No. Rick had only just escaped the German’s grasp when he was evacuated from Manchester, and now they want to bomb Edgworth, too? Why? Edgworth was just a small village. They wouldn’t gain anything except a few extra numbers on the death toll. Louie was mouthing something over and over, staring at the plans disbelievingly. “They’re going to bomb us?” she said, her voice small and trembling. Her brow furrowed in confusion. Rick just nodded sadly, and began to walk out of the cave, praying he would never have the inclination to come back. Louie put a hand on his shoulder, saying to him slowly, “It’s not Edgworth they want to bomb. It’s the Firing Range up on Holcombe Moor. If you keep going along the top of this hill, you’ll reach it. They train soldiers there. That’s what they want to destroy.” A lightbulb pinged in Rick’s mind. Of course! Louie marched out of the cave with him in tow, their new revelation forming a light in the crushing darkness.
The next day, Louie made him write out the strange equation they had found at the crime scene. HMFR-MTB-GC=ZA! Muttering furiously, Louie scratched something out on the piece of slate. HOLCOMBE MOOR FIRING RANGE- MILITARY TRAINING BASE-GERMAN CAVE. Rick’s eyes widened. If Alice had known about the cave, then why didn’t she tell anyone about it? And the last bit… ZA… Zeppelin Attack! Louie bit her nails and shivered violently; presumably at the weight of the new discovery resting on their feeble shoulders. Sir Thomas had trusted one of the German spies, and so Alice may have thought that he would vouch for his friend over her? Anything was possible. They still hadn’t figured out what the other sentence meant: ‘Robert’s Tower’. Louie stared into space, before stuttering slightly and saying, “Robert’s Tower! I’ve got it! The Tower on Holcombe Moor is called Peel Tower after Robert Peel, who created the police force, because he was born in Ramsbottom. At the moment it is being used as a warning bell for air attacks on neighbouring villages and moorland. Alice was brilliant! She knew everything and gave us all the things we need to make sure everyone will be safe. But why didn’t she expose the Germans?” Rick shook his head, not able to puzzle so many thoughts at once.
On Wednesday, Rick and Louie met at Crowthorn School, awaiting the long trek to Peel Tower. Louie had brought a map, even though she had walked there many times before. “Ready to go?” inquired Louie eagerly. Rick nodded, and they began the journey one step at a time. Rick used the hours to sort out some essential facts in his jumbled mind. Alice had known about the Germans. They were planning an attack for that night, and he and Louie were going to ring the warning bell at Peel Tower so that everyone would be safe. Rick had a German blueprint plan for the attack in his bag so they could prove to the bell guard at the tower that they were telling the truth. Speed was everything. He took a deep breath and turned to look at the scenery. The sight was magical. It seemed to him that he was a hundred miles into the sky, which was blue and undisputed by cloud, and the sun was a spotlight on their rocky path, guiding them towards their goal. God wanted them to save his people. Rick would oblige with good grace. The farms and countryside houses beneath them seemed as if a patchwork quilt, stretching out in different shades of green. His city had not been able to give him the freedom he wanted. Could Edgworth? Could God?
They reached the tower at half three, stopping for lunch on the way. They had left at ten, so it seemed to them that they had made swift progress. The monument to Robert Peel was worthy of Peel’s legacy, honouring his home town with pride and dignity. It was huge, towering above them, made with sturdy stone from the nearby quarries on Holcombe Moor. There was a guard at the entrance. He wore military uniform, and a gun rested in a holster at his hip. “Stop!” he demanded. “State your names and business.” Louie looked nervous, but managed to force out, “My name is Louella Clayton-Jones and this is Patrick Smith. We have a need to ring the warning bell in the tower. We have full proof in our bag.” The guard smirked, saying, “Oh yeah? And how do I know that you are not carrying some sort of explosive or weapon in that bag?” Louie snapped at him venomously.
“Because we are both only twelve years old.” The guard sighed and gestured for Rick to open the bag. Rick handed the guard the German blueprints, watching in anticipation as he scanned them curiously. Gruffly, the guard shoved them back into Rick’s hands. “Up you go. There’s a few more guards but just tell them that Larry sent you. The bellsman is at the top; show him what you showed me and he’ll ring the bell. No funny business now.” Rick and Louie both nodded hurriedly, and did as Larry said; scrambling up the many stairs to the top of the tower. Rick wondered if the tower’s bell was anything like the church bell: except from the fact that it called people to safety instead of to worship. It was God’s way of saving his people.
The bellsman took one look at the blueprints before agreeing to ring the bell. The German’s were attacking that night. Everyone needed to be safe in time. The sound of the bell was deafening, ringing loud and clear in the soon-to-be dusk, both a warning and a saviour. Rick thought of the bombing sirens in Manchester. They had screamed their warnings nearly every night, and every night he had wondered how many lives would be lost. The bellsman had to stay in the tower, not able to get to safety, as it was his job to ring the bell when the attack was over so people could come out of the air raid bunkers. Rick and Louie made to leave, but the bellsman stopped them. “You’re not going anywhere. The military need to know where you got those blueprints, for your own safety. One of the guards will take you to a secure location for your interrogation. That is an order.”
They were led back the way they’d came, down into Edgworth then up into Chapeltown. Arriving near a place called Turton Tower, they were led into a stone bunker called ‘the Pillbox’. It was built in 1940 to serve as an enemy invasion defence bunker. It was cramped and stuffed with young soldiers, soldiers willing to risk their lives for their country. Night blew in overhead, and Rick and Louie heard the terrible sounds of the Zeppelins flying above them, the clamour of destruction up in the moor firing range, and the racket of a horrific war. Rick’s attempted sleep was uneasy, as he was reminded of his own street in Manchester. Every day someone’s house turned to rubble. He remembered his unmeasurable hope that his house wouldn’t be next. Although he had only lived in Edgworth for a short time, the same hope and protective instinct came flooding back. The Germans had already taken Manchester from him. His parents. His entire life. They could not take Edgworth too.
That Sunday Rick was not at church. He was still awaiting interrogation with Louie in the Pillbox. The defensive forces had been too busy inspecting the destruction caused by the zeppelins to bother with questioning two little kids. However, Rick still found it within him to pray, for his village and for its people, selfish as he was. He prayed for the soldiers inspecting the damage on the moors right now. He prayed for Holcombe. Yet most of all, he prayed for his enemies. That they may find light in their darkened path, have the ability to reach out to it, and find their own hope in life.
To be continued…
Tune in next week for the final part five..
Author: Freya (age 12)