He lifted the hand, forced back the fingers and saw a round golden pellet in the centre of the palm. The body was P.I.E. agent 373 a member of the Jarvis Brook 'Treacle Miners'.
P.C. Cottingham transferred the pellet into his handkerchief and tucked it deep into his jacket pocket. He covered the body with his cape and stood guard until a horse and carriage arrived and Paul Bynorth, the local funeral director, had the body placed in a casket and taken away.
Little was known of the activities of the 'Treacle Miners'. They were often seen entering the Plough and Horses in Jarvis Brook, but seldom seen leaving. They wore bowler hats, some decorated with feathers of a Buxted chicken. From 1903 to 1918 they served as a secret army in defence of England. They were in fact a highly trained force of volunteers of a special branch of the Political Intelligence Executive.
They called themselves 'Treacle Pie' but most people living in Jarvis Brook addressed them as 'Treacle Miners' from the Plough.
The Treacle Miners were the first to be asked -"Have you any gum chum ?"
Apart from a catapult, each miner carried a supply of a yellowish aromatic gum which was extracted from the treacle rock. It was valued for its medicinal properties and became known throughout Sussex as 'Brook Balm'. It was something to chew on.
A sample pellet of Brook Balm was now in P.C Cottingham's handkerchief.
Had the P.I.E. agent been about to use it, when he was struck down ?
It only required a hand shake. The gum was in tablet form and provided a pleasant chew. Once the flavour had gone, the gum was rolled up into a pellet and used as ammunition by the P.I.E. agents. First, an explosive device was wrapped inside the gum, the 'Treacle Miner', using his catapult, would fire at his target, on impact the 'gum' stuck to the target and within seconds there would be a loud bang! It was not an explosion that could cause great damage, but on certain targets it caused great alarm.
Ladies recruited as a P.I.E. agents wore a bangle on their right arm. This too was made from treacle rock and was often used to get the lady agents out of sticky situations! They called it the 'Ring of Truth' . It was used as a communicator and was probably the first example of a mobile phone.
There were a number of female agents recruited into the Jarvis Brook Treacle Miners and they always met at the Plough and Horses. There was "Wacky Baccy Jackie", "Mary from the Diary" not to be confused with "Mary with the Hairy"; Della the Flower Seller", "Alice from the Palace", "Nasal Hazel"; "Fancy Nancy", "Brenda the Money Lender", "Cathy from the NAFFI" and "Hillary in the Pillory"
Their roll in the Treacle Mine was to spread propaganda, keep everybody sweet and act as 'spies'. At Christmas, they were mince pies, delicious ladies!
The men were divided into patrols, the most famous was the "Bersaglieri Patrol".
When Phil Wickens arrived in Jarvis Brook in 1903, he met the greatest catapult shooter in England - Mr John Millais.
John Millais could hit the point of a pencil at a distance of fifteen yards. He was just the man needed as a P.I.E. agent. Phil, of the Jarvis Brook treacle mines, recruited Mr Millais. Although John Millais was never made a P.I.E.agent, he travelled across the south of England and trained all the treacle miners, from Dunchideock to Buxted and Jarvis Brook, in the skills of being a "dead shot" with the catapult.
He made sure that only square elastic was issued to the treacle miners. Round elastic would not enable the miners to become marksmen. A marksman had to be able to shoot straight, only square elastic would enable him to do this. Treacle Miners knew how to keep their tinder dry - they were now taught how to keep their elastic warm. Phil Wickens became the first Jarvis Brook Crackshot (JBC class A).
It was Phil who helped to form the Plough and Horses Bersaglieri Patrol, this group of sharp shooters wore bowler hats with drooping plumes of Buxted Chickens' feathers, green shirts, brown corduroy trousers tucked into long green stockings and brown boots.
It was their custom of sticking close to a full pint glass of ale. They were the talk of Jarvis Brook for their skill with the catapult. They kept their elastic warm by keeping their catapult deep down in their trouser pockets. But, the very shape of the catapult, often caused the flirtatious young Jarvis Brook girls to sit outside the Plough and Horses and wait for the Bersaglieri. The girls would greet them with "Is that your catapult in your pocket or are you just pleased to see us?" or "Hello handsome, would you like to twang my elastic ?" or "I wouldn't mind you tickling me with your feather".
All harmless fun, but when a Bersaglieri could hit a cigarette out of a smokers' lips at 20yards, they were not men to be trifled with. The Jarvis Brook Bersaglieri Patrol always scored!
Donald Isted was one of the 'marksmen'. He was the local poacher and with the help of his ferrets, many a hundred rabbits were chased from their burrows and if any escaped the net, a pellet of treacle fired from his catapult brought his prey to a dead halt.
Another treacle miner and P.I.E. agent was David Newton. He tested out the laws of motion and gravitation formulated by one of his ancestors. His object was to construct an Air Balloon from which the Treacle Miners could observe activities below. He worked in the Treacle Mine which he entered secretly via an ancient 17th Century 'treacle well', next to the cellar.
The balloon was named the "Gas Bag". Treacle Miner Newton collected most of the hot air he needed from the Public Bar and the rest from other 'private' places. When the day arrived for the Gas Bag's maiden flight, Brenda refused to be the 'Test Pilot' and it was 'Dipper' that drew the short straw. He pleaded that he was a Treacle Miner not a 'Treaclejar'! (a bird similar to a swallow). But, his short outburst was ignored and with a gathering of Treacle Miners on the lawn, the Gas Bag was launched; "One small step for man," Nobby Martin called out; - "One long drop if anything goes wrong" wailed Dipper.
The Gas Bag flew off towards Rotherfield, where it knocked off the weather cock on the church steeple, continued to climb, breaking altitude records and was finally shot down by the Jarvis Brook Bersaglieri Bicycle Patrol, using explosive treacle balls fired from their catapults, whilst pedalling towards Tunbridge Wells.
Robert Malone, known to his fellow Treacle Miners as "Molly", was in charge of the Rifle Range which was in a secret location between Jarvis Brook and Eridge. A wooden 'Aunt Sally' was used for target practice, a 'crack-shot' could hit her nose at 40 yards and snap in half, the clay pipe in her mouth, at the same distance.
The Critchley Camouflaged Car was so effective that it was almost invisible to the eye and nobody ever saw it. Dave's Ford Tin Lizzie was Jarvis Brook's secret armoured tank! It now has a permanent parking place near the back door entrance to the Plough & Horses. (But, many believe it is not there now.)
These placards can been seen at the Plough & Horses in Jarvis Brook. The first one reminds everyone that wise men, religious hermits or anchorites, once dwelt near the brook. They made a study of herbs and gained a reputation for their healing powers. The power of the healing was transferred in people's minds to the brook. The waters were drunk and people would wash themselves in the waters. There were cures and many collected the water in bottles. It was the 'treacle' it the water that gave it healing powers. "Theriacs" were created. It was from the Theriaciferrous rock or strata from which treacle can still be extracted. With the demand for water with miraculous curative properties - spring water was not enough and it was necessary to dig more wells.
Most people now just come into the Plough & Horses and ask for their favourite pint!
The second placard tells of what use was made of the ancient treacle mine workings by P.I.E. Agents
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