Waitin' for the Train

Playlist: Last Train to San Fernando - Johnny Duncan

Clemens Park, England, 10th February 1941, 09:05

Viscount Alec Towton

Prof Deadman

There’d been a sense of urgency at HQ since yesterday’s signals had come in. The agents from the team - who had been elsewhere - had been recalled, although Cyril and Francoise had not yet made it back. Alec had called a briefing for first thing, and a little after 9 the agents found themselves sitting once more in the smoky briefing room with the doors sealed and guarded. Both Alec and Deadman were present.

Alec opened the briefing by greeting everyone in his usual polite, ordered way.  Then he laid the basic cards on the table; “Ladies and Gentlemen, we were wrong, I’m afraid. One piece of the Palladion – the Clypeus - was in Italy, in Rome actually. According to our contacts among the Partisans there, the Italians have located and excavated it, but Nachtwölfe have got it off them and are shipping it north to Berlin. Musso is not happy; he apparently thinks it’s some kind of Roman mystical artefact that will make him Emperor of a new Roman Empire.”

The Train's Route

“Apparently, it’s to be loaded onto a special train for the journey, and of course it’ll be heavily guarded. However, the local partisans have suggested a way we can attack the train as it passes just north of Verona  - an area some of you are familiar with.”

“You’ll be parachuted in to the area with a Rendezvous Point located – here!” he marked the map clearly. "The partisans will meet you there and the passphrase is “Would you like a cup of coffee?” answered by “I don’t want any damned coffee”.

The entrance to the tunnel

He uncovered the map pinned to the wall; it showed two aerial photographs, one of the area with Verona and a little burg called Dolce marked, and a close-up of the northbound railway tracks disappearing into a tunnel at Dolce. “This shows where the train enters the tunnel under Forte Di Ceraino, this mountain here. The train has to slow up because the tracks are mildly dodgy where it goes into the tunnel, and our friends tell us that they can persuade the signalmen to extend the signals for that a bit further – that should allow you to slip on board the train as it passes.”

“After that, you’ll need to work your way up the train, evading or eliminating the guards aboard, until you find the truck with the Palladion piece on it. Your ‘compasses’ should help there. Once you secure the piece, wait until the train emerges from the tunnel and then either disable it or detach the section you’re on from the rest of the train. Do not stop the train in the tunnel, or whatever security they have loaded onto the train will be able to come at you all at once and you will find yourselves surrounded!”

“Once off the train, you can make for this farm here,” it was marked Canova, “where the partisans will help you swap disguises and start the process of getting you out of the country.”

“Do you have any questions?”

There was no perceiptible pause before the floodgates opened. Much of the questions related to equipment - silencers, more ammo for the Broomhandle Mausers, and various disguises. It was pointed out that neither Jimmy nor Jake had evern made a parachute jump, and none of the others was exactly an expert. For some, the memory of Gregory Snickers' tragic death reared its ugly head. Childhood ambitions aside, none of them had ever driven or uncoupled a train, either. Alec nodded approvingly, and made a note to arrange some training.

Clemens Park and Surrounds, England, 11th February 1941, 14:53

Stepping St James


With some ideas for improvements to his equipment, Jake wandered out from Clemens Park until he found himself in a sleepy little village, the signpost for which declared it to be Stepping St. James. A few minutes' exploration took him to the local pub, where a few minutes' quiet bartering secured him a definitely non-standard ration book. From there, he located the butcher's and procured a couple of pounds of lard, rather to that worthy's puzzlement, and then stepped into the village toyshop.

Here, his bargaining skills seemed to desert him, and his attempt to dicker over the price of two bags of marbles nearly got him thrown out by the eccentric old toymaker. Finally he managed to secure both for one-and-six before heading back to base.

Wootton Bassett Small Arms Filling Factory, England, 12th February 1941, 10:07

Ammunition Workers

Birapeer had personally filled in the requisitions for the special loads for the Mausers, and they'd gone off with all the clout Alec could muster, but he wasn't confident they'd arrive in time. As a result, he comandeered one of the Park's cars, and headed off to the factory to see if he could push things along a bit. Short of something else to do, Anné joined him for the ride out.

It seemed that the arrival of two fairly distinctive individuals, with whopping security clearances, was enough to provide interest to an otherwise dull and mildly hazardous occupation, for the senior officer of the factory nodded agreeably enough when Birapeer asked for the rounds to be pushed through. Under the fascinated gazes of the workers, he was shown to where they were being put together, and set off back for Clemens Park confident that his request would be filled.

Charlie Brooks

On return, they discovered a calm-faced Yorkshireman named Charlie Brooks had been added to the team. Charlie had been a train driver for years before being conscripted, and had been in transit to join his unit when Alec's contacts had re-routed him to Clemens Park. He looked a steady sort and the agents rather took to him. His pre-war walking holidays in Italy had left him reasonably fluent in the language, too, which was a bit of a plus.

British Army Parachute School, Netheravon, Salisbury Plain, 13th February 1941

The whole team spent a day leaping off chairs, then the tailgates of lorries, then a 10' brick wall. Most had done at least some of this before, but the refresher was welcome - they knew they'd be doing the jump at night over enemy territory this time. Jake, however, just couldn't get to grips with it at all. Finally, he froze, huddled at the top of the wall, unable to face jumping off to practice his drop-and-roll. Briapeer, looming behind him, did his best to help, which ended up with Jake flat on his face in a puddle of thick mud, his helmet floating next to him. The jumpmaster shook his head. "Static line," he said disgustedly.

Crewe Railway Depot, 14th February 1941

Charlie came into his own the next day, as he laconically and expertly demonstrated how to drive and stop a steam train, and how to couple and uncouple wagons and carriages. When it was explained to him that there would probably be a need to uncouple one or more trucks from a moving train, however, even his northcountry calm wavered for a moment. They gathered that this might have its' hazards.

That evening, 150 rounds of newly-made 7.63 ammunition were delivered to Clemens Park, attention "Burfear Mandalay Sink".

Over Verona, Northern Italy, 17th February 1941, 23:02

Several days later, the team found themselves in the air aboard a Wellington bomber, part of a squadron out of Malta on a bombing raid over Verona. Unlike the other aircraft, theirs carried no bombs but rather a set of seats for the human freight.

Everyone was in their disguises; Anné in her peasant outfit with the uniform of a Nachtwölfe Hauptman underneath, Joe in the same identity - Oberleutenant Wehrmacht Heinrich Stassel - that he'd used in Pinzolo, Jake in the boiler suit of an Italian railway worker, Jimmy in a non-descript but smart suit and Birapeer dressed as a pilot in the Italian air force under his farmer's outfit. All the heavy gear and explosives had been loaded into a container which sat among them like a slumming pillar-box.

Over Rovigo, the plane and two fighters veered slightly away from the squadron, and after a while the Jumpmaster flicked on the light. “Go, Go, Go!” he yelled. One by one the team bailed out of the plane into the howling darkness.

Near Dolce, Northern Italy, 18th February 1941 00:08

It took nearly half an hour to locate everyone. Jake had lost control of his 'chute and veered off, followed by Birapeer - the most proficient jumper in the group. Having landed fairly close together, the pair realized they had no idea where the others had ended up, nor where the RV was - so they picked a direction at random, and by blind chance ended up stumbling into the rest 25 minutes later.

Maria Verletti

Both Jake and Charlie had hurt themselves slightly on landing, but other than that there was nothing to do but wait until Anné and Joe's sharp ears caught the stealthy approach of a group of people who really knew their Fieldcraft. A voice spoke from the darkness; "Vuoi una tazza di caffè?" There was a moment's pause as the inexpert linguists racked their brains for the phrase, and then someone hesitantly mumbled "Non voglio nessun dannato caffè," and the partisans entered the camp.

There were six of them dressed as local peasants, with handguns held low which they were starting to put away. Leading them was a dark-haired, gorgeous woman, who glanced around the familiar faces, clearly looking for one in particular and seeming slightly disapointed that he wasn't there. It was Maria Verletti.

The Partisans

She introduced her companions as Davio, Merchando, Carla, Fernando and Sergio, which may or may not have been their names. Then, as the rain began to pound down in earnest, she led the group westwards towards the railway.

Near Dolce, Northern Italy, 18th February 1941 01:30

After over an hours' walk, the bulk of Forte Di Ceraino loomed up, and as they closed on it they could see the darker shape of the railway tunnel. Maria was now walking as far from Lucky Jake as she could get, as the latter had tried to excercise his minimal Italian in chatting her up and received only a slap in the face for his pains.

Spreading out, the team grouped themselves to both sides, so as to get the best chance of getting everyone aboard, and settled down to wait. Time passed slowly in the beating rain and bone-deep cold, but eventually the sound of an approaching train was heard, and the agents hunkered down out of sight of the occupants. Sure enough, as it approached the tunnel mouth, a signal above dropped into place, and the engine slowed to near walking pace as it rumbled into the tunnel.

Watching the trucks as they approached, the agents were able to get an overview of the layout of the train. (Some of this information was gathered later on)
















10 troops

88mm, 5 crew


Joe caught sight of a Wehrmacht uniform through the windows of the second carriage as it trundled past, and they noted the trucks had large sliding doors on the sides.

Keeper Note: Left here refers to the left standing at the back looking at the engine!

I had prepared an Airfix 88mm nearly a year ago and forgot to take it with me - doh!

Then, as the flak gun came into view, the agents and partisans sprang into action. The weapon itself was strapped down and sheeted over, and the crew were huddled miserably amongst the boxes and crates that dotted the flatbed, trying to avoid the worst of the rain. Dark forms swarmed up both sides and onto the truck, quiet except for Jimmy, who managed to clatter his feet on the struts on the side of the truck and bang his elbows down onto the planks. The gun crew started up, all turning to the left side of the truck.

The partisans moved quickly. Knives flashed as they engaged the gun crew, and Anné joined them, wielding her elephant goad - a souvenir of the Brides of Durga - and stunning a German in a single blow. Birapeer, whiskers whipping in the wind, bore down on a startled artilleryman with his tulwar and slashed his throat, sending him to the deck in a shower of blood. Jake sprinted along the side of the cannon and up behind a third soldier, jabbing his knife into the man's neck with similar results.

The train plunged into the darkness of the tunnel, making the fight nightmarish for its' shadows, and hurling the noise of the train and tracks back on the fighters at a deafening level.

88mm mounted on a flatbed train truck
Such a war film standard, we had to have one at some point!

Up to now the fight had been entirely silent; but one of the gun crew had managed to grab his Ka.98 rifle and draw a shaky bead on the terrifying figure of Birapeer. The sikh's eyes widened, but not from fear - from realization that the silence of their assault was about to be broken. The rifle cracked, and a blow struck Birapeer's arm as the bullet clipped him and sang off into the night. Then Joe loomed up behind him and practically decapitated him with his horrible little command knife. The sight of this unnerved his neighbor who dropped his weapon and stuck his hands in the air.

At the other end of the car a brief scream marked Jimmy's kicking the last artilleryman off the truck to disappear under the wheels of the guards' van - an omen, though he didn't know it.

Gasping, the group went to cover behind boxes and the gun itself, two Bren guns trained on the carriage ahead. Minutes ticked by as the train accelerated back to its normal pace of around fifty miles an hour, but no attack came. Thankfully, the rifle shot must have been covered by the noise of the train.

The guard, however, was more perceptive or just unlucky. Alerted by something, he opened the door of the guards van and peered out. Jake took a flying leap from the flatbed and grabbed at the man's collar, but the railwayman pulled free and started bawling at him in rapid Italian he couldn't understand. Jake was rapidly losing faith in his grasp of the language! It looked as though he'd have to kill the man he now could clearly see was a civilian, but then the partisan Fernando joined him and began to explain things and calm him down. Jake searched the van but found nothing but the braking mechanism.

On the truck, Joe had confronted the prisoner and was interrogating him brusquely in hs fluent and aggressive German. The man clearly knew how things stood because he was completely forthcoming, confirming the squad of ten Wehrmacht soldiers in the carriage, the truck nearest the engine was the baggage truck, and the other two trucks and carriage had been loaded by Nachtwölfe alone and he had not gone anywhere near them - not being a suicidal idiot. Joe eyed him sympathetically; he'd played fair with them, and he didn't want to kill him. Instead, he was tied up and put in the guards van with the guard (also tied for his own protection) and Jake - with the aid of some of his lard as a lubricant - made a smooth job of detaching it. It faded into the shadows of the tunnel behind them and was gone.

There was some discussion as to what to do next. Though some urged an attack on the carriage - maybe from both ends! - more subtle counsel won out and the team prepared to go over the roof instead, leaving the five partisans on the flatbed to disconnect it as the team reached the coach roof. As the most proficient climbers, Anné and Joe made the nerve-wracking leap from truck to coach, then clambered up the end of the latter onto its roof. Fortunately there were no windows in the end of the thing, though there was a door for joining it to another carriage. Reaching the top, they crouched in the three-foot clearance between roof and tunnel and attached two ropes to the roof, throwing the ends back to the flatbed behind.

Jimmy Wispa - Arthur does it again with a Pushed roll! Can he survive this time? Watch this Space...

Jake offered to help Maria with the climb, and managed to accidentally include something salacious that got his face slapped again. Despite this, the group slowly made the transfer - until it came to Jimmy. The young photographer's hands were battered from his fall onto the flatbed earlier, and slipped on the rope as he clambered up the coach. He grabbed at the rope as it went passed and missed, and Jake desperately lunged to try and catch him, to no avail. Before their horrified eyes, he dropped between the coach and the flat-bed, bounced off the greased coupling, and vanished from sight between the wheels. For a moment they heard a banging from behind as he bounced off the underside of the flatbed and then he was gone.

The prop I never got to use!

There was nothing to be done. With heavy hearts, they completed the climb and, with the stone ceiling of the tunnel tearing past scant inches from their heads, crawled along the roof of the coach to the far end. This time, they used the second rope as a safety measure to catch anyone who slipped. With everyone on the truck, Anné descended to the step - it had an end door, it emerged, like the carriages - to disconnect the coach while Joe and Birapeer covered it with their Brens.

The coupling came loose, and the carriage dropped behind as it gradually lost speed. From the roof, the Sikh pulled out a hand grenade, waited a few more seconds, then lobbed it down the tunnel after the coach. The missile bounced merrily along just as the end door opened and helmeted head peered out. The bomb exploded, ripping shrapnel into the coach and throwing the soldier back into the doorway in shreds. A few moments later it was dwindling down the tunnel, illuminated by its internal lights, leaving Anné on the end step ready to open the door.

Session Date: 26th November 2019