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datatime: 2022-11-28 14:06:55 Author:XSBAfVPE

"As bad as that, sir. We hadn't a chance. Straight up, we really hadn't. First off, the weather was against us- the jokers in the Met. office were about as right as they usually are."

The interrogation room, harshly lit by two powerful, unshaded lights, was uncomfortable and airless. The furniture consisted of some battered wall-maps and charts, a score or so of equally scuffed chairs and an unvarnished deal table. The commodore, flanked by Jensen and Mallory, was sitting behind this when the door opened abruptly and the first of the flying crews entered, blinking rapidly in the fierceness of the unaccustomed light They were led by a dark-haired, thick-set pilot, trailing helmet and flying-suit in his left hand. He had an Anzac bush helmet crushed on the back of his head, and the word "Australia" emblazoned in white across each khaki shoulder. Scowling, wordlessly and without permission, he sat down in front of them, produced a pack of cigaottes and rasped a match across the surface of the table. Mallory looked furtively at the commodore. The commodore just looked resigned. He even sounded resigned.

"Of course, Captain. You don't have to ask."

"As bad as that, sir. We hadn't a chance. Straight up, we really hadn't. First off, the weather was against us- the jokers in the Met. office were about as right as they usually are."

"They gave you clear weather?"

"It is impossible, you say?" Jensen persisted. "This is terribly important."

Navarone! So that's why I'm here to-night, Mallory thought. Navarone. He knew it well, rather, knew of it. So did everyone who had served any time at all in the Eastern Mediterranean: a grim, impregnable iron fortress off the coast of Turkey, heavily defended by-it was thought-a mixed garrison of Germans and Italians, one of the few Aegean islands on which the Allies had been unable to establish a mission, far less recapture, at some period of the war. He realised that Torrance was speaking, the slow drawl heavy with controlied anger.

"Because I don't believe in suicide. Because I don't believe in sacrificing good blokes for nothing. Because I'm not God and I can't do the impossible." There was a flat finality in Torrance's voice that carried conviction, that brooked no argument.

"Four hours' sleep, Captain Mallory," he said quietly. "Four hours. I'm beginning to think that you can count yourself damn' lucky to have had even that much."

"Too bloody right, I don't!" Torrance growled.

"As bad as that, Bill?"

"Just one little question, Squadron Leader. You don't fancy going back there again?"

"Gentlemen, this is Squadron Leader Torrance. Squadron Leader Torrance," he added unnecessarily, "is an Australian." Mallory had the impression that the commodore rather hoped this would explain some things, Squadron Leader Torrance among them. "He led tonight's attack on Navarone. Bill, these gentlemen here-Captain Jensen of the Royal Navy, Captain Mallory of the Long Range Desert Group-have a very special interest in Navarone. How did things go to-night?"

"May I have a word with the Squadron Leader?"

"Thanks." Jensen looked across at the burly Australian and smiled faintly.

"Thanks." Jensen looked across at the burly Australian and smiled faintly.

"Yeah. But he'll be all right. The old crate was still awash when we passed over, the big dinghy was out and it was as smooth as a millpond. He'll be all right," Torrance repeated.

"It is impossible, you say?" Jensen persisted. "This is terribly important."

"Four hours' sleep, Captain Mallory," he said quietly. "Four hours. I'm beginning to think that you can count yourself damn' lucky to have had even that much."

"Just one little question, Squadron Leader. You don't fancy going back there again?"

"They gave you clear weather?"

"To total four hours' sleep in three days is not," Mallory said feelingly. "And that's all I've had. Here they come!"

"Gentlemen, this is Squadron Leader Torrance. Squadron Leader Torrance," he added unnecessarily, "is an Australian." Mallory had the impression that the commodore rather hoped this would explain some things, Squadron Leader Torrance among them. "He led tonight's attack on Navarone. Bill, these gentlemen here-Captain Jensen of the Royal Navy, Captain Mallory of the Long Range Desert Group-have a very special interest in Navarone. How did things go to-night?"

"Yeah. Clear weather. It was ten-tenths over the target," Torrance said bitterly. "We had to go down to fifteen hundred. Not that it made any difference. We would have to have gone down lower than that anyway-about three thousand feet below sea-level, then fly up the way: that cliff overhang shuts the target clean off. Might as well have dropped a shower of leaflets asking them to spike their own bloody guns. Then they've got every second A.A. gun in the south of Europe concentrated along this narrow 50-degree vector-the only way you can approach the target, or anywhere near the target. Russ and Conroy were belted good and proper on the way in. Didn't even get half-way towards the harbour.... They never had a chance."

"Yeah. Clear weather. It was ten-tenths over the target," Torrance said bitterly. "We had to go down to fifteen hundred. Not that it made any difference. We would have to have gone down lower than that anyway-about three thousand feet below sea-level, then fly up the way: that cliff overhang shuts the target clean off. Might as well have dropped a shower of leaflets asking them to spike their own bloody guns. Then they've got every second A.A. gun in the south of Europe concentrated along this narrow 50-degree vector-the only way you can approach the target, or anywhere near the target. Russ and Conroy were belted good and proper on the way in. Didn't even get half-way towards the harbour.... They never had a chance."

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