Wulfe -- Welcome to Luxeuil. You'll have to have Fullard connect with Chesty Mulberry there. I hadn't realised that the Escadrille got its lion cubs just before that move.
Fullofit -- That was a close call. Getting out of that alive is worth missing out on the claims.
HarryH -- Now forgetting a claim, that's another matter. Poor Lazlo! And to have his Hinterteil roasted too... I've never had a fire break out behind the cockpit before.
Lou -- Those 4 sorties must have been truly a grind, especially flying at night. The photos, however, were incredible.
MFair -- Welcome back. And Drogo marches on!
Carrick -- hearty congrats on the elusive fifth.
Hasse -- delighted to have you back. Looking forward to The Continuing Adventures of Julius!
Collins has had an exciting encounter at low altitude...
An Airman’s Odyssey – by Capt. James Arthur Collins VC, MC
Part Sixty-Two: In which someone interesting appears...
Aitken became a bit of a bother over the next two days. He had his people from the Express follow me about and pose me for photographs in various aircraft, in a carriage in front of Westminster, and so forth. And when I was finally rid of them I had the Illustrated War News, The People, and even the Daily Mirror. On the 16th, Leefe Robinson and I opened a home for orphaned children, many of whose families were victims of the airship raids. I travelled to Leicester on the 17th for a dinner and fête in support of several other charities. When I could, I drove back to North Weald and tried to get a flight in, but the weather conspired to ground us.
I travelled twice to the Hotel Cecil to campaign for a return to France. I fear the red tabs are determined to keep me behind a desk in some subterranean office. After a visit on 19 September during which I tried without success to see Lord Hugh Cecil, whom I had met at Lady St. Helier’s with Aitken, I retired to the Savoy Bar to give my salaams to Jimmy. I ordered a Manhatten cocktail and removed from my pocket a letter I’d received but left unread. The envelope showed it was from Mr. Carson, the comptroller at the Collins distillery back in Ontario. My dear Mr. Collins,
Everyone here is overjoyed at the news of your Victoria Cross. The papers have been full of praise and every detail of your flying career is being outlined back home. If you can manage a bit of leave, you will be overwhelmed by the reception you are sure to receive.
Orders for Yukon Gold are swelling since the announcement, and we are contemplating a label with your image wearing the VC. I trust you will approve. I am sailing to Liverpool at the end of the month and will set up several brokers in the UK to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity...
Horrified, I obtained some Savoy Hotel stationery and took a corner table at the back of the bar. I immediately wrote to Carson, telling him bluntly that under no circumstances were my name, uniform, and VC to be touted in advertising. My connexion to the distillery could be mentioned discreetly in conversation with the press, but the decoration was not to be exploited under any circumstance. Of course, a group of brokers was a fine idea, but my instructions must be made clear to them. Perhaps we could meet for dinner when he reached London, if I were still here.
So it was that I was in a foul mood when a young woman sat at my table and asked for a light. She was well-dressed, with the wide collar of her white blouse spilling over a finely-cut suit of grey tweed. Three-quarter length dress and high black boots. She was striking rather than pretty. Sharply-featured, piercing eyes, blue, I think. A long, regal nose and firm mouth and chin. She smoked a Sobranie in an amber holder. I waited for her to ask for my signature or to tell me she had named her baby Jimmy, or Yukon, or such nonsense.
“Captain Collins, it is a pleasure. Tell me, will you be able to get back to France or will they hole you up here?” She sounded American, perhaps Canadian, but probably American. She widened her eyes in anticipation of an answer.
“Excuse me, we haven’t been introduced,” I said.
“Oh dammit,” she said. “It doesn’t take long for you to become totally English, does it?” Then she laughed and held out a gloved hand. “Alex Anderson. Short for Alexandra.”
“Where are you from?”
“Chicago,” she said. She rummaged in her bag and produced a card which announced her attachment as a “special correspondent” for the Chicago Tribune.
“So you’re off to France yourself?” I ventured.
“Not if Whitehall can help it,” said Alex. “I’ve been in London three weeks and so far have been able to send back only two or three stories about life on the home front, rationing, and then one splendid one about your Zeppelin coming down. Thank you for that.”
“My pleasure,” I said. “Glad to be of service.” I confessed I had never met a woman journalist before. She said I was not alone. It was difficult enough for a male journalist to get over to France, but next to impossible for a woman. I ordered some champagne and we chatted comfortably about the challenge of fitting into the London scene. She never seemed to ask about the VC, but within the hour I’d given her a detailed account of the Zeppelin raids. She’d produced a small notebook and jotted down the odd word here and there.
“Look, Alex, I really didn’t plan to talk so much. And you haven’t taken many notes. It’s just that it’s...rather technical, and...”
She smiled, and rested her chin on a fist, scanning me up and down. “Tell you what, Jim. Buy me dinner tomorrow and I’ll let you read the story before I file it, okay?”
“How about Rules on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden? Six o’clock. It has to be early. If the weather is fair, I’ll want to be in North Weald by ten.”