the dimming of the light (Part 20)
Day 21 - later
after many repeated calls on the emergency frequencies, the five remaining Arospatiele Puma helicopters proceeded from above Reigate towards the centre of the metropolis
lower and slower now scanning the ground and the increasingly tall buildings making note of any signs of life they could see
little moved sometimes a solitary figure looking upward, sometimes waving at the Puma more often small groups of both sexes gesturing often not in a friendly manner
no vehicles moving no indication of any sign of approaching normality only a depressing aura of almost abandon the co-pilot of the lead helicopter still transmitted frequent calls on his radio
with nothing except the occasional low hiss of static nothing to indicate organised life below
Now becoming restless and impatient - after calling to the rest of his flight the French commander began a gentle descent towards a surprisingly large open patch
the gardens of a very big and magnificent house
'Go' ordered the Commander 'quickly while we still have daylight left move damn you and be careful'
After landing the six armed soldiers in each helicopter disembarked rapidly and formed a circle around the five aircraft sub-machine guns pointed menacingly away from the choppers
nothing at least nothing human showed - only about a dozen pigeons that had originally been startled by the appearance of the machines, circled to return to the various trees in the walled garden, whilst a very mange-ridden feral fox scuttled from the edge of the lake into a small thicket
'Search the house.' Ordered the major to both troops and the others. ' be quick'
Buckingham Palace was almost deserted as the Special Forces solders in their protective bio-chemical overalls explored the grounds and buildings before reporting back to the rest of the group still safely seated in the helicopters
everyone military personnel and those remaining in the aircraft still wore masks as if they might encounter highly infectious germs or viruses
'Nothing a few people only they said they were simply looking for food and shelter' reported the major in charge of the soldiers, 'my men are still in there
it's a large building to search, but there's no sign of the rightful inhabitants.
The consensus is that they fled when the lights went out presumably to somewhere where they would be safer
Somewhere with generators, a plentiful supply of fuel and food'
* * *
Sergeant Bill Evans or should he now be called ex-sergeant Evans after the day of the big switch off
watched intently from his operations room on the third floor of the palace as the first of the helicopters bearing the insignia of the French military touched down on the once immaculate lawns behind the palace
observed the soldiers and the specialist staff disembark the aircraft
' shit' he swore 'fucking French'
Bill Evans did not like the French something endemic in his family's folk memory
his grandfather; another sergeant - but this time a sergeant pilot in the wartime Royal Air Force had been shot down in his Lancaster bomber before crossing the coast at Cap Gris Nez - returning to England from a bombing raid over the Ruhr in 1943
the French, who at first claimed to offer him refuge had ruthlessly handed him over to some Waffen SS troops and eventually he found himself in a concentration camp in eastern Germany
where ultimately the pilot had died from injuries received whilst trying to escape
'Roberts come look here'
Bill Evans did not like Germans
but given a choice he liked the French even less
(To be continued)
Peter Hunter 2012
these stories are part of the forthcoming sequel to - Time Of The Eagle - still available on Kindle