Claymore, a short story by tctcp. Date added: 2012-04-15. Times viewed: 1017.
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- Intro: Set In WW11, Claymore is the story of a successful operation carried out by 3 Commando in the Lofoten Islands.
On a moonless, storm lashed night in late December 1940; a scruffy Spanish registered tramp steamer nosed into the safety of Flakstad harbour in northern Norway. Although an occupied country since 9th April 1940, most of the small harbours in the Lofoten Islands were still either unguarded or protected by a very small force of German soldiers. A small boat taking shelter from the ravages of the Norwegian Sea was nothing to get excited about, and the part time Harbour Master was only accompanied by one bored, cold soldier when he checked the crew of the Ciro.
However, two of the crewmen were not all that they seemed. Sergeant Rod Johnson and Private Colin Wilkins, both members of the newly formed 3 Commando, were in Flakstad for a very specific purpose. The American captain of the Ciro was well aware of the risk he was taking in having them on his crew. But the Ciro wasn’t all it appeared to be either, for nearly a year now it had been used by the British Secret Intelligence Service for running covert missions.
After the rudimentary check of the documents, the soldier returned to the relative warmth of the Harbour Master’s office, and the two Englishmen silently slipped away and made their way to the shelter of the deserted town.
“It’s bloody quiet Sarge.”
“Yea and that’s just how I like it Wilkins.”
They saw no one and were grateful for the driving sleet and bitter wind that was lashing the streets, keeping the inhabitants and soldiers indoors. The map they had been provided with proved to be almost useless, and Private Wilkins, a Cartographer in civilian life, made frequent notes by the beam of a shielded torch, to enable him to update the information when they returned to England.
The darkness enveloped them, and they stumbled across the school house, more by chance than design. It was tucked away near a small building that could have been a factory. A light was still burning in a downstairs window, but they didn’t approach the house. Sergeant Johnson flattened himself against the damp wall and indicated to Wilkins to follow him. Standing nearly opposite the school was a derelict building; drawing his Browning automatic pistol, Sergeant Johnson led the way into the building. Using their hooded torches, the two men carefully searched the building: satisfied that all was okay they settled down to take turns in watching the school house.
The night was bitterly cold, and the sleet turned to snow; the small town slept and apart from a couple of German soldiers carrying out a cursory patrol, they saw and heard no one. At about 06.30hrs the door at the front of the school house opened and a boy of about thirteen came out carrying a can. He set off down the silent street in the direction they’d come from the previous evening.
“Hey, laddie, stir yourself; it’s time to go.” Sergeant Wilson prodded Wilkins with the toe of his boot.
Private Wilkins grabbed his small rucksack and followed the older man out into the street. They crossed the road and walked over to the school house. Further down the street a shadowy figure was leading a horse and cart; if he’d noticed the two men he gave no indication and disappeared around a corner. The snow had stopped and the wind was now no more than a breeze but the cold was intense and Sergeant Johnson could feel the frost forming on his moustache and eyebrows. He pulled the woollen cap down to cover his ears and knocked on the door.
Nothing: there wasn’t any response. He knocked again and Private Wilkins eased the safety on his pistol to the off position. Then slowly the door opened to reveal an attractive woman in her late thirties. She addressed them in Norwegian and when neither man answered, asked them in near perfect English what they wanted.
“How can I help you, are you lost?”
“We are looking for breakfast, can you help?”
“Yes, we are always happy to help travellers.”
The prearrange password had worked and Fru Larsen gave the correct reply and invited them into the house. Fru Larsen was to be their first contact; her husband had died a couple of years previously in a climbing accident and when the Germans invaded she offered her services in a non-combat role to the resistance.
“Good morning gentlemen, please to be seated.” She indicated for them to sit at the kitchen table. “We didn’t know when you were arriving; I expect you are hungry.”
“Thank you Fru Larsen; by the way, who was that we saw leaving the house earlier?”
She turned to Private Wilkins and smiled. “That was my son, Abel; he has gone to collect some milk.”
Sergeant Johnson excused himself and asked her if he could use the toilet.
“But of course, if you go through that door you will see it.”
The big Sergeant ambled off, and Private Wilkins complimented Fru Larsen on her English.
“Thank-you; we lived for a time in Oxford, my husband was lecturing on Norse Mythology at a university there. And of course I teach English in the school here.”
Sergeant Johnson came back into the kitchen, just as Abel entered the house with the milk. The boy stopped and stared at the two men; his mother spoke to him in Norwegian and the boy turned and spoke to them. Realising they didn’t understand what he’d said he then addressed them in hesitant English, welcoming them to his mother’s house.
As Fru Larsen served the breakfast, an uneasy silence seemed to descend on the room; the return of her son seemed to have unsettled her in some way. After they’d eaten Fru Larsen set about clearing the table and Abel spoke to his mother in Norwegian, before pulling his boots and coat on and then leaving the house.
“Abel has offered to go to the bakers for me; he is such a helpful boy.”
Sergeant Johnson stood and stretched, then announced that he had to visit the toilet again.
Private Wilkins laughed. “That’ll teach you to drink so much tea.”
Sergeant Johnson quickly made his way out of the rear door that he’d located on his visit to the toilet and made his way to the front of the house. He could see Abel crossing the road near to where they’d spent the night. Taking a gamble the Sergeant cut through the deserted building and intercepted Abel on the far side, out of sight of the road.
Abel looked shocked and could offer no response as Sergeant Johnson plunged the razor sharp knife deep into his gut. Abel slumped to the floor and Sergeant Johnson reached out, pulled the boy’s head back and then slashed his jugular vein.
The Sergeant pulled the boy’s lifeless body into the deserted building and covered it with debris. He then went outside and kicked snow over the blood trail. He was relying on the falling snow to cover any traces that may remain. Job done, he swiftly made his way back to the house and into the kitchen.
Wilkins noticed the fresh snow on the Sergeant’s boots but didn’t say anything.
Fru Larsen appeared to be getting agitated; she looked out of the window a few times and was obviously listening for the door.
“Is something wrong Fru Larsen?” Sergeant Johnson had moved round to the sink and was standing behind her.
“No, nothing is wrong but Abel is late coming back.”
“Abel won’t be coming back Fru.”
Fru Larsen started to turn to face the Sergeant but he moved quickly and with a violent twist of her head, broke her neck cleanly and allowed the body to slide to the ground.
Wilson had jumped to his feet, reaching for his pistol.
“Sorry about that Wilson but I haven’t been able to warn you. The boy and his mum were colaborating; he was going off to tell the Germans that we’d arrived. So I silenced him.”
“Jesus Sarge, I wish you’d warned me somehow. I thought you’d gone bloody crazy.” Wilson sat down heavily and put the pistol on the table.
It was still dark outside and had started snowing again and by the time they left about an hour later, it was nearly a blizzard. They had about 6 kms to go to their next rendezvous and headed off inland.
The two men had a fairly uneventful journey and despite the bad weather, their woefully inadequate maps and dodging a German patrol, they arrived at the rendezvous point in good time. They were received warmly by the Norwegians and spent the rest of that day with them. Two of the Norwegians escorted them most of the way back to the harbour, and at 08.00hrs the following day they were safely back on board when the Ciro set sail.
Safely back in England Sergeant Johnson and Private Wilkins were thoroughly debriefed by the Army and by SIS officers. Private Wilkins map modifications were hastily added to the maps being prepared for the forthcoming operation.
“You’re absolutely certain that the boy was going to the Germans?” The SIS officer had asked the Sergeant the same question half a dozen times at least.
“Yes, he told his mum that the arrangements were in place and he just had to tell them the men were here.” The Sergeant gave the same answer he given before.
“What about the bodies Sergeant, they were well hidden weren’t they?” This time it was his CO asking.
“Yes Sir, I shouldn’t think they will be found for some time yet.”
“And the Norwegians, what did they have to say about this cock-up?”
“It wasn’t a cock-up sir, they were traitors, the country is riddled with them now and the resistance chaps were happy that we’d taken care of them.”
Operation Claymore took place on 4th March 1941 and was deemed to be a resounding success, with the allies scoring an important victory against the Germans. The operation involved 3 and 4 Commando plus a group of Norwegians creating a total force of 800 men. Their targets were the fish oil factories on the Lofoten Islands, which produced glycerine for use in munitions.
Very little fighting took place and the targets were soon destroyed. The invaders captured two hundred and twenty-five German prisoners and sixty collaborators. They captured parts of an Enigma coding machine, which was sent to the code breakers at Bletchley Park. There were no British or Norwegian casualties.
The bodies of Fru Larsen and her son were found some time after the two Britons had left Norway. Abel was found hidden in the derelict building and Fru Larsen’s body was eventually discovered buried under the wood pile at the rear of the school house.
When the bodies were discovered, the town’s people blamed the Germans; the Germans in turn blamed the resistance and the resistance let it be known that Fru Larsen and her son Abel had been collaborators.
Sergeant Johnson had been born and brought up in Norway, and spoke the language fluently. His family had emigrated to Edinburgh when Rod was fifteen: at twenty-one Rod changed his name by Deed Pole from Nils Johansen and became Rod Johnson. He also took British nationality. A year later in 1938, he signed up for the regular army.
The sergeant had felt uneasy about Fru Larsen from the beginning, and on his first trip to the toilet found out where the rear door of the house was and made certain that it was unlocked.
Sergeant Johnson survived the war, eventually being promoted to Lieutenant. He was decorated for bravery and mentioned in dispatches several times. In 1946 he left the army and joined MI6; he disappeared in Egypt at the time of the Suez crisis.
Private Wilkins died in December 1941, whilst on another Norwegian operation in Vagsoy.
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