KING OF THE COMMANDOS
Book First Published in October 1943 - 192 pages
I believe this Gimlet book was never serialised elsewhere. If anybody knows differently then please E-MAIL ME
This book starts by introducing us to Corporal Albert Edward Collson, nicknamed "Copper" (as he is an ex-policeman) and Private "Trapper" Troublay (we are not told his first name). Whilst on a mission in France, awaiting the return of their leader, they meet 16 year old, Nigel Norman Peters, whose nickname is "Cub". The leader of the commandos is Captain Lorrington King D.S.O., M.C. and bar of Lorrington Castle, Devon, nicknamed "Gimlet". We are told that King's father won a V.C. in the Great War and his grandfather had won a V.C. in the Boer War. Gimlet has been captured by the Germans but is soon freed by Copper and Trapper and the three commandos return to England taking Cub with them. Cub had gone to France during the Dunkirk evacuation in order to find his father. Left behind he had joined up with other youngsters into a resistance organisation known as 'Les Poux Gris du Nord' or 'The Grey Fleas of the North'. Each member is identified by the name of an animal of some sort, such as the fox, the wolf, the snake and the owl. This is how Peters became 'Cub'. After two years in France, Cub knows the place very well. Back in England, the commandos, nicknamed 'King's Kittens' because of their wildcat insignia, get Cub to join them to act as liaison with the 'Fleas' and assist them with missions in France. Returning to France, with equipment, our four heroes join up with the 'Fleas' at their forest camp at Caen. Here they learn that the leader of the 'Fleas', the fox, has been captured and is due to be shot in the Place de la Republique, on the orders of General Gunther. Gimlet organises and carries out a rescue mission. Hearing of an ammunition train, a goods train and a German troop train, at the Falaise junction, the commandos go and endulge in a bit of sabotage and train hijacking. Looking for a hiding place, our heroes then go to a barge owned by Marcelle, a woman whose father has been executed by the Germans. On arrival, two Germans are found on the barge, in the process of commandeering it. These Germans are killed and the barge travels to Le Mans to meet with Marcelle's Uncle, who wishes to go to England. In Le Mans, men are being rounded up to be taken to Germany as forced labour. Marcelle entrusts the horse pulling the barge to a man called Bertrand. Gimlet resolves to stop the round up of workers and sets fire to a fuel truck. Pandemonium ensues and Gimlet, Copper, Trapper and Cub escape in a German staff car, taking Marcelle and Uncle Boulanger with them. Pursuing Germans are stopped by nails scattered in the road and Trapper's trusty bow and arrow as well as some machine gun bullets. Our heroes travel to Chateaudun, where there is a German prison. They hide their vehicle at an old abandoned airport. Marcelle and her Uncle are sent back to Caen by train, travelling via Paris. Moving to the local church the commandos meet up with Father Edwinus. Cub, who has been sent ahead on recognisance, is arrested and taken to the prison castle. He escapes and manages to hide in a high abandoned tower. From here he can signal to the church. Hiding on the high beams when the tower is searched, Cub overhears some important information about how Bertrand has betrayed Marcelle to the Germans. Using the bell ropes from the church, Gimlet is able to scale the castle tower and join Cub. From here they rescue the prisoners and get them away down the rope. The rope has to be untied to be returned to the church so Gimlet stays to do this. On his way out of the castle he finds General Gunther's assistant, Hauptmann von Roth, together with the traitor Bertrand and the French Colonel Frey who is in command of the German prison castle. In a powerful scene, Gimlet shoots all three of them. Our heroes then rush to Paris in a stolen lorry, to intercept Marcelle and her Uncle and save them from the Gestapo. Meeting them at the train, Cub leads them to a place where the watching Gestapo can be ambushed. From Paris, it is on the a tavern called the 'Cheval Noir' or 'Black Horse' where Gimlet meets up with an intelligence operative. This man, Freddie, calls for a plane to come and pick up the commandos and all of the rescued prisoners and take them safely back to England. The pilot of the plane is one Bigglesworth (does this make this book technically a 'Biggles' book?) and he is assisted by Ginger. Biggles doesn't get to say anything but Ginger has a few lines as he hurries everyone aboard.
King of the Commandos
Subtitle - A Story of Combined Operations
Publication Details - originally published by University of London Press Ltd.
Second Edition – notice the title change to fit in with the “Gimlet” series.
Cover illustration on First Edition
Click on the Frontispiece to enlarge it