Dedicated to the memory of 2337543 Sergeant Edgar Stanton (1919–2011) of The Royal Corps of Signals and colleagues of Station X, the British Forces personnel involved in Yugoslavia, Jani Kovac and the Yugoslav partisans who are acknowledged for their work behind enemy lines providing ‘ammunition’ for the Bletchley Park code breakers. Also acknowledged is the part played by Italian partisans in the destruction of significant strategic Axis reserve supplies in the Caves of Postojna.
Edgar gave nothing away about his involvement before Government recognition over 60 years after the events and too little afterwards. This book was inspired by the author’s conversations with Edgar following the issue of commemorative medals in the first decade of the 21st century. This acknowledgement by the U.K. Government was the first his family knew of these epic events in the Second World War, 1939–45.
Although following the chronological progress of the period, this novel is a fiction inspired by talks between Edgar and the author and the author’s memories of those times.
Coral Lynn Jackson - Edgar Stanton’s Daughter
John Stanton - Edgar Stanton’s Son
‘The Lambeth Walk’ from the West End show Me and My Girl. Lyrics by Douglas Furber and L Arthur Rose, (Music Noel Gay.) This was a huge dance ‘craze’ promoted by Lupino Lane.
Edgar Stanton. Born 26th December 1919 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
Parents, Percy and Polly Stanton.
Percy, a postman, worked 5 a.m. until mid-day/ 2 p.m. until his post round was complete.
Wireless Telegraphy was the early 20th century ‘Smart ‘Phone.
Percy taught himself and his children Nancy and Edgar, Morse code.
Polly and Percy took in lodgers, workers at the Post Offices (Wireless Telegraphers?)
This was the environment of Edgar’s upbringing.
Even as a very young boy, he was proficient in sending and receiving Morse.
A talented raconteur, Edgar told of having ‘secret’ conversations, in Morse, with sister Nancy during lunch by tapping knives on their plates.
‘Secret Conversations’ subsequently took Edgar on an unusual and dangerous journey.
It was a journey about which he was prevented from speaking of for over 60 years.
Piecing together Edgar’s story is akin to finding a sixty-year old jigsaw puzzle in a ‘dusty attic,’ with half the pieces missing. It is impossible to even approach the truth after so long, and after Edgar’s death. The only options left being guesswork or fiction. Therefore, although using the background of Edgars’ memories and my memories of the Second World War, The Crooked Olive Branch is perforce a total fiction.
In July 1995 on the evening of our son’s wedding, Edgar and James Musty, a cousin, were talking on the terrace of the Avon Gorge Hotel. James, a British Airways captain, had visited the Caves of Postojna in Slovenia. These hugely cavernous spaces had been used by the German Army to store massive quantities of munitions, vehicles and fuel during the war.
During this conversation Jim sensed that Edgar knew so much more about these caves and the area, that there must be a story there. He said as much to me. At a subsequent family event in Maidenhead, Jim and I compared notes.
Late one morning in the mid-1980s I was working in my office in Horsham, West Sussex, when I received an urgent telephone call from Edgar. He and his wife Rosa were at Gatwick Airport. Due to a mix-up between Edgar and the travel agent he should have been at Heathrow for the intended flight to Ljubljana. “Could I ferry them across to Heathrow in time to catch the 14:50 flight?”
This I achieved with seconds to spare. They were being met in Ljubljana by ‘friends.’
Hearing this, Jim Musty was convinced there was a connection leading to a story.
Why Ljubljana? Why there and not a package holiday to Dubrovnik? Did Edgar know more than he was telling about the sabotage of the German reserve munitions, fuel and vehicles carried out by British Sappers aided by Italian Partisans?
Ten years passed until Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, finally acknowledged the work carried out by Edgar and his colleagues in Yugoslavia behind the German lines.
Edgar and his colleagues of Station X and the Bletchley Park Code Breakers then were released from their oath to observe the Official Secrets Act and were given Citation Certificates and Medals.
Then and only then did Edgar acknowledge his service in S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) and that it was he who sent the success of operation signal to headquarters of the destruction of the German reserves at Postojna. The signal code name “FLAMBO.”
The ‘friends’ meeting Edgar and Rosa in Ljubljana Airport were Jani Kovac and his wife. Jani the son of the train driver who in the occupation was instrumental in helping Edgar escape the S.S. following FLAMBO, by hiding him in the overhead toolbox in his cabin. Transporting him from Ljubljana to his home in North East Slovenia. Edgar survived several weeks hidden in their home until the S.O.E. arranged his repatriation.
Edgar died in 2011. The full story died with him. I gleaned only the basics, these memories being clouded by time. Edgar’s stock answer to my questions was, “it was all such a long time ago.” As a result, I have resorted to a total fiction to alert the wider world to just how much is owed to Edgar and his colleagues at Station X and Bletchley Park.
Coincidence or the hand of providence?
Many years had passed until Edgar retired. Whether or not he thought to himself ‘What do I do now?’ He clearly resolved to try and find Jani Kovac, the train driver who helped save his life.
This presented problems and not just with the passage of time.
As with Alan Turing, he was still held under oath by the Official Secrets Act as were all from Station X and Bletchley Park.
Under the sixty year rule he was bound to stay silent. How then would he explain to his wife Rosa and his family why he was compelled to try and find a Jani Kovac in Yugoslavia?
In addition, the name Kovac is common, maybe as common as Smith in England. There were probably thousands named Jani Kovac at the time. Edgar was also sparse of knowledge not knowing just where he was behind enemy lines. His only solid geographical reference point had been Ljubljana. The Yugoslavian partisans had hidden Edgar there following FLAMBO.
The Nazi search net closing in, he was moved by the partisans via Jani Kovac’s train’s toolbox into some small town or village where he remained for several weeks until the S.O.E arranged his repatriation.
Rosa was finally persuaded. She and Edgar booked on a flight to Ljubljana and into a hotel. This was either a massive leap of faith or maybe he just had to know that he had tried his best.
With so little hope and in order to keep faith with his oath Edgar probably took Rosa to the Caves of Postojna behaving as any tourist would.
One day they took the bus to Lake Bled. In the evening, tired and wishing to return to the hotel, hey needed to find the bus stop. Rosa saw a coach load of schoolchildren and their teacher obviously on an outing to the lakes. She asked the teacher where to find the bus stop for the hotel. Fortunately, the teacher spoke a little English. Asking the name of the hotel and where?
Immediately the teacher offered to take them there on the coach which had spare seats and it was on their way home anyway.
It was a very happy coach; the children were singing and the teacher practising her English.
Edgar noted the name of the teacher and the school’s address.
On that coach, unbeknown to Edgar at the time, was Jani Kovac’s granddaughter Sabina! They returned to Rotherham in ignorance of just how close they had been.
Edgar once home, wrote to the teacher at the school thanking her for the kindness and explaining why they were in the country and asked her if she or anyone knew of a Jani Kovac. Maybe he thought the school coach was travelling south west where he had been taken. Or maybe not.
The teacher took Edgar’s letter to the school secretary, Cveta, a linguist, for translation.
Amazingly, Cveta happened to be Jani Kovac’s daughter-in-law who was married to Jani Kovac Jnr, his son!
One very sad note to end this scarcely believable historyis that Edgar’s saviour, Jani Kovac, died in 1947. Edgar never did get to thank him.
The Crooked Olive Branch relies mainly upon the author’s memory of a tumultuous decade from 1936 to 1946. The story, although complete fiction, is inspired by real events, experiences and histories.
Nine decades of learning colour the pages. Living long has taught that there are no absolutes in life and that action and interaction between people is mainly tempered and directed by experience. We can never be sure what is true. That which exists in the mind of each participant is at best subjective. This story contains elements of Edgar’s memories and the best of my memory. Both experiences and recollections are wrapped up in the tinsel of a tale inspired by memories of the Second World War.
Allowing for vagaries of memory and perception of histories, first and second hand, I was persuaded by some seemingly inaccurate offerings via all forms of communication, that my memory might just contribute something worthwhile to the history of the Second World War.
If it does not and my story only entertains it is hopefully still worthwhile and it is my way of maintaining mental alertness and staving off the incoming tide of atrophic deterioration.
My thanks are extended to all readers for helping to indulge the fancies of an old man.
All characters in the following novel, other than the obvious historical, are fictitious, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The Fourth Dimension
Time, the fourth dimension,
has no beginnings and no ends,
The clock is man’s invention, hours,
thoughts and all intention, time transcends.
This peg, to which we chain
our lives of ill forgiving minutes,
Restricts, like goats,
to trample in tight circles,
Which have small purpose
and few friends.
We cannot remember
true what has been,
Or know what might be seen.
You might ask why I am attending a wedding in a small town in Connecticut U.S.A. in the year 2020. The marriage is of special interest to me. A typical human reaction would be to think that I am here to preen.
Sorry, I ought to introduce myself. I am Lot. No, not that Lot. I am just one of the many Lots from the tribe Naphtali.
Should you think that this takes some believing, then consider the issue from a cared one in my charge. One Miriam Kessler, about whom there are many stories. She is part, a big part of this story I am about to tell, and I am following at this wedding.
Who is Miriam Kessler and why is she important? To partly answer this question, I wind time forward to the year 2036. I am stood at the graveside of the said Miriam Kessler who has died, aged 101, in the village of St. Mary Upperford where she lived for most of her life. In the moment of her passing her issue numbered almost 100 including grandchildren, great grandchildren and their issue. All these and their stories would not have existed if Miriam Kessler had become one of the many victims of the Nazi authorities of Munich, Bavaria in 1938. As it is now, there are enough stones around her grave to build a small house. If you carry all issue and their procreation forward just a few hundred years, there are more people and stories than there are pebbles on Chesil Bank.
Back to the wedding. The bride and groom are connected to my assignment to be Charge Angel to Miriam Kessler. Why, how? To learn more, you will need to read the story.