Der Devil Komando
Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity.
Better to rein in hell, than serve in heaven.
John Milton, 1667
The first whistle blast sounded out sharply in the cold, September, Dutch morning air.
The men of the 1st Airborne Division of the Parachute Regiment started to prepare for the oncoming battle, hastily checking that their spare ammunition was correctly secured to their tunics, an ample supply of hand grenades were available and god forbid, that they had enough battle dressings close at hand. All along the shallow split trench, hastily dug the night before in silence and total darkness in fear of the enemy, who were in similar trenches approximately four hundred meters away, men began to stretch and stand up in readiness.
They were part of Operation Market Garden, planned to liberate the Dutch cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen. Dropped in by glider the previous night as part of the Market attack to seize key bridges, they had overshot and missed their drop zone by a good twenty kilometers and where now stranded behind enemy lines trying to navigate back to their intended target whilst the remaining Allied forces continued on with their assault of the Garden (ground) attacks.
Corporal Dave Morris and Private Sam Davis looked at each other and winked. Corporal Morris was a burly six-foot, former rugby player from Newcastle and Private Davis was a stout, stocky former miner from Wales, who had left the safety of his reserved occupation to serve his country. They had met during their six-week training and had remained side by side ever since.
‘Who does the Captain think he is?’ Laughed Private Davis, ‘bloody whistle, he might as well tell the Jerries we are on our way.’
‘Aye, your right enough there,’ replied Corporal Morris ‘he thinks he is on the Somme. Just wait till the bullets start flying, he will crap his pants.’
The Captain double-checked the bullets in his Webley Revolver one more time. Satisfied, he drew the whistle to his lips once again.
As one, the whole regiment stiffened and looked ahead at the muddy opening of their slit trench. For some, this would be the last sight they witnessed. Each man prayed to his own chosen god. This was it.
‘Hey, stumpy, stay close to my side, you know you are frigging useless on your own,’ whispered Corporal Morris, from the side of his mouth.
His comrade merely nodded his head in acknowledgement and stood ashen waiting for the command to advance.
In the silence, the second whistle sounded deafening. Everyone jumped, startled, and made their way to climb out of their split trench unsure of what was waiting for them on the other side and what their future would hold.
The nanosecond the first helmeted heads of the attacking British Force lifted above the parapet the German Spandau MG-42 machine gunners opened up from their camouflaged bunkers, concealed out in the middle of no man’s land, with a ferocious onslaught, discharging 12,000 rounds per second into the slow and prone soldiers. In that terrifying moment it felt as if the world was coming to an end.
Paratroopers were flung back into the pit of the trench without so much as making a single step forward. Bodies crumpled down onto the torn earth in front of them after only one or two paces. They were unceremoniously flung to one side as other soldiers desperately endeavoured to break free of the kill zone.
Corporal Morris took his turn to leave the safe confines of the trench; he reached around to lend a hand to his friend. The soldier In front of him was struck in the side of the head, the bullet tore through his soft fleshy skull covering the Corporal’s face in blood.
‘Get a bloody move on old pal,’ Corporal Morris roared dragging Private Davis free.
They both sought out cover. Diving behind a pile of dead Paratroopers mowed down in front of them. Their eyes were still open wide, staring blankly into space, their bodies warm to the touch. The small fringes of grass that had previously occupied the field separating the two warring sides had quickly disappeared. Trampled underfoot or blown sky-high from grenades and motor shells that were now homing in on their target with deadly accuracy. The floor underfoot was slippery with mud, slowly turning into a browny red. Bullets zipped past over their heads as both soldiers took stock of the battlefield. All around them was a scene of chaos. Bodies were propelled into the air from the motor fire; Soldiers were dropping like flies, their screams echoing above the sounds of combat.
They were sitting targets where they were and they both knew that sooner or later a bullet was going to find them or a motor bomb was going to come crashing down. Bodies were littered everywhere, but advancement could be seen by the paratroopers, who, with a newfound confidence after clearing the kill zone and finding themselves alive, were slowly starting to turn the fight around.
Just ahead and to their right, a burnt-out German half-track laid smoking, a remnant from a previous skirmish. Its tracks had been sheared in two and the armoured vehicle lay precariously on its side offering greater cover. Without a word both men rose as one, firing short bursts from their Sten Gun’s as the enemy faltered and retreated back into their own trench system. Private Davis noticed with pride that one of his small bursts had taken out a German Infantryman as he attempted to sprint back to his men after clumsily throwing a Stick grenade toward the British lines. His bullets caught him neatly in the centre of the torso and he dropped like a stone. He was prevented from firing further shots towards the enemy as he clashed into the hard steel of the half-track. Below, at his feet, crouched on his front, Corporal Morris fired off single, accurate bursts, each finding its designated target.
The German superiority in numbers was no match for the discipline and tactics of the Parachute Regiment, who quickly gained ground having first destroyed the machine-gun posts. Piat rockets were fired with devastating effect into the enemy formations and they retreated from the battlefield into a small wooded copse for shelter whilst their attackers pursued.
‘Let’s go,’ shouted Private Davis, racing after his fellow soldiers.
Corporal Morris lifted from his prone position and joined up with his friend.
‘Into the fire once again,’ he mumbled under his laboured breath.
Together, side by side they advanced towards the copse.
They had barely made it five meters from the protective cover of the half-track when, humph! The ground erupted beneath them as a stray motor shell landed at their feet. Their ears drums burst instantly and Corporal Morris felt his whole body lift of the ground, where he felt himself floating through the air like a feather in a breeze. He passed out moments before his body flew back down to the hardened earth and landed with a solid thump.
Corporal Morris opened his eyes. Blinking widely to try and clear his vision. He was in a huge crater that was still freshly smoking from the impact of the explosion. Through perforated eardrums he could vaguely detect the sounds of the battle continuing, further ahead deeper in the woods.
He looked around the shell hole and saw Private Davis lying at the bottom of the hole. The bottom of his right arm was missing and he was desperately trying to stem the flow of blood that was jetting freely from his raw and exposed arm with his field dressings. Every time he applied a new field dressing it quickly became saturated with blood and needed to be replaced within seconds. Around him lay several dressing packs that he had already been spent. The colour was draining fast from Private Davis face and it was evident to see, that his body was shutting down and that time was rapidly running out.
‘NOO!’ screamed Corporal Morris, lifting himself up from his own position, wanting to help his friend. As he moved, a sharp pain flashed across his forehead causing him to moan out loud, as a wave of nausea swept through his stomach, he fell back down to his original position, gasping wildly for air. Wiping his hand across his forehead he was shocked to see it was covered in hot warm blood. Before he could take anything else in, he slipped away again, back into unconsciousness.
The next time his eyes fluttered open, it took a lot of effort from Corporal Morris, he did not want to wake from his dream, where he was warm and comfortable, lying in a nice warm bubble bath as a young Dutch peasant girl perched over his bathtub, feeding him succulent steak, well done to perfection just as he preferred, she handed him a cool bottle of Newcastle Brown to wash it all down. He was in heaven.
The minute he opened his eyes he regretted it instantly. His eyes glazed opened upon the thick dull grey of the clouds loitering above, rain was imminent and the light was starting to fade. Lying rigid, allowing everything to slowly come back to him, he listened out for sound. It was silent, not just silent but deadly silent. No voices, No NCO’s shouting, no sounds at all, but the worst thing was that there was not even a single cheep from a bird. Nothing! It was as if the war had simply moved on, passed him by, heading for somewhere else, unconcerned about those left behind. Forgotten and abandoned.
Corporal Morris was relieved to discover the wound on his forehead had eventually ceased bleeding and had congealed like home-made jam. He winced as he touched the tender gash that felt as if it ran the entire length of his brow. It was already starting to heal; he could feel it nipping together. He was in no doubt that he was going to have a monster of a headache the next few days but he also well aware of the depressing fact that he would never in all of his life be so lucky again.
A dusky fog curled around the edge of the shell hole, stirring him back to life.
With saddened eyes and an empty heart, he stole a glance over to the prone body of Private Davis, half expecting him to be poised over a small stove, brewing up a nice pot of tea for them both, just like he always did. One look at the fallen body of his friend, instantly told him that those days were over from now on. Corporal Morris was going to be alone in this shitty war, all by himself with no one to comfort or protect him.
Private Davis was still at the rear of the shell hole. His body was rigid and his skin was ashen grey, his head hung back and his mouth was wide open, perhaps from his final call for help, his eyes were fixated into space, unmoving and lifeless.
He crawled along the muddy floor to where the lifeless body of his friend lay. He looked down at him, tears running down his soiled check and said a silent prayer. After a moment he removed his ID tag from his neck, placing it in the top pocket off his tunic, gently closing his eyes, before he crawled back to retrieve his weapon. He blew some mud from the firing chamber of his Sten gun and quickly checked his ammo. He was good to go.
Forcing himself out of the hole, he crouched heavy-legged on the deserted battlefield. The fog had turned thicker, absorbing everything in grey. Visibility was reducing rapidly and the wispy murkiness danced all around him. In a few minutes, it would be like pea soup and he would be able to see nothing at all.
He listened out for any sounds but there were still not to be heard. It was an eerie feeling making Corporal Morris feel alone and vulnerable. ‘Give yourself a shake big lad.” He thought. When he was sure that it was safe to do so, he stood up and cautiously stepped forward into the gloom, ready to open up with his Sten gun the second he saw anything untoward.
After two steps he suddenly came to a halt.
‘I don’t even know what direction my lines are?’ He thought to himself.
He slowly spun around but could not make out any identifying objects. ‘Shit.’ He simply said to no one in particular.
He hesitated and finally continued walking in the direction he was facing. He felt his whole body shiver as he walked on fearful.
He sighed to himself and thanked God, when eventually after a few moments he spotted a section of woods in the distance. Here he would be able to seek refuse and hopefuly be safe.
The soldier with the crazy red eyes lying concealed in the woods watched his approach in anticipation and slowly smiled to himself.
The light was beginning to fade rapidly as he approached the entrance to the wood, the cold was settling in and Corporal Morris knew he was in for a long uncomfortable night.
Stepping into the woods he halted, waiting for his eyesight to adjust the total darkness that had instantly engulfed him. The whisper of fog from the battlefield halted at the fringes of the wood then turned around and beat a hasty retreat.
Before stepping forward he took in his surroundings. It was difficult as the trees felt as if they were closing in on him, no desire to allow him to venture forward. Again there was an eerie silence.
Taking in the patches of thick mud that looked like they could swallow a horse, the overhanging branches and the jagged thorn bushes poised to strip the skin from his flesh, he was careful to pick out every footfall in front of him, mindful that any sound wound disclose his existence instantly and that if crashed to the wood floor a sprained ankle or even worse, would decrease his chances of survival and increase his chances of detection.
He detected something, a presence maybe, the hairs lifted on the back of his neck. He sensed he was not alone in the dark woods. He fumbled in the pockets of his smock and removed a hand grenade, prepared to lob it at whoever or whatever appeared.
Continuing on, the darkness swamped over him. His nerves were at breaking point. He needed to clear this wood quickly.
He stepped over a decayed tree that had given up on life a long time ago; crashing down onto the floor of the wood where over time Mother Nature had claimed it as her own.
He was just bringing over his rear leg of the obstacle when the words ‘Hilf Mier, Hilf Mier’, and a clammy hand brushed the bottom of his trousers. Nails like talons rasped against his skin.
Corporal Morris kicked out with his booted foot in panic, trying like mad to quell the scream that was rising in his throat. He looked down and recoiled in disgust. Lying back against the fallen tree was the most disgusting vision he had ever witnessed in his life. The soldier who had grabbed at his legs, at least he assumed he was a soldier as the uniform he wore was unidentifiable and torn to pieces, cowered and shivered. His skin resembled charred charcoal and looked painful to the touch, mud and grime clung to the stubble on his face. A foul smell was coming off him that he instantly recalled, one that he had often noticed back at camp whenever he walked by the first aid station. If he was correct the poor soul before him was suffering from the later stages of wet gangrene and was close to losing a body part or dying from blood poison which would eventually occur. Corporal Morris could imagine the puss-filled sores that were emergent on his body and how much the victim must be suffering.
With vomit imminent, Corporal Morris’s eyes widened in fear as he took in his assailants eyes for the first time. His conjunctivas were blood-red giving him the form of the devil himself.
Again his ghastly assailant called out ‘Hilf Mier, Hilf Mier’, this time raising a lifeless arm, where long, grime ridden, razor-sharp, and fingernails emitted from his hands.
Unaware that the man was pleading for help Corporal Morris stepped forward and slammed the cold steel butt of his Sten gun into the bridge of his unprotected nose. It was delivered with such ferocity that his head snapped back, breaking his neck instantly. A faint crack was the only sound admitted as he slumped back lifeless against the decaying tree.
Turning away in utter shock and disgust, Corporal Morris started running away, way past the point of caring about his silence or detection; he just wanted to escape this living hell.
Running blindly he cleared the wood and sighed in relief, suddenly his way was blocked and he slammed headfirst into a wire mesh fence and was sent flying to the ground.
Winded, he looked up, the fence he had collided with, seemed to be protecting some sort of compound and was easily 10 meters high, topped with bundles of lethal-looking barbed wire.
Crude signs were posted in both German and English around the perimeter every 20 meters, written with paint, with the Deaths Head Symbol of a skull emblazoned for effect with the writing painted below. He shivered involuntarily as he read the words first in German then in English.
TRESPASSER WERDEN SOFORT AUSGEFÜHRT
AUF BESTELLUNG DER SS
TRESPASSERS WILL BE IMMEDIATELY EXECUTED
BY ORDER OF THE SS
Corporal Morris beat a hasty retreat back into the safety of the woods. Crouched under the protection of an overrun bush he could feel his heart nearly penetrating through his chest.
What the hell was going on? No enemy activity had been reported in this area and certainly nothing even suggesting that the SS were operating in the area had been highlighted during their pre-jump meeting. All intelligence had been deemed correct and up-to-date. If that had been the case they would have chosen an alternative route when they overshot their landing spot. Their aim had been to meet up with the rest of Operation Market Garden with minimal enemy contact. He pulled out his map and opened it up. Using the thin light from the compound lookout towers he eventually found his current location, much to his relief. Sure enough, there was no mention of any SS camps in the area; all he could identify from the map for the area was a small cross of a church, which according to his calculations was slap bang in the middle of the camp in front of him.
This was getting weirder and creepier as the day went on thought Corporal Morris. Part of his brain was crying out for him to give this place a wide berth and to push all of the day’s craziness to the back of his mind. The other part of his brain, the curious side, the side that would fill him with remorse and guilt if something happened to others because he had cowardly chosen to turn a blind eye, was pleading with him to investigate further, he was sure this camp was linked to the recent incident with the strange enemy soldier.
He belly crawled further to make a further more detailed assessment of the camp. It looked to have been recently constructed, directly in front of him was a fresh whitewashed building, this gave off a medical appearance and he was sure it was either a small hospital or clinic. Tucked behind in the shadows of the woods, he could just make out a church steeple. He guessed the camp had been built with this in mind and incorporated into the design.
Either side of the medical building was a wooden hut, the type used to house guards and prisoners; these were separated by about fifty meters from the medical building. As if to clarify this, light emitted from the right-hand side hut, and a door was opened and two burly SS guards stepped out into the open. After only a moment a line of six prisoners, chained at their hands, feet and necks, as well as to each other were marched out with another two SS guards bringing up the rear. The prisoners, naked from the waist up and with only torn, flimsy trousers protecting their modesty were slowly walked to the centre building, with shaven heads bent low they looked defeated.
The hairs pricked up on the back of Corporal Morris’s neck, nope, something was definitely not right here.
Mind made up. He retreated further into the woods until he was sure he could not be seen by prying eyes. Here, he stood up and softly picked a route to the left, towards the camp entrance about one hundred meters away. He could feel his whole body shaking, sure that at any moment he would snap a twig or a branch, with the resulting crack giving him away.
After what seemed like an age but in reality only five minutes, he was again lying under the cover of a bush staking out the entrance, planning his next move.
There were two SS Field Police, otherwise known as chain dogs due to the ridiculous steel plate called a gorget that hung from their necks on the gate, both struggling to securely hold onto steel leads attached to a pair of German Alsatians, that did not look like they had been fed lately, due to the ferocity of their growls and from the sharp teeth protruding from their slavering jaws in desperation to eat something.
Before Corporal Morris could make his next move, the dogs became more animated, jumping up on their hind legs in excitement. Soon the low hum of engines became louder. Two open flatbed trucks rolled up to the gates and stopped. Greetings were exchanged between the guards and drivers and the barrier was opened to allow them safe passage.
Before he knew it, Corporal Morris found himself up on his feet and sprinting hell for leather towards the rear of the second truck.
Luckily he was not spotted and he grabbed hold of the tailgate and unceremoniously flung himself into the inside of the truck. Something he instantly regretted.
He landed with a squelch, warm fluid and sections of rotten skin flew up into his face and eyes blinding him momentarily. His hands slid forward on the wooden floor, propelled by something viscus and tangy.
Lying on the floor of the truck he wiped a dirty sleeve across his face and gingerly opened his eyes unsure what to expect. He fought back a scream that naturally wanted to come rushing from deep within his lungs. Inches away from him, a dead soldier, lay twisted with the same red eyes staring blankly at him.
The truck started up and he snapped his eyes firmly closed, playing dead as they passed through the main gate of the camp. He was engulfed by the choking stench of blood, decay, gangrene and death. Corporal Morris held his breath for as long as he could.
Pleasantries were exchanged at the main gate and within seconds they had safely passed through into the camp.
Lungs close to bursting, Corporal Morris let out a huge gasp and tried to fill up with fresh air which was near to impossible in the back of the truck laden with fresh and rotting corpses.
He sneaked a peak over the rear tailgate; the sentries had turned away and were going about their normal duties facing back towards the road. He glanced around the truck and was shocked to discover that he was sharing it with four dead bodies, all similar in appearance to the soldier in the woods. He jumped over the side of the truck, landed softly on the grass below and scurried away to safety to the nearest wooden hut to take stock. The smell of death lingering on his clothes and body.
After a few moments rest, Corporal Morris raced from the wooden hut to the old church. It was only a hundred meters away but he felt weak, his energy supply was well and truly spent. It had been a long day. Again he dropped into the shadows and listened out for any signs that he may have been detected.
The Church was centuries old and was in a bad state of repair. The SS had made a quick repair of the building to suit their purposes and the stained glass windows, long since destroyed or stolen were boarded up at ground level. The remaining stained glass was peppered with bullet holes and spider web cracks. Exploring further, he traced his hands against the old crumbly walls of the church, looking for anything that might give him an understanding of what was occurring in the camp.
As he crept towards the centre of the church he detected the faint hum of voices coming from inside. He continued on cautiously. Close to where the babble was coming from he came across a section of the window boarding that had obviously been cut short but still fitted regardless. This gave him a small six-inch window to peer through.
He leant forward and pressed his head against the wooden board. The inside of the church was illuminated by three tower lights that had been rigged up to an electricity supply. The church was just as Corporal Morris expected it to be. Pulpit and alter, both badly damaged through years of neglect were in need of urgent repair. Crosses and pictures from the bible hung delicately from the decaying walls, all covered in dust and grime.
It was the rear wall that instantly caught his eye. The wall, which covered the full length of the church had recently whitewashed. It must have undergone a number of coats as it shone brilliantly compared to the other drab walls inside. Hung on the wall was the largest Swastika Flag that Corporal Morris had ever seen. A shiver travelled down his spine. He knew from the newsreels he had watched back home in Blighty before he joined up that the Swastika represented the Third Reich’s Aryan identity. Furthermore, he knew that the ugly black cross, displayed in the centre, if rotated 45 degrees, like the one before him, represented the more sinister fractions of the SS and highlighted their interest in the occult. The huge swastika displayed on a white circle against a vivid background of red struck the fear of god into Corporal Morris, he was sure his heart was going to stop at any time.
He pulled his head back momentarily to draw in some much needed fresh air. Looking again he counted at least fifteen officers of the SS milling around the altar area, each with their finely pressed dress uniform on, with shoes polished to perfection. He did not know the ranking system of the German army, but from the way they carried themselves and from the silver goblets that they drank wine from it was obvious to him that these were indeed high ranking officers. Two rows of old school chairs were laid out just below the window from which Corporal Morris was spying from and six empty chairs sat facing them further back, closer to the flag.
A wizened grey orderly dressed in a loose-fitting lab coat wheeled in a silvery trolley whose wheels screeched over the dry wood floor of the church. On top was a rack holding about a dozen glass vials containing yellow liquid, a pack of fresh needles and an assortment of first aid items. Hunched over, it took him an age to reach his destination and every painful step he made was surveyed by the apprehensive SS onlookers. With the trolley in position, he took his place standing in front of the Swastika flag, body straight and head directed towards the ground.
Without a moment to plan his next move, the door to the wooden hut behind him opened. Corporal Morris sank back into the shadows as the guards and the prisoners reappeared again, still chained up and were led across to the church, only this time they looked defeated, heads bowed with their feet clumsily propelling them forward. They were marched to the opposite end of the church and entered from a small wooden door.
Upon their arrival in the church, the murmur of voices from the SS officer halted and they watched in apprehension as the prisoners were led into the big open space of the church and forced into the six tiny chairs that could hardly contain their bulk. Their bulging forearms were restrained by fixed chain clasps, securely fastened to the armrests if the seats. Unmoving, Corporal Morris witnessed this from the window, which he had once again been drawn towards.
The prisoners looked to be Russian, dark hair cropped short, wide-shouldered, with thick cheekbones to the man. For prisoners, they did not look undernourished. They all looked fighting fit and lean, strong muscles and sinew bursting from everywhere. Apart from their Russian looks, they all had one other thing in common.
A five-star inverted pentagram crudely tattooed on the left side of their exposed chests.
The sign of the Nazi occult.
With the unexpected arrival of the dishevelled prisoners and after witnessing their forcible restraint into their chairs, the topic of conversation between the SS officers shifted to speculation into what was going on, and ultimately, what it had to do with them.
A muffled feminine cough caused everyone to turn and face the entrance to the church. Standing, shoulders tucked back, was a tall thin SS officer, dressed head to toe in black; He cast a furtive glance around the room, slowly turning his head in order to take everything in. Satisfied, he proceeded to walk slowly but confidently into the nave of the church. The gathered onlooker’s immediately silenced as he walked past them, stepping back to give him space as if in the presence of royalty, his shiny black shoes tapping away off the church floor with each step.
Holding his breath outside, Corporal Morris observed everything in awe. He noticed the sudden change in the SS officer inside the church, they seemed to either fear him or respect him, maybe a combination of both he thought.
As he drew adjacent to the gap in the window, Corporal Morris was given a brief moment to observe him in more detail. He was tall, maybe six foot three, he looked older than his counterparts but there was no trace of fat at all on his body. He looked like a disciplined man who had followed a strict regime all of his life, if anything he looked underweight, which made his appearance all the more intimidating. His black suit was tailor fitted and pressed to perfection. Black leather gloves were stretched over tiny hands. Hanging to his side was a fearsome looking dagger, encased in a black and gold sheath. Perched elegantly on the top of his head was a black SS cap with silver braid on the adjourning peak with a highly polished Deaths Head emblem in the centre. Trimmed bright blonde hair protruded from the side of his cap. This guy was the perfect example of a true Aryan thought Corporal Morris.
The SS officer walked past the seated prisoners, who did not raise an eyelid between them. He stopped, went to stand next to the prisoners. Stopped again and spun around on his shoes, eventually facing towards the window where Corporal Morris was peering through. He snapped his heels together with a definite click and addressed the guests assembled before him, who had all taken up their seats without being requested to. Slowly removing his leather gloves, he looked at his audience, flapped the gloves off his exposed hand and greeted them.
‘Esteemed fellow members of the SS, I am proud to be in your company on this fine night. Some of you I have known for what feels like a lifetime and others this will be our first meeting, hopefully, one of many in the glorious months ahead. I salute you all. Also, thank you all for your attendance. Invitations for tonight have been strictly limited to a chosen few and I am grateful that you have all made a conscious effort to join me. Trust me gentleman, you won’t be disappointed.’
Outside, Corporal Morris had no idea what was going on, all he knew is that the SS officer standing up, addressing his audience, had everyone captivated. The way he controlled the room was terrifying, he knew he needed to make the link between the prisoners and the SS officer, and he was feared at what may be uncovered. He stood firm at the window, unmoving, unable to break free from the spell.
‘Years of hard work are going to be finally revealed to you my selected and esteemed colleagues. I can see you looking at the retched subhuman specimens in front of you; you are all clearly wondering what this is all about. So without further delay, I will start my presentation. Please sit back and enjoy.’
With a thin sly smile, the SS officer turned to face the seated prisoners who were still sat vacant, staring at the floor, also unsure of what their future held. The SS officer inhaled deeply the barked out.
‘Prisoners sat before me. To your masters, you are all sub-human scum. You have been disowned by your generals and fellow soldiers alike. You have been left here to rot, on the miserable Western Front, thousands of miles away from your motherland. You are an embarrassment to your nation and your existence has already been erased clean from Russian history. To your comrades, you are worthless, with no meaning in life and nothing to offer. Nobody will grieve for you, and your names will never again be spoken aloud. To Stalin, you are nothing.’
‘Our beloved Fuhrer has given you all a wonderful chance to redeem yourselves, to be proud of yourselves one last time and to be rejoiced by all of the fatherland for decades to come.’
The SS officer paused to allow his ferocious outburst to sink in. The poor souls in front of him still looked heavily sedated but from their sunken shoulders, he could grasp he had hit the mark.
Resuming his speech in a high pitched tone he continued.
‘In an act of kindness from the Third Reich, you have all been pardoned from your crimes, and as such, no longer have to lie in fear for the the eventful morning, when one day you will be dragged from your cold, dark cells where your wretched lives will be ended in front of a firing squad. By direct order of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, I have been chosen to seek out and select perfect specimens, like those of you sat before me, ideal for my newly formed Satanic Brigade, which I plan to use to strike fear into the enemies of our nation. You will spearhead the Wiking Division. Your aim will be to penetrate enemy lines, take out stubborn or heavily defended positions, kill, murder, rape and torture… hell, do what you want to those before you when the Wiking Division arrives, the confidence, will and morale of our enemies will be destroyed. I want the name of the Satanic Brigade to strike fear into everyone and I want word of your powers to spread like wildfire.’
He strode purposely around the room fully immersed in his speech, picturing himself perched at the Reichstag addressing the masses below, his voice became higher from excitement and spittle flew from his thin lips.
‘I Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor grant you all permission to carry out any atrocious and barbaric acts as you see fit. Feed your natural desires, relaxed in the knowledge that you will be safe from any judgement or punishment by your SS superiors for your actions. Gentlemen, I grant you free rein and I trust you will use it to your advantage.’
With a cruel smile, Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor turned and addressed the assembled spectators who were sat silent in total shock. Unsure of what they had just witnessed.
‘What you are about to witness next, may for some of you seem somewhat unorthodox. Place your trust in me. We have trialled and researched this subject for two years now, as hundreds of sacrificed corpses will lay testament to, with the Allies now pushing us back; everything has been accelerated over the last months. We have run final filed trials this last week, and what you are about to see is nothing short of scientific perfection.’
He turned again and nodded to the orderly, who immediately jumped to life with a sparkle in his eyes. He eagerly wheeled his medicine trolley to the first prisoner, he tied a thin rubber hose around his arm tightly and watched as the veins began to sprout out from his skin, quick as a flash he inserted a syringe in his arm and pushed the plunger, sending a clear white fluid in his bloodstream. Without looking at his patient he moved on and repeated the process on the next unsuspecting victim. The first prisoner lifted his head up slightly, his eyes blinked momentarily, then he shuddered as his head dropped to his chest and his chest stopped rising. Less than five minutes later, after the checking the victim’s pulses, where death was confirmed by a simple nod of his head, the orderlies job was completed and he was back in his original position, against the wall with a look of pride on his face. All six prisoners were now head bent, unbreathing.
Corporal Morris was white-faced outside, had he witnessed murder or the execution of medical trials? He had no idea. His bladder was at bursting point but still, he was rooted to the spot.
Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor addressed the senior SS officers before him, who were also struggling to come to terms with what they had just witnessed.
‘Gentlemen, please relax. I need you to have a full understanding of what you are about to witness next. I have pushed the boundaries of science as far as any doctor or scientist has ever done. The results you are about to see to will blow your minds. I am going to give you a weapon of which you have never seen, something that you won’t have dreamt off in your wildest dreams, something that will strike fear into the soul of all mankind and something that will turn the tides of this war. What we, as a superior nation achieve today will be history in the making and will revolutionise how future wars are fought and won.’
Captivated, the audience was now sat enthusiastically waiting for what was to be finally revealed.
Holding up a glass vial of yellowish fluid, Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor proclaimed.
‘The injection they are about to receive will bring them back from the dead. Please do not be afraid, instead, be proud of the fact that you are here today to witness one of the greatest achievements of mankind. I am going to administer a cocktail of drugs mixed together with an extremely high amount of adrenalin. The cocktail promotes accelerated growth and recovery. Their speed and strength will be unmatched by our enemies. Injuries like minor bullet wounds and knife gashes will not slow them down or require them to be withdrawn from the battlefield for medical help. They will simply power on regardless of the situation. Obviously, a headshot or a shot to any of their major organs will kill them, they are not monsters, merely superhumans, modified and enhanced to suit our needs and the needs of the fatherland.’
‘Sadly, there is a limitation as to their use in the field, they only have a lifespan of six weeks, during which time they will be highly effective. After six weeks they will slow down and develop symptoms similar to the Bubonic Plague, which has wiped out millions of people over the years. Their skin will rot, gangrene will set in, rapidly turning black, and their organs will shut down causing diarrhoea and internal bleeding. I won’t lie to you, they will suffer and unbearable, agonising death. No specimen yet has lasted more than seven weeks. But now, the moment you have all been waiting for. The final act.’
Without the need for instruction, the orderly wheeled his trolley out one last time, stopping in front of the first prisoner he selected a vile of the yellow cocktail, fitted it to a new syringe and plunged it deep into his lifeless arm. Again the task was completed in mere minutes.
The assembled crowd did not dare breathe or avert their eyes away from what they were witnessing. Stood outside Corporal Morris trembled with fear.
After a minute, the body of the first prisoner started to move, first, his restrained arm began to tremble, this was hardly noticeable at first, but soon his whole arm began to twitch, the veins on his arms threatened to burst through the skin as they grew, restricted by the skin. He flung his shoulders back, forcing his chest forward and slowly began to come back to life. The colour crept back onto his face and his mouth opened slightly to take in air, without warning his head straightened and his eyes opened.
Outside Corporal Morris struggled to contain his shock, warn urine trickled down his legs. The specimen opposite him looked at him straight in the eyes, they connected, and again he witnessed the red eyes of the devil.
Once all of the prisoners had returned to life, a proud Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor delivered his final speech.
‘Gentlemen, I present to you our first members of the soon to be infamous SS Satanic Brigade. I trust you will use them wisely and to their full potential. I will, of course, be monitoring the results.’
He stood staring at his audience, and then flung out his arm in rigid salute ‘Seig Heil and good luck.’
Corporal Morris had seen enough. He was stricken with fear but he knew it was his duty to do something. As Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor shook hands and chatted to his fellow officers of the SS, he pulled away from the viewing point at the window. A plan was already starting to form in his confused mind.
In double time, with his Sten gun at the ready he made his way to the entrance of the church, standing to the side of the opening he listened for sounds, before slowly peering around the corner. Inside the entrance was a stone porch that was in better shape than the rest of the building. Lit candles were on the wall and paintings of Christ and his apostles had been straightened. The stone floor had been swept clean by the new occupiers and a thick oak bookcase, brimming with old literature stood at the side of the opened original door leading into the church itself.
Inside the church, was a burly member of the SS Field Police, presumably meant to be standing guard, he had his back to the door and had obviously been neglecting his duties and caught up in the floor show delivered by Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor. His submachine gun hung from his shoulder by its strap and he had not detected the appearance of Corporal Morris.
Acting on the spot, Corporal Morris withdrew his own dagger from its sheath. It had been unused so far during the war and was as sharp as the day it had been manufactured. With slow and deliberate footfalls, he approached the SS Field Policeman. He was close enough to smell his prey, when he flung an arm around his face, clasping his mouth and nose firmly shut. With strength, he did not know he possessed Corporal Morris drove the blade into the side of his exposed neck, where it serrated his jugular in an instant. He held onto the dying man and after a minimal struggle, he went limp. Corporal Morris gently dragged him back into the porch out of sight. As he was dragging the dead SS Field Officer he noticed a second medical trolley pushed away into the darkness, presumably spares, he released his grip on one hand and gently picked one of the yellow vials free. He gingerly placed it in the pocket of his smock and continued to carry the body out into the porch.
He closed the thick wooden door leading into the church behind him, praying that it would not squeak, which thankfully it did not. Once shut he drove home the thick bolts located at the top and bottom. These were aged and he had to use all of his strength to close them securely. A centuries-old wooden gate bar was in the upright position to the side of the doorway, he pulled this down and mated it firmly in the door bracket. No one was going to escape from here in a hurry.
As a final measure, he manhandled the bookcase in front of the door. He turned to leave, but a sudden thought caused him to stop. With madness in his eyes corporal Morris began to open all of the old books and papers from the bookcase, rolling them up into loose balls and spreading them across the barricaded door and bookshelf. Satisfied, he took a match from his pocket and lit it; he stood looking at the flame curling and then placed it against the papers. Centuries dry, the tinder ignited easily and spread to the remaining books. Soon the whole front door to the church was ablaze and the small stone reception began to fill with dense black smoke.
He jogged back to the peephole and peered inside. All the gathered SS officers and Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor were huddled together chatting unaware of the inferno generating close to them. Soon the thick smoke made its way under the locked door and danced into the church. It was the orderly who spotted it first; he struggled to get his words out before he finally composed himself and shouted out a warning to the others.
When they turned to see what the panic was, Corporal Morris threw his last two remaining hand grenades into the church, one after another, he didn’t know how accurate his aim had been but he hoped the close confines of the church would help maximize the devastation.
He ducked down under the level of the window, the explosions were almost simultaneous and they rattled the stone church walls, smoke and dust were strewn from the windows. Corporal Morris waited for it to settle, then looked again, surveying the total devastation that was taking place. The fire had burnt through the church door in seconds and engulfed the place; it had sought out the oxygen in the room and grew stronger by the second. Everything in its way was obliterated as the orange flames grew thicker, climber up the walls and streaking across the ceiling. Everyone in the room was in a total panic, jostling and searching for a way out of the inferno. Bodies lay strewn on the floor from the explosions, some dead, some dying, all ignored as the panic set in. The prisoners remained manacled to their seats, unflinching; they showed no sign of concern as the fire closed in around them. The flames licked at their feet and ignited the wooden chairs. The smell of singed and burning skin could now be detected in the smoke that poured through the window. Corporal Morris had seen enough. His job here was done.
He stubbed the nozzle of his Sten gun inside the small opening and opened fire. Screams could be heard from inside and shouts of fear. Once he emptied all of his rounds he simply turned and legged it as fast as he could. His last memory from looking through the opening was of Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor, stood shaking with anger as baby tears ran down his cheeks.
As he had prayed for, all the guards had been alerted to the smoke and had abandoned their posts to help with rescuing the others and putting the fire out, which by now had taken a stronghold, flames danced through the roof tiles and squeezed their way out of the boarded-up windows.
Corporal Morris flew past the guardhouse and kept running; he never looked back and was expecting a warning shout or a bullet in the back at any time. Thankfully this did not come and he safely made it to the cover of the woods. He nearly ran face-first into an old tree but managed to stop himself in time. As soon as he stopped the energy drained from him instantly and he had to hold onto the tree to stop him from keeling over. Struggling to get his breath back, the enormity of what had just occurred hit him; he spun his head to the side and vomited into the undergrowth below. Spent, he lowered himself to the floor, made himself comfortable against the trunk of the trees and closed his eyes.
It must have been close to dawn when he awoke with a start. The first light of the new day was slowing creeping into the woods, grey, gloomy and depressing. Sat on the floor Corporal Morris cleared his eyes and listened tentatively. No birds were chirping and nothing seemed to move. As if the wood was dead, unable to sustain anything living. He took a sip of tepid water from his water bottle and relished the coolness it brought. He was just about to dig out his map, when his ears caught the faintest of sounds and the hairs on neck pricked up, the unmissable sound of dogs barking, heading his way.
He jumped up in an instant, drawing the collars of his smock around his neck to protect him from the morning chill. The barking became louder, Corporal Morris could imagine the two huge Alsatians from the camp gates straining at their owners lead, spit erupting from their jaws, desperate to track down their prey. Him.
He picked up his Sten gun and checked the side-mounted magazine, it was empty as he feared. He flung it into a bush and set off jogging deeper into the woods. Soon the noise of the barking dogs became distant and he allowed himself to slow down, in the centre of the woods the light struggled to penetrate through and the floor was cast in shadows. Nervously he continued.
It was about exactly the same time that Corporal Morris was fleeing through the woods that a lone US Willey’s Jeep was headed slowly to the same area.
Private First Class Joe Carter of the US 101st Airborne Division sat steadily behind the wheel, carefully manoeuvring over the uneven ground beneath him. Beside him sat Sergeant Robert Lyall, a veteran since August 1942. He was perched over a map but had his M1 Garand rifle close to hand. They had been out since first light, scouting the area ahead for the rest of the division, which was laid up some two miles back having also previously overshot the landing zone. Enemy activity had been reported low, but strange stories had been emerging and their command had requested a fast in, fast out, recce of the area before they committed to moving his men on.
Bouncing up and down in the small jeep was becoming irksome and they had been travelling for an hour now with no sign of life, let alone any enemy activity to report.
‘Hey Sarge, what do you say to a quick coffee? I’m needing a jizz with all the bumping around.’
Sargent Lyall looked at his young fresh-faced trooper, he had a lot to learn, but still, he was a little parched also.
‘Sure thing Joe, Pull over by the top of that ridge. Quick piss and a coffee, then we hit the road again; I want to be outta this shit hole as soon as, got a poker game with the boys this afternoon.’
Corporal Morris raced through the woods wanting to put as much distance between him and his pursuers as possible. With the end of the wood in sight, he slowed his pace down and came to a slow walk. He had no idea if anything was waiting for him on the other side of the trees and he knew he could afford a few well-spent minutes to check the coast was clear. Still, the wood was deathly silent. He was just about to move on when a crack of a twig sounded to his right-hand side interrupting the stillness.
Corporal Morris swivelled his head around slowly, conscious not to make any sound of his own. Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor was less than ten feet away from him, also stood still and listening out. He was looking in the opposite direction and had not yet seen Corporal Morris. The minute he turned around though he would see him in an instant. His cap was missing and his previously immaculate dress uniform was creased and stained from escaping the fire and from the pursuit through the woods. Corporal Morris was unsure how he had escaped alive, the last time he had looked the fire was well and truly blazing. Either the guards had put the fire out and rescued the occupants or there was another exit which he had not been aware of. Either way, he was here now and Corporal Morris knew he was going to have to deal with him once and for all if he ever planned on escaping successfully.
Silently he ran his hand down his leg to where his webbing was in search of his Fairbairn-Sykes double-edged fighting knife. His fingers ran over the sheath and his heart sank as he detected it was missing. Probably from his encounter with the guard in the church.
As if he had a sixth sense, Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor straightened his back and turned around to face Corporal Morris, who recoiled in disgust when he saw his face for the first time since the fire. The entire left side of his cheek had burnt away, the wound was raw and the skin black and charred. Had the burn travelled any further up his face then Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor would have defiantly lost an eye. His right hand, which he had used to beat the flames out, was just a red useless stump.
Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor smiled sadistically when he saw the look of disgust written on Corporal Morris’s face, his good hand reached down his side and he pulled out his SS dagger and started to close the distance between the two. His eyes never left Corporal Morris’s gaze. The dagger was held out in front of him and the sharp tip never wavered from its target.
As he closed the gap, Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor jabbed out with his dagger, Corporal Morris, who had been expecting the move was still taken by surprise and only managed to pull back out of the way. The sharp point missed his smock by millimetres. As he stepped back, Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor followed up with a stabbing motion, this time, his timing was perfect and the blade struck home, deep into Corporal Morris’s thigh, he ran the blade up his leg, opening the wound up further. Corporal Morris screamed out in pain and felt himself weaken. He knew he was in trouble. Blood pumped from the gash. Pushing it from his mind, he stood up and faced his attacker head-on.
Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor’ s confidence was flying, he knew it would soon be over, Trying not to give Corporal Morris any time to recover he stepped forward again, arm outstretched, ready to deliver the killer blow.
In sheer desperation, Corporal Morris flung out his hand and dug his nails into the side of his burnt face. His nails easily pierced through the raw skin and Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor screamed like a stuck pig and dropped his dagger. Corporal Morris dragged his hand down further causing the raw skin to peel open, puss and blood dripped down onto his wrist. Still, he kept clawing away. Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor dropped to the floor, withering, hand clasped to his gaping wound.
Corporal Morris simply turned and ran, flinging himself through the last of the trees where he landed at the bottom of an embankment. He looked at his thigh, that too was bleeding heavily and he could feel himself going into shock. The will to live drove him on and he hobbled up the embankment sluggishly. Behind him, he heard Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor exit the tree line also, stumbling and falling. He did not look back, just pushed himself further on.
The two GI’s had parked their Willey’s Jeep at the top of the embankment and were crouched down waiting for their cup of Joe to boil. A low whispery mist was travelling towards them. They had filtered some chicory beans into a metal cup and were just waiting for it to drip through. The aroma was driving them crazy.
Private First Class Joe Carter stood up to stretch the stiffness out of his legs. He turned around and looked down the embankment just as Corporal Morris and the trailing Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor came into view. He pulled his hands over his eyes for a clearer look.
‘Hey, Sarge, what do you make of these two?’
Sergeant Robert Lyall immediately sprang up, alert in an instant, laying his coffee cup on the warm bonnet of the jeep. He took out his field glasses and zoomed-in to where Private First Class Joe Carter was pointing.
‘Jeez, looks like they could be part of those red-eyed Nazi bastards we’ve been hearing about.’
‘Hell I ain’t killed no Nazi devil before, Give me your rifle Sarge.’
‘Like hell I will, you know you can’t shoot for shit. I’m going first.
Sergeant Robert Lyall selected his rifle from the jeep, checked the ammunition and lowered himself to the floor.
He took a deep breath and looked down the sight, the butt was tight against his shoulder and he lined up on the target. Slowly exhaling, his finger gently squeezed the trigger and fired.
The bullet whizzed past Corporal Morris’s head and struck Gruppenfuhrer Hans Weisthor in the face, ricocheting off his nose bone it deflected squarely into his left eye. His legs fell from under him and he dropped like a stone. His left eye remained open, totally destroyed it was fixed still, blood red, just like the creatures he had created.
Corporal Morris carried on with his ascent; he could feel his energy flagging. He prayed that he would make it in time.
‘I’m English, I’m English, please don’t shoot.’
His voice sounded far away and he doubted that the soldiers on the top the embankment had heard him.
An idea occurred to him, the one thing that might possibly save him. He reached into his smock and pulled out the yellow vile. He waved it in front of him like a lunatic.
Finally, he could go on no more; he sank to his knees and saw that he was bleeding out.
A second shot rang out and Corporal Morris felt a burning pain as the bullet travelled through his right shoulder, propelling him back down the embankment. He lay staring into up into the sky and felt himself slowly fade. He was either going to bleed out, or the two soldiers might arrive to help him in time. Either way, his fate was going to be decided in the next few precious moments.
He turned his head and looked back up. The vial of yellow cocktail had been flung free from his grip as he had dropped to the hard floor, it had smashed open; already it had started to leak from its fragile container. As Corporal Morris lay motionless on the floor, bleeding heavily from the gaping entry hole of the bullet in his shoulder, a sudden realisation dawned on him that the deadly small stream of yellow fluid was slowly starting to trickle down precariously towards him and was only inches away from his fresh wound.
‘Shite,’ he slurred before his eyes finally closed.
Craig Wrightson 2019