery non-stop, including during the night. Casualties were horrific.

On 28 May it all came to a head.

The Navy lost more ship that morning, including two destroyers in the space of an hour. Ship losses over the last few days now totalled thirty five merchantmen and nine destroyers.

The RAF was also taking unacceptable losses. Neither did they have an unlimited supply of fighter aircraft and pilots. Repeated pleas from Winston Churchill for more aircraft over Dunkirk and France, fell on deaf ears. The commander of RAF Fighter Command, Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding, defied his Prime Minister and reluctantly gave the order to curtail aircraft patrols outside of the home country. He had made the hard and bitter decision that the number of fighters and fighter pilots the RAF still had operational, would be barely sufficient to defend Britain once the shambles of Dunkirk was over.

Churchill was most displeased.

The soldiers on the beaches, desperately waiting for deliverance, continued to be subjected to a non-stop bombardment from which they had no defence or protection. They were being slaughtered. The cost in lives of holding out at Dunkirk had become unacceptably high.

Finally, about midday, the Germans broke through the defence perimeter in two places.

Lord Gort had watched the situation rapidly deteriorate. After consulting with his own, and the French senior officers, as well as the senior naval officer present, he radioed his headquarters in Britain and advised that the cost in men and ships did not warrant continuing the evacuation operation. He requested instructions.

Two hours later new orders were received. He was authorised to arrange the immediate surrender of all troops under his command. Lord Gort himself, and all other senior officers were to be brought back to England immediately, and all British ships were to leave the area.

When told of this, Lord Gort wasted no time in getting his officers together and issued instructions for surrender. He also thanked the navy for their offer of a ‘ride home,’  but he was staying where he was. In Dunkirk with his men!

The British fleet of ships headed home. White flags were hoisted on land. The guns fell silent. The Battle for Dunkirk was over.

At a meeting of his War Cabinet in London that evening Churchill was morose. He told them, “We and our allies were completely unprepared for the rapid mobile operations of the Germans. This is the biggest military disaster Great Britain has suffered since the loss of the American colonies, over one hundred and fifty years ago.”

He shook his head as if in disbelief. “We have been outfought at every turn. The BEF have had to abandon at Dunkirk, 2500 guns, 69 000 vehicles, and over 600 000 tons of ammunition, stores and fuel”. He paused. “I have to tell you gentlemen, it is my considered opinion that it is highly unlikely Britain could resist a German invasion as things stand right now.”

He sighed, poured himself a small whisky, and gathered his thoughts. He straightened in his seat, “Now. To business….”

The following day, 29 May, as Lord Gort marched at the head of his men into captivity, he observed a group of German officers, which included at least six generals, snap to attention and salute as he marched past. He noted curiously that none of them used the Nazi salute. Courteous as always, he returned their salute. And carried on marching.


Early on the morning of 2 June, after allowing his exhausted men a much needed four day rest and recuperation, except for the poor engineering and supply support troops, who had to work like demons, the Commander in Chief of the German forces, General Walther von Brauchitsch, launched his forces deep into France in the second phase of the operation to subdue their traditional enemy.

Following the allied defeat at Dunkirk, the French were now completely demoralised and in disarray. They were also suffering from poor leadership, both military and political.

With their now familiar combination of air superiority, amour mobility, and sheer aggression, the German forces quickly overwhelmed what was left of the French forces. They entered Paris unopposed on 11 June. A stunning victory for German arms!

The same day, Germany’s supposed ally, Italy, now that their dictator, Benito Mussolini, was sure the war was being resolved in Germany’s favour, also declared war on Britain and France. The Italian forces attacked across the common border with France but were initially repulsed. Eventually the Italians managed to occupy a small area of French territory at a cost to them of four thousand casualties. The French suffered only two hundred killed.

Mussolini was pleased with this meagre result. He had earlier declared that, ‘I need a few thousand dead Italian soldiers to give me a seat at the peace conference as a man who has fought.’ A sad example of politician’s callous disregard for the lives of their own soldiers.

A week earlier, in a desperate attempt to keep the French fighting, Winston Churchill had flown to France for a meeting of the Anglo-French War Council, which was still pretending to function. Here he made the bizarre suggestion of a Franco-British Union. One unified nation to carry on the war against Germany.

The idea was ridiculed by the French. Marshall Philippe Petain believed the war was already lost and commented that a union with Britain would be akin to “marriage with a corpse.” The commander of the French forces, General Weygand, pronounced his belief that, “following the fall of France, Britain will soon have its neck wrung like a chicken by the Germans.”

The comments of these two ‘leaders’ was indicative, with some few exceptions, of what was happening among the French leadership. Organised French resistance and spirit had collapsed.

On 14 June German army commanders met with French officials to present the terms of an armistice that Germany was prepared to offer France.

Yet another newly formed French government, this one under the elderly Marshall Petain, had no real options left to them. With a bitter taste in their mouths, they accepted the offered proposals. The armistice was scheduled to be signed on 16 June.

The battle for France was over.


Prime Minister Churchill had received word on 11 June, that Paris had fallen. He was in a black mood. He knew that the French Government, wherever it was, would sue for peace. In his mind the battle for France was over. He must now start thinking of a future Battle for Britain. A battle his armies were ill prepared for, since losing the bulk of their troops and equipment at Dunkirk.

To make matters worse, there was more bad news. He had also just been informed of Italy’s declaration of war on Britain and France. An action he considered cowardly in the extreme.

Neither of these two events had been unexpected, and he was preparing a speech that he would deliver to the House of Commons that evening. He wasn’t looking forward to it, even though he thought the speech one of the best he had ever written. It was meant to be a morale booster. It would include such quotes as, ‘We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the hills, we will fight them on the landing grounds’ …. It would end with, ‘We shall never surrender.’

In his own office, Lord Halifax, the British Foreign Secretary, was deep in thought. So much had happened this very day that he was somewhat bemused.

Halifax was fifty nine years old. A member of the British aristocracy whose family traced their roots back nearly nine hundred years.

Prior to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia he had been one of the architects of the policy of appeasement, anxious to avoid war at any cost. Now, in view of German aggression over the past two years, he had been forced to moderate his previous, somewhat pacifist, views. He had been Foreign Secretary since early 1938.

In earlier years he had clashed with Churchill on various issues at different times. He was frequently exasperated by Churchill’s style of doing business. In recent days these two had again become embroiled in many heated discussions as France teetered towards defeat.

Halifax had been pushing the idea of trying to make an honourable peace with Germany by approaching Italy and using the Italian’s close relationship with Germany to see if any acceptable terms could be negotiated. Churchill overruled him after several stormy meetings of the war cabinet. Both of them had fought to bring the war cabinet to their own particular point of view. Fortunately for Britain, Churchill prevailed and it was he who had held a wavering cabinet together. He was implacably opposed to negotiating with Herr Hitler.

Halifax acquiesced. He would live to fight another day! 

Now, Halifax, with a hint of a smile on his face, said to himself “Things have changed somewhat.”

He had received the news of the fall of France with resignation. It had been expected, even if it was unsettling. Italy’s declaration of war had angered him. Like everybody else, he considered it a cowardly act committed only when Mussolini was certain France was already beaten, and after Britain had suffered a major defeat. America’s President Roosevelt said of it, “The hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of his neighbour.”

After receiving this news, Halifax was bracing himself for yet another fight with Churchill over the need to find a way to peace.

Then out of the blue something totally unexpected had happened!

Almost simultaneously, ‘It must have been pre-arranged,’  he acknowledged to himself, three diplomatic notes were delivered to him. One each from the United States, the Swiss, and the Portuguese Ambassadors.

They each said much the same thing. The new German Foreign Minister — Baron Werner von Altendorf — on behalf of his country, urgently requested a meeting with the British Foreign Secretary to discuss a resolution of the current situation between their two countries. Included with the notes was an interesting document. Halifax read it with astonishment.

Nobody was aware that there was a new  German Foreign minister. ‘What the hell happened to the old foreign minister, von Ribbentrop,’  he asked himself. He knew Baron von Altendorf slightly from some years ago, and as far as he could recall he was a gentleman of the old school and not particularly pro-Nazi.

“Curious,” he said out loud. “Never did like von Ribbentrop anyway. Bloody jumped up champagne salesman.” He was referring to the German’s involvement in the wine trade in earlier years.

Each of the neutral ambassadors had also added ‘their strongest recommendation’ that Britain agrees to the German request. Provisional arrangements had already been made in secret by the Portuguese Government for a venue. Portugal was neutral in the conflict that had engulfed most of Western Europe.

Halifax had barely finished reading the notes and the enclosed document when his telephone rang. His personal secretary said the United States Ambassador was on the line.

“Highly unusual,” muttered Halifax, as he accepted the call.

The US Ambassador since 1937 was Joseph Kennedy. An arrogant man with whom many sections of the British Establishment did not have good relations. It was believed he was not particularly pro-British and he had argued against the United States giving military and economic aid to Britain. Secretly he would not have been unhappy to see Britain humbled Germany.

Yet the same man greatly enjoyed, as Ambassador, his lofty position in London high society, which was in stark contrast to his relatively ‘outsider’ position in his home town of Boston in the USA.

Before the war this same man had constantly rejected the warnings of Winston Churchill, that any compromise with Nazi Germany was impossible. Kennedy had been a firm supporter of the policy of appeasement.

Halifax had no great liking for this high ranking diplomat. Nevertheless he greeted him with a show of warmth. “Good afternoon, Mr Ambassador, this is an unexpected pleasure.”

After the usual courtesies and platitudes, Kennedy got down to business. It was a simple message he conveyed. His instructions came from the top, the President of the United States.

Mr Roosevelt wished to urge upon the British Government that they treat the German peace feelers with all seriousness. The position of the American Government was that the Germans were sincere, they would not try to impose any outrageous conditions, and it would be unutterably foolish for the British not to pursue this. Halifax detected a hint that future American aid to Britain could be conditional on Britain at least being prepared to negotiate.

He agreed that he would indeed present this interesting development to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet immediately. After all, it suited his own philosophy perfectly. 

They ended their conversation.

Now Halifax was planning his strategy. This would shake Winston!  A meeting of the war cabinet was scheduled to be held in one hour. Halifax started to scribble furiously. He had barely started writing when his phone rang again. Irritated, he picked it up to tell his assistant he wanted no interruptions but immediately changed his mind when told is was the Head of MI6, Britain’s military intelligence unit, which was accountable to the Foreign secretary.

He put the phone down five minutes later. Another revelation! What a day this had been.

He carried on working.

The meeting of the War Cabinet started fifteen minutes late.

Churchill opened as usual with “Right, Gentlemen.” Before he could say another word, Halifax, ignoring the usual conventions, made a statement.

“Prime Minister, I beg your indulgence. An extremely important and urgent matter was brought before me only an hour or two ago. It is my opinion that it is of such vital importance that it should take precedence over all other matters.”

Churchill looked at him, somewhat taken aback, but reluctantly thought he had better let him have his way. “Go ahead Lord Halifax,” he said, ponderously.

Halifax had everybody’s attention.

“Less than two hours ago I received three diplomatic notes. One each from the United States, Swiss and Portuguese Ambassadors.” Now he had their interest! 

“The notes all relay a request from the new German Foreign Affairs Minister, Baron von Altendorf, for an urgent meeting to resolve our current difficulties. In other words — peace talks.”

Even Churchill seemed at a loss for words.

Halifax carried on. “The meeting is requested for three days from now. The Portuguese Government has arranged a secret venue near Lisbon and guarantees the safety of all attendees.

As a sign of good faith, if we signal our agreement to attend such a meeting, the German Navy will immediately suspend all offensive submarine operations, and the Luftwaffe  will halt all air activity over Britain, for the period before the talks, and for an indefinite period after conclusion of the talks, if, in the opinion of the German Foreign Minister, serious progress has been made towards a successful conclusion.

The ambassdors in each case also added their own strongest recommendation that we treat this matter seriously.”

Churchill opened his mouth to say something but Halifax forestalled him.

“There’s more.”

The Prime Minister closed his mouth.

“Ten minutes after reading these notes I had a telephone call from Ambassador Kennedy. He intimated his instructions came directly from the President. Basically he said that the United States believes the German peace offer is a genuine one, and that it would be in our best interests to respond positively and at least assess what is on offer. I also detected a hint that if we don’t do this, the United States would have a rethink on the matter of aid to Britain. In other words they are pushing us to talk with the Germans.”

He continued. “Included with the ambassador’s diplomatic notes was a draft copy of the Armistice agreement that is to be presented to France by Germany in the next day or so. We can come back to that in a few minutes, but it looks to me like the Germans could impose much harsher terms than those they are actually proposing.

Finally, to cap these extraordinary developments, I had a call from the Chief of MI6 an hour ago. It has in the past been a subject of discussion here, around this table, that the Chief of the Abwehr,  German Military Intelligence, Admiral Canaris, is considered to be secretly anti-Nazi. Somehow Canaris, through his agents, and God knows who else, has

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managed to pass a message to MI6, saying this peace offer is genuine.”

Halifax leaned back in his chair and surveyed the consternation around him with great satisfaction, although he maintained a neutral look on his face. This was one of those special moments he would never forget for the rest of his life.

His colleagues looked at each other for a few moments, absorbing what they had just heard. The first question came. “What are the salient details of the French armistice agreement?”

Halifax consulted his notes. “In a nutshell, Germany will occupy the northern half of France. The new French government — apparently led by Marshall Petain — will be based in a town called Vichy in southern France, and will rule the southern half of the country as an independent but neutral state. They keep their colonial empire.

France must pay for the German occupation costs of Northern France, but the Germans undertake to reduce their forces to a maximum of a quarter of a million men within six months, with the aim of further reductions as and when appropriate.

Nominal French armed forces will be permitted in the South. The French navy must be disarmed but does not need to be surrendered. The air force is to be reduced to fifteen percent of the size it was on 1 May this year.

All current French prisoners of war will remain as such until cessation of hostilities with Britain. French soldiers currently still on active duty in France shall be demobilised immediately, except those to be retained in the new, reduced, armed forces.

The Maginot Line of defensive works along the Franco German border is to be demolished under German supervision.

This Armistice treaty will last until a final peace treaty can be negotiated at the earliest opportunity.

Halifax paused for a moment, then finished. “As I previously mentioned, the terms imposed on an utterly defeated nation could have been much, much worse.”

Everybody seemed to be in deep thought. Halifax was sure that his news was being carefully evaluated by all around the table.

Churchill now spoke for the first time. “Hmmm, interesting”. A slight pause, then “What is this about a new German Foreign Minister? Do we know anything about him? And what the hell has happened to that rogue von Ribbentrop?”

“We picked up a broadcast on German Radio about an hour ago that the former Minister for Foreign Affairs has resigned from office. No reasons were given.

The new Minister, Baron von Altendorf, is from a distinguished German family. He was in the Imperial Navy in the First World War and fought at Jutland. Since then his career has been in the German civil service, more particularly their foreign affairs department for 10 years before retiring last year. He is believed to be anti-Nazi. Now it seems like he has been brought out of retirement.” Halifax realised a lot depended on Churchill being prepared to trust the man.

The Prime Minister was slouched in his chair, deep in thought.

After a minute or two of deafening silence, Churchill spoke again. “This is indeed an unexpected development. On the surface it would appear to be a God sent opportunity to negotiate an end to the current unpleasantness we are experiencing.”

Inwardly Halifax congratulated him on his use of typical British understatement to describe the catastrophic outcome of the war so far. He thought he detected a slightly more buoyant Churchill.

“However,” Churchill continued, “you all know my sincere and absolute distrust of Herr Hitler. The man is pure evil, and his word means nothing. That alone tells me to treat this matter with extreme caution.”

Halifax immediately interpreted this to mean that Churchill once again was going to veto any peace talks. He was about to interrupt when Churchill continued.

“Nevertheless, the manner in which this matter has been put to us, perhaps gives some cause for cautious optimism.”

He continued, “Firstly, the initiative has come from the German side, not ourselves. Could this mean they are as exhausted as we are? It is possible, and we should not discount this, even though I personally have my doubts it is the case.

Secondly, the interventions of the Portuguese, Swiss and American ambassadors are unusual. We must not treat them in a cavalier fashion and ignore their endorsements.

Finally, if Lord Halifax is correct in his assessment that the American President is insisting on our country at least being prepared to negotiate, we cannot be seen to dismiss the idea.

I understand the urgency of the situation and that an answer is required. There is much to think about. I suggest we suspend this meeting for one hour to give each of us time to review what we have learnt here, and consider all our options.”

All agreed. It was a momentous decision they were facing, it really required days or weeks of analysis, discussions, questions and answers.

Instead they had one hour!

Back in his office Halifax replayed the meeting in his mind. He was sure everything had gone well. Better than he had expected. He thought that even the old war horse Churchill, could not oppose this particular peace initiative. If he did, he would almost certainly lose the support of the War Cabinet.

Halifax had already resolved that if Churchill did not agree with the proposal, and coerced the war Cabinet to follow his lead, he would take the matter further. He had no doubt that the rest of the British Government would like peace.

One hour later, back in the War Rooms, there seemed to a touch of excitement in the atmosphere. The Prime Minister asked for questions and comment. There were many, and these were dealt with as quickly as possible.

To Halifax’s immense relief the consensus was to agree to meet with the German delegation on the proposed date in Lisbon. There were certain security considerations to be addressed, but in principle, everything else raised in the envoys notes was accepted.

There must be no pre-conditions by either side.

In anticipation of a positive outcome at the War Cabinet meeting, Halifax had already formulated his replies to the foreign governments involved. It only needed the go-ahead from the Churchill to release them. No time would be wasted! 

The Prime Minister formally addressed the Foreign Secretary. “Lord Halifax, it is the decision of this esteemed Council that you inform the ambassadors of Portugal, Switzerland and the United States that His Majesty’s Government has no objection to attending the proposed meeting in Lisbon on the terms as outlined, subject only to the minor details we have discussed here.”

As always, Churchill could not resist an opportunity for a little oratory. He looked at his colleagues. The speech was short.

“Gentlemen, let us not succumb to unjustified optimism at this particular moment in time. We are in the middle of a war against unspeakable tyranny. Hitler wishes to enslave the British people. Indeed he wants to bend the whole world to his evil will.

Every time I hear that man’s name I wish I had the power to change history. If only I could go back in time to the day in the Great War when one of our own soldiers had Herr Hitler in his sights, and didn’t fire. Oh what trouble the world would have been saved.”

Churchill was referring the case of Private Henry Tandey, Britain’s most decorated soldier of the Great War. He took part in an attack on German trenches in 1918 and his orders were to take no prisoners. However, when a wounded enemy soldier appeared before him, Private Tandey found he could not shoot, and he let the man go. The enemy soldier was Adolf Hitler.

“Things have not gone well for us and the current military situation is bleak. However, I have no doubt that our resolute island race will fight on, and triumph in the end. Let us not drop our guard in the coming days.”

He looked at Halifax and added, “If there is one single confirmed attack by a German submarine or aircraft on a British ship or our land over the next few days, the talks are finished. No ifs or buts!”

He continued his speech. “We will sincerely hope for the best outcome from these upcoming talks, while at the same time continue to prepare for the worst.

The British people would welcome an honourable peace. But, if we lead them into slavery through a lack of vigilance or lack of firm leadership on our part, we will never be forgiven.

History will not be kind to us.”


It had been hectic. Meeting after meeting of the War Cabinet, thrashing through all conceivable scenarios. Briefings from various ‘specialists’ who did not know, and could not be told, the reason why they were there. Secrecy was paramount.

Now the British delegation was here, over Lisbon.

So far the Germans had lived up to their undertakings. No sinkings by enemy submarines, and no sightings of Luftwaffe  aircraft had been reported over Britain in the previous two days. The American embassy had, however, passed on a concern of the Kriegsmarine,  the German Navy. They had been unable to establish contact with one of their submarines, U-48, to order it to suspend its activities. It was probable that their radio was malfunctioning. They would keep on trying to contact them, and they had also ordered two other submarines into the general area of its last reported position. These would try to find U-48.

The morning before, the RAF had flown the delegation from London to an air base in Devon in a Douglas DC3 transport aircraft, escorted by a flight of fighter aircraft, the daunting Spitfire . After refuelling they had taken off again for Lisbon. During the flight they stayed a respectable distance from the coasts of France and Spain.

Along the way they had flown over the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal , in company with a cruiser and two destroyers somewhere off the coast of Northern Spain. It had been a sight for sore eyes to see this fine example of British sea power here, off an unfriendly coast. They had circled the ships and dipped their wings in salute before carrying on towards Lisbon.

The total flight distance flown was a little over one thousand nautical miles, which at the modest cruising speed of the Dakota meant a little over five hours and a half hours actual flying time. This had ended up being more like eight hours total travelling time when one included boarding time and the refuelling stop. The passengers were not impressed with the quality of the light lunch that had been served to them during the flight. Is this the best the RAF could do? 

As they flew over Lisbon they were greeted with the sight of the now famous British cruiser, HMS Ajax , moored in the harbour. It had recently been refitted in Chatham Dockyard after its epic ‘Battle of the River Plate’ a few months earlier — in company with two other cruisers — against the German pocket battleship Graf Spee,  off the coast of South America. The news of the destruction of the Graf Spee  had been a welcome bright spot in a dark period only noted for British ships being sunk by U-boats.

Ajax  had been en route  to Gibraltar when she had received fresh orders from the Admiralty and been diverted to Lisbon.

Normally under international rules, warships from a country at war would only be allowed to visit a neutral country for a maximum stay of twenty four hours. However, in these special circumstances, the Portuguese were turning a blind eye to this limitation, citing the need for ‘emergency repairs’ required by Ajax.  This was with the tacit understanding of the German ambassador in Lisbon.

Portugal was Britain’s oldest ally. The Anglo-Portuguese treaty of 1373 was the oldest alliance in the world still in force. However, in this current war Britain deliberately did not seek assistance from Portugal as they considered the non-belligerent role of that country was essential if they wanted to keep neighbouring pro-German Spain from entering the war on the side of Germany.

Now the guns of Ajax  were a reassuring sight to the British delegation.

Their aircraft landed safely and taxied as directed, to an isolated but well- guarded part of the airport. There, several motor cars were waiting for them, together with a motorised detachment of tough looking Portuguese soldiers under the command of a Colonel. After a courteous welcome to Portugal by the officer, who spoke excellent, if heavily accented, English, he wasted no further time and whisked them away to their designated accommodation in the city.

This turned out to be a beautiful old villa on the outskirts of Lisbon, part of an estate of the old nobility. The German delegation was housed in something similar on the adjoining estate. The grounds of both were heavily patrolled by Portuguese soldiers.

In between these two residences was an imposing summer house. A perfect meeting place. Neutral ground, as it were.

After seeing the British settled in, the Portuguese Colonel wished them a comfortable stay and departed, taking his escort with him. There were more than enough soldiers guarding the locality already.

The meeting with their German counterparts was scheduled for nine a.m. the following morning. The British decided to meet in one hour for an evening drink before dinner. “Then, I think an early night is called for,” Halifax stated. “We have to have our wits about us tomorrow.”

Apart from Lord Halifax, the British delegation consisted of General Alan Brooke, his aide — Major Jeremy Blackstone, Halifax’s personal secretary, and another civilian who went by the name of Oliver Smyth, ostensibly with the Foreign Office.

General Brooke, aged fifty seven, was from an aristocratic background and had been in the army since 1902. He had served in The Great War with distinction and was regarded as one of the British Army’s foremost generals. Unusually for a soldier, he had built a strong relationship with the Chief of the RAF, which had established a vital basis of co-operation between the two military services. This was something that had long been needed, as the Germans had shown in their recent lightning campaigns.

A man not known for a sense of humour, Brooke was sober, thoughtful, determined. He was considered to be an astute judge of military strategy. He had been at the battle for Dunkirk but, despite pleading to be allowed to stay, he had been firmly ordered to return to England before the surrender. A fellow General later reported that Brooke was severely overcome with emotion at having to leave his men in such crisis.

This was the man, second only to Lord Halifax, who would attempt to negotiate peace with Germany.

Brooke’s aide, Major Blackstone, thirty five, was from an old English family with a history of providing sound and capable servants of the crown, notably in the civil service and the army. Jeremy Blackstone was now the fourth generation of Blackstones to hold a commission in his regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers.

He had an older brother James, who was a Member of Parliament. His sister, Katherine, one year older than him, was a professional yacht captain, a very rare occupation for a female. She skippered a beautiful classic sailing yacht for a wealthy banker. This job that had been interrupted by the war, when she volunteered for the Royal Navy. A younger brother, George, was a doctor. Jeremy’s father, Horace Blackstone, was a senior civil servant, being Permanent Secretary to the Treasury.

Jeremy had been personally selected by General Brooke to assist him at these talks.

The civilian Oliver Smyth, if that was his real name, had been foisted on Halifax by MI6. As a seasoned intelligence officer, his brief was to listen and learn.

In the adjacent villa the Germans were doing more or less the same as their opposite numbers. Perhaps a little more wine was being consumed at dinner; after all they were the ones calling the shots — weren’t they? They were the masters of Europe.

While this feeling was perhaps understandable in the circumstances, it was an attitude that the Foreign Minister stamped down hard upon the minute he noticed it.

The composition of their delegation mirrored that of the British.

Apart from Baron von Altendorf, the military had sent General Rommel as their representative.

Rommel, forty nine, had been a highly decorated officer in The Great War. He had distinguished himself as a commander of a Panzer division during the invasion of France over the past weeks. He was a superb exponent of speed, surprise and manoeuvre: the tactics employed by the panzers in the campaign that had been so stunningly successful.

He was a leader of men. Direct, unbending, tough in his manners, both to superiors and subordinates alike. He did not suffer fools gladly. In earlier years he had supported Adolf Hitler and his policy of re-armament, but he had later become disillusioned and now held the Nazis and their ideology in contempt.

Rommel’s aide was a newly appointed captain in the Luftwaffe,  Adolf Galland. They had met for the first time the previous day. Galland had been a pilot since 1932 and had flown combat missions in Spain in support of the Nationalists under General Franco. He had later been attached to the air ministry before becoming a fighter pilot. Galland was a clear thinker with a no nonsense approach to military matters.

There was also a civilian named Horst Brandt. He was military intelligence and had been sent by Admiral Canaris.

The Foreign Minister addressed the company.

“I have detected a small measure of arrogance, even condescension, towards the British, among us. THIS STOPS NOW! 

Remember, it us that approached the British for these talks. They may have suffered a major defeat at our hands at Dunkirk, but they are by no means, a defeated nation. The Royal Navy is still the most powerful navy in the world, and the Royal Air Force is still intact.” He gave each of the delegates a cold stare.

“We will assemble at the meeting house at eight fifty five a.m. sharp; to welcome our opposite numbers, who I expect will be there promptly at nine a.m. Goodnight gentlemen.” He left the dining room.


Somewhere off the south coast of Ireland, Karl Schiller, captain of the German submarine U-48, was peering intently through his periscope at the enemy convoy. The sea state was moderate. Visibility was good. He had positioned his ship perfectly. A nice big merchantman would pass directly in front of him. He would only need one torpedo to send it to the bottom of the sea. He couldn’t miss! 

After that they could all go home. The crew could have some well-deserved rest and recreation, and U-48 needed some serious maintenance. He desperately looked forward to seeing his family again. They had been at sea for three weeks. It had been an uneventful cruise until now.

Schiller dreamed of lying in a hot bath. After three weeks he and his crew smelled like — ‘what was it he had heard from an English prisoner of war — ‘a Swahili wrestler’s jock strap’!  He could not help smiling at the memory.

“Anything on the radio, Willi?” He asked his second in command. They had been out of radio contact with their High Command for five days.

“Nothing, sir. It is kaput ! We do not have the necessary spare parts and we have not been able to improvise.”

“Very well. It cannot be helped. Call the crew to action stations. In the next ten minutes I expect to deliver a present to our enemies.” He grinned mirthlessly.

The group of British ships steamed closer. At their head was an old and tired looking destroyer which must have first seen service more than twenty years ago. Two smaller frigates were scuttling around somewhere to the rear of the convoy.

Schiller had watched patiently. He was now ready. The enemy merchant ship had not changed course and U-48 was in a perfect position. He thumb rested on the firing button. It was time.

Sudden consternation and momentary panic seized him! ‘What the hell….’? 

Captain Henry Nicholson on the destroyer HMS Arbroath  scanned the seas ahead through his binoculars. He was completely and utterly tired out. Since the convoy had left Halifax in Canada nine days ago, he had had little rest. Just an hour or two here and there. Always on the alert for the hated enemy submarines. The sharks of the sea.

The signal he had received two days ago, ordering no offensive  action should he sight an enemy vessel, had baffled and worried him. ‘What the hell am I supposed to do if a U-boat appears on my bow?’  he thought. ‘Smile and wave?’ 

“SUBMARINE OFF OUR STARBOARD QUARTER”, shouted the lookout urgently.

In three swift strides Nicholson was on the bridge starboard wing staring in disbelief at the German U-boat surfacing about six or seven hundred yards away.

“ACTION STATIONS.” He pressed the alarm and the unearthly din of the klaxon horn reverberated throughout the ship sending the crew scurrying to their allotted stations. There was no one among the crew that did not know what the alarm signified, and accordingly they all experienced a sudden spasm of fear.

“Starboard one twenty degrees, full speed ahead.” The destroyer turned hard towards the enemy sub.

“They are signalling sir,” his first lieutenant reported in amazement. This was a first ! He read the Morse code as it was spat out of the blinking German Aldiss lamp.

On U-48, Captain Schiller watched in astonishment through his periscope as a submarine surfaced less than 50 metres in front of him. Another second and it would have received his torpedo. He read its number. U-37. He knew its captain, Peter Braun, well. What was he playing at? 

Three people appeared in U-37’s conning tower. He recognised one of them as Braun. Another was signalling him. A third seemed to be signalling the British destroyer, which was now turning towards him….

“U-37 to British destroyer. We have orders from our High Command not to attack British ships. One of our sister submarines has been out of radio contact for some days and is unaware of this order. We have found them, and are now in communication. Please stay back,” the first lieutenant relayed to his captain.

Nicholson reacted instantly. “Reduce speed. Tell Guns no firing. Signal the other escorts to keep an eye on the situation, but to maintain their current position. Acknowledge the U-boat’s signal.”

He watched warily.

“ANOTHER SUBMARINE SURFACING, SIR”, called the bemused first officer. What the hell was going on? 

Excitement surged along the length of the ship as anybody who could find an excuse to be on deck watched the impossible sight of two enemy submarines lying close together only five hundred yards from the guns of their ship. This was something to tell their wives and sweethearts!  Cameras had been rooted out from various storage places. This was a unique photo opportunity definitely not to be missed.

The two sub captains seemed to be having a shouted conversation. This went on for a few minutes. Two U-boat captains surfacing close to the guns of an enemy destroyer, just to have a conversation? Nobody is going to believe this! 

“U-37 signalling again, sir. Signal reads ‘U-37 to destroyer. Everything is now in order. U-48 and ourselves will depart on a course directly away from you. We will remain surfaced until convoy is out of sight. Please acknowledge.”

Nicholson felt relief surge through him, closely followed by disappointment and frustration. For the first time since the war started he had a chance to sink a sub, and his bloody hands were tied.

“Acknowledge” he ordered.

As he watched, the captain of U-37 saluted him, followed instantly by the captain of U-48. He returned the courtesy.

The two subs moved off. They were carefully watched by almost every sailor in every ship in the convoy until they were out of sight.

Only then did Nicholson relax — a little. “That was something you don’t see every day, Charles!” He said to his first Lieutenant. “There goes a brave man. He deliberately placed himself and his ship in great danger. His orders are somehow tied in with the ‘no offensive’  orders that we received. I wonder what is going on. Could it be peace?

Then, with a glimmer of a smile, “I think under the circumstances it would be in order to pipe ‘up spirits’. The hands will appreciate an extra tot of rum. Inform the escorts accordingly. I will be in my cabin. This would appear to be a good opportunity to catch a little sleep.”

Ten minutes later he was in his bunk and out to the world!

On board U-48 Captain Schiller explained the situation to his mystified crew. He looked at their trusting faces and his heart went out to them. They were tired and dirty. With U-48 nearly at the end of its cruise, all of them needed some rest.

U-48 lying surfaced and unmoving, directly under the guns of the British warship, had been unnerving. His men deserved to know what was going on. Not that he knew much himself.

After he had finished speaking, a voice towards the back said, “Its peace. I tell you, it is peace,” After a second’s delay everybody excitedly started talking at once. There were even some smiling faces. Maybe they would live through this war, after all. 

Schiller would never know how close he had come to re-starting the war between Germany and Great Britain. If that had happened, who knows where it might have led. Possibly even another World war?


Lord Halifax had positioned his personal secretary by one of the windows in the dining room. From there he could see the summer house. He had been instructed to let everyone know when the Germans arrived at the meeting point.

At eight fifty five, he called out “They have arrived.”

Nobody wanted to give the impression of nervousness, so they all finished doing whatever they were engaged in. Halifax and Brooke finished sipping their lukewarm tea, Blackstone and Smyth closed the files they were pretending to read.

“Shall we go forth and do battle?” Quipped Halifax, with a slight but somehow reassuring smile on his face. He was in his element. He was sure he could secure a treaty acceptable to both sides. This would be his crowning achievement in politics. Then perhaps he could think about retiring to his beloved country estate.

They stepped outside into the glorious early summer sunshine.

The first meeting of the two sides was only a little strained. It had been a long time since the two nationalities had met, other than on a battlefield. Baron Von Altendorf and Lord Halifax greeted each other warmly with murmured “Good to see you again,” before introducing their respective associates.

Brooke noted that Rommel shook his hand warmly and told him “It is a great honour to meet you.”

The rest of the delegates merely shook hands with straight faces.

The room was bright, airy and cool. Large ceiling fans silently whirred away. Several large bowls of fresh flowers had been placed to brighten the room. And hopefully the atmosphere!

Portuguese soldiers discreetly patrolled the gardens at a respectable distance.

A beautiful teak table had been made ready for them. There were carafes of iced water and glasses placed at intervals along the table. In front of each seat was placed a notepad and pencil, as well as a dossier put there by the Germans. The British noted that the dossiers bore the German eagle but curiously, no swastika.

The Germans distributed themselves on one side of the table, and the British on the other. Von Altendorf sat opposite Halifax. The two generals faced each other, as did the aides, personal secretaries and the intelligence operatives.

All was ready.

Von Altendorf opened the proceedings by addressing the British.

“Gentlemen. Firstly I would like to offer you my sincere thanks on behalf of the German Government for agreeing to this meeting. These are difficult times and I know that certain past events may have led to diminished trust between our two great countries. I hope that we can put this behind us today.

I can say that there is no doubt, no doubt whatsoever, that the outcome of these negotiations will have an enormous impact on our two countries, and indeed, on the whole world. It is in our hands to make history here today.”

He paused for a moment, and then continued in a more business-like manner.

“We have a great deal to discuss, and time is limited. The reason for our insistence on speed will become apparent as I speak.

I suggest that as you are graciously here at our request, it is up to me to explain matters first. This should take me no more than one hour. During that time I respectfully ask that you reserve any questions or comments you may have, until later.”

He waited for their reaction. There were nods of assent on the British side.

Von Altendorf allowed a few seconds. He looked at the British and continued.

“Adolf Hitler is dead.” The terrible secret of the Generals was out!

The British delegates were absolutely stunned. They had been hit with a verbal sledgehammer! Non

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e of them could hide their surprise. With great self-discipline they refrained from comment and eagerly waited for some more good news.

Von Altendorf looked Halifax in the eye as he then said, “Certain overambitious and power-hungry individuals within the Nazi hierarchy, plotted a coup. The army was aware of it and was waiting for them to commit themselves. Unfortunately three weeks ago they assassinated Hitler before the military could take action.

The criminals were quickly arrested and tried by a military court. They were found guilty and subsequently executed. Germany for the time being is governed by a Military Council, the nominal head of which is Field Marshall Goering, but in actuality it is led by General von Brauchitsch.

Halifax interpreted von Altendorf’s look as meaning “Please accept this at face value. This is not the time and place to talk about the demise of a bunch of gangsters.” He kept the thought to himself.

“These events will be made public in Germany in the next 24 hours. They will be timed to coincide with the announcement of the armistice with the French, and hopefully, if things reach a successful conclusion here, a second announcement of an end to the war with Great Britain.” He paused for a moment to let that sink in.

“Now, on to the actual proposed peace terms.

Firstly, the original cause of the war. Poland.

We propose a peace treaty between Germany and Poland, re-establishing Poland’s independence. There would be an orderly withdrawal of our troops, and by way of reparations to them for Germany’s unwarranted attack, we will assist them to create a new army, air force and navy. We would be prepared to enter into a military alliance with them to protect them from future aggressors.”

All present knew he was referring to the Soviet Union, which had occupied the eastern half of Poland after Germany’s declaration of war on that poor country.

“We will renounce our historical claim to the former German territory known as ‘the Polish corridor’, in return for which we insist on a plebiscite in the free city of Danzig, to see if its inhabitants want to be part of Poland, or Germany, or remain a city state. As you may know, some ninety percent of Danzigers are German and we would hope they would wish to be part of Germany. However, we will respect their wishes whatever they may be.

Unfortunately we are powerless to do anything about Soviet occupied Poland. The Poles must understand and accept this. Perhaps the Soviet Union may one day take notice of world opinion and withdraw. Who knows?”

This development was another surprise for the British. It effectively removed the original cause for the war. What else have they up their sleeve? The needle on the British optimism meter was climbing! 

“Norway.” A slight pause. “Germany will enter into immediate peace negotiations with the Norwegian Government-in-Exile, with a view to withdrawing our troops from that country, subject to certain — non-contentious — trade and security commitments. Norway will once again be a sovereign country.

Luxembourg. Regardless of these talks, we intend to withdraw from that country in the coming weeks and restore full sovereignty. Conditional only a treaty of friendship.

Denmark, Holland and Belgium. These are slightly more complicated cases. It is our contention that a period of stabilisation is needed in Western Europe, perhaps a year, but it may have to be longer. During that period they will largely govern their own internal affairs. Eventually this will lead to plebiscites for independence or possible incorporation as autonomous states within the German Union. The choice will be theirs.”

Halifax thought this not unreasonable, given the recent turmoil in Western Europe.

Von Altendorf continued. “France. We believe that country may never have any affection for Germany. Perhaps rightly so. We will complete the process of negotiating a final peace treaty to replace the existing armistice agreement. A new peace treaty would include significantly easier terms than the armistice agreement. We certainly don’t want to sow the seeds of yet another war with them.”

He was making an oblique reference to the onerous treaty conditions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, after they had lost the Great War. That treaty was deeply resented in Germany and, in part, had led to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

“The irritating attack by Italy on southern France and their declaration of war on Great Britain, will be taken care of by Germany. It is not a material factor. All will revert to the situation that previously existed.”

Brooke took this to mean that the Germans obviously thought as little of Mussolini as everybody else did.

Von Altendorf paused for a sip of water. He had come to the crux of the matter.

“As regards Great Britain.” He paused again.

“On signing of an armistice or peace treaty, all British prisoners of war will be transported to any port of your choice in France, Belgium or Holland, over a period of time to suit you.

Any of the equipment abandoned by you at Dunkirk last month, is yours should you want it.

We ask for no army, naval or air force limitations. In fact it is our hope that we can establish military co-operation between our two countries in the near future.”

Another slight pause.

“In respect of Germany’s former colonies in Africa which are now part of the British Empire,” He looked at Halifax.

“Here it comes,” Halifax thought, “We always thought the Germans would want their old territories back. And we will have no choice but to give them back.”

“We have no claim on them,” von Altendorf stated. “We regard the British Empire as a great stabilising force in the world.”

Again the British delegates were pleasantly surprised. Things were progressing far better than expected.

The German Foreign Minister then spelt out some changes that were to take place with regard to Germany’s internal governance and policies. The drift towards a totalitarian state of the previous regime would be reversed. The message here was that the need for change was recognised, but the Military Council first had to be reconstituted into a Governing Council with civilian members.

This required another week or two.

He advised the meeting of sundry other items of lesser importance before ending his speech.

“The time is now ten o’clock, gentlemen. You have been given a lot to think about. The dossier in front of you explains things in more detail.

I think that we should now retire for some refreshment and meet again at twelve o’clock. Would this give you sufficient time to discuss matters between yourselves and prepare any questions or response?”

Halifax answered. “Baron von Altendorf, — gentlemen. On behalf of the British Government we thank you for the disclosures you have made to us. Your frankness is deeply appreciated. As you suggest, we need to thoroughly appraise the points raised. Two hours will be sufficient.”

The delegates now rose, shook hands again, and filed out of the room.

Not a word passed between the British until they were inside their own villa. As arranged with their hosts, there were refreshments laid out, and a plentiful supply of ice. The day was warming up!

Jeremy Blackstone, ignoring a slight frown on General Brooke’s face, poured himself an ice cold Portuguese beer and took a swig. Beautiful!  Once they all had their drinks, the talking started.

First and foremost was the news of Hitler’s death.

“This puts a totally different complexion on everything” Halifax stated. “Damn, that is very good news. The Prime Minister will be very pleased when he hears it.” He continued, “I strongly suspect that the army may be behind it all. They have got rid of the whole Nazi rabble. Good riddance, I say. This helps our own negotiating position a little. They are anxious to conclude a deal with us before the news of the death of their hero reaches the German public.”

“Positive development it may be, but the terms on offer are extremely generous. What else could we possibly ask for?” Brooke, as usual, went straight to the point. “Even if Britain won the bloody war we would not end up with better terms.”

“You are right, and to be quite frank, General, there is nothing of substance that I can think of to improve the terms offered. But I would feel happier if we can find something. I was prepared for many alternatives but their more than reasonable proposals have taken the wind out of my sails.”

For the next two hours the discussion went back and forth with everybody having a comment to make. They could not think of anything substantial that would improve on the German proposals. It seemed as though their opponents had thought of everything and were leaning over backwards to ensure a successful outcome.

It was time to go back to the meeting.

They settled down in their respective seats. This time Lord Halifax opened the discussions.

“We have to commend you on the thoroughness of the proposals submitted to us. We can find no reason not to submit these to our government with a recommendation that we attempt to successfully conclude peace negotiations with the German Provisional Government — here today — on the basis outlined.”

There, it was said. Perhaps some small sense of relief was apparent on the German side?

“We have only a few small questions to clarify certain points. If I may?”

Please, Lord Halifax, go ahead,” answered von Altendorf.

“Firstly, the future expanded Governing Council for Germany that you mentioned. Will this include any Nazis or prominent members of the previous regime?”

“I cannot give you a simple answer to that. In Germany for the past several years many people joined the Nazi party for reasons other than being dedicated Nazis. I can, however, assure you that there will be no trace of Nazi ideology in the new government. Neither will there be any communists.”

A pleasing answer for Halifax.

His next questions were on various matters concerning the London based Governments-in-Exile of Poland, Norway, Holland and, (probably soon to be), France. Belgium’s government was also based in France at that moment and would need to be considered.

The Germans were ready to negotiate with them, in London or anywhere else, on the basis already outlined.

The plight of Czechoslovakia was raised.

Von Altendorf’s answer was that this, unfortunately, was not open to discussion. That country was now considered to be an integral part of Germany. He gave firm assurances that there would be no discrimination of any kind against the Czechs and Slovaks. They would be integrated into German society and become full German citizens with all rights and obligations. They would benefit greatly from this. Alternatively there would be no barriers to them leaving the country if they so wished.

General Brooke asked what their attitude to Japan was.

It was Rommel that answered, in response to a look from von Altendorf.

“Although Japan is considered an ally of Germany at this particular moment in time, the Japanese never actually signed the Tripartite Pact. We in the military, have had many discussions about the value of Japan as an ally. We have some concerns. While we welcome their anti-communist stance, their barbaric behaviour in China poses a dilemma for us. Also it appears that they could end up in a confrontation with the United States and the European powers that have colonial territories in Asia. This is not acceptable to Germany.”

Brooke looked for something more. “So if Germany and Britain have a peace treaty, and our two countries are co-operating militarily in some form, how do you stand if Japan attacked say Hong Kong, or one of our other territories?”

This one wasn’t so easy for Rommel. “I can only give you my personal view, if you want it.”

“And that is?”

“The logical outcome of these talks here today should lead to an eventual alliance or understanding between Germany and its territories, and the British and French Empires. And ultimately, perhaps, the United States. That is what should  happen.

The potential for technical co-operation and standardisation within the armaments industries of these countries is staggering. As an example, just look at the jet aircraft you British are developing. Our intelligence is that you are at least one year away from it flying”. He looked directly at Brooke. “We have had one flying since last year.”

That gave Brooke something to think about.

Rommel carried on. “In the meantime should Japan attack one of your colonies, I believe it is possible Germany would assist you in some form, even if there is no alliance. We would take the same position if one of the colonial territories of France or Holland was attacked.”

Most reassuring to the British.

Finally the discussions, inevitably, got around to the Soviet Union. Again it was Rommel who took it upon himself to answer this. In front of him lay a report.

“Your own Mr Churchill is reported to have said ‘Russia is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.’

The Soviet Union has been the subject of intense study in recent years by some of our leading academics — and military strategists.”

He paused searching for the right words.

“Communism is a deeply flawed and unworkable ideology. This is made far worse in the way it is applied in the Soviet Union, where the peasants and ordinary people groan under the heel of their psychotic dictator, Josef Stalin. I have here a report, a copy of which will be made available to you later today. This report was updated only a few days ago. It is the latest intelligence we have, and it illustrates the nature of Comrade Stalin.

The Soviet famine of 1932–1933 was a result of actions of the Soviet state in implementing forced collectivisation, flawed economic planning, and ruthless political repression. The Russian peasants were even forbidden to eat their own crops!

Estimates vary, but the consensus seems to be that between six and seven million people died . In the report you will see photographs of Soviet citizens lying in city streets, dead or dying of starvation.”

There was silence around the table.

“Not content with this, between 1936 and 1938 there was another campaign of political repression. It is called Stalin’s Great Purge. It was motivated by Stalin’s desire to remove any opposition to him, real or imagined, and consolidate his leadership. Included in the purge was Red Army, as well as peasant, leadership. Estimated deaths are between six hundred thousand and one and a quarter million. ”

There had been rumours and reports of such things in Britain but no facts. Lord Halifax gave a silent undertaking to have these shocking disclosures investigated as soon as he was back in England.

Rommel continued. “Now we look at Poland. There is a forest, Katyn Forest, in the eastern part of Poland which is now occupied by the Soviets. In and around that forest lie an estimated twenty two thousand bodies . These are the bodies of Polish military officers — including fourteen generals — police officers, Polish officials and intelligentsia. They are the victims of a series of mass executions conducted only last month and the month before by Russian forces. All these murders were approved by Stalin. Apparently he wanted to deprive any future Polish government of a large portion of that country’s talent”.

Rommel looked at the British delegates. “Stalin has been reported as saying, ‘One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic’.  This, gentlemen, is the man who controls the largest country in the world.”

He continued. “German policy to date has been one of containment of the Soviet Union. We do not want to provoke Stalin into war, and at the same time we wish to ensure that he does not start a program of re-armament. Any such major re-armament by the Soviets would inevitably lead to war between us.

We regard the Soviet Union under Stalin as the greatest future threat to Germany, and indeed a threat to the whole world. For the immediate future we will continue with our existing relationship, while monitoring developments within that country with unceasing vigil.”

Suddenly all the delegates discovered they needed some refreshment. Conversation died for a few minutes.

It was Lord Halifax who now spoke. He had caught the eye of General Brooke and received an imperceptible nod.

He addressed the German delegation. “In my opinion we have had a frank exchange of views and information. I propose we now adjourn for lunch, and meet again at eight o’clock this evening.

During this time I will despatch a summary of our deliberations here today, to our Prime Minister in London. Included in this communication will be this delegation’s unanimous recommendation of acceptance of the offered peace terms.”

The relief of the Germans was obvious.

“It is my sincere hope that I will receive a positive reply before we meet again later this evening. In the unlikely event such a reply is delayed, or if any clarification is sought, I will immediately send a messenger to you, Baron von Altendorf.”

He concluded, “Now, I believe our hosts have prepared a most sumptuous lunch for us. I for one, am looking forward to it”.

As he rose from his seat, he added, with a hint of humour in his voice, “I think good meals have not been so plentiful in our respective countries for some time”.

Even Brooke managed a smile at this comment.

It had taken nearly two hours to prepare and encode the report to London. The intelligence man, Smythe, had handed a separate, shorter note to the British Embassy official for onward transmission.

After a light lunch and some quiet conversations, all were now relaxing in the garden or their rooms.

The waiting was hard.


Warned in advance of the impending arrival of the peace terms, the Prime Minister was ensconced with the other three members of the War Cabinet. They had also found the waiting somewhat trying. Alone among them, Churchill was enjoying some refreshment. He sipped appreciatively at his whisky. It had been extremely difficult for any of them to give their attention to other, less important, items on the agenda.

Churchill had also notified the full Cabinet that they should be available for a meeting later that evening, and an emergency sitting of both Houses of Parliament was scheduled for midnight that night.

At four thirty in the afternoon the Prime Minister’s private secretary knocked on the door, entered and without speaking placed a large envelope in front of his lord and master.

Aware of the eyes upon him, Churchill took his time, carefully opening the envelope and extracting the papers inside.

There was absolute silence in the room as he read through them, a process that took him ten minutes. His eyebrows were seen to rise in surprise at something he read. What was it?  It seemed to the watchers that the Prime minister was deliberately making them wait as they tried not to fidget in their seats. Finally he placed the pages flat on the table in front of him, staring at them. He kept the other members in suspense for a little longer. Now he was ready.

“It seems, gentlemen, we have acceptable terms for an agreement on peace.”

That one simple statement broke the tension. The relief was palpable. Now the others present all started speaking at once. They wanted all the details. Now!

In an almost nonchalant tone he told them, “Our delegation in Lisbon has been informed by the German Foreign Minister that their Fuhrer,  Adolf Hitler, ……. is dead.”

The news astounded them!

By 6.00 pm a jubilant War Cabinet was in complete agreement about the peace agreement. Even if it meant that soon they would have to think about new jobs! They were euphoric.

Churchill wrote an answer to Lord Halifax. His secretary collected it for encoding and despatch to Lisbon. The Prime Minister now treated himself to another small Scotch.


Halifax stared at the letter delivered to him by a British embassy official a few minutes ago. Waiting for this reply had probably been the most frustrating wait he had ever experienced.

Emotion welled up within him. The war Cabinet had accepted the peace terms in their entirety! This was his crowning achievement in a lifetime of politics!

He poured himself a sherry and toasted his image in the mirror in front of him. He drained the sherry and went to find the others. Tonight we will celebrate. 


The meeting of the full Cabinet took place at eight pm. Some of the members had suspicions that something exceptional or sinister was going on. There had been no specific rumours, just a vague awareness of an undercurrent. The sudden absence of the Foreign Secretary was also intriguing.

Churchill was thoroughly enjoying himself. He waited until everyone had settled down.

“I wish to make an announcement.” He said. He could see their brains working. What is it?  He waited another moment or two to let the tension build.

“Herr Hitler has departed this life.”

The consternation! The incredulous looks! Oh what joy! 

He then explained in great detail the events of the last three days. He told them of the feelers put out to them, the suspension of submarine and bombing activity, the meeting in Lisbon, the details of the peace terms and the disclosures by the German delegation in Lisbon.

There had never been a cabinet meeting like it. There had been stormy meetings in the past. Some mournful ones. Certainly plenty of boring ones. This one seemed more like the prelude to a Christmas party. Churchill felt sure that some of the members were only just managing to restrain themselves from kissing each other!

He allowed them a few more minutes to savour the moment.

“Now, gentlemen, to business. I need your serious consideration of the terms I have just mentioned. We are due in the House in a few hours and we must be prepared. If anyone feels like a drink, please help yourself. Mine’s a Scotch.”


Lord Halifax and Baron von Altendorf were comfortably seated in two large leather covered armchairs in one corner of the summer house. The two of them were quietly conversing.

The four military delegates were also in deep conversation as a group, in another corner.

The private secretaries were together in an adjacent room typing out the slightly altered terms of agreement. It would take another hour or two.

The two spooks were missing.

Immediately upon receiving the news of acceptance by the British war cabinet, von Altendorf had ordered an official from the German Embassy to collect a note for despatch to Berlin. This note confirmed the successful outcome of the peace talks.

He was now quietly relaxed and enjoying chatting to Lord Halifax. This was the first occasion since the war had started that senior representatives of their respective countries had relaxed in each other’s company.

The Peace Treaty would be duly signed by Lord Halifax and Baron von Altendorf as soon as the British Parliament had ratified the terms. It was to be witnessed by the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs and the United States Ambassador to Portugal, both of whom had been sworn to secrecy by their respective governments. They were at their respective offices impatiently waiting to be summoned for the signing ceremony.

General Brooke was actually enjoying himself for a change. Rommel was expounding his theories on highly mobile warfare, and there was no doubt in Brooke’s mind that he knew his subject. Events in Belgium and France had proved that beyond a shadow of doubt! Brooke was absorbing everything he said. He was thinking about the extent to which he was going to shake up the British Army in the very near future.

He suddenly realised with a start that he had missed a few words of Rommel’s. Something about a European Alliance? 

“European Alliance, General?” He queried.

“It is an idea expounded very recently by General von Mannstein, probably Germany’s greatest military strategist. At this stage it is no more than an idea, but one that I think is eminently workable.”

He explained further. “Once the continent of Europe stabilises after the recent trauma, and the different nations are again up and working, irrespective of whatever form of government they have, it is suggested that we should all enter into a defensive  alliance.

The principle is simple. An attack on any member, is an attack on all.

Each country would have their own armed forces under their own control. Only equipment, tactics, communications and chain of command, would all be standardised.

There would be no need for money and resources to be wasted on defensive works on internal borders. If France had not squandered such a vast amount of money on their useless Maginot Line, maybe things would be different in that country today. And look at Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium. The largest fort in the world and reputed to be impregnable. It was defended by one thousand two hundred men. We captured it with only eighty five airborne troops.

The day of fixed fortifications is past.

General Von Mannstein obviously was looking eastwards over his shoulder towards the Soviet Union when he thought of a grand European Alliance stretching from Scandinavia in the north, to Spain in the South. From Great Britain in the west, to Italy in the east.

In theory war would never happen again in Western Europe.

A very interesting idea.”

General Brooke thought it more than an interesting idea. It was revolutionary.

The three soldiers and the Luftwaffe pilot sipped their drinks thoughtfully.

It was Blackstone who asked the next question.

“May I ask an im pertinent question, General?”

Rommel gave him an amused look. “By all means, Major.”

Blackstone took a deep breath. “In the event that Hitler had not been assassinated, what scenario would you now see unfolding?”

Rommel chuckled. “What scenario indeed.” He collected his thoughts.

“Firstly, we, Germany, would be left with no alternative but to invade Great Britain. A plan is already in place for this.

The Royal Navy controls the seas, but air superiority will be the decisive factor. This we believe we have. Your Royal Air Force is superb, but we have more aircraft and pilots. Having said that, I can assure you that there isn’t a single person in the German armed forces that won’t be relieved to learn we will not be fighting you.” He grinned.

“But let us suppose we did not invade Britain. Perhaps there is another period of ‘phoney war’ as you christened it. There is something else to consider.

The Military Council are aware that Hitler had it in his mind to invade the Soviet Union. Sooner rather than later.

If Britain was not defeated, it would then mean war for Germany on two fronts. Not a nice situation. The Soviet Union is vast. Their winters are killing. Their Foreign Minister Molotov was not joking when he said, ‘Only a fool would attack us.’ 

War between Germany and the Soviet Union would be disastrous for both countries, both militarily and economically.

Another complication is Japan. I think Hitler would eventually have given them a free hand with the British, French and Dutch colonial possessions. This would include the dominions of Australia and New Zealand.  Also the continued Japanese aggression in China will sooner or later bring them into confrontation with the United States. A situation that could escalate out of control.

In Italy, Mussolini has delusions of grandeur and wants to recreate the Roman Empire with him as its Emperor or Caesar. He has mad ideas about his empire stretching from Spain to Persia. Only last April he occupied Albania and declared it part of the Italian Empire. Also we are aware that he is eyeing British possessions in Africa and is planning something.

General Franco in Spain wants Gibraltar.

Argentina would possibly take the opportunity to occupy the Falkland Islands.

To sum up, Major, if Hitler remained in control of Germany, we would be looking at a second World War.”

Silence greeted this remark.

Rommel now looked at Brooke. “Please do not think I am talking out of turn or divulging too much. I have been authorised by our Military Council to use my discretion in imparting any information that may ultimately lead to a better understanding between our two countries.

Furthermore, I am able to assure you that any request from Great Britain for intelligence sharing on the Italian and Japanese situations, will be looked at sympathetically.”

Brooke listened in amazement. This morning Britain and Germany had been at war — still were at war officially — now he was being given an almost explicit undertaking of future military co-operation by one of Germany’s leading Generals. What a day of surprises! One day he would write about this in his memoirs. 

The General could not wait to get back to London and start planning. The whole of the British and Empire defence strategy needed to be drastical

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ly overhauled.


Churchill delivered his statement to a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament.

On announcing the news of Hitler’s death, it took a second or two to sink in and then the hundreds of members spontaneously jumped to their feet and gave the Prime Minister a standing ovation.

And so it went on as he made one startling disclosure after another. Parliament had never experienced a day like this in all their long history. Everyone was ecstatic!

When it came time to vote, the terms of the peace agreement were overwhelmingly approved. There was only one dissenting vote. This was from one of the oldest members, with a history strange voting. He pleaded that if the country stood firm against ‘the Kaiser’ it would all be over by Christmas.

His short speech had caused great mirth among many of the members. Embarrassment or pity among others.

After the close of business, shortly after one o’clock in the morning, many of the MPs felt the need for a celebratory drink and repaired to the Members Bar. The Prime Minister was among them. He had never been so popular in all his years as a Member of Parliament.

Sometime later, and perhaps slightly inebriated, he thought it was time to leave. As he made his way to the exit, he inadvertently bumped into a rather large woman, Mrs Bessie Braddock, the newly appointed Labour Member of Parliament for Liverpool. A staunch socialist, a virulent anti-tory, and a very outspoken lady. Mrs Braddock was not noted for her good looks — to put it mildly.

She looked at Churchill sternly. “Mr Churchill you are drunk, and what’s more, you are disgustingly drunk.”

Churchill was understandably in good humour. He looked at her and mischievously replied with a quote that would become famous and be repeated forever in his biographies.

“My dear, you  are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow, I shall be sober, whereas you will still be disgustingly ugly.”

He left behind him a bar rocked by gales of helpless laughter. One elderly gentleman was laughing so hard he wet himself. Another had a mild stroke and had to be taken to hospital. Even the good Mrs Braddock found it hilariously funny.

Good old Winston! 


The British and German delegates breakfasted together in the summer house in a relaxed atmosphere. It was a sign of the extraordinary rapidity of improvement in relations in only twenty four hours.

The final draft of the peace treaty had been signed late the previous evening. Each side was taking home a precious original.

Goodbyes were said, and both parties made their way separately to the airport. The Portuguese again provided a heavy escort.

Lord Halifax considered that he had established as warm a rapport as was possible with the reserved Baron von Altendorf. The military men believed they had gone further and that they now had a reasonably good working relationship with their opposite numbers, or as close as current circumstances permitted.

By late afternoon that day they back in their respective offices in London ready to attend debriefings. The fun was over. 


Before the defeat of the British army at the Battle for Dunkirk, the British public had been largely unaware of any impending disaster. After the disaster of Dunkirk, there was considerable unease at the way the war was developing. It was inevitable that the fear of a German invasion would be in everyone’s mind.

The news of peace with Germany and the death of Adolf Hitler was greeted with deliriously happy crowds surging onto the streets of every city, town and village in Britain. Many pubs throughout the country were drunk dry! In London, an immense throng gathered in front of Buckingham Palace joyously singing and dancing. They were greeted from the balcony of the palace by the Royal Family accompanied by the Prime Minister.

It was Winston Churchill’s finest hour.


The Military Council had debated endlessly on the subject of when to release the news of Hitler’s death. They had to tread very carefully.

The standing of the Fuhrer  was unbelievably high in the estimation of the majority of the German public. To them he was the architect of German stability and prosperity following the chaos after the Great War, and then the misery of the depression caused by the Wall Street crash.

The enlargement of Germany by the absorption of Austria and Czechoslovakia had greatly enhanced his prestige. The lightning and incredibly successful campaigns by the German Army against Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland and Belgium were hailed as further evidence of his genius.

Even though he was already dead before the large allied army had surrendered at Dunkirk, this victory was also attributed to his unerring direction of the war.

The man was revered throughout Germany.

The dilemma that now faced the Military Council was that it was they themselves — the German Armed Forces to be more precise — that had assassinated him.

From the beginning, Hitler and the Nazi Party had been looked upon with suspicion by the German Military. They were nothing but a gang of rabble-rousers and political opportunists, in their opinion.

Although the antipathy towards the Nazis diminished somewhat in later years as the economy improved and the country re-armed under Hitler’s leadership, the Fuhrer’s  military adventurism had created a deep-seated feeling of unease among senior officers. Where would it end? Where was it taking them? 

It did not take long before a secret anti-Hitler opposition emerged. This became stronger after the invasion of Poland. Rumours of atrocities against the Jews and Poles, resulted in this opposition group starting to look at contingency plans for the elimination of Hitler and his clique. After considering all the alternatives they had concluded that this was the only way to protect Germany from ultimate disaster.

Immediately after the invasion of Denmark and Norway, The Army Commander-in-Chief, General von Brauchitsch, had been called to Hitler’s headquarters for consultations on the final plans for the invasion of the Low Countries and France. It was here that Hitler informed him in confidence that he was going to ask for plans to be drawn up for the invasion of the Soviet Union. He had already named it Operation Barbarossa. He anticipated launching this later in the year.

Von Brauchitsch was shocked. What madness is this!  When he expressed his grave misgivings, Hitler was not interested in the least. He  knew what was best for Germany. He frostily informed his General that he was disappointed in him.

Walther von Brauchitsch was fifty nine years old. He had been born into an aristocratic military family, and had now served in the army for thirty five years, having fought extensively in the Great War. His good manners and dignified bearing had been learnt in his early years at the Kaiser’s imperial court. He personally disliked Nazism, and was the uncle of two prominent members of the German resistance against Hitler.

From the moment Hitler disclosed his plans for Russia, the conspirators were imbued with a sense of urgency. Various plans were considered, and discarded. They were getting desperate! But the security around Hitler was tighter than a duck’s arse!

Then help came from a most unexpected direction.

In early May, a day before the invasion of the Low Countries, Von Brauchitsch received a visit from the second most powerful man in Germany, Field Marshall Hermann Goering. He had asked for a personal meeting of just the two of them.

The General had no great liking for the flamboyant and overweight Minister of Aviation, whom he knew to have some sort of drug dependency. Goering had been a distinguished pilot in the Great War. He had also been one of Hitler’s earliest supporters, but nevertheless was generally considered to be something of a political moderate. A closely guarded secret was that his younger brother, Albert, despised the Nazis and was in active resistance to their regime.

Over coffee the two men discussed various aspects of the impending military operation. Von Brauchitsch wondered where this was going? This had already been done. Several times!

Finally Goering got to the point.

“Walther, the real reason I am here is that there is a grave matter I must discuss with you. A delicate matter.”

The General looked at him and waited.

“This latest idea of the Fuhrer’s  to invade Russia fills me with foreboding. I have tried my best to dissuade him from it, but he is adamant. He tolerates no opposition to his schemes. He accepts no advice. He even threatened to dismiss me from all my offices if I did not accept his dictates and obey orders without question.”

He leaned forward and in a low voice said, “Between the two of us I am uneasy about his state of mind. Success seems to have gone to his head. He is not the same man that he was a year ago. Leaders who brook no dissent are doomed to be surrounded by sycophants. That is not a recipe for success.”

Such talk was treasonous. If this reached Hitler’s ears, his retribution would be swift and merciless. Von Brauchitsch said nothing, just continued to look at Goering, who was now sweating like a pig.

He continued. “I came here to warn you that the ‘chicken farmer’” — a derogatory term for Heinrich Himmler, the feared head of the Gestapo , the secret police — “has some idea that there may be an underground movement opposed to Hitler. And that it may be centred around the army and air force.”

Himmler at some earlier stage of his life had tried his hand at chicken farming — without success. Hence the nickname.

Goering now seemed to be searching for the right words. He paused for a moment.

“A private source of mine has intimated that I should talk with you, Walther.”

He continued. “Himmler and his gang want to amass all of the power into their own hands. They  want to be Hitler’s favourites and confidantes. To do this they have to eliminate all potential opposition, particularly in the military. This includes you and me.”

Von Brauchitsch had always considered Himmler dangerous. The secret plan was that he would be dealt with immediately after the Fuhrer . There was no way the man could be allowed to live. He was thinking furiously. How much did Goering know? What, if anything, did Himmler suspect? More importantly, what action should be taken? 

Goering hesitated no longer. He took the plunge. “For Germany’s sake we have to act.” He held the General with a steady gaze. “Are we together in this?” He mopped the sweat from his brow with an embroidered silk handkerchief.

Von Brauchitsch hesitated a moment longer, and then committed himself. He gave an imperceptible nod to Goering. They were now co-conspirators. Their lives were now in each other’s hands.

Goering was immensely relieved. While he was reasonably sure of his facts, and the General’s opposition to Hitler, he had taken an immense risk so far. Now he could disclose his plan.

“While it pains me to say this, I think it would be an act of foolishness to allow Hitler to live.” He paused, “My thoughts are that his death must be made to look like an attempted coup by Himmler and his cronies. The Nazi hierarchy should then be immediately rounded up and dealt with. The public would accept this.”

Von Brauchitsch answered. “We have planned something similar to this. Selected army units will arrest the ‘Nazi plotters’ before any of them realise what has happened. They will be tried, found guilty, and executed.” His face was grim. “We, the army, have no love for the summary justice methods of the Nazis, but in these particular circumstances we can see no practical alternative, however distasteful the whole thing is.”

“Good. I am glad to see we are of the same mind. Obviously the biggest single problem we face is taking out Hitler. We are both aware that his security is second to none.”

Goering let a few moments go by. He wanted to surprise this dour General. “There is something you don’t know.”

The General waited.

“Hitler has a double.” That had the General interested! 

“For the past year it was found on occasions, that it was expedient for the Fuhrer  to be in two different places at the same time. An impersonator was found. He was also used where there was a risk of an attempt on the Fuhrer’s  life. The resemblance between the two is amazing, and Baum, that is his name, Max Baum, has perfected Hitler’s voice and mannerisms to the point where their own mothers would not be able to tell them apart.”

Von Brauchitsch was astonished. He remained silent.

“There is something else you don’t know. On the twenty seventh of this month, the Swiss Finance Minister is making a secret visit to Germany to discuss a loan that has been requested by Germany. The Minister will be staying at my country estate, Carinhall. The evening before the discussions on the loan, I have arranged a banquet in the Minister’s honour. The Fuhrer  has requested to be at the banquet.”

Now things were getting really interesting! 

Over the next half hour Goering explained the workings of his plan. He had an answer for all von Brauchtisch’s queries and criticisms.

It seemed that Goering’s mansion outside Berlin, Carinhall, contained a network of secret passages, basically known only to Goering who had had them incorporated into the design for his home for his own perverse reasons. One of these passages allowed access to the bedroom that had always been used by Hitler on his previous visits.

The plan was for two of Goering’s personal bodyguards, both big strong men, absolutely devoted and loyal to him, to sneak into the bedroom while Hitler slept, and simply suffocate him with a pillow. They would then spirit his body away, again by secret passage, into the basement room in which was housed the large furnace that heated the huge mansion in the winter months. There the body would be burnt until it was reduced to ash.

Max Baum, now impersonating Hitler, would take his place in bed.

So far, so good.  

Early the next morning Goering would arrive outside the ‘Fuhrer’s’  bedroom to accompany him to a light breakfast before Hitler was due to leave on his return journey to Berlin. The two SS guards guarding the bedroom, and the two additional air force guards supplied by Goering, would allow him to enter. The bedroom had been guarded constantly by them throughout the night.

A dishevelled Baum would still be in bed. He would tell Goering that he was feeling most unwell. Goering would immediately call in the SS guards, and in front of the fake Hitler, inform the guards that their Fuhrer  was sick and that they were to arrange for Hitler’s personal physician, Doctor Theodor Morell, to be brought to Carinhall from Berlin. Immediately!  Goering would remind the SS guards of their oath of loyalty to Hitler, and warn them to keep their mouths shut!

Doctor Morell was known by Goering to be something of a charlatan and quack. A man obsessed with unconventional treatments. Using dubious methods he had been lucky enough to cure Hitler of some minor but troubling ailments in the past, and by doing so, had gained Hitler’s confidence. He was an opportunist more concerned with money and status than providing medical assistance to people in need. He had an interest in a company that made a strange medicine called Mormutflor. One of the main ingredients of this was extracted from the faecal matter of a Bulgarian peasant. Morell prescribed this on a regular basis to Hitler for some digestive problems. It will never be known if the good doctor knew he was making Hitler eat shit.

Hitler also suffered from chronic flatulence. In his early forties he frequently had violent attacks of farting. By the mid-1930s he was the ruler of Germany and was still farting like a sick sumo wrestler. He wanted to control the whole world but could not control his own arse. Desperate not to become known as Farty Adolf, he accepted another quack prescription from Doctor Morell, called Doctor Koester’s Anti Gas Pills. They didn’t help much. Their promised relief was just so much ‘hot air’.

Goering and Morell had met and talked on many occasions, and the Field Marshall was confident the man could be recruited into the conspiracy through a combination of bribes and intimidation. After all, his real patient would be dead by then. The doctor would have little option once faced with the facts.

Morell would duly appear when summoned, and, after a preliminary meeting with Goering, (accompanied by his bodyguards, of course), would examine the fake Hitler. His diagnosis would be that the Fuhrer  was suffering mild exhaustion from overwork. He would treat this, and a complete rest with no distractions and no visitors would be prescribed for the next four days.

At the request of his patient, Morell would take up residence in the bedroom next door so as to be available at any time of the day or night. He would have the honour of being assigned one of Goering’s own bodyguards outside his bedroom door at all times.

Over the next four days the only visitors allowed into the sick Fuhrer’s  bedroom would be Goering, the doctor, and brief visits by a maid and one of the SS guards.

On 1 June ‘Hitler’ would be deemed recovered enough to return to Berlin, accompanied by his faithful doctor in a separate car. They would depart from Carinhall at first light. As usual they would be escorted by a contingent of SS troops.

Somewhere on the road between Carinhall and Berlin, at a predetermined isolated spot, Hitler’s car would spectacularly blow up, triggered by Baum himself. This spot would, coincidently, be close to where a regiment of Wehrmacht  troops had stopped for breakfast. The Commander of these troops would be von Brauchitsch’s man and pre-warned. He would immediately take charge of the scene. Once he ‘discovered’ that the Fuhrer  himself was involved, he would disarm and arrest all the SS troops. They would be taken to a secure location for questioning. Thus the news of Hitler’s death would be concealed.

The detained SS troops would be shocked and angry but would receive no sympathy from the regular army soldiers who had no love for these arrogant ‘toy soldiers’. 

Immediately after this event, strategically placed contingents of the army would receive orders direct from General von Brauchitsch, and confirmed by Field Marshall Goering, to arrest certain key high ranking Nazi officials, beginning with Heinrich Himmler and Hitler’s two sycophants at his headquarters, Generals Jodl and Keitel. Everything was to be done as discretely as possible.

Over the following ten days, a military tribunal presided over by none other than Hitler’s loyal lieutenant, Field Marshall Goering, would try the accused ‘Nazi plotters’ for the assassination of Hitler and conspiracy to overthrow the state. The tribunal would be presented with fake confessions and evidence of widespread complicity in the plot. They would find the accused guilty, and have them immediately executed.

The assassination of Hitler during the attempted coup by the Nazis, and the quick resolute action by the army, aided by Field Marshall Goering, would be suppressed until the outcome of the Battle for France was certain. The German High Command believed that news of Hitler’s death would lower the spirits of the German troops, while simultaneously raising the morale of the allied forces still fighting.

Von Brauchtisch had to admit he could see no real fault with Goering’s plan. It seemed to have been thought out in detail. He had not thought that Goering was capable of such a thing.

“A question. Why would Baum willingly sacrifice himself?”

“Ah, a good question.” Goering was obviously pleased with himself. “Baum is actually Jewish. Also, he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He has at best, three or four months to live.

His family had been rounded up at some stage and interned in concentration camps. I have already helped his two sisters to emigrate to Sweden with the help of my younger brother. This earned the unquestioning loyalty of Baum. But he still has his father, a brother, and several aunts, uncles and cousins in the camps. In return for my guarantee of their freedom and relocation outside of Germany, together with a little money to help them settle, he is happy to end his own life a little earlier than it would be. And less painfully I should add.

A very brave man. I only wish there could be another way.” Said Goering sadly.

Von Brauchitsch agreed, but could not help wondering just how genuine was Goering’s regret for the need for Baum’s sacrifice. Privately he made up his mind to ensure Goering lived up to the promise made to Baum. As long as everything went according to plan. If it didn’t, he would almost certainly be too dead to help anyone!

They spent a little longer discussing a few more details, including Goering’s conditions for joining the conspiracy. Some compromise was needed. They eventually shook hands on a deal. Von Brauchitsch would have to submit everything to his co-conspirators later, but he foresaw no dissent. It was a workable plan. The only plan they had. 

Goering left. The General relaxed for only a few minutes before getting down to work. Tomorrow was the start of the second stage of the Battle for France. 


The sumptuous but somewhat reserved banquet was over. Adolf Hitler had been the first to offer his apologies, pleading pressure of work the following day. He may also have had other pressure worrying him — internal gas pressure.  Both the Swiss and German Ministers of Finance followed shortly afterwards. The remaining guests conversed a little more openly, and imbibed of the excellent wine more freely, once the teetotaller Fuhrer  had left the table.

It was one o’clock in the morning before Goering thankfully bade the last guest goodnight. He wasted no more time. He descended into the basement as fast as his fat legs would carry him, and entered the secret passages through a hidden door. There, his two burly air force troopers and Max Baum patiently awaited him.

After cautioning silence, Goering led the troopers through passageways and up steps until he stopped outside a concealed door. His ear against the door, he listened carefully. Nothing.  Neither could any light be seen. Very gently he eased the door open on its oiled hinges. Still nothing.  He stepped back and motioned the two troopers forward. He stayed where he was — very much afraid. 

It all went incredibly easy. He heard a few slight sounds, some subdued scuffling, a muffled fart, then everything was deathly quiet. His heart was beating like a drum. Surely the whole of the house could hear it!  He had taken an enormous risk tonight. Despite the coolness of the passage that he was standing in, he was perspiring freely.

One of his men reappeared after a few minutes. He simply nodded. Goering was almost afraid to enter the room but he steeled himself to do so. He had to see with his own eyes. He took a deep breath and moved into the bedroom. By the moonlight streaming through the large window he saw lying on the floor the body of the man he had followed faithfully for nearly twenty years.

Adolf Hitler was dead! 

He shook himself and signalled the men to carry on. He returned through the passageways to Baum, shaking like a leaf.

Ten minutes later Baum was dressed in Hitler’s pyjamas and in his bed. Hitler himself was being consumed by the flames of the furnace!

The next morning, again everything went according to plan. Goering thought Doctor Morell was going to have a heart attack when he told him what had happened and what he had to do. As Goering had surmised, the huge bribe offered, backed by the menacing presence of the troopers, convinced a very reluctant Morell to play his part. In any case, at this stage of the game, who among the dedicated Nazis would believe that Morell was not  involved in the conspiracy?

Hitler had always induced fear in his subordinates. This now helped the plotters as none of the SS soldiers would ever look at him, even when he walked past them. From the moment he climbed into Hitler’s bed, Baum, a one-time failed actor, actually started enjoying himself. He gave an even more spectacular performance four days later when he was departing from Carinhall. The fact that he now had less than an hour to live did not spoil it for him in the least.

Goering, mightily impressed with Baum’s performance, was briefly seduced by the thought of using the fake Hitler as his puppet over the coming months. During the course of that time the ‘Fuhrer’  would retire and hand over all his powers to his faithful deputy, Herman Goering. Later he would die gracefully. A tempting scenario! 

Reluctantly he accepted that the army and his co-conspirators, would not stand idly by while he usurped control. He let the thought drift away.

Baum’s briefcase, supposedly packed full with his working papers, was stuffed with high explosive. The papers in it had gone into the furnace along with their owner. Baum would trigger the device by opening the briefcase and simply turning a switch once he saw the agreed predetermined spot. And that would be that.

Baum and Goering’s handshake lasted a long time as they said their goodbyes. The SS troopers nearby noticed this and put it down to the fact that Goering had taken good care of Hitler while he had been ill. The Fuhrer  was expressing his gratitude.

Hitler’s car pulled away, followed by a second one with Doctor Morell in it. Goering hurried inside the house. He couldn’t breathe. It was nearly over. But this last bit of waiting was agony. 

Goering need not have worried. One hour later the brave Max Baum was dead and the entire SS guard contingent was under arrest. A shaken Doctor Morell in the following car, had been slightly injured in the blast, and he had also been arrested, before being discreetly released after an hour or so. Later his testimony about suspicious behaviour by the two SS officers of the guard contingent, led to their swift conviction and execution as part of the attempted coup.

Over the next two days one hundred and twenty six leading Nazi and SS figures were quietly arrested. Two of these were cleared of any wrongdoing but were kept in comfortable custody pending release of the news. The remainder were executed.

For the present the Nazi party was effectively defunct. 


With the Battle for France being effectively over, and peace terms agreed with Great Britain, von Brauchitsch and several of the other Generals flew back to Berlin late that afternoon. Goering was due to broadcast over German radio, three historic announcements.

It had been decided to give primacy to the news of the assassination of Adolph Hitler, and the subsequent uncovering of the Nazi coup attempt by the Army. The memory of their beloved Fuhrer  would not be sullied by announcing the names of the coup ringleaders this day. Goering would only say that that they had been arrested, given a fair trial, found guilty, and justly executed.

Then the news of the armistice with France and peace with Great Britain would be released.

The Military Council listened on a radio in an office at The German High Command Centre in Berlin where they were now installed.

Goering gave a masterful and moving speech, surprising many in the Council. In sad and hushed tones he broke the news and manner of the Fuhrer’s  death. He extolled the virtues of the man who, almost singlehandedly, had lifted Germany out of the travails that had followed the Great War and the depression following the Wall Street Crash in America.

His voice became stern as he talked briefly of the evil and power-hungry plotters, and their fate.

Finally he became more upbeat, more vibrant. Skilfully reminding them that Hitler had championed re-armament for Germany in earlier years, and how this had paid off. The superb German Armed Forces had taken these weapons and used them to gain unprecedented successes against Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France. Six countries defeated and occupied in less than ten weeks! The British army in Belgium defeated. And all for their beloved Fuhrer. 

He left the news of peace with Britain until last. But this was the item that the population loved most of all. It was the cream on the top!

All the good news had muted the response to the bad news. Germany’s population quickly came to terms with the change in the political situation in their country.

After all, they were masters of Europe, weren’t they? And the future looked very rosy for the German nation.

Von Brauchitsch leaned back in his chair and surveyed the officers aro

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und him. “Well gentlemen, Fat Hermann has performed splendidly. We could not have asked for things to have gone better.

Our troops stationed near major cities have been reinforced and are on alert as a precaution against unrest, but I am optimistic that there will be no trouble.

Next week we need to decide which civilians we bring into an expanded Governing Council. After that, our increased workload will make the last few months seem like a holiday”.

Germany had been brought back from the brink of self-destruction! 

Adolf Hitler, (or at least the apparent remains that had been recovered from the bomb scene), was given a magnificent state funeral. Every important person in Germany was there. Few foreign dignitaries, however, had taken the trouble to attend. One detail that was noticed by many people was that the only swastika openly displayed at this event, was the one draped over the coffin.

Amongst the crowd watching, were the U-boat commanders Karl Schiller and Peter Braun, together with their families. As the cortege passed them, they exchanged a knowing look. They had been sworn to secrecy but they knew how close Schiller had come to ‘torpedoing’ the peace.


Following the declaration of peace with Germany, the British political establishment lost no time in looking at the question of their own future.

After two days of deliberations, the multi-party Cabinet had agreed to recommend to Parliament that the existing National Government composed of the three main political parties, remain in power for at least the next six months. This would allow sufficient time to see how Germany fared with its reforms, and how Italy reacted to being told to make peace with Britain and also vacate the little bit of French territory they had only so recently occupied.

The general feeling was that the National Coalition Government was running the country in a capable manner and an election for a new government should not be called before the following spring at the earliest.


Captain Jamie MacLellan, USN, was ushered into the Oval Office. The President greeted him cordially and bade him be seated. He then took a few moments fitting a new cigarette into his slim cigarette holder before lighting it and drawing on it contentedly.

MacLellan was forty one years old. He had joined the US Navy immediately after finishing Harvard, where he had majored in economics and also studied European history. He had been snapped up by the Office of Naval Intelligence, (ONI), once he finished university. He spoke German, French, Italian and Spanish fluently, and Russian badly.

President Franklin D Roosevelt was something of an old family friend, having been at Harvard with his father Daniel, and the two of them had stayed in contact ever since. It was Daniel MacLellan who had introduced Jamie to the President the previous year. They had met on several occasions since then and Roosevelt had been singularly impressed with Jamie’s exceptionally keen and unique insight into politics, and analysis of world affairs. He had the ability to see through the nonsense and hype and accurately assess the situation.

“Well, Jamie, this European business seems to have worked out well in the end. Your hard work paid off. You have done a fine job and I give you my sincere thanks.”

A few months earlier the President had arranged for the temporary secondment of Jamie to the White House. There he had been tasked to give a fresh appraisal of the situation in Europe for the President. A new pair of eyes looking at the conflict.

He had only just finished that particular project when Roosevelt called him into his office and told him about tentative peace feelers from the Germans for the British. He was asked what his thoughts on them were. As a result of that discussion, Jamie had been given the delicate mission of ensuring the peace talks took place, and that Germany offered reasonable and honourable terms.

Jamie’s frantic daily scurrying between the German, Swiss, and Portuguese embassies, as well as their own State department and the Oval Office, had played a considerable part in producing the desired result.

Now the President wanted to use his abilities again.

“I have a new job for you. I want you to be the new Military Attaché in our Embassy in Berlin. But I also want you to be my eyes and ears in Europe. I need to know what they are thinking. Your knack of peering at something and finding the bottom line is second to none.

The European War may be over but the communist menace is still there. There is disarray in Europe right now. We don’t want comrade Stalin to get any ideas.

You are the man I trust to let me know what is going on.

This will be on top of the normal Attaché duties. Just send me a personal report of your thoughts once a month or so. More often if you feel it is needed. Strictly between you and me. No need to go through official channels.

Will you do this for me, Jamie?”

“Of course, Mister President. When do you want me to start?”


“I will get right on to it, sir.”

Two days later MacLellan was on his way to Berlin.


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At the end of the European war in June 1940, Germany was in control of a huge swathe of Western Europe, with a total population of one hundred and sixty million. Of this number, ninety million were German, if one included the Austrians, and the Czechs and Slovaks of the now non-existent Czechoslovakia, who were henceforth considered to be German citizens.

The other seventy million under Germany’s sway were citizens of the occupied countries.

To administer and supervise this vast area and populace was no simple undertaking. This task was further complicated by the previously imposed Nazi ideology and policies which had caused some distortions and introduced bad practices throughout the region.

The Military Council that governed Germany after the demise of Hitler, had lost no time in transforming itself into a Governing Council which included civilian members selected for their expertise. Their ministries were housed in the new Reich Chancellery built on Hitler’s orders and only finished by Albert Speer the previous year. This building would be the permanent home of Germany’s Government, even after the old Imperial Reichstag building was renovated following a mysterious fire some years earlier. The Reichstag would be used only for ceremonial occasions.

The first meeting of the Council had been held one week after Hitler’s funeral. The previous day Goering had broadcast the composition and tasks of the Council to the German people. His message was one of supreme confidence in the new regime and reassurance that the German people could look towards a secure and prosperous future.

One of Goering’s conditions for helping with the elimination of Hitler was that he would succeed him as the leader of Germany. This was refused outright by von Brauchitsch. With great reluctance on both sides a compromise was reached. Goering would have the title of President of the Governing Council, and would be their nominated spokesman, but he would have no real power. He would have one vote in the council, the same as the other members.

Goering had always been considered by many to be something of a playboy. These days he enjoyed the trappings of power too much to be truly effective in any given ministerial job. Consequently he accepted his new role as the best he was likely to get.

For the time being .

General von Brauchitsch was effectively the leader of the Council as well as holding the position of Minister of Defence. He personally had no desire whatsoever to be a politician and made no secret of the fact that he would serve on the council only until Germany was stable and on a steady course. Then he would go back to the army or retire.

Two other soldiers were members of the Council as ‘Ministers without Portfolio’. General Erich von Mannstein and General Ludwig Beck. Both able soldiers widely respected for their abilities, intelligence and work ethic. They also had long histories of opposition to many aspects of Hitler’s and Nazi policies.

There were three civilian members.

Baron von Altendorf was Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Hjalmar Schacht had been appointed the new Minister of Economics. Schacht was sixty three years old, an economist, banker, and previously liberal politician who had at one time been the President of the German Central Bank. He had been Minister of Economics from 1934 to 1937 but had become disillusioned with the Nazi regime and resigned. He was considered by his fellow members to be a safe hand on the tiller during the impending reconstruction of Germany.

The new Interior Minister was Albert Speer. Although Speer was only thirty five years old, he was a man of proven and outstanding organisational abilities. He was a man who got things done. He had been a registered member of the Nazi party for many years, but that had been for the sake of convenience. He was essentially apolitical.

Under his wing, in the short term, would be the departments of labour, industry, transport, justice, police, education, health and agriculture. He had been tasked with finding suitable heads or ministers for some of these functions as a matter of urgency.

This was the make-up of the Council that now ruled most of Western Europe.

Von Altendorf and Schacht were considering prospective Deputy Ministers to assist them. The potential appointees had to have distinguished records in the German civil service. Speer had already made such an appointment for his own ministry.

Von Brauchitsch had also appointed two deputies of his own to assist with the restructure of the armed forces. These were Admiral Karl Donitz of the Kriegsmarine , and General Albert Kesselring from the Luftwaffe .

The first hastily convened Council meeting was opened by Goering as President of the Council. He gave a short but flowery speech welcoming everybody and reminding them of the grave responsibility that rested in their hands.

The first person to speak, at his own request, was the Minister of Economics. He had been appointed only the previous day. His address was simple and to the point.

“Gentlemen, since my appointment as Minister of Economics was only confirmed two days ago, I have had no chance to collect any meaningful information on the state of the country’s finances and economy. Three years ago I was aware that the rearmament of Germany had strained us financially. Since then, the war has obviously imposed an additional huge burden.

With effect from today I have cancelled all staff leave for Ministry of Economics and Finance staff. I have issued strict orders for all relevant information to be collected, analysed and collated, and to be made available to me within a maximum of two weeks, without fail.

I hope to be in a position to present this Council with an emergency budget four weeks from today. I must warn, however, that because of the haste at which it will be compiled, it cannot be considered a truly accurate budget. That  will take a little longer.”

He paused for a sip of his water.

“It is, of course, impossible to draw up a meaningful budget unless I know the requirements of each of your own ministries for the next year, and longer. I urge you to give this your urgent attention and let me have details within the next two weeks. As I said, in view of the time constraints, and the unusual situation Germany is in at present, I do not expect complete accuracy but we will at least have something to work with.

Finally, I ask all present to direct all departments and ministries under their control to institute a regime of austerity with immediate effect. Any unnecessary expenditure should be curtailed, or at least delayed, for the present, until we know where we stand.”

He then spent another fifteen minutes answering various questions as well as he was able, given his current lack of detailed information and short time in the job.

Goering now asked the Interior Minister for his contribution.

“My new deputy Minister is heading a task force which is examining closely each of the departments under my ministry. At first glance they appear to be functioning reasonably well, subject to various distortions caused by the war, and directives from the previous regime. Many experienced staff were lost through conscription into the German armed forces.

The only radical change I would like to look at immediately, subject to the Council’s approval, is in the manner in which the police are administered. I recommend that control of police matters reverts to the old system of local and individual state control, who in turn will be responsible to the Interior Ministry.

I would also like to abolish our ‘esteemed’ secret state police” — he said this with a grimace — ‘the Gestapo’.  These people are most unloved — I should say feared — by the populace in Germany. I am not saying that police should be loved, but they should certainly be respected and trusted. This is not the case with the Gestapo.” 

This drew murmurs of agreement from the rest of the members with the exception of Goering who kept quiet.

“My intention is that all Gestapo  members shall be decommissioned immediately, but are then allowed to reapply to the police for a new job. They will, of course, be carefully vetted to weed out undesirable elements, which I suspect will be many. There have been constant rumours of bullying, torture and even killings by them while they were under the control of Heinrich Himmler.

There is one other matter I ask this Council for clarification. We are all familiar with the anti-Jewish laws and the anti-Semitism encouraged by the previous regime. These are something which other nations find abhorrent. Indeed, I believe they are cruel, unnecessary, and do not recognise the contributions made to science, industry, finance and the arts by the German Jewish community.

I suggest we institute a Commission of Enquiry under the Justice Ministry to look into this as a matter of urgency and make appropriate recommendations.”

This suggestion received the immediate and unhesitating support of the rest of the Council with the exception of Goering, and even he acquiesced when he saw the unanimity of his fellow members.

Speer spoke again. “As regards, the requests from the Minister of Economics, my departments will  reduce unnecessary expenditure, and a report on my budgetary requirements will  be ready in two weeks.”

He was finished. No wasted words.

Von Brauchitsch thought to himself that with men such as this — talented, hard-working, conscientious, non-political, and no personal hidden agenda — Germany would become the most prosperous and stable country in the world.

Von Altendorf was next. He outlined the current state of Germany’s relations with various countries, but more particularly with Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. These he dealt with in detail. Then he moved on to his main priority.

“I propose that we now re-establish, as a matter of urgency, full diplomatic relations with Great Britain and exchange ambassadors. I need this in order to use the good offices of the British to open talks with the governments-in-exile of the occupied territories.

Only after I have talked with these people can I have an idea of what it will cost to normalise relations with their countries. I think if the British government can coerce them into talking to me, I could see them all in one visit to London lasting only a matter of days.”

All the members approved this, although Goering mentioned that von Altendorf should proceed with caution when talking to the ‘so called’ governments-in-exile, and not be soft in any negotiations.

The other Council members listened politely to Goering but paid little serious attention to his remarks. Goering was ‘yesterday’s man’ in their opinion.

Now it was the turn of the Minister of Defence to speak.

“My two deputy Ministers, Admiral Donitz and General Kesselring, and I, have initiated a full scale review of the armed forces, which will include manpower, equipment, future strategic role — in fact all military aspects. To enable the Minister of Economics to plan ahead we undertake to have at least a preliminary report completed in the next two weeks.

One measure under active consideration is demobilising some of our troops. This will be carried out in an orderly fashion so as not to flood the labour market. In this respect we will liaise with the Interior Minister.

It is also our intention to disband the SS. There have been some disturbing reports of atrocities committed by them in Poland. These cannot be overlooked and are now being investigated by the Wehrmacht  military police.”

Here Goering interrupted. “Is that necessary General? Whatever happened in Poland happened nearly a year ago. Cannot it be allowed to die a quiet death?”

“No. Absolutely not. It is a stain on the German army and the German people. How can we ever expect the Poles to trust us if we just pretend nothing bad happened? I expect to be in a position to report on this matter in a few weeks. In the meantime the Minister of Foreign Affairs should be prepared for some hard words from them, if and when he meets the Polish government-in-exile.”

He continued.

“Another radical change we are looking at, is scrapping the Kriegsmarine ’s large surface fleet — the battleships, battlecruisers and heavy cruisers — to make way for a stronger submarine fleet and aircraft carriers. We are inclined to believe that the age of the big surface warships, other than carriers, is dead.

Obviously the Soviet Union is by far, Germany’s biggest potential external threat, and this will always be uppermost in our minds during our military review”.

Von Brauchitsch was not a politician. He did not need to use one hundred words for something that could be said in twenty. He was finished.

The two Ministers without Portfolio had nothing to report at this time.

General von Mannstein had been given the task of assessing the future role and needs of the armies of the occupied countries. This would largely depend upon whether these countries would be prepared to co-operate with Germany.

This led to the second part of his brief. To explore his idea of a European Alliance. An attack on one country, is an attack on all. This part of his job excited him the most.

General Beck was now responsible for all intelligence gathering, both civil and military. The Abwehr, German  military intelligence, under the redoubtable Admiral Canaris, also fell under his wing.

Such was the first meeting of the Governing Council. Minimum amount of time wasted, and everyone, (with the possible exception of its President), aware of the tremendous amount of work that had to be accomplished in a relatively short space of time.

Goering was anxious to get home and relax. The others were more interested in getting back to work.

Over a twenty day period beginning 24 June, over two hundred thousand British prisoners of war were repatriated back to Great Britain from camps in Germany and France. General Rommel had been given the responsibility for ensuring an orderly handover of the troops to the British officers sent to Europe to accept them. Rommel in turn delegated the task to his trusted aide, Colonel von Altendorf.

The British team was under the command of none other than General Brooke. He had been one of the last British officers to leave when Dunkirk had been evacuated, and now he had been one of the first officers ashore. He had to wait another three days before the men of his own regiment arrived, but when they did, there were tears in more than a few eyes at an emotional reunion.

Brooke’s aide was the newly promoted Colonel Blackstone, who was to act as the British liaison officer with Colonel von Altendorf. Blackstone had, of course, met von Altendorf’s father at the peace negotiations in Lisbon. A fact that he kept to himself.

Rommel had instructed von Altendorf that the British prisoners of war were to be treated with maximum respect at all times. He had even ordered that their German escorts be supplied with beer, to be given to the British troops at the assembly stations. This proved very popular with the troops of both countries! There was little evidence of animosity between the two nationalities at this stage. In the eyes of the average British soldier the German’s had won ‘fair and square’ through the use of better equipment, tactics and leadership, while the British had been saddled with the French army!

If there was any resentment harboured by the British troops, it was directed towards their own country that had sent them into a war for which they were poorly equipped.

It was known that the British Secretary for War had not only feuded with the British Army high command, but had also misled the House of Commons on the capabilities of the British Expeditionary Force. He had assured the House that the BEF was sent off to war ‘as well, if not better, equipped than any similar army.’  This was either wishful thinking or outright deceit.

And the BEF paid the price.

Von Altendorf carried out his repatriation mission perfectly. He met several times each day with Blackstone, and by the time the last British prisoner-of-war stepped aboard the last ship, the two had become firm friends. Each of them had invited the other to visit them and meet their families at the earliest opportunity.

This happened sooner than either of them anticipated. It was only a few weeks later that Blackstone was seconded to the British Embassy in Berlin as military attaché, following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. This appointment had also been at the behest of General Brooke.

The entire repatriation operation had gone smoothly and the British soldiers arrived back in England to be greeted by huge crowds. The King accompanied by the Prime Minister had been at the port to welcome the first shiploads of troops home.

So ended Britain’s involvement in the European War.


Over a period of four days the Foreign Secretary had called in the different governments-in-exile based in London. He had steeled himself to let these people know, in no uncertain terms, that they must  negotiate with Germany. If they declined he would politely point out that Britain would have no alternative but to withdraw recognition of them, leaving the Germans to negotiate with others in their countries.

It had been only weeks earlier that the British Government, anxious for foreign support in the war, had gratefully acknowledged the common aims and ideals shared between them all. Now they were being told they were on their own! Such is politics! 

The Polish delegation was led by General Wladyslaw Sikorski, a vigorous advocate of the Polish cause, and a fierce opponent of both the Soviets and the Nazis. He had only recently arrived in London. His government had previously been based in France since his own country had been overrun by the Germans the previous year. The imminent fall of France in June, had persuaded the Poles it was time to move — again.

Sikorski had been surprised at the terms offered to Poland by Germany, then suspicious. However, after an hour of in-depth discussions with Halifax, he came to realise that he really had no option but to accept. There was no possible way he could get better terms anyway. And he would be freeing his country! Or at least the western part! 

He nurtured a deep hatred of the Germans but eventually agreed to talks with the German Minister of Foreign Affairs in London at any time of their choosing.

After Sikorski left, Halifax breathed a sigh of relief. “One down, four to go,” he thought.

Norway and tiny Luxembourg had accepted the proposals with alacrity. They were getting their countries back.

The five man Czechoslovakian delegation had left the meeting with Halifax, in despair. He had no good news for them, other than that they would be allowed to return to their country on condition they accepted the status quo that Czechoslovakia was now an integral part of Germany. And they would have to swear an oath of loyalty to the German state and become German citizens.

Lord Halifax genuinely felt sorry for them as he bade them goodbye and they slowly filed out of his office.

It was the Dutch that resisted the most. Queen Wilhelmina, (once described by Churchill as ‘the only man in the Dutch government’), was part of their delegation. After hearing what was being offered she was scathing about their country being left at the mercy of the Germans. It took all of Halifax’s patience and diplomacy before she reluctantly conceded they had no choice but to agree to talks with their enemy.

Halifax had now honoured his commitment to von Altendorf. He had persuaded the foreign ‘governments’ to see the greater perspective. Good luck to him! 


While Lord Halifax was ‘entertaining’ the other governments-in-exile in London, Baron von Altendorf had visited the Belgium King Leopold at his palace in Brussels. The King had been under house arrest since surrendering alongside the Belgium army at the end of May. Meanwhile his previous government — from which he was estranged — was temporarily sitting in Bordeaux, in Vichy controlled France.

The policy of neutrality of the Belgium government before the war had been taken to ridiculous extremes and had left the country with an ill-equipped army and air force. The army had been equipped with only sixteen  battle tanks when the Germans invaded. For ‘political reasons’, more than this number of tanks had been considered ‘too aggressive’ for a neutral power. Political correctness gone mad!  

For this and other reasons, the Belgium King held his incompetent government in contempt, hence the estrangement.

The King immediately grasped what was on offer from Germany. He agreed with it but was not sure how his ex-ministers would view it. Leopold had little respect for their common sense. He suggested to von Altendorf that the Vichy French detain them in Bordeaux — not arrest, just detain — and escort them to Brussels for talks.

Von Altendorf did not particularly want to play it this way, but to be realistic; it was probably the only way he was going to get to talk to them easily.

He telephoned von Brauchitsch.

The following day the members of the Belgian government-in-exile, angry, tired, and more than a little apprehensive, were duly delivered to Brussels. Without delay they were in deep discussions with their King and von Altendorf. Despite the hostility between the two Belgian sides, they eventually saw the futility of trying to carry on as before. Just as all the other exiled governments had done.

It took a further day to hammer out a firm and binding agreement that was acceptable to all parties. A point of contention had been von Altendorf’s insistence on the historic problem of differences between the two language groups that made up Belgium’s population being resolved by way of a future referendum.

The German demand for the return of their territory ceded to Belgium after the Great War raised no great objections. It had been expected, and in any case did not amount to a large area.

Immediately afterwards von Altendorf flew to Copenhagen.


His meeting with King Christian X and his fully constituted government went smoothly. When Germany had invaded their country, the Danish government had almost immediately capitulated in exchange for their retaining political independence in domestic matters.

Historically there had always been a large degree of interaction with Germany. The existing Danish politicians quickly formed a government of national unity involving the main political parties, but excluding communists. It was led by the serving Danish Prime minister. Danish public opinion generally backed the government as they recognised the reality of the situation.

Von Altendorf was actually offering more than expected. He had no great difficulty in procuring a deal!

He now made preparations to visit London to meet a lot of people who, for very good reasons, currently had no great love for Germans. Once he had agreements with them, he could turn his attention to what would be the biggest single problem — France. But he would let the French simmer for a little longer. 


In a relatively short but emotionally charged meeting with the Czechoslovaks, von Altendorf repeated, in a sympathetic but firm way, what they had already heard from the British Foreign Secretary. The country previously

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called Czechoslovakia, no longer existed. They would all be welcome to return to what were now the German provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, conditional only on them accepting German citizenship and undertaking not to engage in subversive activities. All previous property rights would be respected.

As a body, the delegates knew they were finished. The British government had already informed them that they had withdrawn their official recognition. Of the five individuals in the delegation, two advised they wished to return to Bohemia, — it was hard for them to call it this —  two others elected to remain in Britain, and the delegation leader, Edvard Benes, the ex-President of the Czechoslovak Republic, was going to live in the USA. He had had enough of Europe and its politics! 

Dealing with the Poles turned out to be less complicated than von Altendorf had thought. In less than two hours the two sides had agreed on all major points of a lasting peace treaty between Poland and Germany. Von Altendorf thought they seemed quite eager to get back to their native country. He realised that a major incentive for the Polish acceptance of what had been offered was Germany’s binding guarantee against foreign aggressors, i.e. the Soviet Union.

The matter of atrocities committed by the SS in Poland was brought up by General Sikorski. Von Altendorf was prepared for this and informed the Poles of the investigation currently underway, and assured them that any guilty party would be suitably punished. The new Polish government would be kept informed.

Remarkably they parted on good terms with General Sikorski actually inviting von Altendorf to visit Poland at the earliest opportunity.

“Wonders never cease,”  he thought as the Poles left.

The Dutch were also in a more receptive frame of mind following their previous discussions with Lord Halifax. Von Altendorf thought that he had managed to allay some of their fears and misgivings. The delegation had left the meetings in a seemingly more positive, less suspicious, mood. The Queen had even managed a smile — once.

He counted his diplomatic offensive as a success! Now he had to get back to Berlin to ensure the military governors of the occupied countries knew what they had to do, and co-operated wholeheartedly with the soon to be re-established internal governments.

But first, tomorrow he was being introduced to the British Prime Minister by Lord Halifax. Von Altendorf was looking forward to meeting the old war horse. Winston Churchill was the only man who had consistently and vocally warned about the dangers posed by Adolf Hitler. The only high profile politician, in any country, including Germany itself, who had recognised Hitler for what he was!

In the meantime he would enjoy a nice quiet dinner this evening with the new German Ambassador and his wife.

The next evening a car duly arrived at the German Embassy to collect von Altendorf for his meeting with the Prime minister and the Foreign Secretary. It was to be an informal dinner at number 10 Downing Street.

As he arrived at Downing Street he privately marvelled at the developments that had taken place over the past few weeks. Now, here he was, about to share a meal with the man who only a few weeks earlier was considered to be Germany’s greatest enemy. Absolutely fantastic! Unbelievable! The stuff of fiction books.  

He was escorted to a room in which there were three people. Lord Halifax he already knew, and the portly figure of Winston Churchill he immediately recognised, of course. The third person present was someone he thought was vaguely familiar and whom he felt he should know, but he could not put a name to him.

Immediately he entered the room Churchill had spied him and lumbered forward to introduce himself. The introduction was scarcely over when the unknown person walked over and said, “Winston, I would very much appreciate it if you would introduce me to his Excellency.”

Churchill looked at both of them, and said, “Your Majesty, may I present His Excellency Baron von Altendorf.”

A slight pause. “Your Excellency, may I present His Majesty, King George.”

The imperturbable Von Altendorf was stunned! To meet the King! What an honour for him and his country!  He was absolutely speechless for a few seconds before he recovered his wits.

Lord Halifax joined them and the conversation swiftly became relaxed and informal. There was no probing or contentious questions in the beginning, but later his hosts were very interested in the current situation in Germany. All had the good grace not to mention Hitler. He answered all comments and queries as fully as he could.

It had been a warm, congenial get together. Both the King and Churchill expressed their sincere appreciation for the swift and smooth repatriation of the British prisoners of war, an operation which would be completed in the next few days.

There was no doubt in von Altendorf’s mind that there had been an unbelievably huge, and he hoped permanent, thaw in Anglo-German relations.


Von Brauchitsch had invited the Interior Minister to join him for a private meeting at his convenience. Today was that meeting.

Firstly he asked Speer how conditions were in the concentration camps now that he had been tasked with closing them. As usual Speer gave a short concise answer.

“The teams I have sent into the camps have made great progress. Their first action was to change the SS guards for regular army guards, as we had already agreed.

There were almost one hundred thousand prisoners in the camps. Far more than we had expected. The SS ran an extremely brutal and uncaring system. Conditions were not good, to say the least. Poor and inadequate food, and only basic accommodation. The prisoners were overworked and physically abused. There was sickness and unnecessary deaths, some of them no doubt due to mistreatment.

Accommodation is now improved, food rations have been increased, and they are of better quality. Working conditions are more in line with industrial norms.

Ordinary criminals have been separated from the political and other prisoners who were considered to be enemies of the previous Nazi state. The criminals will be dealt with only after all the other, more deserving, cases are finalised. The teams at each camp are working through the records of the inmates, interviewing them, and where they are considered to have been wrongly incarcerated, they are immediately set free. They are then transported to a rehabilitation centre of their choice and given every possible assistance to integrate back into society.

In the case of alleged communist prisoners, the interviewing officers have to feel confident that the prisoner will not engage in subversive activities and are not Moscow controlled. Otherwise those particular cases are relegated for future consideration.

Prisoners are being released at the rate of about three thousand a week but we will increase this as time goes by. My staff are working ten hour days, six days a week.”

It was obvious that Speer was handling this unpleasant problem with his usual skill and speed.

Von Brauchitsch now broached the subject of their meeting. “Albert, I would like to ask you a personal favour. One that I need to be handled very discreetly.

Somewhere in the camps there were, or possibly still are, the relatives of a Jew called Max Baum. I think there may be his father, a brother, and some other relatives, possibly uncles, aunts and cousins. Can you find out what has happened to them? If they are still there, could you please release them immediately and have them accommodated with sufficient cash for them to get by for a few weeks?”

Speer asked no questions. “I will attend to it immediately.”

“Thank you Albert. I’ll wait to hear from you.”

After Hitler’s death, von Brauchitsch had waited for Goering to quietly mention that he had honoured his promise to Max Baum. Goering had said nothing. Possibly he had done what he said he would do, but von Brauchitsch’s conscience needed confirmation. Also he was not entirely confident that Goering wouldn’t arrange for Baum’s relatives to be eliminated, thus avoiding any possible trace back to him, should certain previous events ever come to light.

Confirmation came three days later. Speer handled the matter personally and came to the General’s office with the results.

Von Brauchitsch read the sheet of paper handed to him.

Goering had done nothing! Baum’s father, brother, and eight aunts, uncles and cousins had still been imprisoned in the camps up until this morning. They were guilty only of being Jewish! They had now all been released and at this very moment were being driven to a furnished house in Berlin owned by the Interior Ministry. A nurse had been allocated to them as the father was sick. A junior clerk from the Interior Ministry was also assisting them to re-adjust after their unpleasant time in the camp. They had been given enough money to get by for the next month pending further instructions from von Brauchitsch.

Von Brauchitsch was full of mixed emotions. Relief they were still alive, anger at the callousness of Goering, and gratitude to Speer for his usual super efficiency.

Speer saw himself out.

The General thought about Goering. He had noticed that the Field Marshall had been paying only minimal attention at the last few Governing Council meetings. Perhaps it is time he retired. 



Jamie MacLellan was in his study at home writing a long personal letter to his President. When finished, he leaned back and read through it.

Dear Mr President

The first two personal reports I sent to you were basically no more than my initial impressions during the short time I have been in Berlin.

Over the past weeks I have made some progress in establishing contacts that I regard as important. I now feel I have more insight into how things stand here in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

In particular I mention a friendship I have developed with the British military attaché in Berlin, Colonel Jeremy Blackstone, who before this appointment, was aide to General Brooke, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. Jeremy talks freely with me about matters that he believes are of mutual concern to our two countries.

He seems to have struck up a close friendship with Colonel Klaus von Altendorf, the son of the German Minister of Foreign Affairs. Klaus is also aide to General Rommel. They meet often, both on a formal and informal basis.

I mention this because I suspect he may be one of the sources of Blackstone’s information.

Within the German Government, the Soviet Union is perceived to be the only potential threat to Germany. Indeed, they see it as a threat to the whole world. Germany is as anti-communist as it ever was.

While nobody here wants another war, many think one may be inevitable with the Soviets. However, the appraisal of their intelligence services is that this is not likely for at least the next two years. They are keeping a close watch on the situation, but have based their military and strategic review on this thinking.

The army continues to demobilise its soldiers, but keeps them listed in the Reserves. The immediate aim is a professional and well trained army of considerably fewer than one million men. This could be expanded quickly to four million men, and probably to more than five million, in my judgement.

Armour and equipment lost in the war is not being replaced immediately. They are using the envisaged two year breathing space to upgrade all equipment, using lessons learnt in the war. The aim is for the German army to be a superbly equipped and trained fighting force by no later than the end of 1942.

Much the same policy is being pursued with their air force. They are upgrading some of their existing operational aircraft, but have down-graded research and development of conventional piston engine aircraft in favour of jet powered aircraft. The have had a jet aircraft flying for the past year and apparently their aim is to introduce a jet fighter into general service by the end of 1942.

I am aware that our own jet aircraft programme is nowhere near as advanced. Neither is that of the British.

Of particular interest to myself is the German navy. Here, there is an even more radical change. They are down-sizing their surface fleet. The superb Battleships Bismark and Tirpitz, together with the navy’s battlecruisers and heavy cruisers, will be sold if buyers can be found, otherwise they will be scrapped. The new philosophy is that the days of the capital ship are over! Except for aircraft carriers.

Work has started on the completion of the aircraft carrier, Graf Zeppelin, which is eighty five percent finished at the moment. Work had been stopped some time ago on the orders of Adolf Hitler. The Graf Zeppelin is expected to be operational by late 1941 or early 1942. To give you a rough idea, this ship is about the same size as the USS Enterprise.

I believe designs for improved and larger carriers have been called for with a view to possibly adding another two or three carriers in the not too distant future.

Newer and bigger submarines are also on the agenda.

While on the subject of the military, I have to tell you about progress made with General von Mannstein’s dream of a ‘European Alliance’, which, you may remember, I mentioned in my last letter.

If the rumours I hear are true, General von Mannstein is having some success with his idea. It seems that Norway may already have agreed to join this alliance, and Denmark is about to join. I have even heard that Poland is seriously considering it. My friend Colonel Blackstone, told me that the concept has definitely been discussed in high circles in Britain, but nothing has come of this yet.

I personally find the whole concept breathtaking. Who knows, maybe it could mean the end of war in Europe!

Another item of interest I heard, is that Mussolini has been told in no uncertain terms by the German Foreign Minister, to evacuate the land he snatched in Southern France. He has been given a week or so to comply, or his forces will be forcibly ejected, (obviously by the Germans army).

Under pressure from the Germans, he has already put his invasion plans for the Sudan and East Africa on hold — almost certainly for good. In any case, the Italian troops would have bitten off more than they could chew as Britain began reinforcing those countries once they were warned of Mussolini’s intentions.

I also heard that Germany will officially withdraw from the Pact of Steel very soon.

Which brings me to a subject closer to home — Japan. Germany’s Foreign Minister called in the Japanese Ambassador this week. Conjecture is that he is letting them know about German concerns about their continued aggression in China. The Foreign Minister also had a meeting with a senior Chinese diplomat, but I don’t know what transpired.

Reading between the lines I think Germany’s Governing Council have moved away from the friendly relationship they had with the Japanese in Hitler’s time. The anti-communist stance of Japan must still be valued by Germany, but it is my belief that you will find some German support for American policies with Japan.

In general, everything seems to have settled down here. Talking to normal everyday people, there is no doubt that Hitler is still revered as the man who gave the Germans back their pride. However, there seems to be few people who regret the demise of Nazism.

One big surprise was the speedy repeal of all the anti-Jewish laws. Furthermore, political prisoners — which basically means anyone suspected of opposing the Nazi regime — are now being released in droves.

The economy is picking up and people are feeling confident. There is a widespread feeling of optimism.

I think the Governing Council are doing a good job.

Yours respectfully Jamie MacLellan


Von Brauchitsch had instituted separate weekly meetings with the military members of the Governing Council, Generals von Mannstein and Beck. These usually included his own two deputy Ministers, Admiral Donitz and General Kesselring. Occasionally the head of the Abwehr,  Admiral Canaris, was invited to attend at his own request. Today was one of those occasions.

As usual the first item on the agenda was the Soviet Union. The German military had a very large espionage and intelligence gathering operation all over that vast country. Of particular interest were any signs of increasing production of armaments by the Russians.

Canaris reported that production of the standard tank in the Soviet Army, the T26 light tank, had come to an end as it was now considered obsolete. This would be replaced with a much better design, the T34 medium tank, which was just about to go into production. From what his agents could learn, this was a well-designed tank with a clever combination of firepower, mobility, armour and ruggedness. He believed it was probably superior to Germany’s current main tank, the Panzer lV.

This was not good news. However the decision had already been made by the Wehrmacht  to cease production of the Panzer lV while speeding up the development of the next generation of tanks. Germany’s other medium tank, the older Panzer lll was already being withdrawn from service. Fortunately the existing chassis of this tank was perfect for adaption to a mobile assault gun, for which there was a great need.

The conclusion was that the German army had by far the strongest tank force in the world at present, and by the time the new Soviet tank was being produced in significant numbers, the new German designs would be rolling of the production lines.

As regards the Soviet air force, their current operational aircraft were considerably inferior to the German equivalents. They had, however, developed a new ground attack aircraft, the Sturmovik,  which was reported to be a formidable aircraft. This was scheduled to be introduced into service sometime next year.

The Luftwaffe  remained the strongest air force in the world, and the new aircraft now being developed would maintain this superiority for the foreseeable future.

The Soviet navy was unimpressive. Despite the building of a strong Soviet fleet being officially a national priority for some years, progress had been slow. Their large ships consisted of three very old battleships and seven cruisers, three of which were also ancient. They were, however, now starting construction of three more battleships, and had plans for further additions.

They were considerably stronger than Germany in submarine numbers, though not necessarily in quality of ships.

However, all three branches of the Soviet armed services suffered from an appalling lack of leadership. This was a direct result of Stalin’s purges in previous years.

With the Kriegsmarine’s  new submarine and aircraft carrier building program, the Soviet Navy was not considered to be a significant threat to Germany in the near or medium term.

This report from Canaris was discussed for the next half hour. The general consensus at the end was that the Soviet Union presented no near term threat to Germany.

Admiral Donitz spoke next.

“Following this analysis of the Soviet navy, I can report that we have had great interest in the heavy surface ships we wish to dispose of. The Soviets have expressed interest in purchasing our two battleships, the Spanish would like a battlecruiser and a heavy cruiser, Mexico, Argentina and Turkey each want a heavy cruiser, and the Chinese are desperate to sign a deal for our other battlecruiser. The Japanese also want to talk to us about some of these ships but in view of our new policy of friendship with China, and co-operation with Britain and the United States, I am proceeding slowly with this.

The good news is that the final sale price of these vessels will be higher than expected. We will not recover the cost of building them, of course, but that is beside the point.

The bad news is that all the buyers want some form of credit for their purchases, as well as assistance and crew training before handover. The credit facilities they are looking for would be a small initial payment in cash, and the balance paid by way of shipments of agricultural produce and raw materials.

This is outside my expertise and is something for the Minister for Economics to rule on. I also believe the Ministers of Foreign Affairs or Interior, are better placed than I am to finalise these sales.”

All present were delighted with this development. Apart from the useful economic boost, the Soviets should view the sale to them of the battleships as a friendly act, and hopefully they would lower their guard a little and re-arm with a little less urgency. Now that German naval policy recognised that the large capital ships were a relic of the past and could easily be dealt with in any future war, a sale to the Russians of Germany’s battleships was very acceptable indeed.

The sale of a battlecruiser to China would lead to difficulties with the Japanese, but would certainly help to cement the improving relations with Britain and America.

The only other matter to be discussed was the disbanding of the SS. Von Brauchitsch dealt with this.

“Unfortunately, due to their culture of elitism, and an obsession with racial superiority encouraged by its previous leader, Heinrich Himmler, there was a great deal of initial resentment among the SS to the idea of their incorporation into the Wermacht.  I must say there was also some dissent within the army about being made to accept SS soldiers.

The investigations into atrocities committed by the SS in Poland and France have resulted in the trial of about two thousand of their troops. The circumstances were examined in great detail. Where the investigators found any extenuating circumstances, the accused individuals were given the benefit of the doubt. The nett result was that only twenty three officers and seventy nine other ranks were found guilty of serious crimes. The officers were executed and the others sentenced to military prison with hard labour for varied amounts of time between five and fifteen years. The remaining nineteen hundred accused, were dealt with relatively leniently. Some received prison sentences and the rest were confined to barracks for sixty days with a loss of pay.

A report on the matter was forwarded to the Foreign Affairs Minister for him to use in whatever way he sees fit in negotiations with the Poles. I hope they will now consider this matter closed.

The bulk of the SS, all fifty thousand of them, were offered the choice of applying to join the regular army, or demobilisation. Thirty thousand of them chose the army.

It was quite an undertaking. Lecturers had to be found and speedily trained within the army.

“The ex-SS applicants had to go back to school for a week”, von Brauchitsch said with a smile. “It was a one week intensive series of lectures and debates about the new German order and society. Particular attention was paid to many of the errors in Nazi ideology, although there was never any direct criticism of Hitler himself. The object was to re-educate them to a point where they could accept the new, post Nazi society and policies in Germany. Anyone who could not do so, would not be eligible for the army, which is, after all, the defender of our society.

Nearly a quarter of these soldiers at the school failed in the judgement of the lecturers. A further five thousand just walked away after the lectures were finished. Only eighteen thousand eventually completed an application to join the Werhmacht.  Bearing in mind that the army is down-sizing, fewer than half of these applicants were accepted. All good, battle hardened soldiers.

That, gentlemen, is the end of the SS”.

It was time to finish the meeting. They all suffered from a never ending burden of work. But there was one more item to be considered. General Beck looked at Admiral Canaris, prompting him to speak.

Canaris had a long history of opposition to the Nazis. He had even contemplated a plan to kidnap and unseat Hitler as early as the beginning of 1939. At that time the high ranking military in Germany believed Britain would declare war on Germany if Czechoslovakia, or what was left of it, was attacked. That would have given the German military the pretext they believed they needed, to act. Unfortunately when Czechoslovakia was eventually attacked and occupied, the weak political leaders of Britain and France did nothing. And so a glorious opportunity to spare Europe from war was lost.

He had become even more anti-Nazi after personally witnessing war crimes in Poland by the SS, including the burning of a synagogue with two hundred Polish Jews inside. He was also fiercely anti-communist.

Canaris now spoke. “I have to bring a matter of grave concern to the attention of this gathering. I first discussed it with General Beck two weeks ago, but since then things seem to have become worse.”

He had the absolute attention of all present.

“It has come to my knowledge that following the dismemberment of the SS, someone immediately started a sort of fellowship movement for ex-SS soldiers. Mostly disgruntled soldiers, I might add. It isn’t exactly a secret movement, but they are also not openly advertising it. Recruiting more by word of mouth. Even so, membership already stands at ten thousand and is growing daily. My source tells me that there will be twenty thousand very soon, with an overall target of thirty thousand members.

Now it `may be a perfectly innocent organisation, people just keeping alive their old comradeship. But the idea of twenty or thirty thousand well trained soldiers, all imbued with Nazi ideals, does not sit comfortably with me. I decided to keep an eye on them.

There is definitely some money behind it. Then I started to pick up whispers through my agents and others, of certain people very discretely spreading lies about the Governing Council. To them it seems that Germany is being disarmed and will soon be defenceless. The sailors on the battleships and other heavy units have been told their ships will be sold or scrapped and they will be discharged from the navy without compensation or pensions. Another story circulating is that the territories conquered by the shedding of German blood, are being handed back to our enemies. That sort of rubbish.

Oh, I nearly forgot, the members of the Governing Council are also lining their own pockets out of the tax money paid by ordinary hard working Germans.”

Canaris saw the faces of his audience set hard.

“As a matter of urgency I set my agents to trace who was behind this, and ascertain what it might be leading up to. It took a lot of gentle sifting through information, subtle prodding of different people, a little arm twisting here and there, putting together all the pieces. Everything I learned, pointed to one man.” He paused.

“And do we have a name for this man?” Von Brauchitsch asked.

Canaris’ answer stunned them. “Field Marshall Hermann Goering.”

It took a few minutes to absorb this shocking news. Canaris was questioned at length. All eventually accepted that his appraisal appeared to be absolutely correct. Then, with grim determination, they laid their plans.

There would be no outward display that they were aware of anything out of the ordinary going on. It would be business as usual. Only the military members would be party to the secret for the time being.

Security around all members of the Governing Council and the Deputy Ministers would be discretely boosted, but obviously not around the President of the Council. An empty barracks, previously belonging to the SS, and close to the government chambers, would become the new regimental home of one of the army’s battle hardened regiments. Every soldier trusted by the General.

Admiral Canaris and the Abwehr  would increase their surveillance of the troublemakers in general, and attempt to infiltrate the subversive cells. Goering and his confidants in particular, would be monitored carefully. Von Brauchitsch and Canaris were in complete agreement about what had to be done.

In the meantime, the Military Council would meet every few days to review the situation.

Once again von Brauchtisch looked forward to the day he could cease being a politician.


Winston Churchill was enjoying a cigar and a whisky in the comfort of his study. He was ruminating on the events of the past year. During that time war had been declared on Germany and a British army landed in France. For many months there had been no fighting on land, although there had been naval campaigns, and many British ships sunk by enemy U-boats.

Then the war exploded, and in short order Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France had been attacked and occupied. The British army suffered a devastating defeat. Nowhere in history had there been such a successful war of conquest. It almost defied comprehension.

He had been

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appointed Prime Minister in May.

Then out of the blue the Germans offered peace. Moreover it was peace on honourable terms. Now there was even a possibility of a military alliance with their recent enemy.

“May you live in interesting times” he said out loud to himself, repeating an old saying.

With Herr Hitler and his bunch of rogues off the scene, the new German regime was acting in a thoroughly decent manner, he had to admit.

His great fear of a Nazi tyranny had now been replaced by his other old bogey; the Soviet Union, Stalin, and communism. This had led him a couple of days earlier at a cabinet meeting, to authorise the Minister of Defence to investigate the concept of Britain joining the European Alliance that the Germans seemed to be pushing.

It was certainly worth considering. 


At the same time that Churchill was enjoying his cigar and whisky, Jeremy Blackstone and Klaus von Altendorf were having dinner at a quiet restaurant known for its simple but excellent food. Von Altendorf had brought his younger sister to meet his English friend.

Erica von Altendorf was a lecturer in history. She was 30 years old. Very attractive, rather than beautiful. Long blonde hair tied up Germanic fashion for this evening. Slim, with magnificent eyes that seemed to swallow you. Jeremy had to force himself not to stare.

Since joining the army some sixteen years before, Jeremy had found little time for girls. Oh, he liked them alright, but somehow never seemed to meet anyone special. His mother was always reminding him of her desire for grandchildren.

Right from the start he was completely at ease with Erica. She would subtly change the conversation whenever Jeremy and Klaus were tempted to talk too much shop. Being very intelligent, she was able to take part in any discussion on any topic that was brought up. Jeremy was thoroughly captivated.

The dinner was over far too quickly for him. But what an enchanting evening! He could not recall a more enjoyable time. It was then that Klaus asked him what plans he had for the weekend, because he and Erica were visiting their family estate outside Berlin. They would be honoured if he would join them.

Jeremy’s only plans were to start looking at the pros and cons of this idea of a European Alliance. This was something that he had received instructions to do, that very day.

Before he could say anything, Erica put her hand on his arm and pleaded with him come. It would be great fun, the three of them together. He would love the estate with its shooting, fishing and riding. And some lovely walks, she added.

There was no way he could resist. There was no way he wanted to resist. He imagined he could feel the warmth of her hand through his sleeve. The invitation was gracefully accepted. They made their arrangements. Klaus settled the bill and they left.

Outside they said their goodbyes. Erica gave Jeremy a little peck on the cheek that he convinced himself lasted longer than it should have. He was walking on air as he made his way home.


The von Altendorf family estate was a little over a one hour drive from Berlin. It nestled in a beautiful unspoilt wooded valley with a crystal clear river running through it. It had been in the family for over two hundred years.

They arrived early on Saturday morning and the three of them managed to fit in pheasant shooting, trout fishing, and horse riding, all in one day. Klaus and Erica were proficient on horseback, whereas Jeremy was an indifferent rider. He was stiff and a not a little sore later that afternoon.

That evening he was the first down for dinner. Erica arrived a few minutes later. The two of them settled into two comfortable large leather armchairs in a corner and their heads were close together in deep conversation when the door opened and in walked Baron von Altendorf. He hadn’t been expected at the estate that weekend.

Surprised, they jumped up, and Erica, arm linked with Jeremy, walked to her father to introduce Jeremy. As they reached him the Baron said, “Hello Major Blackstone. Oh, I am sorry; I see it is Colonel Blackstone now. How nice to see you again.” They shook hands.

Erica stared at Jeremy quizzically and asked, “Jeremy?”

Jeremy gave her an apologetic grin. “Your father and I have met before. Some months ago.”

Erica now transferred her enquiring look to the Baron. “Father?” She was clearly perplexed by Jeremy never mentioning the fact that he knew her father.

Jeremy thought quickly. Although the talks in May had been top secret at the time, afterwards it had been more of an open secret about who had actually attended the talks. It was only his own inbuilt caution and dislike of gossip that had stopped him mentioning that he had been one of the British team. He decided he could tell Erica. He explained.

Erica was impressed that Jeremy had been part of such an important event. At the same time she could not help feeling slightly annoyed that he not trusted her with the information.

The Baron helped. He knew his daughter. “My dear, Colonel Blackstone acted correctly in this matter. The names of the delegates to that meeting, while not exactly secret, are not common knowledge either. Perhaps the British government prefers it that way.”

The smile that Jeremy had already learned to love, reappeared on her face.

That evening the four of them had an excellent and intimate family dinner. The food was superb, the wine was probably the best Jeremy had ever tasted. He was treated as one of the family. There was no doubt that he felt at home with these wonderful people. ‘Damn the politicians that managed to get us into a war with them,’  he thought.

A little later, Erica had gone to change, and Klaus had excused himself to make a few phone calls. The Baron and Jeremy were enjoying an excellent cognac. They were having a relaxed conversation about progress in the various different European countries, as well as China and Japan, over the past few months. Neither gave away any secrets but both picked up bits of useful information.

Unexpectedly the Baron turned the discussion to the European Alliance. This could not have pleased Jeremy more.

“You know Jeremy, the European Alliance is going to happen. There is nothing secret about it. Norway and Denmark have said yes. To everybody’s surprise Poland is also looking at it seriously. Holland will join any day now.

Belgium has intimated that they are ready to abandon their traditional policy of neutrality, but they have to get their forthcoming referendum out of the way before they can commit to anything. We will know the result of that, next month. Our reading of it is that the country may well end up being partitioned. I don’t know if it would be a good thing or not. Perhaps it is preferable if it ends the age old hostility between the two different population groups.

Spain has been actively pushing for membership. Obviously they — and Portugal, are seen as logical participants in European security, but we have some concerns about the internal policies of General Franco. We do not wish to encourage Fascism.

The Portuguese dictator, Salazar, is right wing and reactionary but he is doing quite a good job of running his country. He has ended decades of decay and corruption within his country. He is both anti-communist and anti-fascist.

As regards Italy. It is no secret that I have advised the Governing Council not to offer membership of the European Alliance to Italy while Mussolini remains in power.”

He paused, thinking.

“And France, sir?” Jeremy asked.

“Ah, France. Hmmm. Strictly between you and I, the French can be difficult. Personally I have no animosity whatsoever towards them, but I am not looking forward to negotiating the final peace treaty with them in the next few months.”

This was news to Jeremy.

“They are a thoroughly beaten nation, yet when one talks to their politicians it is as if they are the occupying power, not Germany. One of their Generals, Charles de Gaulle, is arrogant beyond belief. Fortunately he  proved to be so egotistical that nobody in the Vichy regime would work with him. He was sent packing to some military posting in Africa.

They can be exasperating. It may not be easy to persuade them to join the European Alliance.

I fear poor old Marshall Petain will not survive long after there is permanent peace. He will be made the scapegoat for France’s failures before and during the war.”

He cheered up, “Another brandy, my boy?”

Late the following afternoon Jeremy and the younger von Altendorfs drove back to Berlin. The three of them had taken a long walk around the entire estate in the morning. Then a late lunch before leaving. But at no time had Jeremy been able to catch Erica alone. Frustrating! 

Jeremy was dropped off at his apartment with a promise that they would phone him during the week. Regrettably the weekend was over.

Once he had unpacked, Jeremy settled down to record the interesting items he had heard the previous evening. Before he compiled a report, he thought that it might be a good idea to discuss the European Alliance project in the next day or two with his friend, Jamie MacLellan, from the US Embassy. See what he knows. 



It had been three weeks since Admiral Canaris had disclosed to a shocked Governing Council the existence of an underground opposition movement, probably Nazi orientated. His agents had successfully penetrated it, and he now had a list of eighty five senior and middle ranking organisers. The plotters were planning to act on the first day of Munich’s Oktoberfest,  the annual beer guzzling festival which was soon to be held for the first time since the European War had started.

During the past three weeks the military members of the Council had kept this problem to themselves. Initially they had considered it a military matter, and secondly, it was not altogether impossible that one of the civilian members were part of the movement. Even though this was thought to be highly improbable.

They planned to take action on the morning of the next meeting of the Governing Council, scheduled for two days time. The arrival of Field Marshall Goering would be the signal for the rounding up of the listed plotters to commence. This way nobody could tip off Goering.

After some discussion it had been decided to treat it as a civil matter and use the police for the arrests. Sufficient evidence had already been uncovered during the Abwehr’s  investigation. It was anticipated that many of the plotters would readily co-operate with the police once everything was out in the open.

Involving the police also meant putting the accused on trial. Everybody had agreed that the public and the outside world, needed to see that justice was being done, in contrast to the days of the previous regime when opponents simply ‘disappeared’. To do this, von Brauchitsch needed to involve the Interior Minister as both the police and justice portfolios fell under his ministry. It was felt that the risk of disclosing the problem to Speer was minimal as Speer was totally non-political and nobody worked harder than him for the new Germany.

The talk with Speer had gone well, as expected. The Minister was his usual efficient and competent self and promised complete co-operation. The police and the Justice department would be ready.

All was ready on the day the Governing Council met.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of Economics, had been asked to arrive a little earlier than the scheduled start time. This would give von Brauchitsch time to share with them the details of what had been uncovered, and the actions being taken.

On hearing what had been discovered, the normally imperturbable Baron von Altendorf buried his head in hands and exclaimed, “The fool. The fat, stupid fool. When everything is going so well for Germany, he would cheerfully spoil things. And for what? The man is a disgusting traitor of the worst kind.”

Schacht had a grim expression.

A little later Goering’s motor car swept into his allocated underground parking space in the Reich Chancellery. The sky blue, (Goering’s favourite colour), magnificent Mercedes Benz 540K had his family crest on the doors. Its arrival was watched by an Abwehr  agent. As always the Field Marshall was accompanied by his two faithful brutish air force bodyguards. He made his way imperiously to the Council chamber. His bodyguards went off in search of a cup of coffee.

Everything appeared normal. All the others were either discussing things in subdued tones or looking at their papers.

Goering was something of a showman. He had a penchant for gaudy and flamboyant uniforms designed to his own specifications. Today he was wearing a silk sky blue Luftwaffe  uniform stretched over his corpulent frame. He had a similar coloured cape around his shoulders. Everyone thought he looked ridiculous.

After his usual cordial greetings, he settled his bulk into his chair and looked around the room. He was totally unaware of the bombshell that was soon to hit him.

As had become customary, Baron von Altendorf spoke first. He reported that Italy had withdrawn their troops from the territory they had occupied in Southern France. Mussolini had issued a statement saying that in view of the settled state of affairs in Europe, he was making a magnanimous gesture and returning to France their land. He was extending the hand of friendship to that country. In the same spirit he was also putting his signature to a peace agreement with Great Britain.

Nobody could avoid derisory smiles.

With obvious satisfaction, the Minister then advised that agreements for the sale of most of the Kriegsmarine  heavy ships had been signed over the past week with Argentina, China, Mexico, Spain and Turkey. Negotiations were ongoing with the Soviet Union for the battleships Bismark and Tirpitz. The Russians were being their usual obtuse selves.

“The terms of these sales are broadly similar in each case and have been agreed in consultation with the Kriegsmarine  in regard to handing over the vessels. The Ministries of Economics and Interior have agreed to the credit terms and the shipments of agricultural produce and raw materials offered to us as payment. Everything is most satisfactory. I submit that we have the best possible deal that can be expected.”

Goering now interrupted. “Once again, gentlemen, I have to express my opposition to these sales. I think it is a serious mistake to weaken our naval forces.”

He had said this before, and, as before, his comments were noted — and ignored — as before.

Von Altendorf continued, “Two days ago we received a request from the Japanese that their military forces be allowed access to French Indochina to facilitate their war against China. In line with our agreed policies, I informed them that Vichy France is an independent state, and their colonies are their responsibility. I added, however, that should France refuse their request, and should Japan invade any of the French, British or Dutch colonial territories, Germany would consider this an unfriendly act. I sent a copy of this reply to the Vichy and Dutch regimes, and to the British Ambassador. We await Japan’s reaction.”

The French viewed their Indochina colonies, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, as economically important to them. They had been controlled by France since the end of the nineteenth century. There was, however, a history of rebellion in Vietnam, the last such major episode being only ten years earlier in 1930.

Von Altendorf wondered if they were worth the trouble of fighting for. There were, after all, only thirty four thousand French civilians living in the region. But the French were the French! 

He carried on speaking. “China has requested that our two countries establish embassies. They are seeking a much closer relationship with Germany. I recommend that we do this. There will be protests from the Japanese, of course.

The Chinese have also requested military aid from us. Ostensibly to defend themselves against the Japanese, but I believe a portion of any such aid would be used to defeat the communist rebel army in their country. This may be something we would like to consider as I believe we have a considerable number of surplus European War tanks and aircraft that we are disposing of.

While a communist China is perhaps not likely in the near future, perhaps we should give some thought to the ramifications of such a large country becoming wholly communist. The consequences of the world’s most populous nation turning to communism are frightening.”

Over the next fifteen minutes he answered various questions on details, and replied to comments made. It was noted that Goering said nothing.

It was agreed to exchange ambassadors with China. Their request for military aid would be given serious and urgent consideration. The threat of a communist China must be taken seriously.

Germany had had good relations with China prior to 1937. It had been co-operation between the two countries that helped with the modernisation of China’s industry and armed forces. This was in return for the supply of raw materials by way of a barter agreement, similar to the way they were now doing business. Indeed, in 1936 China was briefly the third largest trading partner with Germany.

On the outbreak of the war between China and Japan in July 1937, Adolf Hitler chose Japan. He saw Japan as more militarily capable and hence more desirable as an ally against the Soviet Union. Despite this, there was still contact between Germany and China, with elements on both sides wishing to resume co-operation. This was now happening.

The Minister of Economics now spoke. He commented on the ongoing financial stability of Germany now that there was no war, and no massive rearmament program making great demands on the economy. He was satisfied with the progress being made.

A minor point he made was the establishment of a bank specifically to provide finance to small businesses on more favourable terms than the normal banks. Small businesses were a big factor in job creation. This bank would also look sympathetically at viable business applications from citizens previously wrongly interned in the camps. The Jews had lost much under the Nazis. The new German government had a duty to make amends.

He was followed by the Interior Minister. As always his report was factual and brief. There were still problems in certain areas under his jurisdiction but good progress was being made on all fronts. He had, however, finally found two prospective candidates that he considered ideally suited for the positions of Justice Minister and Minister for Food and Agriculture. He had prepared detailed analysis’ of these individuals for the Council’s consideration.

Of minor interest to the Council at this stage was Speer’s short report on nuclear fission. A nuclear programme had been started in 1940, only months after the discovery of nuclear fission by German scientists in December 1939. It had, however, eventually been assessed by the previous regime that it could not make any significant contribution in the near term towards fighting the war in Europe that was then current.

The number of scientists working on applied nuclear fission then began to diminish. The army relinquished control to the Interior Ministry in September 1940, on the basis of nuclear fission being considered only for future potential energy production. Speer recognised its potential and now wanted to expand the programme.

This was approved.

Now it was the turn of the Minister of defence.

The reorganisation of the navy had been discussed and agreed at previous meetings. There was nothing over-complicated here that warranted the Council’s attention.

There was nothing much new to report on the army either, other than that several designs for a new standard automatic rifle were expected to be available for field testing in the next few weeks. If the tests were satisfactory, one of the designs would be used to re-equip the German army. The current bolt action rifle was an old design, and although it had given great service over the years, it was time to move on.

The Luftwaffe  was next on the agenda.  Whenever von Brauchitsch spoke about the Luftwaffe  he inevitably attracted comments from Goering. As a previous Aviation Minister — and Great War pilot — the Field Marshall imagined himself to be an expert on all things involving aircraft. In fact his record told a very different story.

Von Brauchitsch informed the Council that the review of the Luftwaffe  was now complete. The main points were that the well proven Messerschmitt ME109 would continue to be the main fighter aircraft for a maximum of the next two years. This machine would be subject to continual upgrading during this period, but at the same time, production of new machines would be scaled back.

The aim was to replace it with a jet powered fighter in about two years. The plans for this aircraft, the ME262, were first drawn up in April 1939 and development was now being given priority. He did not mention it, but this was the same aircraft that Goering had cut back on development only the previous February.

The same plan was to be adopted for the Junkers JU88 bomber. Tenders will be invited from the aviation industry for designs of a jet powered high speed medium bomber/reconnaissance aircraft which would eventually replace the piston engine Junkers.

The current transport aircraft, the Junkers JU52, would remain in service as the workhorse of the Luftwaffe  for the immediate future. Replacement for this was not a priority.

All Dornier and Heinkel aircraft currently operational were to be withdrawn from service immediately. They were considered to be inadequate for the Luftwaffe’s  current needs, let alone future demands.

The remaining various makes and models would be relegated for training and gradually phased out and sold or scrapped.

Lastly. Two items considered to be of great future importance.

Germany’s rocket research centre, under the direction of the brilliant Professor Werner von Braun, was to be significantly expanded and given further funding, with the aim of developing rockets as weapons. Perhaps the weapons of the future.

Von Braun was only twenty eight years old. He was effectively in charge of the team of scientists engaged in the military development of rockets at a large, dedicated facility built at Peenemunde, on a remote stretch of northern Germany’s Baltic coast. Von Braun’s own personal dream was space travel. He already had long term plans for a manned flight to the moon. His vision knew no bounds.

A related subject to the rocket research was the development of ‘stand-off bombs’ by the Luftwaffe.  The previous year a ‘radio guided glide bomb’ known as ‘Fritz-X’,  had been successfully tested. This weapon allowed an aircraft to release it towards a target, probably a ship, at a distance that enabled the aircraft to stay out of range of anti-aircraft fire. There were still problems to be ironed out, but its potential was exciting.

A similar concept had also been initiated earlier this year by a private aircraft manufacturer, Henschel. Their particular design, however, was to be rocket powered.

The military benefits of such weapons to Germany were obvious.

Surprisingly, Goering had no comments. He had been a complete failure as Aviation Minister.

As von Brauchitsch was nearing the end of his report an envelope had been delivered to Speer. He briefly scanned its contents then gave a slight nod to the General.

Twenty minutes later von Brauchitsch had finished. There had been interested questions about jet aircraft and rockets, which he had answered to the best of his ability. He noticed Goering was preparing to collect his papers and make ready to depart.

He spoke. “There is one more important item we have to discuss here today”. Goering relaxed in his seat. Speer handed to von Brauchtisch the document that had been delivered a few minutes earlier. He quickly scanned it, and kept it in his hand.

The General stared at the document for another minute, and then moved his chair slightly to face Goering. He spoke formally but did not mince his words. “Field Marshall Goering, you are plotting a coup.”

All the Council members watched the Field Marshall with hard merciless expressions.

Shock was written all over Goering’s face at the blunt accusation. Shock followed by guilt. He had been caught out .

His first reaction was bluster. His protestations that he had no idea what the General was talking about were followed by vehement denials. He was perspiring freely. When he finally stopped ranting, von Brauchitsch spoke again.

“This morning, starting from the time of your arrival here, the police have rounded up eighty five of your accomplices. Their names are on this document. Some of them are already singing like canaries.” This last claim was bluff to see what reaction it drew. “The army is on alert and ready to deal with your SS soldiers.”

A pause to let Goering squirm. Then, “Why, Hermann?”

Goering seemed to collapse within himself. He stared at the table and papers in front of him. Not a word was spoken. All were waiting for the traitor to say something. The perspiration was pouring down his face and the collar of his beautifully tailored silk uniform was dark with sweat. Finally he looked up.

“I wanted to be Fuhrer. ”

A simple statement that said it all.

The others just stared at him in silence.

“After Hitler’s death I was the obvious choice to lead Germany. For twenty years I had followed the man. I understood his aims and ideals. I knew everything about running our country and its armed forces. Instead, all I am is a figurehead for this Council. A spokesman. I deserve better.” He said bitterly.

He had admitted the charge. There was no point in prolonging the agony, von Brauchitsch thought.

“Very well. I am sorry it has come to this, Hermann. We now have to decide what is best for Germany. You will be confined to your home at Carinhall until further notice. Obviously we will have to place you under the protection of the army, but we will let it be known that it is a precaution against any attempt on your life by the newly discovered Nazi plotters. Do you understand?”

Goering understood. He was starting to think that he might just survive this catastrophe. Under the Nazi regime he would have been hauled off, interrogated brutally, and then shot. He knew this Governing Council did not operate that way.

“I understand.”

“In the circumstances you will have no objection if your car is escorted by army vehicles when you leave.”

Goering nodded meekly.

“Then you are finished here. We will let you know how this is to be handled in the next day or two. Under no circumstances are you to contact anyone. Am I quite clear?”

Again Goering just nodded.

The General now said coldly. “You are dismissed.”

The deflated Luftwaffe  Field Marshall slowly rose from his seat and left the room without saying another word. He did not even collect his working papers from the table. All noticed the dark sweat stains on his ample back and behind.

Von Brauchitsch slumped back in his seat. He looked defeated. Distressed. All was quiet while he pulled himself together. Then he began to speak.

“Gentlemen. This has been a most unfortunate turn of events. I am not sure how we, and more importantly, Germany, will appear in the eyes of the world when this plot becomes public knowledge. Are we ever going to escape the curse of Nazism? What will our own citizens think? I am optimistic that reason will prevail, but I find the whole thing quite depressing.” He paused.

“I have something to say to you.” He searched for the right words.

“Hermann Goering is a dangerous man. The knowledge that he carries inside his head could tear Germany apart should he ever talk freely. The progress we have made in the past months would all be undone. He cannot be allowed to stand trial for treason.

For this reason, and with great reluctance, I took it upon myself to make arrangements that the Field Marshall does not live out this day. It is a shameful action, but one that had to be done. I could not discuss it with yourselves as I did not want you to be burdened by it. I alone take full responsibility.

I accordingly have no alternative but to tender my resignation to this council.”

This was greeted with shocked silence as the thunderbolt sunk in.

Amazingly the first member of the Council to recover was the dour old Economics Minister, Hjalmar Schacht. He stiffly levered himself out of his seat, walked around to von Brauchitsch, and grasped his hand, his other hand he placed on the General’s shoulder.

“I gladly share your burden.” He maintained his handshake in this unprecedented show of solidarity. “Everything you have said is true. Goering is a traitor and under any other circumstan

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ces would have been brought to trial. His guilt is undoubted, indeed he has admitted it. He would have received the death sentence, and rightly so. Nothing less would have been acceptable. Your actions will save Germany much pain. Please accept my humble thanks for taking this matter upon yourself.”

He looked von Brauchitsch in the eye. “I think I speak for all my colleagues here when I say that we are all in agreement with your handling of this. It was the only way. We all take collective responsibility.

Please General, I beg you not to resign from this Council. You have led us in an exemplary fashion. Germany owes you a great debt. Our work has only just begun. Without you it would be a lot more difficult. Please stay with us.”

Immediately the rest of the Council were on their feet. They all shook the General’s hand, General Beck even embraced him. They were unanimous, they all agreed with his course of action and there was no need for regret. He was needed. There was still much to be done before the Council could consider handing over the reins of government to any alternative.

Von Brauchitsch was overwhelmed at the depth of feeling displayed by his fellow Council members. It made all the worries and hard work of recent months worthwhile. Some of the weight was lifted from his shoulders.

“Thank you gentlemen. Thank you friends , if I may call you that. As much as I dislike being a politician, I humbly agree to continue to serve. I am honoured that you so wish it.”

Everyone was relieved.

Goering’s car exited the Reich Chancellery building and was immediately sandwiched between two military vehicles. The first drove about forty metres in front of him, and the second stayed the same distance behind. Another civilian car trailed somewhere behind them.

Goering was thinking furiously. He had to escape from Carinhall quickly. He had established some good contacts in Italy, not least being Mussolini himself. Relations between the unrepentant fascist Mussolini, and Germany’s new regime had deteriorated into cold formality. He was sure that with all the secrets and information he had in his head, he would be welcomed with open arms.

He had more than sufficient cash and assets stashed away in Switzerland to live comfortably for the rest of his life. His wife could follow later. There was no way those self-righteous liberals in the Governing Council would take reprisals against family members.

He started to plan with his two henchmen. The same two who had killed Hitler. He would come out on top of this setback! 

They had left the suburbs of Berlin behind when his beautiful Mercedes blew up. All three occupants were incinerated.

The military vehicles and their occupants escaped serious damage although the rear one sheared off the road in an effort to avoid the conflagration. Another civilian car screeched to halt behind it and its frightened driver jumped out. He looked at the carnage with fear written on his face. He was quickly chased away by the officer in charge of the army unit.

As he drove back to Berlin, the Abwehr  agent congratulated himself on a job well done.

The news of the Nazi plot and their apparent assassination of the President of the Governing Council was released that evening over the radio by the Interior Minister. Speer later held a press conference. The uncovering of the plot by the police was praised and held up as an example of the efficient working of the new police policy. Speer would take the credit for this on behalf of the Governing Council.

His statement explained that, on being made aware of the plot, the army had provided extra guard units to the Governing Council members, but despite this, the plotters had managed to penetrate the President’s security. Field Marshall Goering had been a tireless worker for Germany for many, many, years. He would be greatly missed.

Speer was a very straightforward person. He was a super-manager. A grand administrator, rather than a politician. Although he managed the radio broadcast and press conference extremely well, he hated every minute that he had to spout lies about the departed Goering. Lies, damned lies. Just like a politician! 

The German public accepted that they had been saved from reverting back into a warmongering totalitarian Nazi state. The death of Hermann Goering created no outburst of hysteria or national mourning. In the minds of many he was the last of the old discredited regime. At Goering’s own request, according to a document newly discovered at his home, he was not given a state funeral.

The Governing Council heaved a collective sigh of relief that everything had gone smoothly.

The trial of the Nazi plotters was due to begin the following month.


Jamie MacLellan finished his latest personal report to the President.

Dear Mr President

I wish to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to you for sending me to Germany last June. I have found the work truly exhilarating and I consider myself to be very lucky to be in this country during this period of radical change.

The trial of the Nazi plotters has started. I was able to attend the first two court sessions to see for myself how justice works in the new Germany. I was pleasantly surprised. Apart from procedural differences, I perceived it to be as fair as our own judicial system, and perhaps a lot less theatrical. I want to attend more of these hearings as they help me stay in tune with German thinking.

As regards the demise of Hermann Goering, he does not seem to be greatly missed. I think he was probably no more than a figurehead and spokesman for the Governing Council. I also have it on good authority that he was somewhat ineffectual when he was Aviation Minister.

It seems that the old Nazi concentration camps are now empty except for genuine criminals and a small number of undetermined cases. These are housed in one camp and the others have been closed. Permanently!

The economy continues to improve. The Interior and Agriculture Ministers have been quite innovative. The Economics Minister so far cannot be faulted for any of his actions.

You already have my military reports via the embassy. All the German capital ships have been sold. The Russians finally signed a deal after they heard the Germans were contemplating accepting an offer from the Japanese. After all the border clashes between Russian and Japanese forces in recent years, the last thing the Soviets want to see is an even stronger Japanese Empire.

As you already know, the European Alliance is now a reality. Beyond all the political statements and the press reports, I can give you a little more background.

Norway, Denmark and Poland signed simultaneously with Germany. The Scandinavian countries have small populations and, following the recent war, they are looking for some kind of guarantee against future invasion. The same is true of Poland, but they, of course, have a much larger population. Talking to officials from these countries, I ascertained that they all have one definite thing in common. They see the Soviet Union as a future threat. Especially Poland.

Germany is re-equipping the armed forces of those three countries with the same equipment that the Germans are currently using. They are doing this free of charge as an unspoken form of reparations for the unprovoked invasions by Germany under the previous Nazi regime. Once the re-equipping is complete, sometime next year, the four countries have agreed to spend at least five percent of their annual budget on defence the following year. Thereafter their defence budgets must never fall below three percent a year without formal agreement from all the other alliance members. Germany herself will apparently exceed this budgetary requirement for the immediate future.

The Poles were not happy that the city of Danzig voted to become part of Germany, but then it was never truly Polish anyway. I meet regularly with Polish officials at embassy functions, etc, and their previous hatred of the Germans has diminished. They may never actually like them, but they certainly respect them these days.

Holland is expected to join the Alliance in the very near future.

The referendum in Belgium yielded the expected result in terms of the two different language groups wishing to separate. The big surprise was the eagerness with which the Flemish speakers in the Northern half of the country entered into negotiations with the Dutch to become a semi-autonomous province of Holland. These discussions are still ongoing but I hear everything is proceeding smoothly.

In the Southern French speaking half of Belgium the politicians are still squabbling among themselves about their future direction. There is some talk of union with France, but the German occupation of Northern France is hindering this.

I have heard that the German Foreign Affairs Minister will be visiting France shortly, possibly to discuss a final peace treaty. The last of the French prisoners of war have now been repatriated from Germany, which resulted in a fairly high level of unemployment in their home country. To alleviate this, the Germans agreed to an amendment of the armistice agreement and allow Vichy France larger armed forces. This absorbed a considerable number of the returning soldiers.

The Japanese had their nose put out of joint when France, backed by Germany, refused their request for military access to French Indochina. They were infuriated by Germany’s sale of a battlecruiser to China, and two battleships to Russia. They were apoplectic when it was announced that Germany was going to provide China with military aid.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, the aid will be in the form of tanks, aircraft, guns, trucks, mortars, rifles and machine guns. All of it is German surplus stock or captured French material and much of it approaching obsolescence, but still superior to anything the Chinese have, and better than much of what the Japanese have at present. German and French military personnel will also be sent to train them in their use.

German military advisors will be there, to train the Chinese forces in operations and tactics. As usual the Chinese will pay for this aid by way of supplying produce and raw materials, but the Germans have given them a big discount on the purchase price of the equipment.

My friend Jeremy Blackthorn has told me that the British are still quietly reinforcing their Far East possessions, as are the Dutch and the French with German blessing.

The Japanese Empire is now isolated. Maybe they will now have a rethink about their aggressive expansion. One can only hope. If they do come to the negotiating table, we will have Germany to thank.

Finally, one interesting item I picked up only three days ago. It seems that the German Governing Council has no plans to introduce a democratic vote for a new government at any time in the near future.

I discretely canvassed as many Germans as I could, to discover how they would regard such a thing. The majority take the simple view that politicians have let them down in recent history. There was no effective democratic government before the Great War. And after that war, politics were in chaos in Germany until Hitler swept it all away. Now they see themselves as a stable country and one of the world’s great powers. They do not need democracy.

I found that very interesting.

Yours respectfully Jamie MacLellan.


Jamie and Erica had the von Altendorf estate to themselves this weekend. No other family or friends. Klaus was with his regiment wherever it was, and the Baron was working over the weekend.

Since they had first met, they had seen each other at least once every week, usually for dinner or theatre. They had become very close.

After dinner that evening they played American jazz records. Erica was sifting through the records. Jeremy was slouched in his favourite armchair, eyes closed, listening to Glenn Miller’s ‘American patrol’. At peace with the world. He was here, alone, with Erica.

“This music was banned up until recently, you know,” quipped Erica with a giggle. “If the Gestapo  burst in here right now, they would haul us off for interrogation.”

Jeremy just smiled without opening his eyes. He was dreaming of holding Erica in his arms, something they had not yet progressed to. Although he suspected he would summon the courage to declare his affection very soon, maybe this weekend.

As the number finished, Erica put on another Glenn Miller favourite, ‘In the mood’.

Jeremy was startled when she sat herself on his lap. Even more surprised when she relaxed against him with her head nestled on his chest. He gingerly put his arms around her. They remained like that, absorbing the music, comfortable with each other.

The music stopped and Erica reluctantly got up to change the record. This time it was ‘Moonlight serenade’. She sat on Jeremy’s knee again but did not lean back on him. She appeared to be lost in thought.

“What deep thoughts do you have, Miss von Altendorf,” said Jeremy lightly.

She did not answer, just turned her head and looked at him. After a moment she said “It is time.”

A little bewildered Jeremy asked, “Time for what,” with a quizzical look.

She stood up and held out her hand to him. “Time you stopped being a reserved English gentleman. Tonight I do not want to sleep alone.” She stared at him, willing him to respond.

And respond he did. As soon as it sunk in what she was saying, he was on his feet and engulfed her in his arms. They kissed passionately. All their emotions set free. Once they had un-entangled themselves, Erica took his hand and led him out of the room and up the broad stairway.


The trial of plotters belonging to the Oktoberfest Conspiracy  as it had come to be known, was over.

After the arrest of the eighty five plotters, some of them had quickly co-operated with the police, and as a result, a further nineteen people were arrested. Police interrogation soon ascertained which of the one hundred and four detainees were merely used as unsuspecting messengers or dupes. There were fifteen of these. They were released with a caution to be on their guard in the future.

The remaining eighty nine were brought to trial.

To accommodate everyone, including a large contingent of local and international media reporters, the hall of a disused school was converted into a makeshift courtroom.  There were five judges, who, unlike the British or American system, actively involved themselves in establishing the facts of the case. They acted as prosecutor, defender, jury and judge all rolled into one. The Public Prosecutor was a civil servant who presented the case to the court.

All of the accused were found guilty of treason in varied degrees. The ringleaders, eleven in total, received the death sentence. The remainder received sentences of imprisonment with hard labour for terms between twenty and five years with no opportunity for parole. A couple of them were excused the hard labour part due to their age or health.

A final irony was that the prison terms were to be served in one of the same concentration camps that the Nazis had set up and administered so brutally through their SS guards. Poetic justice! 

In his office von Brauchitsch was relieved. Justice had been done. The relatively harsh sentences meted out, would be seen as a deterrent to any other potential plotters with Nazi tendencies. Thankfully, there had not been even the faintest whisper of a suggestion of any involvement by Hermann Goering.

The General believed that Nazism was now finally dead in Germany.


The German Minister of Foreign Affairs met with the French President, Marshall Petain, and his Minister of Defence, Admiral Francois Darlan, in the town of Vichy, France. The seat of the non-democratic government of what was left of France.

Petain was already eighty four years old. A hero of France from the Great War. Now he was attempting to run a country in which a low intensity civil war existed between communists/republicans, and those who preferred a more right wing regime such as that of General Franco in Spain. The pre-war French political parties were totally discredited. Communism was on the rise in France.

It was exactly six months since the armistice had been signed.

Von Altendorf had already met with Petain and his then Minister of Defence, General Charles de Gaulle, some months earlier to initiate discussions on a final peace treaty. While Petain largely stayed silent, the bombastic de Gaulle had dominated the meeting. His arrogant and unrealistic demands caused von Altendorf to prematurely terminate the talks.

It was another three weeks before a letter was received by von Altendorf from Petain advising him that General de Gaulle had been offered, and accepted, an appointment with the French forces in Africa, and that Admiral Francois Darlan was the new Minister of Defence as well as Deputy Prime Minister.

‘In other words de Gaulle was fired’,  von Altendorf thought. ‘Good’. 

There followed another two months of exchange of letters in which Petain and Darlan asked for German proposals and thoughts on a final peace treaty, in reply to which von Altendorf prevaricated and gave nothing away, only hinting at certain possibilities.

Now he was ready to talk!

After the usual preliminary small talk they got down to business. The discussions were conducted in French, in which von Altendorf was fluent. As before, Petain stayed largely silent. Darlan did most of the talking. The Admiral displayed a much more reasonable and conciliatory approach than his predecessor.

He started by admitting to von Altendorf that Germany had acted scrupulously in fulfilling its obligations in terms of the armistice. Indeed, he commended the Baron for relaxations of some of the terms, namely allowing the new French Army to grow to a quarter of a million men instead of the one hundred thousand limit originally imposed. This had been done to absorb some of the unemployed ex-prisoners of war repatriated from Germany. It had been of invaluable assistance to the French.

Von Altendorf allowed just a little bit of optimism to creep into his thoughts in the face of Darlan’s reasonableness. Perhaps now they could talk seriously.

Von Altendorf spoke. “We also turned a blind eye to the French navy not disarming as you are obliged to do in terms of the armistice.” A slight pause to let this sink in. “Furthermore your air force strength is twenty percent of what it was on 1 May, not fifteen percent as agreed.”

Before they tried to deny this, or even worse, blatantly confirm it in a show of defiance, he carried on. “However, provided we can make some progress towards a mutually acceptable peace arrangement, these infractions could be considered unimportant.” He thought he detected a very slight sign of relief on the part of Darlan.

“You are well aware of our support for the European Alliance. I will not beat about the bush. Germany would welcome a willing and enthusiastic independent France as a participant in this alliance.” There! The offer was on the table. Let them respond. 

It was Petain who replied. “What exactly do you mean by ‘independent France’  , Baron?”

‘Good’,  thought von Altendorf. ‘We are talking’.  He answered, “Exactly what it says. France’s borders the same as they were at the beginning of this year before the war exploded, but perhaps expanded by the inclusion of the French speaking southern half of Belgium.” That surprised them!  “And Germany forever renounces any claims to its former territory of Alsace-Lorraine.” Another surprise! 

“You will be governed by whatever form of government you wish, subject only to two reasonable stipulations.”

“And they are?” Darlan asked.

“Firstly, no return to the incompetent governments that France has endured for the past twenty years or so. And secondly, no communists, either in government or even allowed as a political party.”

“Are you so afraid of communists? Just as Adolf Hitler was.”

“Things have changed dramatically in Germany. There is now freedom of expression, except for communists. And this is not just because they are labelled communists. It is because Moscow controls them for its own ends. Stalin has no more interest in the brotherhood of man than the man in the moon.

No doubt many people who think of themselves as communists are good people who believe in their principles. It is not these we are concerned with. It is the subversive element following Moscow’s directives that we will not tolerate.”

Petain and Darlan seemed to be considering this. They knew the truth about Russian manipulation of the naïve, unscrupulous, or simply power hungry members of the French communist party.

He carried on speaking. “As regards the first stipulation, it would not be in anybody’s interest for France to revert to the sort of politics you have experienced for many years now. A stable and prosperous France is needed.”

Von Altendorf thought they should digest this and comment on it. The ball was in their court. He pretended to look through one of his files while they thought things through.

Once again it was Darlan that spoke. “What timetable do you have in mind?”

In von Altendorf’s mind it was this point  that could be the most contentious issue. ‘Now for the difficult bit’  he thought. “The main problem foreseen by the current members of the Alliance is that new members need to have stable governments and sound economies. This is of even greater concern in the case of a larger member.

Let us be blunt. France’s governments since the Great War have not served your country well. You also have the only large communist party in Western Europe.”

He paused briefly before continuing. “We propose Germany would withdraw all of its troops immediately from the French Atlantic seaboard that we now occupy. The total number of the occupying troops in northern France would simultaneously be reduced to a maximum of two hundred thousand. This is less than the numbers of the French army as it currently stands.

We will announce that we will steadily reduce our troops with total reductions being not less than fifty thousand a year, but France would be ‘free’ of German troops in a maximum of three years.

These actions, seen to be negotiated by you,  should reflect positively on your government and give you all the credibility and strength you need to introduce whatever reforms you feel are needed.”

Petain and Darlan could take the credit for the successful outcome of these talks.  He awaited their reaction.

It was hard to read Petain who remained silent but stared at Darlan. It was obvious to von Altendorf that Darlan’s support was needed for any progress to be made.

The previous June, when it was obvious that the war was going badly for France, the Admiral had ordered all French navy ships in the soon to be occupied Atlantic ports, to steam to French overseas territories, out of the German’s reach. He also personally promised the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, that ‘no French ship will ever come into the hands of the Germans’.  This was a promise he had kept.

It was only after he realised that it was inevitable Germany was going to win the war, that he decided collaboration was the best interim course for France. He was, after all, a patriotic Frenchman.

Von Altendorf was relieved when Darlan now started to question him about details of the proposals. If he did not like the main proposals, he would not be interested in the details. 

Over the next three hours they covered virtually every aspect of Germany’s future relationship with France and the French Empire. They also talked about Great Britain, Western Europe, the Soviet Union, the USA, and Japan. They were very comprehensive discussions. Even Petain showed some interest.

Von Altendorf thought he had done enough. He could do no more.

He was surprised when Darlan turned to Petain and said simply “These proposals are good for France.” Nothing more. He waited for Petain to react.

After a drawn out silence the Marshall replied. “I agree.”



Jeremy and Erica were having a Christmas Eve dinner at the restaurant where they had first met. Tonight was the last night they could be truly together over the next few days, as they were due at the von Altendorf estate for a family Christmas reunion.

They ate slowly and sipped their wine appreciatively. Their conversation reminisced about the last few months, but both of them avoided talking of their future.

Erica expressed her astonishment at the rapid changes that had taken place in her country. Changes that would have been unthinkable earlier in the year. She considered that the future was full of promise for her beloved Germany.

Jeremy agreed with her. His own country also now had a different perception of Germany.

It was time to leave the restaurant. Before he called for the bill he suddenly seemed to remember something. He said to Erica, “Oh, by the way, I nearly forgot. I found a little something for you today”. He was always buying her small gifts that he discovered in unusual or out of the way shops.

He pulled a small gift wrapped box from his pocket and handed it to Erica.

Smiling, she thought secretly, ‘Oh no, not another brooch’ . She unwrapped it and opened the box. Her eyes went wide. It was a beautiful engagement ring! Then she heard Jeremy’s words.

“Will you marry me, Erica?”

She was overcome with emotion. Tears brimmed in her eyes. It was several seconds before she could answer, “Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.”


Jamie MacLellan’s last letter of 1940 to his president.

Dear Mr President

This past year has certainly been a momentous one! In April the phoney war exploded into real and brutal warfare. In only eleven weeks, Nazi Germany invaded, defeated and occupied six countries. They also inflicted a serious defeat on Britain. I have heard that Adolf Hitler was prepared for up to one million German deaths in the battle for France. In the event, the deaths were fewer than fifty thousand. It says a lot for German tactics — and France’s sclerotic leadership.

At the end of those lightning campaigns there was no longer such a thing as Nazi Germany. It is just plain ‘Germany’ now. Incredible!

It was announced last week that a peace treaty with France has been agreed upon and that they will simultaneously become the newest member of the European Alliance. This development is a considerable boost to the project. The combined population of the member states will be over one hundred and sixty million. This is equal to that of the Soviet Union, and thirty million more than our own USA population.

I have been told that a terrible row developed in France, started by General de Gaulle. Apparently he demanded that France nominate him to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Alliance. This is despite him originally fiercely opposing the concept. Marshall Petain and Admiral Darlan gave him an unequivocal ‘NON’. The end result was that de Gaulle talked himself into being fired and he has now retired from the army. Apparently he is highly respected as a soldier, but is known to be petty, mean spirited and vindictive. The same person told me that he suspected de Gaulle will now go into politics.

It seems that there is consensus that the Alliance headquarters should be located in Luxembourg. It is reasonably central in Western Europe and that particular choice avoids members claiming Germany is dominating the Alliance. Also, I was surprised to hear that English will be the language of choice for the Alliance. I know for a fact that the British military establishment favour joining the Alliance, and perhaps their government will now finally commit themselves. Especially now that the French situation has been resolved.

Each member country will establish multi-national military bases in their respective countries. Military personnel from the different countries will be rotated at these bases to get used to working with each other. It sounds a good and practical idea to me.

The Spanish Ambassador to Berlin told me in confidence that General Franco is so keen to join the Alliance that he is introducing more liberal policies in Spain. They have even offered to ratify the centuries old ‘Treaty of Utrecht’ confirming British ownership of Gibraltar, thus eliminating a potential point of dissension between two Alliance members should Spain become a member. Franco wants to rule with a lighter touch than before. Obviously communism is still outlawed there. I know the Germans would like to see Spain and Portugal in the Alliance. The Portuguese dictator is only holding back his country’s application so as not to offend General Franco.

Even Hungary has exp

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ressed interest in the Alliance but as of today I have not heard how this has progressed.

Mussolini continues to sulk because Italy has not been invited to join. His prestige has suffered in his home country since Germany renounced the Pact of Steel alliance with Italy. I may be hearing the first serious muttering of dissent in that country. When I have heard something definite I will let you know.

Shipments of arms for China have begun. I expect we shall see what impact this has within a few months.

Despite their reapproachment with China, the Germans are still anxious to remain at least on speaking terms with the Japanese. They see Japan and a stronger China as eastern bulwarks against the Soviet Union.

I have some leave due to me next month and I thought I would use the opportunity to tour the occupied and previously occupied countries and find out what local opinions and feelings are.

I hope you have a good new year, Mr President.

Yours respectfully Jamie MacLellan


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General Erwin Rommel was intently watching the Chinese tanks and supporting troops on exercises somewhere to the south of the city of Wuhan in Nationalist China.

Rommel, together with another one thousand German military personnel, including pilots and flying instructors, had been seconded to the Chinese army more than five months earlier. This followed the arrival of the first shipments of German military aid. Another nine hundred ‘specialists’ from the French armed forces were also in China with their German comrades. A further twenty observers had been sent by the armies of the other countries of the European Alliance.

The current war between China and Japan, (there had been an earlier war in 1894/5), had started in July 1937. For a long time Japan had pursued an aggressive imperialistic policy of expansion to secure access to raw materials and other economic resources, including food and labour. This eventually led to war with China.

Within China there had also long been a civil war between the Nationalist Government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and communist insurgents led by Mao Zedong backed by the Soviet Union. In 1937 the two factions had nominally united to counter the Japanese invasion. However the two sides continued to clash, and with increasing intensity from late 1940.

The American President, Franklin Roosevelt, sent a special envoy to Chiang to express his concern that such internal hostilities just made things easier for the Japanese. No results came from this.

In earlier years, between 1933 and 1938, Germany had seconded two Generals to act as Chief Military Advisors to the Chinese army. The first of these was General Hans von Seeckt, followed by General Alexander von Falkenhausen. Both had stressed the need for the best Chinese officers to be trained in modern warfare, particularly combined operations. Germany was now able to build on this in 1941.

The standard issue rifle for the Chinese armed forces was the German Mauser. The army had only a handful of light tanks and field guns, all of which were obsolete. There were only a few aircraft operational. The Chinese army in 1941 far outnumbered the Japanese, but they were under-equipped and generally poorly trained.

The superior Japanese forces had occupied a large area of northern and central China, and much of the Eastern coastal areas, but this had resulted in over-extended lines of communication. During their advance the Japanese army acted with unbelievable savagery and barbarity. The most notorious atrocity came to be known as the ‘Rape of Nanking’. During a six week orgy of uncontrolled violence in the city, Japanese soldiers murdered some three hundred thousand people, and raped close to eighty thousand girls and women.

By the end of 1940 they were experiencing serious difficulties in administering and garrisoning the seized territories. The war had become something of a stalemate.

In an unprecedented feat of logistics Germany had delivered an enormous amount of war material to China in the first five months of 1941. This included seven hundred surplus German aircraft — light bombers, dive bombers, fighters and trainers — as well as a further one hundred captured French fighters. Seven hundred tanks, one thousand trucks, five hundred artillery pieces, one million rifles, thirty thousand machine guns, and thousands of tons of ammunition were also delivered.

Japan controlled the Chinese coastal belt and ports so everything had to be shipped by a roundabout route. Firstly it went by ship to Haiphong in Vietnam, French Indochina. Then by train from Haiphong to Kunming in Yunnan province, China. Finally by road from Kunming to Chongqing, the capital of Nationalist China. Thereafter it was distributed to the various regiments.

From the day he arrived in China, Rommel, assisted by Klaus von Altendorf, had worked non-stop in re-organising and training the Chinese troops. As the new equipment started to arrive, the German and French contingents instructed the troops in the use and maintenance of the same equipment previously used by their own armed forces.

The result at the end of June, was that the Chinese were more or less equally matched with the Japanese in terms of equipment, but outnumbered them three to one in manpower. The Japanese had deployed one million troops but these were spread over all of the territory they occupied, including the vast northern Manchuria, the puppet state now known as Manchukuo. All these territories tied up a large number of troops to maintain their hold on the populations.

Chiang Kai-shek had three million troops under his command. Of these he was going to commit one million against the Japanese. Another quarter of a million would be launched against the Chinese communist forces. The remainder would be held in reserve. The plan of attack had been worked out by Rommel. All was ready for 1 July.

“Well Klaus, we are as ready as we can be in the time we have had available. I would like more time to train them, but that cannot be. They are willing enough, that I will say. I hope it is sufficient.” Rommel continued to watch the Chinese troops.

“The majority of our own troops had no battle experience when we attacked and defeated all those countries in the European war, sir,” Klaus answered. “This is going to be very interesting.”

“Yes, that is true. The big difference is the quality of the officers. Ours were generally good, but the Chinese officers have not had the benefit of years of training and discipline that our men had. Some of them are good, but many of them display a lack of confidence that can get them, and their men, killed.”

He paused. “Our own men clearly understand that they are not to get involved in the actual fighting? They are at all times to stay behind the front line and simply guide and advise through the senior Chinese officers.”

“They all understand sir.”

“Then we are as ready as we can be. Let us enjoy a good meal tonight, Klaus. We don’t know how long it will be before the next one.” Rommel grinned. He was looking forward to the morning.

At dawn the offensive would begin on three fronts.

A northern army of a quarter of a million men would move north east against the Chinese Communist, (CC), forces. It would be supported by tanks and air power in a combined operation aimed at eliminating the communists one and for all.

A second, (southern), army, four hundred thousand strong, had been built up in South West China, again with tank and air support. Their task was to retake the coastal territories occupied by the Japanese, starting with the southernmost enemy enclave opposite Hainan Island, then move eastwards as rapidly as possible, with a view to linking up with the main Chinese army for the recapture of the crucial port of Shanghai.

The main army, six hundred thousand strong, would attack the important centre of Wuhan. Once Wuhan was captured it would then swing north east towards Nanking to inflict revenge on the Japanese for their previous atrocity.

For the past couple of months Chinese agents had been infiltrated into the cities of Wuhan and Nanking to stir the population into action against the occupying troops at an appropriate time. They had also been smuggling in arms and explosives. After Nanking had been taken, the city would be left with a garrison while the rest of the army drove for Shanghai.

The thinking was that by the time Shanghai was liberated, the northern force would have dealt with the CC forces and would then engage the Japanese from the north east. Thus the Japanese would be fighting on all fronts other than the far north in Manchuria.


The Governing Council had debated the imminent Chinese operation in great detail. The civilian members did not pretend to any knowledge of military strategy, but clearly understood the danger of a communist China. They also realised that, indirectly, Japan’s war on China made it easier for the communists to succeed in their objectives.

A different threat was posed by Japan’s aggressive expansionist policy. This could bring them into conflict with the USA and, of more immediate concern to Germany, the European powers with colonies in the Far East.

All were agreed that Japan had to be brought to the negotiating table. And to do this the Imperial Japanese Army needed to suffer a major military reverse.

Germany’s current involvement with China was a critical part of the Council’s wider strategy.


The northern army advancing towards the unsuspecting communist forces was under the command of General Cheng. A tough and able soldier who had fought the Japanese non-stop for the past five years. His senior advisor was Major Hans von Luck, a former panzer commander who had seen action in Poland, and later in France, with Rommel. Highly respected by Rommel, he was only 30 years old. Von Luck had a fifty strong German contingent with him.

Cheng’s army moved rapidly. Speed of movement had been drummed into the Chinese soldiers from the first day the German advisors arrived. They had stayed away from the Japanese controlled areas as they moved north. As they reached a point where intelligence reports said the CC forces were based somewhere directly to the east, they changed direction and slowed their pace while scout vehicles went forward.

Two days later the scouts reported the first CC strongpoints lay ahead.

Cheng called a meeting with von Luck and the senior Chinese officers. All knew what they had to do. One of the difficulties faced by Cheng had been finding suitable flat terrain to establish temporary airstrips for his fifty supporting aircraft. By conscripting labour along the way he had accomplished this daunting task. Now he could count on continuous air strikes against his CC opponents.

As the CC were nominally in alliance with the nationalist forces, they were not expecting a major attack from this quarter. Their many informants had failed them.


The southern army was commanded by General Yue. His military advisor was also an ex-panzer battalion commander, Colonel Rudolf Sieckenius, another Rommel man. In support was a further three hundred German and French ‘advisors’.

They had one hundred and fifty tanks for support, as well as one hundred and fifty aircraft. Reconnaissance had already determined the weakest spot in the perimeter of the Japanese defences in their enclave opposite Hainan Island. All was ready.


Generalissimo Chiang personally commanded the main army, with Rommel, assisted by Klaus von Altendorf, as his advisor. The remaining eight hundred German advisors, and seven hundred French specialists, together with the bulk of the tanks and aircraft supplied to China by Germany, were attached to this army.

They had a detailed plan of the enemy’s defences and strongpoints in Wuhan. They were straining at the leash to attack. Morale was high among the Chinese troops.

At dawn the next morning, along a front of thirty kilometres, red coloured very lights were fired into the sky and a thunderous artillery barrage opened at the Japanese positions. The defenders knew they were to be attacked but had not expected anything like the intense shelling they were now subjected to. They had an even bigger surprise when the shelling eased and a swarm of bomber aircraft appeared above them. Where the hell had they come from? 

Under cover of the artillery barrage and the bombing, the Chinese soldiers swarmed forward. Rommel had allowed a few tanks to support them but resolutely refused to send more into this type of combat. His doctrine was that tanks were for fast moving operations, and not to be bogged down in city fighting.

The Japanese soldiers fought back bravely but were constantly overwhelmed by the dogged attacks by the Chinese. Those who did not fall back where killed to a man. The Japanese asked for no quarter and the Chinese gave none.

Wherever the enemy established a point of resistance, an aircraft or tank would appear and blast it out of existence.

The civilian population of Wuhan was about three quarters of a million. Many of these now rose up to take revenge on the hated Japanese. Any soldier caught in the city was mutilated beyond recognition. The civilians were using captured Japanese rifles and bayonets against their previous owners.

Shortly after midday the Nationalist troops made their first breakthrough into the city. The Japanese continued to fight desperately but were running out of ammunition. In the meantime parts of the city were being demolished by the relentless bombardment.

Chiang sent an emissary under a white flag. He offered surrender terms to the Japanese General. It took another hour to get a reply. The General would not surrender, but he would be willing to evacuate his troops from the city if his troops could retain their weapons and were given a safe conduct to the closest Japanese lines. He would require motor transport for his wounded.

Chiang and Rommel conferred. Most of the Chinese officers were in favour of continuing the battle, though there was no doubt that casualties would be high. The Japanese would fight to the last man. On the other hand, they knew the enemy was already short of food, water and ammunition. The decision was taken to keep fighting, while the bulk of the army would start to advance towards their next objective, Nanking, which was five hundred and fifty kilometres away to the east.

Over the next two days the Japanese in Wuhan were pressed into an ever shrinking area of defence. The Chinese troops had been ordered not to recklessly attack but instead just keep increasing the pressure. On the third day an unkempt Japanese captain appeared with a white flag. Their General had committed suicide rather than surrender, as indeed several other officers had. The remaining soldiers would now prefer to surrender as long as they would be treated fairly.

The first major battle of the campaign to win back China was over! 


The Japanese evacuated all their troops to the island of Hainan twenty four hours after they were attacked in their mainland enclave. Their commanding officer realised immediately that he faced a far superior force that he had no hope of beating. The island itself was more important than the territory on the mainland.

General Yue was delighted to avoid excessive casualties in liberating a large slice of territory which included the city of Zhangzhou. He decided to press on to their next objective without delay. To attack the island itself, would need ships and boats that were simply not available at that time. This would be for another day. He called up reserve troops to garrison the recaptured coastal area. Once these were settled in, he continued his advance along the coast.


The strength of General Cheng’s force took the Chinese Communists by surprise. They had not been expecting an attack, and they possessed no tanks or aircraft. The re-equipped and well trained Nationalist army with their co-ordinated tactics overwhelmed them at every standpoint and forced them into continuous retreat.

Cheng maintained the pressure relentlessly.


The Governing Council received the news of an auspicious start to the Chinese campaign with relief and cautious optimism. Von Brauchitsch had cautioned them not to think that the successful lightning campaigns of the German army in Western Europe the previous year, would be repeated by the Chinese army.

However, even he thought that things had got off to a good start. Soon they would suggest to the British and Americans that they approach the Japanese Government with an offer to mediate an end to hostilities.  

On honourable terms of course! 


Chiang’s tanks spearheaded the advance. Wherever they met pockets of Japanese resistance they crushed them. If the resistance proved stubborn, the bombers and dive bombers were called in.

Japanese bombers appeared from time to time but these were largely ineffectual as they were met by German ME109 and French Dewoitine fighters of the Nationalist forces. In the first two days of their bombing strategy, the Japanese lost fifteen aircraft for the loss of only two of the French fighters. Rommel was under no illusion that this would continue. The Japanese bombers had had no fighter cover. They would not make that mistake again.

Various small towns had been liberated along the way, and the local population was ecstatic at their release from the yoke of the loathed Japanese oppressors. Civilian retribution against their former oppressors was terrible to behold.

After six days, Rommel advised Chiang to call a halt. The trucks and tanks needed some maintenance and repair, and they could use a two day respite to allow the troops left behind in Wuhan, other than those needed for garrison duty, to catch up with the main force.

They were half way to Nanking


The British colony of Hong Kong and the Portuguese colony of Macau were both surrounded on their landward sides by Japanese occupied territory. The major Chinese city in this territory was Canton. This was General Yue’s next objective, a little over four hundred kilometres away.

Using the tactics tried and tested in France, Colonel Sieckenius released his tanks forward. In what could be seen as a liberal interpretation of his orders, he personally commanded one of the forward tanks.

The Japanese had outposts at towns along the way but these were not heavily defended. All resistance was squashed.

Most days they had been subject to sporadic bombing raids by Japanese Navy aircraft. So far the Nationalist fighters were inflicting losses on enemy aircraft at the rate of three to one. The raids had eased considerably over the last two days.

After eight days the army was ready to do battle for Canton. Chinese intelligence reported an estimated maximum of forty thousand Japanese troops in the area. Some tanks had been seen.

On the advice of Sieckenius, General Yue split his force into three components. One to encircle the enemy territory and attack from the north, another to attack from south, and the larger force to attack from the west. In each case the tanks would spearhead the advance.

The enemy positions were softened up by artillery bombardment and air attacks from Yue’s dive bombers, the famous Stuka.  The Nationalist fighters were on alert for Japanese bombing raids.

Once again the enemy were unprepared for the speed of the Nationalist advance, and their combined operation tactics. They had no effective strategy to counter it. Their troops fought with unmatched bravery, but it was not enough.

All three of the Chinese forces were making inroads into the Japanese, when, at midday, a large force of enemy bombers appeared in the sky. Sieckenius estimated over one hundred. Escorted by fifty fighter aircraft. The Japanese must have called for reinforcements from other areas.

The Nationalists had only sixty fighters operational, twenty ME109s, and forty Dewoitines. These rose up into the sky to do battle. All forty French aircraft were piloted by French pilots from the specialist detachment. The German aircraft had Chinese pilots.

The ensuing air battle was intense. The Japanese bombers pressed home their attacks regardless of the onslaught from the Nationalist fighters. The toll was great on both sides. One hour later Sieckenius received the figures.

The Japanese had lost forty nine bombers. Half of its force. They also lost thirty two fighters. They had been sorely hurt. It was doubtful if they could launch a similar raid in time to save Canton.

But there had been a price to pay. The Nationalists had lost thirty five fighter aircraft. Only ten of the pilots had parachuted to safety. General Yue’s army now had fewer than seventy serviceable aircraft left. These were forty four dive bombers and twenty five fighters.

That night in the temporary officers mess at their temporary airfield, the mixed gathering of German, French and Chinese pilots bade a permanent, and boisterous, goodbye to their fallen comrades.

In the face of the far superior numbers, weapons and tactics of the Chinese Nationalists, the Japanese Commanding Officer in Canton made the decision to withdraw his force towards the north east, through the only part of the perimeter not completely occupied by the Chinese. The Japanese bombing raids had failed. Ammunition, while not yet critical, was running short. Unless a relief force could be despatched soon, his assessment was that he could not retain Canton. Unlike most other senior Japanese officers, this one cared about the men under his command and he saw no sense in sacrificing them needlessly.

Later that day he affected a break out with about thirty thousand of his men, many of whom were wounded, and retreated north towards Nanking.

Yue now deemed it prudent to mount mopping up operations in the general area between Canton and Hong Kong. This took three days, during which time Sieckenius was extremely restless. Speed, speed, and more speed, was his motto. However the time was usefully employed in servicing all the equipment and machines, and re-stocking supplies and ammunition.

During this time a Bentley motor car turned up unexpectedly in their midst, driven by four British army officers from Hong Kong. They had taken it upon themselves to travel there to meet with the Chinese liberators and their international advisors. They stayed the night and were royally entertained for dinner. When they departed the next morning, all of them looked as if they were suffering greatly from hangovers!

They were now a few days behind schedule when they resumed their advance. Their next target was now the port of Shantou, four hundred and forty kilometres due east of canton.


Von Luck was almost feeling sorry for the Communists. Every time they attempted to halt and regroup, the Nationalists pounced on them. The CC soldiers generally fought well but there had been an increasing number of defections. Yesterday one of their officers, a lieutenant he said he was, surrendered with half a dozen of his troops. He told his captors of disharmony among their leaders, and a rumour of a Japanese advance against them from the north.

Two days later there seemed to be some truth to the Japanese advance rumour. Heavy guns were heard to the north, and the CC had slowed down their retreat, even though it meant they were now taking heavier casualties from the Nationalists.

General Cheng had told von Luck that his orders stated there was to be no engagement with Japanese troops. If any were met in the course of the campaign, the Nationalists were to hold back or withdraw. This had mystified von Luck, but he supposed it wasn’t unreasonable as their primary mission was the elimination of the communist forces.

The following day held a surprise for them. The CC started surrendering in droves. They all had the same story. The Japanese were bearing down on them from the north and displaying their usual savagery. The CC soldiers preferred to surrender to the more civilised nationalist Chinese troops. A few even volunteered to join the nationalist force.

Cheng halted his advance while he assessed this information. After conferring with von Luck, it was decided to remain where they were until the position regarding Japanese troops became clear.

Later that afternoon, in the shade of some willow trees by a slow moving stream, von Luck was relaxing in a folding canvas seat enjoying a cup of coffee. He got the shock of his life as a Japanese officer emerged from the bushes alongside the river. As he jumped up and groped for his pistol the officer spoke in English, “Please, Major, I mean you no harm. I bear a message from my superior.”

Von Luck quickly recovered. Coolly he sat down and carried on sipping his coffee as if meeting an enemy officer in the middle of nowhere was an everyday occurrence. He looked at the Japanese. “Can I offer you a cup of coffee?”

With a grin the officer stepped forward and introduced himself, “Captain Sato, Imperial Japanese Army. I am delighted to meet you, Sir. And yes, I would love some coffee. Is it American?”

They shook hands formally as von Luck introduced himself. He found a seat for Sato. He also called one of his fellow Germans and asked him to post guards around the area to make sure the Chinese troops did not find out about their unexpected guest and act precipitously.

“And now, Captain Sato, may I ask what brings you into the camp of your enemies?”

Sato explained that he had been sent by General Yoshijiro Umezu, the Commander in chief of the Imperial Japanese Army in Manchukuo. He brought a message and a gift for Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The message amazed von Luck. The gift shocked him, and it was something he would never forget for the rest of his life.

“We moved against the communists eight days ago. As usual they tended to melt away rather than confront us. Two days ago they started to hold their ground. I think this was due to the pressure from your forces coming against them from the other direction.

General Umezu committed all our spare troops to this operation. He wanted an end to the communist attacks once and for all. We have succeeded. There are now no more than a handful of communist brigands scattered and in hiding between where we are sitting, and the Japanese troops. They are finished.”

Von Luck thought for a moment before he responded. “Where are the communist leaders?”

Sato looked a little uncomfortable. “That is the gift I bring from General Umezu.” He held his hand up a clicked his fingers twice.

Two Japanese soldiers stepped out from the same bushes Sato had been hidden in. They carried a wicker basket which they set down on the ground between Sato and von Luck. They then disappeared back where they had come from.

Von Luck stared at the basket, almost afraid to discover what it contained. He called his sergeant again. “Hans, please have a look at what is inside that basket.”

Without hesitation the sergeant stepped forward, untied the string holding the basket closed, and threw back the lid. He recoiled from what was inside. “Heads, sir,” was all he said.

Von Luck, a man who felt no fear in battle, had to steel himself to look. There were four heads. Two he recognised, Mao Zedong the head of the Chinese communist party, and his most able lieutenant, Zhou Enlai. The other two he did not know.

He dismissed the sergeant. “Thank you, Hans. Not a word about this unless I say so. In the meantime can you dig up a bottle of whisky anywhere?” Von Luck suddenly wanted a drink badly.

Over the next fifteen minutes he got the story out of a talkative Sato.

Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, ever the politician, had shrewdly hedged his bets. Through trusted intermediaries he had contacted the Japanese General Umezu and made him an offer he could not refuse. He told him about Cheng’s army attacking the communist forces from the south west. He offered Umezu personally, fifty thousand US dollars in gold, if he would simultaneously attack the communists from the opposite direction with his Japanese forces. Obviously he must discontinue his attack once the CC had been forced onto the guns and bayonets of the Chinese Nationalists and wiped out.

There would be a further twenty five thousand dollar bonus if the communist leaders, or their heads, were delivered to him.

Von Luck listened to this then shook his head in amazement. I can’t wait to tell Rommel this one! 

Sato bid him goodbye after informing him that the next morning the Japanese forces would be re

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tiring back into Manchuria.

Von Luck went in search of General Cheng.


The Chinese Nationalist army was twenty kilometres south of the city. The Japanese General had just received orders to hold the city at all costs. Reinforcements would be sent to the city, but these should not be expected for three days.

The reports he had received from Wuhan and Canton indicated that the Chinese, with help of the foreign barbarians, had forged a formidable fighting force. He expected them to attack the next day. He had precious few tanks and his ammunition reserves had been depleted over previous months and never replaced. His troops only numbered thirty five thousand. How was he hold Nanking when he was outnumbered more than fifteen to one!  

Chiang caught the Japanese off guard. He did not wait until the next day. Using their now familiar blitzkrieg  tactics, units of his army penetrated the city’s defence perimeter at several points before the evening drew to a close. This was the signal for a general uprising of the population in the city. With all their pent up hatred the people of Nanking fell upon the outward facing Japanese from behind. Ordinary Chinese citizens took great risks just for the chance of killing one Japanese soldier. Consequently their casualties were high. But this did not deter them. One man, saw his chance of revenge for the killing of his entire family during the Nanking incident. He strapped explosives to his chest and threw himself under a Japanese tank. The tank was blown to pieces. Suicide bombers were everywhere. They became known as the ‘Dare to Die Corps’.

The Japanese were now facing the Nationalist army in front, and a huge mob of insurgents behind. With grim determination they fought on.

The Chinese forces had the city surrounded. In view of the significance of Nanking as the site of unparalleled atrocities, Chiang had no option but to crush the enemy. The would be no offer of surrender terms. No allowing of a strategic retreat. Complete and unconditional surrender was all he would accept.

It took another eight days before resistance ceased, except for few isolated pockets. Of the total of thirty five thousand Japanese troops that had defended Nanking, fewer than five thousand were taken prisoner. The majority of these prisoners were wounded. No reinforcements had been sent. Neither had any air support been received.

It had been a savage battle. The cost in Chinese lives was high. But the ‘Rape of Nanking’ had been avenged.

The world took note.


They had left canton nine days ago. General Yue’s army now surrounded the port of Shantou. If intelligence was to be believed they were probably facing fewer than ten thousand Japanese troops.

Yue had fallen behind schedule. His army was still over twelve hundred kilometres from Shanghai. He decided to speed things up. He would leave Sieckenius with forty thousand troops and twenty tanks, to deal with Shantou. Yue would hurry on to the next sizeable town, Xiamen, a further two hundred and fifty kilometres away.

A reconnaissance in force was despatched towards Xiamen. Yue followed behind with the larger portion of his army. Three days later his forward reconnaissance troops reported to him that the town was free of enemy troops. The Japanese, now aware of the potency of their Chinese enemy, had evacuated their forces, assessed at twenty thousand or less, to the offshore island of Kinmen.

That same day Sieckenius arrived from Shantou. There, the Japanese had done the same. They had transported their entire force to Nanao Island, about eight kilometres offshore. Sieckenius had left ten thousand of his troops as garrison of Shantou, and hurried to join Yue.

Yue and Sieckenius pondered on the enemy tactics. The enemy withdrawals were a positive development for the southern Nationalist army in that their advance towards Shanghai had not been held up, and losses of troops and equipment were minimal. On the other hand sizeable numbers of Japanese troops were left on islands close to the coast and, in effect, behind the Nationalist line of advance.

In the end they both agreed that there was little they could do other than leave some of their own troops behind to guard against the enemy attempting to land and recapture territories.

That same day they heard of the liberation of Nanking, and the decimation of the Japanese defenders. Everywhere there were smiles on the faces of the Chinese troops. Their morale soared!

The southern army had covered a distance of more than one thousand kilometres since launching their coastal campaign. However they were still almost another one thousand kilometres from Shanghai. Generalissimo Chiang’s army was only three hundred kilometres from Shanghai. There was no way they could join forces in time for the battle for the city.


General Cheng’s force, now that their primary mission of eliminating the communists was accomplished, had made their way south into central China. The scattered Japanese strongholds they encountered were subdued one by one as they continued at an almost leisurely advance. Their main purpose was to tie up the Japanese forces in the north and central China by posing a threat across a wide area.

Requests from local Japanese commanders for reinforcements from Manchukuo were turned down by the army Commander-in-Chief of that state, General Umezu, the same general who had helped Chiang crush the communists. Umezu had concluded a second secret deal with Chiang. The Chinese would leave Manchukuo alone if Umezu kept his troops there at home.

Von Luck thought that all things considered, the northern army was having a rather enjoyable war!


Everything was proceeding according to plan in China. Now that the Nationalist forces were threatening the important city of Shanghai, the Governing Council had activated the second part of their plan. This was to induce the Americans to coerce the Japanese into entering peace negotiations.

Japan imported eighty percent of its oil from the United States. Germany, backed by Britain and France, had been quietly canvassing the Americans to threaten Japan with comprehensive sanctions, including oil, unless they entered into serious peace negotiations with the Chinese. This was something the United States had already looked at, so it was no great leap for them to actually implement it.

Now that the Chinese had demonstrated their newfound strength, and ended their long civil war with the defeat of the communist insurgents, it was hoped the Japanese would face reality.

The Americans had agreed! President Roosevelt publicly called for China and Japan to stop fighting and start talking. Behind the scenes he let the Japanese know in no uncertain terms, that he was ready to act decisively with sanctions against them unless they came to the negotiating table. He was also willing to offer them favourable trading and other concessions if they curtailed their expansionist policies. Roosevelt, like the Germans, was anxious to maintain friendly relations with Japan, as they were a bastion of anti-communism in the Far East.

In Japan, economic and political turmoil in the 1920’s had led to the rise of militarism, and subsequently to Japanese expansionism. In effect, the state became to a large degree, the servant of the army. By 1940 the country had a totalitarian form of government.

At the beginning of 1940 a new Prime Minister was appointed, Mitsumasa Yonai. He was pro-British and pro-American. He strongly opposed any pact with Nazi Germany. Because of this, the Imperial Japanese Army was dissatisfied with Yonai. The army was preparing to act to force Yonai to resign, when Germany, triumphant in Europe, lost Hitler and renounced Nazism.

All parties in Japan soon detected the new and distinctly cooler attitude towards their country on the part of Germany. The German Foreign Minister had already advised them of German concerns about the continuing Sino-Japanese War.

This strengthened Prime Minister Yonai’s hand and he had been able to retain his position, at least for the time being.

That was one year ago.

The Japanese Army and its supporters continued to undermine Yonai at every opportunity, but now, one year later, August 1941, the tide had turned against them. The stalemate that had previously existed in the war with China had seriously deteriorated. The Chinese Nationalist army had unexpectedly displayed amazing resilience. They had not only defeated their communist rivals, they had recaptured Nanking and other areas along the south east coast that Japan had previously occupied. They had Shanghai surrounded.

The American approach with a request that they talk peace with China was received by Prime Minister Yonai with great personal pleasure. In agreeing to the request after heated discussions with all factions within the government, he had had to overcome intense opposition from the army and its supporters, and in fact would probably have failed if he had not received the personal endorsement of The Emperor.

Initial talks were scheduled for 10 September in Honolulu. The Americans were doing everything they could to be helpful.

In the meantime Generalissimo Chiang had agreed not to attack Japanese positions in China. However, he did not let this agreement stop him from consolidating his forces around Shanghai and his other identified objectives. The ceasefire also gave the technicians and engineers time to repair and service all their equipment. His three armies were also re-supplied and rested.

Japan undertook not to send any further troops from Japan to China until the peace conference ended.

The first meeting between the Chinese and Japanese produced nothing more than both sides setting out their respective positions. China wanted Japan to withdraw from all Chinese territories including Manchukuo, Taiwan and Korea. The Japanese insisted the latter three were officially Japanese possessions. They also claimed the island of Hainan on the south east China coast.

The United States, Britain, Germany, France and Holland had observer status at the conference. The scene was set for much ‘behind the scenes’ manoeuvring.

After four days of claims, counter-claims, accusations and counter-accusations, neither side had moved in the slightest from their first negotiating position. The conference adjourned for few days.

The whole world knew that Japan was the aggressor. The USA gently reminded the Japanese Government of US intentions.

In Japan the squabbling between the militarists and the anti-war factions was violent at times and led to several assassinations and at least one suicide. Prime Minister Yonai had to be guarded at all times as he received constant threats to his life.

The peace delegates returned to Japan for further instructions.

To break the impasse there was a dramatic intervention by a section of Japan’s armed forces. Admiral Isoroko Yamamoto, the highly regarded Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, had always opposed the invasion of China. He had serious reservations about any action that could bring about war with the USA and European powers. He also had close relations with the Imperial Royal family.

Yamamoto now threw his weight behind the Yonai and the peace faction. He used his influence at court to press the Emperor to indicate that he favoured peace.

Yonai kept his nerve and sent the peace conference delegates back to Honolulu to continue the search for peace.

In Tokyo the inflexible and west-hating General Hideki Tojo of the Imperial Japanese Army, had finalised his plans two weeks earlier. He saw no room for compromise.

He had been the War Minister in the Japanese Government for over a year and was without doubt, Japan’s strongman. A militarist and totalitarian. He had always a great supporter of ties with Nazi Germany. He was virulently opposed to yielding his country’s Chinese acquisitions. His attitude was that they would be Japanese territory for ever! He favoured war with the United States if they imposed their threatened sanctions.

He had influenced a group of young Imperial Japanese Army officers to launch a coup with a view to purging the government and military leadership of all anti-war elements. This was now about to happen.

They achieved complete surprise as they launched their action. Previously targeted leading government officials were assassinated, and the government centre in Tokyo was occupied by them before any of their perceived opposition had any idea what was happening. Chaos and fear spread through the city.

A satisfied General Tojo prepared himself for his appointment as Japan’s new Prime Minister. His first act would be to recall the delegates from the peace conference. His second act would be to order the finalising of the plans to annihilate the US fleet at Pearl Harbour in a surprise attack without a declaration of war. The Imperial Japanese Navy would then be the masters of the Pacific.

He carried on making his plans.

One of the leaders of the young officers came to see him. Tojo was consumed with anger when he was told that they had failed to assassinate the Prime Minister. Neither had they been able to secure control of the Imperial Palace. These two objectives had been considered vital to the success of the coup. The government remained intact. Tojo was not discouraged. He had the army on his side. The coup could not fail! 

Unfortunately for the Japanese General, the unexpected happened. There was considerable Imperial anger at the attempted coup. This heightened tensions within the entire Japanese military, and divisions appeared. The result was overwhelming opposition to the coup, and units of the army and navy quickly moved against the mutineers.

The rebels soon surrendered. Later, after a summary trial, many were executed and the rest imprisoned.

General Tojo never became Prime Minister but he at least escaped the humiliation of a trial by committing ritual suicide.

The radical ‘war’ faction had now lost most of its influence. The peace conference continued.



Some progress had been made. The Japanese had conceded that the offshore islands they held, including Hainan but excluding Taiwan, could be returned to China. In turn, China agreed they could renounce any claim to Korea. The issues of Manchukuo and Taiwan had not yet been resolved.

Manchukuo, previously known as Manchuria, had been seized by the Japanese ten years earlier, although they had been active in the region for many years previously. Japanese investment and the states rich natural resources resulted in rapid economic growth. It was now a regional industrial powerhouse.

Following their policy of formally detaching Manchukuo from China, Japan had installed Puyi, the last Emperor of China, as their puppet Head of State of Manchukuo. Puyi had still been a child when he was deposed from the Imperial throne of China.

Few other countries had recognised the new state, but among them were the Soviet Union, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Manchukuo was now far too important to the economy of Japan for them to surrender it readily.

The large island of Taiwan, had been ceded by China to Japan in 1895 following China’s defeat in the first Sino-Japanese war. Japanese immigrants accounted for roughly ten percent of the island’s current population.

The talks were now deadlocked over these two territories.

It was combined pressure from the United States and the European powers that finally engineered an acceptable compromise, the main points of which were:

All Japanese forces in China would be withdrawn by no later than the end of November. Scattered units of troops throughout the country meant that the logistics of withdrawal were not straightforward, hence the reason for the delay.

Taiwan would be returned to China by Japan, in return for a treaty limiting the number of Chinese military on the island to twenty thousand defensive  personnel. A period of one year would be required for an orderly withdrawal of all Japanese civilians from the island.

China would recognise the state of Manchukuo in return for a non-aggression treaty limiting the Japanese military there, to two hundred thousand, the bulk of which had to be stationed in the north of the state, i.e. on the border with the Soviet Union. Generalissimo Chiang was not entirely unhappy with the thought of a buffer state between China and the Soviet Union.

Japan and China would enter into a mutual defence pact. No third country was mentioned here, but there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that this was specifically aimed at deterring aggression by their common northern neighbour, the Soviet Union.

Finally, Japan would pay war reparations to China. The amount agreed was not excessive and could be paid in the form of deliveries of raw materials and farm produce. This would help China pay her debts accumulated as a result of the war.

The actual peace treaty would be signed one week after all Japanese troops had vacated Chinese territory.

The United States had already given an undertaking not to impose sanctions of any kind on any country provided the peace treaty was respected by the signatories.

Presidents and Prime Ministers around the world breathed a collective sigh of relief. The danger of a major war in the far east had ended.


Von Brauchitsch addressed the council. “Gentlemen we have successfully accomplished everything we set out to do. We now have a strong anti-communist ally in China. We even managed to engineer an anti-communist alliance between the far east’s two strongest powers. We know that there is currently some Japanese feeling of antipathy towards Germany because of the part we played in re-arming and training the Chinese, but at least they are still talking to us. I believe relations with Japan will quickly normalise now that the extreme militarist elements have lost their influence. All in all, I think we can be proud of our achievements.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister added to this. “This is a perfect example of maximum effect with minimum cost and effort. One year ago China was in chaos. Today, thanks to our timely assistance they are a great nation. And our friend.”

Schacht, the Economics minister also had something to say. “I only hope they now manage their economy sensibly. It is vast country with diverse factions. I wish them great luck.”

The governing Council were immensely satisfied with themselves.


It was Winston Churchill’s last cabinet meeting of 1941. He had the feeling that the National Government originally formed in 1931 to counter the depression, and later extended to fight the European war, would not last much longer. The politicians in the individual political parties were now seeking power for themselves. Churchill was sad but at the same time content with a job well done.

In the year and a half since the end of the war the British economy had held up well. The world was a safer place. Japan’s aggression had been halted, and, most unexpected, they were now in an anti-communist alliance of sorts, with China.

Churchill offered his silent thanks to Germany for having the fortitude to take on the task of sorting out the China/Japan mess.

His last act this year would be to sign the detailed document that was Britain’s application to join the European Alliance. He had to admit the Germans had done a magnificent job when they put the alliance together. They had rehabilitated all the countries they had conquered in 1939 and 1940. Even that difficult case, France, now seemed to be able to govern itself effectively.

That rogue in Spain, General Franco, had reluctantly ratified the centuries old British ownership of the Rock of Gibraltar, and introduced a much enlightened form of government in his country. All at the insistence of the Germans as a condition of joining the European Alliance. The Alliance then accepted his country as a new member. Portugal had joined at the same time. The European Alliance now stretched from Norway in the north, to Spain in the south.

The demented — in Churchill’s opinion — dictator in Rome, continued to sulk at the exclusion of Italy. Opposition to his oppressive rule seemed to be building. Churchill expected Mussolini to be removed violently before very much longer. And justly so! 

Germany had literally banged the heads together of the leaders of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Each was wary of the Soviet Union and wanted to join the Alliance, but they had historical territorial claims on each other that created a lot of animosity and endless quarrelling between themselves. Churchill had heard that the German Foreign Minister, von Altendorf, had called them together and read the riot act to them. He told them to put their house in order or be permanently  excluded from the Alliance. What is more, if this happened, he would formally advise the Soviet Union that their three countries were no longer regarded as belonging to the German sphere of influence. An open invitation to Stalin to meddle in their affairs! That concentrated their attention wonderfully!

‘I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting’,  He gleefully thought.

Von Altendorf’s tactics had worked. The three central European countries quickly resolved their main differences and re-distributed some land between themselves. Three months later they were formally admitted into the European Alliance.

Greece, scenting free security, which meant they could reduce spending their own money on their armed forces, had applied for membership. It had been vetoed by Germany whose view was that Greece, as it always had been, was politically and economically a mess. The old man chuckled. He loved Greece and its history, but their corrupt officials and politicians….



The Articles of Peace between China and Japan were to be signed today on board the American battleship, USS Arizona, which had been provided by their hosts as neutral ground. Around the harbour were gathered great warships from the nations with an interest in the peace process.

Germany was represented by their newly commissioned aircraft carrier, Graf Zeppelin.  Great Britain had sent the well-known battleship, Hood.  France’s battleship Richelieu,  was there, and the Dutch were represented by the cruiser, Tromp. 

China’s new battlecruiser, formerly the German battlecruiser, Scharnhorst, and  now renamed Nanking,  had a prominent berth near the Arizona. 

Towering over all of them was Japan’s pride, the mighty Yamato , the biggest battleship ever built. It was armed with nine massive eighteen inch guns. A truly fearsome beast.

On Yamato’s  bridge Admiral Yamamoto gazed at the naval might around him. He was relieved that Japan had pulled back from war. Nobody in their right mind would willingly go to war against the combined fleets of the western nations. In the case of the United States it would have awoken a sleeping giant! 

But it had been a close run thing. He thought of the plans he been ordered to draw up in case of war with America. He had objected to the concept at the time, but had nevertheless followed orders. If things had gone according to that plan, without any formal declaration of war his carrier force would have launched a full scale air attack on the American fleet at the very port where he now stood, Pearl Harbour.

The planned date would have been more or less the same date as today, 7 December 1941,  he reflected. 



Most of the German advisors, and all of the French advisors to the Chinese Army were now back in their home countries. An excellent rapport had been established between these former enemies while they had fought together in that strange and foreign country. It was hoped that this mutual respect would grow and eventually permeate throughout all the military forces in the European Alliance.

Some of the Germans had volunteered to stay longer as part of the next batch of advisors, now reduced to only three hundred. These would be under the command of Sieckenius, now promoted to General in the German Army. He was Generalissimo Chiang’s new chief military adviser. The Germans would continue with the still huge task of training the Chinese army.

Colonel von Luck was asked to stay by General Cheng who had grown fond of this young German fighter. He offered him the rank of General in the Chinese army, with a long term contract and other inducements if he would stay. It was tempting, but poor von Luck could not shake the picture he had in his head of four heads in a basket! He had had enough of China. He bade a fond farewell to his Chinese troops and General Cheng, and headed for home.


Klaus von Altendorf was in his dress uniform. He was more nervous today than he had been at any time during the campaigns in Poland, France and China. He was Jeremy Blackstone’s best man at the wedding of Jeremy to his sister Erica.

Jeremy’s entire English family were in Berlin for the wedding. All were accommodated at the von Altendorf estate. Jamie MacLellan was also staying there for the weekend. Here he met Jeremy’s beautiful spirited sister, Katherine.

Jeremy’s older brother James, the Conservative Member of Parliament for a largely rural district in Lancashire, brought his new girlfriend, Fiona, a pretty little thing much younger than James, who had recently celebrated his fortieth birthday. The youngest brother, George, the doctor, had also arrived with his father and mother.

Newly promoted Field Marshall Rommel was there, together with many of Klaus’ past comrades in arms, including von Luck, who had arrived back from China a week later than the rest of the German contingent. He could never again look at a basket without thinking of heads!

In a sign of how close the members of the Governing Council had become, all were there. Even dour old Hjalmar Schacht!

Lord Halifax had arrived in Berlin yesterday. Since their meeting in Lisbon the previous year, the British Foreign Secretary, now about to retire from active politics and become Ambassador to the United States, had been in regular contact with Baron von Altendorf. Halifax brought with him a special gift for the wedding couple from King George. He had another even more special gift for the Baron.

King George Vl invited Baron von Altendorf to Buckingham Palace in May next year, for the investiture of the Baron into The Order Of The Bath, one the highest ranking orders in the land. It had been founded in 1725 by King George 1. It is awarded by the British monarch for exceptional achievement. Baron von Altendorf’s outstanding efforts in creating peace across Europe, was recognised, and now being justly rewarded.

The Baron was astounded when Halifax told him this in private. There was a hint of tears in his eyes after Halifax left him to make the announcement of the honour to the other guests. Von Altendorf regarded this gift from the King as an honour for the whole of Germany, not just himself. He felt enormous pride. After the abominable Nazi thugs, his country stood tall! 

He had come to know the British well in the last year and a half. What madness induced Hitler to risk war with this magnificent island race? Thank God we were able to avert a catastrophic world war! 

It had been the wedding of the year. The whole of Germany had reacted to the news of the honour bestowed on their Foreign Secretary with an outpouring of affection for Great Britain, cementing their new bond.

It was a good end to the year.


Letter from Jamie MacLellan

Dear Mr President

I few days ago I attended the wedding of the daughter of the German Foreign Minister. I had the opportunity of speaking with many of Germany’s top officials, including the entire Governing Council. I picked up a heck of a lot of gossip.

The Defence Minister confirmed that the German armed forces have now finally been reduced to less than one million men. The regular forces will total three hundred thousand. A professional all volunteer force. The balance of personnel is made up of conscripts, but well trained.

They are maintaining conscription but reducing the period that conscripts serve to eighteen months. The Council are all in agreement that a period in the armed forces is character building for Germany’s youth, as well as crucial in maintaining the country’s defence capabilities. Apparently some sort of educational or vocational training programs will be introduced into the forces to better equip conscripts for future civilian life when their period of conscription is over.

General Beck told me that the European Alliance could now call upon more than fifteen million soldiers in an extreme scenario. General von

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Mannstein is stepping down from his position as Acting Supreme Commander of the alliance. Field Marshall Rommel is replacing him.

I am glad they are on the same side as us!

Last month I took another whistle stop tour of Poland, Denmark, Holland and France. Since I was last there at the beginning of the year I have detected a greater sense of acceptance of the new order in Europe. Everyone feels safer and a little better off financially. There does not seem to be any desire whatsoever to return to what are conceived to be ‘the times of corrupt, useless and self -serving politicians’.

The Norwegian Government has stated that they are rewriting their constitution and will hold democratic elections in the not too distant future. The problem is, most Norwegians don’t seem to be very enthusiastic about it. It will be interesting to see what transpires.

It is my candid view that the European War exposed the pre-war inefficient and some cases, chaotic or despotic, politics for what they were. Now there is peace, security, stability and prosperity. People are more contented. They are relieved and say to themselves ‘we have never had it so good.’

The Germans have quickly shed their dark recent past and are proud of their country’s contribution to peace in the far east. German businessmen are flocking to China and Japan looking to open new export markets for their goods. Not far behind them are the other European countries, but the Germans were there first!

Little news of interest comes out of the Soviet Union. As far as I can ascertain the Germans believe Stalin does not really fear a war may break out in the near future. He continues the relatively slow pace of re-equipping his armed forces. I suspect he knows that if he picks up the pace, the Germans and Europeans will immediately do the same. They watch Russia with eagle eyes!

I continually hear of increasing opposition to Mussolini in Italy and his North African ‘empire’. It is something of a pressure pot and the lid could blow off soon. Some people have asked why Germany does not forcibly depose him. The German’s answer is that Italy is a sovereign country and they must choose their own destiny. They scold Mussolini when it is necessary, but they are not willing to be seen as imposing their will on other people. They are not the world’s policeman! I suppose this is a reaction to Adolf Hitler’s previous aggressive policies.

Apart from the Italian situation, Europe is in a good position.

The German inspired peace is working!

I wish you a happy New Year, Mr President.

Yours respectfully Jamie MacLellan


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1942 & 1943


It was the first meeting of the Governing Council following the New Year holiday recess. The Council now consisted of nine ministers, following the appointments of Speer’s two nominees to the positions of Ministers of Justice and Agriculture. Deputy defence Minister Kesselring had also been elevated to Minister of Aviation.

Von Brauchitsch welcomed everyone and enquired with genuine interest if their holiday period had been good for them. Then straight down to business. As usual the Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke first.

“We have finally received the British application to join the European Alliance. This pleases me personally, and I believe both they will greatly benefit the organisation. Within the confines of these four walls I will go as far as to say that I believe they will prove to be far better allies than the French, and a lot easier to work with. They have the strongest navy in the world, and an air force more or less equal to our own in quality and only slightly inferior in numbers.

Their application will be vetted by the applicable ministries and then discussed further. I hope it can be approved as a matter of urgency as I believe it is possible the British may hold elections for a new government during the course of this year, probably May or June. Although I consider it unlikely, it is not impossible that a new British government could view the European Alliance in a different light.

Next. The US State Department has approached us with the idea of dissolving the League of Nations and forming a new successor, possibly to be called ‘The United Nations’. They have what I perceive to be lukewarm support from Great Britain for this concept.”

The League of Nations had been formed in 1920 with its principal mission being the maintenance of world peace. It had failed miserably and had practically ceased to function by 1940, the year war exploded in Europe. The League had proved to be completely incapable of preventing aggression by Germany, Italy or Japan in the 1930’s. Mussolini expressed his contempt for it when he said, “The League is very well when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out.” 

Various members had already left the League over the years, including Germany. The United States had never even joined.

“This new, ‘United Nations’ has much the same objectives as the League had, namely international co-operation. My personal view is that it will be just another ‘talk shop’ for self-inflated politicians. Probably a complete waste of time and money.

I need the opinions around this table before I can formulate a response to the Americans.”

The entire Council were united in their low opinion of the failed League of Nations. There was no enthusiasm to participate in a similar scheme, no matter how laudable its objectives. Individual member countries of such an organisation would always  put the interest of their own country before others.

Von Altendorf suggested that he should reply using suitable diplomatic language that would not upset the Americans but at the same time indicate their less than enthusiastic interest in the proposal. This was agreed by the Council.

“The next item is of more importance. It concerns a note I received yesterday from the Soviet Ambassador. As you know, they made no significant remarks when we first formed the European Alliance with Norway and Denmark. Their comments were both negative and stronger when the Alliance was extended with the inclusion of Poland and Holland. They lodged a strong protest when France, Spain and Portugal joined.

All of this was dealt with diplomatically and the Soviet ruffled feathers were smoothed — to a degree. It was pointed out to them such an alliance was a natural reaction in a Europe that had come close to a world war. Also they should note that the armed forces of the two major powers, Germany and France, had been progressively and significantly reduced over the past eighteen months. Finally it should not be forgotten that the European Alliance is a purely defensive  organisation.

We have now received another, more serious, communication from the Soviets in response to Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria joining us. They have said that they regard this as an unfriendly act and that these three countries have traditionally been within their  sphere of influence. The Soviets insist on urgent face to face talks to discuss the matter. If we do not respond urgently to this, they reserve the right to take whatever actions they deem appropriate.”

The Council members pondered on what they had been told. It was von Brauchitsch, in his capacity of Minister of Defence, who replied.

“As regards the claim that those three countries are in the Soviet sphere of influence — we all know it is rubbish! We went through the analysis of the historic facts before agreeing to them joining the Alliance. The only claim the Soviets had was for Bessarabia in Romania, and that territory was given to them by Romania in July 1940 in terms of the pact previously made with the Soviet Union by Hitler.

Copies of our assessment, suitably edited, should be forwarded to the Soviet Ambassador.

The question is, how do we answer their demand for a meeting? By simply agreeing to this, are we in effect acknowledging to some degree that they do indeed have a claim? Would we be seen to be weak if we accept their demand? We all know that the Soviets probe for the slightest political political weaknesses.”

It was Speer who came up with a possible solution. “What if we tell them that we have also been thinking for a long time now, that a high level meeting between our two countries is much overdue. We deliberately do not mention their claim, but instead we raise other issues. For instance my department needs to revise our trade agreements, particularly with regards to oil imports. There is also the ongoing situation of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland. There must be other things we can think of to cloud the issue and avoid giving the impression we are simply bowing to their demand. We could even broach the possibility of the Soviet Union becoming a member of the European Alliance. All they have to do is meet our standards of government, etc, and apply.”

This caused a few chuckles. Von Brauchitsch looked at Speer. “Why Albert, you are starting to think like a politician!” He smiled, “It is an excellent idea. Thank you”.

All the Council agreed, and there were some amused comments at Speer’s expense. The Interior Minister had always expressed his intense dislike of politicians.

The Foreign Minister now knew how to handle the matter.

The only item of note from the Interior Minister was his recommendation that Germany and Britain should consider sharing resources and co-operate in nuclear research. This would result in considerably reduced time and money being spent to bring nuclear power to fruition.

The Council asked him to open preliminary discussions with Britain and report back at the earliest opportunity.

The Minister of Justice, Julius Buch, announced his proposed new measures concerning the sentencing of criminals. Germany did not suffer as high a level of criminal acts as most other European nations, but the Council wanted to see it even lower. The new policy to be introduced in the police and courts was to be known as ‘Zero tolerance’,  with harsher sentencing for offenders. However, convicts would be given the opportunity to study or given vocational training after an initial ‘lockdown’  period. It was hoped that many prisoners could be rehabilitated and become useful members of society.

Repeat offenders were now liable to be sentenced to a penal battalion in the army. There they would labour at the hard, dirty, and often monotonous tasks that normal soldiers would have had to do. And all this under firm military discipline.

Nobody wanted, or even envisaged, a police state, but the German public and their property must be protected. The rights and comfort of convicted criminals were of far lesser importance compared to those of law abiding citizens.

Another proposed measure was the creation of a Serious Fraud Office. Initially it would be a small operation staffed by accountants who would be given some legal training. The principal objective of the unit would be to investigate corruption at national level in the awarding of state or municipal contracts. Buch’s attitude was that such practices were equivalent to theft from the state. It must be stamped out, with penalties for convicted persons severe enough to act as a deterrent to others.

The Council wholeheartedly agreed.

The Ministers of Agriculture and Economics had little to report at this time. Neither did the two Ministers without Portfolios.

Von Brauchitsch was the last to speak. “I can report that the first cruise of our aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin to Hawaii went without a hitch. Both the British admiralty and the American naval operations were impressed with her design. The Graf Zeppelin then went on for courtesy visits to China and Japan. Showing the flag.

The keel for the next carrier has not yet been laid. At this stage we are delaying a decision on the future role of carriers as regards the German navy and the European Alliance. We have no overseas possessions to defend. Two aircraft carriers may well be more than we need. We are re-evaluating the position. In the meantime the shipbuilders are continually improving designs in anticipation of a future go ahead.

The same philosophy applies to submarines. Our engineers and scientists are researching new technology with a view to designing the most advanced submarine in the world. Bigger, faster and quieter than any other, and a much greater range. Until then we are maintaining the current size of the submarine fleet by replacing the older designs with the best of the upgraded existing models.

The Luftwaffe  has extensively tested our new jet fighter, the ME262, which has resulted in significant improvements all round. The original engine reliability problem has been eliminated. The ME262 is one hundred and fifty kilometres per hour faster than any other fighter aircraft in the world. Testing and improvements continue, and the aircraft is scheduled to go into production before the end the year.

Similarly, designs for a new high speed jet bomber/reconnaissance aircraft has been called for. I will keep the council informed of developments.

Our new medium tank, the Panther,  and heavy tank, the Tiger , are testing well. They are far superior to any tank in production or even on the drawing boards of any other nation. These will be in production by the end of the year.

The Belgian — now French — firm of Fabrique Nationale submitted the best design for a new semi-automatic rifle for the Alliance armed forces. It is called the FAL. It is a superb rifle and has been rigorously tested under all possible field conditions, from ice and snow to deserts. It will give our troops unmatched firepower on the battlefield. Every individual government within the Alliance has placed orders for the re-equipping of their armies with these rifles as part of our standardisation of equipment policy.

All is on schedule with the armed forces of Germany and the European Alliance”.


The high level meeting between the German and Soviet officials was over. The German delegation numbered twenty two and was led by Baron von Altendorf and Albert Speer. The Soviets numbered twenty three, led by their Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov.

Molotov had been a leading figure in the Soviet Government since the 1920s. An old Bolshevik with considerable diplomatic skills, he had risen to power as a protégé of Josef Stalin. He had also supported Stalin in his purges during the 1930s.

His name would live forever in the ‘Molotov cocktail’ , the improvised petrol bomb. Molotov was one of the architects behind the Soviet — Nazi pact of 1939. One of understandings in this pact was that the Soviet Union effectively had a free hand in their dealings with Finland. This quickly led to a war with Finland during the course of which the Finnish troops used improvised fire bombs with much success against Soviet tanks. They named these weapons Molotov cocktails  in an insulting reference to the perceived architect of their trials and tribulations.

The negotiations had gone better and easier than expected. Von Altendorf had calmly dealt with all the accusation and adverse comments against the European Alliance made by Molotov. He calmly and repeatedly assured them that the European Alliance was a purely defensive  alliance. Take a look at its Charter!  Any European country could apply for membership, including the Soviet Union. This knocked Molotov back a little! 

He pointed out that the Molotov — Ribbentrop pact of 1939 between Germany and the Soviet Union was a non-aggression  pact, and that this was still in force and was honoured in its entirety by Germany. This pact had also allocated the northern European states of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as being within the Soviet sphere, and the eastern European countries within Germany’s sphere. The Soviet Union had subsequently occupied the Baltic States and part of Finland. Germany had raised no objections.

The northern states were important to the Soviet Union as they were close to their important centre of Leningrad. The Soviets had also been afraid of a German presence in that region because of the potential threat it would create. Von Altendorf categorically assured Molotov that Germany had no interest in territorial expansion anywhere. Look at how we gave back Belgian, France, Norway and Poland their independence.  Neither was Germany interested in attempting to increase its influence at the expense of the Soviet Union.

At the same time, again in adherence to the 1939 pact, they had acquiesced in the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland, and they had also applied pressure on Romania to cede part of their country to the Soviets in terms of an old Russian territorial claim.

The commercial trading agreements between their two countries continued to their mutual advantage.

During a break in the negotiations Molotov took the opportunity to discuss the situation with Stalin. The dictator always had the final say on any important decisions in his country. While he remained highly suspicious of the European Alliance, he had no option but to concede that Germany had acted correctly so far, in terms of their written agreements. He instructed Molotov to accept Germany’s position in the matter. Despite tensions between the two countries, the pact between them had held up and neither side wanted war.

The trade officials had then completed some marathon negotiations over the next two days. Drawing on their experience of the past years the two sides had comprehensive lists of their requirements. Basically the Germans wanted oil, raw materials and grain. The Soviets wanted machinery, locomotives, turbines, generators, diesel engines and ships. The trade would be in the form of a barter arrangement at agreed prices for the various items. The total amount due by each side should end up being more or less the same. As Germany had already delivered the Battleships Bismark  and Tirpitz  to the Soviets, these were included in the aggregate amount of trade goods to be exported by Germany to the Soviet Union.

A new commercial agreement was signed. Germany and the Soviet Union needed each other.


King Victor Emmanuel III was in something of a quandary. That morning he had received a visitor, his son-in-law Boris, Tsar of Bulgaria. Apart from family news and an update on affairs in Bulgaria, Boris had brought disturbing news. Albania, of which Victor Emmanuel was also King by virtue of Italy’s annexation, was in a state of ferment.

After Italy had invaded Albania in 1939, the Albanian parliament and its collaborationist politicians, eager to preserve their privileged status, voted to unite their country with Italy. The Albanian monarch, King Zog fled to Greece, and then to London. King Zog had maintained various contacts within his country over the past three years. He had also kept in touch with Boris of Bulgaria.

The Albanian communists had established the Albanian Communist Party  in November 1941. They had slowly expanded its membership and influence. The resistance it now led against the Italian occupiers had noticeably increased. On the orders of Mussolini, any ‘negative’  news from the occupied territories was suppressed, so Boris considered it likely that his father-in-law, the King, was unaware of the true state of affairs in Albania. Hence his visit to Rome.

Victor Emmanuel had become increasingly concerned about events in Italy in recent months. He had heard of demonstrations against Mussolini’s rule in Italy, Albania and North Africa. He also knew that the dictator censored all news, even to the palace! Trouble was brewing.

After the Great War, Italy had been in crisis. There was widespread poverty, mass unemployment and social unrest in the early 1920s. Communism posed a threat to the country’s hopelessly divided politicians. An authoritarian right wing — fascist — system of government was looked upon as a better alternative to Bolshevism. These factors had given Mussolini and his adherents the opportunity he sought and led to him being appointed Prime Minister. Conveniently forgotten was the fact that Mussolini himself had been a socialist and admirer of the communist Karl Marx before he was a fascist. Such is the shallowness of politicians! 

Mussolini proved to be completely ineffectual with regards to improving Italy economically. The best that could be said for him was that he got the trains running on time. By 1942 Italy’s GDP was one third that of Great Britain, even though the two countries had similar sized populations.

What Mussolini had  managed to accomplish was to squander a large portion of his country’s wealth on the acquisition of an arid and largely desolate colonial empire in North Africa.

Italy had no need of a leader such as this.

The news of the increasing strength of the Albanian communists was disturbing to the King. He must act! 


Foreign Minister von Altendorf stared at the young man seated in front of him. He was very tall and amazingly thin. He looked like a starvation victim. He had a shock of blond, almost white, albino-like, hair, and when you looked into his eyes you saw a chilling strength and absolute confidence. For no apparent reason the Baron felt uneasy in his presence.

He bore a confidential letter from King Victor Emmanuel. It was more of a report than a letter, and it described the current mood in Italy and Albania, and the increasing strength of the Albanian communists. In a round-about way, the Italian King was advising the Germans that he was contemplating taking action in both countries to avoid turmoil and internal strife. In effect he was asking for Germany’s moral support.

Von Altendorf was by no means convinced that the elderly King had the necessary resolution and moral strength to take on and beat his country’s long established dictator. Mussolini had ruled his country firmly for twenty years, and although he no doubt had many enemies, he also had his fanatical fascist adherents.

Personally von Altendorf would like nothing better than to give the ageing king his full support and get rid of the delusional Mussolini. However, he must be diplomatic. He couched a reply to the Italian King reiterating Germany’s policy of non-interference in other country’s affairs, but at the same time implying their blessing on his undertaking. ‘And the best of luck to you, your Majesty’,  he thought.

Jeremy stared irritably at the invitation to the wedding of his brother James to Fiona Makepeace. The happy event to take place in two weeks on 30 March. ‘Bloody short notice, James’  he thought. It was unlike James to do anything impetuous, but he had always been a bit cavalier in his treatment of others. ‘What’s the rush?’ 

He checked that Erica could arrange a couple of days leave, and dashed of a reply in time to catch the evening diplomatic mail pouch to London. His assistant arranged return air tickets on the newly introduced Lufthansa  Berlin to Manchester service. He would leave the problem of finding a wedding present to Erica. He got back to work.

A few hundred metres away at the American Embassy, Jamie read Katherine Blackstone’s letter for the second time. She was asking him if he would like to be her partner at her brother’s wedding. She and Jamie had been corresponding regularly since they had first met at Jeremy’s wedding. Jamie had grown fond of her and had been thinking of visiting her in England. This was the perfect excuse.

His reply was in the American diplomatic pouch on the same aircraft to London as Jeremy’s.


The wedding was over and the guests had dispersed to wherever they lived or were staying. Jeremy and Erica were having a nightcap with Jamie and Katherine, and Jeremy’s brother George, at a cosy traditional English pub just over a mile from Blackstone senior’s house where they were all staying for the weekend.

It was Katherine who was the first to voice what had been on everyone’s mind. “I am afraid our dear brother has bought himself a whole heap of trouble. It isn’t the fact that she is young enough to be his daughter, I have no real problem with that. It is just that I think she sees James as a meal ticket. I talked with her a lot, not because I found her interesting, which she definitely isn’t, but to try and get to know her. She is undoubtedly materialistic and, I suspect, work-shy. She is also very much in love with the status of being married to a Member of Parliament.”

Now that the subject had been broached Jeremy felt he had to make a comment. “I think you may possibly be right, Kath. Time will tell.” He was inclined to agree with his sister.

It was Erica who had noticed what none of the others had. “I suppose none of you saw the way she could not take her eyes off Jamie?” she asked sweetly.

Now all five of them started talking at the same time. Erica had stirred the pot and Jamie was the subject of various humorous comments. He had no trouble laughing them off.

George had the final say. “I think Jamie is safe, at least for the foreseeable future. I am only a poor country doctor, but studying our new sister-in-law from a distance today, I think it is by no means impossible that she may present us with a new nephew or niece soon.” He said this with a big grin on his face. George had always been the one in the family with a wicked sense of humour.

This caused more intensive speculation and chatter. Eventually Jeremy decided he had had enough. It was time for bed. “Come on everybody, drink up. You know father will wait up for us, so let’s go home.”

George, ever the comedian, could not resist one more quip. “It is a good thing that James and Fiona are staying at the hotel tonight, and not with us,” he said with a straight face.

Jeremy, as always, fell for George’s bait. “Why?” he asked.

“Fiona may have gone wandering in the middle of the night and by mistake end up in Jamie’s bedroom.” He burst out laughing, soon followed by the two men. Erica giggled, but Katherine was not amused.


Jamie MacLellan had just finished an early breakfast and was looking forward to the rest of the day. All the military attaches of the countries within the European Alliance had been invited by the Luftwaffe  to a demonstration of Germany’s new jet fighter, the ME262. Although the USA was not an Alliance member, it was regarded as a friendly nation and Captain MacLellan was their representative. Jeremy Blackstone would be there on behalf of Great Britain. He and Jamie would be travelling together in the British Embassy car.

They duly arrived at the air base on the outskirts of Berlin. Their documents were politely checked and they were escorted to a pavilion temporarily erected near the edge of the landing strip. There was a crowd of about two hundred assembled from the air forces, armies and navies of Western Europe, all eager to see the new wonder weapon scheduled to appear above them at ten thirty. They were lucky, it was a beautiful clear, if somewhat cold, day.

Close to the scheduled time Jamie noticed heads continually raised skywards in anticipation.

When the jet arrived, it did so in a spectacular fashion. The pilot had completed the last part of his journey at low altitude so his approach was unseen and unheard. Right at the last moment he lifted the aircraft’s nose slightly and pushed the throttles forward to maximum. He blasted over the stunned guests at a height of seventy metres and a speed of over eight hundred kilometres per hour .

The guests were now treated to fifteen minutes of rolls, loops, and tight combat turns before the aircraft landed and taxied to a halt fifty metres from the captivated audience. The pilot disembarked and walked towards them. Jeremy immediately recognised him as Adolf Galland, General Rommel’s aide at the Lisbon peace conference.

All the guests were now invited to inspect the aircraft up close. They already knew that this was the fastest and most heavily armed fighter in the world. There was no one present who was not supremely impressed, and happy that this superb weapon was to be the standard fighter aircraft of the European Alliance, except perhaps a few thoughtful and envious souls who worried about the impact on manufacturing and technology in their own countries of such massive German dominance across research, design and production in the field of warfare.

There was no other aircraft in the entire world that even came close to the ME262.

Jeremy caught Galland’s eye and was recognised instantly. He and Jamie managed to extricate him from the many questioning people surrounding him, and treated him to a cup

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of coffee. In the brief ten minutes they had him to themselves, they found out a little more about the aircraft and other things.

The final version of the ME262 that would go into production towards the end of the year would be even faster and have a longer range. A ground attack version would also be produced, as well as a naval variant for aircraft carrier service. He also told them that plans for even more futuristic jet aircraft were on the drawing board. Aircraft whose performance would only have been dreamt about a year ago.

Galland finally excused himself. His aircraft had been refuelled and checked. He was leaving.

On their way home Jeremy and Jamie had much to talk about.


The announcement had been made. The National Government would be dissolved and new elections take place on 20 May. This would be the first General Election in seven years.

The leader of the Labour Party, Clement Atlee, urged on by others in his party, scented an opportunity to become the dominant political party in Britain. He grasped the opportunity with both hands. It didn’t matter that the coalition government had worked well and Britain was prospering under it. 

The Labour Party wanted power! 


King Victor Emmanuel had agreed on a strategy with his long-time associate, Marshall Pietro Badoglio, seventy one years old and an undistinguished General from the Great War. Together they would secretly use their influence on the members of the Grand Council of the Fascist Government, with a view to removing Mussolini from power. Each and every incidence of unrest among the populace and in the colonies was noted and reported to the council members. For the first time they began to truly understand the reality of the situation that Italy was in.

They made their plans.


At a long, and at times discordant, meeting of the Grand Council held the previous evening and which had lasted into the early hours of this morning, the future of Italy had been the subject of intense discussion. The urgent need for action was eventually agreed, and, after another hour of arguing, the proposed form of the action was reluctantly approved. All those present were apprehensive about facing down their leader, but they had nevertheless collectively summoned the courage to vote in favour of a transfer of Mussolini’s powers to the King. They then fearfully adjourned the meeting.

Later that morning a sick, tired and unkempt Mussolini kept his routine daily appointment with the King. It was known that the dictator was suffering from depression, insomnia and bouts of sickness. When he entered his chambers, the King thought he looked like a dead man walking. When did the man last bathe?  

King Victor Emmanuel had steeled himself for a confrontation and wasted no time. He curtly told him that he was dismissed as Prime Minister. Marshall Badoglio was to be his successor. The now ex-dictator seemed almost paralysed and, most surprisingly, offered no objections. He meekly walked out. The King nearly fainted with relief!

As he exited the King’s chambers, the police were waiting outside and arrested him.

The announcement later that day of Mussolini’s arrest and the appointment of a new Prime Minister to rule jointly with the King, was greeted with relief by the majority of the public. They could now look forward to being ruled by a more competent and enlightened regime. There was some rejoicing in the streets.

That same day the bewildered ex-dictator was transported under police guard to the Island of Ponza, one hundred and ten kilometres off the coast of Naples. The same island that he had previously often used to confine his political enemies. Now it was his turn. 

He remained on the island only ten days, during which time he had freedom to move about, although he was closely watched by the local Carabinieri. He seemed to be depressed all the time, and was using drugs. The local islanders virtually ignored him. His home was now a small, ill-furnished cottage. Its last tenant had also been one of Mussolini’s prisoners. He hadn’t liked it either. 

On the eleventh day of his captivity, in the late afternoon, a motor launch of the Royal Italian Navy arrived unannounced at the island. It tied up at the small stone jetty. The senior Carabinieri walked down to investigate.

The naval party carried orders to move the prisoner back to the mainland. This was for his own safety as it was believed Italian or Albanian communists may attempt to assassinate or kidnap him. The launch was commanded by a young, very tall, incredibly thin naval lieutenant whose white hair almost gave him the look of an albino.

During the four hour passage, a completely miserable Mussolini was sea sick constantly. He had, however, during one of the moments when his rebellious stomach allowed him onto the open deck, elicited from the not so talkative young officer, that he was being taken to a quiet beach near Naples where they would be met by more police guards and escorted elsewhere to a safe residence. Also there to meet him would be his mistress, Claretta Pelacci.

The ex-dictator felt new hope and resolution flare within him. His mind started working again. He would rouse his supporters and resume his leadership of Italy. The treacherous King would be deposed and exiled. The useless Marshall Badaglio would be tried and executed. But first, more retching and vomiting. 

It was already dark as the launch nosed on to the almost deserted beach near Naples. The naval Lieutenant was first to alight from the bow of the boat, managing to keep his feet dry. He assisted a grateful and weak Mussolini down onto the land, and ordered the boat crew to leave him and take the launch back to base.

In the gloom beyond the beach they could see the outline of two vehicles, a truck and a motor car, and a small group of people. On the beach itself, between the people and the boat, stood a single person. It was Claretta Pelacci, waiting for her Benito!

Mussolini in his black overcoat and black felt hat, hastily stumbled through the sand towards her, closely followed by the naval Lieutenant.

The lovers embraced and whispered endearments. They were so glad to be together again. Claretta had thought she would never see her Benito again. She now believed that their situation could only get better. Perhaps they would be allowed to live quietly together away from all the politics! They kissed passionately.

This was the signal for the young naval Lieutenant to put a bullet into the back of the ex-dictator. As he fell forward, still clutching the woman, a second bullet was put into Claretta’s heart. She hadn’t even had time to scream. They were both dead.

The men around the vehicles now came forward. They briefly scanned the bodies using a dim lantern, whispering among themselves. They confirmed the identities of the bodies. One of them exclaimed, “It’s Big-Head and his whore.” Nothing more was said by anyone and they loaded the two corpses onto the truck, covered them with an old canvas sheet, and drove away into the night.

The tall thin naval officer walked up to the car, climbed into it, and was driven away towards Naples without a word being spoken. His identity was never discovered.

The following morning those citizens of Naples who had risen early and were passing through one of the city squares, were shocked to see two bodies hanging from a lamp post, strung up by their feet. They were soon recognised as Il Duce Mussolini, and his mistress. The news quickly spread and a crowd gathered to see this unexpected and shocking sight. Many in the crowd took great delight in verbally insulting, and even physically abusing, the remains of the couple. Many photographs were taken. Rumour had it that communist agitators were responsible for the executions. The perpetrators were never identified.

Thus ended Fascism in Italy.



The investiture of Baron von Altendorf had taken place at Buckingham Palace. The pomp and ceremony that surrounded the event had almost overwhelmed the emotions of the normally reserved Baron. No country in the world even came close to the British in staging ceremonial occasions.

His entire family had been there to witness the honour bestowed upon him. Even General von Brauchitsch had forsaken his dislike of foreign travel to be with his colleague and friend. Winston Churchill and the Deputy Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, together with Lord Halifax and the current Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, were among the first guests to congratulate him. All of these were currently out of a permanent job following the dissolution of parliament before the general election to be held the following week.

Despite the war between them only two years earlier, there was almost universal agreement in Britain and Germany that relations between their two countries were extremely close. In a private meeting with von Altendorf and von Brauchitsch, both Churchill and Attlee had echoed this sentiment. Both of them were also extremely enthusiastic about Britain’s new commitment to the European Alliance.

Attlee had been faced with some opposition and criticism from a small but vocal minority within his socialist Labour Party, but these militants had been resoundingly defeated in parliamentary voting. Indeed, it was known that some Labour Members of Parliament were little more than Moscow controlled communists in disguise. The majority of Labour Party MPs were in favour of the European Alliance and had voted accordingly.

Von Altendorf had wished both Churchill and Attlee good luck in the forthcoming election. Privately he hoped Churchill and his Conservative party would carry the day. ‘I think he will be easier to work with, and his policies are more workable for Britain than those of the Labour Party’  he thought.

At another, later, private meeting between von Altendorf, von Brauchitsch, Lord Halifax, now British Ambassador to the USA, and Sir Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary was handed a dossier by the Germans, marked ‘Top secret’ . Britain’s intelligence service, MI6, were part of Eden’s domain. He was considered by the Germans to be the best placed person to deal with the matter they were now about to disclose.

Von Brauchitsch did most of the taking. “Sir Anthony, what I have to say to you is highly confidential. All we ask of you is that whatever action the British Government takes or does not take, the source of your information is never disclosed.”

“You have my word, General.”

Von Brauchitsch continued. “Germany has devoted considerable time, money and effort over the past few years to build up an extensive intelligence network in the Soviet Union. I think you will agree that the need for this is obvious.”

“Quite so” Eden confirmed.

“We have been passing to your MI6 any intelligence we have gathered that we considered to be of interest to Great Britain. However, in this particular case we thought it more appropriate to inform yourself directly of something we have discovered.”

He paused to make sure he had Eden’s complete attention.

“One of our agents is well placed within the Soviet Intelligence Bureau. He has established that they are running a group of five high echelon officials within the British intelligence services and your Foreign Office. They have been in place for at least two years but probably much longer. They are closet communists.

A summary of the findings, together with the names of the spies, is in the dossier you now have.”

Eden was both shocked and extremely worried by what he was now hearing. There had been a suspicion at some time within MI6 that there was a mole somewhere in the organisation, but they had never been able to find anything concrete. He glanced through the document, spotted the names of the alleged spies and the record of some of the information they had passed to the Soviets. He went pale. The traitors names were Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, Kim Philby and Donald MacLean.

“I see only four names. You said there was a gang of five.”

“We don’t know the name of the fifth person, only that he exists.”

This was something that could hurt the Conservative Party’s re-election campaign if it leaked out! The scandal and ensuing bad publicity would be disastrous. It would have to be handled very discretely. 

Eden was a passionate supporter of the Conservative Party and a patriot. He was convinced that a Labour Party victory in the General Election would be a costly mistake for Great Britain. This spy dossier could not be acted on until the election was over. 

He offered his sincere thanks to the General and the Baron for bringing this matter to his attention, and for keeping it confidential. It would be looked into immediately.

Brauchitsch spoke again. “There is one more thing, Sir Anthony. Our agent has also discovered that there are several of your Labour Members of Parliament acting under Moscow’s control. They are committed communists dancing to the Kremlin’s tune. Unfortunately we have no names or actual numbers.”

This was not exactly news to Eden, but he loathed the thought of other nations knowing this. The Socialists  in Britain had always been prone to communist penetration and propaganda. Again he thanked the two Germans for the information they had imparted. He made his exit as fast as he politely could.

The following day the Germans flew back to Berlin with Lufthansa,  the German national airline.


The King of Italy and his Prime Minister were in conference with General von Brauchitsch, Baron von Altendorf and Hjalmar Schacht. The former had asked for a meeting to discuss ‘mutual concerns’, a euphemism for Italy needing financial assistance and wanting to join the European Alliance.

The Germans listened politely to everything told them, before launching a well prepared and comprehensive list of comments and questions at the Italians. Even though the Alliance leadership would dearly like to see Italy within the fold, they were not convinced that that country would be a suitable member of the alliance as things stood at this particular moment in time.

Over a two hour session they bluntly told the Italians they had to get their house in order. The main problem areas were seen to be poor economic and financial planning, and overall management of the country. There was an urgent need for social reform. Too much money was being spent on their ineffective military forces, and there was a lack of economic justification for having an African empire. Their sole motivation for an empire in Africa had been a desire for imperial glory, not for economic assets. This was Mussolini’s legacy.

A further problem was that their subject country of Albania was a hotbed of communism backed by neighbouring Yugoslavia’s own underground communist movement.

Lastly, Italy’s armed forces were ill equipped, poorly trained, badly led and suffered from low morale.

In the end a reluctant King Victor Emmanuel recognised the truth in everything he had been told. Enthusiastically backed by Marshall Badoglio, he gave a firm undertaking, as a first step, that his country would withdraw from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. These territories were known to be a drain on Italy’s economy. In the case of Libya, with which Italy had a longer standing relationship, a Royal Commission would be appointed to conduct an in-depth study to ascertain if there was any benefit to Italy in retaining it as a colony.

A military commission would initiate a complete review of the three branches of the armed forces. The aim would be for a smaller but more powerful and streamlined military. A military that would fit comfortably into the European Alliance.

The Grand Council of Fascist Government would be dissolved immediately upon his return to Italy. The King, together with Marshall Badoglio, would govern directly for the immediate future. New, non-fascist, competent ministers would be appointed to breathe life into the economy and accelerate social reforms.

The police, aided by the armed forces would conduct a purge of communists in Albania. Simultaneously, new investment and practices would be introduced there to expand agricultural and industrial production, thus improving the economy.

In return for these commitments from the Italian King, Germany pledged to favourably consider financial assistance, but only when they saw signs that the promised steps were being introduced. The Italians were known to be a people prone to procrastination, and the Germans would not tolerate it if it was their money that was on the table. They also offered help in the form of economists, agricultural, industrial and other experts who could be seconded to Italy during its transitional period.

Germany would also assist them by threatening Yugoslavia with economic retaliation if they did not put a stop to their banned communist agitators interfering in Albania.

Von Altendorf asked the Italians if the fact that nearly seventy percent of Albanians were Muslims bothered them in any way? Would this be a future problem?

The King replied that he believed the majority of Albania’s population would be loyal to the crown once the communist influence was eliminated and the benefits of an investment programme and improved economy started to be seen and felt.

The Germans could not, or would not, offer more. It was now up to the Italians to prove that they had what it takes to reform or restructure their dysfunctional state.

The King and Prime Minister were both disappointed and relieved at the same time. They were leaving without a cheque in their hands, but they had the incentives to start cleaning up the mess that Mussolini had left them with. They could present everything as good news for Italy!  They cheered up a little.


The General Election was over and the results counted. The new Prime Minister had been sworn in. The final tally of votes was unexpected. In the last election in 1935 the Conservative Party had gained the most seats in Parliament with forty seven percent of the votes cast in their favour. They had had a large majority to work with.

In this  election there was a swing towards the Labour Party which had surprised and stunned Churchill. There were several reasons advanced for the swing. There was widespread fear among the electorate of a return to the remembered high unemployment of the 1930s, and Labour had successfully implanted the idea that socialist planning would be a more efficient way to run the economy. Labour also ran on the false promise to create full employment. They also undertook to establish a ‘free’ National Health Service and a cradle–to–grave welfare state. Impossible promises! A typical example of politicians placing more emphasis on winning votes than on good governance! 

A further blow to the Conservative Party was the memory of their 1930s policy of appeasement to Adolf Hitler which had been practiced by Winston Churchill’s predecessors, and which had eventually led to war.

The net result was that the previous large Conservative majority in the House of Commons was greatly reduced to a majority of just six.

One of the MPs who lost his seat was James Blackstone.


The first sitting of the Italian Senate was over. Four weeks earlier the Grand Council had been dissolved. Nobody would miss them. While the fascist elements within the country still retained some support, nearly ninety percent of the new Senators had no proven links with fascism, and the other ten percent had never been committed fascists. The new government was untainted.

There was a preponderance of technocrats rather than politicians among the Senators. The Prime Minister and the King retained the power to approve or reject all proposed laws and policies. Each and every Senate applicant had been personally interviewed by these two, who had satisfied themselves as to their abilities and motivation. All understood the urgent priorities that faced them.

A lot had been accomplished in their first session. The withdrawal of Italian forces from the African territories other than Libya had been approved. A committee was already established and had drawn up plans for an orderly handover of power in the territories. Great Britain had reluctantly agreed to merge Italian Somaliland and Eritrea with British Somaliland. The deposed Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, was invited back from Britain where he had been in exile since his country’s occupation by Italy. He would resume his dictatorial rule in that country. A core of Italian administrators and advisors would remain behind to assist him in modernising his feudal country. Troop withdrawals had already started and would be completed within six months. A Royal Commission on the future of Libya had been appointed and instructed to submit recommendations by no later than October.

The King had honoured his undertakings to Germany with regards to the Italian African Empire.

The small group of Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea, which had been occupied by Italy since 1912 following their war with Turkey, were to be ceded to Greece.

In Albania the police, army and civil administration had been reinforced and the jails were already full of convicted or suspected communists. The Communist Party of Albania had been greatly weakened, perhaps irretrievably so. At the same time an improved agricultural regime was announced, as well as plans for industrial expansion.

The Ministry of Defence would be finished with their comprehensive review of the Italian armed forces by the following month. As expected they had tried to procrastinate, only to be told by the King to resign immediately if they thought they were not up to the task. This threat had the desired effect.

The greatest problems of all; economic, judicial, and social reforms, were now being addressed, and certain measures could be introduced quickly. However nobody was under any illusion that the country could be transformed overnight.

The following week Germany released the first tranche of the loan requested by Italy.

The German Foreign Minister had also called in the Yugoslavia Ambassador. His message was simple. Curb the communists in your country, especially where they interfere with Albania. Or face the consequences.

Interestingly, the Ambassador broached the subject of Yugoslavia joining the European Alliance. In a frank discussion von Altendorf informed the Ambassador that the only three countries in southern Europe outside of the Alliance were Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia. Italy was now making a serious attempt to reform its economy and society, after which they could apply to join the Alliance. Greece was at this time, not considered eligible for membership.

Germany would very much like to see Yugoslavia in a similar position to Italy. However, in their case, the diverse ethnicity of its peoples and the animosity between them, raised serious doubts about the country’s long-term stability. He could only repeat what had been told to the Italians. Put your house in order and we can talk.

The Ambassador knew only too well what his country’s problems were. He could only relay the German’s comments to his government.


Sir Anthony Eden had been reappointed Foreign Secretary by the re-elected Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. After von Altendorf’s investiture, Eden had lost no time in letting Churchill into the secrets that the Germans had uncovered and disclosed to him. Churchill was in a cold fury that such trusted men could betray their country. They would be dealt with after the election! 

Now that they remained in government, they could make their plans. Absolute secrecy was paramount. Trusted men at MI6, MI5 and the Foreign Office were newly appointed, apparently as part of a staff restructure  following the appointment of a new government. Their brief was to look for evidence of foul play and spy on the alleged traitors.

The disclosures from the Germans helped to guide them in their search for incriminating evidence. Their methods were unobtrusive but diligent. It took only three weeks before they had confirmation of the treachery of the named officials. There were indications that a fifth highly placed person may be involved, but nothing concrete was found. Somebody had been very successful at covering their tracks!

Churchill and Eden discussed the matter with the Attorney-general, and a course of action was decided on. It was deemed in the national interest that there would be no public trial.

Three of the spies, Burgess, Philby and Blunt, were known to be homosexuals and lived alone. They would be abducted quietly during the night and they would leave notes to a friend or two that would explain their sudden ‘holidays’. The fourth spy, MacLean was married. It was, however, suspected that his wife was aware of her husband’s activities, even if she was not directly a spy herself. They would both be arrested.

The police Special Branch duly carried out their instructions and the five people simply ‘disappeared’ one night.

The morning after the arrests, the now thoroughly miserable and frightened spies were awakened early by their guards in the safe house where they were incarcerated. It was an old country mansion on the outskirts of London. The cellars had been converted into secure and soundproof cells. None of them knew that their fellow traitors were their cell neighbours.

There was no cruelty. But their lives were now extremely dreary and uncomfortable. The cells were not excessively cold, but they were definitely cool. The basic steel furniture allowed no relaxation, even in bed. Lighting was subdued, but reading material was banned anyway. Food was adequate but bland, and no tea or coffee, only water.

Every day, sometimes twice a day, they would be taken from their cell for questioning by interrogators. Their job was to ascertain what damage they had done, and if they had any useful intelligence they could give up. The traitors were individually assured in no uncertain terms, that unless they became very  valuable, very  quickly, to His Majesty’s Government, they would be living as troglodytes for the rest of their lives. They had chosen to turn their back on their country. They could not complain about their current circumstances.

Maclean and his wife Melinda, were in separate cells but allowed to meet for fifteen minutes each day under the supervision of a guard. It was thought that Melinda would break first. She came from a wealthy family and was used to luxury and comfort. But it was her husband who offered a deal after only five days. He was motivated, he claimed, by wanting to protect his wife from further suffering.

In exchange for the promise that he and his wife would be allowed to flee to Russia, he would tell all he knew. The offered deal was accepted. Over the next sixty days he was mercilessly grilled until his interrogators were finally convinced he was hiding nothing. They had sucked him dry of all useful information.

Based on some of the information obtained from Maclean, they were able trick Blunt into believing they now knew everything. He was in tears when he asked what sort of deal he could expect if he spilled the beans. All he wanted was to be allowed to live quietly on his own, in his London apartment. He had nothing further to hide and had no objection to them monitoring his every waking moment. He was a broken man.

It took another month before Philby gave in and co-operated in exchange for the promise of repatriation to Russia. And into Stalin’s steely, welcoming embrace.

Burgess didn’t break. He went slowly mad, and was eventually declared insane and locked away in an asylum for the rest of his life.

Churchill and Eden thought the traitors were treated lightly. They deserved to be hung! 


The Foreign Minister had little of importance to tell the Council. The only thing of note was that the Americans were still proceeding, albeit slowly, with their idea of a ‘United Nations’. Support around the world ranged from enthusiasm to outright hostility. Most of the enthusiasm coming from world’s least important, prosperous or progressive nations. Germany’s position remained unchanged — disinterest. Within the European Alliance there was little support for the idea.

Great Britain had developed much the same attitude. From their perspective, the League of Nations’ attempts to be a global peacemaker had failed lamentably when faced with the rise of fascism and communism. Far better to forge a strong alliance within Europe in partnership with a powerful Germany, and maintain their influence across the rest of the globe through their Empire. It was not in British interests to help create a world pulpit for the United States to use.

Italy now had a reformist government which so far appeared to be making a genuine attempt to address the country’s pro

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blems. Success was limited so far but it was early days and prospects were good. Germany watched with interest.

The Economics Minister confirmed that the German economy was sound, the balance of trade was positive, and the country’s reserves were steadily improving. He also advised that he would soon be sixty six years old and would like to retire at the end of the following year. He had a protégé in his ministry whom he was grooming as his successor.

The Council were not happy to hear this but understood that it was inevitable. The old man had come out of retirement and done a brilliant job in restoring the country’s finances. He would be sadly missed but his retirement was well deserved.

Albert Speer’s main contribution to the meeting was to inform them that trade continued to expand with the Soviet Union. “Our ship builders have full order books thanks to the Soviets and our own rapidly expanding merchant fleet. Deliveries due to us in terms of the barter trade agreements are up to date. Some scheduled deliveries to us never arrived a couple of months ago. The Soviets probably assumed we would not make a big issue out of it. In response to their games, we simply delayed shipment of some critical engineering products they were waiting for. They soon rectified the situation.

It was the Minister of Aviation, Kesselring, who provided the most interesting item for consideration. The national airline, Lufthansa,  had submitted a comprehensive and well thought out report, outlining the need for a greatly expanded airline network, as well as a new generation of fast civilian airliners.

Lufthansa  was inundated with requests for flights to business centres all over Europe and the world. There was a great upsurge of interest in flights to China, Japan and Asia. Both the Chinese and Japanese governments had asked Lufthansa  to expand their air services to those countries.

“There is a great opportunity here for our national airline to become the biggest in the world. It would only require the acquisition of suitable aircraft and establishment of overseas facilities.

There is something else of importance for us to consider. The American aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed, have been working on a four engine pressurised airliner since 1937. They are calling it the Constellation.  The emphasis later switched to a military version, but I believe this is about to end and civilian aircraft will become available to the world’s airlines in the next year or so.

During the next few years, Germany has a golden opportunity to develop aircraft manufacture as one of our main export industries. An industry of the utmost strategic and economic importance. Our own European Alliance is virtually a captive market for sales. I have done some preliminary research on this. One possibility is co-operation with Great Britain, or perhaps France, in this field.

My recommendation is that we authorise a study for the development of a fast airliner as competition to the Lockheed Constellation. But this should only be considered as an interim stage. A further study should also be conducted, in parallel, to design the next generation of airliner, a four engine jet aircraft.”

He had given them food for thought. All were very enthusiastic. Kesselring was asked to give them a copy of his research and a copy of Lufthansa’s  proposal, for them to study.

The Minister of Defence amplified what had already been agreed at other, informal, meetings. The intelligence services confirmed that the Soviet Union had slowed production and delivery of their Sturmovik  fighter and the new T36 tank. The best assessment was that the Soviet Union was short of funds, and as a result of the purchases from Germany, also suffering from diminished supplies of raw materials for their own use. Also it was believed that Stalin was perhaps not entirely unhappy with the status quo in Europe and was letting the Germans know this by slowing down his rearmament programme.

The evaluation was that the chances of any attack by the Soviet Union were reduced for at least another year.

“Accordingly, gentlemen, we will delay for six months the introduction of our new aircraft and tanks. This will save a lot of money and at the same time allow continued development and improvement of the weapons.

Professor von Braun reports good progress with his rockets and he is talking of demonstrating something very interesting to us later in the year. Beyond that I know very little of what he is doing. Von Braun still insists that rockets are the weapons of the future! I am inclined to at least partially believe this.”


James Blackstone had finally found a job. He had been appointed a director of a small London based private bank, Bradlington Thornberry Bank. His remit was to seek new financial opportunities in Britain and Europe. The contacts and acquaintances he had made during his years as an MP were expected to be very useful to him.

His wife Fiona had been extremely annoyed with him for losing his status as a Member of Parliament. However, his new title at the bank partly compensated for this, as did his increased salary. She continued to spend money faster than James was making it.

A list he had compiled of potentially useful contacts was complete. Now he would start acting on it. First and second on the list were his father and his brother Jeremy.

Horace Blackstone had been Permanent Secretary to the Treasury for the past five years. James was under no illusion that his straight-as-a-die father might use his influence or contacts to assist him. He did, however, respect his father’s knowledge and experience. This was the reason for meeting for lunch today.

Over a pleasant unhurried lunch, James did most of the listening while his father, in answer to James’ questions, gave a lengthy and detailed discourse on the state of the world economy and banking in general, and Britain in particular. James was fascinated! He was finding his new career in banking could be exhilarating. Perhaps losing his seat in Parliament was a blessing in disguise! 

He would always remember his father’s last words that day. “Remember, James. Be scrupulous and prudent in every single financial transaction you are faced with. The world of banking is small. Mistakes and transgressions are not forgiven”.

They parted company with James silently promising himself to visit the old man more often.


Kesselring’s comprehensive survey on the future of civilian aviation had been given the great consideration it deserved, before being approved by the Governing Council. Through the German Embassy in London he had arranged a meeting with his British counterpart, Harold Balfour. That meeting was now about to be held.

Little was known in Germany about Balfour. He was forty five years old, and an ex-Great War fighter pilot. He had been a Member of Parliament since 1929, and had served in the Air Ministry for the past four years. As far as Kesselring had been able to ascertain he was diligent and highly intelligent. Perhaps not your average politician! 

The German Aviation Minister was in London to explore the possibility of Germany and Britain co-operating in building civilian airliners. He had brought his various research and study documents with him, but he was not prepared to release them unless he felt Balfour was genuinely in favour of the project. If he wasn’t, then Germany would go it alone. Or perhaps in partnership with France. 

The involvement of Britain was sought because of their vast empire in Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Australasia. They were an obvious ready market for airliners.

Balfour greeted Kesselring cordially and offered him coffee or tea. Like most continentals the German could not understand the love of the British for that insipid beverage called tea. He accepted coffee. It wasn’t very good coffee . They chatted about Europe, and general aviation matters before they got down to business.

“Mr Balfour, my ministry has recently completed a review on the future of civil aviation, as it applies to European countries, including Great Britain. Our conclusion is that aircraft manufacture is of great strategic and economic importance to our countries. If we are complacent about it, the Americans with their huge manufacturing potential and large domestic air travel market, will soon dominate the industry.

The British, French and Dutch have a vast empire spread across the world. This is a ready market for civilian airliners. A market that the Americans will grab for themselves, if we allow them.

We respectfully suggest that there is scope for Great Britain and Germany to co-operate in meeting this challenge.”

Balfour knew there had been much concern about the advances in German technology and some mention in government circles of possible future co-operation with Germany, but nothing specific. The sheer scope of Kesselring’s proposal was both simple and at the same time, fascinating! Balfour was an instant convert to the idea!

The two Ministers got down to the details. They threw thoughts, ideas and questions back and forth for the next two hours. Kesselring gave Balfour a copy of his precious research. They now needed some projected costs for research and development, cost of production, selling prices and expected sales. Balfour needed to discretely sound out key players in the British aviation industry. After that it was a job for the number crunchers.

Balfour promised to discuss this with the Prime Minister as soon as he could see him, which he expected would be the following week at the latest. Thereafter he would visit Kesselring in Germany to take the matter to the next level.

Kesselring returned to Germany satisfied with what he had accomplished so far.


James and Jeremy were lunching in a quiet restaurant in a charming leafy suburb of Berlin. The two brothers had met outside the British embassy and strolled in the autumn sunshine, exchanging news. James was surprised to hear that a romance had blossomed between their sister and the American naval officer, Jamie MacLellan. Katherine kept that quiet! 

Over lunch James explained his work to Jeremy. As had been the case with their father, he expected Jeremy to be circumspect in the matter of useful business contacts. However, one thing Jeremy did disclose that day, lit a fire under James Blackstone that had ramifications far beyond the little bank he worked for.

They had been talking about Germany’s jet fighter, the ME262. Jeremy added to the discussion by disclosing that Germany was considering producing commercial airliners in the not too distant future. An obvious first market for these would be the national airlines of each European country. The British and French empires alone must need dozens, maybe hundreds, of machines flying between home and the colonies every day.

Now he innocently said something that caused James’ ears to pick up. “These airliners will not be cheap. The smaller regional airlines will struggle to find the cash to buy them”. 

He carried on taking but James wasn’t listening. Those few words of Jeremy’s had set his brain whirling. His ideas quickly crystallised. A new innovation at his bank. Specialists in tailor-made finance for aircraft. A huge potential market!  

He could hardly sit still in his seat. He insisted Jeremy repeat everything once more, with as much detail as possible. Unfortunately Jeremy knew little more than he had already told his brother. He had heard that Britain may be involved somewhere, and that was about it. It wasn’t exactly a state secret so he undertook to keep James informed if and when he heard anything further.

After lunch Jeremy made his way back to the Embassy. James caught the first available flight back to London. He had work to do! 


Kesselring finally had the report for which he and his British counterpart had waited impatiently the last two months. It was everything he hoped it would be.

Its compilation had been a team effort and included material provided by Lufthansa  and other European airlines, individual pilots, aircraft designers and manufacturers, accountants, and Germany’s own state aviation and department of finance officials.

With the return to prosperity in Europe and a lot of the rest of the world, the increase in the number of civilian airline passengers travelling in the coming years, was forecast to explode.

Using the current design specifications for Lockheed’s Constellation as a starting point, a worldwide market in the region of at least one thousand similar aircraft was projected over the next ten or so, years. Using an estimated sale price of US$700000 per aircraft, this represented a US$700 million market. To put this in perspective, the value of German exports to its single largest market, the Soviet Union, were equivalent to about US$180 million per year.

The report recommended that any competition to the Constellation should be bigger, (seventy passengers compared to the Constellation’s forty four), and faster. Basic preliminary design concepts had already been submitted. First deliveries to airlines could be as early as 1944 provided no time was wasted.

The second part of the project, a jet  airliner, reflected an even more staggering potential. The project team had settled on an ambitious leap into the future. They recommended a four jet engined, long-range airliner able to carry a minimum of one hundred passengers. The estimated future cost of the aircraft would be at least US$1.2 million each. With an estimated world market of one thousand five hundred for this type of aircraft from about 1950 onwards, it represented potential sales of US$2 billion. 

It was acknowledged that the USA would be a big competitor, but If Germany and Britain only captured half of the market it would still be an outstanding success story.

Talks with the British had resulted in a provisional agreement for the British and German governments to jointly build civil aircraft. The British would design and build the engines and instrumentation, the Germans would have the responsibility for the airframe, interior and fittings.

Any such agreement, of course, was subject to the acceptance of the report by, and final approval of, the respective governments. Kesselring thought, ‘This is where all the petty, jumped up politicians try to have a finger in the pie’. 

Still everything looked positive so far, and it was due to be debated in the Governing Council next week and by the British Cabinet the following week. Kesselring eagerly awaited the outcome.


The imposing rocket stood on the launch pad and the countdown had begun. It stood only twelve metres high and did not have the appearance of a wonder weapon. To the observers three hundred metres away, it looked no more than a large interesting toy.

The Governing Council, minus only the Economics Minister who had pleaded pressure of work, were there to witness, and perhaps pass judgement on, von Braun’s creation. It was designated the A4. The professor and some of his scientists mingled with the guests answering queries, and all silently praying that nothing went wrong.

The seconds counted down to zero. The button was pressed. The massive liquid propellant fuelled rocket engine fired in a deafening burst of thunder. For a second or two the missile didn’t move. Then it clawed its way from the ground and rapidly accelerated skywards. It was quickly lost to sight. To the uninitiated watchers it was an awesome display of power that was over too quickly. None were quite sure what to make of it.

It was another fifteen minutes before von Braun asked for the attention of the guests. He confirmed that the missile had been sighted splashing into the sea one hundred and eighty kilometres away. On its ascent it had reached a maximum height of eighty five kilometres. Impressive. But what did this mean in terms of the weapon’s potential?

Von Braun explained. “You have just witnessed the successful flight of the world’s first long range ballistic missile. The final version of this particular design will have a maximum range of a little over three hundred kilometres and carry a one tonne explosive warhead. The guidance system is simple and allows us to fire the missile on a trajectory that carries it straight to the target, say a large city such as Leningrad.”

Von Brauchitsch expanded on this. “As things stand right now, this missile is little more than a very expensive artillery shell with an enormous range. If it were to be used against cities it would be nothing more than a terror weapon. That is something which I personally would not like to see.

However, I believe we will be able to develop a more accurate guidance system, and this will give us a much more useful weapon. Also, perhaps an as yet undiscovered more powerful explosive used in its warhead, could put the weapon system in the category of a deterrent to the most belligerent foreign powers from attacking the European Alliance. Even comrade Stalin would not dare to make war on us if he knew we could obliterate Moscow and other great Russian cities.

There is no effective defence against this missile. It can also be fired from mobile launch platforms that will be almost impossible to detect before the missile is launched. Admiral Doenitz has even suggested these rockets could be launched from suitably designed submarines one day. Possibly even from underwater. Trials last year on U-boats using the much smaller nebelwerfer  rockets fired from depths of twelve metres showed there was no negative effect on the rockets accuracy.

The potential is quite staggering and Professor von Braun and his worthy team are to be congratulated for what has been achieved here.”

All present enthusiastically clapped their hands and cheered in appreciation of the scientist’s efforts.

Von Brauchitsch had the final word. “Neither should we forget the good Professor’s dream, space travel.” He looked towards von Braun. “Keep up the good work. I have no idea when it could happen, or even if it can be done, but if it is possible to put a man into space, I sincerely hope the first person is German.” The guests and the scientists cheered the field Marshall even more warmly for this vision.


Kesselring had what he wanted. The Governing Council, after the longest debate on a single issue during their relatively short history, unanimously approved government financial backing for the airliner projects. The British had done the same, but in their case the decision still had to be ratified in their Houses of Parliament.

The lawyers were already drawing up the necessary documentation to give life to the new project.

Rolls-Royce in Britain would be contracted for the engines, and in Germany, Focke-Wulf’s new airliner design was the one chosen from the several submissions. Their factory premises were already being extended. No time must be lost in the race with the Americans! 

The British had pledged that their national airline, British Overseas Airways Corporation, (BOAC), would order an as yet to be determined number of the new aircraft, which had been given the name Flightstar. 

Lufthansa  had already delivered a Letter of Intent to Purchase. Their initial order would be for twenty airliners but with options for a further twenty. The other European airlines were expected to follow suit soon.

The first stage in the battle for civil aviation supremacy was over. But this had been the easy part! 

The technical director of Focke-Wulf, the brilliant Professor Kurt Tank, was working like a man possessed. Lockheed had several years head start on them, but he and his team were determined to build this new world-beater, with its superior specifications, in time to challenge the Americans.

Tank was an aeronautical engineer who had led Focke-Wulf’s design department for the last eleven years. During that time he produced an excellent fighter aircraft, the FW190, which was superior to the Luftwaffe’s  main fighter, the ME109. Unfortunately for Focke-Wulf, the end of the European War resulted in this project being terminated.

Of more practical use to the current airliner project was Tank’s other success story, the FW200 Condor. This was a four engine long range aircraft originally designed to Lufthansa  specifications for passenger use. This was first produced in 1937, but from 1939 onwards only military versions were produced. While acting as a long range bomber/reconnaissance aircraft during the Battle of the Atlantic in 1940, Condors were successful in sinking a large tonnage of ships. Winston Churchill had once described them as the ‘Scourge of the Atlantic’. 

In August 1938 Lufthansa  had flown a Condor between Berlin and New York non-stop. The first aircraft ever to do this.

Tank was now incorporating lessons learned from the building of the Condor into the Flightstar. 


Rolls-Royce executives had the new Aviation Minister breathing down their necks. Had they studied the Focke-Wulf plans? What were their plans for the engines? Was everything on schedule?  This was his pet project and he expected their dedication. Time was of supreme importance.

After the Minister left, one of the harried company directors wailed, “Can’t we just go back to making motor cars?”


James Blackstone peered down at the baby held by his wife. It was a boy. ‘Ugly little bugger’  he thought, although he would never say it out loud in front of Fiona. She seemed thoroughly worn out by the ordeal of delivery. He hoped the beautiful bouquet of flowers he had placed in her hospital room had cheered her up at least a little bit. He left her as soon as he decently could. Let her sleep.  

He hurried back to his office.

The Managing Director of Bradlington Thornberry bank had welcomed James’ idea of aircraft finance like a breath of fresh air. He saw the possibilities immediately. One or two of his fellow directors were a little slower in embracing the concept, and another, who should have put out to pasture long ago, was definitely hostile. Nevertheless it was now about to become reality.

The bank had been in existence for over one hundred years, but its innate conservatism had meant slow growth. A few years of modest expansion in the years after the Great Depression had been quickly curtailed by the onset of the European War.

Nigel Thornberry, aged fifty three, had been appointed Managing Director only the previous year. He was the great great grandson of one of the founders. He had joined the bank immediately after finishing at Cambridge University, and had worked his way up through every department of the bank at the insistence of his late father. He now wanted to ‘Bring the bank into the twentieth century’  as he put it. Hiring James Blackstone had been his idea. He was backing him to the hilt.

Documentation, accounting, credit assessment procedures and legalities were finally in place for the new Equipment Finance Department. They were ready for business.

Now it was up to James to make it work.


Katherine was on yet another of her many visits to Berlin. She and Jamie exchanged visits every month. ‘I wonder when they will get serious?’  Jeremy said to himself with a smile as he thought of his sister.

While Katherine was in Berlin, Erica and Jeremy took the opportunity to announce that they were expecting a child the following July. The Blackstone family was growing.

Erica caught Jamie surreptitiously looking at Katherine a lot. He was obviously thinking a great deal about something. What is on his mind? We all know that the two of them are in love. When is he going to pop the question? 


Letter to President Roosevelt from Jamie.

Greetings Mr President

I don’t seem to have a lot of news for you this month. I sometimes think that Germany is entering a new, more settled phase. Perhaps my usefulness here is coming to an end, Sir. I have now been in Berlin for exactly two and a half years.

I was told yesterday that Italy will once again be making a formal application to join the European alliance early next year. From what I hear, they are making progress in improving the economy, but less impressive performance with their military, which is still too big and inefficient. I was in Italy last month and I noticed a definite measure of acceptance by the people that the government is at least trying, and that things are slowly coming right. I saw few traces of fascism.

A source within the German military has confirmed to me that their intelligence services report almost zero communist activity in Albania these days. I think this is due to a combination of firm police and military action, in conjunction with the increased benefits from investment in the country by the Italians.

As you are aware, after some prevarication on the part of the more conservative elements in Italy, it was finally decreed that Libya would be given independence. Talks are underway with the exiled Libyan King, Idris I. It is the Italian’s aim to withdraw most of their people over a three year period. As they amount to fewer than twenty percent of the population, they are bowing to the inevitable.

The Greeks have again quietly raised the question of them joining the Alliance. The German Foreign Minister assured them that there is a place for them — once corruption and nepotism in Greece are brought under control. Privately I think Baron von Altendorf believes the Greeks are incapable of meaningful change.

An incredible, almost frantic, effort is being put into the new Anglo-German airliner by the manufacturer, Focke-Wulf. They are worried that we Americans could monopolise world aircraft production in the future, and they see it as such a potentially huge industry. They want a part of it for themselves. I can’t say that I blame them.

Norway has finished re-writing its constitution. It is expected to release copies of it in a couple of months. Once I have read it, I will give you my thoughts.

Have a merry Christmas, Mr President Yours respectfully Jamie MacLellan.



James believed that he now knew as much as any other banker in England about the airline and aircraft industry. Over the past months he had read every publication he could get his hand on, and spoken with airline officials and aircraft manufacturers across the country. Now he just needed his first deal! 

It was his sister who unknowingly provided him with the opportunity he was looking for. Katherine and her American boyfriend, Jamie, were in London for the weekend, and they invited James and Fiona to meet them for lunch. Fiona declined because of their young baby. Since becoming a mother she had changed. She doted on the child. She had matured and preferred to stay home more. She had even become less extravagant! James confirmed that he would love to meet them for lunch but he would be coming alone.

The venue was a pleasant Thames-side pub well known for its traditional fare and fine ales. They were midway through their meal before James started talking aircraft and airlines to Jamie. He had become almost obsessed with his work. When he paused for breath, Jamie innocently asked if he was working on any particular deal?

James stared into the distance for a moment, then leaned back into his seat and let out a drawn-out exaggerated sigh. “I am as ready as I could possibly be, Jamie. My bank is pushing me to sign deals. We have the money burning a hole in our vault. I have talked to everyone remotely concerned with aircraft in Britain. And — nothing….” He lapsed into silence. He was despondent. If he didn’t put a deal together soon he suspected the bank might let him go.

Without thinking, Jamie made an observation. “You know, James, that the workhorse of the German air force is the three engine Junkers JU52.” James nodded. He knew the aircraft.

Jamie continued. “The Luftwaffe  took delivery of about two thousand of them for the war. With the unexpected quick ending to the war they now have many surplus planes.”

“I know.” James interrupted, “But even if a buyer were to be found for them, our bank is precluded from financing military equipment.”

“Fair enough. But that is not at all what I am suggesting. The pre-war civilian versions of these aircraft have been used by national airlines and small charter or cargo carriers for some years now. They have established a good reputation.

Why don’t you get yourself across to Germany and go see Junkers, and maybe

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the Aviation Minister. Perhaps Junkers would be interested in acquiring the surplus units from the Luftwaffe  and refurbishing them to civilian standards. You could offer to finance the deal.”

James stared at him. Bloody hell. It was so simple! He had not heard even a whisper of anyone else in the industry coming close to something like this. It was bloody marvellous! 

Katherine, amused, said, “Well say something, James.”

And say something he did. He was agitated. “Jamie, I don’t know to thank you. You have just hit me between the eyes with a corker of an idea. Look, I am so excited I cannot possibly finish my meal. Can I be terribly rude and leave? You have just given me a lot of work to do.”

Laughing, they both excused him. He swallowed the remains of his drink and literally ran out of the pub. Katherine was giggling uncontrollably. She had never seen her brother in such a state.

“I do hope I haven’t sent him off on a wild goose chase.” Jamie moaned. Then after a couple of seconds pause, “But he sure as hell is fired up.” He joined in the laughter.


James had studiously looked into all aspects of aircraft refurbishment. It wasn’t exactly commonplace at that time, but neither was it unknown. Only after a major war, such as the recent European War, would prime military aircraft, perhaps originally designed for civilian use, come onto the open market in quantity. He was facing a unique opportunity.

Two days after Jamie had put the idea in his head he decided to go to the top in Germany and seek the blessing of the Aviation Minister, Albert Kesselring, after which he would immediately meet with Junkers.

Kesselring’s secretary was protective of her boss’s time. She always did her homework before accepting requests for appointments with the Minister. As a result of her enquiries Kesselring now knew that James Blackstone was the brother of Baron von Altendorf’s son-in-law, and that he had been a member of the British Parliament before becoming a bank director. He also knew that James’ father was a respected senior civil servant within the British Government. His credentials were in order. The Minister was curious as to what an ex-politician turned banker could want with him! He would allow the man fifteen minutes of his time out of courtesy to the von Altendorf connection. 

Their meeting lasted an hour. In the best banking tradition, James did not allow any emotion to show, but inside he was ecstatic. Kesselring had grasped the principle of repositioning the surplus JU52s, very quickly. He liked it and the timing could not have been better!

The General read from a document he requested from his secretary. “Following our latest armed services review, we counted just over one thousand one hundred JU52s still operational with the Luftwaffe , although many of these are actually in storage. With no war at present, or even on the horizon, we consider six hundred fully operational JU52s as quite sufficient for the Luftwaffe’s  requirements.

We intend to keep these aircraft in service for the foreseeable future. They are good workhorses and by the time they are ready for replacement, I have no doubt that transport aircraft a great deal bigger and a lot faster will be available. Who knows, maybe jet powered!

I will need to discuss the details with my staff, of course, but it is my opinion that the Luftwaffe  would be willing to consider disposing of maybe five hundred JU52s, Mr Blackstone.”

They discussed various details and the prices involved. It was a lot of money! James wondered how this would go down at his bank. At one point Kesselring excused himself to make a telephone call. He was away for ten minutes before he returned.

They talked closely for another fifteen minutes. All items had been covered. It was time for James to go.

After he left Aviation Ministry building, James found a small café where he indulged himself with a small celebratory cognac. He had cleared the first hurdle! Now for Junkers. 

Jeremy had loaned his car to James for the one hundred and twenty kilometre drive from Berlin to Dessau, the headquarters of Junkers. As he drove south after breakfast the next day, James could not help marvelling about the fact that he was here today, driving in the heartland of Germany, yet only three years earlier the Germans and British had been at each other’s throats.

Junkers was founded in 1895 by Hugo Junkers. It had prospered from the mid-1930s due to huge production orders from the Luftwaffe  for three particularly successful models. The JU52 transport, the JU87 dive bomber — the famous Stuka —  and the JU88 bomber, one of the European War’s most versatile combat aircraft.

The Managing Director of Junkers was Hans Schneider. Originally an aeronautical engineer, he had worked for the company continuously for nearly thirty years. The company was his life. Lately his biggest worry was the complete cessation of orders for military aircraft. And nothing on the horizon. 

Schneider’s English was just not quite good enough for a meeting such as this, and an interpreter had been hired. She was about thirty years old, good looking, slim, perfect figure, and smartly dressed. Her name was Magda Reinhardt.

Schneider had been telephoned in advance by no less a person than the Aviation Minister, to inform him that Blackstone had an interesting proposition. The Ministry, on its part, was supporting the project in principle. Kesselring recommended that Junkers should seriously examine Mr Blackstone’s idea.

Between James’ bad German, Schneider’s poor English, and Magda’s fluency in both languages, they got through the meeting without too much trouble or delay. The Junkers Managing Director grasped at what was on offer as a drowning man will grasp at a straw. Schneider called in his General Manager, and later the chief designer. Different scenarios and ideas were thrown around in a storm. Even Magda was pulled into the general enthusiasm that manifested itself.

The half hour scheduled meeting ended up being two hours long. But it was worth it. Before he left, James was handed a hastily typed letter confirming Junkers’ serious interest in James’ proposition.

James now wanted to draft a proposal to his bank while everything was fresh in his brain. He decided to find a hotel in Dessau for the night. He would motor back to Berlin early in the morning and catch the first available flight to London. He informed Herr Schneider of his intentions and said his goodbyes to the group.

Magda accompanied him out of the Junkers building. He asked her if she could recommend a hotel for him. During the meeting, they alone had addressed each other by the first names. The others had remained on formal terms. “Certainly, James, It is near where I live. I will show you if you will give me a lift.” She did not work for Junkers. She was a freelance translator and was now also on her way home.

It was no more than ten minutes to the hotel and in that time they chatted like old friends. James discovered that Magda was a widow, her husband having been killed in France in the last week of the war. They had a three year old daughter. ‘Bloody rotten luck’  thought James. ‘Seven more days and he would have been out of it’. 

He stopped the car outside the hotel to which Magda directed him. It looked acceptable. Respectable but not five star. She went in with him to assist with the reception formalities, which took no more than five minutes. On an impulse he turned to face her. “Magda, today was a very special day for me. Would care to you join me in a celebratory drink? Unless, of course, you are in a hurry to get home.”

“I am in no hurry, James. And I would love to have a drink with you. I found today very interesting.” She had a beautiful smile. James suddenly found himself blushing for no reason.

They adjourned to the bar. James thought champagne was appropriate. Magda didn’t object. As the waiter delivered the bottle, the hotel porter approached him to inform him that there was a telephone call for him. He could take it in the hotel lobby.

‘I wonder what Schneider has forgotten’  he thought as he walked to the phone.

James got another surprise. On the phone was a Hjalmar Schacht, the German Economics Minister. He apologised for disturbing him, but having been apprised of his mission by General Kesselring, he enquired if James would indulge him by being so kind as to meet with him tomorrow? He would take up less than one hour of his time.

This was totally unexpected but there was no way a banker could turn down a request from the Economics Minister. They arranged to meet at the Minister’s office at midday the following day. James was excited, puzzled, and apprehensive about this development. Somewhat bemused he went back to Magda.

The champagne was finished. He had told her of the latest development. They chatted animatedly for another fifteen minutes. It seemed he had somehow enthused Magda with his own excitement. Suddenly he realised that he did not want her to leave just yet.

He took a deep breath. “Magda, do you have any plans for this evening?” He hurried on before she could answer, “I had planned to start writing my appraisal of yesterday and today’s meeting. But now I find that I am far to wound up to do this. Also I must wait and see what the Economics Minister has to say to me before I have the complete picture. I would consider it a great honour if you would join me for dinner.” He blushed like a schoolboy as he said it.

With a great smile she accepted. Her apartment was close by. She would go home and arrange with her mother to babysit her daughter. She could at the same time shower and change. She would be back at the hotel at seven thirty.

James was very, very pleased.

Back in Berlin, Hjalmar Schacht and his deputy were putting the finishing touches to their proposal for the British banker the following day.

Magda looked absolutely stunning as she approached James at the hotel bar. The time was exactly seven thirty. ‘Typical German punctuality’  he said to himself.

After an aperitif at the bar, the waiter escorted them to their table. It was set in a bay window overlooking the garden backed by a small lake. A beautiful setting. Once again they found themselves chatting easily about a range of subjects. ‘This lady is so easy to talk with. So knowledgeable. I could talk to her forever’,  thought James.

Over a superb but simple dinner they enjoyed a bottle of fine German red wine, a pinot noir  from the Wurttenberg region. James personally could have managed another bottle but decided in the circumstances, to restrain himself. He was totally relaxed in Magda’s company and did not want to spoil things by over-imbibing.

Neither of them realised what time it was. It was ten o’clock. The rest of the tables in the restaurant were empty. The waiter was hovering around, obviously wanting them to go. They decided to have a nightcap at the bar. They found a really good German cognac, Asbach.  They sipped it appreciatively; each knowing their evening together was drawing to a close. Neither of them seemed to want it to end.

‘But end, it must’  thought James. He reluctantly suggested to Magda that he should not keep her out late as she probably had to be up early with a young child to look after. He was stunned when she faced him directly, looked into his eyes, and said quietly, “My daughter is spending the night at my mother’s.” She continued to stare into his eyes.

James stared back. His mind went blank. This was completely unexpected and he was not prepared for it. Nervously he took her hand. She leaned forward and gently kissed him on his lips. Oh what a sweet kiss! A kiss so full of promise!  He felt like he was drowning in emotion. He knew that he was on the verge of a possible life changing moment. A dangerous moment.  They had only known each other a matter of hours, yet his instinct told him that this was a woman he wanted to be part of his life. If he wasn’t prepared to accept this, he should end it now. He wanted to love and protect her, not hurt her.

These and many other thoughts, including guilt, flashed through his mind in seconds. He was a realist. With some reluctance he faced the fact that there was only one decision he could make.


There were three of them at the meeting in the office of the Economics Minister. Schacht had introduced the third person as Gustav Muller, the Chairman of Deutsche Bank. This bank had been founded in 1870, originally as a specialist bank in foreign trade. It was now one of Germany’s biggest banks.

After the usual pleasantries were over, they got down to business.

“Herr Blackstone, your visit to the Aviation Minister two days resulted in much extra work for me”, Schacht said with a slight smile. “Your proposed aircraft financing business is something I have been pondering on for some time, but my workload didn’t allow me to bring to any conclusion. You have now precipitated things. For this, I thank you.

Deutsche Bank, the Aviation Ministry, and my Ministry, are in complete agreement with you, that the Americans, with their enormous financial resources, and their great energy, will dominate this sector of commerce if we allow it.

You have caused a lot of inconvenience to some people over the past twenty four hours. A lot of midnight oil has been burnt to produce a working plan to submit to you.”

James was relieved. They were not going to cut him and his bank out of the picture. 

It was now Muller’s turn to speak. “I would like to emphasise that we would be honoured to consider the Bradlington Thornberry Bank as a partner, and in many ways, the lead bank, in an ‘alliance’ with the German aircraft industry, German banks, and the German government.”

‘High sounding words’  thought James, ‘but what do they mean?. 

Muller continued. “With all due respect to your bank, Herr Blackstone, forgive me if a say that the numbers involved in this particular finance project are enormous. No single bank can manage on its own. Hence our reason for meeting today.

You may have heard that a new airliner is being developed by Focke-Wulf and Rolls Royce as an Anglo-German project. The potential market for this type of aircraft is US$700 million or more. Focke-Wulf are aiming for at least half of this market, most of which will require finance.

Something that you may not be aware of, is another Anglo-German development for the next generation of airliners. It will be powered by four jet engines, with greatly increased passenger loads, speed and range, compared to any piston engine aircraft. Deliveries are expected to commence in 1950. The potential market is estimated at not less than US$2 billion.” 

This was an eye opener for James. God bless the Germans. And Jeremy, Katherine and Jamie for putting the thought into my head. 

“The basics of the deal we propose are as follows.

We, Deutsche Bank, will provide the finance necessary to German aircraft manufacturers, starting with Junkers, for them to produce aircraft. Their own salesmen will do whatever is necessary to secure sales in the face of mainly American competition. As an inducement to purchase, buyers will be offered very competitive finance. This is where you come in.

All  buyers seeking finance would be directed by the manufacturers to your bank. It would be up to you to conclude satisfactory deals. Obviously you will assess the client’s creditworthiness as well as keeping in mind the value of the assets — the aircraft — that form the collateral for the deal.

At this point I must ask Herr Schacht to advise you of a further interesting development.” Muller took a sip from his glass of water.

Schacht now continued. “As I previously mentioned, I have had various ideas in my mind in recent years. One of them has now crystallised thanks to you. I will recommend to the Governing Council that we establish a Trade Finance Guarantee Corporation to facilitate exports by providing ‘insurance’ against bad debts and political or country risks.

The concept is not new. It has been around since the early 1900s. The British, in fact, started such a scheme in 1919, to alleviate unemployment by re-establishing export trade disrupted by the Great War. Germany also had such business before the European War but it was never large.

This new Corporation will issue a guarantee, backed, of course, by the German state, undertaking to pay a debtor’s obligations to the bank or lender, in the event that the debtor defaults on payment.” The Minister saw that James immediately understood that this was a momentous step in the history of German finance.

Muller now took over again. “Bradlington Thornberry Bank will assess each deal offered to them on its merit. They will conclude the finance contract and pay the supplier. Fifty percent of the contracts they finalise will be offered for sale to Deutsche Bank. This arrangement will continue until such time as your bank feels it has reached the limit of its investment in this area. Thereafter all deals will be offered to Deutsche Bank. At some future time it is possible we may need to bring in other banks.

Obviously final details can be worked out later. What do you say, Herr Blackstone? Do we have a deal?”

What could James say? He was astounded at the scope of what he had started. Wait until Nigel Thornberry hears this! 

The next thirty minutes was a questions and answer time. Then they were finished. James had to get approval at his bank. Muller had to go through the formality of approval by the board of directors of Deutsche Bank. And Schacht had to submit everything to the Governing Council for their scrutiny and agreement.

The three men shook hands. A tired but exhilarated James finally bid Minister Schacht and Herr Muller farewell. It had been an interesting and productive meeting! 

As before, he felt the need to treat himself to a celebratory drink. One block from the ministry was a small café. He had left Magda there this morning while he attended the meeting.

After spending a magical night together, even if it was largely sleepless, James recklessly decided to stay another night, in Berlin, and brought Magda with him. They would have an early dinner, then early to bed. He would make a start on writing his report this evening, and finish it early in the morning before he left.

Last evening they had talked long into the night, but only between bouts of the tenderest and most passionate lovemaking James had ever experienced. He could not get enough of her. She was like no other woman he had ever met. Was it possible to fall in love in two days? 

They had come to an understanding. James regarded it as impossible for him to even contemplate leaving Fiona at this time. They would both meet as often as possible and see how things developed. A mature approach.

Even so, James felt immeasurably sad when they said goodbye to her at the airport the next day.


Nigel Thornberry was thunderstruck as James related the events of the last few days, omitting any mention of Magda Reinhardt, of course. The more he disclosed, the more Thornberry regarded him in awe. This was the banking deal of the century! 

When James finished, Thornberry called into his office the other executive directors and asked James to repeat everything, leaving no details out. Afterwards he was warmly congratulated by all, except the previous sceptic, who was now worried that the bank could become financially overstretched if it entered into this arrangement. James privately dismissed the old duffer’s criticisms. If his type had their way, mankind would never have even progressed to using wheels! 

The following morning he had to tell his story once more. This time Thornberry had called the Chairman and the non-executive directors. All were excited. James had a winner! 

The following month a co-operation agreement with Deutsche Bank was signed. James had to undertake many visits to Berlin and Dessau. Not that he (or Magda) complained, of course! 

The first batch of fifty JU52s had been delivered by the Luftwaffe  to Junkers. They were scheduled to be ready for delivery into the civilian market within ninety days. Some were destined to be cargo carriers and these would not require much work to convert. The Junkers engineering workshops would process all five hundred of the Luftwaffe  aircraft over an eighteen month period.

The first ten aircraft had already been sold in advance. To China Airways. One of them was being specially fitted out as Chiang Kai-shek’s personal aircraft. James had travelled to Shanghai to sign the deal. Magda had gone with him. It was a hard life! 


Frustrated with his Generals and Admirals, King Victor Emmanuel had fired three quarters of them at the beginning of the year. His action had the desired effect. The remaining senior officers suddenly started enthusiastically co-operating with the Ministry of Defence. There was a meaningful reduction in personnel numbers, and obsolete equipment, (which was most of the armed forces equipment), was scrapped. Orders were placed for the new German tanks. The reduced Italian air force would be re-equipped with the ME262 as soon as they were available. The navy sold their older vessels to Libya. The FAL standard alliance rifle had already replaced the older firearms.

The economy continued to grow, even if the rate of growth was unexciting. Polls conducted in Albania now showed a greater acceptance by the populace of that country being an integral part of Italy.

In Libya, King Idris had returned from his self-imposed exile in Egypt and had formally accepted the leadership of his country. Libya had been occupied by Italy in 1912 after a war with Turkey. After the Great War the country had been given a measure of autonomy, with Idris as its traditional leader. However the country quickly descended into civil war, and anticipating the re-occupation of his country by the dictator Mussolini, Idris had gone into voluntary exile in Egypt.

Now, under the terms of the new agreement, Italian administrators already working in the country, would be reduced gradually over the next three years, to assist the new regime in an orderly handover. The Italians had also offered to train and equip a new Libyan army. They were stunned when this offer was rebuffed. King Idris was no fool and had kept abreast of international developments. He had noted the success of the German advisors in China. He wanted Germany to be Libya’s military mentor.

King Victor Emmanuel was satisfied with the progress that had been made to date. He was determined to take an economically stable and militarily strong Italy into the European Alliance before he died.


The long awaited general election was over at last. The final results were eagerly awaited in Germany and across the European Alliance, as well as in Norway.

The country had been governed by the Norwegian Labour Party since 1936, including the brief time they had been the government-in-exile in London. The Prime Minister during that time had been Johan Nygaardsvold, who had held great popular appeal but had later been tarnished by the lack of Norway’s military preparedness at the time of the German invasion in 1940. Nygaardsvold had accordingly considered himself to be only a caretaker Prime Minister until Norway held new elections.

A review of the Norwegian constitution had been commissioned and, despite apathy amongst the electorate, and some controversy, it had been passed into law at the beginning of the year. The major changes were in the eligibility of voters, and the establishment of a new office of government and political accountability.

During the period the constitution was being re-written, the authors were bombarded by all and sundry, from crackpots to would be politicians, and anyone who thought they had a contribution to make. The most persistent and tenacious of these was a German professor of Sociology and Philosophy, Otto Berger.

Berger had drawn attention to a dire need for protection of a country’s population against unscrupulous, corrupt, incompetent or self-seeking politicians. One only had to look at Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin to understand this. Other prime examples were the hugely inept French politicians of the 1930s, and the ongoing shortcomings of the Greek political system. This can happen again,  he warned.

Professor Berger proposed a radical change in voting systems.

An accepted definition of democracy was that every citizen had the right to vote, and that there should be an absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinction or privilege among voters. Berger did not dispute these points, but submitted that they were open to interpretation.

His argument was that all citizens are not actually equal. Some are more intelligent than others, some work harder than others, and others generally contribute more to their country over their lifetime. This is an indisputable fact. Why should they not have a greater say in which government runs the country?

He suggested a qualified  franchise. Yes, all citizens of twenty one years and older would have the right to vote. But, those with higher education qualifications would be entitled to an extra vote. Similarly, anyone paying income tax of an amount more than four times the national average would also get an extra vote.

Berger argued forcibly that being highly educated or paying greater tax was not the same as hereditary or arbitrary class distinction, or privilege.

Berger maintained that his voting system would partly mitigate the votes cast irrationally in some cases, for example by people or families who consistently voted for a particular party because ‘Their father had always voted for them’,  or ‘He has an honest face’. 

Another idea he pursued relentlessly, was the appointment of a senior civil servant to oversee statements and promises made by politicians. He would have significant powers of investigation, and if he discovered that a statement or promise was deliberately misleading or never meant to be honoured, the guilty individuals could be suspended from the Storting —  the Norwegian parliament — or even criminally prosecuted where it was warranted. Berger was aiming at politicians who would promise absolutely anything to get elected. He insisted that retribution should be swift and painful!

The Soviet politician Nikita Khrushchev had once said, “Politicians are the same all over. They will promise to build a bridge even where there is no river”.

Norway’s King Haakon VII had personally found Berger’s ideas sound, and endorsed them. The King was greatly respected by his people. He was a rarity; a democratically elected monarch. He had become the first King of Norway after the union with Sweden had been dissolved in 1905. He had accepted the offered crown only on the condition that a referendum showed that monarchy was the choice of the Norwegian people. Seventy nine percent of the voters choose monarchy.

The Professor’s ideas were incorporated into the new constitution, and now the results of the election would show if the changes had any significant impact.

One and half million people voted, but it was not known how many of them had used a second or third vote. The result was the return of the Labour Party but with a slightly reduced percentage of the vote. They had a one seat majority in the Storting,  Norway’s parliament. The second largest party, the Conservative Party, significantly improved their share of the vote.

No conclusive lessons could be determined about the effect of the changed voting systems, although many commentators now accepted that it was an interesting idea that should be given a chance.

In the meantime Norway had a new and stable government, and a new Prime Minister, Einar Gerhardsen. They also had an opposition party strong enough to be considered effective.


The summit of the European Alliance was over. The fourteen member countries, Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain, had been represented by their respective Ministers of Defence, their Commanders-in-Chief of armed forces, and their European Alliance Liaison Officers. The Supreme Commander — European Alliance, Field Marshall Rommel was Chairman of the meeting.

Rommel spoke at length of the progress made since the end of the European War. The standardisation of military equipment was proceeding satisfactorily. He confirmed that all member countries had met their commitments to the Alliance, including defence spending.

The total population of the member countries added up to more than three hundred million.  The permanent armed

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forces totalled over three and a half million. In extremis  another twenty five million  men could be mobilised. The European Alliance was the most powerful military grouping in the world by far. And it was getting more powerful every year as their weapons weaponry improved and was standardised.

The representatives of each country were given the opportunity to have their say. There was no dissension of any kind at this, the first European Alliance summit.

It was now that Rommel made his closing statement. One which would be contemplated by Heads of States around the world for decades into the future.

“Our grand Alliance is something we should all wish to be unnecessary at some future date.” There was murmuring among his audience. “Make no mistake, that date is a long way off. But in a stable and prosperous world, military alliances should, in theory, be superfluous. In the meantime, that future stable and prosperous world will come about only because we are alert and militarily strong enough to deter aggression by one country against another.

This is the message we have sent out to the world. The European Alliance is a purely defensive  alliance. We want no foreign wars. And we are resolved that there will be no further wars in Europe. We will have peace through strength.”

Rommel received a standing ovation.


Jamie MacLellan’s last letter to President Roosevelt

Dear Mr President

I hope this letter finds you in good health.

You may by now have been informed by the navy department that I have, with great sadness, resigned my commission.

The past three years have been probably the most interesting period of life, but as in everything, time moves on. After a great deal of thought, and many sleepless nights, I decided to look for new challenges.

One of the ‘challenges’, if I may call it that, is that I will be marrying next year. My fiancée Katherine is British, ex Royal Navy, and she is the sister of my best friend, Colonel Jeremy Blackstone. I have mentioned Jeremy to you several times.

We may be settling in the United States. It is one of our options. We are taking a few months off from our normal world, and taking a sailing holiday.

With the new policy of a reduction in size of the US Navy, following the thaw in relations with Japan, civilian life now appeals to me. I would like to find a job that has something to do with ships.

I must admit, I am both excited and apprehensive. It will be a totally new experience for me.

As regards ‘my thoughts on Europe’ which you originally sent me here for, I think they have become less interesting as the continent has settled down since the war. The Germans have done a superb job in stabilising the diverse economies of the various countries here. And what we once regarded as a huge threat in Europe, communism, has all but disappeared outside of the Soviet Union.

Even the great dictator, Stalin, appears to have mellowed a little in the face of firm and consistent German and European policies. It may be just an act to lull the European Alliance into a false sense of security. I retain an open mind on the subject.

As regards further expansion of the Alliance, the northern countries of Sweden and Finland have been quietly asked not to apply for membership. This would create a problem with an insecure Soviet Union, who regards that part of the world as their backyard. Sweden in any case, like Switzerland, has always been neutral and unlikely to want change their status.

I still smile when I think of Russia being invited to join the Alliance by the Germans. I would love to have been there and seen their faces when that proposition was made.

Yugoslavia and Greece are as far away from acceptance into the alliance as ever.

I personally found it gratifying, uplifting even, that Italy was able to pull itself together and take its place in the Alliance. I was there again last month and the enthusiasm that I saw within that country, was almost humbling. As a sign of the times, I discovered that the Italians have persuaded the British, French and Germans to begin grand prix motor racing again next year. As you probably know, this was banned at the start of the war.

The Italians tell me that the well-known motor car manufacturers, Maserati and Alfa Romeo, are already working on world beating cars.

Well, Mr President, it has been an honour to serve you and I hope my ‘thoughts’ of the past few years were of interest and assistance to you.

I wish you well for the future.

Yours respectfully Jamie MacLellan.


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The board of directors of Bradlington Thornberry Bank proposed a special vote of thanks to James Blackstone, as well as awarding him a special monetary bonus. His department, in its first full half year of operation, had concluded finance deals for over one hundred Junkers JU52 airliners and transport aircraft. All good quality deals. A further two hundred were confidently expected to be financed over the next twelve months. The bank had never been so profitable or increased its volume of business at such a rate.

James celebrated at home that evening with Fiona. It was not a late night. Fiona was often tired after looking after the child the whole day. And James had to be in Berlin the following day as guest on a test flight of the Anglo-German airliner, the Focke-Wulf Flightstar.  He would be accompanied by his interpreter cum personal assistant, Magda.


The President of France, Admiral Darlan, finished his second reading of the document now resting on the desk in front of him. He leaned back, staring at the ceiling. He was unsettled. ‘This has to be handled very very delicately’  he thought. ‘Whichever way we proceed will involve some pain for France.’ 

He remembered something which the German Foreign Affairs Minister had once said to him and which had stuck in his mind. ‘Search the past, if you want to change the future.’ 

For another hour he sat there thinking of nothing else but the subject of the dossier. If he were a true politician he could ignore it and leave the problem to his eventual successor or a future government. But that was cowardly politics. It was the way things had been done in the past when France was governed by weak or incompetent politicians. Darlan was no coward. Neither was he weak or incompetent.

He had been President of France for the past three years, and under his non-democratic government the country had undergone considerable change. And for the better. Moscow inspired communist insurgency had been eliminated. Political upheaval and social unrest were things of the past. The economy was sound and the country was prospering once again. France was at peace with itself. Possibly the country was better off than it had ever been at any time in its history.

The source of Darlan’s concern was France’s vast colonial empire. This covered about eight percent of the Earth’s surface, with a total — and very diverse — population of more than one hundred and ten million people, if France itself was included. It extended into north, east, west and central Africa, the Caribbean, central and south America, the Middle East, the Far East and Polynesia, plus a few desolate and worthless islands close to Antarctica.

The devastating defeat of France in the European War in 1940 had encouraged anti-colonial and nationalist movements throughout the empire. At the moment these were being easily contained, both politically and militarily. But Darlan searched the past and saw the future. He didn’t like what he saw.

His old political foe, General Charles de Gaulle, had been forced to resign from the army a few years ago. He had entered politics, and since then he had made a nuisance of himself by agitating for a return of democratic elections in France. De Gaulle was not particularly a great lover of democracy; he simply yearned to resume a position of personal power. His following was small but vociferous.

Darlan had seen a way to kill two birds with one stone. He offered de Gaulle a government post. The position as Minister for Colonies carried no real power and was fraught with potential difficulties. As Minister, his first task would be to conduct an in-depth study of France’s colonial empire. It would involve visiting every single colony, and talking with officials, local people and French settlers. Economic, social and military aspects were to be considered. The British and Dutch empire models should be studied. Finally, a blueprint for the future relationship of the colonies and France was to be drawn up.

De Gaulle was not fooled. He had seen the potential trap that Darlan had laid for him. But de Gaulle was ambitious, arrogant, and totally confident in his own abilities. He regarded the proffered job as a stepping stone to greater things. He accepted the challenge.

He threw himself into the task with relish. It had taken him almost twelve months, and many thousands of kilometres travelled, but his report now lay on Darlan’s desk. Apart from the mass of data and statistics, two basic alternative future political scenarios were offered for consideration by the French government.

The first option was to continue with, and complete, the existing semi-official and half-hearted French policy of the overseas territories being considered integral Departments of France. All the inhabitants of the empire would ultimately become French citizens, with all the rights and obligations that this entailed.

In de Gaulle’s opinion this was ‘pie in the sky’. In theory it sounded great, but in practice he foresaw that nationalists and opportunist politicians in the various colonies would never accept perceived ‘foreign’ domination. He had looked at the history of resistance in their territories, and concluded that matters would only get worse. He saw France being drawn into ever escalating conflicts in the different regions as they tried to impose their ideology, culture, and policies on radically different ethnic, cultural and religious peoples. Such a way would be costly, and eventual success was by no means assured.

A further potential problem with this approach was, even if it worked in the colonies, what would be the impact of millions of non-French born  peoples choosing to migrate permanently to metropolitan France? This would impose severe cultural, social, and religious tensions. It was a recipe for social unrest.

Putting aside emotional attachment to the glory of empire and the foolish nonsense about equality of man, he bravely advised a completely different course of action.

He proposed independence for all colonies that were economically viable, but within a Francophone trading and cultural grouping.

Whatever course was ultimately decided on, de Gaulle saw himself as the man to oversee matters. His ego had in no ways diminished during his years in the political ‘wilderness’.

This was the dilemma that now faced the French president. He sighed and put the report to one side. He just had time to finish his preparation for his meeting with the German Foreign Minister scheduled for the following morning.


Darlan and von Altendorf had adopted an informal and relaxed style of meeting every six months or so. The British Foreign Secretary enjoyed a similar arrangement with both of them. As the largest largest members of the European Alliance in terms of economy, population and military capacity, it was considered prudent for the three of them to be broadly ‘in step’ with their policies.

In the bitter aftermath of the German invasion in 1940 the French animosity towards Germany knew no limit. However, the stability and prosperity that had been established following the generous peace settlement had softened their attitudes. Most could now accept that the two countries could achieve more in partnership and so the historical enmity between France and Germany had greatly diminished. Furthermore, the French President and the German Foreign Minister had developed something of a special personal relationship. Each trusted the word and intentions of the other.

Their discussions on the many and varied matters between their countries were completed timeously that day . One item was particularly pleasing to both of them. This was confirmation that the last few German troops stationed in Northern France, had been withdrawn the previous month in terms of the peace agreement between the two countries. The European War was just a bad memory.

Darlan now took the opportunity to have a confidential discussion with von Altendorf about the French colonies. He disclosed the salient conclusions of de Gaulle’s report.

Von Altendorf took a moment to finish his coffee before replying.

“In 1939 a study of the British, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Japanese empires was undertaken at the request of Adolf Hitler. I read that report shortly after it was finished the following year. It was very comprehensive and I recall several particular conclusions that I think are relevant to your own situation.

One particular assumption was that in the event of war with the Axis countries, Great Britain, Holland and France would ultimately be defeated and their empires forfeited to the victors. Obviously that scenario no longer applies.

Of more significance, was the belief that the European empires were great stabilising influences in the world, as the world was in 1939 . This, I believe, is still the case. However, I stress that this is the case at this particular moment in time, 1944.

The German report detailed the history of empires as far back as the Roman Empire. It made very interesting reading. With regards to the Dutch and French Empires, and the British territories in Asia and Africa, it concluded that virtually all the colonies would, sooner or later, start seeking at least some form of autonomy, but more likely, complete independence. No timespan was envisioned but it was more or less thought that it could happen possibly as early as within the next generation.

It was the conclusions of this particular report that led us not to press for the return of the previously German colonies in Africa, in our peace negotiations with the British. It also deterred us from claiming some of French colonies in 1940 as part of the armistice agreement. Neither did we want any of the Belgian or Dutch colonies. We saw them all as potential liabilities and future trouble. Not everybody in Germany agreed with this at the time, but it was certainly the majority view of those who thought deeply on the subject.

The native populations of the continent of Africa have a long history of despotism and violence. Local politicians are too quick to stir up trouble for their own ends. There is perpetual tribal and religious warfare or violence in both Africa and Asia. We wanted no part of it.

Oddly enough, the Japanese were deemed to be the only people capable of keeping their empire intact. But it would involve savagery, and brutal suppression of all resistance and opposition. The Japanese have shown themselves to be capable of such barbarity. I do not think the European powers could do it.

One other point for you to consider is this. If France pursues the existing ‘integrationist’ approach, you would be opening the door to a potential flood of migrants, in particular from the Muslim countries of North Africa — Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia — which are situated so close to your shores. Are you prepared for this? And could you be certain this would be in the best interests of France?

Religious bigotry and intolerance has been virtually eliminated from the continent of Europe. This is not the case with the Muslim religion. Why should France now import religious strife?

You have asked me my thoughts on this issue. I feel I must be frank. If France were my country I would act only in the interests of my people. I do not believe that an integrationist policy is the correct way. Neither do I think it would succeed.”

Von Altendorf had answered Darlan’s question. The French President appreciated the honesty of the German. He felt that he was now able to make a decision. He would first meet with de Gaulle.

The meeting with de Gaulle had gone well. The Minister for Colonies agreed with a course of action worked out between himself and the President. They would start preparing the French overseas territories for independence. A full government meeting approved their agenda and timetable forty eight hours later.

There would be a lot of dissatisfaction among the French populace in general, and huge resentment and resistance from French settlers in the colonies. But it was better to suffer some shorter term unrest now, than condemn France to future unwinnable colonial wars or major permanent internal unrest, insurgency and terrorism.

Preparations would begin for the eventual return of as many as one million French settlers as the colonies became self-governing. This would cause some social upheaval in France. Accommodation and jobs would have to be created. To ease the pressure, the timetable for independence would be spread over a three year period. The future incoming territorial governments would be given incentives to make the transition from colony to independent country, a smooth one.


The British Foreign Secretary had heard through embassy sources that the French were about to make radical changes within their colonial empire. He had thought that this called for a brief visit to Berlin and an informal ‘chat’ with Baron von Altendorf. The Germans seemed to know just about everything going on in the world these days.

They met a week later.

Von Altendorf’s position proscribed him from betraying any confidences between himself and President Darlan, but much of what had been discussed in Paris was at least partly common knowledge. If this wasn’t the case at the moment, it soon would be!

Sir Anthony was referred by von Altendorf to the same report commissioned by Hitler on colonial empires, as Darlan had been. And told of the same conclusions.

“The British Empire is the largest empire in history, Sir Anthony. It has been a source of wonder and envy to the rest of the world for generations. It covers one quarter of the globe.

However, I think things are changing, are they not? The ‘Jewel in the crown’, India, is demanding the independence they believe was promised to them before the European War. After this, is it not inevitable that other countries within the empire will follow suit?

I personally, am filled with great sadness at the thought of this magnificent stabilising force in the world, diminishing. Neither am I convinced that the world will be a better place without the British and French empires. My personal view is that the populations of many of the future independent African and Asian countries will suffer to a greater or lesser degree, under their new rulers.

However, world opinion, influenced by the Americans and — hypocritically — the Soviets, now says that all peoples are entitled to ‘self-determination’. Mussolini, not normally known for intelligence remarks, once quoted, ‘Democracy is beautiful in theory. In practice it is a fallacy.’  The Americans are naïve in their assumption that democracy will flourish in Africa and Asia. At least not without decades or even generations of warfare, tribalism, misery and death for millions of innocent people. And what does the Soviet monster, comrade Stalin know, or care, about people’s rights?

In India alone, I regret to say that I foresee countless deaths as religious bigotry flares up into violence between the Muslims and Hindus.

The British Empire has kept many of these malignant forces in check. Without your restraining hand, many parts of the world are doomed.

I realise that I paint a black picture but I find no cause for optimism with the subject of our discussion. I wish you all the luck in the world.”

Eden left the meeting feeling unusually depressed. None of his colleagues in the British government had put matters quite so clearly or as bluntly as von Altendorf. There was an unpalatable but undeniable truth in the German’s analysis, but it would be resisted by many, including Churchill who regarded the Empire as both a right and a duty for Britain.

‘This could get messy,’  he thought to himself.


Charles de Gaulle now embarked on another worldwide tour of French colonies. By the end of it he had accomplished all of the immediate French government objectives, and as result, would return to France as the man most hated and reviled by the French people, since Adolf Hitler. He was seen as the man who singlehandedly was trying to destroy the glorious French Empire. 

In Morocco he had quickly reached an amicable agreement with its popular and able king, Mohammed V. The country would become self-governing before the end of the year. Over the next three years Moroccan citizens would be trained to replace French officials and administrators. The Moroccan king was enthusiastic about remaining part of a Francophone group of nations. Preferential trade would continue between the two countries. Communist parties would not be tolerated.

Tunisia was nominally already independent, being officially classed as a protectorate  of France. It’s designated, but up to now powerless, Head of State, the Bey, Muhammad VII, wasted no time in accepting a similar deal to Morocco.

These were two relatively simple and easy negotiations for de Gaulle. Algeria was always going to be the difficult one because of the large number of French settlers who had made their homes there over the past one hundred years.

The French colonists dominated the government in Algeria and consistently block or delayed all attempts at reform. As a result, opposition from the Muslim majority population had gradually increased in the 1920s and 1930s. The previous year, political and legal equality for Muslims had been demanded by Algerian politicians, one of whom, Ferhat Abbas, was now in prison for his political activities.

Abbas had served at one time in the French army and was originally pro-French in outlook. His father was a civil administrator and holder of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award for military or civil merit. On the outbreak of the European War in 1939, Abbas had volunteered to re-join the French Army. Even though he was now anti-colonial, he was still not anti-French.

De Gaulle had him released from prison. They entered into four days of intensive negotiations. In view of the animosity that had developed over the years between the settlers and the indigenous population, the French needed cast iron guarantees of fair treatment for the colonists during any independence transition. Satisfactory agreement was reached on all the major points late on the fourth day.

De Gaulle flew back to Paris. He deemed it wise to have the three North Africa treaties ratified by the French government before he undertook any further travelling.

As Darlan had foreseen, when the independence plan was announced there were demonstrations throughout the country, mostly directed at the now hated de Gaulle. Fortunately, in the now stable and prosperous France, the public were generally less volatile and more contented than in earlier years. The number and size of incidents reported around the country were not as serious as he had expected, and many prominent intellectuals had strongly expressed their support for independence for the colonies. The astute Darlan had gambled on this being the case.

It was very different in Algeria. The Pied-noirs,  as the French settlers were known, expressed their anger by blockading government buildings, rioting and demonstrations. Even a few French officials were kidnapped. There were some killings. De Gaulle had previously warned the Governor-General of Algeria to be prepared for unrest. There was no immediate retaliation by the police, who were ordered to let tempers cool before investigating incidents of lawlessness. The army refused to become involved. Too many of its personnel sympathised with the settlers.

De Gaulle, now the de facto  Governor of all French Colonies in the empire, quietly started replacing French and other officials in the Algerian administration who were openly hostile to Algerian independence. He had three years to complete the transformation. He was sanguine about it. Time would heal the pain. 

Syria had been controlled by France since the Great War. In 1936 a political accommodation of sorts had been reached with its inhabitants, and the Republic of Syria had been established with its own President. However, the insecure governments of France that had been in power in the years immediately before the European War, had never ratified this arrangement. France had continued to interfere in Syrian affairs. The result had been the resignation of the Algerian President in 1939, and a period of uncertainty ever since.

The ex-President remained mistrustful of France’s intentions. It took all of de Gaulle’s powers of persuasion to convince him that things had changed. A deal was hammered out on the same basis as the other North African colonies.

Lebanon had been easier. It was another territory that had been mandated to France by the League of Nations after the Great War. It already had a measure of independence and France had formed the Lebanese Republic in 1926.

De Gaulle called for immediate elections. He had no real short term concerns about Lebanon. The country was stable and prosperous. Its capital, Beirut, was a city of great elegance and an established regional centre for finance and trade. Unusually, it’s multi-religion peoples worked together in a unique mix of power sharing between the different communities. He left them to get on with it. He was amazed that their form of government actually worked.

He was by no means sure that such inter-religion co-operation would last.

The Minister for Colonies was satisfied with the progress he had made so far. Now for Africa! 


The Governing Council had met early that day. At midday they were all being transported to Templehof Airport outside Berlin, to witness the arrival of the Luftwaffe’s  first operational jet fighter squadron.

In line with what had become tradition, the Foreign Affairs Minister opened the meeting. He gave the council details of France’s new de-colonisation policy. It was expected to cause some unrest over the next two or three years, and would probably also have a negative impact on France’s finances and trade in the short term, but it was a shrewd strategy and the longer term outlook was expected to be positive. The French Economics Minister, no doubt, was prepared for this.

Von Altendorf mentioned that Britain might also be questioning the role of parts of its empire. He advised that he would also discuss with the Dutch government the matter of their  empire. Germany had no wish to interfere in any way, but it would be remiss of them not to inform their ally of developments.

Albert Speer gave a short but concise summary of the balance of Soviet trade. This, together with China, accounted for fifty percent of Germany’s exports. In the meantime trade with other countries also continued to expand. Overall the balance of trade continued to be in Germany’s favour. Although ship building capacity had been increased, it was again working at full stretch. China was now talking about building up its navy and wanted Germany to build the warships. This would mean creating even more capacity.

As Interior Minister, roads and transport fell within his remit. The FIA, the international body controlling motor sport, had offered Germany the opportunity to stage a grand prix motor race in late August. Speer believed it would be a good showcase for the country. The expected tourist influx should more than compensate for the cost of repairing the Nurburgring race circuit. He had already spoken to Mercedes-benz and Auto-Union about possible German entrants. They were thinking positively about it.

Speer got the wholehearted support of the Council.

The Justice Minister, Julius Buch, reported that crime statistics for the year 1943 were an average of twelve percent lower in all categories than the preceding year.

Hans Dietrich, the quiet but industrious Minister of Agriculture, as usual, had little to say. The innovative policies he had implemented upon his appointment had resulted in increased farm yields throughout the country. There had also been some diversification of crops. Germany was a little more self-sufficient in agriculture than it used to be, and this trend should continu

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Hjalmar Schacht gave his usual dry, but at the same time heartening, facts about record exports and climbing foreign exchange reserves.

General Beck confirmed that the intelligence services had picked up nothing out of the ordinary from the Soviet Union. His conjecture was that, with the containment of Russia by China and Japan on its eastern frontier, and the European Alliance to its west, Stalin may have finally and permanently accepted the status quo. The communist movements throughout the rest of Europe, and in the European empires, had been discredited, eliminated, or driven deeply undergound.

The rest of the Council certainly hoped this was the case.

It now remained for von Brauchitsch, now promoted to Field Marshall, to finish off the meeting.

“Today we will welcome our first ME262 squadron into the Luftwaffe.  We all know that we delayed the introduction of this aircraft so as not to give Stalin any excuse or incentive to expand or speed up his own re-armament programme. This delay also meant that we saved quite a lot of money, whilst at the same time allowing a few more improvements to be made to the final model. It is a truly superb aircraft. Incomparably superior to anything else in the world.

The only other operational jet in the world, Britain’s own jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, has been tested extensively against the ME262 in simulated combat. It is an excellent aircraft, but no match for ours. It is also more than one hundred and fifty kilometres per hour slower than the ME262 and is less well armed.

All the European Alliance members, Britain being the only exception, have placed orders for the ME262. In the case of some smaller members, Norway and Denmark for instance, the order is to equip only one small squadron. In view of the more settled state of world affairs, there is less enthusiasm in all our countries for spending excessive sums on weapons.

The same goes for the Panther and Tiger tanks. They are now rolling off the production lines but at a reduced rate. Again all Alliance countries except Britain have ordered these fine fighting vehicles.

Great Britain recognises that our ME262 and our two new tanks are superior to anything they have, or are likely to have in the near future. However they have long established armaments industries of their own to consider. It will take a little while longer before we will have truly integrated weapon systems throughout the European Alliance.

The British have, of course, partnered us with the Starflight  airliner. Focke-Wulf and Rolls Royce have done a magnificent job. From idea, to design, to prototype, to production, in a little over two years. The first production line aircraft will be delivered next month to Lufthansa and BOAC and will now be produced at the rate of about five or six per week. This rate can be increased fairly quickly if necessary.

General Kesselring should be giving you this news, but at this moment he is immersed in details of the future jet airliner project. The Komet” .

The meeting finished. They were eager to see the jet fighters perform.

Two hours later they were all standing as close to the runway as safety considerations allowed at the Berlin airport of Templehof. Thirty minutes later their senses were pounded as eighteen jet fighters passed in formation less than one hundred metres overhead. They wheeled in a great circle around the airfield before doing another low level pass. After this they split into six flights  of three aircraft, each of which performed various manoeuvers, before finally landing and coming to rest in a precise line facing their audience.

All the pilots descended from their aircraft at the same time. The lead pilot, and new squadron commander, Adolf Galland, walked down the line shaking hands, welcoming the pilots to their new home. Together, they headed towards the waiting dignitaries.

Now a lone ME262 appeared in the sky. It came over the airfield at a height of about one hundred metres before completing a tight three hundred and sixty degree turn and descending to fifty metres for a blast above the gathered officials and pilots. It landed and taxied to a stop at the head of the parked aircraft. It was only then that the uninitiated noticed it was a two seater trainer version of the ME262. The occupants climbed out and made their way to the small crowd.

Von Brauchitsch was the first to recognise them. The passenger was their absent Aviation Minister, General Kesselring. The pilot was Luftwaffe  General Woltram von Richtofen, cousin of the legendary Manfred von Richtofen, ‘the Red Baron’ of Great War fame.

Woltram von Richtofen, even though he was now forty nine years old, had been allowed to train on the ME262 for this single flight, to honour his fallen relative, the greatest air ace of all time with eighty victories to his credit.

It was a fitting start to the new squadron’s history book.


The inaugural flights of the first two Starflights  to enter service were arranged to take place simultaneously. The Lufthansa  flight would lift off from Berlin, bound for London, at the same time as the BOAC  aircraft left London for Berlin.

Standing among the invited guests on a specially erected terrace at Gatwick Airport to see the new airliner, were James and Fiona. His wife had been persuaded to be separated from their son for the day. She looked bored. James could not help noticing she was putting on a little weight. The difference in the ages no longer looked quite so obvious.

An RAF band played close by. A stall served light refreshments courtesy of BOAC. 

The Starflight  was parked directly in front of them. It looked absolutely magnificent and appealing in its sparkling new BOAC  livery. James thought that on looks alone it was a winner! It also seemed to represent a break from the pre-war years and the war itself. It belonged to a new, more exciting, era.

Boarding the aircraft were eighty persons, most of whom had offered all sorts of blandishment to be on this flight. There were lords and ladies — including a Duke, several actors and actresses, socialites, wealthy industrialists and a couple of Members of Parliament, including the British Minister of Aviation.

Once they were all safely on board no time was lost. The rumble of the aircraft’s engines drowned out all conversation. It slowly moved to the end of the runway. Its engines revved up to a crescendo. The brakes were released and it lumbered forward gathering speed. As it left the ground and retracted its undercarriage, there was spontaneous clapping among the guests. Now they could finish the refreshments! 

Alone among the guests, James watched the Starflight  as it disappeared into the distance.


Von Altendorf’s meeting with the Dutch Foreign Minister, Eelco van Kleffens, had been a cordial one. Relations between their two countries could only be described as excellent.

Since the European War the Dutch had prospered and their country had actually increased in size when the Flemish speaking northern part of Belgium had voted to become part of Holland. In 1941, a year after the end of the war, Germany had given its then vassal state, the option of regaining their independence, or becoming an autonomous state within the German Union. A referendum was to have been held in 1942 to determine their future course. All citizens over the age of twenty one could vote, and, similar to the newly introduced Norwegian and Danish voting system, those citizens with higher education or who paid higher taxes, had extra votes.

Unexpectedly, as the referendum date drew near, there had been calls from different sides of the political spectrum to delay the issue for a further year. It appeared that the vote was considered to be finely balanced, and both sides wanted more time to see if any possible future change in the economy or society would influence the vote. Up to now, April 1944, no new date for the referendum had been finalised.

Legally Holland still remained, in theory, a vassal state of Germany. In practice, the Dutch government controlled every aspect of running their country, including defence and foreign affairs. The German Governor-General was purely a nominal post with no actual powers other than ceremonial. Holland was in a similar situation to the dominions of Australia or Canada in the British Empire.

Von Altendorf now briefed his opposite number on his discussions with the French and British about their colonial empires. He cautioned van Kleffens on complacency. The Dutch East Indies was for the moment peaceful, stable and made no demands on the Dutch economy. However, German intelligence had ascertained that the opinion of the majority of Indonesians would probably change in favour of independence in the not too distance future.

This would be caused primarily by some French and British colonies being given their independence, as a result of which, nationalist feelings could be stirred up in other subject territories, resulting in insurgency movements becoming active.

Von Altendorf did not think the Dutch Caribbean possessions were a problem, but Suriname on the South American mainland, may become a source of unrest.

He had given the Dutch Minister something to think about.


The fifteen sub-Saharan French African colonies, which now included the former Belgian colonies of Congo and Ruanda-Burundi, took de Gaulle fourteen weeks of endless rambling discussions, cajoling, patient explanations, and hot and dusty travel, to complete. Transport in and between these countries had proved time consuming and exhausting due to primitive roads and transport systems. The food and water along the way played hell with de Gaulle’s digestive system and internal plumbing. He hoped he would never have to visit Africa again. He was physically and mentally exhausted.

The only major difference between agreements with these particular countries and the North Africa territories was that the transitional period would be four to five years instead of three. The present administrations of the African territories were, to say the least, somewhat inefficient and relaxed. They would require a great deal of work to effect any meaningful improvement.

De Gaulle privately prophesied much unrest and civil strife in future years for these countries. It was a deeply unsettled region and tribalism was rife. After two visits in two years his view was that France would definitely be better off out of it.

The British had agreed to merge French Somaliland with their own territory there. While they were not enthusiastic about acquiring new land, they saw the merits of one entity incorporating the adjoining British, French and Italian Somaliland territories.

Indochina was the next French area to be visited. But first de Gaulle holidayed in France for two weeks. He needed it after more than three months of frustrating and needlessly protracted discussions with African leaders and their tribal elders.

While holidaying in France, he came to realise the depth of feeling against him within the country. He was often the subject of abuse in the more right wing publications, and by some broadcasters on national radio. The haughty ex-General didn’t like it but dismissed it all as irrelevant. History would judge him, and conclude his actions were in the best interests of France! 

Learning from his experiences over the past few months, de Gaulle had sent ahead several trusted assistants to lay the groundwork for agreements with Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

In Indochina, Vietnam presented the most difficult challenge. The official Head of State was Bao-Dai, the current Emperor of Vietnam, who had reigned since 1926. He had no real powers in government and possessed no perceived significant abilities. However, using him as a central unifying figure, and with the assistance of the French colonial officials in the country, de Gaulle cobbled together a government of national unity in the space of two weeks.

A slight worrying factor was the activities of the Vietminh, the communist forces previously active in the countryside, under their able leader, Ho Chi Minh. With the elimination of communism in China, support for the Vietminh had withered, but they still lingered on as the only potential threat to a future government. De Gaulle promised the Vietnamese significantly increased military aid to eliminate this movement once and for all.

The new state of Viet Nam accepted France’s offer of independence.

It took a further two weeks each for Cambodia, and then Laos, to adopt the new policy with France. An exhausted de Gaulle could not wait to leave Indochina. He was under no illusion that the region would maintain stable governments over the longer term. This is not Europe! 

In Paris he advised the President that the question of the much smaller and insignificant colonies in the Americas, Caribbean and Polynesia should be left in abeyance for a while. Perhaps until next year. France had enough on its plate at the moment.

Darlan concurred. Although he had never liked de Gaulle’s manner in the past, he conceded that the man had done an excellent job so far. Now it only remained for him to complete the process successfully.


The Chairman of Lufthansa’s  board of directors had great pleasure in announcing that the airline’s fleet of Starflights  now totalled ten, and a further ten would be delivered over the next three months. The aircraft had proved to be very popular with passengers and they were flying at an average occupancy of ninety one percent. The British built Rolls-Royce engines gave the airliner a faster cruising speed than any of its competitors, and at the same time they were more fuel efficient.

The airliner was an undoubted winner for Lufthansa,  and would help them to achieve their ambition of becoming the world’s biggest airline before the end of next year.


The Starlight  airliners were rolling off the production line at the rate of five to seven every week. Focke-wulf’s production was pre-sold for the next year. The aircraft was the most advanced civil airliner in the world. Throughout the factory there was a tremendous sense of achievement. Worker morale was ‘sky high’. 

Germany was currently the largest aircraft producer in the world now that the British had scaled back on their military programmes. It was a position they intended to keep.

General Kesselring was well satisfied with the results of his work.


James felt absolutely shagged out. It had been a tight schedule. Tonight he needed to sleep. Tomorrow Magda and he would take the day off, and go sight-seeing around Tokyo. The day after tomorrow they would be completing an around the world journey by flying to Seattle in the United States, at the request of Junkers.

The German aircraft manufacturer had asked him to do this for them as a favour. One of their star salesmen had been in an aircraft accident — ‘Bloody hell’,  thought James — and another was sick. They were short-staffed. It would take James much the same time returning to Europe via the USA, as it would via Asia and the Middle East. The potential buyer in the United States was unsure what type of aircraft he wanted, or how many.

When he departed from England, he had been directed first to Shanghai in China, by Junkers. A Sino-French consortium wanted to buy six Ju52s cargo carriers, and needed the finance. The initial assessment looked good and James had wrapped this one up quickly. Then he was off to Tokyo where a Japanese industrial conglomerate wanted eight Ju52s, two of them being executive passenger versions, again requiring finance. This one also looked good, and James had finalised the matter with little time wasted.

When his Japanese clients discovered that he and Magda would be touring Tokyo the following day, they insisted on providing a taxi and tour guide for them, courtesy of the Japanese tax man!

They had a marvellous leisurely day. They spent an hour at the Meiji Jingu Shrine, probably Japan’s most famous Shinto shrine. Another hour flew by as they strolled hand in hand around the stunning gardens of the Imperial Palace. Later, the traditional Japanese dance, kabuki,  was less interesting for James, but Magda was transfixed. He studied her as she watched the performance. He had tried to be strong but he could not help it. He was hopelessly in love with her! 

After an interesting — that was the only way to describe it — lunch, they went nautical. They had a one hour boat tour of Tokyo Bay, arranged by their taxi driver. They had now done enough touring for one day. It was time to return to their hotel and relax.

They had been back at the hotel only thirty minutes. James and Magda were luxuriating in a large hot soapy bath when the telephone rang. James chose to ignore it, but Magda wouldn’t. She hastily wrapped a towel around herself and ran to answer. It was the Japanese industrialist. So sorry, but his partners had decided they no longer needed eight of the German aircraft.  She relayed the message to James, who swore loudly, it was a good thing Magda had the mouthpiece covered with her hand. He continued to moan, “All this bloody way for nothing. Damn”.

Magda continued to listen to the speaker at the other end of the phone. When he finished she said she understood and thanked the Japanese for the call. She replaced the receiver.

“Bloody time waster” James continued with his moaning.

Magda said nothing. She just threw off her towel, revealing her magnificent body, and climbed into the bath again. She looked at James. “So do you want to hear what he said, or not?”

“Okay, tell me” James replied disinterestedly.

“Mister Yashita sincerely apologises for inconveniencing you. His partners were unanimous about the aircraft”. She paused, trying to keep a straight face. “Eight is no good for them, they want sixteen”.

Two days later James presented himself at the headquarters of Western & Pacific Airlines, (Wespac), in Seattle.

Before they had left their hotel in Tokyo, a letter had duly been delivered to him, confirming the Japanese purchase of sixteen JU52s, subject to finance being provided. James was very content with his visit to the Far East.

Now that he was at Wespac, he was feeling a little apprehensive about his ability to actually sell aircraft. It turned out that he had no need to worry. During the course of many, many discussions with the people at Junkers and their customers, he had picked up far more technical information than he realised. To his surprise he handled the negotiations to the complete satisfaction of the buyers. Minor details that he was unable to answer could be dealt with through correspondence later.

Wespac was a small regional airline currently using Douglas DC3s, the sturdy and ubiquitous Dakota . Seven Junkers JU52 were required by them for some shorter routes, including mail carrying. They signed an order subject to finance.

Wespac was not yet finished with James. The President of the airline, Frank O’Donnell, invited James and Magda to dinner that evening at his golf club. Over a pleasant and relaxed meal they spoke at length on many and varied subjects. James thought the dinner invitation was just the American’s way of showing his appreciation of James’ assistance.

Once coffee and cognac was served, O’Donnell became more business-like. He commenced to outline his vision for Wespac. This included the introduction of scheduled flights to Canada, Mexico, China and Japan in the near future. Everything he said seemed to make sense. He questioned James about his bank and its ties with the Germans. He knew a lot about the Starflight . And the future jet powered airliner. 

O’Donnell now arrived at the real reason for dinner. He had been assessing James during their talks earlier in the day, as well for the past two hours over dinner. He was ready to talk further business.

He was ready to place an initial order for ten Focke-Wulf Starflights . In return, he required preferential treatment with deliveries of these, from the German manufacturer. He wanted Wespac to be the first operator of the Starflight  on the US west coast. He anticipated placing further orders as he phased the DC3s out of service, and again he needed preference over other US airlines.

This preference must be extended to cover the future jet airliner,  if and when it went into production. In return, Bradlington Thornberry Bank would become Wespac’s lead bank for all of their financial requirements, both aircraft and other.

Although he did not show it, James was impressed with what he had heard. And excited! Wespac was a well-funded and financially sound organisation. Nigel Thornberry will love this. Our first major breakthrough into the US banking market! 

O’Donnell wasn’t finished. “There is another scenario I would like to put to you”. He paused to finish his cognac. “My family and I have a minority shareholding in a small bank based in San Francisco. The Mercantile bank of California. As you probably know, San Francisco is considered to be a well-established financial centre in the States, with a first class reputation. Not a single San Francisco based bank failed in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash.

Mercantile Bank has been in existence for nearly a hundred years. In that time it has managed to accomplish — nothing! The family that has the majority shareholding, recently suffered a personal tragedy. Their two sons died in a yachting accident. Their business holdings have also been in decline for many years. Victims of the same inertia and mismanagement that is characteristic at the bank.

I acquired twenty percent of the bank’s stock five years ago. I now have been asked if I would like to buy the rest.

What would you think of the idea of your bank, and perhaps also Deutsche Bank, partnering me in taking over Mercantile and making it the best goddamn asset finance bank on the west coast?”

James was speechless. He had been overwhelmed on this business trip. O’Donnell’s propositions had his brain racing. What opportunities!  He was sold on the ideas. As always, he would have to present a detailed and well prepared proposal to the board of directors, but he was sure it would be given serious consideration. All he wanted to do now was get back to London. 

O’Donnell signed for the bill and called for a taxi to take them to their hotel. James’ excursion to America had turned out to be both profitable and unbelievably exciting. He loved his job! 


The competitors were lined up on the grid waiting for the start flag on this beautiful summer day. The tension was palpable. An excited crowd of over one hundred and thirty thousand had paid to watch this, the first German grand prix since 1939.

The French had re-introduced grand prix racing the previous month. The only official team entrant had been one car from Maserati, the rest of the field was comprised of private entrants with various makes of 1930s single seat racing cars. In the actual event the Maserati’s engine blew up half way through the race while comfortably in the lead. The race was cheekily won by a previously unknown Englishman driving like a mad man in a small but extremely fast ERA (English Racing Automobile).

The British had also wanted to stage a grand prix this year, but the favoured circuit, Donnington, the scene of exciting pre-war races, had been requisitioned by the war department at the onset of the European War and used as a vehicle park, resulting in considerable damage. Next year they would be ready.

In the 1930s, two German automobile makers, Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union, had dominated grand prix racing. Although no development work had been done on their racers since 1939, both of them gamely fielded two cars each for the German grand prix. Driving for Mercedes were their pre-war drivers, the three times European champion in 1935, 1937, and 1938, Rudolf Caracciola, and Hermann Lang, the winner of the most grand prix races in 1939 before the war stopped the series. The Mercedes reserve driver was Manfred von Brauchitsch, nephew of the famous Field Marshall. Germany’s leader was at the circuit today in the hope of seeing his nephew race.

Also driving for their pre-war employers, Auto-Union, were Hans Stuck, the 1936 European champion, and Rudolf Hasse, a previous grand prix winner.

The Italians were represented by two famous makes, Maserati and Alfa Romeo. Both of the Italian makes had spent the previous months putting as much development as was possible into their now ageing cars. They were definitely fast, but were they reliable? 

Driving for Maserati was the highly experienced Luigi Villoresi, supported by a gifted newcomer to racing, Alberto Ascari. Ascari was being openly touted as a future world champion.

Alfa Romeo had retained the legendary Tazio Nuvolari. Although now fifty two years old, ‘The flying Mantuan’  as he was known, was European grand prix champion in 1932. Long before that, in 1925, he had been a European motorcycle champion. Nuvolari had managed an impossible win in the 1935 German grand prix when, in an outdated Alfa Romeo, he had defeated the powerful and all conquering German cars. Even more impressive was the fact that the Alfa Romeo was not a works car, but part of a private team. The team belonged to a man called Enzo Ferrari.

One, elderly, French Delahaye was entered, and another dozen private entrants in the smaller class completed the field.

The three hour spectacle of noise and power was over. Unbelievably, the oldest driver in the race, Nuvolari, had actually led the race briefly before his outclassed Alfa Romeo gave up the unequal struggle and spewed its engine all over the track. Both Maseratis also succumbed to the pace, as did the Delahaye. The race was won in an impeccable display of driving, by Lang in the Mercedes. His team mate was second, and the Auto-Unions finished third and fourth.

An impressive show of speed and reliability from the silver arrows.  The German cars looked set to dominate the grand prix scene, as they had done before the war.


Lake Khasan is a small lake situated on the Soviet side of the demarcated Korea-Soviet border. It is only about one hundred and thirty kilometres from Vladivostok, the Soviet Pacific Fleet naval base and a strategically important Soviet centre.

For fifty years there had been tension along the common border between the Soviet Union and the Japanese occupied territories of Korea and Manchuria. In the 1930s there had been a series of battles and skirmishes. Collectively these were known as the Soviet–Japanese border war. But things had been quiet for the past five years, even though the two powers still greatly mistrusted each other.

Now some clever person in the Soviet army had decided it would be a good idea to send reinforcements to the Lake Khasan area, the site of a battle between the Japanese and Soviets only a few years earlier.

In response to this move the Japanese felt they had no option but to beef up their own forces.

It had only taken one nervous Russian sentry to start things. A twenty year old poorly trained conscript, Ivan Lushnikova, was half asleep as he patrolled alone in the early hours of the morning. Unwittingly he strayed ten metres or so, inside Korea. Two Japanese soldiers, equally tired, bored, and undertrained, were also on patrol and were walking towards Ivan, who, unfortunately for him, had been indoctrinated by Soviet stories of sneak Japanese attacks and ruthlessness.

On noticing them as they materialised in front of him, Ivan jerked awake, levelled his rifle and fired. A pure knee jerk reaction. His bullet missed. But those of the Japanese soldiers didn’t. Private Lushnikova had two bullets in him before he could even reload. He was quite dead, and would never see his parents in his home town of Tolyatti again.

Those three shots stirred up a hornets nest. Alarms sounded and shouting started on both sides, quickly followed by bullets. Then a Soviet machine gun opened up. This was answered by two Japanese machine guns. Within minutes the incident escalated totally out of control. It rapidly spread along a front of three kilometres. Soon artillery joined in. All the pent up hatred between the opposing forces was unleashed.

By mid-morning, fire was being exchanged along a six kilometre front. It was only due to a shortage of artillery and shells on both sides, that the conflict remained essentially a small arms duel up to this stage. That would only last until the combatants could bring up more equipment and ammunition. Tanks were already on their way.

By now, the ambassadors in Tokyo and Moscow were exchanging furious protest notes.

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An ominous development was the delivery of a note to the Chinese President by the Japanese ambassador, reminding China of their mutual defence treaty.

Chiang Kai-Shek reluctantly accepted that he had no option but take some sort of action. He had no wish to be dragged into a war with the Soviet Union, but neither did he want to provoke the Japanese into yet another war of aggression against China. The Chinese had a mutual defence treaty with the Japanese, and they had to be seen to be prepared to meet their obligations. He would go through the motions — slowly of course — of mobilising some troops. He sent for his army chief-of-staff, General Cheng. The Japanese ambassador was accordingly informed.

Chiang also dictated a polite note to the Soviet ambassador, suitably expressed in diplomatic doublespeak, so that the Soviets would understand his meaning.

Stalin understood. Basically Chiang Kai-shek was saying that China would be slow to act. The country was very concerned about events in Korea, and in terms of a defence pact with Japan was bound to support them. He avoided the use of the words ‘military support’ , and made no mention of speedy action. The Chinese government hoped that the ‘border incident’  would be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction quickly.

Stalin now ordered his army commander-in-chief to teach the Japanese a lesson they would not forget quickly. The stage was set for an enlarged conflict, with the potential for an all-out war between Japan and the Soviet Union, into which China could be dragged .


An emergency meeting of the Governing Council was debating the Japanese-Soviet conflict. Unbeknown to them, it was the subject of similar debates in Britain and the United States.

Since German involvement in the Sino-Japanese war in 1941, the German Foreign Ministry and intelligence services, had maintained large Far East Sections. Their Soviet Sections had been always been large, and for a lot longer. There was considerable in-depth knowledge and expertise within these sections. It was the head of the Foreign Ministry Far East Section, Horst Steiner, who swiftly, and correctly, identified the Chinese response for what it really was. Procrastination. This caused some short-term relief about the situation. The British and Americans were accordingly informed of the German interpretation.

The Japanese claim was that that a Soviet soldier had entered their territory and fired on one of their patrols. In the return of fire the soldier had been shot dead. The Japanese still had his body. Steiner now asked if this could possibly be a starting point for negotiation?

It took five hours before the German ambassadors to Japan and the Soviet Union had some clarification. Two Japanese soldiers on patrol in the early hours of the morning, had come across a young Russian soldier sleepily plodding along, about ten metres inside the Japanese frontier line. As they approached him, he seemed to come awake and in what appeared to be a panic reaction, shot at them. The Japanese returned the fire and killed him. This simple accident had resulted in the current altercation.

The Soviet Section confirmed that the stories put out by the Soviets could all easily fit in with the Japanese story, if only they would stop spewing out propaganda. Was the ever obtuse Stalin spoiling for a fight for reasons of his own? 

“That is our angle”, von Brauchitsch told the Council. “I propose a strong note from ourselves to the Japanese and the Soviets telling them that we believe it is all a big mistake, brought about by the needless build-up of troops by both sides in the area. We can also let the British and Americans know what our conclusions are.

Simultaneously, we can help defuse the situation and give the Chinese a way out of their own dilemma by telling them that the aggressor nation cannot be determined at this stage. The first trespass appears to be by a young Russian soldier on Korean soil in error, but the first casualty was the same Russian. The unclear situation should be enough of an excuse for Generalissimo Chiang to keep China out of the conflict for the time being. He should accordingly convey that message immediately to the Japanese.

With no early prospect of Chinese support, perhaps the Japanese will be more amenable to a ceasefire while the politicians carry on the battle with words. I propose that we advise the Japanese and the Soviets simultaneously, that they should stop fighting, reduce troop levels in the vicinity, and act a little more maturely in the future. That last bit could be put more diplomatically, of course,” he said with a wry smile.

“If they are reluctant to stop squabbling, we could remind them we have a large volume of trade with both countries. We would not like to see it jeopardised or disrupted. Again, I am sure the Foreign Minister could word things much more diplomatically than I.”

There were a few chuckles around the table.

The German iron fist in the velvet glove approach worked. The Government of Japan despatched a new army commander to Korea and he quickly brought the army there, into line. The politicians agreed on a ceasefire. Casualties had been heavier on the Japanese side than on the Soviet side. The Japanese had also been pushed back nearly a kilometre into their own territory before they were able to stabilise the line.

The Japanese army delivered Ivan’s body back to his unit showing great respect. They also handed over a letter of regret from the Japanese Field Commander. The Soviets withdrew back to the pre-conflict line, and also, very reluctantly, issued a similar letter of regret. It had all been unnecessary, but it was the Russians who had put up the best performance on the battlefield.

Stalin had enjoyed his little game of toy soldiers! His only regret was that it was over before his soldiers could battle test the new T34 tank! 


Winston Churchill was having a short respite from affairs of state. He was relaxing at his country home for the weekend. His slippered feet were resting on a padded stool in front of him. There was a whisky on a small table next to him, and he was enjoying one of his favourite cigars. It was late afternoon and his thoughts drifted.

The turnaround in the economies and security of Europe in the last four years continued to amaze him. To think that one man, his old enemy Adolf Hitler, had brought the continent of Europe, and indeed, the whole world, to the brink of the abyss! Thank God that wiser heads prevailed!  He silently saluted those few Germans who had foreseen the impending cataclysm and had the courage to act. The world owes them a great deal! 

The slick way the German government defused the Japanese-Soviet border earlier this month had Churchill’s admiration. He was certainly gratified that they were so very keen on co-operating with Britain.

The joint aircraft project, the Flightstar,  had gone smoothly and was an unqualified success. The next project, the jet airliner, promised to be even bigger and better.

The Anglo-German atomic power project was a reality.

Churchill was content. It was time for another whisky! 


Coincidently, Franklin Roosevelt was having similar thoughts to his opposite number in Britain. He had just finished breakfast and was having a quiet cigarette before starting his working day.

One of his greatest fears as President, was the prospect of taking America into a foreign war. The exceptional group of men now governing Germany had saved him from this. In early 1940 he had seen no way of avoiding it. The militaristic and totalitarian regimes in Germany, Italy and Japan were hell bent on a collision course with the great democracies.

Roosevelt lit another cigarette. He made up his mind that in his speeches during the forthcoming re-election campaign for the Presidency, he would make specific references to the ‘special relationship’ that America now had with the greatest economic power in Europe, Germany.


Jamie and Katherine were in England. After Jamie had left the navy in January, they had taken a sabbatical and gone sailing. Katherine had a twelve metre sailing yacht which she had purchased and restored after leaving the Royal Navy at the end of the war.

They had sailed from Falmouth in South West England on a blustery winter day in mid-January. They made their way across the channel and down the coast of France to an enclosed anchorage at the village of Camaret, near Brest. They remained at anchor there for a few days to allow the weather to settle. They also found some really excellent French wines at incredibly cheap prices. When they eventually left, every bit of spare space in the boat was filled with bottles of wine!

They were lucky. In January the weather could be extremely unpleasant for sailing in the Bay of Biscay. By the time they left Camaret, conditions had improved considerably. They followed the planned route that took them into Biscay and to an anchorage at Royan, in the Garonne river estuary near Bordeaux, for a one night stay. The next day the second part of their course was to the port of Coruna in northern Spain. After two nights in Coruna they had a brisk run down to Figuera de Foz, a small port on the Portuguese Atlantic coast. Here they rested for a couple of days, during which time they had a truly memorable barbecue of all the freshly caught sardines they could eat, for the cost of a few pennies.

They left Figuera de Foz in light winds, but by the time they were off Cape Trafalgar a day later, and in the middle of the night, the wind had strengthened considerably. Both of them were now dressed in their foul weather gear and sitting in the cockpit anxiously keeping an eye on the deteriorating weather. The wind continued to increase in strength, and they decided to reduce sail before things got any worse. Unfortunately that is when the halyard decided to jam, and the mainsail stayed where it was.

As they struggled on the pitching deck to release it, the wind increased to a howling gale and the yacht was now frequently being blown onto its side. Waves were breaking over them. It was taking all Jamie’s strength to fight the helm. He wondered if they were about to join the ships resting on the seabed from the Battle of Trafalgar, nearly one hundred and forty years earlier.

The sail had  to be reefed in. There was no alternative. Otherwise there was a real danger of the yacht capsizing. They made their plan. They had noticed there were occasional very short lulls in the wind, lasting about a minute or so, usually before it came back in even greater strength. Katherine put on a safety harness and collected a few small tools. It was she who would have to go up the mast and find, and fix the problem. She would not have had the strength to hoist Jamie up the mast. So releasing the jam had to be her job. Jamie hoped he was strong enough to haul her up with the spare halyard, essentially using only one arm. He needed the other hand just to hold on.

The helm was lashed down. Katherine was ready. They waited for a lull in the wind. It came.

As soon as they sensed its impending arrival Jamie was hauling up Katherine. His arm was burning by the time he heard her faint cry to stop. He watched and waited. She seemed to be up there forever. The wind must come roaring back any second.  He was just about to let her down regardless, when he heard another faint cry from her. He let her down so quick he got rope burns on his hands. Just as her feet touched the deck he saw a huge wave rear up behind her. He bellowed to her to drop to the deck and hold on. She disappeared completely as the wave swept the length of the deck before breaking over Jamie. ‘Please let her be OK’,  Jamie desperately prayed as he took a mouthful of seawater.

The relief when he saw Katherine’s head surface was intense. She was wet through but had a huge grin on her face. That had been a close one!  

Somewhere in that torrid time, Jamie had collected a huge shiner! He did not remember his head connecting with anything, but it was the biggest, most exotic black eye he had ever had. A real beauty!  Katherine could not stop giggling every time she looked at him. She felt the need to take a photograph!

The following morning, after an uncomfortable night struggling on their continued easterly course, they treated themselves to an overnight stay and rest at Villanova, a port on the Algarve. The weather improved a little overnight, and they left early the next day. After that it was a short day sail to an anchorage in a sleepy river at Mazagon on Spain’s southern coast, followed by another overnight stay in a small port a hundred kilometres further along the coast, Puerto Santa Maria.

This port had been heavily involved in the sherry trade hundreds of years ago, and is famous for once being attacked and briefly occupied by Sir Francis Drake. Unfortunately for Drake, his sailors discovered the unlimited quantities of sherry stored throughout the town. The rest is history!

Finally, thirty five days after leaving England they tied up at an unprepossessing jetty in the historical port of Gibraltar, a British possession on the southern coast of Spain since 1704. They loved Gibraltar from the first day, and ended up staying there for several weeks.

In a moment of madness they got married. Just a quiet wedding in a small church, the only guests being two couples they had become friendly with at one of the local pubs. They were blissfully happy.

When they finally managed to tear themselves away from Gibraltar, they cruised along the French North African coast as far as Tunisia, from where they made their way north to Greece, via another British possession, Malta.

The weather improved steadily as summer approached. Katherine was looking forward to an idyllic summer drifting around the countless Greek and Turkish islands.

It was late August. They were in Athens to restock their supplies and fill up with fuel before heading to the Aegean Sea, through the Corinth Canal. About once every month or so, either Katherine or Jamie made a point of contacting their families to let them know they were fine and keep up to date with the news. They would also tell them a future port of call and expected date of arrival. Today was Katherine’s turn to make contact.

A couple of hours later she returned, laden with sundry bags of groceries and packages, and a letter marked urgent for Jamie. Apprehensive, Jamie tore it open. Katherine waited patiently. He read it a second time before putting her out of her misery.

“Your brother James has apparently got himself involved with the takeover of a small American bank in California. His German friends are also part of it. The aim is to turn the bank into, as his American partner puts it, ‘The best goddamn asset finance bank on the west coast’. They already have plans for the aircraft industry. Things seem to be moving quickly.”

“What is this to do with you?”

Jamie pulled a face. “It seems that James thinks I know something about ships. He wants me to think about joining them in importing German built ships into the States. The buyers of these would be financed by his new bank.” He looked at Katherine. “Who the hell would have thought James could pull off something like this?”

“And does it interest you?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe. I need to know a lot more about it before I can make a rational decision. What do you think of it?”

“Well look at it this way. We both know that we can’t swan around the Mediterranean for ever, darling. We need to start thinking about jobs and a place to live. You need a new career. You are a married man now, with responsibilities,” she said laughing.

Jamie pointedly ignored her last comment. “If I am interested in his offer, I have to let James know straight away. Then he wants to meet with me soonest. Let’s sleep on it overnight, my love. But in the circumstances perhaps we should stay here tonight so that I can telephone or telegram James in the morning.”


The Italian Grand Prix was over. The overwhelmingly partisan crowd had gone wild as their hero, Nuvolari, in his red Alfa Romeo, had finished the first lap in third place, sandwiched between the silver Mercedes and Auto-Unions. Against all odds he drove like a man possessed, and defiantly held onto third place for another two laps. But once again the Italian was let down by his outclassed car and retired on lap four with yet another blown up engine. However it had been Nuvolari who had provided the excitement in what was otherwise a boring demonstration of German mechanical and driver superiority. The race results were identical to those of the German Grand Prix.

As a result of his two Grand Prix wins, the motor sport’s governing body, the FIA, confirmed the Mercedes driver, Hermann Lang, as the European champion of 1944. Even though there had only been three events in this first year of the return of Grand Prix racing, there was consensus that Lang deserved it, especially considering that he had won the most races in 1939 but was never named champion because the sport come to an abrupt stop on the outbreak of war.


Kesselring had finished his evaluation of the three different designs for the four engine jet airliner.  Four aircraft manufacturers, Dornier, Focke-Wulf, Heinkel and Junkers had submitted designs for the jet airliner. He was impressed. They all looked superb and exciting, although he was less enthusiastic about the Dornier design than the other three.

The Aviation Minister had taken into account the histories of the four firms, including their records of reliability, quality control, production, and financial standing. He had made his decision and was ready to recommend it to the Governing Council.

Before the end of the Great War in 1918 there had been many small and medium sized aircraft manufacturers in Europe. The end of that war, and the ensuing glut of surplus military machines thrown onto the open market, had resulted in considerable rationalisation within the industry. Some manufacturers went out of business. Others merged or were taken over by bigger concerns.

The same thing was now being repeated following the end of the European War. Kesselring had noted with concern that six British aircraft builders had closed their door in the last four years. In Germany Arado, Blohm & Voss, and Henschel, three previously well-known names, had also ceased operations. All his research convinced him that this trend would continue over the longer term.

To compete in future years with the Americans, the British and possibly soon, the French, there would be no room for small, undercapitalised aircraft manufacturers. What was needed were well capitalised firms with large capacity production lines, able to control their unit production costs to ensure a viable and sustainable business.

Kesselring was going to ask the Interior Minister, as part of his Department of Industry domain, to look into the desirability of Focke-Wulf, Junkers, and Heinkel, and possibly Dornier, merging into one large efficient and cost effective aircraft manufacturing corporation. Such a detailed task was beyond his own capabilities as a military person.

His preferred design for the new proposed jet airliner was Focke-Wulf’s.

Albert Speer put a team of his best industrial analysts and accountants onto the project handed to him by Kesselring. The Aviation Minister had needed to exercise his considerable powers of persuasion to obtain the co-operation of the four aircraft manufacturers, each jealous of their reputation and proud of their history.

The manufacturers eventually accepted the arguments for the need for economies of scale in the second half of the twentieth century. And all were apprehensive about America’s large manufacturing capacity. Junkers, however, fiercely opposed being incorporated into a larger entity. As things stood they were operating profitably, and had plans for new aircraft in the near future. They were emphatic. They wished to remain independent.

Heinkel saw the writing on the wall. They agreed to sell out, lock, stock and barrel, to Focke-Wulf. Deutsche Bank gave an undertaking to provide all necessary finance that Focke-Wulf might require to complete their transformation into the largest aircraft manufacturer in Europe, conditional only on the Economics Ministry underwriting the development costs of the future jet airliner. This guarantee was agreed upon by the Governing Council within two weeks.

Focke-Wulf were lukewarm about integrating with Dornier. There seemed to be some difference in management styles, and some lingering antagonism from the past. That firm was left to fend for itself.

Everything was finalised. The Aviation Minister now used this opportunity to announce to the world another first for Germany, a jet powered long range airliner. In an arrangement similar to the Starflight , this one would also have British Rolls Royce engines and would be known as ‘the Komet’.  Anticipated date of first delivery was late 1949 or early 1950.


Jamie and James were quietly conversing over a drink at the same Thames-side pub where the idea of financing refurbished Junkers JU52s had first been put into James’ head.

After receiving James’ letter, Jamie had sent a telegram the next morning to say he would be back in London the following week. Katherine would sail the yacht into the Aegean as planned, but with a friend of hers who’s husband was based in Greece, and who was looking forward to a couple of weeks sailing. Jamie would make his way to London. Depending on how things went with the discussions with James, he would either come back to Greece, or Katherine would organise a permanent crewmember to help her bring the yacht back to England.

James had fully briefed Jamie the evening before they were due to meet with Nigel Thornberry at the bank. Jamie found he actually liked the ideas he was hearing. In fact, he liked them very much. James had explained that an American bank, Mercantile Bank of California, was now owned by a partnership between Bradlington Thornberry Bank, Deutsche Bank, and an American businessman called Frank O’Donnell.

Jamie’s job would be to build a small US based team to sell German built ships, equipment and machinery in the US. He would be appointed President of a new subsidiary of Mercantile Bank. All financing would be placed with the bank.

Any job offer to Jamie would have to be approved first by Nigel Thornberry and then by Frank O’Donnell. Deutsche Bank had given Thornberry discretion in the choice of staff. Thornberry in turn, would defer to O’Donnell. Strangely, the English gentleman and the American businessman had both taken a liking to each other when they met in London to clinch their deal. O’Donnell was fascinated by Thornberry’s upper crust English accent, and Thornberry looked upon the American’s straightforward no-nonsense approach to business, as a breath of fresh air in their normally stuffy banking environment.

Things went well at the meeting with Thornberry. Although Jamie’s connections with President Roosevelt were considered impressive, and hopefully would prove to be useful in the future, it was Jamie’s positive and enthusiastic attitude, combined with his common sense, that got Thornberry’s approval. The next day he was on his way to San Francisco to meet O’Donnell.


O’Donnell kept two days free for Jamie. In that time he introduced him to four different shipping lines, several engineering companies, and a couple of machine tool suppliers. O’Donnell talked and asked questions non-stop. After two days he was satisfied. Jamie was his man.

It was while they were having a last beer together before he left, that Jamie mentioned to O’Donnell that he thought someone should consider snapping up the US agency for Mercedes cars. O’Donnell, always a compulsive listener to new ideas, quizzed him about it.

“It’s simple” Jamie said. “Mercedes are exceptionally good quality built cars. Many Americans would be attracted to their different style. I also hear that they are planning some really exciting new models. They are European champions in the Grand Prix series this year, as they were before the war in Europe. There is no doubt they will also dominate next season, which will have more races on the calendar. Great free publicity! Financing them would be no problem with the arrangements you now have between Mercantile Bank and Deutsche Bank.”

O’Donnell’s mind was in gear. He liked it. He would investigate it some more tomorrow.

Jamie was asleep on the plane before it took off for Washington. He was taking the opportunity to visit his father while he was so close.


Franklin D Roosevelt was re-elected as President of the United States of America on 7 November. He was the only President ever to be re-elected for a fourth presidential term. In fact no other President had even served three terms.

Some people were concerned. Roosevelt, a chain smoker, had been in declining health for the past four years. Despite knowledge to the contrary, during the presidential election campaign his personal physician publicly denied several times that Roosevelt’s health was poor. There had also been suggestions that Roosevelt had used his authority to suppress press reports about his deteriorating health.

Jamie was having coffee with his father when they heard the news. His father commented that he knew Roosevelt was a sick man, probably a dying man, and could not understand what would make him want to stand for President again, almost certainly knowing he would not survive until the end of his term. “Will we ever know what drives politicians?” He asked.

Jamie thought darkly that the President’s physician had some questions to answer.

Although he personally admired and respected Roosevelt, and truly wished him a long and happy life, this cover up of an important issue was considered by him to be no better than lying outright to the American people in order to get them to vote for him.

He recalled something Baron von Altendorf had once said to him. ‘Politicians must be decisive and responsible, but most important, they should have integrity’.  Jamie was disappointed with his President.


James and Magda were holidaying together in Paris. Officially he was working, having met with officials from Air France and the Belgium airline, Sabena, which was about to merge with Air France. However these had taken up very little of his time and he was now walking around Paris with his love, Magda.

These days they spent all the time together that they were able to. He was always gloriously happy when he was with her. The other side of the coin was that he suffered feelings of guilt, and was despondent when he was at home with his wife. James was continually faced with complaints from Fiona that she hardly saw him anymore and they only went out for dinner or lunch when it was a business occasion. And they never, ever, made love. James was conscience-stricken by his treatment of his wife but found himself incapable of change. His need for Magda dominated his actions. He could not help himself.

Now that he was earning decent money, he had allowed, even encouraged, Fiona to buy anything she wanted. Strangely enough she had become less materialistic, and apart from household and other necessities, she spent money only on things for their son, and occasionally herself or James.

The subject of divorce had been on James mind virtually from the time he had met Magda. The main problem was the child. James doted on him and could not bear to contemplate losing him in a custody battle. A further factor was the disapproving attitude of the bank’s directors to divorced directors and staff. Mistresses were tolerated but never divorce!

In the meantime he would enjoy this holiday and see what happened next year.



The British and German Foreign Ministers were in the middle of one of their regular meetings. A year earlier, Sir Anthony Eden had prevailed upon von Altendorf to release to him a copy of the pre-war ‘Hitler’ study on colonial empires. The British government had found cold comfort from its findings. One thing that Sir Anthony particularly found frustrating was the firm conclusion that the ‘British Empire was a major source of stability in the world’,  yet the President of the United States was now pressuring Britain to start dismantling it, beginning with India.

“The United States has quite an empire of its own but they just won’t admit it. They really believe their own propaganda, that only European nations are imperialists”. Eden complained sourly.

Imperialistic behaviour by the United States dated back to at least the ‘Louisiana purchase’  in 1803 when the US paid France fifteen million dollars for over eight hundred thousand square miles

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  of territory, including its inhabitants, west of the Mississippi River.

An ‘imperial acquisition’  can be defined as an aggressive encroachment of one people upon the territory of another.

Furthermore, the many infamous and unjust ‘Indian wars’  in America were nothing more than blatant imperialism and genocide of the worst kind.

Territory had been permanently acquired from Mexico, the Mexican cession lands,  in the Mexican — American war of 1846/48. The huge territory of Alaska was purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867.

Hawaii had been a sovereign independent kingdom until 1893 when plotting American and other residents had staged a coup d’état . Hawaii became officially a US territory only a few years later.

Also at the end of the nineteenth century, as a result of the one-sided Spanish — American war in 1898, the US gained considerable territory in the Caribbean and Far East. Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and some Pacific Ocean islands became American. In 1900 the Samoa Island group in the Pacific became American, and in 1903 the Central American country of Panama granted sovereign rights to the US for a coast to coast strip of land, ‘in perpetuity’.  This was for the building of a canal.

The United States of America was still acquiring land in 1917 when it purchased a group of Caribbean islands from Denmark. These then became known as the US Virgin Islands.

One of the United States’ leading historians stated ‘From the time the first settlers arrived in Virginia from England and started moving westward, this was an imperial nation, a conquering nation.’

This was now the country that professed such a distaste for empires and whose President was lecturing Great Britain on the right to self-determination for the oppressed.

India was the problem that Sir Anthony was currently wrestling with.

Nationalism had been slowly on the rise in the ‘Jewel in the crown’  since 1885 when educated middle class Indians had founded the Indian National Congress, (INC). After 1918, nationalism had intensified, one factor in this being that the then American president, Woodrow Wilson, had stimulated certain receptive minds with his ideas about people of any country having the right to govern themselves.

The British government had proposed and introduced various reforms with a view to a measured pace of advancement towards self-government, but with India remaining an integral part of the British Empire. These were denounced as stalling tactics by many of the more politically minded Indians, who wanted power for themselves.

In the early 1930s, a conference in London, attended by Mahatma Gandhi as the senior representative of the INC, broke down over the issue of religion. The Hindu Indian delegates could not agree on the matter of Muslim representation in an independent Indian government. A sure sign of future religious strife. A sign that was largely ignored.

In 1935 the Government of India Act was introduced. An elected wholly Indian Assembly would have a say in all aspects of government except defence and foreign affairs. Provincial assemblies would have control over local affairs. Unfortunately the INC were still not satisfied. Also, the Indian Princes, whose rule continued in some areas of India, refused to co-operate with provincial assemblies. This Act again completely ignored the problem of religious rivalry.

In 1937 The Muslim League now demanded a separate Muslim state, to be called Pakistan. On the other side, Gandhi and the INC were determined to preserve Indian unity, with themselves as the dominant partner. Hostility between the two religions was ever increasing.

The start of the European War in 1939 meant the issue of independence had been temporarily shelved. India provided valuable military assistance to Britain in exchange for an understanding that the country would be granted the same independent dominion status that Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand currently had, once the war ended.

In 1941 the war had been over for six months and normality was returning to Britain and Indian. The independence negotiations started again. As did the squabbling.

In early 1942 the religious rivalry was coming to a head. There appeared to be no prospect of compromise between the INC and the Muslim League. Violence continued to spread and India quickly descended into a low grade civil war.

The government in Britain finally accepted the situation was slipping beyond their control. They grasped the nettle and announced four emergency measures.

All British forces would leave India by the end of 1945. In the meantime troop reinforcements would be despatched to restore law and order. The current Viceroy of India, the Marquess of Linlithgow, who had governed India since 1936, was being replaced by Lord Mountbatten, who would oversee the transition to independence. India was to be partitioned. The greater part of the sub-continent being Hindu, would retain the name of India. The majority Muslim areas in the east and west would be named Pakistan.

The INC finally accepted the stand of the Muslim League that internal peace would only be possible with separation of the religions.

The British Foreign Secretary was now weighed down with the problem of an agreed and orderly partition. All sides of the debate were making impossible demands. A mischievous thought went through his head. ‘If only we could give this entire sub-continent to the Germans. I think they would not stand for the nonsense we British have taken from the demanding, inconsistent, untrustworthy and self-seeking Indian politicians.’  He smiled to himself.

Von Altendorf was speaking. “Yes, I am afraid our American friends have acquired the habit of assuming that only they  are capable of acting unselfishly and for the good of mankind. It is an attitude encouraged by their politicians and media. They really do think they know what is best for the world. I forget which politician said it, but the quote was ‘you can always count on the Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else’. 

Still, for all their faults I cannot help liking the ordinary people. They have big hearts. It is only their politicians, both high and low level, that I am wary about. Strictly between you and I, of course.”

There was silence between them for a moment.

“Well Baron, I am very worried that this partition of India is going to be horribly expensive in terms of human lives. The Muslims and Hindus absolutely hate each other. At this moment, they are incapable of negotiating anything without their underlying hostility rapidly surfacing.

Religious bigotry among people claiming to be educated and civilised, in this day and age! It is beyond comprehension.

To complicate matters, the eastern Muslims of Bengal, are now viewing the dominance of the western Muslims with some suspicion. It is possible India might have to be partitioned into three separate entities.” Eden was quite gloomy.

Von Altendorf could only offer advice as an outsider, although Germany had considerable intelligence on India, indeed, on every country in the world. “India’s large population will no doubt ensure that the Hindu and Muslim states will have an important place in the future world. Should Britain make a major mistake in the manner of partitioning of the sub-continent, the emerging states may not easily forgive you. If their economies do not prosper, or if there is social unrest or political instability, they will always blame Britain as the former colonial power. In fact, if the rains fail, or there is a tsunami,  Britain will be blamed. That is Germany’s reading of the situation.

My colleaugues and I came to the conclusion that the current plan for a single Muslim nation divided into a West Pakistan and an East Pakistan, is laying the basis for the easterners in Bengal to sooner or later secede from the arrangement. This could well lead to a war between the two entities, which could perhaps draw in India.”

This thought had already crossed Eden’s mind but he had not yet got to the stage where he was prepared to actively contemplate it. “Do you know something about Bengal that I don’t know, Baron?” he asked.

“Very little, I think. We know that it was an independent state before the British gained control in the second half of the eighteenth century. You are probably aware that one of your Bengali Muslim politicians called Chandra Bose, spent some time in Austria in the mid-thirties. He even married an Austrian girl. While he was here, he met, and was influenced by, prominent Nazis.”

Eden confirmed he knew a little about this.

Von Altendorf continued, “What you may not know is that the same gentleman re-appeared here in Germany in April 1940. He was seeking some sort of assistance from Adolf Hitler to establish an anti-British Indian National Army. He had come to the conclusion that the Japanese would eventually take control of Indochina, and from there they would attack British controlled India. Hitler met him once but nothing ever came of it, and of course, within weeks the Fuhrer  was dead.

While Bose was here, the Abwehr  interrogated him and discovered the Bengali anti-Hindu feeling was as strong, if not stronger, than the anti-British trait. Furthermore the Bengalis were also suspicious of the Western Muslims. Bose later travelled to China. We heard much later that he had died in an aircraft accident.

Our intelligence services review all their country files on a regular basis and submit updated reports to the Governing Council. The subject of a recent one of these, was India. On the basis of Bose’s disclosures, the report concluded that due to the ethnic, linguistic and historic differences, as well as the one thousand six hundred kilometres separating them, Bengal would not readily accept union with a future West Pakistan. It further concluded that in the event that the British coerced Bengal into becoming part of a Pakistan state, it would almost certainly lead to future unrest and insurrection or civil war.”

This was news to Eden. It was also enough to cause a complete re-think of the strategy of partition. Once again he found he was indebted to his German counterpart. He asked, “I don’t suppose it would be possible to get a copy of that report, Baron?”

The German Foreign Minister smiled. He valued his relationship with his British counterpart, and in fact he had become a complete Anglophile. “Of course. I will send for it immediately. I will have to read through it again to make sure there is nothing in it we could consider ‘classified’. Our embassy in London will deliver it to you tomorrow or early the next day.”

As he had been on many occasions in the past few years since the war, Eden was extremely thankful for the special relationship that had developed between Germany and Great Britain. The German inspired European Alliance was the greatest military power on earth. A power for peace. The countries that comprised the Alliance collectively had the greatest industrial output in the world. The communist menace that was the Soviet Union, was docile in the face of Germany’s and the Alliance’s resolve. It was ironic that the problems facing Great Britain over its empire were, at least partly, a result of the naïve utterances and actions of their ‘cousins’ and friends, the United States.

Later that evening he was at home in his study, already starting work on a new, and hopefully final, proposal for the partition of India.


It was announced that the President of the United States, Franklin D Roosevelt, had died suddenly.

Jamie thought back to only a few months ago when he and his father had discussed this very possibility. It was very sad, but Jamie acknowledged to himself that he had definitely lost a little of his respect for his President since the election campaign.

The US Vice President, Harry S Truman, had been sworn in as the thirty third President of the United States. He had only been Vice President for eighty two days when Roosevelt had died.

Jamie was thoroughly enjoying his work at the bank, and while he and Katherine missed Germany and Europe, San Francisco was now their home. Business was booming. In the past month alone, they had taken orders for three merchant ships from Germany, plus a lot of other machinery and equipment. Frank O’Donnell’s Mercedes Benz car dealerships were importing large numbers of the vehicles. On top of this, he had discovered he had a talent for banking.

He believed his future was assured, interesting, and profitable.


Prince Paul, the Regent of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was deep in discussions with Baron von Altendorf. He was extremely concerned for his country. The ethnic divisions and hostility among his peoples were simmering, and close to boiling point.

Yugoslavia had only existed as a country since 1918. Following the end of the Great War, certain territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire had merged with the formerly independent Kingdom of Serbia. The Serbian King, Alexander I, became the King of Yugoslavia.

Political unrest soon led to King Alexander banning political parties and assuming sole executive power in 1929 with the aim of curbing separatist factions within the country. In 1934 he was assassinated. His young son Peter succeeded him, but was too young to rule. His cousin, Prince Paul, had been appointed Regent.

The various ethnic groupings had continued their squabbling, and this had been aggravated in later years by the meddling of the Nazi and Fascist dictators, as well as communist agitators. The departure of Hitler and Mussolini from the scene provided only a temporary respite. The despairing Prince had started to believe his country was becoming ungovernable. Hence his visit to Germany.

It had been nearly three years earlier that Yugoslavia’s ambassador to Germany had first brought up the possibility of that country joining the European Alliance. The reservations of the German Foreign Minister were equally as pertinent now, as they had been then. The Yugoslav respected him for them.

Prince Paul had now devised a drastic plan. But without the assistance of the European Alliance he knew it would be impossible to implement it, and his country would unavoidably descend into anarchy and war. He wanted to end the ongoing strife by dismembering Yugoslavia into its seven basic ethnic components. These being Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. Each to become a completely independent sovereign nation.

The Prince believed such a separation of the ‘tribes’ was inevitable, but the conflicting demands by the different language groups, and various splinter factions, would be irreconcilable and make voluntary  partition impossible to achieve. Compromise would have to be strictly imposed. An iron fist in a velvet glove was needed. As an early twentieth century American President, Theodore Roosevelt, had once said, ‘Speak softly but carry a big stick’. 

His plan was to call all interested parties and regional politicians within Yugoslavia to a national conference. There, without prior warning, Prince Paul would firmly lay down the law. Thousands of copies of the proposed boundaries of the soon to be created countries would be distributed.

To say there would be an uproar, would be an understatement. Threats would be made by all and sundry, against him and everyone else, including the Pope! It would be complete and utter chaos! He fervently hoped nobody would sneak a pistol into the conference!

The only thing that would prevent immediate warfare breaking out would be the European Alliance simultaneously flooding the country with soldiers acting in a temporary peacekeeping capacity. The existing Yugoslav army would initially be confined to barracks to avoid conflicts of interest until the situation had normalised. It would then be disbanded by transferring units and individual personnel to whichever country their loyalties lay.

Unbeknown to Prince Paul, the Germans had a very comprehensive dossier on his country, and von Altendorf was, if anything, even more pessimistic about the situation than its ruler was. He patiently listened to the proposals, and formulated his reaction.

“Your Highness, I understand your dilemma.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “What you are asking for is not easy. The European Alliance is a purely defensive body. Germany itself does not, and will not, interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.” He looked at the crestfallen Yugoslav.

“However,” he saw the Prince’s eyebrows lift slightly in positive anticipation, “there has been a something of a precedent in the past. At the request of the Chinese Government, Germany helped that country with military aid, including a small number of military advisers. This was agreed specifically to help the Chinese leader eliminate the threat of a communist takeover in his country. This was the major factor in persuading us to provide assistance in 1941.

A slightly lesser consideration was that such aid would also give the Chinese forces the ability to fight Japanese aggression and thus force the Japanese to the negotiating table. We wanted to avoid the possibility of their war escalating out of control and drawing in the United States and the European powers with colonial empires.

While I shudder at the thought of becoming involved in the melting pot of factions and nations that is, unfortunately, Yugoslavia today, I believe that if the problem is not resolved, and quickly, a nightmare situation could unfold in your country. Our intelligence services have reported threats of ‘ethnic cleansing’  being uttered by certain leaders. Conflict within your own borders will inevitably impact on the neighbouring European countries. And this is perhaps something the European Alliance should give some serious thought to.”

He hesitated for a moment longer.

“I am prepared to bring this matter up for immediate discussion at the meeting of the Governing Council tomorrow. You must realise that even if the Council agrees with your plan they cannot speak for the European Alliance, they can only recommend. Also, because the envisaged operation is not a defensive one, it would require the unanimous agreement of all Alliance members.

Do you have any idea of the number of troops that may be needed, and for how long?”

“My Chief-of-Police, who is an old and trusted retainer, using our proposed frontier changes, calculated around thirty thousand. Probably for a period of between three months and six months.”

“Very well. I will be able to advise you of progress tomorrow afternoon. May I suggest that we meet here again at four o’clock in the afternoon? If there is a delay for any reason I will inform you.”

Prince Paul realised that things had gone as well as he could reasonably have hoped, even if he had nothing definite as yet. He was deeply grateful that the old Baron had been so understanding.


The Governing Council debated the Yugoslavia question for two hours. The military members poured over maps and coastal charts to assess it from a military point of view. They were actually enjoying themselves! A military campaign was something they understood. In the end it was thought thirty thousand troops inside  Yugoslavia would probably be sufficient, but the neighbouring Alliance countries would also have to reinforce their own border troops as a prudent precaution. Also the Alliance should introduce naval patrols off the island studded Yugoslav coast.

Field Marshall von Brauchitsch suggested that the operation would be an interesting exercise in co-operation for the Alliance. It would also test their command structure and readiness for action.

All agreed with von Altendorf that confronting the issue now was a wiser course of action than letting matters spiral out of control. A meeting of the full Alliance Council was requested for the following day.

Prince Paul of Yugoslavia was accordingly informed by Baron von Altendorf.


Two weeks after the European Alliance secretly approved the ‘Yugoslav peacekeeping action’  as it came to be known, the ‘occupation’ of Yugoslavia was complete. It had started only twenty four hours earlier, as Prince Paul was giving his opening speech at his partition conference.

Informed of the reason for inviting the multinational force into the country, most of the population more or less accepted the position, even welcomed it in many cases, as the foreign troops were friendly and free spending compared to their own countrymen. The more extreme elements — which included most of the self-styled ‘local leaders’ — suffered impotent rage as the realised they had no real control over events and had been outmanoeuvred by their Prince.

All attendees at the conference had been given copies of the provisional division of the country, and invited to make urgent but reasoned representations for any changes. They were warned that outrageous, frivolous, or nonsensical suggestions would simply be rejected out of hand and they should not waste anybody’s time with such ideas.

Most of the petty or self-promoting politicians soon became resigned to an acceptance of the newly imposed fait accompli. It was a done deal. What could they do? 

All members of the Alliance had readily agreed on the need for intervention in this dysfunctional country. Indeed, Field Marshall Rommel had been pleasantly surprised by their enthusiastic compliance with his operational directives.

Each member country was required to send a number of troops roughly in proportion to their country’s population. Most countries had exceeded this, being eager for their troops to gain experience, even it wasn’t actually war.

At the insistence of Rommel, the German contribution to the peacekeeping force included a unit of soldiers of Czech extraction, and one of Slovaks. This was designed to demonstrate that they were considered to be truly integrated with their German speaking comrades. A golden opportunity to show unity. 

Prince Paul was now regent of Serbia only. An Act of dissolution of the state of Yugoslavia had already been approved and signed by the Yugoslav Regency Council. Peter, the son of the previous assassinated king, would soon be crowned Peter II of Serbia. The other six newly created countries had been presented with draft constitutions of their own for them to use or not use, as they saw fit. The Yugoslav monetary reserves had been deposited with the German Reserve Bank prior to being distributed between the seven countries on a proportional basis. Interim Prime Ministers had been appointed. They now had what they had wished for — independence. They were told to ‘Get on with it’. 

Prince Paul thought of the old maxim ‘Be careful what you wish for. You might get it’! 

Rommel humorously described himself as ‘the temporary Yugoslav dictator’  while acting as the Supreme Commander of the Alliance forces. There had been demonstrations, unrest, outbreaks of violence, and even disorganised attempts at invasion of each other’s territories by different disaffected groups. All had been dealt with firmly and with the minimum of casualties.

The new borders were unceasingly patrolled, forcing the different ethnic people’s own interim governments to start issuing their own passports for those wishing to travel. Thus, in practice, each acknowledging the existence of the other new countries.

There had been a spate of murders from the start, but under the firm hand of the European Alliance these had quickly declined in number. The worst atrocity that happened, involved a British corvette patrolling the Adriatic coast as part of the Alliance forces. At dawn one day they had come across a motor torpedo boat flying no flag, with its guns trained on an old rusty Croatian fishing vessel. On sighting the British ship, the MTB hurriedly recalled its sailors from aboard the fishing boat, pumped numerous shells into it, machine gunned the people on deck, and swiftly departed. Much too fast for the relatively slow corvette to catch it.

The British stopped to help the stricken vessel which was sinking fast. They recovered only one wounded boy. Twenty three others were dead. They were guilty of being Montenegrin nationals taking passage from Croatia to Montenegro.

Three months after the commencement of the operation, Rommel started to withdraw troops back to their home countries. By the end of November all Alliance troops were out of what used to be Yugoslavia. Casualties among Alliance personnel amounted to twenty two killed and fifty eight injured, one of whom had been unlucky enough to be run over by an ambulance from his own side!

There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that without the peacekeeping force there would have been carnage throughout what had been Yugoslavia. The peacekeeping operation was considered to be an unqualified success. A ‘Yugoslavia’ medal was awarded by the Alliance Supreme Command to each of the Alliance personnel who had taken part.

Various European countries started establishing embassies, consulates, or some sort of diplomatic presence, in the new seven small countries, once the situation settled down. Some of them, including Germany, even arranged loans or other forms of aid to them, to stimulate their economies and promote stability. Things appeared to be working.

Prince Paul was content with what he had achieved. As long as the new countries governed themselves tolerably well, he believed he had just eliminated the sole remaining danger of war in Europe outside of the Soviet Union.


After winning the French Grand Prix in commanding style three weeks earlier, the Mercedes-Benz team were supremely confident of winning today’s German Grand Prix. They were running two new cars this year, instead of the pre-war cars used in 1944. However, as a gesture to Germany’s highly revered Field Marshall von Brauchitsch, his nephew Manfred had been given one of the older cars to drive. The Field Marshall was there to watch.

The other German cars, the Auto-Unions, were the same old cars. No real development work, only tinkering, had been done of these since 1939. It was obvious that they were no longer the force they had previously been before the War.

Alfa Romeo fielded a new and very fast car, driven once again by the immortal Nuvolari. Maserati had two new cars entered, both of which proved to be fast in the practice sessions.

Three hours after the race started, the results were a surprise to many people. Mercedes were once again first and second, but one of their new cars driven by Caracciola, had suffered from mechanical problems and retired. It was Manfred von Brauchitsch who had followed Lang into second place.

An even bigger surprise was the old man, (by grand prix racing standards), Nuvolari, bringing the Alfa Romeo across the finishing line in third place in front of the Auto Unions. There were red faces at Auto union. The Maseratis displayed reliability but not enough speed, and ended in sixth and seventh places.


The first British Grand Prix since 1938 was over. A huge crowd of enthusiasts had been there in the rain to watch. Amazingly the results were identical to those of the German Grand Prix held two weeks earlier. The only difference was that no third Mercedes had been entered, so it was Lang and Caracciola in first and second places.

Everyone considered it sporting of Auto Union to continue to enter their now elderly cars, but did they have any plans for development? Auto Union made no comment.


Winston Churchill and Sir Anthony Eden were having an informal meeting about Indian Independence. Following his talk with the German Foreign Minister in February, the partition plan had been hurriedly re-evaluated and belatedly changed to separate what was to be Muslim Pakistan in the west, from Muslim Bengal, (or Bangladesh as the Bengalis were thinking of calling it), in the east.

The Muslim League leaders had blustered and made all kinds of threats when they had been informed of this. As politicians they resented any loss of their personal power. An increasingly exasperated Eden had been forceful and left them with no alternative but to accept what was on offer.

During the length of the actual independence process, the entire Indian Army, police force, and a large number of British troops would be stationed at strategic points and potential flashpoints, throughout the sub-continent. Of particular concern were the routes that would be taken by both Hindus and Muslims migrating from what had been their homes, but where they were a religious minority, to the alternative, supposedly welcoming, new country with the same religion. The bitter resentment on both sides could explode into fighting at the drop of a hat, (or turban).

The British Government had been offered the loan of fifty Junker Ju52 transport aircraft, together

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with pilots, by the German Government to assist in ferrying troops and supplies during the expected hectic period. “Jolly decent of them”, muttered Eden in response to a similar approving comment by Churchill. The Royal Air Force still had a large fleet of transport aircraft despite downsizing since the end of the European War. However, they were going to be stretched by their operational commitments during the Indian independence schedule. Accordingly the offer from the Germans was kept open for the time being.

The British troop presence had been boosted to one hundred thousand soldiers over the previous months. The Indian Army itself totalled four hundred and fifty thousand, of which about one third were Muslim. The Gurkha regiments had been transferred from the Indian Army to the British army. They came from Nepal which was outside India, and they expressed in no uncertain terms that they owed allegiance only to Great Britain.

The movement of refugees had started in March, as soon as the details of partition had been announced. At first it was only a trickle, but the trickle soon became a deluge, especially in the two months immediately before the official date for independence on 15 August 1945. The total number displaced and on the move was uncountable, but was thought to be more than fifteen million people.

It was inevitable that the inbred ‘communal hatred’ between the two religions would erupt into violence. This, in fact, happened repeatedly. Only the hard worked and flustered soldiers of both armies, together with the overstretched police, kept casualties from being horrific, instead of just ‘very high’. Even so, by the time the migrations started to diminish towards the end of August, it was estimated that about ninety thousand people had perished. It could have been much worse!

Gradually the re-constituted Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi armies took control of their own borders and surrounding countryside. An uneasy peace settled on the areas where the opposing religions faced each other. For the time being, India’s internal troubles were over. Much to the relief of the British in London.


President Truman had given a warm welcome to his guests, Field Marshall von Brauchitsch and Baron von Altendorf. Like his predecessor, he recognised the invaluable contribution made by Germany and the European Alliance to the current unprecedented peace and prosperity in Europe and around the world. The US intelligence service had also advised him that they suspected German involvement in the decision by France to relinquish direct control over most of its empire.

The new President was every bit as jealous of the British and other European empires as previous American presidents had been. He took a more internationalist  approach to world affairs and wanted his country to be less isolationist. He also understood the threat that Soviet communism had posed, and possibly still did, to the world. He appreciated just how much Germany had done to contain that threat.

The United Nations  concept had a champion in Truman. He had much to say on the subject, but nothing he said at their meeting could persuade the Germans that it would be any different to the failed League of Nations.  They would not commit to joining. Neither were they prepared to recommend it to the other countries of the European Alliance. They could make their own decisions.

Without Europe’s participation, Truman knew the United Nations  would be an enfeebled organisation right from the start. Nevertheless he believed in it, he had made it his Administration’s project, and he intended to press on with it.

The three day visit to the United States had cemented the ‘special relationship’  status between the USA and Germany. The same relationship that had long existed between Great Britain and the USA. Looked at objectively, Germany, Britain and its Empire, the European Alliance, and the United States of America, were the leaders of the entire world, linked by the British, German, USA special relationship.


Due to truly atrocious weather the Swiss Grand Prix had reluctantly been cancelled at the very last moment, three weeks earlier. This, the Italian Grand Prix was the last race of the season.

In front of an ecstatic home crowd, their hero Nuvolari had driven a truly inspired race to finish second, only half a car length in front of the second Mercedes of Caracciola. To make it even more exciting for the Italian fans, Ascari had kept his Maserati in front of the two Auto Unions. This had been an electrifying race and was the best result for non-German cars in years. Even the German spectators had enjoyed this race.

Herman Lang was once again European champion.


This was James’ first visit to Venice. He had instantly fallen in love with the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ . Even though he was incredibly busy at work, he had somehow found the time for a one week holiday here in this magical city, with Magda.

He had procrastinated for the past year about what to do with his marriage. He was miserable when he was at home, and alive when he was with Magda. One good thing was that Fiona had stopped endlessly complaining about his absences. ‘Maybe she is settling down,’  he thought hopefully. Despite Fiona’s acquiescence, he knew he was being unfair on her. James was not a selfish person. He wanted do the right thing. 

He had had a confidential discussion with his lawyer, an old friend from university. What he learnt wasn’t very re-assuring. However, if his involvement with Magda could be kept quiet, he might even expect to get joint custody of the child.

It was only now, on this holiday, that he had finally come to a decision. Magda and he had never really discussed marrying, he realised with some surprise. So this night, over a surprisingly mediocre Italian meal, and even more mediocre wine, he quietly broke the news to Magda that he was going to ask Fiona for a divorce as soon as he returned home. Her reaction stunned him.

“Why do you need a divorce James? Are you not happy with the way things are?”

James stared at her. “But then you and I can get married,” he blurted out.

Magda, elbows resting on the table, fingers entwined, leaned forward and rested her chin on her hands. She looked straight at James and asked quietly. “And what if I don’t want to get married? This is something we have never talked about. Aren’t you being just a little bit presumptuous in thinking that this is what I want?” She raised her eyebrows and had the faintest of smiles.

James was off balance. This is an unexpected twist!  He was at a loss for words. When he recovered, all he could say was, “I always thought that is what you would want.”

Magda could see James was disconcerted and she tried to lighten the moment. With a beautiful smile she said, “I am quite happy as I am, Mister Blackthorn.” She grasped one of his hands and held it to her cheek. “Why change things and risk causing upsets in your life?”

James was floundering. Twice he opened his mouth to say something. Each time he stayed quiet. Finally he managed a weak response, “I suppose I did take it for granted that you would like to be married. I should have discussed it with you.”

“Yes, darling. Now let us leave the subject alone. Let us see how we feel next year. I would hate anything to spoil what we have.” She got up from the table, stood behind him and gave him a hug. The kiss she planted on his neck sent shivers down his spine.

He cheered up a little. “I agree. Tomorrow is another day.” He stood up abruptly, a smile now back on his face. “Come on, let’s find a gondola for a last tour through the canals.”

Nevertheless, James was troubled by Magda’s attitude. It was something he just could not understand. His mind returned to the subject continually in the following months.


Independence had not engendered much goodwill in India. A localised but vicious border war had started between Pakistan and India over the princely state of Kashmir.

The ‘princely states’ were historical anachronisms. They were nominally sovereign entities in India, each with an indigenous traditional ruler. They had never legally been British territories, only allied to the British Crown. Accordingly they could not actually be included in the partition of India.

With the passing of the India Independence Act, the suzerainty of the British crown over the princely states was abruptly terminated. They were now independent states. They were also defenceless against the immeasurably larger states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

At the time of Indian independence there were five hundred and sixty five, mostly very small, princely states. It was obvious to any impartial observer that their continued independence was doomed. The politicians of the three newly independent large states would already have their covetous eyes on them.

In the case of Kashmir, this large state sandwiched between India and Pakistan, had an eighty percent Muslim population, but its ruler, the Maharaja, was a Hindu. Acting in the traditional style of a despot, he ignored the wishes of his majority Muslim subjects, and acceded Kashmir to India.

The Indian politicians also had few concerns for the people of Kashmir. They coveted the territory and were prepared to go to war for it.


Von Altendorf told a bemused Council audience that he had received a request for military assistance from the newly independent state of Bangladesh. Like Libya at the time of their own independence, they were turning away from the previous colonial power and wanted Germany to re-equip and train their army and air force. They would also look to Germany for ships for their navy, but wanted to retain British officers to train their sailors. They had told von Altendorf that they had taken note of what had happened in China in 1941 and Libya in 1944. They were impressed with Germany’s achievements.

As usual in these cases, they could only afford a small initial deposit for their arms purchases, with the balance by way of deliveries of agricultural and other commodities. He passed a copy of the requirements to all present. The list included automatic rifles, machine guns, mortars, mobile artillery, tanks, aircraft and ships.

This was good business for Germany. They already had a similar, though much smaller, arrangement with Libya following that country’s independence from Italy. The population of Libya was only one million. Bangladesh’s population was twenty times greater.

The Governing Council approved the request subject to Bangladesh meeting the usual criteria, i.e. ability to pay, relatively stable regime and economy, no communist influence within the country, and no discernible targets of attack by the Bengalis.

Von Brauchitsch added one more condition, discreet approval by the British Government. Bangladesh was, after all, in their sphere of influence.

Albert Speer gave yet another upbeat report of the buoyant state of German industry. Shipbuilding continued to break new records, as did the aircraft, motor and mining industry. The countrywide transport infrastructure upgrade approved four years earlier, was now almost complete and was already paying dividends in the form of speedier movement of goods and people. Unemployment stood at only three percent of the working population. Everything was good.

He added that this figure of three percent unemployed was a genuine one, unlike the low unemployment figures boasted of by the pre-war Nazi government. Those had been artificially low because of mass conscription, combined with career opportunities for women being curtailed.

Hjalmar Schacht had officially retired the previous week. He had introduced his successor, the deputy Minister of Economics, Ludwig Erhard, to the Council earlier in the year, to allow him time to get to understand the individuals involved and the way they worked.

Erhard was forty eight years old, with a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Frankfurt. He had covertly supported the German resistance during the Nazi period and had first come to Schacht’s attention ten years earlier. When the new Economics Ministry was formed after the demise of Hitler, Erhard had been offered a senior position by Schacht. His talents had eventually led to promotion to deputy minister the previous year, and to Economics Minister last week. Schacht was satisfied that he was leaving Germany’s economic and financial affairs in safe hands.

Erhard now gave his first report to the Council as Minister. He had learned from old Schacht not to pad reports with waffle and keep things simple. He let the Council know that Germany’s balance of trade continued to remain in surplus, the country’s monetary reserves were still increasing, and he had already started work on the budget for the following year. No words wasted.

He was commended by the rest of the Council and warmly welcomed in his new capacity as Minister.

The Aviation Minister advised that work on the Komet  was proceeding splendidly, and Rolls Royce had confirmed the same with regards to their jet engines, which they had named the Avon. 

Focke-Wulf were also now producing limited numbers of a military, long range, maritime reconnaissance version, of the Starflight.  Apart from a small number for their own Luftwaffe , it was expected to sell these to several members of the European Alliance. France, Holland, Italy and Spain had expressed an interest. Outside the Alliance, China was also interested in the aircraft.

General Beck confirmed that despite the extreme vigilance of his intelligence services, no signs could be found of any increased pace in Soviet re-armament. If anything it had become more leisurely in recent months. His operatives inside the Soviet Union also reported no obvious anti-German or anti-Alliance propaganda, and there even seemed to be a slight thawing in the coolness normally displayed by Soviet officials when meeting with their European counterparts.

“I hope they are not trying to lull us into a false sense of security,” he added.

The only other main contribution was from von Brauchitsch who confirmed that Professor von Braun was making good progress with an accurate guidance system for the A4 rocket. He had also started work on a bigger rocket with a longer range and designed to carry a much bigger payload. This one could reach Leningrad. Imagine a weapon that could take out the Russian city, one thousand kilometres away! Or an enemy aircraft carrier hundreds of kilometres out to sea! 

The Kriegsmarine  would be testing the launching of an A4 rocket from underwater early in the new year. And by mid-1946 they would submit their final plans for the new generation of submarines.

Progress was also being made on the stand-off bombs that the Luftwaffe  considered to be so important.

Finally, a decision would be taken on a new aircraft carrier or carriers next year. This had been long delayed while Germany’s and the Alliance’s strategies had been constantly updated in a changing world. During this time work had not stopped on the designs for the next carrier. If and when it was built, it would be the biggest, fastest and most heavily armed carrier in the world.

There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Germany had the most powerful military forces on the planet.

And maybe soon ‘off the planet’ if von Braun has his way,  von Brauchitsch thought with a wry smile as he gathered his papers and exited the Council Chamber.

Only a few more scheduled Council meetings and there was the Christmas recess. He looked forward to it.


General Sieckenius was back in Germany with two hundred of his advisers. That particular contract with the Chinese armed forces had come to an end and Sieckenius had been replaced with another Wermacht  Colonel. The number of military advisers to China was reduced to two hundred.

The training operation had been successful and the huge Chinese Army was now considered to be much improved, if not yet quite ready to be classified as first class. There was still much work to be done with the world’s largest army.

After a well-earned four weeks leave, the General was given a new job within the Defence Ministry. He was appointed as Director — Foreign liaison. This entailed liaising with friendly client states such as China, Libya and Bangladesh, to assist them to reach military proficiency. And buy German equipment, of course! 

After his five years in China, he undoubtedly had the necessary experience and knowledge for the job. He had retained the majority of the men who had been with him in China. These would form the foundation of his ‘advisors for secondment’ team.

His first task was to look at Serbia’s recent request for assistance with the modernisation of their armed forces. Thereafter he must work out a detailed plan for the same thing, but much bigger, for Bangladesh.

He also had some interesting ideas of his own that he wanted to explore in the near future.

He looked forward to his new job with relish.


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1946 & 1947


The German and Swiss Economics Ministers had finished dealing with the mundane matters that had brought them together on this icy cold day in January.

‘Now for it’,  Erhard thought. ‘We will see if three years working on this project has been wasted time’. 

Three years previously, his superior, Hjalmar Schacht, after cautioning him to secrecy, had assigned him the task of tracking down the proceeds of the sale by the Nazis, of the pre-war gold stocks of Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Danzig. It was something Erhard had to carry out secretly in his own time. Later his remit had been expanded to include numbered Swiss bank accounts and safe deposit boxes held in the names of known Nazis and possibly also connected with the gold sales or illegal activities.

It had taken him three years of painstaking accounting detective work to unravel the whole complicated structure and movements. Switzerland’s banks featured prominently. Erhard now had a well-constructed and detailed dossier to hand over to his counterpart.

“Herr Muller, there is one more thing I would like to discuss with you.”

The dour Swiss Minister looked at him, waiting for him to continue.

“I have here a dossier which has been compiled over the past three years. I did most of the work myself so I am completely satisfied as to its veracity. At this stage only myself and my previous superior, Hjalmar Schacht, who originally gave me this task, are aware of its existence.” He now had Muller’s interest.

“It concerns the movement of gold reserves and other assets during the years of the Nazi regime.” He noted the shutters descend within the Swiss Minister’s eyes.

“We are not primarily concerned about excessive profits that may have been made by the Swiss banks involved. They were unusual times and circumstances. We have, however, found a mass of evidence that many German officials fraudulently enriched themselves from such transactions. We believe that Swiss banks have accounts for these people, as well as safety deposit boxes containing illicitly gained valuables. To put it simply — we want them!” No need to beat about the bush , as the British say.

He sensed the cool reception to his disclosures. The Swiss Minister hesitated only briefly.

“As you know, Herr Erhard, Swiss banking laws are very strict and they are rigidly enforced. We take our banking duties very seriously indeed. Obviously I cannot comment on your findings until I have read the report. May I suggest that we leave it at that for the moment. I give you my word the matter will be looked into without delay.”

Erhard had expected no more. He handed Muller a copy of the dossier, thanked him, and allowed the Swiss Minister to escort him outside and into his secretary’s care.

Later that day on the Lufthansa Starflight  back to Berlin, he started to review the contingency plans he had in case of procrastination or outright refusal of assistance by the Swiss Authorities. He had left this until he had met with Muller face to face.

The response from the Swiss Minister came quicker that Erhard had expected. Four days after their meeting, Muller had telephoned him personally to advise that he had read the report in its entirety, but unfortunately Swiss banking law prohibited them from giving any assistance in this matter.

Again, Erhard had expected this or other stonewalling. He thanked Muller and told him he would be in touch sometime in the future as he would have to take the matter further.

He telephoned Hjalmar Schacht for an appointment to see him.


The members of the Governing Council were curious. They had received a special request from the Economics Minister that his predecessor be invited to the next Council meeting. While it was unusual, it was also agreed to with great pleasure. All there greatly respected the old man.

The meeting opened with von Brauchitsch warmly welcoming their old colleague. It was a genuine pleasure to see him at the table again. It had been only two months since he had retired, but his calm and reassuring presence was missed.  Schacht was obviously pleased with his reception by his ex-comrades.

They got down to business.

To avoid unnecessarily detaining the ex Economics Minister, it was decided that Erhard would open proceedings that day.

The Minister firstly informed them of the secret directive he had been given three years earlier by Herr Schacht. He handed a condensed version of his findings to each member. The main dossier was so full of all the relevant facts and figures, that it would have been difficult and long reading for everyone.

“As you can see from the dossier, during the years 1937 to 1940, there were over two hundred million dollars of gold bullion sales by Germany to Swiss banks. There is firm evidence that many Nazi officials had their fingers in the pie. They privately received ‘commissions’ on these transactions totalling at least ten million dollars”. Most of this was spirited away into Swiss bank accounts.”

This caused some muttering among the Council members.

“Furthermore, following the anti-Jewish laws of the mid to late 1930s, many Nazi official took advantage of the Jewish community for their own selfish purposes. Confiscated Jewish property — everything from antiques and artworks, to property and businesses — were on-sold at enormous personal profit to a large clique of Nazi officials or others. Again most of the proceeds were hidden in Swiss banks. In many cases, some of these officials chose to hide away plundered objects d’art  in their safe depositories at the same Swiss banks.

I can only guess at the total amount involved. I think it exceeds thirty million dollars.”

The members looked at each other. It was a staggering sum. The criminals must be made to pay, was the initial reaction.

“I was eventually able to positively identify some of these traitors. I also have enough material to warrant questioning many others. In total I can provide about two hundred names to the Swiss. All people who I suspect have, or had, secret Swiss bank accounts or depositories where they stashed their ill-gotten gains. In many cases they knowingly traded on the misery of the Jews.”

Hjalmar Schacht confirmed what Erhard had disclosed. “There was blatant collaboration between the Swiss and the Nazis. I was effectively fired as Minister of Finance by Hitler in the late thirties when I expressed my concern about the gold sales. After that I kept my ears and eyes open, and my mouth shut. I think the swindling of the Jews was much greater that that uncovered by Ludwig, but we have to start somewhere.”

There was silence for a few minutes as everybody paged through Erhard’s document. Everybody present knew at least several of the names listed therein. When this became public knowledge it would open up old wounds and once again reflect badly on the German people, even if the crimes were committed by the discredited Nazis. It was a shameful period.

It was von Brauchitsch that asked the question, “Where do we go from here?”

It was Buch, the Justice Minister, who answered. “We have two priorities here. The return to us of whatever money and valuables these criminals have. And their trial for fraud, and possibly treason.” No compromise from this man.

Erhard, anxious to avoid anyone blundering in and ruining their chances of getting the money back, interrupted. “I have already met with the Swiss Economics Minister last week. He stonewalled me. He was adamant that the Swiss banks respected their strict banking laws, and they are unable to assist us. I could not help having the feeling that he knew something of this matter already.”

Schacht now added to the discussion. “May I suggest a course of action?” he asked quietly. All looked at him. Erhard had a slight smile. The two of them had planned this strategy together. “Let Herr Buch’s legal experts examine the evidence in this case. If it is deemed to be sufficient, on the face of it, we should quietly arrest all the alleged guilty parties. Under questioning, some of the two hundred will co-operate. These collaborators can then be prevailed upon to give our Economics Minister signed letters of authority, addressed to their Swiss Bank, ordering them to give full disclosure of their banking affairs to ourselves, as well as to accept our instructions as to the disposal of any of their Swiss assets.

Ludwig should then prepare himself for an unfriendly meeting with his Swiss counterpart, who no doubt will have a legal expert in attendance. The list of suspects is again presented by him to the Swiss, with a firm written request from the German Government for their assistance. At the same meeting one of the letters from the collaborators will be handed over as an example of the ‘ammunition’ we have. We see what reaction we get to that.

The Swiss will probably still stall. That is when Ludwig tells them that we have over two hundred Nazis detained most of whom have admitted culpability and are co-operating with us. If the Swiss do not co-operate as well, it will all go public and they will have a public relations disaster on their hands. And for what? We will still pursue our objectives through all legal channels and almost certainly win.

They could perhaps also be subtly reminded that a concerted bad press campaign in Germany, and any resulting breakdown in trust, could have a negative effect on trade between our two countries.

These Swiss bankers have profited greatly from their deals with the Nazis. Let them keep their profit, but they must be made to return the money of the criminals that illegally benefitted from them.”

Nobody could think of a better plan. Buch confirmed his part in it. Erhard would only ask for a meeting in Bern when he knew the results of the criminal interrogations.

Following a preliminary review at the evidence prepared by Erhard, the Justice Minister’s police operation went into action two days later. The status of the suspects ranged from minor civil servants to industrialists. They were treated politely but firmly when they were arrested, and taken to a disused, and hastily cleaned up, army camp. They were kept separated from each other. Within ten minutes of the start of questioning, the first suspect broke.

The teams of interrogators worked throughout the night and ended up with fifty collaborators. More would eventually give in.

This was enough for Erhard. His secretary phoned Bern the following morning asking for a meeting. She realised straight away that something was not right when she was told the Minister would be unavailable for at least two weeks. She was very experienced and knew when she was being given the run around!

Once again, Erhard and Schacht had been prepared for this. General Beck’s spies had already confirmed that the Swiss Economics Minister had a schedule that was in no way out of the ordinary. In anticipation of this, they had hatched a plot with Albert Speer.

As luck had it, the Swiss Transport Ministry were anxiously awaiting a trainload of urgently needed spare parts crucial for the continued safe running of their transport system . This delivery train was due at the German-Swiss border that evening. As Minister of Transport, Speer had one of his minions inform the Swiss transport authorities that the urgently awaited train could not be cleared through German customs.

It took half an hour for a harassed Swiss manager to phone Berlin to find out what the problem was. The spare parts

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were really urgently required!  He was informed that there seemed to be some problem with customs duties that needed to be cleared up before the train was allowed through. In the meantime it had been shunted into a siding at the border.

Half an hour later a senior Swiss manager was on the phone. He was able to obtain no more information than the previous people.

The problem must have travelled higher very quickly, because one hour later the Swiss Transport Minister himself telephoned Albert Speer asking what the hell was the problem? They had known each other for several years and respected the work of each other.

Now it was Speer’s turn to play games. He professed not to know that a problem existed but he would find out and phone back within half an hour. He replaced the receiver and sat back smiling. He didn’t like politics or pettiness in any form, but the Swiss were always so smug. It would be good to take them down a peg or two.

After exactly half an hour they were speaking again. Speer explained that there were some issues about customs duties and other things that Germany’s Economics Minister was trying to speak to Switzerland’s Economics Minister about, but that gentleman was apparently unavailable for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately the law is the law, and the train could not move until the matter was resolved. One very irate Swiss Transport Minister promised to sort out the problem immediately or ‘he would have somebody’s guts for garters’.  Later it was discovered that he had contacted the Swiss President who in turn simply instructed the Economics Minister to make himself immediately available to the German Minister.

Erhard accepted the call from Muller. The Swiss was coldly polite and asked if they could meet the following afternoon. Erhard confirmed this was in order. Muller, who was nobody’s fool, now asked if it was possible, even before they met, to allow the damned train through the border? The German was smiling as he replied that it was always a pleasure to assist his opposite number. Asshole! 

He laughingly informed Speer of the success of their little ploy.


It had been Schacht’s idea that he accompany Erhard to Bern. He would not take much part in the discussions, but he thought that his presence would remind the Swiss about their past Nazi dealings. And that Schact knew all about them.

A normally cool Muller displayed no animosity to the Germans. He had been outfoxed and accepted it with good grace. He had never met Schacht but knew of him. He welcomed him to Bern.

Erhard wasted no time telling Muller about the arrests of over two hundred former Nazis throughout Germany. Almost half of them had already admitted to the allegations. These people were detailed in the dossier which was in Muller’s possession. More names were now being uncovered. He placed copies of some of the criminal’s letters to their Swiss banks in front of the Swiss Minister.

Muller knew he could try to stall the matter again, but he also knew it would not go away. Furthermore it was not a good idea to offend the Germans. They always played things straight since the demise of the Nazi regime, whereas he knew that the Swiss banks did indeed have bank accounts of supposed Nazis, almost certainly a good portion of which, contained illegally earned monies. The Germans would not allow them to continue to turn a blind eye to these.

He decided to give his co-operation. “What you have before me, Herr Erhard, would appear to be firm proof to support your contentions. In the light of this, I consider it my duty to take the matter further. Tomorrow I will discuss this with the President of the Swiss Reserve Bank and the Minister of Justice. After I receive their advice, I will inform you of the next step. Is that in order?”

‘I wonder what happened to your busy two weeks schedule’  thought Erhard before answering, “Very good. Thank you for your co-operation Herr Muller. We look forward to hearing from you.” He and Schacht were shown out of the Minister’s office.

‘Operation plunder’  as this came to be known took another six months before the file was finally closed. All Swiss banks had been instructed by their authorities to search their records for active or dormant accounts, and safe depositories, which may belong to suspected Nazis.

The end result was the Swiss banks between them admitted to thirty two million dollars of cash on deposit, together with valuables totalling another ten million. The Swiss Government offered to pay the money and deliver the valuables to Germany in return for the Germans signing an agreement confirming that all outstanding issues had been settled and the matter was now permanently closed.

It was both Erhard’s and Schacht’s contention that this meant the Swiss had much more hidden away. But proof would be hard to find.  The deal was accepted.

The valuables, jewellery and works of art, once they had been received, were duly advertised to see if any claimants came forth with the necessary proof of ownership. In the event, half of the stuff ended up being returned to their grateful and delighted rightful, mostly Jewish, owners. The unclaimed remainder was sold at public auction. A cheque, equivalent to five million dollars, was placed into the government welfare department that assisted previously wrongly imprisoned citizens, and displaced people, who had suffered financial loss as a result of Nazi persecution.

The other thirty two million was a nice addition to the German monetary reserves.

The more than two hundred criminals exposed by Erhard were brought to trial. Those that pleaded guilty and had co-operated, received relatively light one to three year jail sentences, together with fines, depending on their culpability. The remainder were found guilty anyway, and had their personal possessions including their homes, confiscated, and all received between three and six year jail sentences.

Erhard and Schacht were content. Their three year secret project had not been a waste of time.


Charles de Gaulle reviewed the results of his de-colonising programme with satisfaction. Almost all of the French citizens who had lived in Indochina, Syria, Africa, Morocco and Tunisia, had left the regions and re-settled in France.

Nearly half a million metropolitan French had already been accommodated, and another four hundred thousand were expected over the next twelve months.

Enormous sums of money had been spent to ensure all arrivals had a roof over their head, a job, and a small settling in allowance in cases of need. Without certain loans provided by Germany, this would not have been possible. As it was, tough deadlines for housing and schools construction, together with expansion of industry and commerce, had been met. In the main, the new arrivals had blended into French life with little to grumble about.

De Gaulle had prevailed upon the French Government to allocate scarce financial resources for this programme to allay to some degree, the resentment harboured by the large number of pied noirs  returning from the previously privileged life in Algeria.

Following the notice of intent to quit Algeria two years earlier, there had been an orchestrated campaign of civil disobedience by the pied noirs , including bombings and terrorist activities. De Gaulle’s reaction was a massive reinforcement of French forces in Algeria, and a rapid expansion of the new, mainly French officered, Algerian army. A curfew had been imposed and many suspected resistance leaders detained indefinitely. Gradually order was restored and the prospect of open rebellion by the white French settlers receded.

Many pied noirs  began to accept the fait accompli  and started to trickle back to mainland France. In Paris, de Gaulle and the French Government started to breathe easier. A crisis had been averted!

Now, two years later, the French had discovered something positive from their de-colonising experiment. The returning settlers had proved to be very hard working and industrious. They were making a significant contribution to the French economy. And despite their recent upheaval, they were even more patriotic than the rest of the French population. A good result of the law of unintended consequences! 


James had finished work for the day and was about to exit the bank building. It was five thirty and he usually worked later than this, but tonight he was going home to face Fiona.

Since their magical holiday in Venice six months earlier, he had acquiesced with Magda’s suggestion to wait and see how they felt about things the following year. He  had certainly not changed his mind about what he  wanted. But as far as Magda was concerned, he felt that his approach would have to be different. He would only talk to her of marriage and their future together, after Fiona had agreed to a divorce . This is what he wanted to get agreement from his wife tonight.

He and Magda had not been in touch for the past two days or three days. If all went well, he would telephone Magda at her home tonight and make arrangements to spend the weekend with her. He could then tell her he was a free man.

James stepped outside and hesitated for a moment. Perhaps a quick scotch to calm his nerves would be a good idea.  Before he moved again, a well-dressed, middle aged, man came up to him. “Mister Blackstone?” He peered at James while waiting for a response.

“Yes.” James smiled. He assumed it was someone he had met on a previous occasion.

“My name is Carter. Detective Chief Inspector Carter. Special Branch.”

The Special Branch  of the British Police Force was responsible for matters of national security within Britain. It had been in existence since 1883 having originally been formed to combat the Irish terrorism of that time.

James was a little slow. His brain was still full of thoughts of Fiona and Magda. Divorce and divorce settlements. Child custody. “Yes?” Was his only response.

“May I have a word with you, Mister Blackstone? Somewhere at least off the street. I won’t take up too much of your time. And I assure you it is important.”

Mystified and at the same time intrigued, James led him to a nearby local pub that he sometimes used. It was in a nearby side street and he knew that it would be more or less empty at this time of the day. They sat in a secluded corner after James purchased two whisky and sodas from the bar.

It was Carter who spoke first. “I am sorry to ‘accost’ you in the street like that, Mister Blackstone, but I thought it best not to go to your office or home. The reason I am here is somewhat delicate.”

James waited for him to continue.

“You know a German lady called Magda Reinhard.” It was a statement, not a question. James suddenly felt apprehensive. He silently nodded in reply and the policeman continued.

“Would you care to tell me what you know of her?”

James had now developed butterflies in his stomach. Before he realised it, he had finished his drink. Carter’s was still untouched. He slid it across the table to James.

“Well Chief Inspector, I suppose I know many things about Magda. It might help me to answer your question better, if I know what the problem is. Is she is some sort of trouble?”

“Yes. A lot of trouble. However, I would prefer to hear what you know about her before I say anymore.” His look and tone said, Stop wasting time and talk! 

Over the next half hour James told Carter everything he could, and answered all the questions he was able to. The policeman took few notes. James wasn’t stupid. To warrant him being questioned by a Chief Inspector, something serious must have happened. He knew that his relationship with Magda must be known. Whatever was going on, he would look bad if he tried to cover anything up.

Finally Carter appeared to be satisfied.

“Am I now allowed to ask what is going on?”

The policeman looked him in the eye, and a couple of seconds said, “The lady is a Russian spy.”

Later that evening, still in shock, James sat quietly in his study at home, alone, sipping a whisky and re-playing the earlier conversation through his mind.

According to Carter, Magda was a highly trained Russian intelligence operative who had been inserted into one of the German speaking areas of Czechoslovakia as a ‘sleeper’ just before it was absorbed into Germany in 1938. Her adoptive ‘family’ there had also been good communists under Moscow control. In 1940 she had moved first to Berlin, then later to the town of Dessau, the home of Junkers Aircraft. Her orders were to infiltrate the aircraft manufacturer and report on new developments, aircraft production numbers, and anything else that could be useful to Soviet intelligence.

Unknowingly, James had helped her to accomplish this.

Two days earlier, Magda had walked into the unassuming London headquarters of Britain’s MI6, and to the surprise of all there, had asked to see personally the head of the Soviet section, who she knew by name. She wanted to defect to Britain. Apparently the emotional and mental strain of the past couple of years had taken their toll. She could no longer carry on acting the part of the loving girlfriend of a decent and respectable British banker, who was in an unhappy marriage.

Carter had told him that she would be ‘debriefed’ by MI6 over a long period of time, after which she would be given a new identity and disappear.

James would never see her again.

The special branch officer had cautioned James to say nothing to anyone. He would be in touch in a few days. He left a badly shaken James sitting in the pub.

Five days later — it seemed like an eternity to James — Carter phoned. It seemed that James was highly regarded and trusted in Germany and in his home country, and was doing useful work for them both. The Germans were completely unaware of the true identity of Magda.

MI6 had decided that it was in nobody’s interest to reveal Magda’s spying activities. This would expose James’ unwitting part in them. They were going to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ .

James felt an immense wave of relief wash over him. The past five days had been hell. The least that would have happened to him would have been the sack from his job, followed by the cold shoulder from everyone he knew. The worst that could happen didn’t bear thinking about.

Chief Inspector Carter had the last word. He swore James to silence about the affair, reminded him of the Official Secrets Act, and sternly told him that if the matter should ever surface as a result of any disclosures by him at any time in the future, he would end up in jail.

An hour after this conversation, and after James sixth celebratory — or was it commiseration — whisky, he went to bed drunk!


The debated changes within the German Governing Council had now been made, and today was their first day under the new ‘regime’, even if it was quite similar to the old one.

There was still no appetite in Germany for an elected national government, for democracy,  so the current Governing Council system would continue as before. The question had been asked within the Council what was to prevent a future, possibly inept or corrupt council, becoming self-perpetuating? Or even descending into totalitarian dictatorship?

There had been many hours spent debating this particular question. It seemed nobody had a complete answer. It was Foreign Minister von Altendorf who had summed up the situation at the last session.

Currently, new Council members were nominated and elected by, and with, the unanimous consent of the existing members. He saw no problem with this, provided existing members had a proven record of performing their duties efficiently and with integrity. And any member not pulling his weight could be dismissed from the Council by a majority decision of the remaining members. Unanimity was not required in this case.

The German Governing Council had, fortunately, continually made good decisions, and with the minimum of delay, for the good of Germany. They had developed a governing body over the past five years that was the envy of the world. The system was working. You do not fix something that isn’t broken. 

He did however, have one suggestion. The political leader of Germany had traditionally bore the title of Chancellor.  Von Altendorf thought it was the right time for this to be re-introduced and the President of the Governing Council to be named Chancellor.  

The Council was aware that Field Marshall von Brauchitsch had always insisted that he was not a politician and only stayed within the Council at the urging of the other members.

Von Altendorf had looked directly at von Brauchitsch. “Walther, it was your courage in 1940 that saved Germany. Since that time you have guided this Council and our country to the point where we are the most prosperous, peaceful, and militarily strongest nation in the world. You are actually that extreme rarity, a consummate politician with integrity. I personally would like to see you as German Chancellor.”

Before a concerned von Brauchitsch could answer, he had carried on. “You have brilliantly combined the duties of President of this Council and Defence Minister for nearly six years. Perhaps as Chancellor, your burden could be lightened by appointing a new Defence Minister? This way, we, your colleagues, would be reassured that such a new minister would have the benefit of your experience and knowledge, and our country’s defence will remain in good hands.” Von Altendorf sat back in his seat and waited for a reaction.

After only a moments silence it was Albert Speer who spoke first. “I fully support the idea.” He had nothing further to say.

Then everyone started speaking at once. This soon stopped, as over the years they had learned to be patient and allow others to say their piece. It was however, apparent that everybody was in favour of the idea.

Von Brauchitsch had sat there, silently considering the matter. He was now sixty five years old, and lately had started to feel the pressure of his work. The idea of a new appointee as Defence Minister was sound. He himself could remain as a guiding hand to the Council, as well as to a new Defence Minister.

He thanked von Altendorf for his kind words and proposal. He asked why he had decided on the title of Chancellor? Was there not a risk of people associating it with Adolf Hitler? 

Von Altendorf answered. “I do not believe so. While Hitler was officially  Chancellor, he always preferred the title of Fuhrer,  and that is how he came to be known. In any case I always connect the word Chancellor  with the name of one of Germany’s greatest statesmen, Otto von Bismark, Chancellor for almost twenty years before the end of the last century. He was a man described as ‘the undisputed world champion at the game of multilateral diplomatic chess’.  He unified Germany and kept the peace in Europe through his adroit diplomacy”.

What could von Brauchitsch say? He was flattered and pleased to be compared to the great ‘Iron Chancellor’.  Von Bismarck, like himself, was no respecter of politicians. A well-known quote of his was, ‘People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, OR BEFORE AN ELECTION’. 

He accepted von Altendorf’s proposal. He would officially retire from the army and accept the post of Chancellor of Germany.

Now they were here today, he in his capacity of German Chancellor for the first time. Two more ministers had been appointed to ease the huge burden of Albert Speer’s varied portfolios. Surprisingly one of them, the new Health Minister, was a woman. The newly appointed Defence Minister was also present.

The eleven person Governing Council now consisted of:

Walther von Brauchitsch — Chancellor

Werner von Altendorf — Foreign Affairs

Albert Speer — Interior, transport, industry, energy

Albert Kesselring — Aviation

Ludwig Beck — Intelligence services

Erich von Mannstein — Defence

Ludwig Erhard — Economics & finance

Julius Buch — Justice

Hans Dietrich — Agriculture

Karl Dortmund — Education

Hildegard Klein — Health

The Chancellor declared the meeting open.

The first item for debate was a request by the USA that Germany once and for all, defines its attitude towards the concept of the United Nations.  Since the idea had originally been floated by the United States, the German position had been one of disinterest, despite American pressure to join the proposed body. Von Altendorf suggested that the time had come to officially decline the invitation, but at the same time state they would be willing to co-operate with the body ‘where deemed appropriate’. The German position could be reviewed in future years after the United Nations  had had the opportunity to prove its worth.

Nobody on the Governing Council had any enthusiasm for participating in what they regarded as ‘another ineffectual League of Nations talk shop that would allow second and third rate countries with inept or corrupt governments, and with inflated opinions of their own worth, an inordinate say and influence on world affairs’. 

It was left to the Foreign Ministry to respond diplomatically. If the Americans took exception to this rebuff, it was their affair.

The Minister for Industry informed the council that the car manufacturer, Volkswagen, had produced over one hundred thousand vehicles the previous year. Considering its Nazi politically motivated, (and financially unfeasible) origins in 1937, the company had overcome great obstacles to become the success story it now was. Volkswagen believed their sales and exports would continue to expand dramatically. Another German success story.

Mercedes Benz were also producing record numbers of motor cars and trucks. Exports to the United States in particular, were climbing sharply.

The smallest of the motor manufacturers, BMW, were now increasing sales rapidly, but from a low base. Their motorcycles were still in great demand worldwide.

The Aviation Minister, as always, gave an enthusiastic report on the industry.

The Focke-Wulf Starflight  airliners were being produced at the rate of three hundred a year. The forecast was that the volume of sales would sustain this rate for perhaps another two years before starting to taper off. Most of the Alliance countries had also ordered the military version of this aircraft.

The Focke-Wulf engineers were confident that the prototype of the new jet airliner, the Komet,  would have its first test flight before the middle of next year, a year ahead of schedule. A truly commendable achievement.

The same company had recruited some highly qualified and experienced personnel, some of them from Britain, to re-energise its moribund helicopter business. They were designing a helicopter that would challenge the American Sikorsky, currently the best in the world.

The Messerschmit factory was also working at full capacity producing the ME262. This wonderful jet fighter was now used by twelve air forces, and sought after by other countries. Messerschmit had also initiated research into a vertical take-off and landing jet fighter. But this was not expected to produce significant results for some years.

Junkers, working in co-operation with the British, would soon have finished a prototype of their high altitude medium bomber/photo reconnaissance jet aircraft. It would use the same Rolls Royce engines that the Komet  would have. It’s design specifications were, a speed of nine hundred and fifty kilometres per hour, and an operational ceiling of over fifteen thousand metres. It would fly higher than any other aircraft in the world. Making it impossible to intercept. The first flight was expected early next year.

Junkers were also working on a design for a short/medium haul, twin engine jet powered airliner. Potential sales for this should make it an economic proposition.

And the smallest of the German aircraft manufacturers, Dornier, had designed a new seaplane. However, while it should enable the company to survive in the short term, the Minister personally thought it was unlikely to be a great commercial success.

General Beck advised that his spies had picked up a rumour that one of Stalin’s closest advisers, Nikita Khrushchev, had proposed to Stalin a summit meeting with Germany with a view to ending the distrust between the two countries. His motives appeared to be that he saw this as leading to lower spending on Soviet defence, thus allowing more money to be spent on industrial renewal.

The outcome of this was, as yet, unknown.

“In South Africa, my source within the new Nationalist Government tells me that they are about to approach us about re-equipping their armed forces. I am sure everybody here is aware of some historical animosity between the English and Dutch speaking citizens of that country. The National Party government was recently elected mainly by the Dutch speakers, and now, probably out of spite more than anything, they are about to snub Britain and buy equipment from ourselves. I have already informed General von Mannstein so that he can prepare himself and his officers.”

Von Brauchitsch added, “Please also remember that, as in the case of Bangladesh, he should solicit the tacit approval of the British before negotiating a final deal. South Africa has been part of the British Empire since Napoleonic times. Germany would love to sell arms to countries such as this, but not at the expense of British friendship.”

The Defence Minister detailed the status of the ME262 squadrons within the Alliance. Denmark, Norway and Portugal had only one squadron each. Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania Holland, and Spain had three squadrons each. Italy had four squadrons, Poland and France had six, while Germany had fifteen, one of which was carrier based. Approximately one thousand two hundred aircraft in total.

In a wartime scenario this number would not be considered sufficient for the Alliance’s defence needs. However, certain of the Alliance countries were so pleased with the aircraft, and the prestige it apparently gives them, five of them were currently considering further acquisitions.

France was still in the throes of re-establishing a viable aircraft industry, but acknowledged that it would be a few years before they would have anything equal to the ME262. In the meantime, to honour their military commitment to the Alliance, they had no alternative but to purchase the German combat aircraft. And learn from it! 

Much the same situation applied with the mobile artillery and tanks. There were now about nineteen hundred Panther and Tiger tanks, and nine hundred mobile guns/rocket launchers within the Alliance, and these numbers were still steadily increasing.

The military forces of Germany and the European Alliance were in good shape.

The Economics Minister gave his usual heartening news of the continued growth of the economy, and of the country’s increasing monetary reserves. Germany was now in the envious position of being able to lend money to other nations at favourable interest rates. However, he had drawn up strict guidelines for doing so. Only countries with suitable histories, stable economies, approved governments, and with the undoubted ability to repay, would be considered for any such loans. Also, no loans would be given to any country whose total indebtedness exceeded twenty percent of its Gross Domestic Product, other than in exceptional circumstances.

Minister Erhard also mentioned, with a big smile, that he believed he was witnessing the start of a new form of ‘German imperialism’.  In response to the quizzical looks of his audience he explained that German banks had started to acquire interests in American banks to take advantage of that booming economy. “It is a development I fully support and should pay high dividends in the future,” he said.

The remaining four Ministers had nothing of great import to contribute. All was well within their domains.

The Chancellor thanked everybody and closed the meeting.


General Sieckenius had been busy since his appointment in his new job. He had completed the military assessment of the needs of the Bangladeshi and Serbian armed forces. Copies of these had been forwarded to the Defence Minister for his consideration, before he in turn, looked for approval of the finance and trade aspects from those respective ministers.

He had then turned his attention to the South African armed forces. German intelligence had given him a fairly complete picture of their structure and equipment. They had also been able to give him a few hints as to what the South Africans might be looking for.

The South African Ambassador in Berlin had been amazed when a detailed reply to his country’s enquiry about re-equipping their armed forces, was delivered to him onl

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y two weeks after their own letter had been delivered to the German Defence Minister. German efficiency at its best! 

Neither was Sieckenius sitting around waiting for other countries to come to him. He started by calling for intelligence reports on all of the South and Central American countries and their military forces. He picked Argentina as his first target. A visit to their embassy in Berlin quickly resulted in an invitation to visit their country and meet with the President and the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Before wasting any further time, Sieckenius informed General von Mannstein of this development, and asked for the Governing Councils feeling on Argentina.

It had been only two months earlier that the current President of Argentina, Juan Peron, had been appointed. This country, with a population of forty million, had gone through a period of political instability and periodic economic crises in the 1930s. It was considered a regional power in Latin America and, importantly, was anti-communist. The army was also highly Germanophile. The air force operated about two hundred obsolescent aircraft. The navy was relatively strong, being ranked about eighth strongest in the world.

It had taken less than two weeks for Sieckenius to get his answer from General von Mannstein. Yes, there was a good case for offering aircraft, tanks and other arms to Argentina. However, the Economics Ministry expressed a wish to be cautious about any long term financial assistance that may be requested. Now it was up to Sieckenius to see what deal he could put together.


Sieckenius had been received royally in Argentina. On his second evening there, he had attended a dinner hosted by the President and his charming wife, Evita. President Peron had taken a personal interest in the arms talks, to make sure his senior officers and government officials conducted all discussions efficiently and with the minimum of wasted time. A pleasant surprise in Latin America! 

The Argentinians had a long shopping list. Sieckenius gazed at it with satisfaction. They wanted one hundred jet fighters, ten military versions of the Focke-Wulf Starflight, two hundred and fifty tanks, one  hundred and fifty mobile guns and rocket launchers, FAL automatic rifles, and machine guns. One of his host’s stipulations was that the rifles and machine guns should be produced locally under licence. Assistance would be needed to build the factory.

The navy required ten fast patrol launches, (E-Boats), four destroyers and four submarines. Sieckenius was stunned when the President himself said he would like an aircraft carrier as their country’s future flagship.

After sending the list to Berlin, the German General stayed in Buenos Aires awaiting a reply from his superiors. It came five days later. Everything could be supplied. The costs and estimated delivery dates were included. He had already had preliminary discussions with the Argentinian Defence Minister about the method of payment. They had offered an initial payment of one half of the total, and the balance by way of a loan from Germany.

After being advised of the Argentinian payment terms, the German Economics Ministry confirmed that in principle the terms were acceptable but would be subject to the usual investigation into Argentina’s financial status by a small team from the Ministry. These people could be in Argentina two weeks after receiving the arms order. They would need no more than two weeks to assess the loan application.

Unexpectedly, the Governing Council had included a further stipulation. Sieckenius was to discuss the matter of the Falkland Islands with the Argentinians.

Because of Germany’s special relationship with Great Britain, the possibility of German arms being used by Argentina in an attempt to annex the Falkland Islands, was of some concern.

The British claim to the Falkland Islands dated back to 1690. However, due to the isolated position of the islands, they had only exercised continuous sovereignty from 1833 onwards. In the meantime, Argentina had been taken some sort of nominal control for a few short years just before 1833, and called them the Malvinas . Because of this, Argentina had, since 1833, half-heartedly most of the time, and in the face of most impartial and informed opinion, maintained that the islands belonged to them.

The fact that the islands had little value was ignored.

Germany’s firm position was that they acknowledged no Argentinian claim to the Falkland Islands. However, if possible, they would like to help eliminate the minor irritant of Argentina’s dispute over ownership.

Some subtle diplomacy was needed. The President of Argentina was the real decision maker in that country. Sieckenius should try to engineer a private meeting with him. Tell him that, in principle, all was agreed with the arms deal. The only problem was Germany’s concern that such arms could be used against their ally and friend, Great Britain, in some sort of ill-conceived invasion of the Falkland Islands. Because of this, Germany was hesitant to approve the deal.

A way out of any impasse, of course, would be for Argentina to renounce any claim to the worthless group of Islands.

Sieckenius did not consider himself to be a diplomat. He gave the matter much thought before planning his strategy. ‘His scripted act’,  as he called it. He was able to secure an appointment to see the President — alone — for the following day.

When he had digested what Sieckenius had told him, President Peron had laughed out loud. “My dear General, I assure you that I am well aware that the Malvinas,  or whatever you want to call them, are worthless. I also know that Great Britain would never, under any circumstances, allow any part of their empire to be taken from them by force. And the islanders on those miserable islands will always be staunchly British.

Strictly between ourselves, I can tell you that that it is only Argentinian pride that causes us to maintain a claim. Also,” he lowered his voice and leaned towards the General, “previous governments have found it useful to deflect public outrage over internal problems by raising the issue of a foreign country occupying sacred Argentinian territory.” This was said with a cynical smile.

The soldier and the politician now got down to haggling.


General von Mannstein re-read, with some amusement, Sieckenius’ report on the Argentinian arms deal.

The man had pulled off a major arms coup, and at the same time erased an on-going source of irritation to the British. ‘Well done, Rudolf. Very well done indeed,’  he said to himself.

In return for a small reduction in price on some of the arms being ordered, a promise of speedier delivery, and the immediate sale to them of one of Germany’s existing light cruisers at a knock down price for cash, Argentina would announce that in view of the current settled state of world affairs and the good relations that existed between Argentina and Great Britain, they renounced for all time, any claim they may previously have had over the British territory known as the Falkland Islands.

Forewarned by von Altendorf, the British Prime Minister had prepared a gracious reply. The Argentinian claim to the Falklands had never been taken seriously by Britain. Churchill considered it inconceivable that a second rate country such as Argentina would deliberately attack British territory.

However such a thing wasn’t impossible. Who knows? A future nationalistic government with a failing economy and under great internal pressure from their populace, could succumb to the temptation of diverting attention away from themselves by sending soldiers to recapture supposedly long lost territory! 

Once again Winston Churchill marvelled at the ingenuity and sincerity of the Germans. The genuine friendship that they had shown to Britain in recent years was unprecedented in history, with the possible exception of the solidarity shown between Britain and the dominion colonies of the Empire during the Great War.


Twenty metres beneath the surface of the Baltic Sea, fifteen kilometres off the north German coast, the submarine U-92 released the tow. The monstrosity it had hauled out to sea from Peenemunde was, in effect, nothing more than a giant steel water tank with a buoyancy control system similar to that of a submarine. This now lay three hundred metres behind them, maintaining neutral buoyancy at twenty metres through its own pressure activated system.

Nestling inside it was an A4 rocket.

Also three hundred metres away, but safely on the surface in a destroyer, was Professor von Braun and his team. They were here to test an underwater launch of their fearsome rocket.

The countdown had already begun. Almost everybody who was on the destroyer had been allowed a break from their duties to watch this historic event.

Finally the designated technician saw the second hand of the clock touch the appointed time. He pressed the red button.

On the surface they could neither see nor hear anything for a second or two. On board U-92 all clearly hear the loud menacing rumble of the rocket motor as it fired into life. Then out of the cold and dark Baltic waters the rocket burst to the surface, continually accelerating as it thrust itself upward into the sky. It was quickly lost to view even though many on the ship vainly strained to keep it in sight.

Watching through U-92’s periscope, Captain Gunther Schenk was awed by what he had witnessed. This was ushering in a new and sinister dimension to warfare. For reasons he couldn’t have easily explained, he found himself somewhat uneasy about this development.

Von Braun and his scientists relaxed. All had gone according to plan. The launch had, in fact, ended up being no different to the land based launches they had witnessed many times. The concept of an unseen submarine launching a deadly surprise attack had now been proved. Where it would lead, von Braun did not know. He was dedicated to his research and his ultimate dream of space travel.

Later, a recovery vessel salvaged the launch tank. It had sunk to the sea bed because a huge hole had been burned through its floor. This had been expected and was a problem that the naval designers and builders of a future missile submarine would have to solve.


Sieckenius had been invited to attend a meeting of the Governing Council. Each council member had warmly shaken his hand when he appeared. His magnificent achievement of finalising arms orders from Argentina, Bangladesh, Serbia and South Africa could not be overstated. It represented a major boost for German industry. And he had only been in the job for less than six months!

When the Council had heard of his success in Argentina, it had prompted a debate on the need for awards to German citizens, and perhaps other nationalities also, for outstanding service, whether to the state or some other specified activity. The previous, Nazi approved, system had been allowed to lapse after the European War. This would now be re-introduced, but in a revised and more appropriate format. They also looked at the British honours system and found some inspiration from the Order of the British Empire, awarded to deserving British citizens from all walks of life for exceptional achievement.

A new order eventually was decided on, the German Order of Merit . This would be the country’s highest civil honour. It could also be awarded to military personnel, but not as a battle honour, only for other exceptional services or achievements. As in the case of the British example, it was to be an order into which a person is admitted as a member, rather than simply being a medal.

General Rudolf Sieckenius was to be its second recipient. Hjalmar Schacht would be the first. They had other recipients in mind.

After a highly pleased Sieckenius had left the meeting, they got down to normal business.

The Foreign Minister reported that the United States President had been most annoyed by Germany’s rejection of the United Nations  concept. To the American’s dismay, only Greece in the whole of Europe, including the Soviet Union, supported the idea. And Greece hadn’t even paid the agreed initial monetary contribution! China and Japan had also declined.

The Americans had said they would press ahead regardless, as countries in South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia had expressed varied degrees of enthusiasm. This was pure bravado and obstinacy on the part of the Americans. They were well aware that without Europe and the two Far East powers, the United Nations  was doomed to be an ineffectual bystander in world affairs.

Von Altendorf also advised that he had been in communication with the Soviet Foreign Minister recently about the mooted summit meeting between the German Chancellor and the Soviet leader. After the initiative for this coming from the Soviets, they now appeared to be stalling. Germany’s reaction to this would be to just forget about it for the time being. If it happens — it happens!

The remaining ministers, with the exception of Defence, had little of note to contribute at this meeting.

General von Mannstein now spoke. “The Kriegsmarine  have finalised their requirements for the submarine branch. We all know that they are operating U-boats that were essentially designed nearly ten years ago. These have been continually updated since then, but it is time for a completely new generation of submarines to be introduced in the near future.

The new design will give Germany the biggest, fastest, quietest, most heavily armed submarines, and with the greatest operational range, in the entire world. We will also increase the size of our fleet, and offer new subs to our Alliance partners.

The large ‘notional’ Soviet submarine superiority in numbers will be reduced. Bangladesh, China and Argentina are eager to buy a number of our current operational subs. No doubt General Sieckenius can dispose of the rest,” he said with a smile.

He continued. “While on the subject of submarines, I think you are all aware of the successful undersea launch of one of Professor von Braun’s A4 rockets last month. The navy’s research team are now looking into how this can be of practical use. In theory, it seems there is no great problem in building a submarine large enough to accommodate several missiles. While this is not considered a priority, it is certainly an interesting development.” He paused for a few moments.

“We have talked about aircraft carriers for the past six years. In that time the only action we took was to finish building the existing Graf Zeppelin. 

The Americans, British and Japanese have ten carriers each. The French and ourselves have one each, and the French one is obsolete anyway. The Soviets have none, and have no plans to build any at present, as far as we can ascertain.

Unlike the other nations with aircraft carriers, Germany has no colonial empire to defend. We do, however, have a merchant shipping fleet operating around the globe. And it is a fleet which is expanding all the time. We also have commitments to the European Alliance. I therefore seek the approval of the Council to build our next aircraft carriers.

I say carriers,  as two are needed to ensure that we always have at least one at sea at all times. By the time this next generation of carriers are ready for use, our current flagship, the Graf Zeppelin,  will be approaching twenty years old. Furthermore it was never designed for use by jet aircraft.

Accordingly the Defence Ministry seeks approval from the Governing Council to procure two carriers in terms of the specifications detailed in the document that I now pass to you.

Possible buyers of our existing carrier, Graf Zeppelin,  are Argentina and China.”

He was finished.


James Blackthorn, following the shock he had received earlier in the year concerning his affair with Magda Reinhardt, had thrown himself into his work. Eventually the bank’s Managing Director, somewhat concerned about James’ pace of work, had insisted he take a break. “Go and visit our California operation, James”, he had forcibly advised.

Two weeks later he was sitting in Jamie’s office in San Francisco having coffee.

The original idea expounded by Frank O’Donnell had proved inspirational. No other west coast bank was even close to them in terms of their ‘financial engineering’. O’Donnell, the Bradlington Thornberry Bank, and Deutsche Bank, were very pleased with their investment. It was very profitable and had brought enhanced prestige to all parties involved.

Originally hired as the President of a subsidiary of the American bank, Jamie had turned out to be the perfect choice for the next President of the bank itself, and had been so appointed only two months earlier. The bank was well funded, and its loan book, much of it guaranteed by the German Credit Guarantee Corporation, was of very high quality and considered virtually risk free. The profitability of the business was a constant source of wonder to O’Donnell.  No wonder all bankers were thought of as rich! 

James had been mulling over an idea for the past couple of months. He had decided it wasn’t really right for his own bank in the UK, but perhaps an American bank? 

He outlined it to Jamie. Basically it was quite simple. Germany had a specialised department within their Defence Ministry, actively marketing German armaments to countries outside of the European Alliance. They would not sell indiscriminately, and they had certain strict guidelines they followed.

It had come to James’ notice that in two recent cases, Germany had been unable to finalise arms sales to two particular countries in South America as they did not meet the tough credit assessment imposed by the German Economic Ministry. In all other respects the two countries were considered suitable.

James suggested that this opened up a great financial opportunity for their American bank. They could raise medium term loans or bonds; say five to ten years term, for such countries, on the international capital market in the USA. The proceeds of the loans would be held in escrow in the US pending cash payments to Germany for arms deliveries. James was sure that Deutsche Bank would gladly inform Jamie of any potentially interested countries.

Nice, clean, simple business. Everybody happy! 

Jamie loved it. For the next hour they went over everything in detail and came up with a game plan. Firstly O’Donnell would have to approve it. Only then would it be submitted to Nigel Thornberry and Deutsche Bank.

Strangely enough, it was the enthusiasm shown by Jamie, and their animated discussion of the development plan, that was the catalyst needed to drive the last remnants of self-pity about the Magda affair from his mind. He was free! 

Two days later James was back in London. He played with his son while Fiona indulged herself in her favourite pastime. Watching TV and listening to the radio! He actually enjoyed himself!

It was only a few days later that Jamie telephoned him. All the parties concerned, had given the go ahead for his idea. James’ contribution was acknowledged by a grateful group of shareholders. It was intended that this ‘acknowledgement’ would be something more substantial, once the scheme had proved successful.

Jamie promised to ensure that this promise would be kept.


The impressive Reichstag looked down upon the pomp and ceremony in front of the building. The Director of Protocol, appointed six months earlier by Albert Speer, had kept an eagle eye on every detail of the proceedings. So far everything had gone smoothly.

Speer had sent him to Great Britain for several weeks to learn from the world’s masters in protocols and ceremonies. The knowledge thus gained would then be subtly changed to suit the German temperament and historical aspect.

Today was the first Investiture of the German Order of Merit. There were seven recipients. It was intended that after this, future awards of this honour would be limited to one per year, except in exceptional circumstances.

The seven founding Members were Baron von Altendorf, Hjalmar Schacht, General Rudolf Sieckenius, Professor Kurt Tank, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, and the ex British Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, now retired.

Von Altendorf had proved as much a master of diplomacy as the venerated Otto von Bismarck. All of Europe had benefitted from his unerring guidance in foreign affairs.

Schacht’s work as Economics Minister was well known by all. A lot of Germany’s prosperity could be directly attributed to his steerage of the economy and the country’s finances after the European War.

Sieckenius’ success in his new job had been spectacular. He had also played an outstanding role in China for nearly five years. China’s President, Chiang Kai-shek, held the General in high regard and had awarded him China’s top medal for services to his country. He had also given him honorary Chinese citizenship. It was inevitable that his colleagues would nickname him ‘Chinese Sieckenius’. 

Kurt Tank’s brilliant design and engineering work at Focke-Wulf were unequalled in the aviation industry. The Starflight  was a world success story. Its eventual successor, the Komet,  had all the promise of being another world beater.

Rommel received the award for his unerring direction of the European Alliance since taking over the newly formed organisation from General von Mannstein. The Alliance’s peacekeeping intervention in Yugoslavia was a model operation.

Canaris had worked tirelessly to protect Germany, as chief of the Abwher , Germany’s military intelligence, for twelve years. Information provided by his network had been invaluable to Germany’s Governing Council. And, on many occasions, to its allies.

The sure support and assistance given by Lord Halifax to the peace initiatives of the Germans in 1940 had been of supreme importance in bringing these to a successful conclusion.

These seven men had played significant roles in the creation of the new, post Nazi, Germany. They were deserving recipients of Germany’s highest honour.

The award ceremony was over. The Chancellor had presented each recipient with the scroll of membership, together with the gold star on which was embossed the German eagle. He, together with a ceremonial guard, then escorted them to their own ‘Member’s chamber’ within the Reichstag, and presented them with the key.

Henceforth, only Members of the Order, or their invited guests could enter that chamber. It was theirs for eternity!


This was to be the last Council meeting of the year.

Von Altendorf advised that he had been in communication with the Soviet Foreign Minister about the mooted summit meeting between the German Chancellor and the Soviet leader. Turkey had been suggested as being a suitable ‘neutral’ venue. The date of 20 January, one month away, had been provisionally agreed upon.

The council were well prepared and had already drawn up an agenda for the meeting. The German team would include the Chancellor, the Foreign Minister, and the Economics and Interior Ministers. The Defence Minister would remain behind as acting Chancellor.

The Foreign Minister also advised the council that he just heard that the war in Kashmir between India and Pakistan, which had dragged on for the past year and a half, had finally petered out. While the results were inconclusive, India had ended up with about two thirds of the territory, and Pakistan the remaining portion. Total casualties on both sides were less than thirty thousand. An appalling number but deemed to be insufficient to deter future encounters.

“That, gentlemen, I suspect is the end of only the first  conflict between India and Pakistan.

While on the subject of India, I must mention that the more than five hundred independent Princely states that existed when India was given independence, have all disappeared. Every one of them. They were persuaded, coerced or forcibly annexed. Most of them by India. I am not saying that the rule of the Princes was benevolent for their people, I only draw your attention to the self-interest approach of the newly ‘democratic’  nations of the Indian sub-continent, when they see the chance to acquire territory.”

The only other item of note was the mention by the Aviation Minister that the first flight of the new Junkers medium jet bomber  was scheduled for February. Any Council member that wished to witness it, was obviously welcome to do so.

The Chancellor closed the meeting and invited everybody to join him for a pre-Christmas drink in the private bar maintained for government use. It had been a good year, let’s celebrate it! 



The German-Soviet summit was to be held in what at one time had been an Ottoman noble’s palace on the outskirts of Istanbul. Soldiers of the Turkish Army were swarming all over the place. The unit of Russian special forces guarding the quarters of the Soviet delegation, steadfastly ignored all attempts by the Turks to communicate with them. This had been forbidden by the army’s political commissars. 

The German paratroopers were only a little more responsive. The soldiers of all three countries had been exhorted to extreme vigilance. Or else heads will roll! 

In what had once been a large atrium, now roofed over and converted into a spacious hall, the actual meeting was taking place. The Soviet leader, Stalin, was an object of great interest, fascination even, to the German delegation. They covertly scrutinised him from the moment they saw him. Here was the world’s most brutal dictator and greatest mass murderer, in the flesh.  Unlike his countrymen that were present, the psychotic Stalin held no terror for the Germans. Here, he just looked like a tired old man who sometimes seemed unaware of, or was disinterested in, what was going on around him. Von Brauchitsch privately wondered if he may be suffering from some sort of mental degeneration or fatigue.

On the other hand, Khrushchev, while still obsequies to Stalin, gave the appearance of being the power behind the throne. ‘This is the one to watch’,  thought von Brauchitsch. The Soviet Foreign Minister, Molotov, if one looked carefully for the signs, was definitely anxious to avoid opposing Khrushchev. The same applied to Khrushchev’s protégé, Brezhnev, a bear-like brooding figure.

Khrushchev was fifty two years old and born of peasant stock. He had been an enthusiastic supporter of Stalin’s purges. Probably to save his own skin.  From 1938 he had governed the Ukraine for a year or so. Ukraine had the second largest economy in the Soviet Union. During his governorship Khrushchev had continued with the Moscow directed purges, forced collectivisation of agriculture on the long suffering and malnourished peasants, and conscripted many of its young men into the red Army.

He had now been a member of the Politburo , Russia’s governing body, since 1939. And it seemed to the Germans that he might be the second most powerful man in the Soviet Union. 

The trade, transport, administrative, financial and other, more mundane, matters between the two countries had quickly been finalised on the first day of their talks. This left the second day for more important matters. Or surprises! 

The following day, in the end, was something of an anti-climax. Stalin again said little, but his minions continually whispered in his ear throughout the talks. It was obvious that Khrushchev was orchestrating whatever it was the Soviets were trying to get at!

Minister Molotov asked about the independent ex-Yugoslav countries, and if they would join the European Alliance. Von Altendorf answered him, in a detailed reply that the cold facts of the matter were, apart from Serbia, the others had not yet shown any great degree of internal stability. There had even been some border incidents between some of the new states. Until these states ‘matured’, their membership of the Alliance was out of the question.

While Serbia could possibly be considered to be a suitable member under normal circumstances, the fact that the country was surrounded by unstable ex-Yugoslavia states, ruled against membership.

When asked about Greece, von Altendorf said much the same thing. He personally did not see that country being eligible to join the Alliance for the foreseeable future. Corruption, nepotism, and gross inefficiency were rife. Their government was too set in its ways to reform!

The Soviet Union’s two powerful anti-communist nations on their eastern border, China and Japan were of great concern to the Russians. They wanted to know what was Germany’s real  relationship wi

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th them.

Von Altendorf knew that they understood perfectly well what the real relationship was. It was just another part of their ploy towards setting the scene for their desired arms limitation pact. Or possibly something else as well! 

Nevertheless he patiently explained that they were both big trading partners of Germany, and while China was considered a nation friendly to Germany, Japan was a little less so. He added that he believed neither of those two countries harboured any aggressive intentions towards their Soviet neighbour. He reminded Molotov that he himself had said ‘only a fool would attack Russia! 

A glimmer of a smile was seen on the Russian’s face.

Now Khrushchev openly entered the debate, in effect, getting down to the serious stuff. He queried why the European Alliance thought that they needed nearly three thousand tanks and mobile guns to defend themselves, when the only conceivable threat could be from the Soviet Union, who had deliberately slowed down their own re-armament in recent years and shown their peaceful intentions.”

‘Damn good question’,  von Brauchitsch thought. ‘I must tell General Beck that the Soviet intelligence network is working well’. He  would answer this one, and speak the plain truth — mostly. 

“A direct question deserves a direct answer.” He paused, for effect. “Part of the answer lies in history. During the 1930s, we, in Germany, were aware of certain purges within your country. And that these actions resulted in many, many deaths. This was something we would fight with everything we possessed to avoid similar happenings in our own country. Germany, like all countries, has the right to a strong defensive  capability.” He could sense the Soviets were uncomfortable with his mention of the purges, but the truth is the truth. Let them be uncomfortable! 

He continued. “Up to the end of the European War in mid-1940, the Soviet Union was always seen by the previous Nazi regime as being a serious threat to Germany. Indeed, Adolf Hitler was almost paranoid about your country. This mind-set, inevitably led to a deeply entrenched mistrust of the Soviet Union throughout Germany. Although this attitude originated from the political leadership, it was unavoidable that it also affected the armed forces to some degree.

Since that time, however, consider how well the Soviet Union and Germany have worked together. Nobody can possibly argue that our two countries haven’t developed a very good trading relationship. We are each of us, the biggest single trading partner of the other. This works well for the benefit of both our countries. To allow anything to adversely affect this would be simply foolish.”

Another slight pause from him before he carried on speaking.

“It should also be remembered that the two best battleships of the Red Navy, two very powerful fighting machines, were supplied to you by us. That was not an act of an unfriendly nation.

The German armed forces have been reduced from over four million men in 1940, to fewer than one million today. I know that the Red Army is very much bigger than this.

The current main weapons systems — the jet fighters and tanks — of the German and Alliance armed forces, originate from designs approved and started in the late 1930s. To date we have not introduced anything else that is new or revolutionary.

The Soviet Union, however, started to introduce new aircraft, the Sturmovik,  and tanks, the T34,  both of which are very formidable developments, long before we introduced our own new weapons. We made no protest to you. We simply accepted that we had to upgrade ourselves, or become militarily inferior to the Soviet Union, which is, after all, the largest country in the world.

The number of battle tanks and mobile artillery that you have quoted, are held by the European Alliance and are spread across thirteen countries, most of which do not have a common border with the Soviet Union and therefore pose little external threat to you. Collectively the number is still deemed to be insufficient, even from a purely defensive aspect.”

Von Brauchitsch now tested the Soviets with one of his pet theories. “As regards your comment about the Soviet Union deliberately slowing down your rearmament, we believe you have re-located or built new factories deep inside Siberia, away from prying eyes, and that your production of aircraft and tanks is as high as ever.” He watched their reaction.

He was right! The sneaky bastards had done exactly that.  They didn’t even try to deny it. Von Brauchitsch was puzzled by their reaction! He looked at von Altendorf.

The Baron cleared his throat and spoke directly to Krushchev and Stalin. “The past six years of peace have brought unprecedented prosperity to Europe, including the Soviet Union. We each have our own different political system. You do not like ours, and we don’t like yours. But, I think you will agree that at no time have we sought to impose our ideology on you. In fact we have refrained from any public criticism of your country. As Chancellor von Brauchitsch has just said, our two countries are working well together. Who in their right mind would wish to spoil it?

Germany has proved it has no wish for additional territories. We gave independence back to the European countries that we had decisively defeated in the European War. Neither did we demand the return of our old colonies in Africa from Britain in our peace negotiations. It was also suggested to us in late 1940, that we take over Italy and oust the Fascist dictator, Mussolini. We could have easily have done it, but we were not interested. Italy was a sovereign country and even though we disapproved of its government, we would not interfere.

The whole world witnessed the Alliance peacekeeping operation in Yugoslavia at the request of their own Regent. It was undertaken with reluctance on our part, but to have taken no action would have caused the entire region to explode. We were in — and out — of that country in a matter of a few months.

I believe that the Soviet Union should regard these different actions as indisputable confirmation of our existing policies to promote peace and harmony across Europe.”

He held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “Perhaps some distrust does still remain between us due to historic circumstances. Here, today, we have an opportunity to eliminate it.”

The Soviet translators relayed all this to their individual masters. There was silence for several minutes. Khrushchev talked in a low voice to Stalin for a few moments, then a little longer with Molotov.

It was Molotov who replied. “We have heard with great interest what you have said. We respect and accept much of this, and realise that it was the previous Nazi regime that had evil intentions towards the Soviet Union”. No mention of the Soviet purges, of course! Or Soviet evil intention towards Germany, Poland, and the rest of the world! 

“Comrade Stalin would like to know if you have any specific proposals that could further enhance the good relations that exist between our two countries?”

‘It was you that asked for this summit, not us’,  thought von Brauchitsch. ‘You have something on your devious collective communist minds. Why not spit it out’. 

Despite these thoughts he replied diplomatically. “After the Great War, the victorious powers imposed arms limitations on Germany, and among themselves. This followed a rather naïve initiative by the Americans to reduce national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national security. Much later, it was realised that there was perhaps nothing altruistic about the United States drive for arms limitations. They had their own agenda.

In any case, nothing was accomplished.

There is no doubt that the cost of defence is a huge burden on any country, no matter how prosperous. The concept of an arms limitation agreement is attractive for that reason alone. Perhaps it is something the Soviet Union has considered?”

He wanted the bloody obtuse Russians to know that the Germans knew that  is what they were looking for from this summit meeting.

Again it was Molotov who acted as spokesman. “Perhaps such an idea could be examined. I think a problem could be verification of any agreed limitations. Especially if two countries distrust each other.” He smiled. It was a heavy Soviet attempt at humour.

The Germans honoured him with some genuine chuckles. Perhaps this was the ice breaker? 

For the next hour the two sides fenced verbally, neither wanted to appear to be a supplicant, even though both understood it was the Soviet Union that had engineered this summit for this very purpose.

Finally enough had been said. Molotov graciously thanked the Germans for meeting with them. The summit meeting had been extremely useful. There was much to think about and they would communicate further in the near future.

On behalf of the Germans, von Altendorf said much the same. The summit was over.

The Germans had agreed not to talk business under any circumstances inside their living quarters in case the Turks had cheekily planted any listening devices. It was considered relatively safe to talk in the gardens surrounding the palace, but they should restrict any whispered conversation to the bare necessities and nothing important. They would only relax and talk freely when they were on their Starflight  airliner in the morning, on the way back to Berlin.

The night was not warm but the air inside was stale, and the blasted ceiling fan had stopped working. Von Brauchitsch found it impossible to sleep. He had tossed and turned for an hour before giving up. He wanted some fresh air. Without switching on the bedroom light, he got out of bed, put on his dressing gown, and went outside into the cold air of the garden. He was dutifully followed by one his paratrooper guards.

Von brauchitsch was a non-smoker. Now, sitting on one the benches on this still and clear night, looking up at the myriad stars above him, he thought that perhaps he understood why people such as Winston Churchill found a cigar so relaxing. It was all so peaceful! 

He was lost in thought, replaying today’s meeting in his mind. He couldn’t help feeling that he was missing something. Von Altendorf also had similar thoughts. Before the meeting had finished earlier, the Foreign Minister had passed a slip of paper to him on which he had written ‘What else are they after?’ 

His guard silently approached him. He whispered close to von Brauchitsch’s ear that one of the other German guards had intercepted two Russians near the German sleeping quarters. One of them claimed to be Comrade Khrushchev’s interpreter, and wished to have a private word with the Chancellor. The man was very nervous and constantly stressed the need for absolute silence and secrecy. They had both been searched and nothing dangerous had been found on them.

Von Brauchitsch, perplexed and apprehensive, agreed to see them, but kept the two guards close.

He was astonished when the stocky peasant figure of Khrushchev appeared in front of him, followed by his clearly agitated translator. He did not hesitate and immediately ordered the two guards to retire a short distant. The Russian obviously had something very important to say, and whatever it was, he had a feeling that only he should hear it.

The three of them had a hurried whispered conversation that lasted exactly seven minutes. Khrushchev handed over a paper. The Russians were very anxious to be gone before their absence was detected. They left an utterly astounded von Brauchitsch behind. Here was the missing link! He and von Altendorf had been right! There had been something else! Now he knew what it was! 

It was such an explosive issue he would keep it to himself until they were on the flight home.

He slept badly that night.


They boarded the Luftwaffe Flightstar  at 0900. Earlier, von Brauchitsch had casually invited von Altendorf to sit next him for the flight home. This would enable him to hold a private conversation with him, with little fear of being overheard by the other passengers.

The flight lifted off into a clear blue sky from Istanbul airport at nine twenty. Only then did von Brauchitsch find he could relax a little, and feel able to talk freely.

Von Altendorf had sensed that his friend and colleague had something on his mind. He had seemed more than a little distracted at breakfast. He now asked, “Walther, you have something troubling you?”

Von Brauchitsch looked at him with a slight frown. “I do indeed, Werner.” He made himself more comfortable in his seat before carrying on. “We both thought that the Russians had some hidden agenda for this summit meeting. I now know what it is.”

The Foreign Minister looked at him quizzically.

“Late last night I had an unexpected visitor. None other than Comrade Khrushchev.”

The surprise was evident on von Altendorf’s face. He waited for the rest of the story.

“We could only speak for a few minutes as he was extremely nervous about his absence being discovered by the rest of the Soviet delegation. He also handed me a one page letter, signed by himself, containing some secret information about Soviet weapons. This was to prove his sincerity. As you know, his life would not be worth a carrot if such a document came to Stalin’s knowledge.”

Within twenty four hours of Stalin deciding Khrushchev was an ‘enemy of the people’, Khruschev would have received a bullet in the back of his brain. His family would have suffered also. The Germans knew the huge risk the Russian had taken.

Von Brauchitsch continued. “Khrushchev is deeply concerned about the state of Stalin’s mental health. Often for no apparent reason, Stalin will declare an official within the Soviet government as ‘an enemy of the people ’. In other words, someone who has fallen foul of the dictator, for real or imagined reasons. Such people then simply ‘disappear’.  Khrushchev and other senior Soviet people, believe the same thing could happen to them at any time. I think that perhaps Molotov, at least, is another of those feeling imminently threatened.”

Von Altendorf nodded. This explained certain things he had noticed over the past two days.

Von Brauchitsch then gave von Altendorf another jolt. “He is planning a coup.”

Despite his wish to appear to be having a normal conversation in front of their other colleagues, von Altendorf head jerked around in surprise. This was serious news!  He quickly composed himself. He decided nobody had noticed. “Very, very interesting,” was all he said.

“Yes, and very serious. He wants us, and the European Alliance to help him. Not with military intervention or anything clumsy like that. I think he is personally convinced that the Germany of today will not contemplate military adventurism in any form. His plan is much more subtle.

It appears that the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Armed Forces, Marshall Zhukov, will play a part in the coup, but more of a supporting role than an active one. It will be his job to position certain regiments in Moscow to ensure an orderly transfer of power in the event that Stalin is overthrown. Or dies.

However, Zhukov is also one of those who are viewed with suspicion by the paranoid Stalin. The Marshall needs a sound reason to move his soldiers into Moscow, otherwise Stalin will immediately suspect the worst, denounce him, and make him disappear.

Khruschev wants us and the Alliance to provide him with that reason.”

He sipped the lukewarm coffee the Luftwaffe  stewardess brought each of them.

“As you know, the Soviets are extremely sensitive to foreign troop movements close to their border. They almost always regard these as a potential prelude to an attack. If Poland were to hold military exercises close to their border with Soviet occupied Poland, Zhukov would have a perfect excuse to reinforce the Red Army in Eastern Poland. Under normal circumstances, such an event would then alert ourselves and Germany would also take precautionary measures by beefing up our own forces on our Russian border. We would also find it necessary to sound an initial alert to the European Alliance.

This is exactly what the coup plotters want. Once the tension escalates a little, Marshall Zhukov’s precautionary reinforcement of his troops in Moscow would, in Stalin’s view, seem entirely reasonable.

This is, of course, assuming Stalin is in one of his more lucid moments, and he is not having a conversation with God, or Rasputin, or someone from Mars,” he added facetiously.

“Once Zhukov’s troops are in Moscow, Comrade Khrushchev and his supporters would then do whatever they are planning to do, with Stalin. Exactly what that is was not disclosed to me.

Once that part is over with, Zhukov, as a good and loyal soldier of the Soviet Union, will then declare his loyalty to whatever government is seen to be in charge in Moscow.

Thereafter the border tension will de-escalate as rapidly as it grew, with the reason that ‘it was, after all, only Poland exercising its right to hold military excercises in their own country.’ 

We will then have a Soviet Union without the monster Stalin.” He waited for von Altendorf’s reaction.

The Foreign Minister took a few minutes to mull over what he had heard before he replied.

“It certainly sounds like a feasible plan. It’s like a giant game of chess! There are risks, of course, and I always worry about the law of unintended consequences.  Also, I have to ask, are we not better off with devil we know, rather than an unknown quantity such as Khrushchev and co? Personally I have no doubt that Khruschev would be a much more moderate and enlightened ruler than Stalin. But it is still something that should be considered.

Also, if we are to take this risk, we need something concrete from the Soviets as a quid pro quo  for our co-operation.”

“Exactly,” von Brauchitsch answered. “Khruschev proposed that following the successful outcome of the ‘game’, there would be a Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Poland. Furthermore, he is prepared to immediately enter into arms limitation talks with us, the Alliance, China and Japan. He doesn’t mind the Americans also being involved as long as they don’t try and take the moral high ground, and they leave their naïve liberal equality thinking at home.

His aim is to free up money normally spent on defence, and spend it on infrastructure and social improvement.

He also seeks closer friendship and increased trade on a preferential basis with Germany. He hinted that ideological change in Russia was not out of the question, given time. Who knows, Werner, a future non-communist Soviet Union might even apply to join the Alliance!” This last sentence was spoken with a great smile.

He carried on.

“I mentioned earlier, a paper he gave me last night. Being a true Russian, he obviously thought that anyone would view his proposal as some sort of subterfuge or trick. That is how a Russian would look at such things. He was desperate to prove his bona fides.  The paper he gave me, disclosed the true production numbers of Russian aircraft and tanks over the past two years. And it is far higher than we thought. The same document gave the locations of the secret factories in Siberia where these additional munitions are manufactured. With this information our own intelligence services should be able to uncover something.”

They both reverted to silence while they thought through the ramifications of what had been proposed to them.

Von Altendorf stared up at the aircraft ceiling. His mind a whirl of conflicting thoughts and emotions. While he was filled with trepidation about Germany committing itself to such a potentially dangerous course of action, he also saw the tremendous opportunity it presented.

Before their flight finally landed in Berlin they had both agreed on the way forward.

The first priority was to discuss the matter openly at tomorrow’s scheduled meeting of the Governing Council. No secretaries taking minutes would be allowed to attend, and all present would be reminded of the dire need for absolute secrecy. For now and for many years to come.

If the Council agreed to proceed, it would be recommended to them that the management of the operation be delegated to the Chancellor, the Foreign Minister, and the Defence Minister. This would be a practical measure for ease of operation.

Again, assuming that this was acceptable, the three person operations team would then need to have a highly confidential discussion with Field Marshall Rommel. As Supreme Commander of the European Alliance, he would have to be made aware of the ploy. They were confident Rommel would play his part.

As expected, most of the Governing Council were initially nervous about ‘operation nothing’  as it was named. Beck and Speer, however, were positive and had no hesitation in giving their immediate and enthusiastic support for the idea. The remaining Ministers dutifully also eventually gave their support, but with not quite the same enthusiasm as the others. It was still a unanimous decision.

Later, at different meeting, Field Marshall Rommel had assessed the project instantly. He grasped the pitfalls and the probability of failure or success. He was all for it. The Alliance would play its part.

Now came the delicate part. Persuading the Poles to do their bidding, and hoping that the Polish leadership could keep their collective mouths shut! This was the biggest single worry for von Brauchitsch, and they debated for some hours on how to approach it.

Before any further action was to be initiated, von Brauchitsch had made an arrangement with Khrushchev that the Russian would signal all was ready on his part, by personally unveiling a monument to Soviet workers in the small town of Dubno, eastern Poland. If he was not ready, he would not attend the ceremony.


Von Brauchitsch, von Altendorf, and von Mannstein had arrived in the city early the previous day. Ostensibly they were there for a familiarisation and goodwill visit. While they were there, General Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister, would also visit the city in response to an invitation from Baron von Altendorf. They were due to have lunch together that day.

In an earlier telephone conversation with General Beck back in Berlin, von Brauchitsch had just heard that Nikita Khruschev had been positively identified and photographed, unveiling a Soviet monument in Dubno that morning.

The Polish Prime Minister had been pleasantly surprised when, at the very last minute, von Altendorf asked if he would mind if the German Chancellor and the Defence Minister also joined them for lunch. Sikorski had come to regard the German Foreign Minister as a good friend since their first meeting seven years earlier. The meeting that had led to Poland becoming independent again, less the part occupied by the accursed Russians! 

He had met von Brauchitsch and von Mannstein several times since then, at various state occasions. They had both earned his respect. The Polish hatred of Germans had all but disappeared by 1947. Sikorski looked forward to the lunch.

The meal was in one of the rooms in the Danzig Municipal Building, which had also doubled as the de facto  German Consulate in the first few years after Danzig’s incorporation into the German State in 1940. The intelligence service had thoroughly checked it for foreign listening devices. A unit of German paratroopers provided security. Sikorski also had his own loyal guards with him, and von Brauchitsch had specifically instructed his own men to respect, and indeed, to go out of their way to be friendly towards, the Poles. The Germans had greatly wronged this nation in 1939.

For the first half hour, their discussions centred on general Polish/German matters of co-operation, current affairs, and the European Alliance. Then, at a discrete nod from von Brauchitsch, von Altendorf decided it was time to change the subject. He hoped that what he was about to hear, would not spoil the Polish General’s lunch! 

He decided on a formal opening. “General Sikorski, we have a very serious proposition to discuss with you today. Very serious indeed! However, before we can proceed we need your word that what is discussed here, goes no further than this table. I cannot stress how important this is. It is of vital national interest to Poland, Germany and other countries.” He waited for Sikorski’s reaction.

The surprised Polish Prime Minister recovered quickly. He hesitated only a moment. “You have my word, Baron von Altendorf. I am greatly indebted to you personally, and to the current German government, for many things. Even if I personally do not like, or if I disagree with anything you tell me today, it shall not be repeated by me.”

Von Altendorf thanked him. He then outlined, to the greatest degree he was able, what they wanted to do with the Polish armed forces, but without disclosing the reasons why. It sounded implausible even to his own ears. Sikorski would have to trust them. 

Sikorski was no fool. The three people with him at the table effectively constituted the German Government, with the most powerful military in the world. He trusted them implicitly, but they were asking him was to play with fire while being soaked in gasoline!

It was several minutes before he replied.

“Gentlemen, as I indicated earlier, I, Wladyslaw Sikorski, have nothing but respect for the government that leads Germany today. Europe is indebted to you for the creation of the European Alliance. Our continent has never been so peaceful or prosperous. I find it hard to say no to what you ask, but at the same time I am very worried about saying yes. To threaten the damned Soviets could stir up a hornets nest. Stalin is a murderous madman. There is no telling how he would react to any provocation. While I am personally not afraid to fight the Russians, my country cannot stand against them. I believe it is only our Alliance membership that has restrained them so far, from invading and occupying the rest of Poland.

Is there nothing further that you are able to tell me that would convince me to take this gamble? I assure you that I would dearly love to co-operate with you, but I need to know that I would not be acting against my country’s best interest.”

His response was both reasonable and understandable. Von Brauchitsch decided to open up just a little. “Would you like the Soviets out of eastern Poland, General?” He asked quietly.

“NOW YOU ARE TALKING,” Sikorsky enthusiastically almost shouted, after he absorbed what von Brauchitsch had said. “Tell me more, please.”

“There is very little more we are able to say, unfortunately. And some things are best left unsaid. It is obvious to you that we have motives for this ‘game’ we want to play. One of the results, provided everything goes according to plan, will be the evacuation of the Soviet troops from eastern Poland and the reunification of you country.

On the other hand, should things go wrong, we have assessed the military risk to Poland, Germany, and the Alliance, and we are all in agreement that the threat of pre-emptive action by the Soviet Union is low.”

The mention of the re-unification of his country had energised Sikorski. They went over the details once more, of what was expected of him. Before he had even realised it, he was committed. He made the decision alone. His government colleagues would not question him. That way the secret was safe!

Later that evening, in the comfort of his own home, he agonised over whether he had acted wisely. But the rewards! 

As secretly arranged between von Brauchitsch and Khrushchev, early the following morning the Polish Prime Minister issued a short statement condemning the new Russian monument in Dubno. He specifically used the words ‘Russian’ instead of ‘Soviet’. This was the return signal to Khrushchev that everything was in place.

Two days later the first Polish tank unit was loaded on a train bound for their eastern border. Another five days, and more than half of that country’s armoured vehicles, nearly one hundred modern German Panther  and Tiger  tanks in total, together with a hundred mobile artillery and rocket launchers, were engaged in military exercises close to the border with Soviet occupied Poland.

Seventy thousand soldiers practiced war games.

Overhead screamed Polish ME262 jet fighters. Let the Russians gaze jealously at these! 

The previous two days had seen Soviet troop and armour reinforcements moving to the Polish border. There had also been some redeployment of troops in and around areas close to the border, as well as near the major cities of Moscow and Leningrad.

In response to the ‘unexplained’ Soviet military build-up in Eastern Poland, on Germany’s northern border, Germany felt it necessary, purely as a precautionary measure, to reinforce its troops and armour in northern Germany. Three

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Luftwaffe  ME262 squadrons were also relocated closer to there.

The European Alliance headquarters, in terms of its standing operational protocol, issued a code four alert. This was basically an initial warning to the member countries of a low possibility attack. The highest code alert was one.

This only seemed to aggravate the situation. More soviet troops were moved closer to Poland and northern Germany. And Red Army troops were stationed within Moscow and other cities to prevent any unexpected hostile acts or subversion.


A perplexed and worried Winston Churchill called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the Polish/Russian crisis . ‘What the hell has brought all this about,’  he wondered. ‘Surely not because the damned Russians unveiled a small monument in a village only a little bigger than the actual monument itself.’ 

His very brief telephone conversation with the German Foreign Minister had ended with him receiving firm reassurance that all would be well, but no real details. Most unlike von Altendorf!  His political nose told him there was something more to all this than meets the eye!

In the meantime he supposed he could only accept that the Army Chief-of-Staff had acted correctly in response to the European Alliance alert, by placing the British armed forces on low grade alert. It would be a good reaction test, if nothing else! 

Churchill’s cabinet could offer no more explanation or ideas for the sudden European military activity then he could. Were the Russians planning something? 

It was all very worrying! 


The current ‘crisis’  in Europe had demonstrated in no uncertain terms to a concerned President Truman, just how ineffectual the United Nations  actually was in the face of the disdain of Europe and Russia. He had called for the body’s first ever emergency debate on the matter. After the debate was over, the US ambassador to the UN had reported only the expected litany of calls by individual member countries for Poland, the Soviet Union and Germany to de-escalate the tension by withdrawing their forces from their respective borders. A resolution to this effect had accordingly been passed by the UN General Assembly.

Truman was almost embarrassed by the lack of reaction on the part of the countries concerned. The UN had simply been ignored. This did not bode well for the organisation’s future. He was beginning to wish he had never pushed the damned concept.

In its first real test, the UN had failed miserably. It was like the old League of Nations all over again.

The US President and his personal advisers considered the military exercises conducted by the Poles as being ‘provocative’,  a description not entirely agreed with by the US military. Their position was that Poland had a right to do this, and in any case, communist Soviet Union was no friend of the United States.

The Secretary of State was no help. He confirmed to Truman his bewilderment how something like this could develop so fast. On the face of it, it just didn’t make sense. His talks with his counterparts in Britain, Poland, Russia and Germany had been inconclusive. He advised ‘a wait and see’ approach. Let things cool down. 


General Klaus von Altendorf had exercised his tank units at digging in and disappearing from enemy sight. He had gone forward with his officers a kilometre, and then further. He kept turning to search for the concealed positions. They had done well. It was only because he knew where they were that he could actually detect one or two small signs of his force. Tomorrow or the next day, he would move them to a different position and repeat the exercise.

He was satisfied. His men were the best, and the Tiger was a truly superb tank. He almost wished the Soviets would come charging over the border. They would not know what hit them! 

He was uncertain why events of the last week had actually got this far. Only a few weeks earlier he had dined with his father and they had talked about how peaceful Europe was, and how the Soviet threat had diminished over the years.

He shook his head. Politics! 


After introductory sombre martial music, Moscow radio announced in subdued tones that the dearly beloved leader of the Soviet Union, Comrade Stalin, was dead. Apparently he had suffered a severe stroke while in bed during the night, and he had not recovered. This announcement was repeated continually throughout the morning.

It was only much later in the day that another announcement was made. This time to re-assure the Soviet people. Comrades Nikita Khrushchev and Vyacheslav Molotov would, in the interim, form a caretaker government with the Politburo . They had expressed their extreme sorrow at their great leader’s death. He would be sorely missed by all of the Soviet Union’s citizens. The whole of the Soviet Union was in mourning.

“BULLSHIT,” roared General Sikorski alone in his office. Those two bastards murdered the old tyrant. They set it up with the Germans.  He laughed out loud. It had been a long time since he had felt so happy. He thanked his God that the Germans were on the side of Poland.

Now we will see if we get the rest of our country back. 


The German Governing Council heard the news within the confines of the council chamber. They were unashamedly happy and relieved. Their gambit had worked! The Russian psychopath was dead.

No one shed a tear for the Soviet dictator. Privately though, von Altendorf spared a few minutes thought to the unknown millions of dead innocent Soviet citizens, mindlessly murdered or starved to death by Stalin over the past fifteen years. If there is a God, maybe Stalin will be meeting his victims later.

He only hoped that his successors now lived up to their promises. As a student of Russian history, he fervently hoped the Russian people would finally receive some decent treatment. Something unknown to them throughout their history. After hundreds of years of oppression they deserved a chance for a better life.

Early the following morning, the German Defence Minister issued orders to the military units on Germany’s northern border with Russia, recalling them back to their permanent bases. With immediate effect!

This drew a swift response from the Soviet Army. All their units facing northern Germany were pulled back. The border area resumed its normal quiet rural appearance,

The Poles had halted their military exercises following the news of Stalin’s death. The Polish Air force now recalled all of their aircraft back to their bases. The army pulled back from the border area, and commenced transporting its armoured units back to where they were permanently stationed. Their war games were over.

Amazingly, the Soviets responded to the Polish withdrawal with alacrity. In just one day, the entire recent influx of troops and tanks had disappeared, leaving only the scant border guards who had always been stationed there. No Soviet aircraft were to be seen in the skies near the border.


Churchill was totally relaxed and he sipped his whisky slowly. Smoke curled from his cigar parked in the ashtray. He was delighted with the news of the demise of that evil bastard Stalin. The last of the world’s twentieth century brutal dictators.

He could not help but keep smiling.

He wasn’t sure how they had done it, but he knew the Germans had somehow orchestrated the whole border confrontation thing. He was tempted to telephone von Altendorf and congratulate him. ‘Better not. Don’t want to embarrass him. At a suitable time in the future, I will let him know that I am not fooled!’ 

He sincerely hoped Russia’s new joint Tsars, Khrushchev and Molotov, would be more reasonable and enlightened than their predecessor. He was actually optimistic about this.

He chuckled contentedly as he lifted the glass to his lips and silently toasted the Germans.


General Sikorski frowned at the letter he held. He had to read it three times, it was such an unbelievable communication.

It had been delivered to him in person, by the Soviet Ambassador to Poland.

Essentially it stated that the Supreme Soviet Council had reviewed the past and current position of the Soviet Union with regards to its place in international affairs, and its relationship with its neighbours.

In 1939 Poland had been invaded without cause or warning, by the Fascist dictator, Adolf Hitler. To ensure that the gallant Polish people were not totally submerged by the Fascist horde, the Soviet Union had extended their protection to them by temporarily occupying the eastern portion of their country.

They noted that Poland had been a country free of the Fascist yoke for some years now. In that time they had clearly demonstrated that their country was economically and socially stable, and had developed a competent government.

The Soviet Supreme Council believed that eastern Poland no longer needed the protective hand of the Soviet Union.

In the spirit of friendship and international brotherhood, the Polish Government was invited to send their representatives to Moscow to discuss terms for an orderly withdrawal of Soviet forces from the eastern part of Poland, as well as normalisation of trade, and other matters of mutual concern.

‘Hypocritical bastards,’  Sikorski thought. Then a great smile spread across his face. “WE DID IT!” he yelled. His secretary poked her head through the door, thinking he had called her. He rose from his desk, grabbed her and hugged her in a release of emotion. “WE DID IT, PAULINA.” He said no more, and, confused, she went back to her work.

Sikorski had an urgent telephone call to make to the German Foreign Minister.


Von Altendorf reported to the Governing Council about the ecstatic telephone call he had received from General Sikorski. The Polish prime Minister was ebullient in his praise for the German Government. He expressed the undying gratitude of all Poles for bringing about the re-unification of their country. He declared that Poland was the best friend and most loyal ally of Germany, and would be so for the rest of time.

Von Altendorf failed to mention that at one point Sikorski had been so overcome with emotion, he actually started weeping. Most embarrassing. Most un-German! 

The new Soviet leaders had now delivered on two of their promises, the demise of Stalin, and a free Poland. ‘Operation nothing’ had been a complete success. 

Their third commitment, to meaningful arms reduction talks, was on the agenda. The date for the first meeting between the two countries was set for early March. Khrushchev, Molotov and Marshall Zhukov would represent the Soviet Union. Von Brauchitsch, von Altendorf and von Mannstein would be there for Germany.

The venue would be the same as before, the old palace outside Istanbul.

There were no pre-conditions. Any subject concerning armaments could be tabled for discussion. This did not mean that in practice everything actually would  be open for negotiation. The Soviets did not have a history of openness.

Von Altendorf saw little problem with the actual principle of arms limitation being agreed upon. He was, however, sceptical about the Soviets accepting the need for indisputable verification. This would require independent inspectors on their territory. Completely unacceptable to the paranoid Soviets.  

Allow foreign subversives on the sacred soil of Mother Russia. Never! 

They would just have to see how it all worked out at the conference. At least they were talking! 


Churchill was extremely pleased to hear about the impending Polish re-unification and the arms limitation talks. The missing pieces to the ‘Polish crisis’  puzzle had now been supplied. What an unbelievably cheeky ploy! And it had worked!  

His admiration for the Germans was almost unlimited. Once again he reminisced about how close the British and Germans had come to tearing each other apart a few years ago. Madness! 

He earnestly wished his German counterparts good luck in their talks with the notoriously difficult Russians. He would follow their progress with great interest.

He made a mental note to invite the German Chancellor for a state visit to Britain, if the impending general election was won by his Conservative Party and he remained Prime Minister.

Eden wouldn’t be happy about him remaining Prime Minister, of course. Maybe he should think about stepping down and letting Eden take over the show? But maybe not just yet! 

There was also another small matter he wished to discuss personally with the King. 


Once he had worked everything out, President Truman felt like an amateur compared to the German politicians. If he was right, they had just pulled off a magnificent coup for the western world. Indeed the whole world, if the Soviets were serious about arms limitations.

Poland was now one country again, and a potential source of confrontation with the Soviets had been eliminated. He was happy for that country. The world was also a little safer.

He had sent his personal, and his country’s, sincere congratulations to the Polish Government, and an ambiguous congratulatory note to Germany. Just to let them know that he  knew.

‘I sure am glad they are on the right side’,  he thought. ‘And it was only a few years ago it looked like we would be going to war with them. Remarkable people!’ 


The prototype medium bomber/photo reconnaissance jet aircraft was towed out of the hanger at Junkers own airfield. In its military colours it looked sleek, and at the same time, menacing. The distinctive tear-drop shaped fuel tanks fitted under the wingtips spoke of its long range abilities. This was the aircraft that would be the king of the skies, if it lived up to its design specifications. It had been decided to call it the Kaiseradler — the Emperor Eagle .

Once it was ready for production, it would be manufactured in both Germany and Britain. The British partners of Junkers had respected the German name, but needed a more appropriate name for their own version. As a gesture to Australia, who had such great faith in the project they had already placed a firm order for at least forty aircraft — the aircraft’s first export order — the British had christened it the Canberra. 

The Aviation and Defence Ministers watched as it powered into the sky. ‘It certainly looks a thing of great beauty,’  thought Kesselring, ‘So purposeful’. 

As it was the aircrafts maiden flight, no great display of its potential was expected. The test pilot’s instructions were to just fly around, come back in one piece, and tell us about the problems! 

Twenty minutes later it was safely back on the ground. Kesselring and von Mannstein joined the technical staff of Junkers to hear what the pilot had to say.

The pilot had nothing but praise for the machine. It was vice free and handled like a fighter! Though he had been tempted, he restrained himself and flew it only in terms of his instructions. He confirmed that he had found only the smallest of problems, every one of which could easily be remedied. The Kaiseradler  was a winner!

The two satisfied Ministers drove back to Berlin.


The only surprise for the Germans from the arms limitation talks had been the relatively friendly attitude of the Soviets. The paranoia and cold suspicion of previous years was replaced with less obvious paranoia and only lukewarm suspicion. The reluctance of the Soviets to disclose their hand remained unchanged.

Von Brauchitsch thought that perhaps it was a case of Russia’s new rulers needing more time before they felt secure enough to take the sort of decisions now required. He began to think this meeting may have been a wasted exercise.

At least Poland was once again complete. The Soviets had expedited their withdrawal from the country, and Polish troops had followed behind them in a restrained and orderly fashion. Once all of the Soviet troops were out of the country, Sikorski, being a good Catholic, had ordered a thanksgiving evening of prayer, followed by a day of national celebrations. Apparently the populace had celebrated in style! Polish vodka was better than Russian vodka! 

Many Germans from different walks of life, had been invited to the celebrations, something that would have been absolutely unthinkable six or seven years earlier.

Von Brauchitsch dragged his thoughts back to the present. At the last meeting of the Governing Council, anticipating exactly this time-wasting behaviour of the Soviets, they had decided on a bold offer. He was now about to make it before everyone fell asleep.

He waited for this new fellow with the hairy eyebrows — Brezhnev his name was — to finish speaking. He surreptitiously caught the eye first of von Altendorf and then von Mannstein. They knew he was ready to try and kick-start things.

At long last Brezhnev stopped droning on. There was silence for a few minutes.

Von Brauchitsch had their attention. He spoke loudly and purposefully.

“Gentlemen. We have met today in an attempt to eliminate the curse of high defence spending”. They waited for his next words. “I have a proposal to make.” He saw that he had the interest of the Soviets.

“With immediate effect Germany is willing to unilaterally reduce by half, its arms production for the next three months. We also invite the Soviet Union to send a team of inspectors to verify this.

If, after the three months inspection period has expired, the Soviet Union has made no move towards taking the same action, we can all presume that arms limitation talks are premature, and leave such things for renegotiation at some future date.”

His offer was short and crystal clear. He waited for their reaction. No more bullshit! 

The three top Russians spoke quietly but urgently among themselves for a few minutes. This stretched to ten minutes. Finally it was Khrushchev who answered.

“Your offer is accepted,” was all he said. Then he smiled.

That’s a first’  thought von Brauchitsch.

The conference now lost itself in details of dates, security, verification procedures, and other nonsense that von Brauchitsch largely left to von Mannstein to sort out. He was by no means sure if their offer would result in anything more than a few months reduced production by the Germans, and free insight into their manufacturing facilities for the Russians. That was the only risk they faced. At least the deadlock was broken. They would soon know how serious Khrushchev was.

An hour later they were all drinking vodka in the Russian living quarters. His offer had dramatically changed the atmosphere in an instant. The Russians were actually trying to be friendly!

A few more drinks and some Russian music started playing. Another drink and some of the Russian soldiers were called in by their officers to perform some traditional dances for the German guests, who were actually enjoying their first ever normal meeting with Soviet citizens. Most unexpected. And very interesting.  Even a slightly inebriated Marshall Zhukov demonstrated his dancing abilities to a delighted audience.

Like von Altendorf, von Brauchitsch was also aware of how the Russian peasantry had been brutally treated for countless years. He looked around him. ‘Yet they are resilient. I really hope they see some meaningful change emerge from all this. If everything works out amicably, I think I would like to visit their country at some time.’ 

The vodka was truly awful, but the Germans forced it down. Don’t want to offend our hosts now that we have made this breakthrough!  The Russians seemed to have an endless supply of the stuff.

During their get together, von Brauchitsch took the opportunity to surreptitiously return to Khrushchev the incriminating paper he had handed over at their last meeting. In effect he was saying, ‘Your trust has not been betrayed.’  Khruschev’s face showed no emotion, he simply raised his glass in a silent salute to the German.

Before the party started to break up von Brauchitsch found himself standing next to Khrushchev. He had the feeling that the Russian had deliberately manoeuvred himself to be there when he had seen the German interpreter with him. The new Russian Tsar touched him on the shoulder and smiled. Two smiles in one day! 

Khrushchev then addressed von Brauchitsch through the German interpreter who calmly and coolly translated as if it were nothing more than a few comments the Russian was making about the festivities.

It was much more than that!

Von Brauchitsch was told emphatically that the bad old days of Stalin were a stain on the Soviet Union. Khrushchev himself had been forced to do things of which he was deeply ashamed. He was pledging to do everything he could to alter the Soviet Union in a meaningful and positive way so that it could eventually assume its place alongside the rest of Europe within, or shoulder to shoulder with, the European Alliance. Although he could not say how long this would take, it would not happen quickly. Such a thing could not even be mentioned within Soviet ruling circles at the present time.

The friendship and fair play displayed by Germany towards the Soviet Union, regardless of their conflicting ideologies, would forever be remembered by Nikita Khrushchev. He thanked von Brauchitsch.

He then calmly wandered away to drink more vodka with his compatriots leaving a wondering von Brauchitsch.

The following morning, suffering from hangovers varying from bad to very bad, the German delegation prepared to evacuate their living quarters before going to the airport. To their great surprise the senior members of the Soviet delegation appeared. They wanted to bid their new comrades a fond farewell, and give them a few bottles of the best Russian vodka to take back to Germany as gifts. The same drink they had enjoyed so much the previous evening. 

To the horror of von Altendorf they also insisted on one last drink before their German friends left. There was no way the Germans could refuse. The vodka was already being poured!

Von Brauchitsch noticed von Altendorf go pale at the thought. He could not help but smile at this. That was one person he was not going to sit next to on the bumpy flight home! He can puke over somebody else! 


The Russian arms control inspectors had finally gone home after three weeks. At one stage it seemed to Von Mannstein that they had been more interested in Germany’s night life, than inspecting the country’s armaments production. Albert Speer wholeheartedly agreed with him. Never known for his ‘partying’, Speer was glad to see the back of their wild and sometimes uncouth, visitors.

The two Ministers, and their underlings detailed to escort the Russians, nevertheless felt sure that the Russians had successfully accomplished their mission. They would be able to confirm to their superiors in Moscow that production had indeed been slowed down in the factories they had seen in Germany.

During the visit to the Junkers factory, von Mannstein had noted that the Soviets were in possession of very accurate production figures up the end of 1945. He wondered how they had got them, and mentioned the fact in his thank-you letter to Junkers. The Soviet figures for Focke-Wulf and Messerschmitt were much more inaccurate, as were those for tank production.

Now it remains to be seen if the Soviets are serious about arms limitation. Or if they  ARE serious, will the ‘old guard’ allow any change? 


The royal palace was pleased to announce that an invitation had been extended to the German Chancellor, Field Marshall Walther von Brauchitsch, to attend a ceremony in October at Buckingham Palace. He was to be invested with Britain’s highest Order of Chivalry, The most Noble Order of the Garter.

Traditionally, this day, 23 April, St Georges day, was the day such honours were announced.

This Order had instituted by Edward III in 1348, and was awarded by the British sovereign as his or her personal gift. In this particular case, a special Statute had to be passed, to enable the Chancellor to receive the award as a foreign Head of State. Prior to this, the only foreign nationals to whom it could be awarded, were foreign monarchs.

It was a singular honour for von Brauchitsch and it recognised his courage and commitment in, firstly, eliminating the scourge of Nazism in Germany, then later his leading role in creating a peaceful, prosperous, and strong Europe. This included the German success with arms limitation. All this was suitably described in diplomatic language.

What could not be mentioned, for obvious reasons, was the virtual elimination of communism in Europe, other than the Soviet Union. The current easing of tension between the Soviet Union and the western world was also attributed to von Brauchitsch, but again could not be officially recognised.


The British general election had seen Winston Churchill’s Conservative party returned to power with a greater majority. The five years since the last election had been good ones for Britain. Churchill unashamedly took the credit for this. The British people had never had it so good! 

During his Premiership, it had given him a certain amount of secret pleasure to say no to the invitation by the US President Truman for Britain to join his ramshackle United Nations  organisation. Truman was too liberal for his liking. He was also too often openly hostile to the existence of the British Empire.

Churchill personally might have felt that Britain was morally obliged to join the UN if the rest of the world had, but the firm rejection of the concept by Germany and the rest of Europe gave him the excuse he needed to say ‘NO’. Britain’s decision had been copied by other countries in the Empire, notably Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Only Canada had succumbed to pressure from its southern neighbour.

As he celebrated in private with a whisky, he thought that he might retire before the next election. He had been in politics a long time. ‘Another three or four years and I will become a full-time painter’,  he promised himself.


It gave von Altendorf great pleasure to report to the Council that he had received a letter from Khrushchev. The Supreme Soviet Council had ordered a fifty percent reduction in arms production throughout the Soviet Union, commencing 1 June that year. This would last for a period of six months to give Germany and Europe, together with — hopefully — China, Japan, and possibly the United States, sufficient time to agree a permanent arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union.

The need for inspectors to verify matters was accepted. It was suggested that initially Germany and the Soviet Union work out an acceptable system between themselves, and this could then be put to all the other countries involved, for their consideration.

“Like everything with the Soviets, we cannot take for granted that we have a deal here. I am optimistic, but I am sure that somewhere along the way we will find obstacles before us. In the meantime, let us regard this as real progress.”

He also advised that an invitation had been received from Great Britain for the Chancellor to make a State visit to that country in October. This would coincide with the Chancellor’s investiture of the British honour being conferred on him by King George.

Chancellor Von Brauchitsch didn’t show it but he had felt deeply honoured by this award from the British King. He considered it one of the greatest moments in his life.

It was even possible it wouldn’t be raining in England in that month! 

Von Altendorf mentioned that during a debate the previous week, the Dutch Government had concluded that, with the exception of the Caribbean territories, their colonies were becoming a liability. There had been signs of increasing nationalism, usually involving terrorism, and the individual colonial economies were suffering.

The Dutch wanted to shed them next year, before they became a drain on the home country.

One more item of interest was the fact that the Balkan republics appeared to be settling down. Reported incidents of political unrest or violence were at their lowest since Yugoslavia had split asunder two years earlier.

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Early days yet, but a positive sign. 

The long awaited maiden test flight of the Komet  would take place in mid-July, the Aviation Minister announced. His British counterpart would be there, together with Rolls Royce executives. Many representatives from various world airlines were expected. This would be an important day for the Anglo-German aircraft industry.

The Defence Minister announced that General Sieckenius’ munitions deal with Argentina seemed to have started something of an arms race on the South American continent. His Ministry, through General Sieckenius’ department, had authorised sales of equipment to Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. All cash sales!  

A request from Paraguay had been declined due to the repressive nature of the regime of President Stroessner. Stroessner’s father had been German, and his government was firmly anti-communist and pro-German, but this was insufficient to persuade von Mannstein of the desirability of supplying their regime with arms. Too many similarities with Hitler and the Nazis! 

He also advised that India had obviously looked at the significant improvements taking place in the Bangladesh military, a potential enemy of theirs, and had requested a meeting with the German Defence Minister at his earliest convenience. Pakistan must have got wind of this and they too had requested a meeting. Could be a minefield! 

Albert Speer delivered a glowing update on Germany’s armaments industry, which was now the biggest in the world. The need for selling munitions on credit had also diminished considerably. This appeared to be due to no small extent, to the activities of an American bank in which Deutsche bank had an interest.

The Mercantile Bank of California had created a market in securities issued by smaller countries to raise cash specifically to purchase German armaments. Speer mentioned that the idea for this had apparently originated from the brother of Baron von Altendorf’s son in law. A man who had already rendered great service to Germany through his innovative financing of a great number of German built aircraft.

He ended his report by saying that in the event of future arms limitations in Europe, this particular industry should be unaffected to a significant degree due to the great demand in South America, Asia, and soon, he believed, Africa.

“There will always be countries that want strong armed forces. As soon as they take steps towards this, their neighbours, feeling threatened, have no choice but to follow the same course of action.”

Speer also reported that the Anglo-German Atomic Energy Corporation expected its experimental nuclear reactor to produce the world’s first electricity from this source within the next twelve months. He stressed that this was only experimental, with probably only enough power produced to run a light bulb! The first commercial generation of electricity was planned for 1953 at the earliest.


The gleaming white Komet  was standing on the airstrip being circled by the one hundred and fifty or so visitors, fascinated by the world’s first jet airliner. Standing proud on the aircraft’s tail fin were the painted crossed flags of Britain and Germany. Among the visitors were James Blackstone, Jamie MacLellan and Frank O’Donnell. The Rolls Royce engineers looked a little strained. They had been doing last minute checks into the early hours of the morning.

The Foreign Affairs, Aviation, Defence, Economics and Interior Ministers were there, as well as the British Minister of Aviation and the British Ambassador. Even old Hjalmar Schacht had shown up to witness his country’s latest achievement.

There was an air of expectancy. History was being made today. The first flight of the world’s first jet airliner. The beginning of a new era in public transportation.

At the appointed time the visitors were gently herded away from the aircraft. The test flight crew climbed aboard, conscious of the stares they attracted. The boarding steps were wheeled away, and everything was ready.

The Rolls Royce turbines started to turn. Slowly at first, but they were soon spinning with a powerful roar. The aircraft moved forward. It took several minutes for it to position itself facing the length of the runway. It was cleared for take-off by Focke-Wulf’s own control tower.

The roar of its four jets increased and aircraft was straining to leap forward. The pilot released the brakes. This was what the Komet  was waiting for. It moved purposefully forward, all the while accelerating. Three quarters along the runway, exactly opposite where the visitors were positioned, it was airborne.

Most of the guests clapped, some gazed in wonder. The technicians, particularly the Rolls Royce engineers, looked on with relief. The Focke-Wulf executives saw the dollar signs.

Up in the sky the pilot took Komet 1  through a pre-determined unexciting set of manoeuvres. These lasted for only fifteen minutes before he gently brought her back down to land. The first flight of the world’s first jet powered airliner had gone without a hitch! 

The Aviation Minister, Kesselring, had spotted James’ and Jamie’s names on the guest list. He sought them out after the demonstration flight was over. He was well aware of the contribution James had made to the success of the Strarflight,  and before that, to the Junkers JU52 civil programme. He expected the same effort would be put into the Komet. 

Jamie he knew from various diplomatic parties they’d both attended while Jamie had been the US military attaché.

James introduced Kesselring to O’Donnell. They had been speaking for ten minutes when Professor Tank joined them. This was more to O’Donnell’s taste. No need to be diplomatic.  He quizzed the Professor on the future for the Komet. 

Here it was! Straight from the horse’s mouth.  Tank spent ten minutes telling O’Donnell about the development possibilities. He had always had his eye on the future when designing the Komet.  He believed the aircraft and its variants could be produced for at least the next fifteen years. During that time it could be stretched and widened to accommodate more passengers or freight as the market demanded. And its performance upgraded. He saw the final passenger version carrying perhaps as many as two hundred and twenty people.

Tank and Kesselring left a very thoughtful three visitors as they went to mingle further.

That night, in the bar of their hotel, James and the two Americans threw all sorts of ideas at each other. One thing they all agreed on. Provided no technical problems were discovered, the Komet  was going to be an enormous commercial success. They were going to exploit this! 


Admiral Darlan had received the news from de Gaulle that the Vietnamese communist rebels under Ho Chi Min had finally been eliminated. They had been trapped and shot to pieces by combined units of the French and Vietnamese armies, at some obscure place called Dien Bien Phu. Ho Chi Minh himself had chosen an ignominious death to ignominious capture. ‘His choice’,  de Gaulle thought in dismissal. The country was now safe from communism. If not from itself !

The instant the communist threat had disappeared, De Gaulle had ordered all French military advisors in the country to return home. The Indochina countries must look after themselves. He was anxious to avoid a request from the country’s ruler for military support of their inefficient government. No way! 

After his sound handling of the dismantling of the colonial empire, Admiral Darlan had publicly commended de Gaulle for his skill in that difficult and complicated matter. De Gaulle had hoped that Darlan, who was now sixty six years old, would take this opportunity to nominate him as his successor, or at least make him Deputy President. This had not happened and de Gaulle was seething. He was no less ambitious than he always had been.

A week after he heard of the communist defeat in Viet Nam, Darlan had been informed by the Germans that their intelligence operatives had learned that the French Minister of Colonies, de Gaulle, was plotting. Many of his accomplices had also been named by them. De Gaulle was going to lead a coup to ‘re-establish democracy in France’.  

With himself as President, of course! 

“Damn all politicians and ambitious Generals,” Darlan said to himself in the privacy of his office. He could perhaps understand de Gaulle to some extent, if France was floundering in a sea of anarchy and social unrest. But the country had never been so peaceful or prosperous. Neither did it have any possible external threats.

The angry Admiral applied his mind to how to deal with this problem.

In the end it was astonishingly simple. Perhaps his years as a politician made him sometimes overlook the obvious.

He simply had de Gaulle arrested for treason! The man was the most unpopular politician in France following his dismantling of the French Empire. And firm proof of his intended coup was in Darlan’s possession, thanks to German intelligence. Let the law take its course! 

In the meantime he would abolish the post of Minister for Colonies. France no longer had any. 


Today was the first full meeting of the Governing Council since the summer recess, although there had been continuous mini-meetings throughout the summer.

The first to speak, as always, was the Foreign Minister.

“I wish to report on the arms limitation issue. Following a few initial misunderstandings and communication difficulties with the Soviets, armament production inspections have settled down into a set pattern. The Soviet inspectors were granted access to all production facilities throughout the European Alliance. In the beginning they attempted to extend this to include research and military training bases. It was relatively easy to prove that these were not manufacturing points, after which, the Soviets desisted from requesting access. They have officially pronounced themselves satisfied that we are meeting our undertakings.

Alliance inspectors in the Soviet Union in the beginning met with considerable obstructionism and reluctant co-operation. I think it was just ingrained Soviet thinking, and years of conditioning by Stalin’s secret police. Anyway, eventually everything worked out.

The size of both the Soviet and the Alliance inspectorate teams have now been substantially reduced. Each country, through a small team of permanent inspectors, will continue monitoring, and at all times will be able to request inspection of any new site where they believe weapons are being produced.

All parties accept that at certain periods some factories may need to increase production for arms exports. A suitable mechanism for this has been agreed upon.

All members of the Alliance, and the Soviet Union, have now confirmed that we have a workable arms limitation strategy. Accordingly, I now propose that we ratify the agreement.”

This important development between ‘the west’ and the Soviet Union would have been unthinkable while Stalin was alive. Von Altendorf earnestly hoped that the east-west thaw would continue.

The Germans and Soviets had been unable to draw the Chinese and Japanese into the arms limitation treaty. The two Far East powers still remained too suspicious of each other, as well as having little trust in the Soviet Union. It was hoped that time would change this attitude.

The United States, perhaps with a President still smarting from the rebuff of the UN organisation by Europe, had also declined to enter into any kind of arms limitation agreement. They had, however, indicated that they would watch developments and be guided by them in the future. ‘A message somewhat similar to that which the Germany gave the US about the United Nations.’  von Altendorf thought with a rueful smile.

Von Altendorf had another interesting announcement. “There was a surprise development at the Politburo meeting in Moscow last week. In an open meeting, Khrushchev criticised Stalin for his terror purges! Would you believe it? Are we seeing the beginning of enlightened rule in Russia? I sincerely hope so.

Another item of interest is the impending trial of Charles de Gaulle for treason, in France. It seems that there is little sympathy for him from any quarter. His insufferability has caught up with him. Apparently the state will not seek the death penalty, or even a long prison term. But banishment to one of their overseas island territories will almost certainly be part of his sentence.”

The Aviation Minister waxed eloquently in his praise of the Kaiseradler,  or Canberra,  as the British called it. The test pilots reported it as a vice free, sweet aircraft to fly. It had already flown faster and higher than any other aircraft. Even the Americans, needing to replace their existing obsolete light bombers, realised that no future home produced aircraft designs could get close to what the Anglo-German aircraft could already offer. They wanted four hundred of them, but wished to build them in America under licence.

The British wanted one hundred and thirty aircraft, and the Australians forty nine.

Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Ecuador, France, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Sweden and Venezuela had confirmed they wanted the aircraft.

“Germany has a world beating aircraft industry, gentlemen. We must ensure that we never lose this pre-eminent position.”

The Economics Minister told the Council about a number of the smaller, poorer countries that constituted most of the membership of the United Nations  were demanding — not asking, but demanding — that the rich countries of the world spend a fixed portion of their yearly budget on aid to the poor countries.

“It seems that such a notion may have been put in their collective heads by liberal American politicians and churchmen, who are preaching that it is the quickest and surest way to reduce poverty and uplift poor nations, so eliminating the cause of wars.” Erhard looked to the sceptical Council for comment.

It was von Altendorf that spoke. “An American president once said ‘the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.’  

I personally regard such envisaged transfers of wealth as a quick and sure way to personally enrich the ruling elites of the poor countries.”

It was the Defence Minister who asked if Erhard knew what portion of budgets these people had in mind?

“I believe they see one percent yearly as the minimum acceptable.”

“ONE PERCENT. ARE THEY CRAZY? Our country’s defence budget is only three percent, and that is set to reduce next year.” He looked away, disgusted.

Von Brauchitsch had the last word. “By agreeing to such a nonsensical idea, the richer countries would chain themselves to ever increasing demands for aid, which will drain resources from them and gradually affect their strength over a period of time. And I think, there would be little impact on the countries receiving such aid.

You do not make the weak strong by making the strong weak.

I also agree that much of this aid will be stolen or misspent by corrupt or inept politicians in these third world countries. I have no personal objection to the principle of aiding deserving nations. But it should be in a way that is accountable.

I recommend that the Foreign Minister lets the appropriate people at the UN, and our friends in the Alliance, firmly know that Germany will not be party to such a scheme”.

This received the unanimous support of the council.

The Defence Minister had little to report; Professor von Braun expected to test fire his latest rocket in November. This particular missile, the A5, was much bigger than the A4, and was designed to have an estimated range of one thousand kilometres. The distance between Alliance territory and Moscow in Russia. 

Progress with the stand-off bombs and air-to-air missiles was continuing but slow.

The keels for the new carriers had been laid. They were expected to be operational in 1952. They would be the most up to date and powerful carriers in the world.


The investiture of the German Chancellor was without doubt the most popular public event held in Britain that year. The British populace were generally well informed, and there had been innumerable publications and radio talks on the events in Europe and China in the years since mid-1940. There was a widespread understanding that the German soldier had been the leader in Germany from the instant of Hitler’s death.

He was also, in the minds of many conspiracy theorists, the mastermind behind the fall of Hitler and the Nazis, and the acknowledged architect of the peace in Europe and the Far East. The man who had successfully negotiated arms limitations with the feared Soviet Union. His prestige was sky-high in Britain.

The honour bestowed on him by the King was justly deserved. Many public figures in Britain had called for him to be given a British peerage. At least an Earldom. Such was the high regard for the German Chancellor that prevailed across Great Britain.

The King had held a Royal banquet in honour of his German guest. The German Foreign Affairs Minister had accompanied von Brauchitsch on his state visit.

The ties between the two countries were unbreakable.


Jeremy Blackstone and his wife Erica were spending Christmas with Katherine and Jamie. It was the first time they had all been together since the MacLellan’s had relocated to the United States.

Jeremy had resigned his commission in the British Army. After an unprecedented seven years as British Military Attaché in Berlin, the army had denied his requests for any further extensions of his stay. Jeremy had no wish whatsoever to leave the city which he had made his home. He left the army and was now a civilian.

As soon as he got back home to Berlin from this holiday in the US, he had an appointment with General Sieckenius. The General wanted the Englishman as part of his team! Jeremy didn’t let it show, but he was very, very excited about this! 

His brother-in-law Jamie had also offered him a job in San Francisco, but Jeremy and Erica did not want to leave Europe. Besides which, Jeremy was looking forward to being in the arms and army training business with the Germans! It was more to his liking. 

Jeremy and Jamie talked about the fact that James was now the second most powerful member of the board of directors of Bradlington Thornberry Bank. He was also now a director of the Mercantile Bank of California. He had made a startling success of his new career since losing his seat as a Member of Parliament.

Yet they both felt that the man was not completely happy — inside. They had both approached him about this at different times, only to be told they were wrong, and that he — James — was quite content with his life.

They had no option but to take him at his word.


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1950 — JULY

Baron von Altendorf was relaxing on one of the garden seats looking out over his family estate. It was a warm beautiful day. The sort of day that made one glad to be alive.

It was only the previous month that he had, with great regret, retired as Germany’s Foreign Minister, after holding that office for the past ten years.

Ten eventful years. 

His successor, Konrad Adenauer, was actually older than himself, but one wouldn’t think so, the way he intensely applied himself to his work. He was a man with great energy and committed to decency, diligence, order, Christian morals and values. He had been arrested several times in the 1930s as an opponent of the Nazi regime. The Baron was satisfied that Germany’s foreign affairs were in safe hands.

Von Altendorf had been deeply saddened by the unexpected and sudden death of his old friend, Walther von Brauchitsch, through a heart attack, in October 1948. ‘Poor Walther,’  he thought. ‘He never did get to retire. Forced by circumstances to be a politician. Something he so despised. Nevertheless,he was the finest politician, and the finest man, I have ever had the honour to meet’. 

The state funeral for the late Chancellor had seen the streets of Berlin thronged with multitudes wishing to pay their last respects to the man who had so ably led them out of war and into years of peace and unprecedented prosperity. The event had unexpectedly drawn more people even than Hitler’s funeral. A fitting tribute to you, Walther. 

Foreign dignitaries from all over the world had been there to pay their last respects. King George VI, Prime Minister Churchill, President Truman, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and the kings, prime ministers and presidents of every country in Europe, as well as others from South America and the Indian sub-continent. Even Khrushchev had ventured outside of the Soviet Union for this sad event.

Von Brauchitsch’s successor as Chancellor had been a very reluctant General von Mannstein. The election of von Mannstein displayed how well the Governing Council worked. All of the Ministers, after being given several days to think about it, had unanimously elected the General as being the most suitable to lead Germany. He was not chosen for his politics, or because he had a personal power base. It was simply because he was the best man for the job. The others had put their country before any personal ambition they may have had.

Von Altendorf had ruled himself out for the leadership, as he intended to retire by no later than 1950. In the meantime he had remained as a sure guiding hand within the Council over the past twenty months since the election of the new Chancellor.

He cast his mind back over the past ten years.

The biggest single change, he supposed, was the absolute peace and security in Europe. A peace guaranteed by good governance, prosperity and strong military forces. It was not the illusional peace of countries with their heads buried the sand, such as existed in the mid-thirties during the time of appeasement and misguided pacifism among the political elites.

Evil takes place when good men and women do nothing! 

Neither was the current world peace guaranteed by ineffectual talk shops like the United Nations.  Von Altendorf believed that the Americans now earnestly wished they had avoided this entanglement. Most of its members seemed to be using it as a forum to berate richer countries and at the same time, ask for money! 

Germany and Europe had stood firm and politely ignored them. It is your mess, America. You fix it. 

Since the end of the European War, the ideology of communism had been exposed for what it was, and discredited around the world. It was virtually now non-existent outside of the Soviet Union. And even in that totalitarian country, things were changing, albeit at a slow pace. Nikita Khrushchev had actually advised the Soviet Politburo of the need for ‘de-Stalinisation’ in their country. The Soviet Union was no longer automatically seen as anti-western. Khrushchev had even visited the United States earlier this year.


The arms limitation agreements in Europe were working. Armed forces, including Russia’s, had generally shrunk by at least thirty percent in the last couple of years. The United States was also abiding by the same principles of arms limitations, even though she had never been a signatory to the agreement.

China and Japan were co-operating more with each other, and the danger of war in the Far East had accordingly receded. They were both still viewed the Soviet Union — and each other — with some suspicion, but the outright hostility of earlier years had diminished.

It was developments like this that amply demonstrated that competitors or hostile neighbours can, over an extended period of time, learn to co-operate with each other and make war or conflict less likely.

France, Italy and Holland had shed the bulk of their empires. Britain had granted independence to India, and was also now about to embark on getting rid of other millstones around their neck in Africa.

In von Altendorf’s view the undoubted greatest success of all in the less decade was that the five most brutal dictators or near dictators in the world, had met the just desserts; Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, Zedong, and Stalin. ‘And I can personally vouch that your countries and people are much happier and safer now, you evil bastards,’  he whispered to them.

The inept and corrupt politicians and governments, so evident before the European War, now found little tolerance among the populations of Europe. Perhaps people have matured since the near cataclysm! 

Not only was Europe and the world a safer place, it was also more prosperous. World trade had more than doubled in the last decade, and there was no end in sight of its continued expansion.

All of these things, Germany, and its Governing Council under Walther von Brauchitsch, had featured in. A fact, of which, von Altendorf was extraordinarily proud.

Men make history, not the other way around. In periods when there is no leadership, society stagnates. Progress occurs when courageous and skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.

If there was anything that concerned him about the future it was ‘religious bigotry’. After studying the India situation in recent times, and world history for more years than he cared to remember, he had glimpsed the intolerant nature of many Muslim clerics. This may well develop out of control in future years unless the problem is confronted sooner rather than later! 

Germany itself was now the strongest military power in the world. It also had the world’s largest economy. Its aircraft industry, partnered by Great Britain, was producing half of the world’s aircraft.

The two renowned German military aircraft, the ME262 fighter, and the Junkers Kaiseradler  or Canberra  medium bomber, were unsurpassed by any other country. The military version of the Starflight  airliner was the workhorse of more than twenty air forces.

The new jet airliner, the Komet,  was an unpatrolled success. It had entered service at the beginning of 1950 and was being purchased by the world’s airlines as fast as the factory could turn them out. The jet age had been ushered in by German ingenuity.

The German national airline, Lufthansa,  was considerably larger than the next largest airline in the world. Part of this success was due their unquestioning faith in, first the Starflight,  then the Komet. 

If copying is a form of flattery, then the American aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, had flattered the Germans by designing an almost exact copy of the Komet.  They were calling it the Boeing 707.  It would be ready to enter service in another two years.

While still on the subject of weapons, after many years of trial and error, the Luftwaffe’s  stand-off bomb guidance system had finally been perfected. It was classified as top secret, so von Altendorf knew almost nothing about the technical details. He knew only that it was a reported as a devastatingly effective weapon.

There were hints of a truly terrible future weapon. A super-bomb being developed in conjunction with the atomic energy project that Albert Speer believed had such great potential. Von Altendorf thought that he would rather not know about it. Let me die with a clear conscience. 

Von Braun had greatly improved his ballistic missiles. The older, intermediate range A4, had a range of up to three hundred and twenty kilometres, accuracy to within one hundred metres, and delivered a one thousand kilogramme explosive warhead. The newer, longer range A5, had a range of up to one thousand kilometres, far enough to reach Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad from Alliance territory. It was accurate to within two and fifty hundred metres and delivered a one thousand five hundred kilogramme warhead.

Von Braun had said he could design and build bigger missiles with greatly increased range if called upon to do so.

There was no defence against these weapons. Maybe the Soviets had got wind of them, and it was this that had persuaded them to be co-operative with the west!  

The successful multiple firing of A4 rockets from an experimental U-boat last year, added a new and sinister dimension to sea warfare. Apparently no other nation had, as yet, even contemplated such a thin

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Perhaps even more spectacular was von Braun’s newest toy, called Bluerock . This was basically a more sophisticated version of the A5 missile, and was designed to lift a small payload into orbit around the earth. Mankind’s first step into space! 

Where this would lead to, von Altendorf did not know. He thought it was unlikely he would live to see any spectacular results from this.

Baron von Altendorf often wondered what secrets his friend had Walther harboured about the manner of the death of Adolf Hitler. ‘I will never know. Perhaps it is just as well’.  He missed his friend.

On matters closer to home, von Altendorf’s son, Klaus, was now a General, and still commanding tank brigades. It was a source of immense pride to him when he had heard Klaus described as the finest commander of armour since Rommel. To be compared to the legendary Rommel! 

Erica, his beautiful daughter, remained happily married to the Englishman, Jeremy Blackstone, who was now providing invaluable assistance to General Sieckenius. So he had been informed by the Defence Minister.

They had a permanent home in Berlin, but spent at least every other alternate weekend with their three children, at the family estate. Keeping the old man company. He considered himself very lucky in respect of his family. 

The Baron stared into the distance. So many memories!  

He had now finished writing his memoirs at last. He had decided to call it PAX GERMANICA.  The title was inspired by one immutable fact that was crystal clear to him.

The last decade had been THE GERMAN PEACE.  



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With 200 million war and war related deaths in the twentieth century, it could well go down in history as ‘The century of death’. 

Can it happen again? The answer is YES! And will remain so until the world’s weak, incompetent, self-seeking, power-hungry, or just plain corrupt politicians start to learn from history.

Not that I think there is much chance of that happening!

‘LIES, NOTHING BUT LIES’. That is what springs into my mind when I read the latest sayings of politicians. There is a huge gap between the rubbish they utter for public consumption, and what they actually think.

It is my utter contempt for the vast majority of the world’s ruling elite that partly motivated me to write this book.

When one looks at the carnage and damage inflicted upon the world by one man, Adolf Hitler, it defies comprehension. His legacy — the communist superpower of the Soviet Union, later followed by communist China — has a baleful effect on the world to this day.

Without the rise of the communist superpowers there would have been no Korean War or Vietnam War. Chairman Mao would not have caused the deaths of millions of his own citizens through his insane domestic policies. There would be no rogue North Korea with a mad man for a president developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

Two years ago I visited my wife’s family in Russia. Really nice, warm hearted, normal people. I subsequently learned that three of her mother’s brothers were sent off to fight the invading Germans in World war II and, along with countless other Russian soldiers, they never returned. The manner and place of their death is unknown to this day.

Knowing of the bestial treatment meted out to Russian prisoners of war by the Nazis, one can only hope they died on the battlefield.

This discovery left me with a feeling of infinite sadness. It was also another motivation for me to write The German Peace.

This book should not be considered an anti-war novel. If a label has to be applied it should be thought of as an indictment of the world’s ruling political elite.

Could World War II have been avoided? Of course it could! And this is what THE GERMAN PEACE is about. It is the story of what SHOULD have happened.

Facts, actual events, and real people are woven throughout the story. One thing is for sure, this story is considerably more plausible than the incredible world shattering events that actually happened from May 1940 onwards.

March 2017


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Copyright © 2017 Derek Pennington

All rights reserved

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction, portions of which are based on actual events and real historical figures.

Derek Pennington

[email protected]

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