Fullofit, congratulations to Gaston on getting the campaign's first Belgian gong! Maeran, I missed you last time. I loved the episode in which Stanley heads for 32 (twice 16). Beautifully done! Wulfe, terrific story about the explosive bullets and poor Balsley. MFair, congrats on the promotion. I've tried to set you up for your next chapter... Carrick, good to see Mallory back, but I do enjoy his hospital visits for all the obvious reasons. HarryH, the episode with Konrad torturing poor Sturze was delicious. I bet he tears the wings off flies, too. Hasse, your situation reminds me of an uncle's joke about the two fellows in Glasgow who buy a greyhound, expecting to make a fortune in the dog races. The hound comes in a distant last in every one of five races. They take the dog home on a ferry over the Clyde River. On the ferry they discuss what they're going to do about the useless animal. "Dinna worry aboot the dug," says one. "When the boat get tae t'other side, we'll just rin awa' frae the bloody thing." That's your friends in the Halberstadts... Lederhosen, many congrats on the big gong. You realise that the HOH is a precursor to the Big One, right?
Poor Collins has had a difficult week.
An Airman’s Odyssey – by Lt James Arthur Collins, MC
Part Forty-Six: In which I experience loss
Day followed day. Up in the morning, over to Hunland. Take notes, take photos, call the guns, or practise contact patrols. Avoid the lingering Fokkers. Head home. Every day the massive creature that was the Army grew in its lair, preparing for the push to come. Guns were placed and netted over, brigades moved forward by night, and below the earth men laboured like moles, preparing vast stores of explosives to blow the enemy lines off the map.
Jericho was back in C Flight, and promoted captain. Already a flight commander. He brought the same decisive authority to the job that made him a master of his horse. It was a good decision by the Major. On the afternoon of the 19th he came to see me after his last patrol. We wandered over to the café where Mrs. Defossez put on the pot and brewed a wonderful coffee. I’d become quite fond of the French style of coffee with the warm milk and a bit of sugar. She’d made a fine lemon tart and we put our feet up on empty chairs and reminisced. Swany was back in France, we’d heard, but we were not sure exactly where. Jericho suggested we take the horses into Amiens when we got a day off, but days off were unlikely for the moment. I asked about Camille, and Jericho spoke more than I’d ever heard him. He was surprisingly serious. For a moment I suspected he was dead serious, but then he went quiet in his brooding, cowboyish way. I loved the fellow, but one couldn’t really get comfortable around him. He had his own little shell about him, a shell only that little coquette seemed to have pierced.
Jericho reached into his tunic and brought out a folded paper. “I owe you, pard,” he said. “I got a letter from home.” He glanced at it but didn’t read it. Instead he summed up the contents. His mother was well and massively relieved to hear from him. She’d done something to reduce Jericho’s risk of arrest for his uncle’s slaying. He didn’t reveal more. “We’ll talk another time,” he said. “But thanks a million.”
22 June 1916 was my twentieth birthday. I’d told no one. The morning was overcast with a threat of a storm that never came to be. We flew to the front near Peronne and mapped the lines. The afternoon was glorious and clear. We patrolled from the river south to Villers-Carbonnel, seeing nothing of interest. After completing our reports we picked up the afternoon post. There was a package from home, addressed in my mother’s handwriting! I walked from the squadron office to the hangar line, where I left my flying gear and boots. Savouring the moment, I tucked the parcel under my arm and strolled out to the road. Children were playing on the pavement, a form of hopscotch. They called out and waved as I passed. I went beyond the café to the mess proper, an old farmhouse. There I called to the steward for a champagne and brought it to a small round table by the window. I settled into the dowdy old armchair, veteran of a dozen binges, and unwrapped my birthday gift.
Drawing it out of the box, I felt a chill. It was a photograph of me, wearing my lieutenant’s rank and MC ribbon, in the brown leather and silver frame I’d bought in Albert. There was no note.