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We lost one...
As if by some grim co-incidence we had only just been talking about this possibility shortly before we took off. I was playing cards with the usual bunch. Gonny was losing and so was trying his best to put the rest of us off:
‘Did you know...’ This was his usual opening remark when starting one of his tales. ‘Did you know that according to statistics there is only a 60% chance of us coming back from each mission? That means for every 3 times we get up in that crate’ he gestured over to the Jennie resting out on the runway ‘We’re only coming home from two of them. He let this hang over the table.
‘Hey Chalky’ He slapped me on the arm. How many times have you flown with us now?’
‘Twice Gonny’ I could see where this was going.
‘So that makes this next one your...third...’ He started making wailing ghostly noises.
I won’t put down what my reply. I’m sorry to say you and Dad would have disappointed in the language I used.
Gille put down his cards and, squinting through the smoke Gonny was blowing around said:
‘Didn’t that same piece say that ball gunner’s like yaself, Gonny, only have a 30% chance of surviving a mission?’ That means every 3 missions we fly, you’ll only come back from one of them.’
‘Then I must be already dead’ Laughed Gonny and renewed his ghostly impressions.
Mac strode into the mess room with Ginger. ‘OK men, cut out the horseplay. Next target is Meaulte. Teddy here has the route mapped out. Cards down, get to your stations.'
Maybe it was the dark mood of our earlier banter but everything about this flight seemed different to the ones I’d flown before.
‘Bad luck to talk about death an’ dyin’ so close to a takeoff ya know’ Tailend Charlie said to me as we climbed about the Wailin’ Jennie. The scream from engine 2 served to remind me an earlier conversation I’d had with him and my spine shivered once again.
Despite an easy flight over, Benny had missed the target and, just like poking a hornets nest, Fritz had sent two waves of fighters from the airfield we'd just missed to see us off. The first wave was driven away by our ‘little friends’ flying with us.
The much larger second wave was soon around us and we found ourselves in a real furball. The first attack took out the MG on our Starboard Cheek side, Benny cursed stating the gun was totalled and now unusable. Sammy Whelan and Teddy both missed one of the 190s coming straight toward us. Fortunately the German pilot lost his nerve and flew away. Tailend Charlie was hammering away at the 190 that was drawing a bead on the rear of the Jennie. An explosion and Mac whooped over the radio:
‘Scratch one! Great shooting Charles, you drink for free when we get back,! Everyone here owes you a beer.’
Both Gonny and I were trying to hit the fourth 190 heading in from port side. Despite our best efforts Fritz pushed on and I hit the deck as bullets scythed through our plane. Tiny, stood next to me, grunted and collapsed.
‘Stations report in.’ Mac barked
‘Navigator?’ ‘I’m bleeding but I’m ok.’
‘Port waist?’ That was me: ‘Tiny’s down sir.’
‘Who?' Mac shouted back. ‘Tiny, sir. Starboard waist gunner.’
‘J____ Weismann! Give the man some respect, use his given name, none of this nickname bs. His name is Joe’
I was saved a balling out by the now pair of 190s taking a further run at us. One plane flew directly toward us and the 190 that had previously attacked from portside was now attacking from starboard. With Tiny down and our cheek MG out we could do nothing but hope and pray that Gonny and Sammy Whelan in the ball and top turrets and Ginger in the nose could see them off. Enemy bullets once again whined through the plane but I was now too pre-occupied with checking Tiny/Joe for vitals to really notice.
‘Charlie’s down!’ Sammy Whelan shouted, leaping down from his top turret. He raced past me toward the back of the plane.
‘He’s a mess, Mac.’ Ignoring Mac's earlier rebuke about nicknames Sammy Whelan’s voice was tinged with emotion. I could see him hunched over Charlie's body, then standing back.
‘He’s gone. We’ve lost Charles.’
Later, in the mess the mood was subdued. The whole flight had taken a mauling. Tiny was in the hospital but it was looking like he’d be OK. Ginger had been patched up.
At the bar stood nine full bottles of beer.
Your loving son,
- Last edited Sat Nov 9, 2013 4:10 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat Nov 9, 2013 1:37 pm