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N 1943 ALLIED FORCES LANDED ON THE ITALIAN PENINSULA AND BEGAN A STEADY ADVANCE NORTHWARDS TOWARDS CENTRAL EUROPE. THE PEOPLE OF THE BRITISH ISLES FOLLOWED THIS CAMPAIGN WITH KEEN INTEREST, RELISHING EVERY ACCOUNT OF ALLIED HEROISM THAT WAS REPORTED IN THE PAPERS AND NEWSREELS. ONE SUCH BRITON WAS JASON STRINGER, A SIMPLE COUNTRY BOY WHO LIVED WITH HIS FATHER IN THE SOUTHWEST OF ENGLAND. JASON WORKED HARD TO EARN HIS KEEP, NEVER DREAMING THAT HE HIMSELF WOULD ONE DAY PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE WAR AGAINST THE AXIS.

THOSE LUCKY LADS ARE OFF TO ITALY. WISH I WAS GOING WITH THEM.

STORY DOMINIC TEAGUE ART VILA COVER JANEK MATYSIAK


4

JASON’S FATHER HAD TRAINED HIS SON TO USE A RIFLE FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE – A HANDY SKILL FOR WORKING ON THE FARM.

SEVEN OUT OF TEN. NOT BAD, JAY. BUT PLENTY OF ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.

DETERMINED, THE BOY CONTINUED TO HONE HIS SKILLS AS HE MATURED. BEFORE LONG HE’D EARNED HIMSELF A REPUTATION AS THE FINEST MARKSMAN IN THE COUNTY.

TEN OUT OF TEN! ATTA BOY!

HIS FATHER COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE PROUD.


5

JASON TURNED EIGHTEEN IN THE SPRING OF 1943. WHEN THE POSTMAN BROUGHT HIM A LETTER A FEW DAYS LATER, JASON ASSUMED IT WAS A LATE BIRTHDAY CARD. BUT WHEN HE OPENED THE ENVELOPE HE FOUND LITTLE CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION.

‘...YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED THAT YOU ARE CALLED UP FOR MILITARY SERVICE.’

AFTER PASSING HIS MEDICAL TEST WITH FLYING COLOURS, JASON PACKED HIS BAGS AND BADE FARWELL TO HIS FRIENDS. WHEN THE DAY OF DEPARTURE ARRIVED, HIS FATHER ACCOMPANIED HIM TO THE RAILWAY STATION. YOU’VE BEEN BLESSED WITH A SPECIAL GIFT, JAY. NOW IT’S TIME TO USE THAT GIFT IN THE SERVICE OF YOUR COUNTRY. JUST REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN AND YOU’LL DO ALL RIGHT.

I WILL, PA. I PROMISE.


6

IT WAS A LONG JOURNEY TO THE SCOTTISH BASE WHERE JASON WAS TO UNDERGO HIS TRAINING. HE’D NEVER BEEN SO FAR AWAY FROM HOME IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE, AND ALREADY HE WAS STARTING TO FEEL HOMESICK.

THIS IS A FAR CRY FROM THE OLD FARMSTEAD. I’D BETTER HEED PA’S ADVICE AND KEEP MY HEAD DOWN.

THE QUARTERMASTER KITTED THE NEW ARRIVALS OUT WITH THEIR UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT. THEN CAME TIME FOR THE MEN TO PRESENT THEMSELVES BEFORE CAPTAIN DONALD SMYTH, THE OFFICER WHO WOULD BE OVERSEEING THEIR TRAINING. WHAT D’YOU THINK, SERGEANT MACLEOD? IS THERE ANY HOPE FOR THEM?

FOR SURE, THEY’RE A ROUGH-LOOKING BUNCH, SIR. BUT WE’LL MAKE SOLDIERS OF ‘EM YET.


7

JASON CONTINUED TO KEEP HIS HEAD DOWN, JUST LIKE HIS FATHER HAD TOLD HIM TO. BUT HIS QUIET NATURE DID NOT WIN HIM ANY POPULARITY POINTS AMONGST HIS FELLOW TRAINEES. AS THE DAYS WENT BY JASON STARTED TO FEEL INCREASINGLY ISOLATED FROM THE OTHER CADETS. WE’RE ONE MAN SHORT FOR WHIST. WHY DON’T WE ASK JASON?

STRINGER? FORGET IT! HE’S TOO WRAPPED UP IN HIMSELF TO MINGLE WITH THE REST OF US COMMON DRONES.

HE DID, HOWEVER, FIND AN ALLY IN JIMMY MACLEOD, THE SCOTTISH SERGEANT WHO COORDINATED THE BULK OF HIS TRAINING. MACLEOD WAS PARTICULARLY IMPRESSED BY JASON’S SHOW OF SKILL ON THE FIRING RANGE.

THIS IS WHERE ALL OF PA’S LESSONS WILL PAY OFF. THOUGH I’D BETTER MISS A FEW SO THE OTHER TRAINEES WON’T THINK I’M SHOWING OFF.

EIGHT OUT OF TEN! THAT’S VERY GOOD, PRIVATE STRINGER. BUT MY GUT INSTINCT TELLS ME YOU CAN DO BETTER.


8

MACLEOD DISCUSSED JASON’S PROGRESS WITH CAPTAIN SMYTH.

KNOWING THAT THE BRITISH ARMY HAD NEED OF SKILLED SNIPERS ON THE FRONT LINE, SMYTH APPROVED MACLEOD’S PROPOSAL.

STRINGER’S THE BEST MARKSMAN AMONG THE LOT, BUT I SENSE HE’S HOLDIN’ BACK. WITH A WEE PUSH, HE JUST MIGHT HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A SNIPER.

VERY WELL, SERGEANT. YOU’RE TO TAKE PRIVATE STRINGER UNDER YOUR WING AND SEE THAT HE GETS THE ENCOURAGEMENT HE NEEDS.

BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE TOLD ME, IT CERTAINLY SOUNDS LIKE THE BOY HAS POTENTIAL.

AYE, SIR. I WILL THAT.

WHEN JASON HAD COMPLETED SIX WEEKS OF BASIC INSTRUCTION, MACLEOD LED HIM OUT INTO THE HIGHLANDS TO BEGIN HIS SPECIALIST TRAINING AS A SNIPER. IT WAS HERE THAT THE SERGEANT WOULD TEACH HIS STUDENT THE FINER POINTS OF MARKSMANSHIP AND FIELD CRAFT. IT ALL LOOKS SO... SO INHOSPITABLE.

GET USED TO IT, SON. YOU’LL BE SPENDING A GOOD DEAL O’ TIME OUT HERE.


9

UNDER THE N.C.O.‘S GUIDANCE, JASON SOON LEARNED HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE WILDERNESS. HE LEARNED HOW TO MAKE HIMSELF INVISIBLE, HOW TO USE THE LAND TO HIS ADVANTAGE, AND HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT MOMENT TO OPEN FIRE ON HIS TARGET.

COMPARED TO THIS, PA’S SHOOTING LESSONS WERE A WALK IN THE PARK...

THE HIGHLANDS WERE A HARSH TESTING GROUND, BUT THEY OFFERED PRECISELY THE CONDITIONING JASON NEEDED TO TOUGHEN HIM UP FOR COMBAT. SMYTH DEMANDED PROOF OF JASON’S PROGRESS SO MACLEOD ARRANGED A DEMONSTRATION. GOOD GRIEF! HE MUST BE RIGHT ON TOP OF US BY NOW! AND I STILL CAN’T SEE HIM!

HE’S A MASTER OF STEALTH, SIR, AND A DEAD SHOT MARKSMAN TO BOOT. I THINK IT’S TIME WE LET HIM LOOSE AGAINST THE ENEMY.


10

IT WASN’T LONG BEFORE MACLEOD AND JASON WERE FLOWN INTO SOUTHERN ITALY FOR ACTIVE SERVICE. THEIR PLANE LANDED AT AN AIRFIELD WHERE A COMPANY OF MEN WAS WAITING FOR MACLEOD TO ASSUME COMMAND OF THEIR UNIT. THIS WARM WEATHER MAKES A WELCOME CHANGE FROM THE HIGHLANDS. DON’T DROP YOUR GUARD, JAY. THIS IS WHERE THE REAL DANGER BEGINS.

JASON AND MACLEOD WEREN’T THE ONLY NEW MEMBERS OF THE UNIT. LANCE-CORPORAL JACK LEWIS HAD BEEN TRANSFERRED FROM ANOTHER PLATOON AND WAS EAGER TO IMPRESS HIS NEW MATES.

ALL RIGHT, LADS? NEVER FEAR, LEWIS IS HERE!

FEARING THE OTHER TROOPS MIGHT NOT LIKE HIM, LEWIS LOOKED FOR A WEAK SPOT HE COULD EXPLOIT AS A WAY OF INGRATIATING HIMSELF. HE FOUND THAT WEAK SPOT IN JASON. BLIMEY, IF STRINGER ‘ERE’S THE BEST REINFORCEMENT COMMAND COULD SEND, IT’S A GOOD JOB I ARRIVED WHEN I DID. DON’T WORRY, FELLAHS, YOU WON’T HAVE TO RELY ON OL’ GUTLESS ‘ERE TO WATCH YOUR BACKS. NOT WITH LEWIS AROUND. THAT LOUD-MOUTHED…

DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT, SARGE. IT’S NOT WORTH THE BOTHER.



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