“Comrade Major!” Captain Eden still found it difficult to salute like a mutineer. The old salute, fingers affront the forehead, seemed terribly dated. Three months and now we are all revolutionaries. It seemed to be from a bygone era or a foreign country, lost beyond the waters of the English Channel. As with most of the formalities of war, the old salutes were cast aside. Major Attlee laid his pen down and looked up in silence at the rain-sodden Eden, his right hand fumbling into a fist to place against his temple. “Yes?” The major did not appreciate the interruption when he was composing his letters to the German headquarters in Paris. Of the last four, exactly none were dignified with responses. “What is it?” “A German officer has arrived from Paris, Major. He says he wants to speak with you privately, and apparently he has good news from Verdun.” The major promptly asked for this visitor to brought in from the cold. We were promised no more visits from Paris, and now this. Attlee stood, wiped the dirt from his sleeves, and watched his visitor with the utmost attention. He certainly looked the part of an officer: Pickelhaube and stiff-collared grey uniform, and even a neat moustache stretching from one corner of his mouth to the other. He took imperious strides along the uneven wooden boarding leading up to the major’s tent, managing well to balance himself as the mud-water ran beneath his boots. “Herr Attlee, it is good to finally make your acquaintance.” He extended a hand across the major’s desk. Attlee took it firmly in his grip. “I expect you received a phone call from our headquarters in Paris?” The major shook his head. “No, I’m afraid we have had no calls from Paris. Communications have been down, recently.” At this, von Papen seemed less than surprised. Captain Eden hurriedly closed the doors of the tent behind von Papen. “No matter- I am here now.” The captain gestured to his chair and Attlee gave his assent to sit down. “Now, I’m here to discuss… peace.” “Peace? We have peace. If you wish to discuss peace between Germany and Britain, then I suggest that you talk to the Prime Minister.” Attlee pictured the Prime Minister for a moment. The dour-faced Irishman, his hands flailing about in a mad fashion as he spat vitriol from the national podium his coup had bought him. Inside, Attlee shuddered. “You must know that this is not what we are discussing. No, instead we must discuss peace between the British and… the British.” Attlee knew at once what he was referring to. Captain von Papen continued with his little speech. “In your home islands, we see that the situation is deteriorating for Carson’s government. That is not our concern- the Prime Minister’s days are numbered.” Attlee agreed; there was no doubt about that. “It is peace here in France, and in Belgium, that is of our concern. Some units of the British armed forces have… resisted your mutiny, as I am sure you are aware.” The major knew exactly who he was talking about. Churchill. He was terrorising the French countryside, having shot a few dozen of his own men when the mutinies began, and had not been heard from since the beginning of November. "Winston Churchill is still with the Royal Scots Fusiliers, I'm afraid. And, as the reports have suggested, he had been planning on moving north to Calais." "Where is the good news in all of this?" Attlee asked, his mind thrown back to Eden's introduction of Captain von Papen. The slightly gaunt-faced captain reached into his tunic and retrieved a brown folder. From his hands, it passed to Attlee's. "His fusiliers were routed at Verdun. Casualty figures were in our good favour." A smile flared up at the corner of von Papen's mouth. Attlee could feel the German's eyes burrowing into the crown of his skull as he rifled through the papers. Contained within were clippings of maps detailing the route of Churchill's battalion across northern France, accompanied by reports of the destruction left in Churchill's wake. Executions, raids, supply requisitions- the man is fighting a guerrilla war. "Why do I need to see this?" Captain von Papen's smiling ceased at that question. "I know it is... unorthodox. But, the report belongs to you and your Soldiers' Committee now. You will find it useful once you have heard my proposition." The captain was smiling once again. His smile, his insidious smile, troubled Major Attlee no end. "Germany needs your men to help capture Churchill." "No." "But, you would-..." "No." Attlee watched as the German officer squirmed in his seat. Both of them knew that, on this matter above all others, his opinion was immovable. "If that is all, Captain von Papen, then I'm afraid our business here has concluded." "That is all, Major." He stood. "Expect a reply from Paris soon, by the way. Your letters are so full of questions- our intelligence department cannot answer them all so quickly, you see?" Attlee rose from his chair and shouted for Captain Eden, who had not left the perimeter of the major's makeshift abode. The young captain hurriedly opened the major's tent, and subsequently met the gazes of a vexed German officer and a stoic Major Attlee. "Would you please escort Herr von Papen back to the road, Comrade Captain? I expect his car is still waiting outside." The German took his leave with a scowl upon his face, marching out of the tent and into the distance as Captain Eden tried to keep up with his determined pace. Major Attlee would have chortled, had the proposition not have been so deadly serious. Let the butcher run, he'll be captured eventually. And Attlee was not going to let good men die just to do it. He was not so vainglorious as to pursue Churchill through the winter months, whilst good men longing for home fell to the cold and Winston's fusiliers. No. That was too much to ask. As Chairman of the Soldiers' and Workers' Committee, it was his duty to keep his men away from the war as much as possible. "Comrade Major!" At the head of a column of men, Wedgwood Benn came striding up the wooden plank path. The Committee, aside from Attlee and Benn, was a group of young men. None of them had reached thirty yet, but they were still entrusted by their comrade soldiers to voice their woes and decide for this "commune of mutineers". They filed into Attlee's tent, which Captain Eden then closed off from the rest of the camp. The chairs behind Attlee's desk could not hold all Committee members, and so Lieutenant Owen and Private Pollitt took to the major's bed in the corner of the room. They dragged it forward, so as to hear the deliberations of this inner council meeting. "Right- what business is first?" Attlee asked, knowing in his mind that the German would be their sole topic of conversation. Usually, it would be rations, but the arrival of an agent of the Kaiser seemed far more pressing. "When are the Germans delivering our rations? We've come to the end of our beef and jam, and the tobacco's got less than a week left. When do we get new rations?" The Lancastrian, Private Pollitt, was the first to speak. Attlee had little time for him; the feeling was mutual. Pollitt had been an anti-war activist, and had only been pressed into service in 1917. Bloody firebrand- he thinks he's Comrade MacDonald. "I've had no word from Paris concerning rations. If we must... then we will scout out Saint-Omer for food." Attlee had had enough of bullying the townspeople of the Pas-de-Calais, but these were desperate times. The winter will be hard on us all. "I promise you that we will not go hungry." Lieutenant Tolkien scoffed. "Was your visitor not here about our supplies then?" So... they did see him. "No. Herr von Papen wanted us to aid in the capture of Winston Churchill and his battalion." He pushed the folder at his desk across to Captain Wedgwood Benn, still in his air force dress. "The details are in here." "16th of November... offensive... Verdun. 150 dead... Churchill possibly wounded..." Benn's eyes lit up. "This is exactly what we've needed, comrades! Churchill is on the bloody run! What did you-...?" Major Attlee shook his head. "I declined the offer." "What?" Tolkien and Benn chorused. "No more bloodshed- not for Carson; not for the Kaiser," Lieutenant Owen interrupted. "You were right to decline, Comrade Major." Attlee could always rely on the Committee's resident poet. He agreed because, like all those men outside the tent with their fears and their families back home, he wanted to be far away. He wants to go home for peace.... The bolshie Private Pollitt echoed the sentiments, but for different reasons entirely. ...and he wants a revolution. "We have nearly seven thousand men, comrade. Churchill's bandits must number less than half our own." Tolkien nodded along with every word that the airman said. "This is a lost opportunity, truly." "We could have helped our German comrades, Major. Imagine the rations if we-..." "I appreciate our German comrades, Lieutenant Tolkien, and they have surely treated us well enough. It would be unwise, however, to give up our own men for one measly life," Lance-Corporal Priestley, with his Bradfordian accent and his thick eyebrows, interceded. "What is one Churchill against every workingman in this army?" A silence fell over them. Good man, Priestley. The rain pelted the tent, the men stayed quiet, and Captain Wedgwood Benn passed the file back to the major. Pollitt motioned to speak. "When are we going home, at least?" The question sat upon their collective tongues, and Harry's was elected to speak. "There's a revolution at home and we all-..." "Nothing has been confirmed... yet. Once the Royal Navy has been cleared from the Channel, I expect we shall be sent to the Port of Calais. However, the Sailors' Committees are all in Kiel, as far as I know." It was a guess: a long-shot. The reply from Paris will have some information, at least. Major Attlee expected at least half the Navy ended up in mutiny, but it seemed as if no reassurance was forthcoming. Another silence fell over them. "If that is all, comrades." The Committee rose as one. Each member placed his fist against his temple, said his goodbyes, and shuffled outside. Attlee returned to his desk, uneasy with the great many tasks he still had to attend to. Eden was saluting like a mutineer, Attlee noted as he drew his head from his desk and upwards to face his young assistant. "Captain." "Yes, comrade sir?" His revolutionary mannerisms were still lacking in places, and they even sounded rather daft in his Etonian accent. "If we have any tea left, comrade, then I would like a cup." Eden nodded and turned to leave. "And a newspaper, if at all possible... the newest one you can find. I should like to see if MacDonald and Lansbury haven't already raised the red flag over Westminster."