MFair, a tough mission for Drogo and his kette. But your man is wise to look on the bright side. The air service does have its advantages. To your questions concerning the German side of things, I will echo Raine's remarks. There was much less of a class division among pilots in the Fliegertruppen than there was in the RFC and RNAS. That's not to say that there weren't German nobles who felt that the rank and file should know their place, but it was not the norm. Also, an ace pilot of the common class could become "landed and titled" more readily in the German Air Service, thus getting to add "von" to his name.


25 September 1916
Fienvillers, France

Captain Swanson was just finishing up his report of the morning's first sortie with A Flight, an uneventful run over to Corcelette and back with nary a sky Hun to be seen, a thankful change of pace from the chaos of yesterday afternoon's outing. He'd no sooner signed his name to the document when he was informed by the orderly that Major Lawrence wanted to see him in his office. A few moments later, after the obligatory knock on the door and announcing of himself, Swany was invited in and instructed to take a seat. The Major, a cigarette in his left hand and a single slip of paper in his right, smiled across at his star pilot and asked, "Do you know what this is, Captain?"

"No idea Sir, German surrender statement?" The young ace replied with a grin.

The Major gave a short laugh, "Unfortunately, no. It is however notice that you are about to be gazetted for the Victoria Cross. Congratulations Captain."

Swanson was momentarily speechless, a surprised look flashed across his face. After several seconds of stunned silence he responded with, "Victoria Cross? Me?"

"Yes, you Captain. I put you up for it personally after your stellar performances during the opening of this latest push, and with General Trenchard's wholehearted endorsement I might add." Major Lawrence took a long draw on his cigarette, looking proudly across at the young man in front of him as he did so.

"I ah - thank you Sir. I'm - I'm honored", Swany stammered.

"You needn't seem so shocked. Your actions and the devotion to duty you've displayed since coming here have been beyond exemplary and we are going to sorely miss you."

"Again Sir, thank you, I truly am - wait - what? What do you mean you're going to miss me?"

Major Lawrence, a faint look of regret now tainting his face, elaborated, "Yes Captain, miss you. You're being sent back to England, to a newly-formed Home Defence squadron east of London." The CO glanced at his desk as he pulled another paper from the top of the stack next to him. "Stow Maries, it says here. 37 Squadron. How does that sound to you?"

The Captain paused for a moment before answering, letting it all sink in. A break from this insanity? And the VC to boot? "It sounds fine to me Sir, fine and then some. When am I to report?"

"You're to leave first thing tomorrow. They want you at Stow Maries no later than the 27th which doesn't give you a lot of time to dawdle." Lawrence finished his cigarette and crushed it out in the ashtray, then stood up. Swany rose as well as the Major reached across the desk and shook hands with the Captain.

"This is all happening awfully quick, isn't it Sir", Swanson asked concernedly. "I mean, shouldn't I stay, at least until you have a few more replacements come in?"

"There would never be a good time to have you leave Captain. Besides, you and I don't get to decide these things, HQ wants you back in Blighty PDQ and so you go." The Major assured. "We will of course be giving you a send-off tonight, so you'll want to be prepared for that. And your purse best be at the ready to settle up your mess tab, I'll not have you leave us with an open bill." Lawrence flashed a warm smile as he sent the Captain on his way.

Swanson walked across camp, not quite believing what had just happened. He was about to receive a break from all this: the endless sorties, the constant air battles, the killing, the death. While he felt bad about leaving his comrades short-handed and fated to deal with the new Albatros scouts that were clearly growing in numbers, not to mention those dam'nable Rolands, he selfishly was thrilled with the prospect of no longer having to suffer it all himself, at least not for a while anyway. And the Victoria Cross - the Victoria Cross. The thought of it all caused Swany to break out in a full run, racing along the edge of the south field past the row of Bessonneaus. He felt the cool morning air going deep into his lungs, felt his heart pounding in his chest. He was suddenly and honestly happy for the first time in a long while, and it felt marvelous.