The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 7

On a sunny day towards the end of July, Johnny Faulkner and Anthony Barker travelled down by train with fellow athletes from the university to London. Arriving at Kings Cross station, they took the Underground to Victoria Station where they met the other athletes and officials of the team that would represent Great Britain at the Olympics being held in Berlin, Germany. The team members walked over to the platform where the Dover boat train waited and fond memories flooded back when the two friends saw it was The Lord Nelson. The same train which had brought them to London as schoolboys to compete in the All England School’s Championships at Stamford Bridge, which had kick-started their athletic careers.

With everyone on board, The Lord Nelson pulled out of the station bound for Dover and the ferry that would take them to France for their journey to Germany. The carriages echoed with the excited voices of the eager young athletes, chattering about their aspirations and dreams of winning gold in the forthcoming Olympics.

When the train arrived at Dover station, Anthony Barker was delighted to see his father on the platform among the crowds waiting to meet the athletes. Lord Barker greeted his son and with his arm around Anthony’s shoulder led him down some steps to the car park and over to his Rolls Royce. Anthony noticed that Jenkins, the chauffeur was standing at a discreet distance, smoking a cigarette. Opening the rear door, his father ushered him inside and got in behind. Lord Barker turned to his son.

’Anthony, I know you are now getting on with your life so I will not dwell on the embarrassment you could have given our family, if your sordid little affair had become public. You realise you only have me to thank for being able to cover it up, helped by some good friends.

‘Yes Father, I have already apologised and thanked you and assured you it will never happen again.’

‘You will not be insolent with me, young man. I would remind you are still in my debt for the help that I gave you!’ hissed his father.

‘Yes Father.’ said Anthony again, wondering where the conversation was leading.

‘Now, I have a matter of great importance that you can help me with.’

Lord Barker took a white envelope out of his coat pocket.

‘You will take the greatest care with this letter and deliver it to a German officer who will contact you when you arrive in the Olympic Village in Berlin. His name is on the envelope. It is imperative that you give the letter to him and to nobody else.’

Anthony took the proffered letter, the look of disappointment registering on his face lost on his father.

‘Is this more important than wishing me success in the competition?’ asked his crestfallen son.

‘Of course not!’ said Lord Barker, realising his mistake.

‘I wish you the very best of luck, as does your mother, young man. But remember, this assignment I’ve tasked you with is very important.’

‘All right Father, I will make sure he gets the letter.’ agreed Anthony, cheered by his father’s belated good wishes.

‘Off with you, Anthony, and we will talk about your future on your return from Germany.’

Anthony caught up with the others as they boarded the Dover Castle ferry berthed in Dover Harbour and made his way with Johnny Faulkner to the bar. They waited for one of the white-jacketed bar stewards to serve them. Anthony turned to face Johnny.

‘I say old chap, wasn’t the Dover Castle your old man’s ship?’

‘It was, before he took the harbour masters job.’ agreed Johnny.

‘Dad let me steer it some of the way across the channel when I was youngster on a holiday to France one summer.’

‘I hope you did a better job of that than that landing you made the other day on the airfield!’ ribbed Anthony.

‘Cheeky bugger! I’ve seen you make a lot worse!’

‘C’mon, what do you want to drink?’

‘A Johnny Walker.’ replied Anthony, catching the eye of a young steward behind the bar.

‘Two Johnny Walkers, steward.’ ordered Johnny.

As the steward poured the drinks, a tall man in uniform entered the bar and made his way towards Johnny.

‘Dad!’ shouted Johnny.

‘Hello son! I’ve just come from the harbour to wish you the best of luck. Your mother and I are both very proud of you and young Catherine sends her love and best wishes.’

Just then, the foghorn sounded two short blasts announcing the ship’s imminent departure from the dock and Hugh Faulkner embraced his son and then turned to Anthony Barker.

‘Good luck young Anthony.’

‘Thank you sir.’ replied Anthony.

‘Give those Germans a good run for their money!’

‘We will, Dad. Give my love to mother and Catherine.’

Hugh Faulkner left the ferry and the bar became crowded as the Dover Castle steamed out of the port and started its voyage across to France. As the evening drew to a close, no one noticed Anthony Barker slip away and make his way forward to meet the young steward outside his cabin.

Arriving in Calais, the athletes’ journey continued across France and Germany until they arrived at their destination, the Hauptbahnhof station in Berlin. Alighting from the carriages, it surprised them to see enormous blood-red flags decorated with black swastikas flying from poles along the platform, overwhelming the few Olympic flags displaying the five coloured rings in attendance. Looking around Johnny saw that German efficiency abounded; the spotlessly clean railway station, the arrival time boards boasting each train’s punctuality, some children singing patriotic songs and uniformed men giving fascist salutes. He turned to Anthony and muttered.

‘Whatever happened to anarchy, for God’s sakes?’

‘It’s the way forward!’ replied Anthony.

‘Balls!’ These guys are getting far too big for their boots!′ retorted Johnny, pointing to a squad of soldiers arrogantly goose-stepping past.

Just at that moment, a man in a threadbare suit ran along the platform towards them, shouting loudly.

‘Help, please, help me!’

Close on his heels was a group of men wearing brown uniforms with swastika armbands, although the uniforms could not disguise what looked to Johnny like a gang of violent thugs. The brown shirts had almost caught up when in desperation the man jumped down on to the railway tracks to escape his pursuers. Stumbling on the gravel between the tracks, the fugitive fell and was surrounded by his pursuers. The brown shirts took out heavy truncheons from holsters strapped to their belts and blows and kicks rained down on the defenceless man, whose cries echoed around the station. Johnny looked on in horror as a local police officer joined in and wondered what the fugitive had done to deserve such punishment. The German officials who had met the team tried to usher them towards the station exit but they stood rooted to the spot. The athletes were appalled when one of the officials turned to them.

‘It is nothing to worry about, it’s only a Jew.’

They dragged the unfortunate, bloodied man back up on the platform as the officials persuaded the team to walk towards two luxury Mercedes coaches waiting outside the station. The British team angrily discussed the incident they had just witnessed during the short drive to their hotel, the Kaiserhof on Berlin’s Wilhelmstrasse. One of the grandest hotels in the city and noted for its exclusive accommodation, the Nazis had booked it to impress the more important teams first night in the city. However, all this attention to detail was seen by the athletes as purely a smokescreen to hide the thuggery of the Nazis.

Johnny, his feelings boiling over with indignation, realised that most of the uniformed men he had seen at the station were nothing more than bullies and louts. Only it was worse, because he recognised the thuggery as organised, licensed savagery condoned by the Hitler regime, to which the British and other democratic European governments were turning a blind eye, with their timid policies of appeasement. He felt guilty that he had not tried to intervene and help the beaten man and was reluctant to accept the lavish hospitality of his hosts, who were so involved in such a sorry state of affairs.

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