Cross-posted from the B-17 play-by-forum missions, corrected for grammar and punctuation errors. If you enjoy this, drop by the forum : as my alter ego might say "we're always looking for talented types to join the 20-minuters !"
Mission 46/Crew 21/Bomber 8
B-17 : Blackadder the Third
Pilot Flt Lt Lord Flashheart
CoPilot Fg Off Wellington
Navigator Plt Off Proudfoot-Smith
Bombardier Fg Off Wells
Engineer Flt Sgt Topper
Radio Operator Sgt Raleigh
Ball Turret Flt Sgt Parkhurst
Waist Gunner Sgt Farrow
Waist Gunner Sgt Hood
Tail Turret Sgt Ploppy
Fighters claimed : 4 x Me 109, 1 x FW 190.
Bombing results : 0% on target.
Injuries : Serious wounds for Flight Lieutenant Lord Flashheart and Sergeant Ploppy. Flying Officer Wellington, Pilot Officer Proudfoot-Smith and Sergeant Raleigh KIA
(Interior, Major Pfalzstaff's office. The bloodstained Bishop of Bath and Wells is slumped at the desk, still in flying kit. The Major and a stenographer sit across from him, the adjutant leans against the wall. The Major taps out a cigarette and hands it to the exhausted man opposite him. Wells's hands tremble as he lights up).
"I've been trying to give them up, sir - they're bad for one's health." He gave a mirthless laugh.
"Nonsense, son, it'll help you focus, and you should know better than anyone - no atheists or non-smokers in foxholes."
"OK, Mr. Wells, take your time, but I need to know - what happened up there ?"
Well, there was a question, wasn't it ? How could he possibly explain about the smell, and the terror, and the all-encompassing sheer noise of it all ? How could he explain that their Hector, a man they would have followed into the very jaws of death, had fallen ? A jumble of images crossed his mind as he surrendered to memory - the gunners calling out the formation codes "25 coming in high", "14 to our front", the cannon shell that cracked past his ear and destroyed the radio as he was sending, his last urgent words with Flashy, Smith's distorted yell over the intercom :"M-my God, but - they're all dead !". And Wellington's smile. As he sat in the cold leather seat, he realised that he might just die with such a smile on his face...
"...Mr. Wells ? Mr. Wells... Bish !"
Wells visibly gathered himself. "Yes sir, of course..."
The Bomber Group was making the most of the unseasonal good weather to hit targets deep in Germany. Three days before, they'd gone to Vegesack, and Flashheart nearly hadn't made it back. He limped towards the kite now, fresh scar tissue gleaming on his arms, a huge smile on his face.
"'Morning Bish ! Lovely day for a jaunt to Wilhelmshaven, what ? Time to give the Boche another kicking."
"Good morning yourself. How are those wounds ?"
"These scratches ? Nothing to 'em. Blasted quack wanted to ground me, but I soon put him right, the bounder. Listen - keep an eye on young Proudfoot-Smith, will you ? He seems to have LMF to me. Give him some encouragement, hey ? The great crusade and all that."
Lack of moral fibre ? Well, that was just another way of saying he was scared, and who wasn't ? Apart from Flashheart, of course. Twenty completed missions, and he seemed to be untouched. Not completely, though, Wells knew - there had been that business over Partridge, when they'd found Flash wandering the airfield at 0200, off his face and insistent that their previous radio operator had been buried alive. He'd managed to hush that up : if Pfalzstaff had found out about that, he'd have grounded his Lordship for sure. He was already suspicious of Flashy's prodigious brandy intake.
"We didn't see any Jerries until zone 4, sir, when two 110s jumped us. I managed to damage one, but they both hit us. That's when Ploppy got hit, most of his leg shot off. Mine broke off, and Sergeant Topper saw off the other as he came around again.
We saw no other Jerries until the target area, when a bunch of Fockes swarmed us from on high. It looked bad for us, but Farrow and Hood forced two of them to break off, and the others went looking for easier targets. We saw other fighters, but at that point the squadron was maintaining a tight box, and none approached us. Then the flak barrage hit us...
Black puffs of smoke all around. He'd seen Lieutenant Acton's bird get a direct hit, but miraculously it had stayed aloft. Then it fell behind, and it was their turn. Shrapnel had torn through the starboard wing, the tail, and the radio room, and Raleigh had suddenly gone off the air. No time to check him, as the bombsight showed the shipyards, but as he toggled the switch a near-miss had sent Blacky 3 lurching - they'd missed the target by a country mile.
... we saw the new chap go down, too. Mr. Taggart's ship. Some of them baled out, but we had no time to count chutes, as Jerry fighters returned, in two waves. First up were four 109s, but Hood hit one and Topper downed another, and they didn't hit us. Then a 190 and two 109s came in, but Bob Parkhurst damaged one of the 109s, and Topper destroyed the 190. We took a hit in the waist, but no discernible damage.
We left Jerry behind, and Lord Flashheart ordered some crew movements - Farrow moved Ploppy back into the waist and took over his tail guns, and I went up to the radio room, and took over Raleigh's duties...
That had been a messy job. A chunk of '88 had took out Raleigh's groin and legs, killing him instantly. He'd had to clean the radio up before checking in.
...we had a quiet spell, and our spirits picked up when we reached our fighter cover. That's when three 110s came up from below. A passing Spitfire engaged one of them, and one missed, but the blighter on our tail stuck four shells into us, knocking Smith's heating out, blasting the radio while I was transmitting a sitrep, and giving us a runaway number 4 engine, which the skipper feathered.
Our guardian angel departed, and Topper suddenly reported enemy fighters...
"65 coming in fast ! Stand to - " The rest of Topper's words drowned out in the noise of his twin .50s. He had blasted away at the 109 dropping onto their tail, and the radio room gun promptly jammed. Farrow had hit it, but it kept coming in. Excited chatter on the intercom had told him that Topper and Hood had both scored kills, but then the kite had rocked and groaned under the impact of multiple hits. The one on their tail had overshot and blasted the front of the plane, but the bugger that no-one had seen in the vertical dive, had walked a perfect line of shells up their fuselage, from nose to tail...
...Sergeant Topper calculated that the 109 on our tail had concentrated his fire on the pilot compartment, hitting at least three times. What with the walking hits from the other 109, we took a rudder hit, a window hit, inoperable bomb bay doors, a starboard tailplane root hit, the starboard waist gun was knocked out, heat out in the pilot compartment, and the pilots themselves...
After the attack, Smith had yelled that they were all dead. His blood had froze, expecting Blacky to dive out of control at any moment, while they fought off the subsequent attacks. A hit on their port wing had knocked out number 2 engine. "Well, there goes the formation" he had thought. Just then, Topper gave an exultant cry : "Got the bastard !", followed by "Mr. Wells, to the pilot's quarters if you please, sir". He'd abandoned the radio room and moved quickly to the charnel house that was the pilot compartment. Covered in blood, Flashheart was hanging onto the stick with the last of his strength. By contrast, Wellington was slumped in the copilot's seat, untouched but for a single neat hole between his eyes. His face wore a faint smile, as though he and Flashheart had shared a joke just a moment before. Trying to avoid that smile, he'd moved the body and claimed the seat, while Topper took over the pilot station. Smith had left off screaming to blaze away at the port cheek gun. "No LMF there", he'd thought.
...with the two engines gone, we had to drop from formation, below 10000 feet with the heat out. A Spitfire dropped back to accompany us, and we thought we might make it, but our slow speed attracted more 109s, one of which peeled off our Spit. The buggers raked the top of the kite, but as the radio room and top turret were unoccupied, we suffered no further damage. Then we reached Elveden...
"Sergeant Topper, can you fly this thing ?"
"Oh yes, sir."
"Can you land it ? Have you landed one before ?"
"Er - this is my first time sir."
"Right. OK. Well, we can't abandon the skipper and Ploppy. You and I will fly the plane while the others bail out over the airfield, then you'll join them while I land the plane. Is that clear, Sergeant ?"
"But, sir, it's suicide ! You don't know how to land it any more than I do !"
"Bish. Bish." Flashheart had stirred in the corner.
"What is it, sir ? We're a bit busy here !"
"Topper can't land this plane. Neither can I, neither can you. Here's what you're going to do. You're going to circle the airfield, and point the kite out to sea. Then you're going to strap parachutes to Ploppy and I, and you're going to shove us out, and you're all going to follow. That's a direct order, Flying Officer Wells !"
"But sir, it's madness. Jack, you'll never make it."
"Don't worry about me. Flashy's luck, what ? I'll be jumping Jack Flash. Just get the chaps out."
...so that's what we did, sir. His Lordship would brook no argument. We strapped him to Raleigh's 'chute - his own was shredded - and pushed them both out. But that breeze took them away from the airfield, and then young Proudfoot-Smith pulled his ripcord before he was clear, and brained himself on the tailplane. So there's only the five of us left, sir. Unless you've recovered Sergeant Ploppy and Lord Flashheart ?"
Major Pfalzstaff regarded the bombardier for a long moment.
"We found Sergeant Ploppy in a flooded drainage ditch a mile away. The worst luck, he landed in one piece but drowned in the ditch. Flight Lieutenant Flashheart was quite close by. He's alive, Bishop. He won't be flying again, I think - apart from his other injuries, the chief medical officer thinks he'll lose that eye - but we think he'll live. "
"Thank God, sir ! Was he conscious ? Did he say anything ?"
"Yes. Apparently, his first word was 'brandy', followed by 'woof, woof !'! Well done, Flying Officer Wells. If you're quick, you'll see him before they operate. It seems they shot him everywhere they'd missed at Vegesack."
Major Pfalzstaff sat back and acknowledged the bombardier's hurried salute as he dashed from the office. He couldn't help feeling that Wells hadn't told him the full story, but it was probably for the best. They all needed to sleep at night, after all.
- Last edited Thu Feb 24, 2011 6:20 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:11 pm
Glück muss man haben
But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you… And I will beat you.
Great write up. Sorry to see Lord Flasheart will be out of the fight! But I am sure his replacement will be as flamboyant as Flash'y was!
Thanks Jim. I have a brand new plane and crew all ready to go, but I might try to get 'Bob' Parkhurst to the end of his 25 missions first.
I'm sure debilitating injuries won't be too much of a setback for Flashy.
I'm sure debilitating injuries won't be too much of a setback for Flashy.
He's recovering quickly, but will be flying a desk from now on, I think.
Here's where you went wrong: You didn't have enough Ploppys on your crew.