always lead from the front
BEHIND THE LINES
I have never been behind a cause in my life. Well what on earth is the point? You need to be out there at the front leading the people who are fighting for something if you really want to make your presence felt. Let me give you an example.
Way back in the wonderful years of my degenerate youth, he was an awfully nice chap despite his degeneracy, well the two of us decided to put all our united eighteen year old muscle into the fight for the myriads of stateless and homeless civilian victims still left over from the second world war. It was a great cause in 1960.
Anyway Dave and I decided to spend the Easter holidays, well three weeks all told, in East Germany helping the destitute families who were penniless and jobless. It was an interesting excursion. To start with German was by no means my best language and Dave did not speak it at all. So, as you can imagine, we spent a lot of our time talking a weird sort of Allgemine and Allgeyours that nobody quite understood. Least of all the destitue whom we had come to help.
Basically we had tickets for six people to fly them to Geneva from Berlin and then they would be handed over to the UN to be housed, hosed, shod and fed. The trouble was we were allocated a family of six. Two senile grandparents who looked like they did not even know a war had taken place, a nice couple in their late forties and their twin daughters Traudl and Erica, who at seventeen and extremely attractive were immediately forbidden to talk to Dave and me for all sorts of reasons which of course none of us, especially their very apprehensive parents, seemed to understand. I think the parents thought their daughters were the price of their freedom and that Dave and I were two white slave traders bent on all sorts of evil deeds. As two slightly shy, male, Catholic virgins I don’t think Traudl and Erica could have been in safer hands.
So we finally managed to get through about fifty different check points before dragging the poor sextet onto a British military transport plane which the pilot assured us was taking stateless people to Switzerland. We thanked him and settled down with our flock of refugees but soon realised something was wrong. The father was talking to some other Germans on the flight and seemed very worried. It was Traudl, who spoke the most comprehensible variation of our invented patois, who told me “ Sir, young hero man, Ich habe ein idea zat dis luftplane is not going to Swiss. A man has told a daddy we are going to Russia.” Dave spoke first,
“Oh no, how on earth did we manage a cock up like this? It can’t be Russia, I’ll have a word with the pilot.” He came back smiling ten minutes later. “ No the navigator just joked to him that it was just like the ‘rush hour’, and several Prussians of course thought that sounded like we were Moscow bound, but it is being straightened out now. However, we aren’t going to Switzerland after all. The RAF crew have been given five days leave so they are taking us all to Nice on the French Mediterranean coast for a little holiday. What the hell do we do with our family.?” I said I’d have a word with Traudl.
“Meine liepling frauline,” her eyes lit up, “ How would you like eine genacht in der Cote d’Azur?” She immediately Cuddled up to me while her parents were not looking and said, “O ja, mit zu das is good, neine?” Strewth, it may well have been, but when she added that Erica had already said she was returning to England mit Dave, dis vill be good for two of us both, ja?” I had to ask her what her parents would think of this and she looked puzzled.
“Deiner fater und muter” I added. But she could not believe that bit because all her family had been killed in a bombing raid when they were babies. “Well who are die swei fater and muter you are with?” It transpired they were no relations at all and the girls had just tagged along when we said we had six tickets. I told her to wait a minute. I had a word with the pilot who said his orders had been changed and any refugees wanting to get off at Nice would be taken in by the UN. Then he added, “But if you two lucky so and sos want to keep your kraut popsicles that’s fine by us. We’ll fly you all back to England in about four days. We land at Northolt, which is next to Heathrow, where you would have gone anyway.
We told the girls who were delighted. Four days in the sun on the Med and then back to our palacial mansions near London, wow had their boat come in! Well, as it turned out it hadn’t. When we landed at the RAF base at Northolt the German embassy had already been told of the situation by the air crew and a diplomat met the girls when we landed.
Dave and I might not have got several nights of libidinous hijinks with some German crumpet, but our incredible success in bringing six Germans back to the West was rewarded by the German ambassador a week later when he sent us each a cheque for £500, a very useful sum in those days. Dave turned to me and sighed as we went back to school and were treated like heroes by the staff and our friends. He chuckled , “Just as well we got the money, I’m not sure I’d have known what to do with Erica.”
“Oh I know,” I replied. “I’v’e just never put it to the test and I must admit I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the ordeal!”
But think if we’d been behind the cause. We’d have probably been last in the queue, saddled with six octogenarians and really would have gone to Russia!