Otto Wagner, left a huge house and farm estate in Southern Bavaria to a British Army Surgeon who saved his life. The question is, how did a private soldier in the German army gain such wealth? Why are ex Nazis so keen to obtain this estate for themselves?
In 1999, Michael Packham a twenty-six-year-old doctor working in his local hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department receives a letter from a distinguished London law firm, who are seeking to identify the beneficiary of the Last Will and Testament of a former German Panzer tank radio operator who fought against the Allied Forces in the Battle of Normandy in 1944.
Otto Wagner, who’s will it is, has left a huge house and farm estate in Southern Bavaria to a British Army Surgeon who saved his life during the Battle of Falaise. The question is, how did a private soldier in the German army obtain such wealth?
Why is an organisation of ex Nazis so keen to obtain this estate for themselves and will do everything they can in order for this to happen?
This is a work of fiction based around well-known German historical figures before World War Two. My characters are all purely imaginary.
Copyright Graham Sutherland 2021
The time was 7.50 a.m. I was due to finish my shift as a doctor in A&E in just ten minutes at eight. It had been a routine Thursday night Friday morning in casualty. The first four or five to present themselves were all feeling unwell. One had stomach pains, another earache and another who was being very abusive towards everyone and to be fair was in much pain, was enduring a terrible boil in the lower middle of his back. Once lanced, his demeanour changed immediately from being aggressive to being apologetic and grateful.
After midnight patients attending A&E quite often change from those with natural causes of illness or unfortunate accidents to those of the more preventable type. The first of these to arrive was a man who had got into an argument over a girl in one of the town pubs. The argument had escalated, resulting in the man having a beer glass smashed into his face requiring stitches. He was lucky not to have lost the sight in his left eye!
Then there were two young women who quite clearly had had too many drinks and were puking up all over themselves shortly followed by a man in his late teens who was suffering from drug abuse. You might say a typical shift in A&E.
I was just finishing writing up the notes of one of the casualties before preparing to leave for home, when the doors swung open, revealing two paramedics pushing a man on a stretcher whose head was covered in blood. The paramedics advised me that he had crashed his Mercedes into a telegraph pole at speed. They speculated that the initial cause might have been, that he had fallen asleep at the wheel and had woken up when he realised that the car was leaving the road, because of the skid marks caused by severe braking which was too late to avoid the impact.
He was still very much alive but unconscious. Without the safety feature of air bags, I could well have been looking at a corpse. My next two hours were spent cleaning him up and determining what injuries had been sustained to his body. After the various x-rays and scans it was apparent that he had damaged his spinal cord. During this time, he regained consciousness although he had no recollection as to what had happened. One of my colleagues, then took over and I wearily left the hospital to make my way home.
Home for me was a two bedroomed flat in the middle of town that I shared with my partner Louise. I had first met Louise after moving into the area to start my job at the local hospital. She was working at the estate agents when I was looking to buy. I immediately found her attractive. She was witty, smart, confident, and vivacious. I deliberately prolonged my search for a suitable place, with her showing me several properties over the course of several weeks before I plucked up the courage to ask her out.
As a teenager, I had had truly little confidence with girls. I never quite knew what words to find to strike up a conversation. It was always the fear of being turned down and the feeling that followed of utter rejection and humiliation. It appeared to me that most of my male friends at that time did not share these inhibitions as they went from one girlfriend to another, sometimes dating two girls at the same time.
We had been dating for a couple of months before she showed me the two bedroomed flat in the middle of town. She was so enthused with it, it ticked all the boxes according to her, that she liked. Although now twenty-four years old, she was still living with her parents and had never left the area where she had been born.
I then agreed with her that I also loved it, and that I would love it even more if she moved in with me. It was marvellous, there was no hesitation whatsoever. She threw her arms around my neck and kissed me with such passion and laughed excitedly and said, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That all happened two years ago. Louise and I get on very well, mainly because of our sporting interest. We both enjoy playing tennis and golf when we can. She is a better golfer than I am playing off a handicap of 14 whereas I am 18. Our other love is to go off into the hills on our mountain bikes. It is so exhilarating.
I arrived home a little after eleven in the morning. Usually if I am on the night shift, I am just arriving home as Louise is leaving for work. We generally have a quick five-minute discussion. Me telling her what I have dealt with in A&E, her advising me of the latest developments in the TV series ‘Sex and the City’. A fleeting kiss ‘goodbye’ and she is gone. I normally make my way into the kitchen and make coffee and toast. I then scan the newspaper, after which I go upstairs to sleep.
I have found that the quality of sleep is never as good during the daytime as it is during the normal expected hours of night-time. Because I was late home this morning, Louise had long departed for work at the estate agents and would not return home until two in the afternoon. Feeling unusually tired, I skipped coffee, toast and the newspaper and instead crawled into bed.
After what seemed a noticeably short period of sleep, Louise woke me gently stroking the side of my face. I enquired as to the time and was advised that it was five forty in the afternoon. I was encouraged to get up out of bed by the promise of a cup of freshly ground coffee accompanied by two poached eggs on toast. First, I took a long, luxuriant shower and slowly shaved with the shower water pleasantly cascading over my head and shoulders and running down my body. The therapeutic benefits of a shower can never be understated.
After applying the aftershave that Louise most liked on me, I slipped into a nice crisp white short-sleeve shirt and summer slacks and made my way downstairs. The steaming mug of coffee was already sitting on the breakfast bar and Louise was just slipping the two poached eggs onto the toast. Louise was incredibly pleased with herself as she announced that she had sold two properties that day and together with the other sales that she had made during the previous couple of weeks, was now looking forward to a healthy end of the month bonus.
After consuming my poached eggs and toast, I noticed four or five letters from the morning’s postal delivery that Louise had picked up on her way in and had placed at the end of the breakfast bar. The first three were the usual household bills. The fourth was an invitation to attend an interview at a neighbouring hospital. I had applied for a more senior position which offered greater prospects and a substantial increase in salary. The last envelope that I inspected was of remarkably high quality. On the back was the embossed name of a City of London Law Firm, Hildreth and Watkins, established in 1906.
My heart immediately sunk. In this litigious age, so many health authorities are being taken to court for failures in medical care. Many are unjustified but are settled out of court because defending such claims usually is more costly than settling. A colleague of mine who had just returned from working in a hospital in California had been successfully sued for apparently misdiagnosing the condition of an 87-year-old lady who died a year later. I was wracking my brains to think if there had been any patient that I had diagnosed and treated that had made a complaint afterwards. I could think of none.
I opened the envelope and retrieved the letter inside which was typed also on an incredibly heavy bond paper with the watermark of ‘Hildreth and Watkins’ running through the middle from bottom to top. I then proceeded to read the contents.
Dear Mr Packham – We have been instructed by an overseas law firm to trace and establish the so far missing beneficiary of a large estate in Southern Germany of their deceased client. We have spent almost two years in researching military archives as well as engaging a firm of genealogists. With all the information that has been collated and drawn together, there is a distinct possibility that we may have concluded our search and that you are that beneficiary.
To establish if this is the case or not, we would be most grateful if you could arrange an appointment and travel to London and we will then explain all. If you and your partner Louise, I believe that that is her name, would require an overnight stay, then all your expenses will be taken care of.
I sat there for a moment or two with what must have been a puzzled look before hearing Louise say, ‘Anything of interest?’
‘I’m not sure. This could be genuine, or it could be a scam. What do you think?’
Louise took the letter from me whilst at the same time dunking her plain digestive biscuit in her coffee and proceeding to eat the soggy biscuit at the same time.
‘Hmm,’ she muttered. ‘Could be interesting. There is no harm in giving them a phone call. An evening spent in a London hotel with my favourite man with all expenses paid, I find quite appealing.’
Before I had chance to reply, my mobile phone went off. I immediately recognised the number as the hospitals. It was Irene, one of our senior administrators. She explained that there had been a serious accident on the nearby motorway involving a coach full of German tourists that had rolled down the motorway embankment resulting in many serious casualties. All hands to the pump were required.
I looked at Louise, I knew that she would be disappointed as it was unlikely that I would be back home for several hours. We had booked a meal for two at our favourite Italian Restaurant and had tickets to the Theatre afterwards to see ‘The Buddy Holly Story’. We both loved the music of the late 50s and 60s.
‘I am so sorry my sweet,’ I said. ‘There has been a major incident involving a coach full of tourists. An emergency has been declared at the hospital, they are requesting as many doctors, medics and nurses as possible to help out.’
Ever since we moved in together, Louise has always been a pragmatist. We both share a deep love and understanding for one another and fully respect each other’s decisions. Louise concealed her disappointment, in the knowledge that I had to do what I had to do.
‘Well, you had better do what your duty and training demands. After all we would expect the same if it were us who were passengers on that coach.’
‘Thank you for your understanding, I will call you when I am able to. May I suggest that you don’t cancel this evening and instead invite your young sister? She has after all just broken up with her boyfriend and I am sure would enjoy an evening out with her older, wiser sibling.’
‘Yes. That is a good idea. I may just do that. Take care. Love you.’
‘I love you too.’ With that, a quick hug and a kiss that was all too short, I found myself exiting the front door and running towards my cars parking space.
I arrived at the hospital some ten minutes after the first casualties had arrived. Generally, they were the less serious cases. I was advised that the fire brigade was at that very moment cutting passengers out of the coach who were still trapped in their seats. Sadly, several passengers had been thrown through the side windows and had died at the scene despite the valiant efforts of the paramedics to save them.
A fleet of ambulances had been sent to the scene. One by one, they began to return, now carrying the more seriously injured patients. When such an emergency occurs, which fortunately is rare, whereby several casualties arrive at the same time. The scene can resemble that of a busy kitchen in a top London hotel. Everyone seems to be shouting instructions at once. It is the nearest that I know to organised chaos. But there is an order to it.
The first casualty that I am taking responsibility for is a young woman who I would judge to be in her late thirties. She has a serious head wound and her left arm appears to be badly broken. As we are wheeling her into the first available A&E bay, the senior paramedic is giving me a prognosis and advising me of the care that they have administered, including injections to relieve the pain.
As the attending physician it is my duty to carry out the investigations and procedures necessary to establish a diagnosis and then give advice and provide treatment where necessary and if necessary, calling the appropriate consultant should an urgent operation be deemed to be required. There were so many urgent things that needed to be done, and just for a fleeting moment I thought of my grandfather David McKay who was an army surgeon taking part in the Normandy Landings and the utter chaos and lack of facilities afforded to him to saving lives. It must have been as close to being in Hell as one could imagine.
In comparison, my situation was a good deal better. Lighting, medicines, nurses were all available. In these situations, it is always a question of limited time. The most pressing thing in this case was to discover if there was damage to the brain caused by the impact to her head. After cleaning and stitching the gaping head wound, I then authorised an MRI scan.
The scan revealed a burst cerebral aneurysm which was causing a haemorrhage. I realised immediately the implications for this and called for our neurosurgeon, who like me had responded to the appeal and returned to give help. After studying the scans together, he advised me that a craniotomy was urgently required. This I realised would mean removing part of the skull to access the brain.
I am always amazed how surgeons can issue instructions with authority, speed, and calmness. There never seems to be any panic. Everything is under control. We were lucky to have Mike Dean our neurosurgeon at our hospital. He rapidly instructed the operating theatre to be readied and commanded me to assist with the operation as well as requesting that the senior anaesthetist on duty be present. We then went through the scrubbing routine where our hands and forearms are decontaminated before donning our sterile surgical gown and gloves.
When in an operating theatre, time seems to stand still. This was the first time I had assisted in such an operation. It is not until it is over, and you remove your gloves and gowns and wash again, that you feel physically and mentally exhausted.
I returned to A&E. It was now a quarter past two, Saturday morning. I was advised that all the casualties from the coach accident had now been dealt with. The latest count read for solemn reading. Out of thirty-four occupants on the coach, seven had died, including the driver and his female tour guide who was leading the trip. Nine others were in intensive care, including the patient of mine, whilst the rest had escaped with just minor injuries.
I walked into the A&E waiting area to see if there was anyone that I could help. I discovered a middle-aged gentleman who was complaining loudly that he had arrived at A&E two and a half hours before the coach accident and yet no one had come to examine his ingrowing toenail that was keeping him awake. There are times, especially like now, when you are extremely tired, when you would like to shout loudly at someone for being so stupid and for wasting the hospital’s time. But you know you cannot do this. So, I invited him through, apologised for the delay, and explained the unusual emergency of the coach crash.
I examined the big toe on his right foot. I then got him a bowl of warm water for him to soak his foot and gave him some ibuprofen to ease the pain. I then advised him to wear some comfortable shoes or sandals. Mike Dean the neurosurgeon then popped his head around the curtain.
‘Just like to thank you Doctor Packham for your assistance in theatre this evening. I have every confidence that our patient will make a full recovery. I believe that you were working last night, is that correct?’
‘Yes, that is correct.’
‘Well then, I suggest that you go home now and get some rest. When are you next due to work?’
‘I am on days for the next two weeks, starting at eight on Monday morning.’
‘Well, that doesn’t give you much of a weekend to recover. Be sure before you leave at the end of your shift on Monday to look in on Tanya Wolfgang, the young German lady who we operated on just now. Take care.’
And with that, he was gone. At the same time one of the nurses appeared and advised me that she would take over and look after our ingrowing toenail casualty. I didn’t argue.
On the way out to the car park, I grabbed a quick coffee from the vending machine in the hope of a caffeine boost. I wearily opened the door to the car and climbed in, sinking into the driver’s seat for the fifteen-minute drive home.
I unlocked my front door, glancing at my wristwatch as I did so. It was just before four. I entered the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water, drinking it as I slowly crept up the stairs. I opened the bedroom door as quietly as I could, so as not to disturb Louise who I could sense was fast asleep. I undressed in the dark and slowly got inside and under the bedcovers.
I felt absolutely exhausted. However, I was amazed how snuggling up to the naked body of the woman that I loved could have such an immediate effect of arousal. Louise murmured and then slowly turned over to face me. In no time at all our two bodies were joined together as one. To my mind there is no greater pleasure in life.
The post reaction to our love making could not have been more in contrast between us. I was now totally zonked out and was fully asleep in just a couple of minutes. Louise on the other hand was now fully awake and unable to go back to sleep. I guess, that now feeling grumpy, she got up out of bed, went downstairs and made herself a coffee, before going into the office to catch up on some agency work.
I awoke at around eleven. Upon going downstairs, there was a note on the breakfast bar from Louise advising me that she had gone shopping and expected to be back at around noon. I then went and showered, got changed and made myself some coffee and toast. I was reading the daily paper when Louise returned.
We had a lovely weekend. On the Saturday afternoon we went and played tennis and, on the Sunday joined another couple for a competitive game of golf. It was during Sunday evening that Louise mentioned to me the letter from Hildreth and Watkins. As I was expecting a hectic workload on the Monday, Louise said that she would telephone Daniel Watkins and ascertain if it was genuine and if so, arrange for us to visit the following Friday when she knew we were both off work.test