A/N: I don't own Hogan's Heroes and I don't get paid for this; it is truly a labor of love.
Crittendon's version of "Hogan's Trucking Service: We Deliver the Factory to You". Some lines of dialogue from the episode are included.
I found the atmosphere at Stalag 16 to be quite different upon my return. The Escape Committee was still at an impasse, but the lads were all keen on the idea of escaping, even though my own escape had been an abject failure. So how could I refuse to lead a group of them who were intent on securing their freedom, and rejoining the glorious Cause to which we were all devoted?
Especially since LeBeau and Carter had made escape appear so effortless when they had broken Gareau and myself out of camp.
So late one night, after carefully studying the habits of the guards (who were, I must admit, rather a dull lot), we made our way through the fence and to freedom.
I had formed the intention of heading for Stalag 13, as I was quite certain that Colonel Hogan and his lads (clever fellows that they were) would be able to assist me and my little band in our efforts to return to dear old England.
We were but a few miles shy of our goal when we encountered one of the locals, a rather nervous individual who informed us that he was a member of the German underground. He escorted us to his headquarters, a deserted barn in a remote area.
He showed us round the building, then said rather abruptly, "I am glad you are here, for my wife is very ill and I am unable to continue my work with the Resistance. You will take my place?"
I was more than a little startled. "Eh? What? No, no, my dear fellow, we really mustn't..."
"You must," he said, fixing me with a stare that reminded me forcibly of Air Commodore Thistlethwaite.
My brain is not accustomed to rapid thought, but on this occasion I came to a instantaneous decision. My lads needed a place to rest, and I needed to formulate a plan to ensure their safe passage through this barbarous country. Surely I could take over this chap's duties in the interim, while we waited for a permanent replacement for him. And then of course we would continue our trek to England.
I thought of my brother Nigel, who was at that moment incarcerated as we had been, and I remembered the plan he had devised for working with partisans. Perhaps this was a marvellous opportunity to put his plan into action! And I silently vowed to do so...at least the bits of it that I could remember.
I said to the fellow, "Very well, I shall stay, but with the understanding that my men must return to England as soon as possible," and he agreed. He showed us where he kept his maps and radio, and told us where food could be obtained.
"This is Unit 1," he said. "My code name is Peter Piper. I shall make sure the other units know that you are commanding this headquarters now. What will be your code name?"
"They call 'im 'Colonel' at camp," young Melkinthorpe offered. "Even though 'e's actually a Group Captain."
"Why not call yourself 'Colonel X', sir?" suggested Darracott. "Has a nice ring to it, eh?"
"I suppose," I said, resigned to being addressed incorrectly yet again. " 'Colonel X' it is."
And that is how R. Crittendon happened to take command of an underground unit. Ah, hubris had me in its grasp, indeed; I assumed the mantle of Icarus, and flew too close to the sun! Or, as Hogan would tell me later with his quaint American idiom: I bit off more than I could chew.
For two days later, while the lads were out on a reconnaissance patrol, disaster struck. I received a radio message from Stüger, the leader of Unit 4, informing me that my group had been recaptured and taken back to Stalag 16.
"What?" I gasped. "How?"
"Farmer with a pitchfork," he said briefly.
"A farmer? How in blazes did he manage that?" I demanded.
"The pitchfork had six prongs, Colonel," said Stüger, "and he held it at the throat of one of your men as he tried to emerge from an apple barn that he and the others had entered. The farmer's wife had already gone to phone the Gestapo...there was nothing we could do."
"No, no, of course not."
"And I must remind you that we have to take part in an organized attack at Arnheim on Friday," he added.
I'm afraid I rather lost my head at that point: the only course of action that I could contemplate was to effect the rescue of my men! "Never mind that," I told the fellow crisply. "I have a different plan; we shall be attacking Stalag 16 instead."
"What? But we already have our instructions..."
"Ignore them, man! I am in charge of this unit, and there will be a new plan. I shall get to work on it posthaste, and make contact with you tomorrow night." I signed off over his protests, and sat for a long time with my head in my hands, wondering just how I was going to do it.
The next evening, I was surprised by two men who broke into the barn unexpectedly. To my further surprise, they were none other than Sergeant Carter and Corporal Newkirk, two of Colonel Hogan's men from Stalag 13. A windfall, indeed! I lost no time in appropriating them for my scheme to break my men out of Stalag 16. I ordered young Carter to do sentry duty and appointed Newkirk as my aide.
An hour or so later, as I pondered my plan and thought to myself "What would Nigel do?", the calm atmosphere of the barn was broken once again, this time by Colonel Hogan himself. I was delighted to see him, and immediately told him of the predicament my men found themselves in, and of the plan I was formulating for their escape.
"I'm afraid I've got orders that may delay your operation," he said.
"I'm in command here, Hogan," I began, my mind still occupied with how I could free my men.
"These orders are from London."
London! Well, I knew my duty, and orders from headquarters superseded my anguished need to rescue the brave lads who had dared to escape with me. I came to attention and snapped off my best salute. "They'll be obeyed to the letter, and I shall be with you every step of the way!"
Half an hour later, I waited in the woods overlooking the Arnheim ball-bearing factory. My assignment was to observe the explosion and destruction of the same, and report back to Hogan. He had told me the bomb was timed to go off at twenty-four hundred hours, and I kept glancing at my watch, wondering why the devil the explosion had not yet occurred. At nine-thirty PM I decided Hogan's lads had evidently made a mistake, and I should lose no time in informing Hogan of the failure of the mission.
That's when I spotted a lorry parked near the plant. Aha! I decided to steal it and report to Hogan in person, rather than try to radio him from my headquarters. There was no one about, so I crept up to the vehicle. The keys were in the ignition, and a Jerry helmet and greatcoat were on the seat, so I coolly assumed the raiment and climbed into the cab. In a very brief space of time I was on my way to Stalag 13.
When I reached Stalag 13, Sergeant Schultz was at the gate and he stared at the lorry in a dazed sort of way, don't you know, and then stepped up to the driver's window. I'm not quite certain what he said to me, but I gave a grunt and a noncommittal shrug in reply, and he shrugged in return and waved me through the gates.
I parked the lorry outside of Barracks 2 and hurried in.
"Achtung, chaps!" I said by way of greeting, and a dozen astonished faces turned to me.
Hogan seemed less than pleased to see me, and after he rather irritably queried my presence at the stalag, he soon disabused me of my misapprehension regarding the time the explosion was due to occur. "Twenty-four hundred hours is MIDNIGHT!" he growled.
And when he discovered that I had brought a lorry back to camp, and that the lorry happened to be the one carrying the explosives intended for the ball-bearing factory, well! We were indubitably in a hobble, and all due to me. Of course, had Hogan confided to me the manner in which the factory was to be destroyed, I would never stolen that lorry...but no matter.
Abashed at my error, and horrified at what I had done, I immediately volunteered to take the lorry back to the ball-bearing plant. Since it was now being guarded by a rather large and unpleasant-looking Jerry, I assured Hogan that I would deal with the situation by using Killer Judo on the guard, to disable him long enough to scarper with the lorry. Girding up my loins, as it were, I left the barracks to confront the fellow.
Looking back now on my futile efforts to subdue the guard, I daresay the few hours I had spent developing my skills in Killer Judo were not sufficient to meet the case. It appeared that the weekend programme I had attended (entitled "Commando Training for Desk Officers") had not proven to be as efficacious as I had hoped. In any event, the guard immobilised me with ease, and had me in Kommandant Klink's office in a twinkling.
Klink recognised me at once, and immediately summoned a rather nasty little Gestapo agent by the name of Major Hochstetter to investigate my presence at Stalag 13. The agent arrived with promptitude, and had a distinctly malevolent gleam in his eye as he stated his intention of interrogating me. I responded by stating my intention of telling him nothing, absolutely nothing, and then the phone rang.
Major Hochstetter took the call, and after a brief exchange he ended the call and turned to Klink, informing him that he was needed at the Arnheim ball-bearing plant. He decided to take me with him for further questioning, and I was escorted out of the office and into the compound by Hochstetter's assistant.
And then an absolutely terrifying thing occurred, something even more terrifying than being taken away for questioning by the Gestapo: Hochstetter's car had a flat tyre, and he determined that we would take the lorry that was parked outside Barracks 2 to the ball-bearing plant. Yes, indeed, that lorry. I was ordered into the back of the vehicle, Hochstetter's man climbed in alongside me, and we were off.
I felt a certain amount of guilt for bringing that lorry into camp with all the explosives and whatnot, but it did seem rather hard that I was going to be blown up along with it. Still, my duty demanded that I refrain from revealing to the Jerries what was on board, no matter what the consequences to myself.
And as the lorry left the camp, at least I had the satisfaction of knowing Hogan and his men were no longer at risk. But I kept my senses at their customary keen pitch, and waited for the opportunity to extricate myself from the fix I was in.
So when the lorry came to a stop a short way down the road, and my guard (who seemed to be under the not entirely unjustified impression that I was an ineffectual sort of fellow) was momentarily distracted, I gave him a jolly good thump on the head with a basket of towels, and jumped out.
I was on the very brink of making my escape, don't you know, but I couldn't leave the poor fellow to his doom. I reached into the back of the lorry and started to haul him out, only to be startled by a voice with a distinct accent heard only from those who hail from across the pond. A Yank, in fact.
"Looks like you saved me the trouble, Colonel."
I looked round, but the only person visible was that ruddy Gestapo fellow. Hochstetter walked over to me and took a look at the guard, who was half-in and half-out of the lorry, and out like a light. Then the Major gave me a shock by taking hold of the fellow's legs and helping me to put him on the ground.
He straightened up and fixed me with a gimlet stare. "Okay, buddy, I can understand why you were trying to escape. But why take Schmidt along?"
"Because I couldn't let him..." I cut myself off. No need to let this Jerry know about the explosives, even if he did speak like an American. Trying to lull me into a false sense of security, no doubt. One must look sharp when dealing with these fellows, don't you know.
Major Hochstetter gave me the old whatsit look and rubbed his chin. He looked at the boxes in the back of the lorry and then back at me. "Okay, spill it, Colonel. What's in the truck?"
I drew myself up and regarded him haughtily. "Never shall I reveal that information! No matter what mediæval tortures you plan, dash it!"
Hochstetter sighed. "Contrary to popular belief, I've never tortured anyone, so relax, Colonel." He added, thoughtfully, "You were trying to remove one of the enemy from the back of the truck, a truck that's heading from Stalag 13 to the ball-bearing plant. Must be something in there...holy crap! There's a bomb on the truck, isn't there? When does it blow?"
I hesitated, and he glared at me. "Listen, Colonel, we don't have time for chit-chat. When does it blow?"
Well, I was a bit rattled, to be perfectly frank, and I said, "Nineteen hundred hours...I think."
"It's eleven PM right now, damn it! Try again, Colonel."
I said, a little desperately, "I do seem to have a bit of a problem with these deuced military times. But midnight is the time Colonel Hogan told me."
Hochstetter nodded. "Midnight...I don't have much time. You take off, Colonel. I'll have the driver deal with Schmidt here and I'll drive the truck to the plant myself. Hopefully I can get clear before it blows."
Perhaps I'd misjudged the chap. "I say, Major, you're taking this in a jolly good spirit, what?"
He shrugged. "Hogan doesn't know I work for the Allies, and I'm sure he thought he was killing two birds with one stone. But you, Colonel—you're taking it pretty well too. After all, he must have known you were on the truck."
"Fortunes of war, sir," I said nobly. "Nothing must interfere with the mission! Orders from headquarters, don't you know."
"Yeah, I know. Now get going."
I turned to go, and then I looked back. "But what shall I tell Colonel Hogan?"
Hochstetter smiled in a rather sinister fashion, but I suppose the poor fellow couldn't help it. "He'll find out that I'm still around soon enough. And someday I'm sure he'll figure out who I am. But for now, Colonel, pretend you never spoke with me tonight. Deal?"
"Very well, Major." We exchanged salutes and I started my walk back to Stalag 13. If I could avoid the guards and enter by way of the tunnel, perhaps I could consult with Hogan on what he thought I should do next. I was obviously a complete duffer as an underground leader, and I feared the skills necessary for breaking my men out of Stalag 16 were sadly lacking as well, but perhaps he could find a use for me.
As I approached the stalag, I was keeping to the edge of the road; it was jolly dark and I'd no wish to get lost, to be sure. But a small farm lorry appeared out of nowhere, taking the curve rather too fast, and headed right for me, knocking me into the ditch.
The lorry screeched to a stop, and the driver and his passenger climbed out. The gentleman was quite inebriated, and his wife said something admonishing to him before she hurried over to me. Although flat on my back, I was quite unhurt, and told the lady so, unfortunately. For at the sound of my voice ringing with the dulcet tones of England, the gentleman reached into the lorry and pulled something out from the back. As he walked toward me he was silhouetted in the headlights of his vehicle...and the item in his hands was a blasted pitchfork!
Dashed efficient people, those Jerries. Within the space of a few minutes the farmer (as fate would have it, the same fellow who had captured my men!) and his wife brought me to Stalag 13, and turned me over to the guards there. Within another few minutes Sergeant Schultz escorted me to Barracks 2, and I rejoined Hogan and his men just in time to hear the explosion take place at midnight.
And so it was a successful mission for Hogan after all, despite my faux pas!
But of course Kommandant Klink lost no time the following morning in returning me ignominiously to Stalag 16.
When Emily finished reading the manuscript, she looked up slowly and shook her head as if dazed. The dear girl seemed to be having trouble catching her breath.
"What is it, darling?" I cried.
"You...you were on a truck with bombs...and Bob knew about it all the time..."
I tried to soothe her outraged sensibilities. "He couldn't have known that Hochstetter would insist on taking me along to the ball-bearing plant, my dear!"
"He could have said something when you got into the truck, though!"
I shook my head. "You mustn't hold it against Hogan, my dear. He had no choice, and nor did I. Orders from headquarters, remember."
An icy glare was her only response, and I hastened to add, "And had he said anything, it would have exposed his entire operation and endangered everyone! But he and his men were quite sad at the thought of my demise, don't you know, and they were indeed glad to see me when I had risen from the ashes, as it were."
"I'll just bet they were glad." She was still simmering, but then a smile slowly appeared and her eyes began to twinkle. "And I guess you showed them, didn't you? You managed to escape the truck unassisted, and you made it back to Stalag 13 in one piece."
"I was determined to escape, indeed," I said. "I was not about to give up without a fight, or whatever the bally saying is."
Emily patted my arm. "Yes, and so you did! Even if your Killer Judo wasn't all that effective, you figured out a way to disable that guard. And you weren't about to let him get blown up along with the truck, either. I'm proud of you, Rodney dear."
"Thank you, old girl."
She tilted her head to one side. "I'm wondering, though. What happened after you were returned to Stalag 16?"
I sighed. "I resumed my former duties, and oddly enough the lads who had been recaptured bore me no ill-will. And things went rather smoothly for a time, until one day a couple of strange Jerries were ushered into my quarters..."