The Year of the Golden Pig XIII
Look: there’s me; youngest Warrant Officer II in the Army. 3 weeks in Berlin: It’s December 1967; I lap up the snide jibes from every career corporal and bitter sergeant,
- ‘Just cos you’re filth!’
- ‘Redcap, got a head start did you?’
- ‘Who did you stab in the back then? Family?’
I am Warrant Officer II Law, RMP SIB. I am bullet-proof.
New Year’s Eve; 10 PM, Sergeants' Mess Bar, Brigade in Berlin, by the Glockenturm, behind Hitler’s Olympic Stadium. Phone rings. Barman hands me the receiver:
- ‘Law.’ I like to answer like that.
- ‘Home James!’ Code phrase for ‘report immediately to your place of work’.
- ‘What’s up?’
- ‘Droppings in the Ventilator! Reindeer Droppings.’
The Defence Manual on Security includes a section on telephone security. In West Berlin the assumption is that the line is open and monitored: by the East Germans, by the Soviets, by the Yanks, by the French and, yes, by us. This manual demands that all personnel keep communications short and use cryptic and allusive language at all times. Naturally, we all use it as an opportunity for childish humour: the message decodes as the ‘shit has hit the fan’. The reindeer is, of course, Rudolf, Rudolf Hess.
At SIB the duty Corporal who ‘phoned me says:
- ‘No details just the watch commander called for SIB. Sounded panicky.’
- ‘Lieutenant Havelock; Better be quick sir, it’s the end of the Brit Month guarding Rudolf… The Sovs are next up in a couple of hours.’
Thank God it's not the Yanks, I think. Always on time. The French would be better. Funny: after the war Spandau Prison was only chosen because, amongst the Four Allied Powers controlling Berlin, neither the Sovs or the Yanks could agree to keep the Nazis in the other's sector. As usual the French didn't count. Checkpoint Charlie would hold the Soviets up. Crossing East to West could be slow even for the occupiers.
- ‘Called the Colonel?’
- ‘Thought I’d leave that to you.’
He’s right. Protocol demands going up the chain of command. By rights I should call my immediate superior. He’s younger than me and it would be a waste of time. I ring the Colonel in the O’s mess.
- ‘Sir, it’s Warrant Officer Law: Sacking, repeat Sacking.’
Sacking is the official codeword for Hess-ian incidents. They do have a sense of humour in Whitehall. The Colonel hangs up. He’ll hot foot it home to be near a different phone that only rings through to the Cabinet War Office. I pick up a gun from the armoury and drive an unmarked Opel Rekord to Spandau Prison.
I go through the ID card/security pass exchange even though Lieutenant Havelock is hovering behind the private manning the Picquet Post. Havelock alternates between looking terrified and overjoyed. A little boy glad the grown-up is here: he’s in for a slap - but someone has come to tidy up the mess.
- ‘What happened, sir?’
He looks tearful. Good-looking in a Windsor-ish way, even has big ears.
- ‘I… I’ll take you… to see it.’
We go the normal route towards the back of Smuts Barracks, as Spandau Prison is known officially. We’re heading for Hess’ accommodation. Contrary to popular belief it’s not a cell. He has a room rather like mine in the Sergeants Mess. Admittedly the lock is on the outside, but all the same it’s not the Chateau D’If.
Havelock uses the huge key on the mortice and then lifts the heavy bar from across the door. The door opens outwards, naturally. Hess is on the floor, both hands manacled to the radiator. On the floor beside him is a twenty something girl. Dark hair, centre parting, exotic look? Dead. Blood pooled behind her head, sticky-looking already.
- ‘Who the fuck is that?’ I’m nose to nose with Havelock.
- ‘M-my-my… Miss Liebermann, Miss Judith Lieberman.’
- ‘And what the fucking hell is she doing here, a civilian. Jesus.’
I can’t believe it. No-one’s going to come out of this well. Not even me.
- ‘She’s…she’s a teacher at the Havel School, at RAF Gatow. I met her at a party in the Civilian Mess at Brigade. We’re sort of…
- ‘Yeah, I know… why is she here?’
- ‘I let it slip, I was duty officer here this week. She kept on…
she promised… if…’
I call him a word he’s been called by the members of his platoon a million times behind his back.
- ‘Mr Law, I- I can’t have that…’
- ‘You’ll get worse and not just from me, by the time this gets out. What happened?’
He starts to blub then.
- ‘I b-b-brought Judith here… we looked through the Judas Hole.
She says “I want to meet him. Let’s go in.” But we don’t go straight in… well, she... No-one ever did that before. Afterwards, she stands up, we go in.’
- ‘Then he went bonkers, completely mad. Judische Schlampe.He was screaming. Judische Schlampe. He was throttling her. She fell and…’
- ‘Who cuffed him to the radiator?’
- ‘I did. Didn’t know what else to do.’
Fuck me he’s done something right, I think.
- ‘Who else knows?’
- ‘No-one!’ Not yet, they don’t.
- ‘What’s that mean, what he said? D’you know?’
- ‘Umm, Jewish Slut.’
And the tears start again. A leader of men, and no mistake.