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Force 10 from navarone, p.1
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       Force 10 from Navarone, p.1

           Alistair MacLean
 
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Force 10 from Navarone


  About the Author

  ALISTAIR MACLEAN

  Alistair MacLean, the son of a Scots minister, was brought up in the Scottish Highlands. In 1941, at the age of eighteen, he joined the Royal Navy. After the war he read English at Glasgow University and became a schoolmaster. The two and a half years he spent aboard a wartime cruiser were to give him the background for HMS Ulysses, his remarkably successful first novel, published in 1955. He is now recognized as one of the outstanding popular writers of the 20th century, the author of twenty-nine worldwide bestsellers, many of which have been filmed, including The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, Fear is the Key and Ice Station Zebra. In 1983, he was awarded a D.Litt. from Glasgow University. Alistair MacLean died in 1987.

  By Alistair MacLean

  HMS Ulyssesa

  The Guns of Navarone

  South by Java Head

  The Last Frontier

  Night Without End

  Fear is the Key

  The Dark Crusader

  The Golden Rendezvous

  The Satan Bug

  Ice Station Zebra

  When Eight Bells Toll

  Where Eagles Dare

  Puppet on a Chain

  Caravan to Vaccarès

  Bear Island

  The Way to Dusty Death

  Breakheart Pass

  Circus

  The Golden Gate

  Seawitch

  Goodbye California

  Athabasca

  River of Death

  Partisans

  Floodgate

  San Andreas

  The Lonely Sea (short stories)

  Santorini

  ALISTAIR MACLEAN

  Force 10

  from Navarone

  An Imprint of Sterling Publishing

  387 Park Avenue South

  New York, NY 10016

  STERLING and the distinctive Sterling logo are registered trademarks of

  Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

  First Sterling edition 2011

  First published in Great Britain by Collins 1968

  © 1968 by HarperCollinsPublishers

  The author asserts the moral right to be

  identified as the author of this work

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

  stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any

  means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,

  without prior written permission from the publisher.

  ISBN 978-1-4027-9248-9 (trade paperback)

  ISBN 978-1-4027-9249-6 (ebook)

  For information about custom editions, special sales, and premium and

  corporate purchases, please contact Sterling Special Sales at 800-805-5489 or

  [email protected]

  2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

  www.sterlingpublishing.com

  To Lewis and Caroline

  Contents

  About the Author

  By Alistair MacLean

  EPILOGUE

  ONE Prelude: Thursday 0000–0600

  TWO Thursday 1400–2330

  THREE Friday 0030–0200

  FOUR Friday 0200–0330

  FIVE Friday 0330–0500

  SIX Friday 0800–1000

  SEVEN Friday 1000–1200

  EIGHT Friday 1500–2115

  NINE Friday 2115– Saturday 0040

  TEN Saturday 0040–0120

  ELEVEN Saturday 0120–0135

  TWELVE Saturday 0135–0200

  THIRTEEN Saturday 0200–0215

  EPILOGUE

  Once again Captain Jensen and the British lieutenantgeneral were back in the Operations Room in Termoli, but now they were no longer pacing up and down. The days of pacing were over. True, they still looked very tired, their faces probably fractionally more deeply lined than they had been a few days previously: but the faces were no longer haggard, the eyes no longer clouded with anxiety, and, had they been walking instead of sitting deep in comfortable armchairs, it was just conceivable that they might have had a new spring in their steps. Both men had glasses in their hands, large glasses.

  Jensen sipped his whisky and said, smiling: ‘I thought a general’s place was at the head of his troops?’

  ‘Not in these days, Captain,’ the General said firmly. ‘In 1944 the wise general leads from behind his troops – about twenty miles behind. Besides, the armoured divisions are going so quickly I couldn’t possibly hope to catch up with them.’

  ‘They’re moving as fast as that?’

  ‘Not quite as fast as the German and Austrian divisions that pulled out of the Gustav Line last night and are now racing for the Yugoslav border. But they’re coming along pretty well.’ The General permitted himself a large gulp of his drink and a smile of considerable satisfaction. ‘Deception complete, break-through complete. On the whole, your men have done a pretty fair job.’

  Both men turned in their chairs as a respectful rat-a-tat of knuckles preceded the opening of the heavy leather doors. Mallory entered, followed by Vukalovic, Andrea and Miller. All four were unshaven, all of them looked as if they hadn’t slept for a week. Andrea carried his arm in a sling.

  Jensen rose, drained his glass, set it on a table, looked at Mallory dispassionately and said: ‘Cut it a bit bloody fine, didn’t you?’

  Mallory, Andrea and Miller exchanged expressionless looks. There was a fairly long silence, then Mallory said: ‘Some things take longer than others.’

  Petar and Maria were lying side by side, hands clasped, in two regulation army beds in the Termoli military hospital when Jensen entered, followed by Mallory, Miller and Andrea.

  ‘Excellent reports about both of you, I’m glad to hear,’ Jensen said briskly. ‘Just brought some – ah – friends to say goodbye.’

  ‘What sort of hospital is this, then?’ Miller said severely. ‘How about the high army moral tone, hey? Don’t they have separate quarters for men and women?’

  ‘They’ve been married for almost two years,’ Mallory said mildly. ‘Did I forget to tell you?’

  ‘Of course you didn’t forget,’ Miller said disgustedly. ‘It just slipped your mind.’

  ‘Speaking of marriage –’ Andrea cleared his throat and tried another tack. ‘Captain Jensen may recall that back in Navarone –’

  ‘Yes, yes.’ Jensen held up a hand. ‘Quite so. Quite. Quite. But I thought perhaps – well, the fact of the matter is – well, it so happens that another little job, just a tiny little job really, has just come up and I thought that seeing you were here anyway …’

  Andrea stared at Jensen. His face was horrorstricken.

  ONE

  Prelude: Thursday

  0000–0600

  Commander Vincent Ryan, RN, Captain (Destroyers) and commanding officer of His Majesty’s latest S-class destroyer Sirdar, leaned his elbows comfortably on the coaming of his bridge, brought up his night-glasses and gazed out thoughtfully over the calm and silvered waters of the moonlit Aegean.

  He looked first of all due north, straight out over the huge and smoothly sculpted and whitely phosphorescent bow-wave thrown up by the knife-edged forefoot of his racing destroyer: four miles away, no more, framed in its backdrop of indigo sky and diamantine stars, lay the brooding mass of a darkly cliff-girt island: the island of Kheros, for months the remote and beleaguered outpost of two thousand British troops who had expected to die that night, and who would now not die.

  Ryan swung his glasses through 180° and nodded approvingly. This was what he liked to see. The four destroyers to the south were in such perfect line astern that the hull of the leading vessel, a gleaming bone in its teeth, completely obscured the hulls of t
he three ships behind. Ryan turned his binoculars to the east.

  It was odd, he thought inconsequentially, how unimpressive, even how disappointing, the aftermath of either natural or man-made disaster could be. Were it not for that dull red glow and wisping smoke that emanated from the upper part of the cliff and lent the scene a vaguely Dantean aura of primeval menace and foreboding, the precipitous far wall of the harbour looked as it might have done in the times of Homer. That great ledge of rock that looked from that distance so smooth and regular and somehow inevitable could have been carved out by the wind and weather of a hundred million years: it could equally well have been cut away fifty centuries ago by the masons of Ancient Greece seeking marble for the building of their Ionian temples: what was almost inconceivable, what almost passed rational comprehension, was the fact that ten minutes ago that ledge had not been there at all, that there had been in its place tens of thousands of tons of rock, the most impregnable German fortress in the Aegean and, above all, the two great guns of Navarone, now all buried for ever three hundred feet under the sea. With a slow shake of his head Commander Ryan lowered his binoculars and turned to look at the men responsible for achieving more in five minutes than nature could have done in five million years.

  Captain Mallory and Corporal Miller. That was all he knew of them, that and the fact that they had been sent on this mission by an old friend of his, a naval captain by the name of Jensen who, he had learnt only twenty-four hours previously – and that to his total astonishment – was the Head of Allied Intelligence in the Mediterranean. But that was all he knew of them and maybe he didn’t even know that. Maybe their names weren’t Mallory and Miller. Maybe they weren’t even a captain and a corporal. They didn’t look like any captain or corporal he’d ever seen. Come to that, they didn’t look like any soldiers he’d ever seen. Clad in salt-water-and blood-stained German uniforms, filthy, unshaven, quiet and watchful and remote, they belonged to no category of men he’d ever encountered: all he could be certain of as he gazed at the blurred and blood-shot sunken eyes, the gaunt and trenched and stubbled-grey faces of two men no longer young, was that he had never before seen human beings so far gone in total exhaustion.

  ‘Well, that seems to be about it,’ Ryan said. ‘The troops on Kheros waiting to be taken off, our flotilla going north to take them off and the guns of Navarone no longer in any position to do anything about our flotilla. Satisfied, Captain Mallory?’

  ‘That was the object of the exercise,’ Mallory agreed.

  Ryan lifted his glasses again. This time, almost at the range of night vision, he focused on a rubber dinghy closing in on the rocky shoreline to the west of Navarone harbour. The two figures seated in the dinghy were just discernible, no more: Ryan lowered his glasses and said thoughtfully:

  ‘Your big friend – and the lady with him – doesn’t believe in hanging about. You didn’t – ah – introduce me to them, Captain Mallory.’

  ‘I didn’t get the chance to. Maria and Andrea. Andrea’s a colonel in the Greek army: 19th Motorized Division.’

  ‘Andrea was a colonel in the Greek army,’ Miller said. ‘I think he’s just retired.’

  ‘I rather think he has. They were in a hurry, Commander, because they’re both patriotic Greeks, they’re both islanders and there is much for both to do in Navarone. Besides, I understand they have some urgent and very personal matters to attend to.’

  ‘I see.’ Ryan didn’t press the matter, instead he looked out again over the smoking remains of the shattered fortress. ‘Well, that seems to be that. Finished for the evening, gentlemen?’

  Mallory smiled faintly. ‘I think so.’

  ‘Then I would suggest some sleep.’

  ‘What a wonderful word that is.’ Miller pushed himself wearily off the side of the bridge and stood there swaying as he drew an exhausted forearm over blood-shot, aching eyes. ‘Wake me up in Alexandria.’

  ‘Alexandria?’ Ryan looked at him in amusement.

  ‘We won’t be there for thirty hours yet.’

  ‘That’s what I meant,’ Miller said.

  Miller didn’t get his thirty hours. He had, in fact, been asleep for just over thirty minutes when he was wakened by the slow realization that something was hurting his eyes: after he had moaned and feebly protested for some time he managed to get one eye open and saw that that something was a bright overhead light let into the deckhead of the cabin that had been provided for Mallory and himself. Miller propped himself up on a groggy elbow, managed to get his second eye into commission and looked without enthusiasm at the other two occupants of the cabin: Mallory was seated by a table, apparently transcribing some kind of message, while Commander Ryan stood in the open doorway.

  ‘This is outrageous,’ Miller said bitterly. ‘I haven’t closed an eye all night.’

  ‘You’ve been asleep for thirty-five minutes,’ Ryan said. ‘Sorry. But Cairo said this message for Captain Mallory was of the greatest urgency.’

  ‘It is, is it?’ Miller said suspiciously. He brightened. ‘It’s probably about promotions and medals and leave and so forth.’ He looked hopefully at Mallory who had just straightened after decoding the message. ‘Is it?’

  ‘Well, no. It starts off promisingly enough, mind you, warmest congratulations and what-have-you, but after that the tone of the message deteriorates a bit.’

  Mallory reread the message: SIGNAL RECEIVED WARMEST CONGRATULATIONS MAGNIFICENT ACHIEVEMENT. YOU BLOODY FOOLS WHY YOU LET ANDREA GET AWAY? ESSENTIAL CONTACT HIM IMMEDIATELY. WILL EVACUATE BEFORE DAWN UNDER DIVERSIONARY AIR ATTACK AIR STRIP ONE MILE SOUTHEAST MANDRAKOS. SEND CE VIA SIRDAR. URGENT 3 REPEAT URGENT 3. BEST LUCK. JENSEN.

  Miller took the message from Mallory’s outstretched hand, moved the paper to and fro until he had brought his bleary eyes into focus, read the message in horrified silence, handed it back to Mallory and stretched out his full length on his bunk. He said, Oh, my God!’ and relapsed into what appeared to be a state of shock.

  ‘That about sums it up,’ Mallory agreed. He shook his head wearily and turned to Ryan. ‘I’m sorry, sir, but we must trouble you for three things. A rubber dinghy, a portable radio transmitter and an immediate return to Navarone. Please arrange to have the radio lined up on a pre-set frequency to be constantly monitored by your WT room. When you receive a CE signal, transmit it to Cairo.’

  ‘CE?’ Ryan asked.

  ‘Uh-huh. Just that.’

  ‘And that’s all?’

  ‘We could do with a bottle of brandy,’ Miller said. ‘Something – anything – to see us through the rigours of the long night that lies ahead.’

  Ryan lifted an eyebrow. ? bottle of five-star, no doubt, Corporal?’

  ‘Would you,’ Miller asked morosely, ‘give a bottle of three-star to a man going to his death?’

  As it happened, Miller’s gloomy expectations of an early demise turned out to be baseless – for that night, at least. Even the expected fearful rigours of the long night ahead proved to be no more than minor physical inconveniences.

  By the time the Sirdar had brought them back to Navarone and as close in to the rocky shores as was prudent, the sky had become darkly overcast, rain was falling and a swell was beginning to blow up from the south-west so that it was little wonder to either Mallory or Miller that by the time they had paddled their dinghy within striking distance of the shore, they were in a very damp and miserable condition indeed: and it was even less wonder that by the time they had reached the boulder-strewn beach itself, they were soaked to the skin, for a breaking wave flung their dinghy against a sloping shelf of rock, overturning their rubber craft and precipitating them both into the sea. But this was of little enough account in itself: their Schmeisser machine-pistols, their radio, their torches were securely wrapped in waterproof bags and all of those were safely salvaged. All in all, Mallory reflected, an almost perfect three-point landing compared to the last time they had come to Navarone by boat, when their Greek caique, caught in the teeth of a giant storm, had b
een battered to pieces against the jaggedly vertical – and supposedly unclimbable – South Cliff of Navarone.

  Slipping, stumbling and with suitably sulphuric comments, they made their way over the wet shingle and massively rounded boulders until their way was barred by a steeply-angled slope that soared up into the near-darkness above. Mallory unwrapped a pencil torch and began to quarter the face of the slope with its narrow, concentrated beam. Miller touched him on the arm.

  ‘Taking a bit of a chance, aren’t we? With that thing, I mean?’

  ‘No chance,’ Mallory said. ‘There won’t be a soldier left on guard on the coasts tonight. They’ll all be fighting the fires in the town. Besides, who is left for them to guard against? We are the birds and the birds, duty done, have flown. Only a madman would come back to the island again.’

  ‘I know what we are,’ Miller said with feeling. ‘You don’t have to tell me.’

  Mallory smiled to himself in the darkness and continued his search. Within a minute he had located what he had been hoping to find – an angled gully in the slope. He and Miller scrambled up the shale-and rock-strewn bed of the gully as fast as the treacherous footing and their encumbrances would permit: within fifteen-minutes they had reached the plateau above and paused to take their breath. Miller reached inside the depths of his tunic, a discreet movement that was at once followed by a discreet gurgling.

  ‘What are you doing?’ Mallory enquired.

  ‘I thought I heard my teeth chattering. What’s all this “urgent 3 repeat urgent 3” business in the message, then?’

  ‘I’ve never seen it before. But I know what it means. Some people, somewhere, are about to die.’

  ‘I’ll tell you two for a start. And what if Andrea won’t come? He’s not a member of our armed forces. He doesn’t have to come. And he said he was getting married right away.’

  Mallory said with certainty: ‘He’ll come.’

  ‘What makes you so sure?’

 
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