Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.
Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic gamebook Under The Wire. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Alistair Braggart.
Rob : Where does Pilot come in handy? If I need stationery in a pinch?
Brad: "Since your character is a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, he will be faced with both difficult aerial manoeuvres and dangerous enemy pilot. He will need to give and receive orders over the Radio Telephone), keep an eye open for approaching aircraft and watch for danger to other pilots of his squadron - all at the same time."
Rob : I thought this was a POW one.
Brad: It is.
Rob : Right.
Brad: You're a WWII pilot who gets shot down, and you get sent to a POW camp.
Rob : Gotcha.
Brad: Unless you die before then. Gamebook. 1980s. Quality control.
Rob : Ok, so I'll put my Pilot at a 6. Agility at a 6. Luck at an 8, because let's be fair - it's me. It's not been so long since we DDMed that I've forgotten how rapey my luck can be in these games.
Rob : So that's 20 so far.
Brad: It is.
Rob : Fuck, this is tricky to keep within the 50. Ok, 8 on Persuasion, 8 in Firearm, 6 in Language and 8 in Driving.
Brad: That's fifty dead on. Sure?
Rob : Ja. That's the 6 language coming in handy already!
Brad: Ready to kick off?
Rob : Sorry, Omer! Yep, alles gut.
Brad: In many ways, World War II was a continuation of the 1914-1918 war.
Rob : Yeah, just with a decent sized intermission.
Brad: The Germans, led by their dictator Adolf Hitler, were determined to wipe out the shame of their defeat at the hands of the Allies. Germany reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936; in 1938 she annexed Austria; and in two stages in 1938 and 1939 she occupied virtually all of Czechoslovakia.
Rob : Yep, that's accurate so far.
Brad: Apart from making verbal protest, no country tried to stop her.
Rob : Of course, a great way to stop a dictatorship.
"WOULD YOU NOT?!"
Brad: Then on 1st September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later Great Britain and France at last declared war. Poland fell, and for the next six months things were very quiet, so much so that people began to call it a phoney war.
Rob : "HEY! YOU'RE A PHONEY!"
Brad: But in April 1940, the hammer struck again. Denmark was taken almost totally by surprise, and Norway surrendered in June, despite British intervention. On 10th May, Germany moved on the West; they overran the Netherlands in four days, and Belgium in three weeks. France herself fell in just seven weeks.
Rob : Which was good, for France.
Brad: The British Expeditionary Force of 250,000 men made a valiant fighting retreat to Dunkirk, to be rescued quite amazingly by an armada of small boats. Britain now stood alone, with the threat of immediate German invasion hanging over her head. All that Germany needed to do was to destroy the Royal Air Force...
Rob : Good luck, fokkers!
Brad: Your name is Alistair Braggart, and you a Flight Officer in the Royal Air Force. The date is September 1940. You have been literally living on Biggin Hill air field for the past two months, continually on stand-by.
Rob : I use less battery that way.
Brad: Every time the siren wails, at least three times a day, you leap into the cockpit of your aircraft. The Luftwaffe, flying mostly Messerschmidts (Me109s) and Dorniers, have stepped up their attacks and despite their heavy casualties, are gradually wearing your squadron down.
Rob : Where the hell is ME109, Birmingham?!
Brad: Berlin, I think.
Rob : Wow, Medway council has a *Lot* to do. No wonder they're TERRIBLE AT MOST OF IT.
Brad: Keep targeting LOCAL MARKETS like that, and you'll soon be able to quit your job and doodle for a living. For almost a month.
Brad: Only four months ago, you were a newcomer to the squadron; in the last few months you have seen many good pilots die horribly. Now you are an expert amongst the newcomers.
Rob : I'm an expert comer among the new. It's why I'm on that register.
Brad: Each time you go up, you think it will be your last. The seemingly never-ending round of snatched sleep, bolted food, diesel fumes and the deafening roar of cannons and Merlin engines are gradually wearing you down.
Rob : Merlin engines? Do they sound like magic?
Brad: Yes. Yes, they do. If it ends this conversation, yes.
Rob : Amazing.
Brad: One afternoon, during a brief lull in the chaos, your mind moves to thoughts of your home and family. They must have been evacuated from London by now; the last time you spoke they were on the point of going. Heaven help anyone still in the capital. You've intercepted dozens of attacks, but dozens more have got through unmolested to drop their bombs on the city.
Rob : I do aim to molest as many as possible before they bomb my family.
Brad: In the ass.
BRAGGART: "Over-easy! I said OVER EASY! This new chef is *bollocks*!"
Brad: Automatically you rise to your feet, donning your kit as you spring towards your waiting Spitfire in Red Wing. In minutes you are in the air, flying high over the green fields of southern England, in search of unwanted visitors...
CONTROL: [over radio] Hello, Red Leader, Control here. Bandits crossing coast over Dover.
BRAGGART: "Hello, Control."
CONTROL: [over radio] Vector 62.
BRAGGART: "Ok...I've never understood what that means."
RED LEADER: [over radio] Roger.
BRAGGART: "No, Alistair."
Brad: Old ones are the best.
RED LEADER: [over radio] Red Leader calling Squadron Six-Two. Climb to 20,000, V formation.
BRAGGART: "You want me to blow up Parliament with Natalie Portman?"
RED LEADER: [over radio] Keep the R/T clear please, gentlemen.
YELLOW LEADER: [over radio] Yellow Leader calling Red Leader. Bandits at two o'clock below.
BRAGGART: "We've got ages then, it's not even midday!"
RED LEADER: [over radio] Red Leader here, message understood. Control - one hundred plus bandits, half Dorniers, half Messerschmidts, six miles out, moving north-north-west. Making attack now.
BRAGGART: "Have fun."
RED LEADER: [over radio] Red Leader to squadron. Formation attack. Choose your own targets, gentlemen.
BRAGGART: "Shit, I'm squadron aren't I? I bloody knew it."
Brad: Ahead and below is a stream of German aircraft.
- Engage the fighter escort
- Head for the bombers
Rob : Engage the fighter escorts.
Brad: Coming out of your dive towards the fighters, a lone Me109 glides gracefully past you at over 350 mph. Banking around, you attempt to follow.
Rob : At that speed? I must be mental. Oh wait, I'm a Braggart. Of *course* I'm mental.
Brad: Raking the fuselage of the Me109 from above, you see a spurt of flame leap out as it begins to plummet towards the ground far below. First kill of the day!
Rob : First of many!
Brad: In a matter of minutes the Germans have lost nearly forty aircraft. You cannot make a guess as to your own side's losses.
Rob : Let's just hope they're all enemies this time.
Brad: However, there are still plenty of targets and the Germans are not calling it a day yet.
Rob : They call it "ein tag".
RADIO: Bandit on your tail, Braggart.
Brad: Instinctively, you glance back, but see nothing.
BRAGGART: "I haven't got a tai...oh right, it's a phrase."
Brad: You feel the Spitfire shake as an Me109 fires into your tail. Diving violently away to the left, you hope that someone is behind him. The answer to your prayer comes quickly.
Rob : Wow, that was all it took to summon God? A couple of douches, a gamebook and a pizza place?
DICK: [on radio] Got him, Braggart. He's a flamer.
BRAGGART: "Bit homophobic, but thanks."
DICK: [on radio] That's gratitude! You owe me a drink.
BRAGGART: "Alright, but no reacharound this time."
Brad: The Germans are turning for now, their formation in tatters.
- Catch them up
- Keep a respectful distance
BRAGGART: "Ja! Is broken! Just like ze bones of your fallen sqvadmates!"
Brad: The German bombers are slowly pulling away from you, their remaining fighter escort desperately trying to fend off the pursuing Spitfires.
RADIO: Red Leader, Red Leader, new formation of bandits heading our way. Estimate fifty - all fighters!
BRAGGART: "Well yeah, they're hardly going to be azaleas."
RED LEADER: [on radio] Red Leader here. Wings Yellow and Green, stay on your targets. Red and Blue, follow me to 20,000.
BRAGGART: "This is....Red Braggart. At that speed, I'll have a problem keeping my plane near your plane, as we're known to say in the classic lingo."
RED LEADER: [on radio] See what you can do, Red Four.
BRAGGART: "Oh, I'm Red Four. Thanks. You'd never said."
Brad: Gradually, you make the climb to 20,000 feet. About a mile away you see the new formation of ME109s peel away from their tight grouping and fall on green and yellow wings. BRAGGART: "In a year."
Brad: Checking your controls cautiously, you prepare to attack.
RED LEADER: [on radio] Red Leader, here. Green and Yellow wings, break now. Red and Blue, tally ho!
BRAGGART: "Tally indeed, but I won't stand for name calling! Besides, everyone knows we tally bro *before* we tally ho."
Brad: The sky is thick with aircraft bombers, fighters, British and German. Many of the aircraft trail plumes of black smoke as they head for their final resting places in the Channel, and the sky is littered with the white blossoms of parachutes floating downwards. Your squadron is badly outnumbered and as two Focke Wulf fighters climb towards you, you have seconds in which to react.
Rob : I react...
Brad: The two aircraft zoom towards you and before you can act they have riddled your fuselage with cannon fire. The Spitfire shakes with the impact and great tongues of flame pour from your engine. Desperately, you rip back the canopy, knowing you must bail out or fry.
Rob : I'm not having Fry bail out before me!
Brad: As you heave yourself out of the cockpit of your burning Spitfire, the sudden blast of air whips you out and away from the aircraft. You count as you fall, then pull the ripcord of your parachute.
Rob : "One! Ah-ah-ah!"
Brad: The oil from the fire has covered your goggles and you push them up onto your forehead after the chute has opened. You are still rubbing your eyes as you hit the water. The channel is calm and not too cold.
Rob : That's helpful.
Brad: You unharness your chute and kick off your heavy flying boots.
Rob : "Why *do* I wear these?"
Brad: Struggling free of the lines of the chute you get your rubber dinghy inflated and, exhausted, heave yourself into it.
Brad: You bob about in the dinghy for what seems like hours.
Rob : It's eight minutes.
Brad: The sky by now is empty and all you can see are the gulls circling above you.
Rob : "Wait, those look a lot like vult...shit."
Brad: Darkness is closing in and you prepare yourself for a very uncomfortable night in the Channel. As darkness descends, you hear the sound of a motor - not an aircraft, a ship! Out of the darkness, a shape looms...
Rob : "Cthulhu?"
Brad: It is a patrol boat.
Rob : "Ah. That's...somehow worse."
Brad: But as it comes closer and the searchlights mounted on its deck pick you out, you see to your horror that it is German, not English! There is little you can do. You are about to become a prisoner of war.
Rob : Opening credits.
Brad: As the E-boat pulls alongside your dinghy you see your enemy at close quaters for the first time. One German mans the heavy machine-gun at the rear of the boat, pointing it at you; three others stand ready to haul you aboard.
Rob : "Sheißelhoff."
OFFICER: RAF kaput!
BRAGGART: "Ja, ein *bißchen*..."
Brad: You are finished; for now, anyway. With the help of the Germans you struggle aboard and are given a blankey and a steaming mug of coffee.
Rob : A blankey? Surely not the book's wording there?
Brad: No, but it's funnier to say it is. You settle down in the relative warmth of the forward cabin and almost at once fall asleep.
Rob : All snuggly-buggly, I take it...
Brad: I like the idea of one of the Nazis coming and seeing you, slapping his hands to his shocked face and squeaking "Ach! Mein blankey! Der Englander haßt mein blankey!"
Brad: You awake as the boat pulls into Calais harbour. The scars of the bitter struggle for this town only a few months ago are still obvious. No...wait...it's just France. It always looks like that. Shithole of Europe.
Rob : Calais has that Cité Europe though, that's not bad.
Brad: Europe contains Belgium. Just saying. The docks are littered with half-submerged ships, blocking channels and denying the Germans the full use of the harbour. The wharves are alive with activity.
Rob : Fucking Klingons, always busy...
Brad: Dock workers are busy unloading cargo while German soldiers stand guard in impassive ranks and staff cars roar up and down the quayside. Presently, the boat's crew throw lines to the shore and soon the boat is tied up. Boxes of ammunition and stores are strewn carelessly about. What you would give for a bomber squadron attach here. The E-boat captain gestures for you to rise and reluctantly you drag yourself to your feet. Following the captain, you jump off the boat and head into the crowd...
BLANKEY NAZI: "Danke".
Brad: Close behind you follows a second member of the crew.
OFFICER: "Halt die Klappe!"
BRAGGART: "That's Herr Klappe to you, Kraut."
Brad: After a few minutes walk you arrive at the E-boat command HQ and are ushered into the commander's office for interrogation. A bald, portly man of indefinable rank sits at a desk, partially hidden by mounds of paperwork. As you enter, he sits up.
BRAGGART: "Don't get up, tubby. Wouldn't want you rupturing a chin."
BALD PORTLY MAN OF INDEFINABLE RANK: "Ah, RAF?"
BALD PORTLY MAN OF INDEFINABLE RANK: "Your name, rank and serial number?"
BRAGGART: "Red Four...Red...Four."
BALD PORTLY MAN OF INDEFINABLE RANK: "You were seen shooting at a German pilot who had bailed out, Flight Officer Redfour. What do you have to say for yourself?"
BRAGGART: "Sorry I missed?"
- Repeat your name, rank and serial number
- Deny it, and give an account of your actions over the Channel.
BRAGGART: "Red Four...Red...Four."
BALD PORTLY MAN OF INDEFINABLE RANK: "You have nothing further to say?"
Brad: You stand silently at attention as he looks at you.
BRAGGART: "Nein...Wait, I mean Four."
BALD PORTLY MAN OF INDEFINABLE RANK: "I have no alternative but to hand you over to the Gestapo for interrogation. I am sorry."
BRAGGART: "No you're not."
Brad: Realising that you must speak quickly or else risk being handed over to the secret police, you recount your actions over the Channel.
BRAGGART: "If there's one thing I won't tolerate, it's liars in Nazi uniforms."
Brad: As you finish, he clears his throat and says:
BALD PORTLY MAN OF INDEFINABLE RANK: "I am glad that you have chosen to co-operate, Braggart. I see no need for any further unpleasantness."
BRAGGART: "I do. You fat fuck."
BALD PORTLY MAN OF INDEFINABLE RANK: "You will be taken to Luftwaffe headquarters - they are responsible for downed RAF pilots. Goodbye."
Brad: A Kubelwagon staff car is parked outside with three armed men in it and you are swiftly driven away to Luftwaffe HQ. The town is full of soldiers.
Rob : Kubelwagon? Why would they be delivering Jewish pudding? Surely that's the total opposite of what Nazis would do.
Brad: It's like a jeep.
Rob : Ah.
Brad: The Germans seem to have preparations well under way for their invasion of England. You wish you were still in the skies defending your homeland against them and you curse yourself for the mistake which has brought you here. Presently, you arrive at Luftwaffe HQ and are locked in a cell for the night. At daybreak a guard arrives with a bowl of food and a mug of coffee; he does not speak English.
- Try and talk to him
- Stay quiet and eat, hoping for an opportunity to get away later
Brad: He does not understand your stumbling German and shrugs before turning to leave.
- attack him
- wait for a better chance later
Rob : Seems pointless to attack *everyone* I meet this early on.
Brad: Several minutes pass; then the guard returns and gestures for you to follow him outside.
Brad: The yard at the rear of the Headquarters is deserted save for a truck with its engine running and two German soldiers standing sentry at the rear of the vehicle.
Brad: Walking closer, you see the the truck is half full of British servicemen, all waiting to be driven to the POW camp.
Brad: You climb aboard and introduce yourselves.
BRAGGART: "Red Four, chaps! Introducing myself and all that, there's a good lad."
Brad: It seems that the seven others in the truck were all picked up in the early houts of the morning from the local jails.
BRAGGART: "Why would you hide in their jails?!"
Brad: Five of the prisoners are the surviving members of a Blenheim crew - Flight Lieutenant Clank, Flight Sergeant Wheezy and their flight crew, McDonald, Robinson and Common.
Rob : Common?
Brad: I think he's a rapper. The other two are fighter pilots like yourself - Parkinson and Cowie. Before long, the truck is ready to move off. Three Germans sit in the cab at the front and a further two join you in the rear.
Brad: Both soldiers are young and nervous - one has a machine-gun, the other a rifle. Cautiously, you study both of them.
BRAGGART: "They look young...and nervous..."
Brad: It seems best to wait until you are in the countryside before trying anything.
BRAGGART: "Shit, I shouldn't have said that out loud."
YOUNG NERVOUS NAZI: "Wo ist meinen blankey?"
Rob : "Deinen blankey? Sheiße."
Brad: The truck follows the road to Lille. Every mile is clogged with German equipment heading for the coast.
Rob : "Saxophones? You've gotta fucking be kidding me!"
Brad: You seem to be the only ones going inland. Presently, the lorry stops at the side of the road in a small wood and the two guards jump out before gesturing to you all to follow them and stretch your legs. Wait...
Rob : Alright...
Brad: Isn't this how Skyrim starts?
Rob : Now that you mention it, I did decide my stats and choose my gender...
Brad: This could be your opportunity to escape.
- Try to wander off on your own
- Stay with the main group and see what they decide to do
Rob : I remember too well what happened the first time I was alone in Skyrim.
Brad: The three other guards have not appeared - presumably they have wandered off into the undergrowth to relieve themselves. There are eight of you prisoners and only two guards.
- Decide to make the first move
- Wait for someone else to do it
Brad: Clank is talking earnestly to Wheezy. Suddenly, as you watch, they begin fighting. The two guards move quickly towards them to stop the fight. As they approach the stuggling pair, the other five men rush them.
Rob : See? Worth me holding off.
Brad: After a flurry of blows and echoing gunshots, the scene clears to reveal three RAF men lying inert on the ground and one of the guards rubbing a bruised arm. Both Germans are extremely angry and one screams at you to rejoin the group.
NAZI: "Rejoinen das gruppe!"
BRAGGART: "Mit blankey oder ohne?"
Brad: Moving carefully in order not to alarm them, you do as they wish. The three other Germans emerge hurriedly from the undergrowth and help to drag the bodies away. The remaining six of you are herded back aboard the truck. The German mood of anger and increased caution does not change. Indeed, when you reach the next stop at a local jail to pick up two more prisoners, they handcuff you to the wooden slatted seats in the truck. It seems you will be seeing Eastern France and probably Germany after all.
Rob : Damn.
Brad: The rest of the journey is largely uneventful.
Rob : I hate Eastern France the most.
Rob : I don't really. I have no real opinion on anywhere except Valence, Lyon and Paris.
Brad: Each night, your guards lock you up in a local jail and by day they handcuff you to the seats in the truck. Eventually, you arrive late one afternoon at Stalag Luft 14, near Wiesbaden in Germany. The soldiers from the truck hand you over to the prison guards before driving away. The camp seems well-established. As you pass through the first gate you see that it is covered by a tall tower with a machine gun post at the top. Once inside, you stand in an enclosed parade area which you will soon now as the "Vorlager".
Rob : Should I be making notes?
Brad: Do you ever?
Rob : No. That wasn't the question though.
Brad: If you need to re-read any of this...just scroll up.
Rob : That goes for you too, readers. *Thumbs up*
Rob : I get two blankeys this time? Was one meant to go to one of the corpses?
Brad: Walking with Clank and Wheezy, you enter the main compound to be greeted by the rest of the inmates. Instantly, a stream of questions are thrown at you.
BRITISH GUY #1: "The Germans haven't landed in England, have they?"
BRITISH GUY #2: "Where were you shot down?"
BRAGGART: "...Hang on, I'll just go and check...It was right in the aeroplane."
BRITISH GUY #3: "How's London getting on?"
BRAGGART: "It's getting on getting on. Or something."
Brad: With a series of nods and monosyllables you answer the questions without stopping in your walk forward to meet the Senior British Officer. Group Captain McSpindle's hut lies in the centre of the British part of the camp and you are led there by a group of other prisoners. Straightening your uniform, you knock on his door.
BRAGGART: "That's better. Had my cock out all afternoon without noticing."
Brad: The Senior British Officer is a fairly tall man in his middle forties, bespectacled and with a vaguely aristocratic air. He welcomes you warmly and offers you a seat.
Rob : How does one welcome warmly? Does he rub my arms a bit?
Brad: His quarters are quite comfortable, if a little cramped. In a soft voice he asks your names, ranks and serial numbers, jotting them down in a ledger on his desk. He assigns you to Hut 113, in the south-east corner of the compound and suggests you get some sleep after your journey. You stand again, salute and leave.
- Go directly to Hut 113
- Have a look around first
Brad: The camp is alive with activity: football (Sorry, Omer), open-air language classes and many men just walking around the perimeter.
Rob : Are they guards?
Brad: Doesn't say.
Rob : Otherwise they're just orienteering, in the lamest possible way.
Brad: Everywhere there are RAF uniforms, mixed with those of other nationalities - French, Dutch and Belgian. It appears that roughly a third of the prisoners are French, a third British and the remainder a mixture of Dutch and Belgian. Many have been here since just after war broke out in 1939. Feeling that you need a rest before you inspect the camp properly, you make your way to Hut 113 with Clank Wheezy.
Rob : Clank Wheezy?
Brad: Sorry, typo. Clank and Wheezy
Rob : Ahh ok. I thought our new reboot involved making old characters collide/bang.
Brad: As you enter, a Flight Officer by the name of Read introduces himself and shows you to your bunks. Taking the top bunk in a tier of two, you nod off into a deep sleep.
BRAGGART: "Is that pronounced Red or Reed?"
READ: It's spelt R-E-A-D. But it's pronounced "Mun-go".
Brad: You awake to the sound of a bell ringing.
Rob : Wait, wait, wait. I've been captured by the Jerrys with a guy named Mungo?
Brad: The officer on the bunk next to yours explains that this is the call to "Appel" - daily parade and head-count.
BRAGGART: "How's *that* pronounced?"
BRAGGART: "That doesn't help me. I'm not up on my phonetic alphabet."
Brad: As you trot along to the assembly area at the rear of the camp you discover that this happens at 8:30am and 4:00pm every day. Apart from Appel and the ritual of locking the prisoners into their huts at 6:30 every evening, the Germans appear to leave the POWs to their own devices. Arriving at the Appel area, you see ranks of airmen, lined up by nationality, with their superior officers at the front.
Brad: Most look sullen and despondent - hardly surprising when they have been here for so long.
Rob : I thought they were the soldiers. Why would *they* be depressed? If they're unhappy with their lot in life as prison officers, DON'T RUN A PRISON!
Brad: I mean officers in the Allie...never mind. The head-count is slow, with the Goons [prison staff], running back and forth along the lines of prisoners. Presently you are all dismissed and rush off to line up for breakfast.
Rob : Wait, not *the* Goons, surely. This is turning into a prison-based fucking Royal Variety Performance.
Brad This is your first real opportunity to meet the rest of your fellow Britons.
- Bring up the question of escape
- Start by asking for more details about the prison layout and routine
PRISONER: "There are nine towers, with searchlights and a constantly manned machine-gun in each."
BRAGGART: "Do they have any constantly gunned machine men?"
PRISONER: "Then there are about half-a-dozen dog handlers and thirty of so other guards, plus the Ferrets, of course."
BRAGGART: "The Ferrets?"
PRISONER: "Yes. The Abwehr men."
PRISONER: "That's the ones. They just snoop about looking for anything suspicious."
BRAGGART: "Where is the camp?"
PRISONER: "About twenty-five miles from Frankfurt, near the Rhine Valley. It's about a hundred and fifty miles to the Swiss border. Thinking of escaping?"
BRAGGART: "I don't really feel strongly about escaping to Switzerland."
- Avoid this question by asking one of your own
- Ask him if the camp has an Escape Committee
AIRMAN PRISONER: "Not many. Six, I think. The French try it all the time, but most of them get caught. They're good tunnellers, though."
BRAGGART: "Yeah? I thought they'd be...good at surrender. Still got it."
- Ask if there is an escape committee
- Decide to try to escape on your own
Brad: You walk out into the compound.
- Inspect the wire perimeter
- Look around the huts first
Brad: Walking towards the huts, you see a group of French prisoners loitering around in front of one particular building. They look pretty suspicious.
Rob : That's...is that racist?
Brad: You decide that they must be up to something - planning an escape, perhaps. Curiosity turns your steps towards them.
BRAGGART: "Did you say something?"
- Try talking to the Frenchmen
- Ignore them
EUGENE LANGE: We are keeping an eye on the Goons. My name is Eugene Lange, Chief Goon-Baiter.
BRAGGART: "My name is...Alistair Braggart. Sorry for the delay, I had to look back through...my life?"
EUGENE LANGE: "You have not been here, long. Perhaps you will get enough excitement soon."
BRAGGART: "Why do you describe people based on their most distinguishing feature, nose?"
Brad: You shrug and look past him at the compound. Only a few yards away, around the corner of a hut, one of the Ferrets is appraoching the German snoopers.
- Try to warn Eugene, and risk having the Germans think you are an accomplice.
- Do nothing
Brad: One of the other Frenchmen has spotted the German. Casually he nudges Eugene, who turns nonchalantly to and taps on the window behind him. Looking past him for a moment, you see four men quickly pull a cover over a hole in the floor of the hut and scatter. Another man walks over to the window and chats casually to Eugene until the German has walked past and disappeared.
BRAGGART: "Couldn't...couldn't I have done that conversation bit?"
Brad: Eugene turns back to you and smiles.
BRAGGART: "I'm just saying the guy walking over seemed kind of unnecessary."
Brad: Reluctantly, you do so. You wander off towards your own part of the camp, and spend the rest of the day reading. Pronounced Mun-going. After Appel, you feel rather tired, despite having done very little today, and you go to bed early. At about 3:00am, you awake to the sound of sirens blaring. For a moment, you almost believe that you are back in London, listening to an air-raid warning. You start to panic, remembering that the camp has no air-raid shelters.
MAN IN THE NEXT BUNK: [clambering down] "Someone's trying to escape..."
- Stay in your own bunk and ignore the excitement
- Get up and have a look outside
Brad: You peer through one of the windows and see a man in civilian clothes running towards your hut. Reacting instinctively, you open the window and beckon urgently to him. He looks frantically around before veering towards you and vaulting head-first through the window.
BRAGGART: "I was only going to show you these new curtains."
Brad: The man is a Belgian and wearing very good imitation civilian clothes. He speaks little English, but is obviously grateful for your help.
Rob : How does one communicate that without language, do you think?
Brad: You manage to understand that his escape attempt went wrong when he nearly blundered into a dog-patrol several huts away. He panicked and ran, but does not think that anyone had actually seen him until a searchlight caught him in its beam for a second. He managed to evade it and is fairly sure that the Germans did not see him enter your hut by the window.
Rob : And you say he doesn't speak much English? I mean, just the term 'dog patrol' is complex enough conceptually.
Rob : I'm not even convinced *I* understand it.
Brad: La chien de la routine
Rob : Isn't that just a dog who's stuck in a rut? A pug that lives for the weekend? A schnauzer who doesn't do enough for just himself?
Brad: The following day, your visitor manages to merge with the other men in your hut as they leave for Appel and is able to rejoin his own comrades without being spotted.
Rob : Wait, so his hiding place is 'back where he was'? Fool-proof.
Brad: Later on in the morning he reappears and, with a big smile, he takes you to meet the camp Escape Committee.
Rob : Sorry, Fuhlpruhf.
Brad: They seem suitably impressed by your quick thinking of the night before, and offer to co-opt you on to the committee. You may choose in which area you would like to work.
- Escape over or through the wire
- Methods of bluffing your way through the gates
Brad: You are introduced to Frank "Mole" Moseby, "The Tunnel King", a jovial Yorkshireman in his late thirties.
Rob : The Tunnel King? And his name is Mole?
Brad: I think it's one of those shitty nicknames.
Rob : You reckon? I thought maybe he was big on that diary fellow. Or had a skin blemish.
Brad: Like when you see someone who has a nickname in a film credits, and you just KNOW they're the only ones who call themselves by that name. "C'mon guys...call me 'Crash'!"
Rob: "I will literally give you a tenner to just call me 'Tex-Mex' once."
"MOLE" MOSEBY: "I'm a hard taskmaster, Mr Braggart. Do your bit, though, and I'll see you right."
Brad: He details you to start shift work in the current tunnel.
BRAGGART: "Oh please, call me Mongoose. Since we're going fucking batshit with these..."
Brad: The tunnel leaves from the store hut by the kitchen and runs due west, hopefully to the tree line beyond the cleared ground outside the camp. You soon settle into a daily routine of digging for shifts of two hours each. By the third week, you have grown used to the claustrophobic conditions in the tunnel. Digging at the face one morning, you remove a large rock which is blocking your way but, as you so, the roof of the tunnel caves in.
Rob : Better that than the poor bastards trapped when the cave of the tunnel roofed in.
Brad: Frantically, you begin to worm your way backwards.
Rob : *Mongoose
Brad: IT seems like hours rather than seconds before you feel hands tugging at your legs.
Rob : Having worked in IT, I can confirm this is how it feels.
Brad: The panicked scrabbling of your body turns presently into a smooth slide backwards, and you emerge, choking and spluttering, into the musty air of the remnants of the tunnel. The tunnel has been set back by at least a week - maybe more.
Brad: After your accident, you are given the less hazardous task of a "Stoolie" - a lookout.
Rob : I thought there would be poo involved from that name.
Brad: Several days later, you are on duty outside the storeroom, casually leaning up againt the wall, when you see three guards purposefully striding to wards you.
- Create a diversion
- Rush into the storeroom and warn those below
Brad: Desperately, you come up with a plan. As the Germans approach, you pretend to cower away in fear.
Rob : With my dick out.
Brad: Crouching on the ground and wrapping your arms over your head, you pretend that you have finally gone over the edge - "Wire Happy" they call it in the camp. Despite your act, the Goons know something is up.
Rob : Is that what's referred to as a Section 8?
Brad: Ignoring your act, one holds you at gun point while the other two head straight for the hut. You hear muffled raised voices. Minutes later, three grimy figures emerge under arrest.
BRAGGART: "Three? I only remember seeing two...Are you smuggling people IN?! WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU IN CHARGE?!"
Brad: You and your comrades are given a month in the cooler, and the tunnel is filled in.
Rob : Also, obligatory Mr Freeze joke for the "cooler" reference.
Brad: As far as "Doing the Complete Opposite of the Brief", this escapee is heading the same way as the Silver Braggart.
Rob : Hey, for all we knew, that small child was Hitler. Or was having a heart murmur fixed by electrical stimulation.
Brad: Sitting in solitary confinement, you have plenty of time to think.
BRAGGART: "I need to buy a boat."
Brad: How could the Goons have known about the tunnel? Someone in the camp must have informed.
BRAGGART: "A boat wouldn't *need* a tunnel..."
Brad: During the brief exercise periods, you discuss this with your fellow tunnellers and they agree. An inquiry will be held when you all get out.
Rob : An official one? Seems difficult to organise.
Brad: An official military enquiry is held upon your release. But to your amazement, the line of questioning seems to be aimed at pinning the blame on you. You are the least well-known of the team, and the most likely suspect.
Rob : Makes sense. Of Team E14, I'm most suspicious of Blake.
Brad: Your reasoned arguments and obvious honesty seem to make an impression upon the senior officers.
BELGIAN PRISONER: "But if Braggart did not inform the Goons, then who did?"
Rob : That was confusing. For a second there, I thought I was engaging the prison guards in philosophical debates.
Brad: Suspicion now naturally falls upon the other recent arrivals and the camp, and the officers question you searchingly about them. You tell what little you know, but cannot think that it will help very much.
BRAGGART: "I've mostly been looking at their asses. I'll be honest, I wonder if being cooped up with all these men is having an effect on me. Dahhhling."
Rob : That...was surprisingly easy to determine.
Brad: He was born in England and lived there most of his life, but was recruited early in 1935 by German agents. Since then he has been posing as an English officer, being placed in camps to inform on the escape activities of their occupants. It was only your memory of his one slip up that unmasked him. The sentence of the court martial is death for the spy. One night he is bundled out of his hut and thrown across the warning wire.
BRAGGART: "Bit harsh. Couldn't we have...buttfucked him or something?"
Brad: The guards see nothing but a frightened man and shoot him without further investigation. Your name has been cleared and you are free to return to your escape activities.
- Escape with August Dechant
- Escape with John Stallard
Brad: John Stallard is the man responsible for organising diversions and bluffing his way past the guards. Well, THIS should be a DDM high point...
Rob : Did he previously sell meat?
Brad: Most of his men are seasoned Goon-baiters and Scroungers and there is not much he cannot lay his hands on.
Rob : Why does Goon-Baiters sound racist?
Brad: He has two schemes going on at the moment, and offers you the choice of either one:
- Working on a uniform bluff through the main gate
- Helping organise an escape in the rubbish van which comes to the camp weekly
Rob : Oh, that rubbish van idea sounds *so* me.
Brad: TRASH WIZARD, HO!
Rob : He takes the train. Craazyy.
Brad: For several days you help make false lids for the rubbish cans so that a man can climb in and out of them easily. The plan is to let three men escape in this manner.
Rob : Is this Oscar the Grouch's back story?
Brad: God, I hope so.
Rob : He's a grouch because of his fallen POW comrades. LET'S WRITE GROWN-UP DEPRESSING SESAME STREET.
Brad: The rubbish will be collected in a few days' time. The waiting is almost unbearable, but finally the time passes and the day arrives. The van drives into the camp at 9:00am, and by 8:45am - just after Appel - you are safely hidden in a rubbish bin. Crouching in the darkness, you hope that whoever has the task of lifting the can onto the van will not drop it.
Rob : What would've happened had Appel overrun?
Brad: It would have to update to iOS 6. You hear the sound of approaching feet and the can in which you are hiding is lifted and carried for a short time, then dumped with a clang onto the back of the van. You wait a little longer before hearing the engine start and feeling the motion as the van drives towards the main gate. The stench in the vanis disgusting and you feel a strong urge to cough.
BRAGGART: *Cough*. "Wait, fuck. I mean...*Rubbish rubbish rubbish*."
Brad: After pausing for a few seconds at the main gate, the van pulls away again.
BRAGGART: "Oh, I'm old cheese and stuff. Eeeeew."
Brad: You wait a few minutes before cautiously lifting the lid of the bin to peer out. Through the wooden slatted sides of the vehicle you can see trees and the road outside the camp. You have made it - so far.
Rob : ...Surely that should say 'You have made it so far.' I guess it works either way.
Brad: Clambering out of the can, you help the others to extricate themselves and then, one by one, you drop out of the open back of the van. Deciding to split up, you shake hands and take leave of the others. Which way will you go?
- South-West towards Switzerland
- North-West, towards Belgium
Rob : Towards Switzerland. Can't say I'm especially excited about it. Not that I'm against the idea. Just...meh.
Brad: You head off into the forest, constantly turning to make sure that no-one has seen you. Gradually the camp fades from view and, afraid of getting lost, you try to decide in which direction you should be travelling.
Rob : I thought I'd done that. Switzerland.
Brad: After maintaining a brisk pace for fifteen minutes of so, you enter a clearing. A small wooden hut with logs piled up beside it lies ahead.
- Investigate it
- Skirt around it and keep moving
Rob : Investigate it. Maybe I'll find Bigfoot. I've heard his house is near Switzerland.
Brad: Listening at the door you can hear only a low murmuring sound. Cautiously, you enter the hut. The owner is sleeping deeply on a makeshift bed.
- Leave immediately
- Try to steal some food without waking the slumbering man
BRAGGART: "I reckon I can get away with i-*COUGH*."
Brad: As you take a step forward a floor board creaks under your weight. Instantly, the woodcutter leaps and makes a grab for his axe.
Rob : I cough to mask the sound.
Brad: As he brandishes the lethal weapon, you realise that you can do little but give yourself up.
Rob : So the guy has Mel Gibson and/or Danny Glover trained on me.
Brad: Or Joe Pesci, at a push.
Rob : Point.
Brad: The woodcutter indicates that you should sit down. He grabs a length of rope and ties you up. This got Fifty Stalags of Grey quick, didn't it?
BRAGGART: "Wait, what was the name of that mountain...?"
Brad: Wagging a discouraging finger at you, he leaves.
BRAGGART: "FUCK! Brokkenbakk!"
Brad: You sit alone on the floor cursing your bad luck and wishing that you hadn't gone into the hut in the first place. A few minutes pass and then you hear several voices outside.
Rob : Is it a-Ha?
Brad: The door opens and the grinning face of a German soldier appears.
Rob : Damn.
Brad: You have no option but to surrender. Unceremoniously you are transported back to the camp, and brought to face the commandant.
COMMANDANT: "You have caused my men some considerable problems, but more importantly, you have made me look a fool."
BRAGGART: "You helped."
COMMANDANT: "The Luftwaffe cannot be held accountable for disruptive and reckless prisoners such as yourself, Braggart."
BRAGGART: "I reckon the RAF would have me. Ask."
COMMANDANT: "I have no alternative but to hand you over to our own escape experts. Recently we have established a new camp, Oflag IV C, in a castle built by Augustus the Strong, King of Poland, and Elector of Saxony at the turn of the Sixteenth century. It will become better know to you by the name your fellow prisoners have given it: Colditz."
BRAGGART: "That sounds...lovely?"
COMMANDANT: "You will find the regime there a little less, well, gentleman-like. Goodbye, Braggart."
BRAGGART: "I'll bring a jumper, doesn't sound warm."
COMMANDANT: "We will not meet again."
BRAGGART: "In which case, goodbye FUCKFACE."
Brad: Stunned, you salute, and resign yourself to the fact that you may not see England again until the way is over.
COMMANDANT "Who can tell?"
BRAGGART: "Guitarist for Alice in Chains."
Brad: As you are escorted to the truck for transit to your new home, your mind turns over all sorts of ploys and ideas. Colditz will be a tough nut to crack. Your adventure in Stalag Luft 14 ends here...but who knows where it will really end.
Rob : Well, that escalated quickly.