(Wizard Homepage)


First episode taken from The Wizard No. 1652 - October 12th 1957.

For a second time, Britain is conquered by the dreaded Kushantis, but again secret fighters dare the invaders’ bullets to free the land.

Bradshaw, who had been a Major in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers until the fall of Britain, got off his bicycle and listened intently. He was in a Gloucestershire lane. It was a very dark night but he was not, of course, using a lamp.

If he were found outside after the hour of curfew he would be immediately executed. A Kushanti sword would decapitate him and his head would then be placed on a stake at the scene of his “criminal act of disobedience.” During his secret journey to the west he had passed a dozen such heads. Among them were the heads of children. Age was not considered when there was a breach of the laws imposed by the conquerors. Bradshaw decided he had been unnecessarily alarmed and mounted his bicycle again. He rode awkwardly. Only recently, after finding a machine among a heap of junk in a shed on his father’s premises near Chippenham, had Bradshaw taught himself to ride as a means of getting about. He had been a child at the time of the first Kushanti conquest of the Western World. He could just remember how the bells rang when Britain rose and defeated the Orientals. Twenty-five years later the second Kushanti War had ended in a week. The invaders had smothered Britain in “sleeping gas,” and when people awoke after two days, the Kushantis had occupied the land. Their emblem, which appeared on all their banners, was a Yellow Sword. Their leader in Britain was General Chang. Britons were their slaves. All this happened in the year 1993. Bradshaw saw a flicker of light through the hedge. He dropped on to the verge. He rolled into a ditch, pulling the cycle after him. A great mass of nettles engulfed him and the machine. A few moments afterwards, the strip lighting on the front of the vehicle illuminated the lane.


It was a Kushanti patrol car and, except for the swish of the wheels, made no sound. Batteries had been evolved that would provide tremendous power without their running down. When less than fifty yards from Bradshaw, the vehicle stopped. Troopers dropped off and appeared in the light. They were small men with flat noses, big nostrils and thick lips, and their eyes were like slits. The troopers wore little round helmets, emblazoned with the emblem of the Yellow Sword, and drab uniforms of a shoddy, cotton material. Their weapons were automatic carbines, to which long bayonets were fixed. There was an officer with them, a Lieutenant Kang. His uniform had yellow facings. A sword hung from his belt. Bradshaw thought that the Kushantis were on to him, that they knew he was somewhere about, but they jumped a broken gate and ran into a field. A harsh shout rang out. The troopers came back. They had a prisoner, a gaunt countryman. He was carrying a hare. The troopers kept him within a ring of bayonets, and brought him to Kang. The countryman’s eyes were staring, pleading, as he confronted the officer. “We’ve no food in the house!” he said hoarsely. “My children are starving, so I set out to catch a hare.” A soldier jerked the hare out of his grasp and put it in the car. He fetched out a notebook and then a pair of spectacles that he put on. “It is necessary that I take down your particulars,” he said in a thin, sing-song voice. “The surname should be stated first and followed by your other names.” “My name’s Gibson,” the prisoner blurted out. “William John Gibson.” Lieutenant Kang wrote very slowly. “I wish to know your place of residence,” he said. “I lives at Yew Cottage, Almondsbury,” Gibson replied. He watched Kang writing and, appearing to think that the situation was more favourable for him, tried to be helpful. “You spells it Y-e-w, not Y-o-u,” he said. Kang frowned. “The manner in which I spell it is the correct manner,” he said. He closed the notebook and placed it in his pocket. He pointed to the ground. “Pick that up,” he said in sing-song tones. Gibson stooped and peered down. Kang whipped out his sword. The blade hummed as he struck, and the countryman’s headless body thudded to the ground. Kang replaced the sword in its scabbard, and took off his spectacles. Troopers fetched a stake from the car and hammered it into the verge. Upon it they put Gibson’s head. There was a nail in the stake. On this a placard was hung:—  “Contrary to Order No. 12, Sub-Section 2. He Was Out Late.” At a bored gesture from Kang, the troopers threw the corpse into the ditch.


They returned to the car. It glided forward. The Lieutenant sat by the driver, and used a toothpick. Bradshaw crawled from the ditch. He had witnessed similar incidents previously, and had one determination, that he would not rest until Britain had been cleansed of the yellow fiends. Bradshaw was twenty-eight years of age, and as hard as nails. Electronics were his field and, as an engineer, he was offended by any machine that did not work. That was why he had always kept himself supremely fit. To him the human body was an intricate machine that should be maintained in perfect working order. The Kushantis had been in Britain for six months. For five months Bradshaw had been a member of the Nucleus—as the secret inner-council of the New Resistance Movement against the invaders in the South of England was called. He was on a special mission. Bradshaw pushed his bicycle along until he reached the staked head. He leaned the machine on the verge and he took out a small torch and a pen. Upon the placard he wrote: “The murder of this Briton has been noted, and will be included in the final reckoning.” Below his writing he sketched a roughly-drawn ant. It was the symbol of the Resistance Movement and the Kushantis hated it. They understood its significance because they came from a country where the white ant was plentiful and destructive. Bradshaw drew a deep breath as he stepped back. Gibson would be avenged. It might take years, but the resistance to the Kushantis would in time reach its climax in victory. He remounted and pedalled away. He was heading for South Wales. Rumours had reached the Nucleus that a Welsh resistance group, had been formed and was operating in the remote country at the heads of the valleys. Bradshaw had been ordered to find out if this were so, and to make contact with the leader. This leader had a strange name. The only name by which he was known was Will o’ the Whistle.


The Secret Way


It was in the early hours of the morning that Bradshaw, after giving a secret knock, was admitted into a house near Pilning on the south-east side of the Severn estuary.

“I have a bicycle,” he whispered when the door opened. “I thought you only found ‘em in museums,” murmured a voice in the darkness. “Our ancestors must have been tough to ride such a machine,” responded Bradshaw. “Bring it in,” whispered the householder. “We often have Kushies sneaking through the garden to see what they can confiscate.” Bradshaw lifted the cycle over the threshold. The other man shut the door and bolted it. They had not met before. Bradshaw knew that his name was Hopkins, and that up to the time of the Kushanti invasion he had been one of the engineers responsible for working the Severn Tunnel pumps. He noticed a slight Welsh intonation in the voice of Hopkins. “I’ll put a light on now,” the engineer said. “There are no cracks in my shutters.” He used a lighter and put the flame to the wick of a lamp that in Bradshaw’s eyes had a very old-fashioned appearance. Electricity was switched on only during working hours. “It’s an old railway lamp,” said Hopkins. “It burns oil. I’ve plenty of them hidden away.” Up to the time of the invasion, Britain’s railway traffic was mostly confined to freight working on the main line. All the routes had been electrified, power being supplied from nuclear power stations. Air travel had assumed such proportions that passenger trains were few. Hopkins was a man of middle-age. He looked interestedly at the bicycle. They had not been seen on British roads for years. Their substitute was the scooter, powered by a long-service battery and completely enclosed in a cover of a transparent plastic. “I’m sorry to fetch you out of bed,” Bradshaw said. “I’m on my way to Wales, and we have your name as a transit agent. Shall I be able to get across the bridge?” He spoke about the great Severn Bridge that had been opened in 1980. “I wouldn’t like to risk it myself,” said Hopkins. “Your way across is through the Big Hole.” “The Big Hole?” echoed Bradshaw. “The Tunnel,” Hopkins replied. “It has always been called the Big Hole by railwaymen.”


Bradshaw knew only a few facts about the Severn Tunnel, which took fourteen years to construct, and was completed in 1886. It had a total length of four and a half miles of which nearly three miles ran under water. Because, near the Monmouthshire bank, there was a depression in the river called the Shoots, where the water was fifty feet deeper than anywhere else, the bore had to descend a hundred and forty feet so as to pas under it without danger of flooding. Because of this the tunnel was steeply graded. There were long approaches to the portals through cuttings. In normal times continuous pumping was required to keep the tunnel dry. “The Kushies think the Big Hole is completely flooded,” Hopkins added. “but it’s possible to get through. We’d better put it off till tomorrow night as I shall come with you.” “I’m certainly ready for a sleep,” Bradshaw said. “You must have something to eat before turning in,” exclaimed Hopkins. He moved across the kitchen towards the cupboard. It had a glass door. The cupboard looked bare. Empty shelves could be seen. But Hopkins opened the glass door and Bradshaw got a surprise. A deep recess in the wall splendidly stocked with food. “It’s done with mirrors,” chortled Hopkins. “Many a Kushie has squinted through the door and gone away thinking the cupboard was empty.” “You’re well off for food!” exclaimed Bradshaw. Hopkins winked. “The Kushies had a bit of bad luck,” he said. “One of their barges happened to spring a leak and sink not far away.” While they were eating, Bradshaw asked Hopkins what his job was. “We’re mending the tunnel pumps,” said Hopkins gravely. “The work is going on very slowly, man. A Kushanti engineer is in charge, and do you know, sometimes I think he must be working from the wrong set of blueprints.” Bradshaw grinned broadly. It was clear what the engineer meant.


Journey Into Terror


An hour after sunset on the following night, Bradshaw and Hopkins stood in a field at Redwick not far from the Severn Tunnel. It seemed to Bradshaw that there were railway lines all round them. To the south was Avonmouth. To the north, across the Severn, was Chepstow.

“Where do we go from here?” asked Bradshaw. Hopkins pointed down a railway track. “That’s the way,” he replied. “The tricky bit will be as we go under the road bridge. The Kushies have sentries there.” He moved on at the side of the railway which plunged into a cutting and descended quite steeply. Bradshaw had been surprised to hear from his companion that the old steam trains of former years used to dash down into the tunnel at seventy miles an hour. Both of them had blacked their faces. Bradshaw had a small, automatic pistol. Soon they were well inside the cutting. Moving with extreme caution, Bradshaw and Hopkins neared the bridge. The tunnel portal was only a short distance farther on. Bradshaw and his comrade crept under the bridge. They kept moving till they approached the portal of the Big Hole. From out of a pocket, Hopkins fetched half a dozen detonators. He clipped them on a rail by bending the soft, lead strips attached to each disc. No explanation was necessary. He had told Bradshaw previously that the Kushantis ran patrol cars along the railway, and that he had known one to enter the tunnel. However his general impression was that the average Kushanti Trooper, whose intelligence by European standards was low, was scared by the Big Hole. Water dripped from the top of the tunnel. The sides were running with damp. They walked on the sleepers because there was slush between the ballast and the walls. Bradshaw caught his foot and stumbled. “It’s too soon to use our torches,” said Hopkins. “We can put ‘em on when we’re farther down the dip.” Bradshaw whipped his head round. Far away, outside the tunnel, there was a flicker of light. “There’s something coming!” he exclaimed tensely. Hopkins looked back. The flicker became a steady beam. It was cast by a powerful headlamp on a motor-propelled trolley carrying six or eight Kushanti troopers. “This is where we get our feet wet!” growled Hopkins. Bradshaw put a hand on his companion’s shoulder. They turned off the track and stepped into the slush filling the narrow gap between the ballast and the wall. It came halfway up their shins. They squelched along till they found a shallow manhole in the wall, an opening into which gangers could step back when trains came along. The headlamp from the trolley threw its beam into the tunnel. It was still a question as to whether the Kushies would run on down the Big Hole or not.


The glare lit up the walls. The clatter of the wheels became louder as the trolley entered the portal. Cr-ack! Cr-ack, cr-ack! Wit a series of bangs, the detonators that Hopkins had put on the lines exploded. Shrill yells of alarm were uttered by the Kushies. The driver brought the trolley to a jerky stop. The troops leapt off and fired wildly down the tunnel. The driver got into reverse and the Kushies ran with it. The trolley was well clear outside the tunnel again before it halted. “They were as scared as rabbits,” said Hopkins with a contemptuous chuckle. “I expect it seemed as if they’d run into an ambush,” Bradshaw answered, “the detonators made a tremendous din. I think we should push on. When an officer arrives he’ll force them down the tunnel again.” The two Britons left their niche and stumbled on along the bore. The track inclined steeply. “We can use out lights now,” Hopkins said. “They won’t be seen from the outside.” There was a click as he flashed on his torch. They passed through a stretch where water was dripping like heavy rain. The rails were red with rust. The air was cold and dank. It seemed an endless tramp into the utter darkness. As they trudged along, a continuous hissing sound developed ahead. “Water?” Bradshaw muttered. “Yes, man, it must be water,” answered Hopkins tensely. “It’s started since I last came through. He turned his torch up after they had walked another hundred yards or so, and startled exclamations broke from them both at the sight of powerful jets of water that spurted out of the wall in a dozen places. Jets as thick as a man’s arm shot across the tunnel and formed clouds of spray as they broke against the opposite wall. The water trickled away down the gradient. “Come on,” urged Hopkins. “I’m hoping the tunnel hasn’t filled up to the top.” They were deluged with spray as they passed under the jets. Bricks that the water had dislodged littered the track. After they had advanced perhaps a third of a mile, the light of Hopkins’ torch was reflected by tongue of inky black water lapping between the rails. Hopkins splashed into it, and they were soon knee-deep. Bradshaw had a clear idea in his mind now of how the water filled the tunnel at its lowest point between the east and west inclines. “Where’s the canoe?” he asked. “I’m hoping we’re nearly there,” Hopkins answered harshly. “The water has risen a lot.” Soon, the water, icy-cold, was up to their waists. Hopkins kept turning his torch to the side and, after they had floundered along a bit further, fixed his aim on a recess. The canoe, about which he had told Bradshaw, was there all right. It had been left standing vertically in the niche, but the water had lifted it aslant.


They untied the cord that held the canoe, drew it out and tipped it to empty it of water. Bradshaw held it while Hopkins scrambled in. Then, expertly, he slid in himself. “You light the way,” Bradshaw said. “I’ll do the paddling.” He dug the paddle into the water and the canoe glided ahead. The light showed the water level rising towards the rounded roof. “The question seems to be whether we’ll need a submarine or not,” Bradshaw remarked grimly. Hopkins ducked lower to avoid striking his head on the roof. “We’ll know in a minute, man,” he said hoarsely. The water rose until it was within eighteen inches of the top of the arch. “It’s impossible to use the paddle now,” Bradshaw exclaimed. “We shall have to paddle with our hands.” That was how they got along, stretched out flat with the roof pressing down on them and stroking the canoe along with their hands. The bows scraped the brickwork. They worked their hands frantically and kept the canoe just moving. “I think we’re going to do it, man!” Hopkins panted. “This must be the bottom of the dip. If we can keep moving we’ll get through.” “We’ll keep moving,” replied Bradshaw, and when, after another minute, the bows no longer grazed the roof, they knew they had succeeded. The water level dropped and they were able to unbend their backs, Bradshaw used the paddle again until they reached the spot where the bore rose towards the western portal near Severn Tunnel Junction. That was how Bradshaw used the Big Hole to get to the other side of the River Severn.


The Punishment Machine


Two afternoons later, after covering long distances on foot, Bradshaw crouched in the shadow of a crumbling wall on hearing the muffled purring of an aircraft motor. He had just climbed a steep, bare slope and reached the ruins of a row of miners’ houses built on a terrace when the sound reached his ears.

Far below, in a valley bottom, was a pit head and the roofs of a small town. South Wales was unknown country to him. He knew Cardiff, Swansea and some of the coastal towns, but the rugged hinterland was unknown and surprising. From the time he had approached the heads of the valleys he had entered a region that seemed remote and cut off from the world. In the valleys, separated by the mountains, were the pits, the quarries and the steel works. On the lower slopes the people had lived in their terraced houses clinging to the hillsides. Then the bare slopes rose to the distant ridges. He caught sight of a large helicopter. It was hovering about a mile away over the valley. The sky was grey. The helicopter moved. Its rotors whirled. It climbed and drew nearer. Then it hovered again. It was painted red. The emblem of the Yellow Sword showed on the fuselage. Bradshaw had very keen sight. He was able to read an inscription on the aircraft. The words were sinister. They were: “Punishment Machine Number 7.”


The helicopter was actually below Bradshaw’s observation post and the valley bottom was six or seven hundred feet under the aircraft. A door in the fuselage opened and he saw figures in Kushanti uniform pushing out a plank. He bit hard on his lip. He could scarcely bear to watch. A prisoner, with his hands bound, was lifted out of the helicopter on to the plank. He tottered a few inches. A Kushanti jabbed at him with a long lance. The victim yelled something in Welsh and then fell off the plank. He spun over and over in space and then his figure dwindled to a dot as he plunged towards the valley bottom. A younger man was lifted on to the plank. He turned. With a sudden kick he lashed his foot into the face of a Kushanti in the doorway and then toppled backwards into space. Six prisoners in all were dropped from the Punishment Machine before the door was closed. The helicopter started to move in forward flight. The pilot kept close to the slope. It was going to pass fifty feet or so below Bradshaw. It was more than likely that the Kushantis were on the look-out for people like himself who were in a “Forbidden Region.” His eyes became calculating. He picked up four bricks that had fallen from the wall and were still held together by the crumbling mortar. He stood up straight. He carried the masonry brick over his head almost like a half-back about to throw-in at football. With a tremendous heave he hurled the bricks into the air. Simultaneously he was seen. He had a glimpse of the helicopter’s pilot pointing up at him. Then with a terrific crash, the masonry fell among the spinning vanes of the main rotor. The helicopter dropped on to the hillside with a tremendous crunch and, breaking up as it moved, rolled over and over down the slope, making scars in the thin turf. “That’s put an end to some of the vermin, but there’s plenty more!” muttered Bradshaw. Up to the time of the invasion some of the most modern coal pits had been working. Now, except for two or three to the west, all were shut down.


The Kushanti High Command had decided that, as the valleys and the mountains of South Wales were too wild and lonely for easy control, the entire area should be evacuated. The people had been driven from their homes like cattle and since then it was forbidden for anyone to enter the region, the penalty being death. Bradshaw was about to move when he had a feeling he was not alone. He whipped round. Two men, one with a shotgun under his arm, rose from behind a wall of a partly demolished house. He had nothing to fear. There were smiles on their gaunt faces as they emerged from the house. “We couldn’t at first make our minds up about you, friend,” said the man with the gun. “The Kushantis have been known to use Britons as spies. But we made our minds up quickly enough when we saw you throw at the ‘plane, indeed we did!” exclaimed the younger fellow. They shook hands. Introductions were made. The man with the gun was Emrys Howell, a former farmer, and his companion was John Watkins, who had been a mechanic in the Royal Air Force. “I belong to the New Resistance Movement,” Bradshaw confided in them. “I am trying to make contact with the Welsh leader who is known as Will o’ the Whistle.” “We are also on our way to join him,” answered Howell. “We know nothing about him but we have been told to go to the former railway station at Hafod and wait there.” “I’ll come with you,” said Bradshaw. “Is it far?” Howell pointed to a ridge. “It’s on the other side of the mountain,” he replied.


The City Of Truro

From about 1850 there had been a tremendous boom in South Wales industry. The world wanted Welsh steam coal. Pit after pit was sunk in the valleys.

To get the coal down to the ports, railways were constructed up the valleys, railways with such names as the Taff Vale, the Rhymney Railway and the Barry Railway. They were short lines, but extremely busy. At Pontypridd, at the height of the coal boom, the Taff Vale dealt with five hundred trains daily. But, in addition to the lines that ran up the valleys from the sea, there were railways built roughly east-south-west across the heads of the valleys, astonishing railways that jumped the valleys, tunneled the ridges and skirted the mountain slopes. Typical of these were the lines from Pontypool Road to Neath, and from Abergavenny to Merthyr. The line on which Hafod station lay had been abandoned with others before the Kushanti invasion because the pits it had served had been closed with the development of nuclear power. It had been known in the old days as the West Junction Railway, the W.J.R. The clouds were low over the mountain tops and the drizzle was seeping down as Bradshaw, Howell and Watkins plodded along a cutting by the side of the old track. The rusty rails were for the most part buried in thistles and rank grass. “How long is it since a train came along here?” Bradshaw asked. “Oh, it must be thirty years, man, probably more,” said Howell. They were tired and lapsed into silence again. The drizzle was as thick as fog, and they could see only fifty or sixty yards. The cutting ended in a tunnel, but it was short and they could see a pale disc of light at the far end. They passed a signal post with the arm at danger. The single track divided by the ruins of a signal cabin into a double line. They saw earth platforms fronted with crumbling bricks and a roofless station building. The platform sign had become almost indecipherable, but they made out the letters H and D. “This is it, this is Hafod,” said Howell wearily. Bradshaw spotted a small round object. He stooped and picked it up. It was a button embossed with the emblem of the Yellow Sword! “The Kushies have been here,” he said grimly. “Look!” gasped Watkins ignoring him. “Look at the signal! It’s down!” Bradshaw peered towards the signal, just visible through the mist, and saw that the arm had dropped. “It must have dropped on its own,” he said harshly. “Maybe the wire broke—” Then he corrected himself. “No, if the wire broke the signal would surely go up!” He stopped abruptly. With tense, wondering faces the three men listened.


The eerie sound of a whistle reached them faintly through the mist. “A train’s coming!” whispered Howell. “Get back!” ordered Bradshaw. “It will maybe be a Kushie patrol!” They ran into the gaping doorway of the building and peered out. Out of the mist loomed a locomotive, not an electric locomotive or a diesel, but a steam engine, the first Bradshaw had ever seen in his life! With a wisp of steam blowing off from the safety valve, it came slowly into the station. The paint was smothered in grime, and yet the engine had an air of dignity and power. As it passed the doorway, Bradshaw saw it had a name. It was “The City of Truro.” He had read about it. This was an historic engine. Long ago, in 1904, while running the Ocean Mail between Plymouth and Paddington on the Great Western Railway, it had sped down Wellington Bank at one hundred and two miles an hour. Behind the engine was a single passenger coach and two waggons. The driver looked out of the cab and he was not a Kushie, but a wrinkled veteran, wearing a cap with a leather peak and a reefer jacket. Old as he was, his eyes were clear and piercing. Bradshaw and his companions stumbled back on to the platform. “We were told to wait here,” Howell blurted out, and then pointed at Bradshaw. “The Englishman is no spy, for we saw him bring down the Punishment Machine by—” “We know what he did, and I’ve been told to say he’s welcome to the hills,” said the driver gruffly. “You must be Will o’ the Whistle?” Bradshaw asked. “That’s what some call me, though I was known long enough as Will Evans,” responded the driver. “Hurry up now, and get into the train!” Bradshaw still in a whirl of amazement at what had happened, glanced down the platform, and saw that a man with a green flag had opened a door for them to get in.


Will O’ the Whistle 18 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1652 - 1669 (1957 - 1958)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd

Vic Whittle 2007