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A Town called Varnstadt

Adventure, Intrigue, Betrayal


Dave Black

Copyright Dave Black Publishers

The right of Dave Black to be identified as

the author of this work is asserted

by him, in accordance with the

Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names,

characters, places and incidents are either

the product of the author’s imagination

or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to

actual persons, living or dead, events, or

locales, is entirely co-incidental.

eBook ePub Edition

Edited & Prepared by

Dave Black Publishers

London - Paris - New York

St Louis - Los Angeles - Derby


To whosoever might read this book?

To those who have gone, those still

here and those I’ve yet to meet.


The characters and plots, described in these pages

and others yet to come, are mostly true to life.

No doubt you’ve come across some of them

Some time or other - some place or other

Who’s who?

The Brits:-

Jack Prentice - an Aero Engineer working in the Rhine Valley in Central Germany, Jasper Collins - owner and operator of Surefreight International Cargo Airways, an independent airfreight operation, Dick Golding - his hangar foreman, Danny Bloxham - his chief engineer.

Collin’s Dogs of War:-

Maxey Bell, Nick Braid, Tommy Sharp, Percy Rust, Jack Greensmith, Billy Graham, Dicky Gregson, Dizzy Addison.

The Israelis:-

Anna Rossi - a Mossad  agent, Berit - her sister, Bruno Wiseman - a Mossad agent, Colonel Yevei Ben-Alon - Mossad Director of Intelligence Central Europe, Isaac Stromberg - Israeli Prime Minister, Levi Bernstein - Defence Minister, Binyamin Shapiro - Foreign Secretary, Ariel Fishmann - Opposition Leader and would be P.M., Ulle Hoerner - Fishmann’s P.A, Solly Steinberg - Israeli Cypher Clerk.  Sgt. Aaron Gingrich.

The Germans:-

Überstürmbahnführer Horst-Jurgen Guertler - the highest ranking former Nazi officer still at large, Gruppenführers Hans Steckl, Otto Mekler and Theo Muth - the men who followed as the Nazi juggernaut trampled across Europe ferrying the stolen booty to the secret underground treasury, Frau Schultz - the die ‘Meister’s personal secretary, who so enchanted Prentice, with her splendid presentation. Which veered not a fraction to the left or right, nor did they bobble.

A Town called Varnstadt

It’s 1940; the Battle of Britain has about run its course. The focus of Hitler’s ambition is shifting to the east and his Nazi legions are flat out in pursuit of the thousand year Reich. Japan has opened up a second front in the Far-East. The world is at war.

Jack Prentice is a few months old when the war is over he’ll be five years old, orphaned and alone. Brought up in a Barnado Home, he flounders into adulthood with a rare selection of talents that defy attempts to pigeonhole him. He’s an engineer by training, a trader by instinct, an adventurer by nature. A man with an eye for the main chance, he’s never afraid of a challenge and ready to take on whatever comes at him.

In their bid to rule the world, the Nazis have constructed a vast web of underground factories and storage facilities. In the wake of their blitzkrieg; comes a special train, its sole purpose to ferry the loot they’ve amassed to central collection points. Where it’s being  stashed away against a rainy day. A huge bunker at one of these underground facilities has been earmarked for the purpose.

By the late spring of ’forty-five, the game is up. The architects of this monumental blunder have realised it’s time to get out. Many attempt to conceal their identities and scurry off to the four corners of the globe. The hoard of stolen booty stays behind, they’re travelling light. They know it’s well hidden, unlikely to be found and they’ll be back for it when the time is right.

In the autumn of ’seventy-nine; the highest ranking former Nazi still at liberty, Überstürmbahnführer Horst-Jurgen Guertler makes his move. Custodian of this long lost hoard of Fool’s Gold he decides the time is right to resurrect the Füehrer’s Dream. He plans to dig up this hoard of Nazi Booty from WWII and ship it to South America. After thirty odd years of keeping his head down, he now has many contacts he can call on and he’s ready to use them.

Unbeknown to Guertler, Colonel Yevei Ben-Alon Director of Israeli Intelligence Central Europe, the man from Mossad, is closing in. He’s been watching and waiting for this very moment. But . . . he’s overstepped his department brief and the only way he can retrieve his situation is to capture the booty and ship it to Jerusalem.

This tale, follows his quest to carry through this plan. Against a background of adventure; intrigue and audacious double-dealing, further complications arise. The fragile coalition governing Israel; is rent asunder by internal strife, as the government falls.

Who will come out on top, Former Intelligence officer Pete Collins and his Dogs of War, the Nazi Fugitives from the Third Reich or the Hardmen of the Negev Desert, who triumphed in the Six Day War?

. . . Read on . . .


‘There’s a school of thought,’ declared Colonel Ben-Alon of the Mossad. He was in his stride now and there was no stopping him. ‘That reckons most of this Nazi loot, is still swilling around the secret vaults of certain European banks, but I’m not so sure. The reason anyone covets gold in the first place, is because they don’t need banks.’

He paused briefly to reflect, before continuing. ‘You can pay your way by turning over the ante. The rest of it you bury and it appreciates all on its own.  There’s no need for brokers, share certificates or gilt-edged securities. Nor fund managers churning it over for their precious commissions. Nobody screws you for all you’re worth, all it takes is time and a good strong shovel.

Prologue - Never felt more like singin’ the Blues.

Billowing clumps of thick white cloud disintegrated, ground to oblivion by the Spitfire’s screaming prop. With the midday-sun above and behind - it dived. A lethal hail of big bore cannon fire spewing from its wings at the fleeing German bombers. Tail between their legs, they were scuttling for cover in the fluffy white candy floss, high above the English Channel their bomb loads delivered.

Wing Commander Jack Prentice felt pretty good, this bright October morning, happier than he’d been for months. The instruction to stand down, from the start of next week had come as a welcome relief. It was beginning to look like the mighty Luftwaffe was beaten. They’d suffered huge losses of late and their raids had become sporadic.

Stuffed - was a word in common use around the pubs and clubs near Fighter Command stations across southeast England. They’d borne the brunt of the Nazi blitz and a bit of respite would not go amiss. The raids of late were little more than a token belligerence, born of the historic reluctance to accept the inevitable. ‘Gerrie’ could never believe he was whipped, till a gun barrel waved to and fro beneath his nose.

The waxed and twisted points of Wing Commander Jack Prentice’s handlebar moustache were drooping slightly from the heat of battle. Pulling off his gloves, he twiddled at it, in the cockpit mirror.

Can’t return to base looking like ‘Gerrie’s turned me inside out, he grinned self-consciously and setting the autopilot, he pointed his nose in the direction of RAF Blackbushe.

Exhilaration coursed in his veins, he had been a part of something big and good for the last few months. ‘Gerrie’ had thrown everything at them, in a misguided attempt to break the British spirit. A blitz unparalleled in the history of war had been unleashed on these British Isles and failed miserably. No doubt ‘Gerrie’ must be smarting over the outcome, for failure was not a sentiment they readily embraced.

Pointing the Spitfire’s nose skywards, he soared on the vortex of a rising current. Then just as suddenly, he was plunging back down, for it was like no feeling on earth. Watchfully, he eased back the throttle to check the vibrating stress that wrenched the panting skin of wing and fuselage. The plane was in a dive that would take it to the limit. To the point where his speed exceeded that of the sound, which went before it - supersonic they called it.

Wing Commander Prentice’s attention, focused on the instruments was interrupted, by the staccato crackle of his wing man, in the headphones.

‘Bandits! Bandits! Three o’clock low, we’re heading straight in front of them - peel!’

To a man they executed their famous bomb burst manoeuvre, scattering to all points of the heavens. In giant loops they hurtled across the sky, to streak out of the clouds and intercept another group of departing enemy bombers in a classic pincer movement. It was more of a tactical manoeuvre than anything, for they were too low on fuel, to take them on. Yet even though they posed no threat, it stuck in his craw to let them get away. He watched with contempt as they scuttled off in disarray, heading for the Channel Coast and their secret bases on the northern coast of conquered France.

The manoeuvre completed, RAF Blackbushe Blue Wing, loosed off their remaining cannon shells to good effect and formed up line astern. It was good to know they could ease up over the coming days and weeks, confident that the threat from the Luftwaffe had been dealt with. It was September 1940, and the ‘Battle of Britain’ had run its course.

Wing Commander Jack Prentice alone and aloof in his tiny cockpit high above Southern England, mouthed silent prayers to the ‘Almighty’. Waggling his wings as a signal to the rest of the flight to follow him in, he descended to 2000ft, a quick jab on the radio button called up the tower to clear their approach. It was time to go home.

Weekend passes, the first in months were awaiting them in the station commander’s duty-room, when they landed. In addition to which, he’d saved up enough petrol coupons to drive the M.G. Tourer to Wiltshire, for a few days respite. It was time to get a first glimpse of the new addition to his family and a weekend of conjugal bliss, time to escape the ravages of war and the savage fury, which had raged around him, for most of the last three months.

He taxied the battered Spitfire to the dispersal apron beside the squadron hangar and shut down the engine. The ground crew scurried across to fix the safety locks and chock the wheels. Flipping back the canopy, he scrambled out onto the wing, dropped easily onto the tarmac and hurried across to the de-briefing room.

Within the half hour, he was tossing a weekend bag under the tonneau cover of the M.G. and heading out of the base. He was bound for the winding lanes of Wiltshire and the old Roman Road just beyond Salisbury. It was time to catch up on the progress of his first born, Jack Prentice II.

In a couple of hours he’d be home, the ferocious onslaught he’d survived in recent months, little more than a memory. It was time to turn his mind to other things, like the visions of dynasty he carried deep in his soul. The birth of a son had, if nothing else given it focus and sharpened his aim, in the aerial battle of the last 3mths. Now his ambition had a sense of purpose and his proud Hampshire name was poised to ring down the centuries.

Beyond Salisbury, he turned off the main road and was soon lost in a verdant tangle of overgrown hedgerow. It threatened to overwhelm the narrow lane. Thankfully, the discordant racket that passed for his effort at whistling was muffled by the resonating throb of the open exhaust. He wasn’t sure what prompted him to look up, but a faint, vaguely familiar sound had caught his ear. From the corner of his eye, he noticed a distinctive outline. Almost level with the horizon, beyond the top right hand corner of the windscreen, a plane was hugging the contour of Deptford Downs.

The all too familiar tingling sensation ran down his spine, as he recognised the clatter of the throbbing Dornier radials and pulling into the side of the lane, he stopped to get a better view. There could be no doubt, it was a ‘Gerrie’ bomber and judging by the tone of the engines, it still carried a full bomb load. Grabbing his binoculars from the rear seat, he brought it into focus. It was, as he suspected, a bomber, probably separated from its main battle formation by marauding Spitfires.

From his vantage point, it appeared to be heading in the general direction of the Channel Coast and he was pretty sure it still had a couple of two thousand pounders onboard. Alighting from his car, he stood watching as it lumbered closer and slowly the huge doors along the bottom of the fuselage gaped open. The crew must have decided there was nothing left for them to do, they’d decided to dump the excess baggage, and scurry-off home. Quite possibly the navigator had spotted the distant spire of Salisbury Cathedral and realised he wasn’t so far from the Channel Coast. They’d be low on fuel by now and anxious to lighten their load.

The plane appeared to be close, close enough even, to reach out and touch it. At a rough guess, he reckoned it was not too far from Grovelly Woods, roughly in the direction he was heading, and looking on aghast, he watched it discharge the bombs. Whistling ominously one after the other, they glided across his line of vision in a lazy, lobbing arc. For several seconds, they appeared to hang in the sky before plunging earthwards, out of sight beyond the distant tree line of Grovelly Woods. The first one exploded with a deafening roar as it hit the ground. It must have been several miles away, but still the ground shuddered beneath his feet. The second one thudded into the ground without exploding.

The engine note changed and the bomber, relieved of its burden, began to climb. Slowly, it disappeared from sight beyond the curve of the distant horizon. A rare stillness hung over the countryside, an almost deathly hush that persisted for several minutes. Suddenly, as if by some magical autonomous cue, the hedgerows on the narrow lane erupted in a chirping, twittering, chorus of birdsong. The country lane came alive and it was as though that moment had never been.

Dropping onto the edge of the door, he leaned back to swing his legs over and slid effortlessly into the narrow bucket seat. Reaching under the tonneau cover, he grabbed a packet of Player’s Medium Navy Cut and lit up. Drawing deeply of the acrid smoke, he started the engine and set off again. It wasn’t far to the cottage and he was anxious to make sure everything was okay.

A pall of smoke rose into the sky above the distant horizon, the bomb must have set fire to some tinder dry undergrowth at the edge of Grovelly Woods. It would probably burn itself out and it was highly unlikely that anyone had been injured. No more than half a dozen cottages bordered the old Roman Road that ran through the wood, most of them deserted. Except, of course, the one for which he was heading.

Stopping at the end of the gated road, he opened the gate and drove through. A stiff breeze was blowing, channelled towards him by the trees. The smoke had become quite dense, more so than it had appeared to be from the lane near Ditchampton. It bothered him somewhat as he raced-off down the track, without stopping to close the gate. He was becoming concerned, it could be worse than he’d thought and it was another mile or so to the cottage.

He’d begged her to stay with the maiden aunt who’d brought her up in Salisbury, but she wouldn’t have it, claiming it was safer out here in the middle of nowhere. The Germans would have no cause to drop bombs on Grovelly Woods and the setting was picturesque. A haven of peace, far removed from the ravages of war.

Rachel Mellors had always been one for solitude and harboured a fierce independence, born of the strict and sheltered circumstances of her upbringing. She was a love-child of the Seventh Earl of Camburly, living testimony to a night of stolen passion, which had been swiftly and discreetly hushed up, though it altered little. Regular remittances covered her education and upkeep and to some extent, discharged family obligations. It ensured she was raised in a manner befitting her noble pedigree.

Wing Commander Jack Prentice knew little of these matters, though inevitably, it could have a certain influence and bearing on his ambitions of ‘dynasty’. That Rachel Mellors met and wed Wing Commander Jack Prentice was little more than a consequence of desperate wartime passion. He’d questioned long and hard, the merits of taking the plunge, for he had no particular urge to settle down. In the end, like everyone else who knew her, he’d been overwhelmed by her fragile beauty. If pressed, he would have readily admitted that practical considerations, owed scant regard to the subtle curves of a yielding body.

Prentice’s calm indifference to the jettisoned bombs had given way to apprehension. The billowing smoke cloud had thickened, clinging and choking in his throat. It half-blinded him, as he strained to see the sides of the narrow lane. The road dipped slightly and he knew the cottage was just around the bend. He hoped the smoke was not affecting the baby, but he was sure she would have the cokum to stay indoors and keep the windows shut.

Around the bend lay a scene that filled the battle-hardened fighter-ace with horror. The cottage was no more, a gaping crater where the bomb that failed to explode had crashed into the soft woodland floor was all that was left of it. A direct hit on the vegetable garden, had taken out the foundations of the cottage to collapse into the crater.

The thatched roof had descended onto the pile of debris, like a giant cap. It was no more than a heap of rubble with odd lengths of twisted rafter and broken window frame protruding through the thatch. A chequered tail fin stuck out of the crater pointing at the heavens like some giant obelisk, an obscene monolithic tombstone. Leaping from the car like a man possessed, before it had come to a halt, he raced across to the pile of rubble and tore at the dense thatch of Devon reed, with his bare hands. He knew in his heart it was hopeless, for a deathly silence hung over the woodland glade.

Stepping back, he paused to get his breath and a barely audible sound like a whimper, came to his ear. He tore frantically at the thatched roof, the fragile reeds splintered in his hands and he was soon covered from head to toe in a film of thick black dust. The whimpering noise came to him again, but it appeared not to be coming from the devastated ruins of the cottage. It was to his right and further away. Stopping, he listened carefully, the noise grew louder and he realised in that instant, it was coming from elsewhere.

Suddenly the smoke began to clear, as the wind veered and the whimper became a howl. He moved slowly, listening all the time, edging around the rim of the crater till he got closer. Then he saw it. A black painted, coach lined Restmor baby carriage not 20ft away suspended in mid-air. It was teetering precariously on the bough of an uprooted tree, its twisted chromium handle hooked on a branch it swung in the wind, like the haunting symbol of some dark Satanic Cult.

He ran towards it and gingerly retrieved the twisted wreckage from a shattered branch. The whimpering turned again to a howl, which quickly became a crescendo. Delving into the wreckage, he retrieved a pathetic little bundle wrapped in an odious smelling blanket. He held it tightly in his arms, cradling it against his chest. Tears were streaming down his dust blackened face, leaving lines in the taught white parchment, of his cheeks. Cautiously, he edged away from the rim of the crater clutching his precious bundle.

Walking in a daze, he went across to his car, zipped back the tonneau and carefully laid the infant on the seat. Covering him with a couple of blankets he’d retrieved from the baby carriage, he clambered into the car. It was apparent to him by now, that life no longer existed in the devastated ruins of the cottage and reversing carefully on the narrow lane, he turned the car around to drive away. A fire engine emerged through the trees, and the crew jumped down to race towards the crater, as the driver stilled its clanging bell. Stopping the car, Wing Commander Jack Prentice still in shock, explained in brief the circumstances;, before setting off again for the General Hospital in Salisbury.

It was to be several weeks before he rejoined his squadron at RAF Blackbushe. Rachel Prentice had been laid to rest and careful examination of the infant Prentice at the hospital, had revealed nothing more lasting, than a few superficial cuts and bruises. Jack Prentice II had been lucky; maybe it was a kind of luck that would follow him across the years. The uprooted tree that had all but crushed his baby carriage had straddled the crater, to shield it from falling debris and most likely saved the child’s life.

Arrangements were made with the maiden aunt who raised his mother, to take in the infant Prentice. Whilst the Wing Commander Prentice went back to war, vowing to wreak havoc on the ‘Nazi War Machine’, as he moved on to command a squadron of Lancaster heavy bombers. In raid after raid, he did his best to paralyse the Third Reich, with actions that continued unabated, until the day he was reported Missing in Action.

By the time the war came to an end, the maiden aunt had passed away and the young Prentice, almost six years of age and known as Jackson or Jack’s son in the absence of a formal christening, had passed into the care of Dr Barnado and a local home for orphaned children. The aristocratic line to which his roots could be traced, had by this time ceased to exist. The Seventh Earl had never married and the line was now extinct. He grew to manhood, alone and aloof known simply as Jackson Prentice. The style he adopted as he grew to manhood, for in some small way, it helped him feel he was still a part of something much bigger.

Fashioned in his aspirations and ideals by the institution that fostered him, he grew to puberty cultured in self-reliance. He took to boxing under the guidance of his master at the home and quickly progressed. By the time he’d reached his 15thbirthday, he’d appeared twice in the national finals of the Amateur Boxing Association and it would soon be time to leave the home - to make his way in the world.

He joined the Royal Air Force as an apprentice, vaguely aware that his father had served as a pilot in the war. The battered cigar box, containing his father’s medals, given to him when he left the orphanage, became a prized possession. He also inherited the princely sum of three thousand pounds left for him in trust, when the maiden aunt’s estate was settled by Talbot, Grosthistle & Thwaite the family briefs.

The constrictions of service life weighed heavily on the free-living spirit of young Prentice. By the time he was due for drafting to an operational unit, he decided he’d spent enough time in institutions. He bought out the rest of his contract and went to seek his fortune in the ‘Big City’.

Living in a rented flat at Shepherd’s Bush, he soon developed a fascination for the daily street markets and using a few quid from his precious nest-egg. He acquired a handcart, a canopy and sufficient stock to try his hand at street-trading. But the early mornings and cold winter days soon jaded his appetite for self-inflicted misery. It was time to seek out something to do with aircraft, for reasons he never quite understood. Though he felt a hand of destiny had some kind of guiding influence in this direction. Often he longed to learn more about his long lost family and how he’d finished up in the hands of Dr Barnado. Maybe one day he’d have the time to pursue his heritage, but in the meantime he had his tin full of medals and a few thousand quid on account. He guessed it was probably more than most victims of the blitz finished up with and for this, he was at ease. But the need to earn a crust had to come first, the world owed him nothing Growing to manhood under the auspices of Dr Barnado had taught him that much.

He applied for gainful employment with the Napier Engine Company of Acton, a famous old north London Aero Engine company. Where; he set about mastering the intricacies of gas turbine aero engines, to broaden his knowledge. It was as if the fascination for aircraft that coursed in his veins, would never let go. By this time the aircraft that won WWII the Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancasters of his father’s generation had been replaced with a new generation of jets.

By this time he’d soon learned how to operate test beds, how to fix engine faults aircraft and began to travel the world servicing operators and airlines. Whilst; obliging young maidens of dubious intent; cropped-up to complement his knowledge of life, as each day was filled with variety. For variety; he’d been informed was the spice of life, as he developed a passion for motorbikes and took to racing them, as he figured out ways to make them go-faster.

In its own time; as air travel developed into an international business; his expertise at fixing planes and engines, became a skill in demand. He travelled to America, to Canada, to the Aurora Circle, to the continents of Europe and India, to the Middle East and the Far East, selling his services to the highest bidder. Until in the autumn of ’seventy nine, Jack Prentice II, son of Jack, the Battle of Britain Air Ace, signed up for a spell in a former WW II Heinkel factory in the Rhine Valley of Western Germany.

These days it was used to make bits and pieces for the Anglo/French Airbus and refurbish components for the Luftwaffe’s Lockheed Starfighters. Situated deep in the heart of the Rhine Valley, it was close to the town of Varnstadt. In a time, a place and a situation that only an uncertain fate - could conspire to deliver.

Chapter 1- Uptown, Uptempo Woman

The biting chill of a late autumn dug harshly at Prentice’s face, as he trudged the cobbled alley. Lustful thoughts filled his head. In a few short strides he’d be slipping into the back entrance of Anna Rossi’s apartment block, already convinced in his mind that it would be a night to remember. The kind he had been promising himself, for the last few boring, sexless, sleeping, working months.

He was whistling softly, a tune he’d concocted in his head. Running over the directions she’d given him for the umpteenth time, he smiled wryly, thinking how stupid he’d look, if he ended up at the wrong door.

‘I’ll be waiting,’ she’d whispered in his ear as she left the Frenchie’s Bar, just thirty minutes ago.

She’d insisted on time to make things ready and be sure the coast was clear, while Prentice as ever was inevitably moved to oblige. It happened purely by chance, as he’d no intention of calling at the Frenchie’s bar tonight. An early night had been his only thought, as he left the telephone kiosk on Shankenweg.

Before he’d fully realised it though, he was pulling himself onto a barstool in Frenchie’s and there she was again. Soft reflections glinted in the tumbling waves of jet black hair and he was besotted. Probably a bit of Latino-Americana in there somewhere, he smirked, captivated by the magnetic ability of his own charisma and the sheer magic of her beauty.

It set him wondering, if the tales he’d heard, about Latin temperament, in aeroplane hangars around the world, could possibly be true. Nothing had suggested, in the few brief weeks he’d known her that things might turn out this