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Taken from The Skipper issue: 494 February 17th 1940.


Calling Britain!

        Calling Britain!


From the top of the ice-covered hillock the group of men watched the mighty airship disappearing in the distance.

It was a Zeppelin, one of the biggest ever built in Germany, and to those few Britons it was a joy to see this proud leviathan of the air drifting helplessly with the north wind.

They could imagine the scenes of panic in the gondolas which carried the crew. Some mysterious force had stopped the eight motors which had driven the Zeppelin across the Atlantic Ocean to this lonely part of the Arctic Circle. The Nazi airmen could have encountered nothing like this before.

“How long will they feel the effects of your magnetic ray?” shouted one of the group, a thick-set man, whose red tunic under his furs revealed him as a corporal in the North-West Mounted Police.

“Not much further, Hayes!” bellowed back a taller, slimmer, member of the party. “So far our apparatus has only a limited range. It is only an experimental set. Very soon their ignition troubles will cease, and they’ll be able to manoeuvre once more.” “But not back in this direction?” queried Corporal Hayes.

“No, not within the radius of our magnetic ray. They’ll have to make camp much father from us than before. I’m afraid it is going to upset the plans of the Nameless Nazi quite a lot!”

Everyone chuckled. It was difficult to credit that here in the far north of Canada they were fighting against the Germans just the same as the soldiers in France of the airmen on the coast of Britain, but this was actually the case.

The gaunt, haggard, unshaven figure on Corporal Hayes’ right was the reason for the Mountie’s presence. Miles Cooper was the gaunt man’s name, and he had been a ne’er-do-well living at Munchison River before he had discovered there was easy money to be made selling liquor to the Eskimos and half breeds.

This had brought Corporal Hayes on his track. Cooper had bolted northwards, and in time had sought refuge on the Boothia Peninsula. Hayes had followed, and had been about to arrest the fugitive when they had blundered into an armed camp where a German Zeppelin was moored.

Before they could recover from their surprise at finding such a thing on Canadian territory they had both been seized by Eskimos, who were led by German Storm Troopers, and had been dragged before the Nameless Nazi.

The gigantic Nazi was seven feet tall, and had decked himself in black armour in order to impress the Eskimos and get their aid. On his chest he wore a huge swastika, and hidden behind this was a loudspeaker.

The Mountie had escaped, and had fled farther up the peninsula, where he had been met by unknown Britons and led into a well defended camp, where a group of scientists were engaged on important experiments. They had told him this was the site of the Magnetic Pole, and that they were trying to tap the magnetic field in order to use it as a defence against the German bombers over Britain.

They had been working there for some months before the German Zeppelin had come over from Germany with a large number of Nazi soldiers, who had put a cordon across the peninsula and were trying to seize the camp. Until then the Nazi had met with little success, chiefly because of the Ice Maze, which had to be passed before they could reach the camp. Corporal Hayes had joined forces with the scientists, glad to be able to take an active part in the war. During a trip into the German camp he had been joined by Miles Cooper, who had proved himself a true Briton.

A gas attack on the camp had been successfully defeated, and now for the first time they had succeeded in giving their magnetic ray a practical trial. The Zeppelin had come over the camp and dropped men with parachutes. These had either been killed or wounded by the accurate fire of the defenders, and the airship had been put out of action.

The howling north wind froze the faces of the men who watched from the hillock, but they remained in the same position until John Lancaster, the leader of the scientists, gave a cry. He had been watching through powerful glasses. “Now they are out of range of our ray! Their motors are working again.”

A few minutes later they saw the Zeppelin turn in a wide circle and head back. John Lancaster chuckled in grim amusement. “The fools! Directly they run into our ray they will be stopped again. Don’t they understand that? Don’t they know why they’ve been disabled?”

Evidently the Nameless Nazi was of the pig-headed type that could not take a hint. He ordered the airship to be taken back on its original route. The consequence was that a few minutes later it stopped again, and drifted with the wind once more. The men on the hilltop turned away. It was too cold to watch the further adventures of the runaway Zeppelin. Sooner or later the Nameless Nazi would realise he had to keep outside a certain range. He would have to move his camp, but, like all Germans, he was too stubborn to admit this at first.

The long, low huts which formed the workshops and quarters of John Lancaster, Dave Godden, Les Ormes, and the rest were now overcrowded with German prisoners, most of whom were wounded. To feed and look after them would be a big strain on the resources of the little garrison. It was Corporal Hayes who suggested taking them into the old German camp, where they would be looked after by their comrades.

It seemed a crazy idea, until John Lancaster remembered that the Nazis would be following the airship, and that he had a number of Eskimos who would help him. In the end he decided to do this, and the Eskimos were told to lend their sledges for the occasion. They were a surly crew who had drifted into Magnetic Camp from the north, but when they heard they would receive a reward if they helped the Britons they agreed to co-operate.

The wounded were therefore loaded on to the sledges, and everyone accompanied them across the flat, wind-blown expanse of ice to the top of the cliff, which formed one of the most imposing parts of their defences. By means of ropes and a good deal of hard work the sledges were lowered to the bottom. The huskies remained at the top. It was decided to haul the sledges through the Ice Maze by hand.

The Ice Maze was an astonishing creation of John Lancaster’s. It was both baffling and simple. At that low temperature the ice walls never melted, and no one, not in the secret could hope to pass through the endless twisting passages. Corporal Hayes had taken the trouble to memorise the route, and now he was able to take the lead, rifle in hand. At last he emerged on the frozen swamp which bordered the camp where Miles Cooper and he had once been prisoners. Bidding the others to keep well back out of sight, he crept forward to see if the coast was clear.

Too well he remembered the group of igloos where he had first seen the Nameless Nazi. The great pole with the Nazi flag at the top was still standing. To those Germans it had become a part of the Fatherland. A dog rushed out and barked at him furiously, but that was the only living thing he saw. The Nazis and their Eskimo friends had followed the Zeppelin south, in readiness to grab the numerous ropes that would be dropped when the Nameless Nazi admitted defeat and decided to anchor.

Back went the Mountie and announced that everything was safe. The procession of sledges pushed by Eskimos emerged from the Ice Maze. The Eskimos were no longer sullen. They were too surprised and awed for that. The Ice Maze had seemed like a new world to them. Hayes had the wounded men transferred to some of the bigger igloos. John Lancaster and he then searched the camp from end to end. The Germans had certainly come well provided with war-like appliances. Besides stores of rifles, machine-guns, and ammunition of all sizes, there were bombs and a number of gas-balloons which had made the previous night at Magnetic Camp a memorable one. There were also heaps of supplies to help them through the winter, and a magnificent radio set which made John Lancaster’s eyes sparkle.

“That’s the happiest sight I’ve seen for a long time,” he cried. “Now we can get in touch with Britain and tell them we have finished our experiments. . . Where’ Les Ormes?” Ormes was the radio expert. They had no such apparatus at Magnetic Camp, and this seemed a lucky chance. Everyone except Corporal Hayes crowded round the igloo where Ormes looked over the switchboard and controls. “They’re tuned-in for Germany,” he said. “Shall I see if they have anything to tell us?” He put on the ear phones, and very soon began to write rapidly. The message which came through was in code, but a code book on the same desk enabled John Lancaster to transcribe what had come those thousands of miles from Europe. He grinned as he passed it round.

“It’s from the Nazi headquarters, warning our friend the Nameless Nazi to waste no time over us, but to get what he was sent to get and then return home! I’m afraid they’d feel sore if they saw him now.”

As Les Ormes commenced to tune-in for Britain Corporal Hayes strolled towards the igloo where he had seen the ammunition stored. He intended destroying that before they returned to Magnetic Camp. He rigged up a length of time-fuse in conjunction with a bomb. The boxes of T.N.T. and ammunition he piled around this. It would need nothing more than the application of a match to send everything sky-high. The Mountie had no idea of doing this until they were about to leave, and he crawled out of the igloo on hands and knees, arranging the fuse as he came.

Suddenly he stopped and flattened himself to the ground. The igloo beside the wireless mast was surrounded by Nazis in uniform! They must have returned unnoticed by the others, who were too interested in Les Ormes’ effort to get in touch with Britain to notice anything else. The Nameless Nazis himself was there, immense, sinister, forbidding. With wide sweeping gestures he was directing the Nazis to close in on the igloo. The sound of spluttering sparks told that Les Ormes had at last discovered how to get the apparatus working. The Nameless Nazi was doubtless anxious to prevent that message going out. He was hurrying his men into position.

Corporal Hayes saw there were about twenty Germans in all. The rest were dealing with the Zeppelin at its new mooring place. His hands clenched when he realised they were far too many for him. Then he had an idea. Something must be done to take their attention off the men in the igloo, and he had that something to hand.

Swiftly he took out a match, shielded it with his hands, and lit the fuse he had previously arranged. Then he hurriedly crawled to one side and lay face down in the snow, with the rifle cuddled to his cheek.


Aboard the Zeppelin


The Nameless Nazi was satisfied with the position of his men. Boldly he approached the door of the igloo, and his mighty voice boomed out above the roar of the wind. That voice of his was not a natural one. It always sounded through the loudspeaker hidden on his chest.

“Swinehounds of Englishmen, put up your hands and come out!” he bellowed. The splutter of the power-spark ceased. The Nameless Nazi lifted his huge hand. “Here I have a hand grenade!” he shouted. “I give you three seconds to come out with your arms above your heads, otherwise I throw this inside.”

Corporal Hayes breathed hard. The bomb was for the moment outlined against the white sky. The Mountie had always been a good shot, but this was a difficult one even for him. He took quick aim and fired. Crack! Across the width of the Nazi camp there was a flash and a bang. The grenade had been exploded in the hand of the Nameless Nazi. The man was armoured with metallic sheathing which protected him from bullets and shrapnel, but nothing could save his hand from the explosive force of the bomb. A howl of pain bellowed out through the loudspeaker, and the gigantic figure reeled to and fro, snorting and gurgling with agony. Men rushed to him to steady him, and just then the fuse in the ammunition dump burned down. Boo-oo-ooom! Up went the igloo and everything in it. Pieces of ice and masses of snow came down on Corporal Hayes and almost buried him.

That completed the discomfiture of the Nazis. Turning about in dismay, they omitted to watch John Lancaster and the others in the igloo which they were surrounding. The small party of Britons and their Eskimo allies took their opportunity to burst out from within, firing as they came. Germans fell on all sides. The Nameless Nazi must have been hit by some of the bullets, but they did not harm him. Aided by two of his men, he fled to the south, towards his main force of troops and Eskimos.

Corporal Hayes shook himself clear of the snow and reached the others. They were not clear about what had happened until he told them, and when they saw a good deal of blood on the snow where the Nameless Nazi had stood, they knew the huge Nazi had lost most of his hand. “That’ll keep him quiet for a time!” growled the Mountie. “Did you get your message through, Ormes?” “No, I had only just got a reply. I managed to send the call sign and to give our name and position, then the interruption came. . . . Do you think I could go back and finish?” The Mountie glanced to the south. The Nazis needed every available man to moor the Zeppelin and to deal with their injured leader. There could be no attack on the handful of Britons yet.

“Go ahead!” he said. Les Ormes rushed into the igloo, and a few moments later they heard him shout with dismay. When he came out it was to tell them he could do nothing, as a chance bullet had bedded itself in one of the condensers. The set was out of action, and it would take too long to repair. There was nothing they could do except return to Magnetic Camp, but they had the satisfaction of knowing they had seriously wounded the Nameless Nazi and done a good deal of damage in the camp. As John Lancaster said, it would prove to the Eskimos that the Nameless Nazi was by no means invulnerable. That might have important results in the future.

Hayes lagged behind. A blinding snowstorm was coming up, and under cover of that he wanted to see how the Nazis were taking their recent setbacks. Accordingly, he arranged to remain behind, and to follow the others later on. Leaving the igloos behind him, he crept through the drifting snow towards the heaving, straining mob which hung on to the unwieldy airship. In that wind it was no easy business holding the airship down. There were no mooring pins driven into the ground at this point, and new ones had to be put in. There were times when the watching Corporal thought the whole mass of Nazis and Eskimos would be lifted into the air. He could not help admiring the Nameless Nazi. Although the man’s hand was terribly mangled, and he was losing a lot of blood in spite of the heavy bandages wrapped around him, he insisted upon directing the efforts of the landing party.

His mighty bellow sounded above the general confusion, and it was undoubtedly due to him that the Eskimos did not give up the struggle and step back from the ropes. Now and again one end of the Zeppelin would rise, and a number of men would be lifted clear of the ground. When this happened there was always a panic, and the Eskimos would shout in terror. It was always the Nameless Nazi who calmed them down, and drove them back to their task when their feet touched ground again. There was one dangling rope ladder which particularly fascinated Corporal Hayes. Nobody was hanging on to it, though he had seen the Nameless Nazi point towards it several times. The Mountie did not want to see the airship safely moored, but if there was a chance of blowing up this giant of the air, and so cutting the Nazis off from Germany, he was not going to waste his opportunity. So he ran to the dangling ladder and hung on to it grimly until a white cloud of snow drifted past him, hiding him from view.

Then he raced up the ladder as swiftly as any sailor could have done. He had never climbed a ladder so quickly before in all his life. He had tumbled over the top and fallen face down inside one of the gondolas before he had properly weighed up the consequences of his rash move. Down below the Nameless Nazi was still bellowing wrathfully for everyone to make one final effort. Neither he nor the others had noticed the solitary figure get aboard. Corporal Hayes waited a while, then rose to a sitting position. He looked about him curiously, for it was the first time he had ever been inside a Zeppelin. The gondola was about thirty feet long, and perhaps ten wide. It contained two motors and a good many elaborate controls. There were seats on either side. It was obviously merely one of the control cabins. A ladder of some light metal led to an open hatch in the roof, and beyond this the Mountie could see a long, low corridor or passage. He guessed this ran the length of the airship and linked up the various gondolas. He had heard airmen refer to it as the “catwalk,” and he had no doubt that when the Zeppelin was pitching in a storm it would need a man with climbing abilities of a cat to pass along it.

A light handrail on one side only of a single plank enabled him to balance himself as he made his way to the next gondola. This was more interesting, for it was apparently part of the living quarters. It was something like the accommodation on a small ship. In these crowded quarters the Nazis had travelled all the way to the Arctic from their base in Germany. Still intent on finding some means of destroying the airship, he ignored the host of gadgets and appliances, and concentrated on one thing. He looked for explosives. That gondola contained nothing more dangerous than some tinned German sausage! He climbed along to the next, where superior accommodation told him that the Nameless Nazi had lived there with one or two of the officers. Again he found no explosives, although a couple of automatic pistols came in very handy, and he slung their lanyards over his shoulder. Then, as he opened a desk, he heard footfalls and voices in the cat-walk above, and realised some of the Nazis had come aboard. He had not expected them to do this. Quickly he glanced around for a hiding place, but there were few suitable places in the small, stream-lined cabin. The best he could find was the recess under the desk. There he crouched, hoping that the newcomers were going farther aft to one of the other gondolas, but a few moments later he knew the worst had happened. A pair of legs came down the ladderway, followed by another. Two men in Nazi uniform dropped into the cabin. The Mountie dared scarcely breathe. He did not understand German well enough to understand their talk, but when they opened a cupboard in one corner and took out some medical appliances he guessed they had been sent to fetch the necessary articles for dressing and dealing with the Nameless Nazi’s shattered hand.

As they sorted out the bandages their legs were within four feet of the hidden Mountie. A slight tickle in his nostrils warned him he was going to sneeze, but he checked the impulse with a mighty effort, finally stifling it before it had begun. Beads of sweat came out on his forehead. This was too much of a good thing. The two Germans finished making their selection and closed the metal cupboard. Then as they turned, one of them dropped a rolled bandage in cellophane covering. It rolled under the recess of the desk. It all happened so quickly that Corporal Hayes scarcely realised it until the head and shoulders of a German protruded under the desk, and a startled face almost touched his own. “Ach!” exclaimed the Nazi, and jumped back as though he had been stung, tugging at the revolver in his holster.

The Mountie had not a moment to lose. If he had opened fire from under the desk he could have killed them both, but he would also have given away the fact that he was aboard the Zeppelin. So he came out from under cover with a crawling scramble which hurled him against the legs of the nearest man. One sweep of his powerful arms brought the man down, and a swinging blow from a clubbed automatic put that particular Nazi out of commission. The second German backed into a corner and tugged at his revolver. In desperation Corporal Hayes hurled the gun which he had used to club the other Nazi, and followed it up with a panther-like leap. His ruse worked. The German had not time to draw his firearm. Instead, he clinched, and once they were locked in grips the Canadian knew he had a good chance of winning through. Never yet had he encountered anyone who could master him in a rough and tumble.


Adrift in the Sky

The Nazi was tough, about twenty-five years of age, and fully as heavy as the Mountie. For a few moments they strained at each other whilst still standing, arms locked, legs entwined. Then came the inevitable crash as both of them went over, still gripping one to the other. Over and over on the floor they rolled, and again the German made the mistake of trying to draw his gun. Doubtless he knew that one shot from that would bring the entire crew of the Zeppelin to his aid. His preoccupation with the gun prevented him noticing Hayes’ quick change of holds. The Corporal got him by the throat, knelt on the arm which was reaching for the gun, and squeezed with all his strength. The German’s eyes rolled wildly, and hoarse, choking noises came between his parted lips.

The airship began to pitch and roll alarmingly, and for a few moments the Mountie thought they were causing this by the violence of their struggle. Then he realised the cause was more serious. There was a great deal of shouting and bellowing. The Nameless Nazi could be heard raising his voice angrily. Something had gone wrong. Then the floor tilted up at an angle of forty-five degrees, and both the Mountie and his opponent were sent rolling over and over to the farther end of the cabin, where their hold on each other was broken, and they lay gasping side by side. The Zeppelin shuddered, then seemed to rise. Startled exclamations came from the Nazi, who made no further attempt to grapple with Hayes, though he fingered his sore throat ruefully.

Corporal Hayes gripped the side of the desk, which was a fixture, and hauled himself to one of the windows. When he looked out he saw the ground receding rapidly. The great airship had broken away! The German had realised this, and his agitation was because of it. Straining his neck, the Mountie saw that half a dozen uniformed figures dangled from one of the mooring ropes. There had been a calamity. No doubt the Eskimos were to blame, or an extra strong gust of wind had ripped out the new mooring pins and caused the Zeppelin to rise suddenly. Everyone had let go except these half-dozen men, and they released their hold they would be dashed to death on the frozen ground below. A growl of horror from Hayes’ side told him the German was also looking out of the window. Their eyes met, and Hayes licked his lips as he nodded towards the men from the swinging rope. “We ought to help those guys!” he said. He did not know why he said that. After all, they were his enemies, and in war time the bigger the number of the enemy who got killed the better, for the nation. Corporal Hayes would cheerfully have opened fire on a group of Nazi with a machine-gun, and have mowed them down, but somehow he did not like seeing those helpless men dangling over space.

The Nazi evidently understood. “Ja!” he grunted, and pointed to the ladder. Their recent fight was forgotten. They scrambled up the ladder, leaving the second German unconscious in the cabin. By this time the Zeppelin was on even keel, and drifting southwards with the wind at a great rate. Hayes could not help admiring the way the German negotiated the cat-walk, without once touching the handrail. The Mountie made good use of the rail to steady himself.

They descended by a ladder into one of the end gondolas. The German had noticed that the rope with his comrades on the end was attached to this gondola. The Mountie found him opening a hatch in the floor. Evidently this was for dropping bombs, but at the moment it was the only way of reaching the doomed men. When Hayes peered over the German’s shoulder he saw that only five men now remained on the swaying rope. One had already dropped to his death. In that temperature their fingers and bodies would rapidly become numbed through and through. It was only a matter of moments before they would all fall. The German shouted something, and despairing glances were flung in their direction. Corporal Hayes saw they were too weak to climb up unaided. Seeing a coil of rope nearby, he made one end fast to the base of a bomb-dropping apparatus, and made a noose on the other. The wind whisked the rope backwards as he lowered it, but as the rope with the five Nazi was swaying in the same direction, it was not impossible to get it near the topmost man. He saw the noose dangling near him, made a despairing grab for it, and got one arm and shoulder inside the noose. That broke his hold on the other rope, and the next moment he was hanging from the noose, swinging like a human pendulum.

“Heave!” roared Hayes to his Nazi companion, and they both heaved so mightily on the rope that they got the German up through the hatch in almost less time than it takes to tell. No sooner was the man over the edge than the Mountie dragged off the noosed rope and angled for the next of the hanging victims. This time he managed to get the noose under one of the dangling legs of the suspended man. The Nazi in the gondola shouted for his friend to release his hold, and they hauled him up in an inverted position, his head swinging wildly in the air. It must have been a relief to him when finally he was dragged on to the cabin floor. Three men were still holdi8ng on grimly, but one suddenly gave a despairing shriek and dropped. His numbed fingers had lost their grip. They watched him turn over and over until he finally landed on the white expanse far below. He must have been killed instantly, for he had dropped over a thousand feet. The Nazis from the camp, together with their Eskimo friends, were running to try and keep up with the Zeppelin. Once, when the airship dipped in some down current, frantic efforts were made to grab one of the ropes. But the dirigible rose again before this could be done. One of the two rescued men seemed fit to give a hand with the rescue of the remaining pair, and Hayes signed for him to stand by in readiness to heave when he had dangled the noosed rope close enough for both the others to get a grip on it. Utterly unable to help themselves, the two suspended Germans were a dead weight. It was a heavy load for three men to haul upwards, but somehow they managed it, and in spite of the intense cold the sweat ran down the faces of the men in the cabin. At last Hayes was able to get a grip on the collar of one of the luckless men, and heaved him to safety. The others seized the remaining fellow, and he lay groaning on the cabin floor, one side of his face badly skinned and bleeding where it had rubbed against the rope. For a time the newly rescued Germans could do nothing but pant and gasp for breath, but presently one of them began to talk volubly, and the others seemed to agree with him. They looked earnestly at Corporal Hayes.

“Shall we tie you up, or will you help us get the ship under control?” one of them asked Hayes in fair English. Corporal Hayes jumped back and drew his automatic. “Not so much of the tying-up! If I wanted to do so I could pitch the lot of you down there again . . . Cut out that stuff, and I’ll help you. I don’t want to drift into a mountain any more than you do!” They scowled, then nodded. The English-speaking man said:- “We must get the motors started in order to turn against the wind. To another gondola we must go, ja!”

The Mountie tailed along behind them. This was a position he had never reckoned on occupying. He had come aboard the Zeppelin with the hope of destroying it, and here he was, aiding a few of the crew to save the craft from disaster. There was no more than two motors in either gondola, and this meant dividing the party into two, for the airship could not make sufficient speed to beat the wind unless four of her power plants were running. They were heavy oil engines of the Diesel type, and the Mountie was no mechanic. He could handle a dog team as well as anyone, but not thousand horse-power motors. He could be of little help except in swinging the starter. First one motor spluttered into life and then another. Finally all four were roaring, and someone ran to the control cabin from which the craft was steered and navigated. Corporal Hayes drifted from one cabin to another. The Nazis were now too much occupied to worry about him. They knew that if they drifted too far southwards, into Canada, they would have no chance of getting back. They wanted to save the airship and their own lives.

The man whom the Mountie almost strangled shouted for the Corporal to take hold of a certain wheel, and pointed ahead, indicating that the ship was to be held on that course. He wanted to get aft to one of the other gondolas, so for some minutes it was Hayes who steered and controlled the mighty dirigible. He could see that they were making very little headway. The wind was dead against them now they had turned, and blew at about forty miles an hour. Against that they were making little more than a walking pace. The Germans would have to get some of the other motors started if they were ever to navigate back to where the Nameless Nazi awaited them.

Gradually the crowd of dark specks which Hayes knew to be Nazis and Eskimos came into view once more. Dimly in the farther distance were the ice ramparts of Magnetic Camp. Corporal Hayes wondered if his friends were watching the antics of the Zeppelin through their field-glasses. In any case, they would never guess that he was aboard it! Somehow the Germans had got a fifth motor to splutter into action. The airship was now forging ahead somewhat faster, and the Nazi returned to take over the controls that would take the Zeppelin down several hundred feet. It was going to be a ticklish business with such a small crew. Even now there was a good chance that the Zeppelin and everyone aboard it would be completely destroyed.


© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2007