Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Attack



Dateline: Monday, 1st June, 1997: Scotland.


They attacked from the shore, carrying their canoes and inflatable dinghies down to the water’s edge. They zipped tight their goggles and their face masks and prepared for the raid across the water.

Further along the coast, hired coaches parked near the entrance to the naval base and set down the demonstrators. They formed up and donned their jackets and unfurled their emblems and their colourful banners, fluttering in the breeze. They gathered together in circles and held hands. They spoke of their beliefs and prayed for the future of mankind. They linked arms and listened to the beating of a drum from one within their number.
The police were surprised, quickly re-enforcing the guard, locking the double gates, hurrying and scurrying. They did not expect so many in the morning. 
It was Sunday, demonstration day. 
Every Sunday was demonstration day, but today it was different because it was earlier and bigger and they’d arrived in coaches. It was different because Tom Currock was going to take the boat out soon. 
There was a drum beating, and a flag fluttering; it was different from last Sunday. There were more of them. 
Visors dropped from NATO style helmets and protected the face and eyes. Dark blue overalls replaced old fashioned tunics. Black leather gauntlets grasped tight the riot shields and stacked the reinforced Perspex in readiness. The heel of the black leather boot slapped onto tarmac as police prepared for the confrontation. 
A leash cracked, whipping through the air. A police dog barked and a handler closed a kennel gate and called his dog to duty. The Alsatian jumped and pranced on all fours, tongue drooling, licking the hand of his master. A hand caressed the dog’s neck and a leash linked its collar. There was another bark, another prance, and dog and handler set off for the fence. It was the fence that was subject of all the fuss; the fence that defended the secret.
The fence stood erect, glistening in the morning sun, impregnable.
Out in the misty loch, the boat slipped her moorings and commenced her lethargic journey. The escort vessels towering above her were unaware of canoes being launched or banners fluttering in the breeze. 
Police radios crackled noisily inside the naval base, giving the first warning of demonstrators walking towards the entrance. 
Small boats, canoes, and inflatable dinghies glided stealthily into the grey, murky waters of Gare Loch. Paddles worked towards the objective. Water splashed, hearts pounded, and muscles strained with effort. Rigid inflatable dinghies formed the heart of the assault, arrow-heads to penetrate the target arrow-heads to deny Tom Currock his pleasure in the boat. 
At the main gate, they linked arms; hundreds of them in unity: kindred spirits forming like a human chain. They sang in protest, at first, but then walked slowly towards the perimeter fence that protected the site.
The boat was leaving today, wasn’t it? The locals at the Peace Camp were never wrong, were they? That’s why they’d come in numbers, in coaches, to find out the truth, to see if the boat really was leaving today. 
They approached the fence, singing, linking arms, unified in their quest for truth. It was the fence that defended the boat and prevented a glimpse at the truth. Scarves and banners fluttered in the breeze and conducted the songs of protest. And still the drum beat.
Police dogs barked and strained at the leash as the sound of singing voices grew in the ear. Police dogs yapped at the approaching mass, yapped at those on the other side of the fence, yapped at those searching for truth. 
In the morning dew, razor wire sparkled atop high fences that forbade entry. Tension rising, throats drying, and a drum beating. 
A mobile ‘phone shrilled and a hand pressed the digits. An ear listened and a head nodded and a demonstrator’s voice shouted, ‘The boat is in the loch. It’s going. They’re putting out to sea. God, damn them all.’ 
The demonstrators heard the words, heard the anger and knew they were too late. The singing stopped when they increased their pace and broke into a run. Demonstrators charged, full blooded, at the perimeter fence. 
Police inside the base stood, waiting, equally determined that invaders would not enter. Security cameras panned and zoomed. Fluttering scarves and banners were seen. The anger was seen and faces were captured on video recorders as police inside the base planned a response. 
An orange van parked on a car park nearby. Inside, milk bottles and thin pieces of rag and fuel lay on the van floor behind closed doors. Petrol splashed from a metal can into a collection of glass bottles. Petrol bombs were being made by hands inside, hands dedicated to the cause of rebellion. 
Commander Tom Currock commanded the boat from the sail. He looked back along the channel towards Faslane naval base. A thin mist crept over the bleak loch. He saw only the quay and the shrouded outline of the administration block. He did not see the demonstration at the main gate, the orange van or the songs of protest. He did not hear the police dogs barking. He could not see the scarves and the banners fluttering in the morning breeze. He knew the fence was there. He’d always known the fence was there.
Commander Currock was a slender man, slightly built at no more then five feet six inches in height. Yet he commanded a formidable arsenal and knew well the strengths of his vessel. It was his first submarine command. The commander ordered reports, ‘Starboard, look-out?’
‘Visibility, three hundred yards, sir. All quiet on the starboard watch.’
'Port, look-out?’
‘Visibility, two hundred yards, sir. All quiet on the port watch.’
‘Keep a sharp look out.’
‘Aye, aye, sir.’ They both responded.
The commander gathered his navy blue anorak around him and adjusted the collar. He tugged down the peak of his cap; the braid twinkled as he squared it firmly on his head. The commander reached forward, pressed a communication button, and spoke to the control room below deck.
‘Hold course and trim,’ he ordered.The pilot nodded in agreement with Commander Currock.
Commander Currock peered towards the bow of his recently commissioned, Trident class, nuclear submarine. Powerful Scottish waters crashed over the front of his nuclear-powered boat, showering the deck with a thousand droplets of spray, covering the nuclear missiles that slept in horizontal tubes below, covering one of the most feared weapons known to mankind, covering the reason why an anti-nuclear flotilla was heading their way. The war machine moved, carefully, through the loch.
A tug boat headed the procession and guided Trident through shallow waters, towards Helensburgh, with a towing hawser connecting bow to stern. In front of the submarine, and at either side, Ministry of Defence police escort vessels kept pace with Trident. Dotted around the boat, bobbing up and down in the loch, half a dozen rigid inflatable dinghies accompanied the submarine and three escorts. They acted as further defence, with two policemen in wet suits crewing each rigid inflatable dinghy. The policemen sat, one behind the other, like jockeys in a bob-sleigh.
The water remained choppy and unruly. The journey to the starboard turn at Rosneath Point and the Firth of Clyde could take about twenty minutes. Between Dunoon and Scoulag Point, Trident would dive in the shallows; pass the Islands of Bute, Cumbrae and Arran, and make the North Channel. In the seas, she would dive to the deep and activate her sonar and engage her cloaking devices and disappear from the enemy screen. She would lurk in the fathoms below and complement the names given to the vessels of her class. She would be in the Vanguard, to Vanquish, to be Victorious.
The first canoe emerged from the mist. One obstinate male ripped through the greyness of the loch, ignoring the brutal waves breaking over his fibreglass structure as it forced a path through the water.
‘Port side, Commander, canoe, two hundred yards: port watch.’
‘Confirmed! Two hundred yards!’ volunteered the pilot.
Commander Currock replied, ‘Thank you, I see him.’
And then, there were more. They broke through the swirling mist and appeared in various sizes and different colours. Twenty canoes, some sporting eye-catching banners draped across their bows, made their way towards the submarine. The attack began...
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