Carrick, where is everybody else? Christmas shopping?
16 December, 1915 Le Bourget Sergent Gaston A. Voscadeaux
Le Capitaine witnessed the entire event. Gaston’s excuse and then the repeated pleas fell on deaf ears. He was all too happy to dismiss Gaston. Voscadeaux was to pack his gear and leave first thing in the morning. Gaston didn’t expect anything else from his superior. He didn’t go to sleep that night reflecting on his future.
The sun was up for some time before Gaston realized it. He was sitting on a bench with his kit beside him, waiting for transport to take him back to the train station in Paris. He was watching someone walking a dog on the airfield. It took him a while before he realized it was a woman. She was wearing the French Army uniform, but no rank was apparent. She came over and asked if he was also waiting for the car to take him to the city. A small consolation, but it looked like Gaston would have a travel companion. Her name was Nicole Girard-Mangin, as they started to talk he learned she was the first female doctor in French Army. Gaston was hugely surprised and fascinated to hear this. Nicole explained that during the mobilization in 1914 a clerical error occurred and her documents were issued expecting Dr. Gerard Mangin - her ex-husband. Due to the great need for doctors, she was accepted and posted at Bourbonne-les-Bains. Last month she was transferred to the military hospital at Verdun and was flown in just last evening in what she called “the coldest flying machine in the world”. It had to be a Farman. She was now travelling to Paris to personally supervise delivery of the specialized medical equipment that will accompany her back to Verdun hospital. She, in turn, asked Gaston what brings him to Paris. Reluctantly he recounted his pitiful story, describing in detail his last night’s class and the captain’s reaction and accusations of cowardice. Nicole listened and posed a few questions. She then said she knew a few men with condition described by him and that it never stopped them from becoming pilots. She explained that Gaston was suffering from nyctalopia (night blindness). There was nothing that could be done about his vision, but there was something she could do about the oaf that dismissed him. Gaston could not believe what he was hearing. They went into the offices and Dr. Girard-Mangin had a lengthy discussion with Gaston’s commanding officer. Gaston was back on the flying roster thanks to the good doctor. His captain listened to her diagnosis and reluctantly gave in. Even he knew able pilots were in great demand. He promised Gaston not to let him off the hook this easily and that in place of the night mission, he would have to fly to the front and remain over NML for 1 hour! He called it the reconnaissance exercise. That is after he passes his bombing accuracy tests. With glee in his eyes and a maniacal chuckle he dismissed Gaston, who was still trying to figure out what to make of all of this and who IS this woman? The car taking Nicole to Paris was idling near the offices. She was sitting in the cab while Gaston was shaking her hand in gratitude and to wish her well on her way. She squeezed his hand and said to look her up if he’s ever in Verdun. The car drove off leaving in its wake one large dust cloud and one lucky student-pilot. He kept on waving goodbye until the car disappeared from view. The most difficult exercise was still ahead of him.
Dr. Nicole Girard-Mangin and her dog Dun.
"Take the cylinder out of my kidneys, The connecting rod out of my brain, my brain, From out of my arse take the camshaft, And assemble the engine again."