Had ya going there, lads? I'll tell you what - WoFF certainly had me going...I really, really thought Graham was a goner that time...note to self: when being shot from behind in a pusher, expect your engine to conk out!!
Fullofit: The Le Prieur curse continues! Hopefully Gaston's C.O will see sense and stop making him take the bloody accursed things out!
2nd. Lieut. Graham A. Campbell, MC, No. 24 Squadron R.F.C, Somewhere near Bapaume, France.
April 6th, 1916.
I awoke in an unfamiliar building, in a wonderfully comfortable bed. Beside me sat a concerned-looking old man, who upon seeing me roused from my sleep, quickly uttered a hushed remark to an unseen figure, before turning back to me. “Am I dead?” I blearily asked him, and he smiled warmly, but sadly. “No, Monsieur Pilote, you have been lucky”. Lucky? I thought vaguely to myself, as images of the scrap started rolling back into my mind, If I was lucky, I wouldn’t have been shot down!. Warily, and in a more hushed tone, I asked “Am I captured?”. The smile in return was no longer sad, but instead was sly and foxlike, hinting at the old man’s ferocity in his younger days. He let out a low chuckle. “No, not yet. Let’s keep it that way, ah?”. Slowly I raised myself up, becoming aware of a dull throb in my head. As I sat up, I saw the second figure in the room - a short, elderly lady in a simple frock. She stood with her hands clasped together, a worried look on her face.
Suddenly, I recalled the abrupt end to my fight. “How am I supposed to get across the lines!” I cried out, and simultaneously my elderly hosts shushed me, sitting perfectly still for a few moments before breathing out a collective relieved sigh. “Silencieux, Monsieur Pilote!” the elderly man whispered, and I clapped a hand to my mouth. Relaxing again, he asked “Across the lines? Why, you already are…”. I looked at him confusedly. “No - this is Bapaume...behind the Hun trenches…”. He shook his head. “Non, this is Courcelette. We found your Avion on the outskirts, just past the German lines”.
I felt a flicker of hope. I’d made it past the Hun lines! I could get home! As if in response to my thought, the old man leaned in close. “You must wait until late, in the dark. Then, you must go! At night they send out flares, that illuminate the ground, so stay low. But - before we plan your escape, you must be hungry”. As it turned out, he was spot-on.
The poor old couple only had raw potatoes to offer, but gratefully I accepted my share, wolfing one down and thanking my wartime hosts. It seemed to fulfil them, to hear my voiced appreciation. Back on my feet now, I cautiously approached a shuttered window, cracking it open a hair and peeking outside. What I saw sickened me - the town had, only two or three buildings left intact, with the rest having been reduced to nought but ash and rubble. In the streets lay dead horses and men, dressed in grey and in khaki. Without thinking, I muttered “how can you live here?”, before turning round quickly and, in shame, beginning to apologise. I was stopped by the old man holding a hand up. “Ah, but we are old souls, Monsieur Pilote, and this has been our home for many years. Why leave it behind now?”. I looked into the man’s eyes, strong and fierce, and felt a deep sorrow for him - but also a respect. Although the man wore tattered civilian clothes, and his body was thin and frail, I saw in him a fighting spirit greater than that of the bravest airman.
“Get some more rest,” the old man said, a subtle defiance in his tone, “prepare for nightfall”.