"Rum," Sergeant Den Savage whispered to himself. "Very rum indeed."
Savage, a licensed civil engineer who had enlisted with the King's Own Hussars in September of 1939 liked to think he'd had a decent war. Tobruk, Sicily, Normandy. Just the whisper of such storied names earned him an appreciative glance from the most hardened warrior. If he was lucky, it even got him a pint gratis at the local NAAFI pub.
But Savage was no soldier. There'd been no storming of enemy parapets for him. No jumping from a plane behind enemy lines or braving a foreign beach under a hail of fire. Beau Geste, that was the next man. At five feet, two inches tall and one hundred and three pounds dripping wet, Savage was the mouse who didn't roar. "A bloke should know his place," he liked to say, "and mine is to the rear, thank you very much."
The entire world knew about the "Desert Rats". Well, Den and his team called themselves the "Pack Rats". It was the job of this particular engineer of King's Own Hussars to collect, label, and store all weapons confiscated from the enemy. He'd taken potato mashers from the Afrika Korps and Schmeissers from the SS, rocket launchers from the Hitler Youth and pocket knives from the Volksturm. He knew every gun, rifle, and grenade used by the German Army and the ordnance to go with it. Still, for everything he'd seen and done, today's job bothered him.
"Rum," he whispered to himself. "Very rum, indeed."
Savage strode down the center aisles of warehouse E392 in Dortmund, Germany, whistling for his men to gather round. The warehouse was packed to its gills with small arms and ammunition confiscated from Hitler's baddies. Most had been taken by Monty himself, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, that is, England's highest ranking soldier (who Den liked to point out was no heavyweight himself). And Savage made sure the weapons were stored like with like: pistols with pistols, rifles and rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, mines, grenades… well, he could go on forever, couldn't he?
"Alright, lads, listen up," he shouted when his thirty-five man platoon had drawn close. "We've a bit of work ahead of us and I don't want to hear any complaining from the pews. Church mice, lads. Follow?"
"Ah, shut up, Sarge, and let us hear the bad news," shouted Jimmy McGregor, a mealy mouthed little bugger from County Antrim. You could always count on the Irish for a bit of lip.
"Right then, McGregor. If you're so keen, I'll let you have it right off, won't I?"
And for the next fifteen minutes, Savage outlined in excruciating detail the work order that he had received earlier that morning – the order that had his stomach growling with uncertainty. Savage's men were to remove every weapon in the warehouse – all of which they had previously catalogued, cleaned, greased, and packed – strip them of their protective cosmoline coating, re-insert the firing pins and return them to their wooden crates. Worst, though, was the final instruction. The crates werenot to be nailed shut.
"But Den," asked McGregor, in his sheepish Antrim brogue, "without grease the guns will rust quicker than tin in a rainstorm."
"Don't you go worrying about rust and the natural order of things, Jimmy McGregor," said Savage. "The order's from Monty himself. You have any questions, you're to take it up with him. Now get to work."
Savage dismissed his men and returned to his office. He knew he'd been short with McGregor but, damn it all, he couldn't help it. Something about the order just didn't sit right with him. You see, for once, Jimmy McGregor was right.
You only stripped guns of their grease and re-inserted their firing pins if you expected to use them. And very soon at that.
Rum, thought Savage,very rum, indeed.