MFair - looks like our Cowboy got away with denting the Major's car! Still, better watch your back for the next few days, eh? As for his jokes in the mess, glad to see that the No. 3 boys aren't swayed by Swany's successes in the air - nobody's safe from some good ol' R.F.C ribbing!
Fullofit - Gaston's attempted escape from Hunland has to be one of the single best episodes I've read so far. I've been on the edge of my seat with baited breath throughout the whole ordeal, and it's only getting better with each new entry. The bayonetting of the infantryman was especially harrowing to read. Truly brilliant, gripping stuff. I only hope that Gaston finally makes it back safely, and that his killing of the enemy soldier won't have too negative of an effect on his psyche...
Carrick - hard luck with the Aviatik getting away, but good show driving him off! Looking forwards to Emile getting himself a single-seat ship... Raine - Fantastic addition to your bus! Poor Andrews will never, EVER, live down the goose incident now! Great detail about the drury lane show as well. Sounds like it was a bit of a tense show as well, glad you sneaked off before the Fokkers got a good look at you, and I'm glad the ground fire didn't get either of the mother gooses on board
Lou - Sweet revenge! Glad to see Swany took the whole thing lightly. Laughing my head off while picturing Jericho blindly squaring up in the darkness, clueless as to what just happened! Still thoroughly enjoying the crossovers between the No. 3 pilots - and it makes for some great entries! Lederhosen - Sounds like you've got a strict Hauptmann on your hands! Fortunately, it seems that sly old Willi's a match for him. He's more than a match for the Nieuports as well, apparently - congratulations on the victory!
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell, No. 20 Squadron R.F.C (On Leave), London, England.
March 29th, 1916.
The intrusive W.O of last night, as it turned out, was (almost) an aristocrat, despite his unpleasant appearance, and managed to sneak his way into the higher throes of society using his family prestige, as opposed to his military standing. His name was Andrew Miller, and as we exhausted the Cavendish’s supply of Brandy & Wine he recalled his story to me, as the evening transitioned into morning, in the type of alcoholic haze that creates deep bonds between drinking companions - that is, until the next morning.
Although he, himself, was rather obnoxious, Miller had a rather interesting history behind him. In a scandalous affair, his mother had him out of wedlock shortly before marrying Lord Something-or-other of the somewhere-important-estate (I admit that, at first, I only politely nodded and half-listened as he spoke). His adoptive father tolerated him when in the company of others, but bore a deep distaste for this child, the son of another man, whom he had to pretend was his own to avoid scandal. According to Miller, his adoptive father was never particularly cruel, nor kind - he was simply distant, seeing through the boy as one would overlook a ghost. The only love he was afforded was from his mother, who would spoil him at every opportunity.
Through his days in a reclusive private school, and his evenings tinkering alone with his most prized possession, a B.S.A. motorcycle, Miller became rather eccentric and socially awkward, missing the ‘social cues’ that came naturally to others. This, he reckoned, was in part due to the fact that his adoptive father wanted him to remain as unseen as he could manage. As he put it, the only words the man would utter his way were “By my good grace you live under my roof. Don’t do anything to embarrass my name”. Miller grinned as he bragged that in spite he had used the very name he was not to dishonour to secure his room in the Cavendish - him - a lowly Warrant Officer!
With the outbreak of war with Germany came a fresh problem. I listened wide-eyed as Miller leaned in close, his smoke-breath rasping in my ear and his beady eyes flicking around the room, as he urgently whispered “You see, Graham, my birth name is not Andrew Miller. My mother’s father was a German - and in his memory she gave me a proper Bosche name. My real name is Müller”. It was then that my gaze nervously swept the room. “They haven’t questioned you about being a spy?”. He shook his head, slowly.
I was fully attentive as he explained that, embarrassed and frustrated, and not wanting to provoke even the slightest suggestion of treachery, his adoptive father had immediately forced his mother to change his name, and had arranged for him to be sent to the Flying Corps to disappear behind a desk. He was washing his hands of his adopted problem. Bitterly, Miller muttered under his breath “With his influence, I could easily have been a Lieutenant. Maybe even a pilot! But, the old man said it would draw attention to our connection. Can you imagine?”.
I had felt awfully sympathetic for the poor W.O - a throwaway that had landed in the most savage war of our species. What a disproportionate misfortune. “So, what will you do in France?” I had asked him, and his crooked smile returned. “Well, as it turns out, tinkering around with the old B.S.A. made me quite the dab-hand at mechanics, so I’ll be fitting engines with No. 24. I’m actually off to France tomorrow!”.
I woke late in the morning today, and headed downstairs to have my breakfast. On the second floor I found Miller exiting his room with the same objective. Still pitying the man for his tragic tale, I joined him and we breakfasted together. Checking a silver pocketwatch, he jumped up, smoothed off his uniform, and declared “Okay. Time to go”. I accompanied him to Charing Cross station, allowing him to idly chat away to me about his (usually rather odd) interests. As we stood in the grand entryway of the station, I noticed that he had begun to stammer slightly, and realised that in among the soldiers at the station were the odd walking-wounded. As a one-legged private hobbled past us on crutches, I heard Miller’s breathing quicken. Placing a hand on his shoulder, I smiled and said to him “Oh, don’t be nervous, Miller, all the squadrons sit far behind the lines. You’ll be okay”.
This seemed to pacify him, and he begun to calm down, thanking me. We shook hands, and I lit a cigarette, watching him be swallowed into the sea of Khaki, the men bound for Dover and then France. When he had disappeared completely from sight, I detoured back towards the Cavendish, walking a wide loop so as to skirt the banks of the Thames again before turning off at the Horseguards and walking up past the Whitehall Recruiting Office, outside of which stood a long queue of young, unkempt working-class men (and boys), all excitedly chatting and sharing cigarettes as they waited their turn to be posted into hell.
Charing Cross Station.
The Recruiting Office at Whitehall.
In the entrance hall of the Cavendish, a Porter approached me, extending a red-velvet arm towards me and holding out a sheet of paper. “Mr. Campbell, a telegram has arrived for you, sir”. I thanked him and slid down into one of the chairs, holding the telegram up and flicking over it.
YOU ARE REQUIRED ON MARCH 31 AT 9 A M TO REPORT TO THE RFC OFFICE AT MASONS YARD TO RECEIVE YOUR NEW POSTING. ENSURE THAT YOU BRING YOUR PROPER IDENTIFICATION.
I re-read the telegram, my heart dropping like a stone in my chest. My new posting? I wasn’t going back to No.20?. I tried to make myself excited to find out where I would be headed next, but my thoughts were clouded with worry for Switch-Off, Reynard, Edith, and my other pals at No. 20. I wondered if everybody was okay, and if the Hun had been giving them as much trouble as we had been experiencing before my departure. I felt rather a cad for not being there, not sharing in the danger with them, and now I wasn’t even going back?
Although I was in a funk for the remainder of the day, curiosity slowly crept in, and I begun to wonder about this new posting. What squadron would it be, and what machines did they fly? Would it be another Fee squadron, or maybe Quirks? Surely not Parasols…
Turning in early in the evening, I lay awake in my bed, my Webley resting on the bedside cabinet, and listed off the squadrons I knew of in my head. But, before long, my mood had shifted again and my thoughts were back with No.20. I slipped into uneasy dreams of dogfights and early morning funerals.