Original series Suitable for all readersAction-oriented/low level of violence



An Unexpected Find - A 'Captain Scarlet story' by VMR 

The view from the window was totally uninspiring to young Paul Metcalfe. With the wind almost a gale and heavy snow falling from dark grey clouds, it seemed to him to be a blizzard out there. He wasn’t going to be able to go outside anytime soon and not only that, his cousins who were coming to visit, were now not able to. Paul was bored.

He had spent the morning with his train set and putting together his latest model, a 1:35 scale Churchill Crocodile tank from World War Two. Now, he had to wait for the glue to dry before he could continue. With lunch over and done with, he had all afternoon to try and fill. If his cousins had gotten here, it wouldn’t have been so bad, they would have been able to fill in the time with board, computer and parlour games - like sardines - but their mother didn’t want to drive in this weather. He really couldn’t blame her, it did look really bad out there. Watching it made him wonder if his father was going to be able to get home later. Major Metcalfe was away on an inspection tour of Chatham military base, which was even further away than his cousins’ place. What a way to spend an afternoon a week before Christmas; seated in a bay window, moodily watching howling wind and falling snow!

“Paul?” he heard the voice of his mother call.

“Here, Mum,” he answered. He sensed her coming nearer, however the swirling and driving snow kept his attention.

“What are you doing here?” she asked as she came into the room and stood beside him.

“Trying to see if I was going to be able to go outside anytime soon,” he replied. “But it doesn’t seem likely.”

She lovingly laid a hand on his shoulder, smiling as she did so. She knew her son. “Bored?” she questioned.

Paul was never one to like sitting down for long.

“Yes,” he answered, looking up at her. “I just wish that the others had been able to come. Then being stuck inside wouldn’t be so bad.”

Ben, Willy and Tom were always fun to be with. Even his cousin Jessica would do at this point, even if she was a girl!

“I know, dear, but your Uncle Oliver needed to be in London, and you know that Aunt Emily isn’t happy about driving in this type of weather. It hasn’t helped that Uncle James also had to be in London, else he would have been able to bring Ben, Willy and Jessica with Tom instead of just dropping Tom off at their place to be brought with them.”  

“I know, but it’s still annoying.” Paul returned to looking out the window. “I bet they are having tons of fun.”

“They probably are,” his mother replied, thinking that Jessica might be getting a bit annoyed with the three boys by now, but then again, Jessica was a bit of a tomboy herself and could hold her own against them, and Paul as well when you came down to it.

She gave Paul’s shoulder a slight squeeze. “I’m sure you can think of something to do. What about your computer games? You can play those by yourself can’t you?”

“Yes…” was Paul’s resigned reply. “But it isn’t half as fun playing against the computer as playing against someone else.”

“Oh… What about your model?”

“I’m waiting for the glue to dry.”

“Ah…” A thoughtful frown crossed his mother’s face. “Well, the only other thing I could suggest is reading a book. That way, even though you are stuck inside, your mind could be elsewhere.”

“I know, Mum, but I’ve read most of the books in the house that I would want to read.”

“Even the ones that my father left after his visit a fortnight ago?” she asked, surprised. “I didn’t realise that you had looked through them already.”

“Granddad left some books?” He turned back to his mother, interested. “What are they? Fiction? Non-fiction? Spy stories? Manuals? Did he leave them here for me?”

“I don’t know what is in the books, dear. I just put them on the small table in the library corner. I’ve been meaning to sort them out and put them where they belong, but haven’t had a chance to yet.” She lightly tapped his shoulder twice in admonition “And no, he didn’t leave them here just for you. You know that he’s moving and there isn’t room for all his books, so he asked if we would look after these ones. He thought that you and your father might find them interesting.”

“Did he? Well, I guess I could look at them.”

“Why don’t you do that, at least it will fill in some time.”

“I suppose it would. Where are they?”

“I told you: on the small table by the bookcases.”

Paul stood up and gave his mother a quick hug. “Thanks, Mum, I’ll go and have a look through them now. Maybe you’re right and I will find something interesting to read or at least look at.” and with that, he headed to library.

There was quite a selection of books, Paul noted as he sat down on one of the comfortable chairs near the table they were on. Fifteen, he counted. Some, he knew straight away, would be of no interest to him: a couple of old dictionaries, three cook books with exotic titles and two that were old school textbooks. He removed them from the pile. That left him with eight that might turn out to be interesting.

He picked up the top book. The title and pictures on its cover looked intriguing, ‘Tank: The Definitive Visual History of Armored Vehicles’. He leafed through it, looking at various pages; it was interesting. Paul put it aside, it was a distinct possibility. He would come back to it if nothing else caught his eye. However he really did want to see what else there was in the pile. The next book also had an intriguing title, but it turned out to be another textbook, on physics, and was way beyond his understanding.

Next was an old classic ‘The Little Prince’, a good story, but his class had studied it not too long ago. ‘The Sheltering Desert’, was also a possibility, the thought of spending the afternoon in the deserts of Southwest Africa was appealing.

The next title caught his eye: ‘Courageous Deeds: A look at some of the lesser known recipients of World War One military medals’. He opened it and perused its table of contents; it looked like it was a collection of short essays about different soldiers from World War One. Interested, he scanned some of the names: Petty Officer Arthur Jones – Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, Second Lieutenant Harry John Minshaw Harris – Military Cross, Second Lieutenant Arthur George Joseph Whitehouse – Military Medal. They looked like interesting stories. However, the next name stood out to him: Lance Corporal William James Blake – Distinguished Conduct Medal. Blake was his Granddad’s surname and this was Granddad’s book. Also his cousin Willy had said that he was named after someone from World War One. Could this person be a relation of some kind? Intrigued, Paul turned to the page indicated and started to read.

The date was November the 20th, 1917 when the next act of bravery we chose to look into happened. It took place during the battle of Cambrai, a major offence in the northern part of France. The offensive’s objective: to capture the town of Cambrai, by disrupting an important Germen supply line - the Hindenburg line - and a nearby ridge. This - it was hoped - would also open up a chance to threaten the rear of the northern German lines.

On that day, Lance Corporal William James Blake put his own life on the line to save fellow soldiers from a disabled tank, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In our research of this bestowal, we were fortunate to discover a copy of William’s own journal, a transcript done by his great-grandson as a memorial and a testament to the horrors of war. We are thus able to give you an account of that event in Lance Corporal Blake’s own words.


19th November

It’s been confirmed, we’re going over the top* tomorrow. Our orders have just come through. The high command wants the town of Cambrai and we are the poor sods that they’ve chosen to take it. Us, another couple of infantry brigades, some cavalry and tanks. I sure hope the brass* have thought this out better than some of their other “grand plans”. I’ve heard about how badly the use of tanks has gone in previous battles. Still, it will be interesting to see how Jerry* handle being surprised. Because (hopefully) the first and only indication they get that we are going on the offensive is when those tanks go smashing through no man’s land and their defences and trenches. With us, coming like avenging angels, behind them.

In some respects, it’ll be a relief to get out of this trench. The mud is almost mid-thigh deep in some places and the replacement duckboards* that were supposed to have come, from what I’ve heard, have been held up back down the line due to a bloody German aircraft managing to bomb part of the supply trenches. Bloody aircraft, in times past, they were pretty well useless; not anymore. I only hope they don’t show up in force tomorrow.

Oh, well done, Mark! He just gone and beautifully skewered a rat with a jolly good knife throw. One less of the wretched things, not that you will notice, there are too many of its kind around.

Ah, Sergeant Roberson has just come by, time for the evening stand to*, so no more writing for tonight.


20th November

I’ve just got time to jot down some quick thoughts, as some of the tanks roll across a temporary bridge put over our trench nearby. Man, I thought those sixty-minute men* in the aircraft were crazy, but I think that the tank crews are just as crazy, if not more so. I have to wonder if they can still hear after being confined in such a noisy contraption for hours. It must be even worse when they fire their guns. No, not for me those tanks. Give me the wide open spaces, where at least one has a chance of finding some type of cover if one’s lucky, instead of being trapped in a big target. That’s it I’m afraid, Sergeant Roberson has signalled that it’s almost time to go. God willing I’ll be able to write again soon. If not, well I know I’ll be meeting up with some of my good friends, who have gone before, so don’t feel sad for me.


24th November

Finally, my head has stopped hurting enough for me to write something. The doctors tell me that I’m suffering from a nasty concussion, which really sucks, as well as some very bad lacerations, but I know I was pretty lucky considering how close that shell landed. Ah, perhaps I should begin at the beginning.

As my previous entry stated, we went over the top on an offensive following some tanks. It seemed to be working really well. No sooner did Jerry start up a machine gun, than the tanks took it out. That happened a number of times, much to our appreciation. They also made mincemeat of the barbwire and other defences in no man’s land, clearing the way for us… Rats, I need to stop, my head is starting to hurt again.


25th November

My head has cleared enough for me to write again and I am feeling a lot better today. Time to get back to my account of how I ended up in here. Well, there we were, running from one shell hole to another, avoiding the mangled barbwire and the broken pieces of paraphernalia used to make war: aircraft, shell casings, sandbags and artillery. Also, sadly, parts of fellow and enemy soldiers and horses. We were really making up some ground, it looked like the brass might have actually got it right for a change, when (oh maybe thirty odd yards or so ahead of me) one of the tanks dropped into one hell of a crump hole* and turned onto its side. Only one of its back corners could be seen. It was a surprising sight and an uncomfortable one, for shells were still landing nearby.

I wasn’t too worried about being hit as I, along with Private Jansen and Lieutenant Sanders, were safe-ish in our own deep crump hole. But we were concerned that the tank could be seen. Anxiously, we watched, ready to call to the tank’s crew to our hole, but it was obvious that something wasn’t right, for there wasn’t any sign of the crew.

It began to look like they were stuck, I couldn’t let it stay that way… Without really thinking, I left the hole I was in and headed to the trapped tank, the shells getting nearer to it as I did so. Once there, I slid down into the hole it was in and saw, right off what was stopping those inside the tank from getting out. The hatch had been covered by dirt and there was no way they could open it. So, I grabbed my trench shovel and started straight away to remove what I could. It was an unnerving time as the shells had started to land nearer. Thankfully, they were only eggs*, but still. One landed about 100 yards away on the other side of the hole we were in. Man, the noise! It was almost enough to deafen me! I hate to think of what it was like for the lads in their tin can.

Oh, here’s an angel of mercy and a doc, must be time to change my dressings again. Good, I was beginning to feel a tad sore. I’ll finish this after they’re done.


25th November (Late evening)

I must have been more tired than I thought, or the pain relief they gave me was strong stuff, as I seemed to have slept what was left of the morning and the afternoon away. Then, the doctor and nurses came again. There’s a new treatment the doc wanted to try out on me, to see if it would work better than what they were currently using. Sadly it has left me feeling a bit out of sorts and I really don’t feel like writing anything more today.


26th November

I’m feeling rather under the weather today. My injuries are really giving me jib at the moment and I really don’t feel up to writing, but there’s a lovely young VAD* lass who has offered to do so as I talk.

So where was I? Ah, yes: in the hole, clearing the tank’s hatch so the crew could get out. I got to where I could see about three quarters of the hatch when I got showered with the rest of the dirt as it was heaved open by those inside. I’ll never forget the looks of relief on their two faces as their eyes blinked in the sunlight. They soon noticed me as I extended a hand to help them out of the tank. One of them took it as the other popped back inside; I soon realized that he had gone to help the others. I gave the one who had taken my hand a good tug and he came out with no trouble and was soon standing beside me in order to help out his fellow crew mates. In almost no time at all, the other one - I saw from his pips* he was a captain - was back and with him were two others. Both were looking rather dazed and I could see the colouring of a bruise just starting to show on the forehead of one. I soon had them out of the tank with the help of the first feller from the tank, a lieutenant according to his uniform.

Meanwhile, the captain had disappeared back inside that bloody tank and I was starting to wonder just how many men did it take to drive one of these infernal machines! It wasn’t too long before three more chaps arrived at the tank hatch. One of them had an arm in a makeshift sling and another had a makeshift dressing on his left leg, which made it a bit more difficult to get them out, but we managed it. By then, the captain was back, carrying another, and somehow we got them out as well, which meant that there were nine of us down in the hole. To make things worse those bloody German shells were not only landing closer but they were no longer just eggs, some were Hissing Jennies*. Not good, we had to get out of there as soon as possible.

There was no other thing for it, but to go up to the lip of the hole and have a look and I was the only free one who could do so. So up I went and poked my nose out of the hole. I could see right off that the next closest hole was about fifteen yards away, still within the area being shelled, but from there we could get back to the hole I had come from. Hopefully, Jansen and Sanders were still there and may be able to help. Going back to the tank’s crew, I explained the situation and we made our way up to a point where we were able to make a dash to the targeted shell hole. We made it, but the captain was all done in; I guess that getting his crew out safely and carrying one of them had taken its toll. So I took over and carried the unconscious crewman the rest of the way. Well, I was the freshest.

We made our run for the next point of safety, the shell hole I had come from and almost out of the area being shelled: at least that was what I had planned. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go like that. Oh, we got to the hole and Lieutenant Sanders and Private Jansen were still there, but I and a couple of the crew came in flying because a Hissing Jennie had landed very close by. And boy did I know it! I can’t recall very well the rest of the trip back to the old trenches. I was distracted by my ringing ears and feeling sore all over. So, it was a blessed relief when a RAMC* medical officer gave me some pain relief. The next thing I knew I was here, in this field hospital. So that’s how I’ve ended up here.

I think I’ve talked myself hoarse, so that’s it for now.


Lance Corporal William James Blake was awarded his Distinguished Conduct Medal on the 19th of December, 1917. Despite the diligence of doctors and nurses, Lance Corporal Blake ended up with an infection in some of his wounds, causing him to loose two fingers from his left hand. This caused him to be sent home where, despite that and having a weak right leg, he found love and married Miss Eliza Foxx, who was a respected seamstress of high fashion gowns. He died in 1955 at the age of 73, having lived a good life as possible, loved and respected by his wife, three sons and two daughters.

Of the eight soldiers composing the tank’s crew, all of them were rescued on that fateful day of 20th of November 1917, due to Lance Corporal William James Blake’s selfless act of heroism. However the crewman that the captain (Jonathan Edward Carriton) and Lance Corporal Blake carried (Seaman John Whiteman, one of the gunners) died later from the injuries he received in the tank’s crash and from the same exploding shell that injured Blake.

Captain Carriton, along with Lieutenant Commander James Richard Bigglesworth (the tank’s driver), Petty officer Samuel Archer (one of the secondary gearsmen), Seaman Tomas Baker (the tank’s other gunner) and Seaman Jim Boatman (his loader) were later assigned to another tank. All of them unfortunately lost their lives in the second battle of the Somme, during the Hundred Day Offensive. Seaman Tomas Little (the other secondary gearsman and Petty officer Steve Longwood (John Witheman's loader), were also sent home due to their injuries they had received on that day Blake saved their lives.

* Definitions for these terms can be found in the glossary at the back of this book.


Thoughtfully, Paul closed the book. It must have been bloody terrifying out there in the middle of no man’s land with shells landing close by. But it hadn’t stopped Lance Corporal Blake. He hadn’t even thought about it and as soon as he realized that the tank’s crew needed help, he had gone to give what aid he could. Now that was true courage and Paul couldn’t help but wonder how he might have acted if he had been there. He liked to think it would have been something similar, but he knew that one wouldn’t know until he was put to the test.

The sound of footsteps made him look up and he got a nice surprise, for there standing before him was his father.

“Dad, you made it home!” he said, surprised and delighted. “I was concerned that you wouldn’t be able to because of the weather!”

“The weather has eased a bit, so the roads are not too bad at the moment,” Major Metcalfe replied. He moved to his son’s side and looked at the book Paul was holding. “Whose book is that? I don’t recall seeing it before.”

 “Granddad Blake’s,” Paul answered. “Mum told me that he had left some books here after his last visit.”

“Ah,” his father said with a nod. “I remember your mother saying something about them now, but I hadn’t had the time to look at them yet. Any good ones?” he asked.

Paul gave a firm nod. “There’s one about tanks that looks really neat and a novel that I want to read sometime.”

“That’s good. What’s the one are you looking at now?”

“A collection of stories about World War One soldiers. One of them was about a Lance Corporal William Blake,” Paul answered. “I wondered if he might have been an ancestor of Granddad. He was awesome, Dad, he rescued a crew from a stranded tank and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal! The thought that I might be related to him is cool.”

“Well, why don’t you see if you can find out if he is part of your mother’s family tree?” his father suggested. “Not right now, however. Your mother has dinner ready for us, so let’s go and get it before it grows cold.”

“Sure,” Paul stood up and started to follow his father. “You know, it might be fun to find out more about Lance Corporal Blake. Good idea, Dad,” he said as they headed to the dining room.


Glossary of World War One terms

Ÿ  Crump hole: A crater made by one of bigger shells.

Ÿ  Duckboards: Wooden boards laid in the trenches to try and keep the men out of the mud (usually ineffective).

Ÿ  Eggs: German hand-grenades, but came to mean small German artillery shells as well.

Ÿ  Evening stand to: Period when troops in the front line were required to man the fire step (a ledge built into the front edge of the trench, enabling soldiers to have a clear view of no man’s land), fully armed, in case of enemy attack. Routinely done at dawn and nightfall when enemy attacks were most likely to occur.

Ÿ  Hissing Jennie: A mid-size German artillery shell (so called because of the sound it made flying).

Ÿ  Jerry: One of the slang terms for German soldiers (especially towards the end of the war).

Ÿ  Over the top: To leave the front trench and attack the enemy.

Ÿ  Pips: Embroidered diamonds on officers uniforms denoting rank.

Ÿ  RAMC: Royal Army Medical Corps.

Ÿ  Sixty-minute men: Royal Flying Corps, Pilots and Gunners (due to how long they supposedly survived in battle because of poor training and inferior aircraft. Their survival rate rose as the war went on but it was still quite low).

Ÿ  The brass: Senior Officers (due to the braiding on their headgear).

Ÿ  VAD: Voluntary Aid Detachment.




Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was created by Gerry Anderson and the production rights are owned by ITC Entertainment Group Ltd and not me. This story has been written as a hobby and not for any monetary gain. 

The characters of Jessica, Ben, Willy, and Tom (Paul’s cousins) are the creations of Chris Bishop. Jessica Blake, as an adult, made a first appearance in Chris’ story ‘Cindy’s Angel’. She and the others are mentioned in other stories, notably in ‘Dreaming of a Gray Christmas’, in which Ben and Willy were mentioned, as well as Tom and his father James Knightley. Uncle Oliver (Blake), Jessica’s father, was mentioned first in ‘Tin Soldier’ and appeared a first time with his wife Emily in ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’.

Lance Corporal William James Blake is someone I made up, as well as the other soldiers in the ‘essay’. However, Petty Officer Arthur Jones, Second Lieutenant Harry John Minshaw Harris and Second Lieutenant Arthur George Joseph Whitehouse are real people and did receive the medals stated above. The event with the tank is fictional but similar events did happen during World War One.

Thanks to Isabelle Saucier and Chris Bishop, for beta-reading this story, and Merry Christmas to all and I hope that the New Year will be a better year to all than last year.











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