I'll See You Down There

by Solsticeman

 

Chapter 4

       

Spandau, Germany. 1939.

Wiping tears from their faces, Gott and Gerhard ran out of the woods and down the hill.

     It was a new world, a different world and there was no changing it back.

     There was love, and there was now danger. They were aware of the danger, and they were intelligent.

     A few times a week they went for their run. They allowed the other Jungmannen to see that it wasn’t a serious run, just an excuse for a brisk stroll in the country. That allowed them to be away for a while, and by running properly when out of sight they could add to the time they had alone in the wood… ten minutes.

     No matter what… ten minutes was all that they allowed themselves.

     Their ten-minute rule meant that… well, it meant very little sex! In fact it meant almost none. They quickly found that the time was better spent simply holding each other, maybe kissing, but not always. Kissing made them want more and more wasn’t safe. Maybe when winter was past and spring and warm weather arrived they could admit that it was just a walk in the country… if the instructors didn’t forbid such a frivolous pursuit then a quiet walk held more prospect of… maybe twenty minutes. The prospect of twenty minutes, of time that didn’t have to be accounted for, that kept them going.

     Meanwhile release mainly came from watching each other across the room after midnight.

     That went served them well until mid-summer.

     During their small amount of free-time during those summer weekends, Gerhard and Gott explored the local countryside. They now had Napola driving licenses and a garage full of both cars and motorbikes. Our boys preferred the motorbikes… or, rather… motorbike. They claimed that they shared a bike because it was fairer for others who might need one. Actually it was because the one on the pillion seat could legitimately put his arms round the rider… He could even slip his hands down and feel up the rider. Fortunately the school didn’t insist on leathers, so their thin summer trousers hid very little from a gentle fondle.

     It was on one of these rides that they came upon a gate with a sign that said Obermeer FKK.

     FKK meant a naturist site, and meer suggested a swimming site. The boys turned in, their curiosity piqued. The office were friendly and charged them a nominal sum to enter as visitors. They said it would be even cheaper using a season ticket. The boys thought they might just be in heaven… and indeed they were.

     Perhaps it was natural or perhaps the sand had been trucked in, either way there was a beautiful inland beach lined with shade trees. They lay in the sun… entering the water only to cool off. Cooling off was instantaneous, as was their return to sunbathing. The water was fresh from the mountains and absolutely glacial

     Lying naked in the sun was at first somewhat embarrassing. Perhaps a year earlier it would have been too embarrassing but they had been living in close proximity to other young men, swimming nude and showering and washing together. The women were another matter. Neither boy was particularly aroused by them, although they could appreciate the beauty of some of the young girls… The mothers reminded them of their own mothers and their reaction was to find something absorbing in their book.

     Eventually, after an afternoon of looking mainly at each other, but also, having rather more guiltily ogled passing young boys, they would take their towels and disappear into the trees… They would reappear some half-hour later flushed and able to face another week of pretending that the other wasn’t more than just a friend.

 

It was on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon that disaster struck. As they went to collect their motorbike from near the office they saw two men examining it and making notes. Then the men went into the office for a few minutes.

     When they left, Gerhard went into the office and asked who the men were that had been looking at their bike. The girl behind the desk said that they had shown military-police passes and asked who had been riding the bikes. They had insisted on seeing the register. She said that she had told them that the two young men who came by motorbike were pleasant and well-behaved and had been visiting since early summer. She said she hoped that they wouldn’t be in trouble.

     All that they could do was hope that the policemen had been satisfied with what the girl had told them and that it wouldn’t go any farther…

     They were out of luck on that score!

     It was Wednesday when their instructor came to find them. The Commandant had been notified that one of the Napola motorbikes had been spotted at a nudist beach, and that it was a regular visitor. The instructor had been sent to ensure that it never happened again, and told to ensure that the lessons learned left a permanent impression on the Jungmannen involved… preferably a permanent mark as well!

     He had been tempted to dismiss them from the school, but remembered that the Fallschirmjäger had an interest in one of them. A phone call to Oranienburg to ask what they thought received a clear view that while the boys should certainly be disciplined and Gott taught that his impulsive nature needed curbing… dismissal was not an option… The Luftwaffe would not be pleased, and a general’s name was mentioned to clarify just how seriously dismissal was not an option.

     The instructor, himself a junior Luftwaffe officer, had decided that collective punishment would be carried out on the following Saturday during what would normally be a sporting recreation period. Their complete Hundred was to present itself in the gymnasium to witness an unusual sporting event… an even more unusual punishment.

     A boxing match!

     Each bedroom of their Hundred, twenty rooms of five or six boys each was told to select one of their number to represent them in a series of five minute rounds. Gott would fight ten boys one after the other, and in parallel… they had set up two boxing rings side by side… Gerhard would fight the other ten.

     Both of our young men were physically fit and tough but to fight ten, who would be continually replaced with fresh opponents. That was not going to be easy… and clearly wasn’t intended to be. It was intended to leave a mark.

     Some bedrooms were said to have chosen their best men, while others more prone to bullying had delegated the task to the weakest amongst them. It was a matter of luck the order in which they would enter the ring.

     Gerhard was apprehensive, Gott was much more optimistic… the last person to enter the ring with him had gone home in bandages!

     Gerhard was the one who more nearly got it right!

 

The gymnasium was crowded when they arrived. They each had a second from their room. That accounted for four of them from their bedroom, the fifth would have to fight one of them! It was not a good room to have been assigned. Their friends were philosophical about the risks. Clearly it was intended that the two miscreants should get badly hurt… probably not badly injured, but hurt… certainly hurt. The school’s intention was that everyone would get hurt and that twenty young-men would have reason to feel angry at the two who had caused the mess in the first place. However, compared to the two due to fight for fifty minutes the ones who faced five minutes could hardly say much. They were after all, in the main, being prepared for fighting careers.

     Discreet questions were asked as to what happened if injury prevented completion of all the rounds. They were told that for fit young men with gloves on and no particular skill, that shouldn’t be a problem… Knockout blows were very unlikely in their situation. Things began to look bleak.

     At the appointed hour they entered the gymnasium with their seconds and climbed into the ring.

     Gerhard had drawn a brawny boy who proceeded to pummel him with enthusiasm and little skill. Gerhard knew enough to block most of the blows with his arms and landed a few delightfully straight rights that persuaded his opponent to be more careful.

     Gott seemed luckier with his first… it was one of the weaker ones, delegated to take their punishment by the stronger members of his room. He looked apprehensive. Gott decided that this was a round that could be finished as swiftly as possible. The youngster had little skill and less strength… destined for pilot rather than infantry. Gott feinted for his ribs and followed with a massive left hook. The smaller boy was lifted clean off the ground and landed unconscious. It took the rest of the five minutes to revive him and carry him away to the infirmary.

     That cured Gott’s enthusiasm. He felt guilty, he hadn’t intended to hurt a boy that really shouldn’t have been in the ring in the first place. It was the silence that followed the thud as the boy hit the mat that told him that the rest of the Hundred didn’t approve either. Both Gott and the Hundred saw what had just happened as bullying.

     The next in his list was fitter, more aggressive and perhaps determined to avenge the previous round. Gott raised his guard and simply solidly blocked all attacks for the required five minutes. That brought a murmur of approval as the round ended. Gott was beginning to get the feel of the gymnasium. It wasn’t exactly on his side, but nor did it seem as firmly against him.

     The next was another who shouldn’t have been there. This time Gott simply maintained his guard. He made no attempt to hit the weaker boy and simply allowed him to pummel him as much as he wanted. The kid seemed to be enjoying himself. It was probably the most success he had ever had in a boxing ring.

     As the bell signalled the end of the round, Gott patted the boy on the chin with the lightest of taps… just to show him that he could have if he had wanted to.

     That time there was a firm round of clapping when Gott went to the boy’s corner and patted him on the back. The boy looked pleased.

     Gott now drew the young man from his room. This time they pummelled each other furiously, landing solid punch after punch… on the other’s guard. Nobody could accuse them of wasting time… On the other hand not a single blow landed anywhere serious.

     The Hundred could see the humour in what had happened and there was hilarity as the bout ended. Hilarity was not what the instructors intended, and they were seen talking seriously to the remaining contestants. It began to look serious again.

     For both of them the next few were stronger and exhausting… and were taking it seriously. It was clearly safer to block as many blows as possible rather than try anything fancy, but… that involved blows to the biceps that sapped their strength and numbed the arms they were depending on for protection. Every now and then a straight right was needed to remind their opponent to keep his distance. Gerhard managed to knock one down. The referee deemed him unable to continue. Gott felled another one unconscious. This time the crowd approved.

     The remainder started to keep a safer distance, regardless of instructor disapproval.

     By now both boys were exhausted, their faces and chests were covered in blood and the crowd had fallen silent. They each now had another three to get through. Some of them were strong and even Gott was knocked down and took time to recover. The referee simply stopped the clock until they were ready to continue… ready meaning standing up enough for their opponent to knock them down again.

     Both the tenth opponents were huge, presumably chosen that way to end the match with both the miscreants on the mat. It didn’t work out that way, which may have been a pity. Gott landed a lucky right hook that felled a young-man considerably larger than him. Gerhard was now experienced enough to use his last remaining strength to simply block blows.

     Both of them were still standing… covered in blood, both eyes closing, but… standing.

     It was over. Or it should have been.

     Gerhard was helped from his ring and then… his referee took him by the arm and propelled him into Gott’s ring…

     “Now we shall see you exert the self-discipline that you came here to learn!”

     Gott was appalled. If there was anyone he didn’t want to beat to a pulp it was Gerhard.

     What was worse, Gerhard looked absolutely exhausted. He wasn’t even going to be able to defend himself.

     Gott made a swift and pragmatic decision… There was only one way to avoid causing Gerhard further punishment.

     The bell sounded, they came out of their corners. Gerhard was as covered as he could be, with clearly no intention of hitting anyone. He was attempting to survive another five minute beating.

     Gott feinted with his left towards his lover’s ribs and as Gerhard dropped his guard to catch the blow, a blow that Gott had no intention of landing… Gott followed with all his remaining strength in a right hook that caught his friend on the point of his chin, lifted him into the air, and landed him on the mat… mercifully unconscious. He stayed that way for an alarmingly long time.

     If Gott had had the strength he would have gone to his friend, but common sense and exhaustion combined to prevent indiscretion.

     Instead, seeing their instructor coming towards them, he struggled to his feet, went to where Gerhard was being helped and picked up the boxing gloves that had been removed from him. He went to meet the instructor… every step a struggle to remain upright and show no pain.

     He threw the bloodstained gloves to the man.

     “Your turn I think… … Sir.”

     The gloves were caught with an expression of disgust. They were thrown into a bucket beside the ring and his leader left without saying anything.

     The other instructors were silent. The afternoon had not gone as planned.

     If anything, the boys had both won.

     Jungmannen 2 : Instructors 0

     Far from being punished and humiliated, Gott had been seen to avoid hurting weak opponents, and had then spared his friend unnecessary punishment.

     Then he had humiliated the instructor.

     It wasn’t what they had intended or what Gott wanted but the Napola had a hero.

     Every school should have a hero… Wise schools create heroes to bring them credit.

     This school simply had a hero, whether the instructors liked it… or not.

     The crowd didn’t make a sound…

     A number of the senior boys patted them on the back. Among them were their opponents and also those who simply felt distaste at what had taken place. Four of the most senior Jungmannen helped them to the infirmary. One of them even said something decidedly undisciplined to an instructor who came too close.

     They made it clear that the instructors had had their fun and should now leave it to the young-men to clear up the mess that the instructors had created.

     It had not been a good day for the instructors. But… it was a good day for Gott and Gerhard.

     For the next week, members of other Hundreds, as well as their own, went out of their way to be seen to shake them by the hand or give them their portion of pudding… The friends of those they had fought wanted to show the instructors that no-one held it against the two that people had been hurt in the ring…

     It was the instructors who were made to feel isolated.

     Gott in particular had learned a great deal about leadership. Without unnecessary violence he had tamed a violent situation, and had won the sympathy and support of virtually everyone there. He may not have learned the lesson intended for him, but he had learned a valuable lesson on how to make men follow him.

 

Throughout that week, Gott went to find the youngsters that he had injured in the ring, and apologised profusely to each and every one of them. They all, without exception shook him by the hand, and made a point of going into dinner at his side.

     At first the two of them had faces and arms that looked like a battlefield. They both had cut eye-brows that had needed stitches and Gerhard had a broken nose that required splinting. Both of them had split lips and bruised cheeks.

     But… it has to be said, the two of them had indeed learned a lesson. They would never again be able to relax together unless somewhere absolutely secure and behind a locked door.

     It was the end of schoolboy innocence.

     They were the only ones who knew how and why it had all happened. Even the staff who had arranged their punishment didn’t know that.

     Speaking of the staff who had arranged their punishments, there were a few small post-scripts.

     The first was a very, very brief letter from the Luftwaffe general who had supported Gott’s application. It simply said…. “Well done!” Gott smiled when he saw it and put it away safe… just in case.

     The second was more ominous, and caused some of his teachers to become colder towards him…

     The instructor in charge of their Hundred, who had organised their fight… disappeared. There was no ceremony, just a new leader.

     Gott’s nemesis had been a Luftwaffe officer seconded to the Napola. The Luftwaffe had simply recalled him to his squadron.

 

Six months later, Gott was passing the board that recorded in neat gold lettering the names of Napola members who had died for the Fatherland. The instructor’s name was there.

     It all put a bit of a damper on his relationship with Gerhard.

 

It had been nearly a year and Gott was long over-due a home vacation. The young-men had been entitled to weekends, even week-long time away from study. But… there had always been some activity… road-building, harvest-time… always something that the Fatherland needed more than Gott needed a holiday.

     He had received occasional letters from both Harald and Sigi, but they had gradually become further apart as Sigi’s training took up more and more of his energy. Then a month before, they had stopped altogether. He wrote to the major at the base and received confirmation that all was well, and that Sigi was operational in Harald’s unit. They had been posted to active service. He said that he couldn’t explain further but all had gone well and that both of them were due to return soon.

     The letter ended with a joking comment about the possibility of Gott coming to the base… boxing was to become part of their training program!  Unfortunately that was the week that the instructor’s name appeared in gold letters, so the joke fell a trifle flat.

 

Oranienburg, Germany. 1940.

Gott’s parents were of course pleased to see him. They commented on the scars on his face… the boxing match had not been entirely without consequence. His father was proud of them, his mother said they looked “manly”. Gott remembered how the incident had been caused and wasn’t sure that his mother was right. He looked forward to discussing it with Harald.

     As soon as he had satisfied his mother’s need to know everything that had happened to him, or at least, everything fit for her ears, he departed to visit the base… to report in… as he put it. It was Friday evening, so despite his mother’s protests he said that if he was invited, he would stay there for the weekend… if he was invited. He still didn’t know where things stood regarding indiscipline at the Napola. They had joked about boxing, but was that the official view? Would they still want him when he graduated?

     At the very least, he needed to speak to the major about starting his enlistment process. He left that part out of his explanation to his mother, but it was a large part of why he was glad that a Party rally on Saturday meant that his father was unavailable for the trip to the base.

     Gott would not have recognised it in himself, but… a year at the Napola had hardened him from school-boy to being a quite tough young-man… It had made him self-reliant and more than capable of making his own decisions. He was still their child and welcomed their approval of what he did, but he didn’t see any need to seek their approval for what he planned to do next.

     There was a new guard at the gate who didn’t immediately recognise him, so he sat on the grass while his name was checked with the adjutant’s office. The resulting conversation caused the guard to step smartly to the barrier and raise it with an equally smart salute. Gott smiled to himself… it might not last but the magic was still working.

     The major was delighted to see him, and once they were alone in his office, he remarked how well the damage to his face worked to make him seem more than a year older.

     “I’ve also acquired some respect for discipline, or at least for the consequences of indiscipline. It was an interesting lesson. We all learnt something from it…”

     “Even your hundred-instructor I think, although a bit too late.” The major said grimly.  “It was all most regrettable… but I understand you handled it with dignity. You offered the gloves to him at the end, so I hear.” The major said this with a smile.

     “Yes, it was a pity he didn’t accept… It might have all worked out differently if he had.”

     Gott felt sure that taking credit for having got a Luftwaffe officer killed was in rather poor taste, and that it was time to change the subject so he asked…

     “How has it worked out with the local Jugend-banns? Are there any more flyers?” Gott asked.

     “It’s going very well. The ideas have worked and we’ve a few hundred potential recruits working their way through. They’re taking rides in the basket and jumping from the high tower. Local schools say that enthusiasm for foreign languages, maths and physics have all improved. The great thing is… it’s the toughest of their kids that are studying hardest. That makes the difference. They set the trend. Instead of the daring ones skiving off lessons, it’s those kids who are studying to get the grades that will earn them time on the tower. Then it rubs off on the quieter kids, so the whole class benefits!” The major was clearly enthusiastic.

     “The problem has been,” He continued. “ We’ve been rather short-staffed here for the last six-months. There was the adventure in Belgium. We played a big part in that… I’ll leave Harald to tell you about it.

     The operation at Eben-Emael took just about every experienced man we had… everyone fit enough to jump anyway. That didn’t include me! I had to stay here and push paper…”  He didn’t seem happy about it. “At least it gave me time to promote the Jugend programme” and that didn’t seem to be a happy thought either.Gott smiled quietly… “That’s the problem with discipline… Doing what needs to be done, never seems as much fun as doing what’s not permitted!”

     “That’s very true… The Napola seems to have knocked some sense into you!” Then, with a laugh… “I did what you would have done… I tried falsifying my own records… They just sent them back saying “A very commendable try!” There are so many men in the Fatherland who are avoiding the front-line, and they reject one who really wants to go… It all seemed so unfair!”

     “That was how Sigi felt about jumping… I’m so pleased that you didn’t forbid it. If you had he certainly wouldn’t have jumped, even if Harald had turned a blind eye.”

     He regretted that the moment he said it… a blind eye was exactly why the major was no longer on the active list.

     The major saw his discomfort and silently waved it aside.

     “I’m glad that my blind eye got him his jump.” He said with a sardonic smile.

     “So how are my friends? Has 1940 been as exciting for them as it has for me?” Gott asked.

     “Almost as good as new!” Was the cryptic reply.

     “Have you seen them since you went to the Napola… since Sigi joined up for that matter?”

     “Not exactly… Strictly, the answer is yes… I saw you too! In Berlin!”

     “In Berlin? What were you doing in Berlin? What was I doing in…? Ah, April 20 The Führer’s fiftieth birthday parade!” The major said. “Were you there too?”

     “Yes. You were lucky, you were marching… The Napolas lined part of the route. We stood at attention for five hours… while the parade slowly ground past. What was worse was that the Fallschirmjäger led the parade, so, almost as soon as the parade had started I’d already seen the part that I was really interested in. After that it was four hours and fifty minutes of uniforms and tanks, then uniforms and field guns. It went on and on!”

     “But…” Said Gott. “You were magnificent! Even as only your sponsored student I was so proud… I just wished I was marching beside Sigi, behind Harald and you! It was a day to remember!”

     “I wonder if the enemy remembered the show of strength we laid on that day, when they declared war in September.”

     “Yes, it was a pity that they didn’t back down over Poland the way they did over the Sudetenland!”

     “I was a little surprised when they reacted as they did.” Said the major. “Well, it’s started now, so we just have to finish it… The Fallschirmjäger and the Luftwaffe will carry a large part of the burden.”

     “Yes, with the Channel in the way, if the war is to reach England, by air is the obvious way to do it! It will be a while before the army get to play a role this time.” Gott was excited by the prospect.

     “Will it last long enough for me to be part of the invasion do you think?”

     “I think… it will last more than long enough… long enough for you to be part of a number of invasions.” Was the reply.

     “Good! Sigi can’t have all the fun!”

     “Yes, Sigi… it’s time you went to see him. Are you staying the night? Shall I see you as Harald’s mess-guest?”

     “Oh yes please! That would be very enjoyable… Is there a balloon available this weekend?” Gott replied with a grin.

     “If there is… I really don’t want to know… But, I shall listen for you… just in case…. So, until dinner then.” He stood and shook hands with a boy who would shortly, within a year, be simply a recruit… He was bound to be a most unusual recruit, an alarmingly different recruit, if his record so far was anything to go by!

     “There’s an escort waiting for you, to take you across the parade-ground to the officer’s quarters.”

     Gott thanked him, a little puzzled by the formality… Maybe it was being at war, he had never needed to be escorted since his first visit.

     The major opened the door for him… also a little strange.

     The escort saw the officer in the doorway and crashed to attention with a smart salute.

     The major turned to Gott…

     “I shall be ten minutes!”

     He returned the escort’s salute, ordered him into the room and closed the door. His heels could be heard departing in the corridor.

     Gott turned to the escort… The smart paratrooper who stood there grinning, but at rigid attention… was Sigi.

     A year older and a year of training had turned him into a… soldier… no longer a boy but a soldier.

     Without thinking Gott grabbed him in a hug and… kissed him! Sigi stiffened slightly and then relaxed into the embrace and tentatively returned Gott’s kiss.

     “I’ve missed you!” They said in unison, and then laughed. They stood holding hands, at arms length… “You’ve grown!” Sigi said, and Gott said “You are so much beefier!” then…

     “You have a stripe… Gefreiter… already, a lance-corporal!”

     Sigi looked diffident at mention of his stripe…

     “Yes. Promotion was rapid after Eben-Emael… there were a number of vacancies to fill!”

     “A stripe is a stripe… especially valuable if it replaced someone who fell for the Fatherland!”

     Sigi looked pleased and gave him another hug.

     “Thank you! Most of us who got promoted in the field feel badly about it… our NCO’s were good men. They did some magnificent things that day!”

     They stood quietly, arms around each other… Both were too old to cry… It didn’t seem quite the place to kiss. It was comfortable just to lean against each other as the year faded from between them.

     Eventually the major returned. He smiled when he saw that they had moved to opposite sides of his office. They had both learned to control themselves over the last year. They were going to be a credit to his regiment.

     “Dismiss, both of you. Take Gottfried to find Harald… I expect you know where to find him. Then return to your duties.”

     Gefreiter Sigi saluted and did a square stamping turn to lead the way out the door. Gott smiled, and thanked the major.

     “I shall see you tonight at Mess dinner I imagine…”

     “Oh yes Sir, I’ve been looking forward to this meal for nearly a year!” Gott was still not easily over-awed. Time and training would put that right.

     Sigi relaxed as they left the Command office… “Shall we walk to the officers’ quarters by the long route? We weren’t told to hurry, were we?”

     “Indeed we weren’t, and I want to hear what you have been up to… How did you get promoted? Were you with Harald… at Eben-Emael?”

     “No, he was in the attack on the fort itself, I was with the attack on the bridges. But, we were together right up to the moment we climbed into the gliders. I was glad of that… I needed him that night… To be honest we were all a bit scared, it was the first time for most of us.”

     “So, you went with gliders, not parachutes?” Gott was curious, he had thought they would have attacked by parachute.

     Sigi became animated…

     “It was the Führer’s personal command… He saved a lot of lives that night. We weren’t happy about using gliders… we all prefer to parachute. They had to explain to us, when they could see that the glider plan was affecting morale. As we were isolated on the airfield at Cologne there was no risk to security… it was only an hour before take-off. Our commanding officer decided to explain the whole thing.”

     “The Führer commanded it?” Gott nudged Sigi’s story back on target.

     “Yes, the High-Command’s plan had been to fly us in and parachute-drop us onto the fort and bridges. That was when the Führer stepped in and corrected the plan. He said that the Belgian sound detection system would hear the transport aircraft… Gliders he said were silent!”

     “But surely radar would detect even the gliders!”

     “Ah, but that’s why gliders were perfect… the Belgians had only sound detection… they had no radar! Only the Führer had read the intelligence report carefully enough… Command had taken it for granted that the Belgians had radar!”

     “A silent attack then… brilliant! Pure Fallschirmjäger!”

     “Yes exactly. We had complete radio silence all the way. Our pilots navigated by following a line of signal fires on our side of the border pointing directly towards the Fort. They just followed the fires until the border and then released the gliders who kept the same heading until they could see the river. We literally landed right on top of the bridges and the fort. We were so close to the bridges that we captured their command point before they could fire the demolition charges to blow them up. Two out of the three of the bridges over the Albert Canal were used later to get the Wehrmacht into Belgium. It was a complete success!”

     Then he looked serious…

     “We lost comrades that night. We would have lost many more if the Führer hadn’t insisted on a glider attack.”

     This wasn’t the carefree Sigi that Gott remembered… Gefreiter Sigi was a Sigi that he could admire in the same way that he admired Harald. Gerhard was now much more like the old Sigi, and after the fight even Gerhard was subdued. He wondered for a moment if they had all left it too late… time would tell. He decided to leave the question until after they had settled back into their comfortable relationship, friends since they were five… It couldn’t be too late… could it?

     Of course Sigi wanted to know where the scars and bumps on Gott’s face had come from… even months later his face still showed evidence of that afternoon. Gott told him the short version of what had happened.

     “So, this Gerhard… he’s more than just a friend isn’t he?” Sigi was sensitive to shades of friendship.

     Gott nodded silently.

     “Knocking him out must have been awful!”

     “It was the only thing I could do… If he had stayed on his feet I would have had to batter him… or disobey the order to fight him… It really was the only thing I could do!”

     “It’s a good thing you still had enough strength to lay him out with a single punch! How long had you been fighting?”

     “About an hour, maybe a little more. I don’t think the instructors had expected it to go the whole distance. It was just bad luck that they had picked on two of us that could actually box. Most of the others were strong but soft, from expensive schools… The gymnasium was completely silent when he went down!”

     “So, they didn’t cheer when you won?”

     “They didn’t cheer because they had just seen me forced to knock out my best friend… to avoid fighting him!”

     Then he realised what he had said…

     “I’m sorry Sigi… You’re still my best friend… but Gerhard… we’d been together over six-months by that stage… fighting him was…”

     “Cruel!” Said Sigi with utter seriousness.

     “So, what about your instructor… How did he react when you won?”

     “Well, actually I think he came across to say “well done”. But, they had just taken Gerhard’s gloves off, so I picked them up and threw them to him and offered to fight him too!” Gott smiled grimly.

     “Did he accept?”

     “No, he got blood all over his uniform from where the gloves landed… He threw them down in disgust and stormed off.”

     “You need to be careful… He’ll hold it against you!”

     “No, he won’t. Two days later he was recalled to the Luftwaffe… His name is now on the board where they list the fallen!”

     “My God! It doesn’t pay to cross you does it!” Sigi looked at his friend with new eyes.

     “It was… unfortunate. The punishment had been quite cleverly thought out… He just hadn’t worked out what to do if Gerhard and I remained standing. He should have accepted the gloves at the end, or shaken my hand or helped to carry Gerhard to the sick-bay… something that demonstrated leadership. Instead, he panicked. He allowed it all to get out of hand and ended up looking silly… I did nothing to get him replaced and killed… He did that all on his own.”

     Gott said all this with no great emphasis… It was just a straightforward explanation of how his instructor came to be dead.

     Sigi felt a chill run up his spine. One day his friend would be a leader to be reckoned with.

     “We have both had an interesting year.” Said Gott. “Did you get wounded at Eben–Emael?”

     “No… not even a scratch. It said a lot for our training… and for the skill of our glider pilots. We arrived absolutely silently and were on top of the Belgians before they were aware that we were there. Not a single demolition charge went off!”

     “Surely the odds had been against you! Weren’t the bridges well defended?”

     “Spectacularly well-defended in fact; bunkers, block-houses and machine-guns, and of course the heavy guns of the fort itself, but those were intended to stop troops and armour from approaching the bridges. Once we were there the heavy guns were useless… unless they shelled their own men and the bridges! Do you know… each bridge had a Belgian division assigned to defend it. There were three divisions to protect the bridges and three hundred Fallschirmjäger attacked and defeated them!”

     He continued… “It was good to get it over… We had been rehearsing for weeks… glider landings, flame-throwers and the special explosives needed to deal with heavy concrete and guns. It was all so secret that we were confined to camp… no contact with the outside for the whole of that time. I was glad to get on and fight and have it over. I must admit, I was surprised to get out uninjured, four out of five of us did though… just one in five was killed or injured.” He paused…

     “I should warn you, Harald was wounded but not seriously, just a flesh wound. A machine gun bullet grazed his ribs. He was very lucky even a fraction closer and the energy in a heavy calibre round would have shattered them, as it was… just a graze.”

     “Let’s go and find him!” Gott said, suddenly wanting to see how not seriously wounded he really was.

     “Just remember to hug him gently… if saluting isn’t enough!”

     “Which side should I avoid?”

     “His left.”

 

When they reached the officer’s quarters there was a soldier on duty in the entrance. Seeing Sigi he crashed to attention and saluted. Both of our boys returned his salute and Sigi told him to inform Harald that he had a visitor. The lad ran off as ordered. Gott was still amazed to see the respect his friend commanded… Clearly he deserved his stripe.

     A few minutes later the guard returned, snapped to attention and said that Harald would be there soon. Then he went outside to resume his duty, leaving the boys in the entrance. That was where Harald found them five minutes later…

     “Sigi… Gott!”

     He had his right hand stretched towards them, his left was gripping the buckle of his belt.

     Gott seized his hand and drew him to him, their right shoulders meeting. He patted him gently on the back, while Harald thumped him in return, rather more firmly.

     “Don’t worry I shan’t break… though Sigi here has been doing his best!”

     “He has?” Gott said with a smile. He had seen the worry on his friend’s face as he described Harald’s near miss… and… he had seen the expression of relief when Gott had admitted that Gerhard was more than a friend. Putting two and two together on the way across, he was pretty sure that Harald and Sigi had become close, at least as close as he and Gerhard were.

     He wasn’t sure how he felt about that… He no longer had a crush on Harald… or Sigi, but on the other hand, that they were more than friends… well he wasn’t sure about that. He was glad now that he hadn’t allowed Sigi to do that. He was sure that was something you only did with someone really special, and in the year they had been apart they had drifted to the point that their friendship was special, but not quite in that way… not anymore.

     The hug felt good… he had never been particularly close to his father… they hadn’t hugged, and kisses were very formal. So, Harald seemed to be the father-figure that he had always needed. Not that he thought about it in those terms, but… the hug still felt good. He decided that he could live with the situation that he had found… although he might now need to wait until he was back with Gerhard.

     Doing that was now a more remote possibility than it had seemed a year ago, and it also seemed supremely unimportant. He had enjoyed the fun, the innocent boyish fun that he had shared with Sigi. He had delighted in the more passionate love that he had shared with Gerhard, even if neither of them had actually said the words that would have made it real. The fight and its aftermath had cut-off the relief they had been able to find for that passion, and that was something that he needed to address when he returned to the Napola. In the meantime, what would be would be… Fun with either of his companions would be more than acceptable, but he was man enough to know that it was perfectly possible that during this weekend at least… either might well be neither.

     He smiled to himself and hugged Harald again.

     Sigi seemed to need a formal dismissal from Harald before he could leave. Gott found it interesting to watch the battle between an elite-soldier’s discipline, the informality between officer and NCO and the close relationship between lovers. They seemed to have them compartmentalised… it was curious, but interesting to watch, he thought.

     When Sigi had adequately saluted his officer, friends and lovers he turned and marched smartly out into the corridor, turned and closed the door with commendable formality. Gott was fascinated to see how completely he became the perfect Gefreiter as he passed through the door.

     As the door closed Gott caught sight of Harald trying not to laugh…

     “He has such trouble keeping the balance right between the two ways we meet. Now that we have you added to the mix he is bound to fall over his feet… He’s either going to kiss me on parade or salute me when he cums!”

     “It’s the price we pay for our feelings. It’s basically what got my face re-modelled!” Gott replied.

     “I heard that you used Napola transport for unauthorised visits to a nudist beach…”

     “Too true, we… I mean Gerhard and I needed somewhere safe we could relax and walk in the woods. It seemed perfect until a couple of MPs spotted the plates on the motorbike… after that things fell apart!”

     “Have you managed to get together since it happened?”

     “No!”

     “I hear that the instructor of your Hundred came off worse.” Harald said it as a question that required a considered answer from Gott.

     “It was not what I intended… but apart from going off with Gerhard to… er… relax, I did nothing that caused his transfer… or his death. He hadn’t thought things through… and then he showed poor leadership. The fight was as much a test of him as an officer as it was of Gerhard and I as Jungmannen.”

     “So, you have no regrets?”

     “Of course I have regrets! He was pleasant as a man, and an adequate teacher. I expect he was being rested after some war service, but… the way he behaved that afternoon was a terrible example to his Jungmannen. I saw the way the other instructors and the CO were looking to him to do something. He did nothing and then behaved inadequately at the end. There was nothing that could be done except replace him… so that the Napola staff and Jungmannen wouldn’t think that was how an officer should behave.  He was a nice man and a poor officer, I’m sorry he’s dead and I’m sorry that Gerhard and I were the ones that brought it about.”

     “Well said... I knew him, he was nice man, being rested as you say, but… rested as commander of a fighter squadron… there had been a failure of leadership when his pilots were getting killed. He didn’t have something officer’s need… distance. So you are right… a bad choice for the Napola… The only useful thing you are being taught is leadership and he was uniquely poorly chosen for that role.”

     Harald continued. “That’s why Sigi changes so completely as he passes through that door. He understands that, through that door the distance between officer and NCO is complete. In private we are friends, but… on the parade ground or at Eben-Emael… then I lead and he follows. Now that he is an NCO he has to apply that distance between himself and his own men. I have to teach him how to lead men to their deaths, not his death, theirs. That requires distance… and it requires more courage than does facing your own.”

     “Could you lead him… to his?”

     “I already have… I kept him calm and focussed all the way into his glider. He was lucky that night… but it was only luck… it could have ended differently!”

     “I see.” Said Gott.

     “I think you do… That’s why you can regret the death of your instructor but have the distance you need to see that his death was of his own making, even though you caused it. You’ve already learnt something about the perils of poor leadership.”

     “Can we talk about something else now?… It’s not something I’m proud of.” Gott had had enough.

     He was keen to hear how things had gone for Harald during the battle.

     “We landed directly on top of the fort. Although we all landed safely we were already badly short of men… Two gliders had gone missing. One shed its tow rope too soon and the other was damaged by flak. The men were mostly OK but one who went missing was the officer-commanding our attack, so we only had his second- in-command. NCOs were having to step into command roles. Still, we managed to crawl about on top of the great concrete mass of the fort with enough explosives and flamethrowers to divert their attention away from supporting the bridges. Then about an hour later another two dozen paratroopers flew in as reinforcements for us. Eventually the Wehrmacht arrived and we had a second go at the fort and captured it completely.”

     “What if it had gone wrong… if you hadn’t landed neatly or the gliders hadn’t been so close to the bridges?” Gott liked to look at the problem from all sides. Had they had a Plan B ?

     “Well, that would have been disastrous for the Wehrmacht advance into Belgium. The guns of the fort had complete control of the only way to out-flank the end of the French Maginot-Line. The purpose of the Belgian defences was to delay us long enough for the English and French to join them, and start digging trenches!.”

     “So failure wasn’t an option… That was why they chose the Fallschirmjäger!” Gott was clearly proud of his friends. “I wish I had been there with you…”

     Then he was back to business…

     “Exactly how big was the fort… like a fort of the Maginot-Line?”

     “Bigger, much bigger… more like an army base in area… nearly 200 metres by 400 metres, say eight football fields! And the guns… six 120mm guns with a range of ten miles, sixteen 75mm, twelve anti-tank and twenty-five twin machine-guns. Oh yes, and it was surrounded by a mine-field. It was completely unapproachable, so the only real possibility was to drop from above. The glider pilots had just one shot at it!”

     “The grand thing was… you remember that we lost our leader Oberleutnant Witzig’s glider when it lost its tow rope and landed too early, when they were still in Germany? Well, he wasn’t having that spoil his day! He had his men clear a path across the field and sent for a replacement tug plane. We had a surprise when, half way through the battle, his glider landed in the middle of things and out stepped our commander to take charge… magnificent!”

     “His men like him… a good leader?” Gott asked.

     “Yes, they knew by the delay that he must have been brought down, so seeing him arrive told them how much effort he had gone to… to get airborne again, and to land on the fort in the middle of the battle. His men liked him before… but now they know they can trust him! Their trust is what makes him a great leader!”

     “The attack on the fort went well, we took a thousand prisoners, killed sixty and wounded forty more”

     “And, our own losses?” Gott asked.

     “Group Granite lost six men with another nineteen wounded, including my grazed ribs.”

     “Your broken ribs!” Gott corrected him. “Six for sixty and a thousand prisoners! My God you were lucky!”

     “Yes we were lucky, but you make your own luck… We had been training on full size mock-ups for months… it was good training and fit men that made us lucky. Remember Gott, never depend on luck… make luck unnecessary… train your men… they can tell the difference. When they land on a battlefield and it’s exactly what they were told it was going to be, then, they immediately trust the rest of your plan.”

     Gott nodded seriously. He was all ears, eager to learn… then…

     “So how did you get wounded?” Gott was a wide-eyed boy again.

     “It was silly really. We thought we had knocked out a heavy machine-gun nest, and were moving away when it started firing again. The first I knew was a thump in the ribs as the shell passed through my smock. Really it didn’t hit me… just passed so close the shock wave compressed the cloth and cracked a few ribs… half an inch nearer and I’d have been in real trouble. It knocked me over but then I found I could move and realised how lucky I’d been. We went back and emptied the nest with a flame-thrower and made sure that the gun was really… de-commissioned.” Harald said that with a grim smile.”

     “You could move, the wound wasn’t slowing you?”

     “Well, it was uncomfortable, but compared with one of our guys who lost a hand and fired his gun with the other one… it wasn’t a big deal. It’s just uncomfortable when…”

     “When Sigi gets romantic?” Gott said with a smile.

     “Yes, Sigi has been my biggest problem!”

     “I’m glad that’s your problem now… He was after my tail, and I wasn’t ready for that… I’m pleased he’s after yours now… I’m sorry if it hurts. I’m sure it would have hurt me more, he’s a big lad!”

     “That’s not why it hurts!” Harald said with a laugh. “I’m the one doing the work… it’s the muscles attached to the ribs that hurt… I’ve seen how Sigi’s equipped… He’ll need a lot more stripes before he gets that thing near me!”

     “So Sigi is still not getting any… poor Sigi!” Gott said with a laugh.

     “Oh Sigi’s getting his fair share… He made a good friend in the balloon that first afternoon… don’t worry about Sigi, he has Heinz well covered!”

     “You aren’t jealous?” Gott asked.

     “What’s to be jealous of? I want what I want and Sigi goes elsewhere for what I don’t want… The world turns.”

     “On which basis, you can stop eyeing my bottom… it’s not up for grabs and anyway… I wouldn’t want to cause you that much pain… I’ll leave that to Sigi!” Gott said with a soft smile.

     Actually, Gott had been paying more attention than Harald realised. Being the one entered was clearly in Harald’s mind a subservient role. Gott knew, the Napola had taught him, that he was headed for a very dominant role… One day it might not be good to have once been Harald or anyone else’s comfort-boy. For the time being… until he found someone that meant a great deal more to him, he would leave that sort of sex alone.

 

That night in the shower block. He watched while Harald took Sigi’s bottom… and yes, it really was exciting to watch. There was so much raw excitement between two men that he was fond of.

     Heinz who was also watching came to him and offered his mouth. Gott was glad to accept. He stroked Heinz’s hair and neck while whispering encouragement until his hips took over from his mind.

     Afterwards he used his hand to satisfy Heinz. Heinz was grateful and said so… quite a few times.

     Gott decided that Heinz had the makings of a strong and loyal soldier, but not perhaps the ruthlessness required to be a leader of men. Heinz could be relied on to watch his back and save his ass if he found himself in a tight corner.

     One day he would have to look out for Heinz’s ass… one day… when he was older, and looking for an ass… He smiled.

     For the moment, it was interesting to watch Harald and Sigi…

     Gott decided that the way Sigi winced and the way Harald seemed happy to dominate… neither seemed quite the way he saw the world. It didn’t feel like love to Gott, and our youngster was still a romantic at heart… even if it was love that had required him to knock his boyfriend unconscious!

     Now that he had discussed the fate of the instructor with Harald, and received tacit approval of his actions from the major, he was ready to see Gerhard again. They needed to see how together they could outflank the forces that were trying to keep them apart. This time they would be really careful… This time they would not get caught. They would not make a move until they had a well thought out plan.

     But, first, there was still a long weekend to enjoy with his friends.

     “How about some time on the tower… and then find a winch operator?” Gott asked hopefully after breakfast.

     “After all that practising with gliders… I think I’ve forgotten how to jump…We need practise!” That was Sigi’s view.

     “Well, so long as you are happy to let me just watch… from the ground. Gefreiter Sigi can act as jump-master. You must obey his instructions as if they were mine!” Harald was an officer again. Just for a moment the room chilled.

     Harald was pleased to have an excuse to stay on the ground, the three boys would land in a close grouping so Harald would have an opportunity to compare Gott’s eccentric rolling landing and the properly trained one of Heinz. What Sigi would do remained to be seen.

 

The tower was great fun… these were still teenage boys after all, with a tower ten times higher than the highest board of a pool. What was there not to enjoy?

     It was when Gott once more stood up to remove his harness that a question occurred to him…

     As he struggled to get out of the harness with all its straps and buckles…

     “How on earth do you get out of this lot when you land in the middle of a battle?”

     “As quickly as you can!” Was Harald’s succinct reply. “Watch…”

     “Battle landing!” He shouted at Sigi, who was on his way down. “As fast as you can!”

     Sigi landed, jumped to his feet and then standing upright he undid all the buckles as fast as he could.

     Harald timed him… “Ninety seconds, not fast enough… you’re dead by now!”

     Turning to Gott he said… “It can be done in eighty seconds, ninety is far too long!”

     “That is the silliest thing I have ever seen!” Was Gott’s considered opinion.

     “The man who designed that should be drafted!”

     “Let’s see you do better!” Harald challenged him. He had seen him re-invent landing, just possibly he could do the same for removing the harness

     Gott thought for a moment and then went to climb the tower.

     He paused at the top to do something that involved his clothing… Harald thought to shout something obscene and then changed his mind… this wasn’t the place.

     Gott came swooping down, did his rolling fall and did not stand up. Instead of an eighty second standing count like Sigi, he lay on his side and grabbed for the harness. He rolled until the line was clear, pulled it taut and brought his Jugend knife towards it…

     “Stop! What on earth are you doing? You can’t cut it… that’s not how to do it!”

     “Why not?” Gott asked, with a grin, but perfectly seriously.

     “Because…” Harald was lost for words… “Because it’s vandalism, it’s not how to do it… You’ll ruin the parachute!”

     “Have you any idea how silly that sounds!” Gott said, sheathing his knife and standing up. “Now give me a sensible reason!”

     “Because… because it can be re-packed and used again! Have you any idea what they cost?”

     “Alright… I just landed on a bridge in Holland, shells and machine gun fire are all around me… Exactly when is this ‘chute going to be re-packed, returned to Germany and re-used?”

     “I don’t care what you teach me… The day I land on a battle-field my parachute is going to be the first thing I stick my knife into!” Gott had clear priorities.

     “But…” Was all Harald could think to say.

     “But… Hermann will send me a bill for a new one? I don’t think so!” Gott was enjoying himself.

     “The squad that survives landing and takes the bridge will be so popular that the parachutes lost in the mud will be forgotten, with or without their harness. I can fight in the harness and tight boots until I reach cover, then I can sort things out… Eighty seconds standing in the middle of the drop zone, like a coconut at the fair… I don’t think so!”

     “But… how do you practise it? You can’t ruin parachutes just to practise!”

     “We only need to cut the main riser.. We can use cheap webbing on a ground rig… jump from the door over there with a cheap length of webbing trailing behind us and practise groping for it and getting our knives free to cut it. Anyway, with our knives in our hand we will already be better armed than the ones standing at attention to undo buckles! Oh this is ridiculous! I shouldn’t even have to tell you how silly this is!”

     He stalked off in disgust in the direction of the latrines, before he said something that even his friendship with Harald couldn’t make right.

     Harald stood there thinking…

     “You know…” He said to Sigi… “He’s absolutely right… I must speak to the major!”

 

Gott’s mood was much improved by a Sunday spent jumping from the balloon. He and Sigi had each done two swallow-dives when they realised that a number of recruits had come to join Harald at the landing ground. The recruits were amazed, it had never occurred to them that jumping from the balloon could be fun rather than a terrifying experience. First one and then another came to ask Harald if they might be permitted to join in the “fun”. Then some Jugend on a summer “visit” joined the crowd. It certainly wasn’t a secret anymore… They could see that jumping wasn’t simply terrifying… to be endured. The more daring, who now entirely filled the basket, were having more fun than was good for them. It was only the need to re-pack their chutes between jumps that reduced the demand to manageable proportions.

     It was the pressure on re-packing that brought the afternoon to an end…

     One of the recruit’s ‘chute roman-candled. It partially deployed but not to a full canopy. He came down to a really hard landing and dislocated a shoulder, twisted an ankle and wrenched his back. Fortunately he wasn’t killed or even sutain a broken bone. He was one who had watched Gott landings done by Harald and Sigi. When he realised he was in trouble he prepared as best he could… not for what he had been trained to do, but for what he had seen our boys doing so successfully. It was the heavy rolling blow to his shoulder that dislocated it… the heavy foot plant that twisted his ankle… the wrenched back? Well, falling out of a basket with an inexpertly packed ‘chute did that!

     Harald sent the balloon back up immediately with our two and the best of the others.

     “Give them a good show, while I get Baldur to the infirmary. Let’s not make more of this than we have to. He wasn’t killed and I think that’s down to Gott!” Harald said… The afternoon had been such a success that he wanted to leave it that way.

     Baldur was looked after, but got a lot less sympathy on the field than he did in the infirmary afterwards.

 

After the last jump they all went to the shed, where the recruits watched the care with which their ‘chutes were re-packed. Then he and Gott went to see how Baldur was getting on.

     He was sitting up in bed, swathed in crepe-bandages, almost from head to foot.

     “The orderly thinks this is funny!” Was how he greeted them.

     They laughed with him as they unwrapped him. His shoulder had been slipped back into place… it was a common accident and was easily if painfully fixed. His back only hurt when he laughed, or tried to move, or… well actually, his back just hurt!

     When he was comfortable he looked seriously at Gott…

     “My thanks… If I hadn’t seen your landings… If I’d landed face first… I’d have bought it! Mama would be opening a telegram round about now!” Then he burst into tears.

     Harald quietly shut the door and stood outside to keep the orderly away.

     The boys sat quietly with Baldur while he got himself under control.

     “Sorry, sorry… It’s just…” He said.

     “Shh. It’s alright… at least you didn’t crap yourself!” Sigi said

     Gott had an arm round Baldur’s shoulders, trying to hug him hard while avoiding hurting him… a bit of a balancing act.

     “Think how many recruits out there now believe a roman-candle isn’t always fatal… They may be wrong, but it’s great for morale!” Gott said quietly.

     “That was the most incredible thing… I knew I was going to die but I wasn’t afraid… It all went so slowly… I had time to get my feet together and decide how to land… I wasn’t afraid… I don’t understand…”

     Sigi joined in … “That’s the way it was… At Eben-Emael, we ran across towards the block-house, bullets everywhere. It went so slowly you could choose where to place each foot, when to duck, exactly where to throw a grenade. When it happens, it’s slow like that. I’m not sure…  I know I was afraid before it started, I had time to think about it first, but… once it started… it was like your fall.”

     “Now you don’t need to worry about being afraid the first time… when the real thing happens.” Gott said quietly. “Everybody else is going to have a first time… you’ve already had yours!”

     “I owe you!” Baldur grinned through his tears. “Pass me a towel!” 

     Then…

     “After midnight, come and check on me?” He said it quietly, very quietly, just for Gott to hear and then he winked.

     “After midnight!” Gott replied equally quietly.

 

It was perhaps that accidental afternoon that had the greatest influence on Harald, and the major. It probably saved the lives of quite a few of their young men too. Prompted by vociferous complaints from the regiments the high command started work on improved parachute harnesses. Eventually steerable chutes with two webbing straps rising from the shoulders and a quick release harness would reach the parachutists, but many would have to complete their one go at landing on a battle-field in the old style.

     For most, one go would be as many as they would get.

     The fortunate ones were likely to have done what Harald, Sigi and their friends did… They would have spent the night before putting the sharpest possible edge on their knife. A sharp knife solved most of the problems that bad design had caused. That and a Gott-landing made for a longer career.

     Parachutists abandoning their cut off harness could sometimes be heard to mutter “Thank Gott for that.”

     That is… if they had a sense of humour… or if they were religious!

 

Spandau, Germany. 1940.

Gott returned to the Napola.. and to Gerhard. They went back to meeting during early morning runs.

     Amongst the trees at the furthest point from the school they would stop and relieve their feelings. Gerhard would stroke his friend’s face where the scars formed what he termed “a manly ruggedness”. Gott never really took that too seriously… He was grateful though that Gerhard hadn’t been as badly damaged as he had. Gerhard had been lucky and drawn the weaker opponents. There were enough good ones to have made it necessary for the referee to stop rounds and give him time to recover, but… all in all… he had escaped relatively lightly. Apart from the broken nose, he only really heavy blow had been the one that Gott had landed to put an end to his friend’s misery..

     While they ran they discussed the rights and wrongs of the whole business. Clearly no-one knew exactly why they were going to the nudist beach. It seemed likely that the military police had assumed that the motorbikes were stolen, then that they were taken without approval and finally when they couldn’t get any joy from that either… they traced their motor-pool and informed them of where they were seen. For the Napola it counted as the same misdemeanour as visiting a dance hall, except that civilians would not have seen their nakedness at a dance hall. Perhaps the instructor guessed, perhaps he hadn’t. Either way the secret of their homosexual relationship was safe… for the time being anyway.

     It left them with a problem of course. They couldn’t borrow motor-pool transport, even bicycles were traceable.

     It was Gerhard and luck that solved the problem. He had a distant aunt living in the town… and she had a pair of bicycles, left when his cousins joined up.

     On Sunday mornings they would walk into town, borrow her bikes and ride out into the woods. It wasn’t as pretty as the lake, but it was a great deal safer.

     They did the somewhat un-ambitious things that boys do… They still hadn’t yet done that. Gott was still not prepared for Gerhard to inflict the sort of indignity on him that he had seen Sigi enduring at the hands of Harald.

     In any relationship, one tends to lead and the other follow. It had been Gott who had needed to take it upon himself to end the fight by knocking Gerhard out. For much the same reason, and in the same way, he felt that bending over and allowing his friend to mount him had no sort of dignity to it.

     He loved Gerhard, but not in a way that made him need to offer him that.

     If anyone was going to do it, then it was Gott that would take Gerhard… maybe one day.

     Gerhard on the other hand, clearly loved Gott, but simply enjoyed sex. He seemed to lack the emotional involvement during sex that Gott had. To him love was love and sex was fun. The idea of sticking himself in Gott’s rear struck him as fun, but the reversal of roles did not… He suspected that the real reason that Gott didn’t want to give himself to him was because it would hurt. That seemed a good enough reason to not offer himself to his friend either.

     Meanwhile, their diet of sex was from hand to mouth… and that suited Gott perfectly.

 

The year passed pleasantly enough. They were both tough and their performance in the ring discouraged the rougher elements of Napola life. If you were tough enough to deter the rampant bullying then life at a Napola was as good as it gets.

     They were approaching the point of no return regarding careers. Gott was already committed to the Fallschirmjäger, and the other services had accepted that he was not joining anyone else.

     The Wehrmacht definitely wanted Gerhard. His problem was that the SS had also said that they would favourably consider an application. That meant that the SS expected him to undertake the competitive and violent selection procedure, but with no guarantee that he would be accepted for basic training. Until he actually paraded with an SS Regiment there was a high possibility of being rejected at any stage. If that happened then he would need to apply to another branch… as an SS reject.

     The prospect of rejection, combined with not actually wanting to serve with them, made the SS a very unattractive option. On the other hand… to simply not respond to their invitation seemed unwise! The men in black could not be expected to take a refusal kindly.

 

It was quite a dilemma, and he discussed it at length with Gott as they ran… There were six-months to go to academic graduation but decisions would need to be made soon.

     That was when Gott quietly asked a deafening question…

     “What would the SS attitude be if they ever discovered that you’re a homosexual?”

 

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