The Bertincourt unit awoke to yet more bad news on the 27th. Zander gathered his men together, looking somber as he read from the piece of paper he held.
"Men, sadly I have to inform you that our friend and colleague, Max Ritter Von Mulzer, was killed while testing a new plane type yesterday. His loss will be be deeply felt here. Max was an excellent pilot and a personal friend of many of you here. Indeed, this is one more tragedy for our Jasta, the latest in a string of unfortunate incidents. All I ask of you, men, is that you hold our fallen brothers in your hearts, as we continue our work to honour the Kaiser and rid the skies of our enemies".
Lazlo felt the sadness deep in his heart. Von Mulzer had been one of his favourite fellows here. Another departed friend. He walked out of the briefing room in a daze, when Klingsman, the chief mechanic tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
"Hey, Lazlo", he smiled, "we have a little surprise for you, to cheer you up!" He led the big man across the field to where his new machine stood waiting. "It turns out that we have a budding artist in our ranks. Kirchner here thought this might be better than just having a boring letter painted on the side of your machine. What do you think?" Lazlo's jaw dropped almost to his chest. Wide eyed he stared at the wonderful artwork that now adorned the side of his Halberstadt. Where the other had plain letters painted, Lazlo now had a large, red ogre painted.
"It's me!" he declared in amazement. "How did you mange this wonderful painting piece. It's big surprising!" He beamed at the image and walked forward to gently run his fingers over the paintwork. "Marvellous!" he whispered to himself. Little Kirchner stood nearby, looking pleased with himself. Lazlo turned to the artist and expressed his thanks. "You one day will be famous painter!" Thank you thank you for this wonderful gifting!" Lazlo gave the man a hug, causing him to cough a little as the air was quickly squeezed out of him.
"Careful, Lazlo, we might need Kirchner for some more painting jobs once the others see his handiwork!"
It was a mission fraught with malfunctions. First Sharman had to turn back with engine problems even before reaching the first turn point. Then Pellyn detached just before reaching the trenches. It was just Mulberry and Edwards then that proceeded to spot for the artillery west of Colmar and it didn’t take long before a patrol of 3 Fokkers was spotted ahead and Toby went straight for them. Only one answered the challenge and Toby was surprised the rest didn’t assist. It was that much easier to dispatch that Eindecker over NML. The mission continued undisturbed for the reminder of its duration. No more engine troubles surfaced and no additional enemies came out of woodwork.
The afternoon mission called for a bomb run of factories at Mulhouse. It was a windy day. Toby has never been this far east into the Hunland. He would have one time before when they were going to attack the Habsheim aerodrome, but he never reached it due to a faulty engine. Toby hoped the engine would hold out this time. They were already over Mulhouse with thick clouds surrounding them on all sides. There was some movement up front where Edwards and Collishaw were leading the ‘A’ flight. Mulberry just finished doing a three-sixty to clear the rear and had to look closely. A pair of Fokkers emerged out of the clouds and blew harmlessly passed the two Strutters. Toby engaged immediately catching the formation from the side. The Kette split up and one turned towards Mulberry while the other turned away. As the Fokker that came towards him flew by, Toby dipped his nose and picked up speed to catch up to the other Eindecker that exposed his tail to him. The Hun turned at the last moment to evade but it was too late. Mulberry was already in a firing position and one of the lucky bullets hit the Fokker’s controls. The monoplane went into a spin, but Toby didn’t follow. He knew the other Eindecker must be close behind. He turned around and faced him. The wind was whipping his plane around and he stalled for a moment while in a steep bank. He quickly regained control and desperately looked for the Hun. Fortunately the German pilot didn’t take advantage of the situation and they were back to chasing one another. As Toby banked again and watched the Boche slip underneath, he noticed a column of dark smoke rising from the forest floor below. The first Hun didn’t fake that spin. Toby positioned his plane behind the Eindecker and opened fire, but the gusts kept on throwing his aim off. The German capitalized on the situation and climbed away from danger. Mulberry didn’t follow. With the bombs onboard he would never catch up to him. He pointed his plane towards the factories and made his mark there. The ‘A’ flight had already completed their bomb runs and made it easy to locate the target. The two Strutter flights returned home with no further incidents.
Your knowledge of Maj D.R. Seuss's work reminded me of some of the other lesser-known poets of WW1. In grade 3 I had to memorize Joyce Kilmer's 1913 poem "Trees" , and recite it "with actions." It scarred me for life. Few people know, however, that Kilmer's kid brother Royce volunteered to fly in the RFC and did a little creative writing himself. Here is a sample oeuvre...
Fees by Royce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see A grid ungainly as a Fee.
A Fee whose frigid tub is thrust Into high Hunland’s wintry gust;
A Fee whose slightest jink or zoom Throws observers to their doom;
A Fee whose Beardsmore sits astride A painter’s ladder on its side;
With these devices must we try To frighten nasty Albatri.
What form of man could thus decree The R.A.F. to make a Fee?
#4490865 - 09/30/1912:26 AMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Still trying to catch up on all the stories, but was in the writing mood...
An Airman’s Odyssey – by Capt James Arthur Collins, VC, MC
Part Sixty-Seven: In which I meet my inquisitor
The noises of the street filtered through a window across the dull yellow-painted office where a lazy fan confused the wisps of smoke from the chinless colonel’s pipe. I had been here far too long and was bristling under the tone of his questions.
“Let me ask you again, Captain, how would an American journalist know about a VC before it’s gazetted? And what would give that same American the ridiculous idea that the RFC planned to keep you in Britain indefinitely?”
“I have no idea, sir,” I said. My mind was racing. Who was this fellow? If I don’t tell him the truth, what could happen? I wanted a cigarette but forced myself to speak and move slowly. I did not want to fidget about under his gaze.
“Have you spoken to any journalists recently?” he asked.
“Seriously, sir?” This was ridiculous. “Since the first two zeppelins I destroyed and the VC, the RFC and various members of the government have done little but trot me about like a prize pony from one event to another, all of which have been packed with journalists. Until two days ago, that is. Since then I’ve been ordered to keep my mouth shut. My last two Zeppelin kills have been hush-hush and I’ve pretty much been confined to barracks. And I’d like to understand why I’m being punished for defending London. Can you tell me that, please, sir?”
The colonel leaned forward and stared with watery blue eyes. He stroked his yellowing moustache. “Captain Collins, have you or have you not spoken with a man named Edward Price Bell?”
Edward? That was new. I answered somewhat technically. “Sir, I have never been introduced to anyone by that name. I’ve had questions thrown at me by hundred of reporters, not all of which identified themselves by name.”
“Captain Randolph Swanson is a friend of yours, is he not? If not from you, how else would this Bell fellow know about Swanson doing something deserving of a VC?”
I shook my head. “Sir, I’m in Essex. How am I supposed to have known about it?”
“You have aviator friends in France, I suppose,” he replied.
“There are rather a lot of English and colonial airmen in France, sir. I understand they have something of a war on.”
“And how does he know you are to be posted within England?” he asked me.
“Sir. I don’t know that’s a certainty myself yet. I have asked to return to France.
There was a long pause in the conversation. The colonel consulted his file and mumbled to himself, “Ah yes, Anderson.” He pointed with the stem of his pipe. “Answer this, then. Have you ever met or spoken with a man named Alex Anderson, an American, too.”
This one was too easy. “No sir, I swear I have never spoken to a man named Alex Anderson in my life.” I glanced at my watch. It was nearly two. I was supposed to pick up Miss Anderson at two-thirty in Holburn.
The questions tapered off. Lieutenant-Colonel Palmer fidgeted and tapped his pencil on his writing pad. “I think that is all for today” he said at last.
“Am I still forbidden to talk to the press if they approach me?”
“Say nothing about operations. You may talk about your first two Zeppelins. There will be an announcement about the airship kills by your section, but no pilot will be named and you are to say nothing to change that. Understood?”
And finally I was out of there and off to retrieve my Vauxhall. Alex and I were bound for Salisbury. In my pocket I had the second wire from Swany: "Meet 29 September at Old George. Come thirsty." Tonight we would make it as far as Reading, where I had reserved rooms on separate floors on the hotel. The last thing I wanted to do was frighten Alex off. ...
The drive to Reading was tedious. Alex was nervous and so was I. It drizzled and we had the top up. After a while she slumped over against the window and I heard a faint snoring. It was eight by the time we got to Reading, just time to have a meat pie and chips in the hotel bar and then she excused herself and went upstairs. I had a couple of pints on my own and retired unto my virtuous couch.
#4490866 - 09/30/1912:34 AMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Harry, love the artwork on Lazlo's new mount - outstanding. So what outfit does his brother Ralph fly for? A heavy bomber Kagohl I'm betting.
Fullofit, there does seem to be a fair amount of engine issues with the Strutters, Swany and his crew suffered from them as well. Looks like Toby is on the verge of hitting the 25 mark, methinks another gong is in his near future.
Raine, while "Fees" is a fine bit of poetry I prefer Royce Kilmer's lesser known work, "To an Albatros and His Mate Who Died in the Spring". It's a tad more poignant. Also, it was Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" that I had to memorize and give a dramatic recitation of in front of my grade school class, and I can assure you I would have preferred to have been more than half a league into the valley of Death rather than perform it in front of that lot. To Collins, fingers crossed the somewhat misleading answers he offered to his inquisitor don't come back to haunt him at some point. Glad to see he and Miss Alex are on the way to Salisbury, hope the remainder of their trip is less tedious.
Folks, remember to post your current stats as we are wrapping up another month, (where does the time go), and please use the format as shown below.
Stats as of the end of September:
Randolph Arvid Swanson Captain 37 Squadron, R.F.C. Stow Maries, England RAF B.E.12 HD 47 confirmed victories, 79 claims 286.21 hours 198 combat missions VC, DSO, MC & Bar, CdG
#4490939 - 09/30/1910:13 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Harry, that is a lovely surprise for Lazlo. Best of luck with you're personalized DIII! Fullofit, the poor Huns need some new machines in Alsace. You are just swatting those Eindekkers out of the sky! Carrick, your man is running more risks than any other pilot, I fear. MFair, looking forward to your return. Have fun in the meanwhile. Lou, I've got Jim to Salisbury. Ball's in your court!
Here is the latest. Hope to be back in France soon!
An Airman’s Odyssey – by Capt James Arthur Collins, VC, MC
Part Sixty-Eight: In which Swany and I reunite
The air was warm for the season. We had the roof down on the Vauxhall and a picnic hamper (which the hotel had prepared for me) in the back seat. Alex wore her tweed skirt and jacket and I provided a wool blanket and a silk scarf to hold her hat on as we made our way out of town between laurel hedges and towering oaks, beyond which lush fields of barley and rye stretched over the gentle undulations of old Wessex.
Some of the farms were given over to the war, with lines of bell tents and men digging and marching. We saw a dozen regiments, and Canadians both English and French, Australians, New Zealanders, Sikhs, Pathans, and Rajputs. From time to time we inched past lines of infantrymen who whistled and waved as Alex passed, and we slowed to pick our way across ruts formed by columns of horse artillery.
We stopped for lunch on a hill near Stockbridge with a wonderful view of half of Hampshire. Alex thoroughly enjoyed her first Scotch eggs and Stilton cheese.
“You look funny in a regular jacket and tie, Jim. It’s not how I imagined you would look. And where’s your bowler hat?”
“It would blow away, Alex. Cloth cap is far better.” I passed her the vacuum flask of tea and stretched out in the sun. “How many of those poor sods in uniform were cursing me for a war profiteer, I wonder?”
She laughed. “I did my best to look like your fancy girl, so I guess there were a few of them.” She poured the tea and held her napkin under her cup to protect her blouse. “You are surprisingly shy, I think.”
“You seem such a dashing fellow in public, but one on one you’re nervous as a kitten. Do I frighten you?
“I’m not frightened by being around you. Perhaps I’m more frightened at the thought that I may not be around you.” She looked at me quizzically.
“Are you flirting with me, Jim Collins?”
“God, I hope so,” I said. The truth was, I was scared to death. I like the girl and I wasn’t sure how this game worked. Growing up with my mother and sister on the prairies wasn’t a great preparation for gallant man-about-town. And neither was learning business in a distillery. Nor learning to fly in the RFC. Oh, I was indeed lost.
We arrived in Salisbury around four and made straight for the Old George. The place stands on the high street, with two magnificent bay windows in its half-timbered front overhanging the pavement. Through the door we walked into the past and the musky smell of wood smoke and carpet and good food. The desk clerk looked at me as though I were a salesman at the manor door, come to sell the earl a toothbrush. He gave Alex a room on the first floor at one end and me a room on the second floor as far from Alex as he could and then rang for a porter. He gave instructions to take Alex to her room and then told me he would have someone attend to me in a couple of minutes. I told Alex to meet me in the bar in twenty minutes.
My room was under the roof, large, heavily beamed and plastered, with ancient wooden support pillars making night-time walks to the toilets a challenge. A gas fire threw out a warm light. I shaved and decided to change back into uniform, my good traditional one with peaked cap (in case we went out). The boots and Sam Browne were beautifully polished. I wouldn’t have the chest cabbage that Swany had by now, but that little strip of crimson ribbon should still be enough to sort out the desk clerk.
I strode manfully past the desk, shoulders back, stomach in, chin up. The silly bugger didn’t look up. The bar room was small and cozy and as I approached, I could hear Alex laughing. And there was Swany, grinning from ear to ear and passing her a sherry.
“Swanson, you old devil, leave the ladies alone.”
Swany stood up and met me half way to the table with a bear hug. I congratulated him on his VC, and saw his astounding row of ribbons: VC, DSO, MC and Bar, Corix de Guerre. “We’re a long way from Long Branch, old friend,” I said. “How many Huns have you now?”
“Forty-seven,” he said, blushing.
“Five winged Huns, four Zeps.”
Alex started. “FOUR Zeppelins? When? Why didn’t you tell me?” I tried to explain, and Alex chided me for following such a silly order. “Britain needs to know,” she said. And then she turned to Swany and took her note book and pen from her bag.
#4490948 - 10/01/1912:51 AMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Joined: Nov 2014 Posts: 3,361Fullofit
Raine, loved the elusive responses Collins crafted for the clueless Colonel. It was his own fault for asking such specific questions. Oh well. And that virtuous couch - the one piece of furniture universally hated by all men. I’m sure Alex was saved by that VC. I’m not sure about Swany though. I don’t think the couch will stand in his way. As to swatting the Huns out of the sky, somebody has to do it, with the two VC recipients gallivanting around country in England, who else will do it. Fullard is still painting his new, shiny, beautiful Nieuport.
Lou, that 25th is very elusive. Swany on the other hand is near a nice round number himself. Does one Zep still count same as one Eindecker? As to the faulty engines I’m afraid it’s only the beginning.
Carrick, it looks like you are about to be a recipient of another kind of award. Just remember, VD is not the same as VC.
All his recent claims have been rejected. Mulberry was not pleased.
Both flights took off without incident and were on their way to the initial waypoint on their recce mission of front lines above Metzeral, when suddenly Dissette and Pellyn in the ‘A’ flight, in front turned around and headed back to the aerodrome. Were they both having mechanical problems? Toby was confused but he understood everything once Ack-Ack started to pelt the air above the aerodrome. Two Eindeckers were coming from the south. They engaged the two-seaters and Mulberry kept back ready to lend assistance to the ‘A’ flight. It didn’t look like they needed any. At some point Pellyn appeared to have a bit of trouble with his Eindecker and Toby was quick to jump in and help. Pellyn didn’t appreciate it too much and let Toby know by flying too close. Mulberry returned to his high vantage point and observed. Again the Fokker outflew Pellyn and again Toby came back down to finish off the German monoplane. The Fokker was hit and spun to the ground, but Toby wasn’t finished. The other Fokker appeared in front of him, but already climbing and running away. Toby sent him a final goodbye burst from his Vickers and turned back, knowing well there was no point chasing the Hun.
Julius arrived in Berlin on August 3rd. He paid a quick visit to his father in his apartment on Friedrichstrasse, and then dashed off to see her girlfriend Leni von Steinmetz, who lived in a rather expensive apartment owned by her family on Schützenstrasse, close to the Prussian Ministry of War, where she was employed as a secretary. Leni was overjoyed by Julius’s sudden arrival in Berlin and became even happier when she heard that Julius had been posted to the Johannisthal flight school until further notice. He was to report to the commandant of the Flugplatz early next morning. Leni and Julius spent a pleasant evening by taking a walk in the Tiergarten and then eating dinner at a restaurant. The night had already fallen when Julius returned to his father’s apartment on Friedrichstrasse. The old Oberstleutnant had already retired to bed, and Julius followed his example.
The airbase at Johannisthal was bigger than Julius remembered. The field was located next to the Spree River a couple of kilometres southeast of the centre of Berlin. The Zeppelin hangars and workshops had been an impressive sight for a teenager interested in aviation already before the war, but now the field was undergoing a remarkable expansion of its facilities. The war had developed an insatiable demand for new pilots and airplanes, and Flugplatz Johannisthal aimed to satisfy that demand for its part.
Julius presented his papers to the watch at the gate and was then directed to the administrative building, which housed the commandant and his staff. The door to the office was open, so Julius stepped inside and announced his presence to the commandant. A middle-aged man with a neat mustache was sitting behind a big desk, wearing a Major’s uniform with multiple ribbon bars decorating his chest. He was Dr. Alfred Hildebrandt, one of Germany’s pre-war pioneers of aviation. Dr. Hildebrandt had multiple famous contacts all over the world, including the Wright brothers in America.
“Offizierstellvertreter Schreck, welcome to Johannisthal! As a Berliner, this must be a familiar place for you.”
“You are right, Herr Major. I spent a lot of time here before the war, enjoying the frequent air shows. They inspired me to become a pilot myself when the war broke out.”
“Well, I’m happy to hear that! It was one of the reasons why I believed it was so important to promote aviation among the German people years before this current unpleasantness happened. Air power is absolutely crucial to the success of our armies in the field – and this brings us to your presence here.” Hildebrandt had started browsing through the papers in Julius’s service file as he spoke. Julius waited for the commandant to continue.
“You have a fine record, which is why the Feldflugchef chose you as one of the men we will need to train our next generation of combat pilots for our expanding air service. This is a great opportunity for you to impart your knowledge of air combat, and flying in general, on men of lesser experience. And you will also get to fly our latest fighter planes, in order to help evaluate their characteristics before we accept them into service! How does this sound to you, Herr Schreck?” The commandant had an expectant look on his face as he gazed directly into Julius’s eyes. This made Julius somewhat nervous.
“Herr Major, I am greatly honored to have this opportunity. The thought of being able to fly new designs is particularly exciting.” Julius paused for a second, searching for the right words to continue. “However, you must know I have no experience whatsoever as an instructor.”
The commandant kept his gaze locked on Julius for a few seconds before replying.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that! In war, one must be ready to improvise! You already have more combat experience than most of our instructors, which gives you an excellent starting point for your new job. The rest will come quite naturally, I’m sure.” The commandant spoke with a very convincing tone of voice, almost succeeding at making Julius believe he was indeed the right man for the instructor’s job. Almost. In fact, Julius would have greatly preferred to stay with his old unit at the Somme, but he kept his opinion to himself, fully aware that he had very little control over his fate in these matters.
“Well then, Herr Schreck, I will not keep you waiting. We will have a briefing after lunch at 1200 hours. This leaves you with a couple of hours to get to know your quarters and some of your new comrades too. The corporal will show you around,” the commandant said and nodded to a short but heavily built non-commissioned officer who had quietly appeared in the doorway.
Julius saluted Hildebrandt and gave his bag to the corporal. “This way, Herr Offizierstellvertreter. I will show you around the place.” Julius followed the man obediently out of the commandant’s office, wondering what the future had in store for him.
"Upon my word I've had as much excitement on a car as in the air, especially since the R.F.C. have had women drivers."
James McCudden, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps
#4491029 - 10/01/1905:11 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)
Joined: May 2012 Posts: 4,620RAF_Louvert
BOC President; Pilot Extraordinaire; Humble Man
Hasse, superb episode! The historical tidbits are outstanding as is that old photo, that's one I've not run across before. Can't wait to see what they will have Julius flying.
Whoa Fullofit, that was a near collision there between Toby and Pellyn. Chesty needs to have a talk with that lad. Too bad about the denied claims, but you know how HQ can be.
Raine, wonderful stuff, love how Jim is around Alex, the poor, stricken sod. And with the following, the ball is back in your court, Sir!
Captain Swanson had been tramping about Salisbury since arriving on the 27th, despite the occasional light rain. The temperatures, while cool in the evenings, were unseasonably mild during the days, which made for some enjoyable meanderings through town and the surrounding countryside. Swany had received confirmation that his good friend James Collins would be joining him by early evening of the 29th, so he'd been killing time until then. The Captain had been fairly surprised, and a bit embarrassed, at the reception he continued to receive nearly everywhere he went. As soon as folks spotted the strip of crimson ribbon on his chest, (and then the three wound stripes on his sleeve), they would treat him as if he were a member of the Royal Family. Despite his best efforts to play it all down, saying he was only doing his part and that there were thousands of other brave men in the air and in the trenches doing every bit as much as he was if not more, their enthusiasm could not be assuaged - people simply adore their heroes. The only respite he had from the public attention, which had grown somewhat tedious by the second day, was either during his early morning run, (he went sans tunic, blouse, and cap, with his greyback flannel shirt offering no clue to his achievements), or when he sat in the cozy bar at the Old George as it was fairly quiet, at least until later on in the evenings. It was at the latter, at about half-past-four in the afternoon of the 29th, when she entered.
Swanson was sitting at a small table at the back near the yard entrance. A cup of ginger tea rested in front of him, (a drink not normally offered at the Old George but one now provided its star guest after a casual request at breakfast the first morning of his stay). In the young airman's left hand was a somewhat dog-eared volume of German phrases and their English translations which he'd acquired at a second-hand shop on the High Street. Having consumed all the information available in the little German conversation booklet he had back at Feinvillers, Swany had gone looking for something a bit more substantial. As he sipped at his tea and devoured the text in front of him his focus was unexpectedly diverted by the woman who came strolling confidently in from the foyer. She was one of those individuals that drew your attention. Dressed in a trim tweed skirt and jacket with unassuming dark brown boots and matching bag, it was an outfit that likely would not earn a second glance if worn by a lesser woman, yet she gave it an air of impeccable style that demanded you notice. She was striking, perhaps even stunning - not pretty, but fascinating rather. She scanned the room with piercing blue eyes, assessing each and everyone in it: the two men at the bar discussing politics; the elderly couple seated next to the hearth quietly sipping their drinks; the portly businessman hunkered down in one of the overstuffed chairs reading a copy of the Illustrated London News. Her gaze locked on Swanson. A faint smile lifted the corner of her mouth as she sized up the Captain, then came directly towards him. Swany watched her approach, suddenly feeling as if he were being stalked by some wily and wondrous animal. The hairs prickled on the back of his neck, his muscles involuntarily tensed as the delicious danger approached.
"You must be Swany."
The woman's opening salvo caught him completely off-guard. "Yes, I ah, yes I am", the Captain stammered as he rose to his feet. Quickly recovering his composure he continued, "I know we've never met as I would certainly remember someone like you."
With a lilting laugh the woman offered her hand and an introduction, "I'm Alex Anderson, a friend of Jim's, and he's told me some things about you including your nickname. I hope I wasn't being too familiar."
"Not at all, any friend of Jim's is a friend of mine. And you're American!" Swany beamed as he shook her hand and invited her to join him, then held the chair for her before sitting back down himself.
"What are you drinking Alex, and where is Jim?"
"A sherry would be nice, and he should be down in a few minutes."
Swany called over to the barkeep for a sherry then turned his attentions back to his newfound companion. "So Jim has told you something about me, eh? Nothing good I'll bet. And you have me at a further disadvantage since I know absolutely nothing about you. How do you two know each other?"
Alex explained that she was a war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and that she and Jim had met little more than two weeks ago after she'd written an article about his first Zeppelin downing. She went on to elaborate that she and another of her press colleagues were working on several stories about how the Brits have not only been hiding their ace pilots from the public, but they've also been pulling their VC recipients from the front and sticking them in Home Establishment for safe keeping.
The barkeep approached with a small tray holding the single sherry which Swany lifted and handed across to Alex as he interjected jokingly, "So that's why I'm suddenly back here in England, I thought maybe da French had gotten fed up with me butchering their language and demanded I be expelled from their country."
Alex laughed as Swany gave a boyish grin.
“Swanson, you old devil, leave the ladies alone!”
Swany sprang to his feet and met his long lost friend halfway across the room, giving him a big bear hug as they met and lifting him several inches off the floor in the process. The two quickly caught up on some of the more salient things that had transpired since they parted ways months ago. Each admired the others honours, both on their chests and on their sleeves. Swany blushed as he admitted to having forty-seven confirmed victories, and was then shocked when James announced he had four Zeps to his credit.
"Four Zeppelins?" Alex, (whom both men had temporarily forgotten about in their excitement to catch up), interrupted. "Why didn't you tell me this?" The woman did not seem pleased.
Collins fumbled a bit, explaining he'd been explicitly ordered not to discuss it with anyone. Alex was having none of it.
"Jim, we've talked about this", she scolded. "Britain needs to know."
Captain Swanson was surprised and more than a bit amused, he'd never seen his friend at a loss for something to say with anyone. But here he was struck speechless and looking like the schoolboy who'd just been caught dipping the girls' pigtails in the inkwell. Alex was clearly a force to be reckoned with, a force which suddenly swung its attention around to Swany.
"So tell me about yourself", Alex demanded smilingly as she produced a notebook and pen from her bag. "I want to know everything. Where you grew up, how you came to be a pilot, your accomplishments in France - all of it."
Jim laughed as he signaled the barkeep to bring him a beer. "You're in the hot seat now my friend, let's see how you like it."
Swany gave an uneasy look. "Not sure I'm comfortable talking about all of it, Alex. Are you planning on writing a story about me?"
"Captain Swanson, as much as Britains need to know about their aces, Americans need to know about theirs as well", Alex stated concernedly. "You are a hero and our country needs to look to men like yourself as inspiration, so that we might become fully involved in this conflict. Surely, as a volunteer to the cause, you can see the importance of this."
Swany's eyes grew fierce as he responded. "Miss Anderson, in da last three months my squadron has lost over two-thirds of its men to da cause so I can assure you I see the importance of this, far more clearly than you might think." His northern Minnesotan Norwegian accent grew stronger despite his best efforts to keep both it and his anger in check. "Jim and I have each lost good friends to dis war, and we will lose many more before it's over - that's a sure bet."
"I did not mean to..."
"Please let me finish", Swanson cut her off as he continued. "Da likelihood of me surviving this is slim at best - I've accepted that - death takes care of itself, no need to worry about it. All any of us can do is get on wit da job at hand. So, if da article you intend to write will better the odds of ending this madness sooner rather than later, then I will give you whatever you need. But I hope you are not going to parade more of da garbage I've read in what few papers I've seen from home since coming over. There is nothing noble or glorious or patriotic or thrilling about war, it is kill or be killed, plain and simple, and da faster we can destroy the enemy and crush his will to fight, da sooner this all stops."
Alex sat silent, she'd not written a single line, the pen in her hand appeared welded to the paper beneath it. Jim looked restively across at his friend who had just expressed, in no uncertain terms, the truths that every battle-weary soldier knows all to well but seldom speaks of in public, much less in mixed company.
"Your drink Sir." It was the barkeep who broke the tense, uneasy silence at the little table.
"Ah yes, thanks my good man", Jim replied in the best upbeat tenor he could muster.
Swany gave a weak smile as he reined back his emotions. His anger subsided, slinking back into its hiding place. "My apologies to both of you, these last weeks have been hell. Sorry if I've dampened the high spirits."
"Dampened?" James shot back. "I'm afraid you've wrapped them in anchor chains, dropped them off the far end of the pier, and drown them." After a long, pregnant pause all three at the table burst out laughing.
"You're a pip, Jim. I've missed you." Swany grinned across at Collins, grateful for his friend's humor and understanding. He then shifted his chair so that he was facing directly the striking young woman seated next to him and with a resumed cheery tone proclaimed, "Let's get this show on the road Alex, ask me your questions. And when we're finished let's all go over to the Haunch of Venison for dinner, my treat. It's the least I can do after my embarrassing and uncalled for outburst."
Alex was much relieved that the tension had subsided and was now eager to get to the interview. As prelude she pulled from her bag a Sobranie and an amber holder. She requested a light, which resulted in the immediate scrambling by both men at the table to provide the needed match ASAP. It was James who won the race by a fraction of a second as Alex touched the tip of her cigarette to his flame and drew the smoke in deeply. It curled back out from the corner of her mouth as she turned to the subject of her inquiry.
"Alright then Swany, let's begin again. You were born in Warroad, Minnesota, correct?"
After nearly forty-five minutes of back and forth between Miss Anderson and Captain Swanson, the interview was wrapping up. James, having felt fairly superfluous at the table after the questions began, had taken his beer and moved to the bar and attempted to join the two men there involved in an ongoing discussion, but was unable to focus on the topic at hand; whether or not certain members of Parliament were personally profiting from war contracts they themselves had help secure. Instead, he kept looking over at Alex, who seemed to be getting more friendly with Swany the longer she talked with him - a bit too friendly for Jim's liking, truth be told. However, he decided to chalk it up to the reporter in her and not something else. It was her job after all, to get people to talk about themselves and open up to her. Of course she might have to be overly attentive to someone in that situation - smile at them - touch them lightly on the arm from time to time - lean into them and blithely laugh. James ordered three fingers of scotch and slammed it down, then did the same again before walking back over to the table.
"About done here from the looks of it, are we?" Collins intervened with a mildly squiffy smirk. "That Haunch of Venison is sounding pretty dam'd good. Don't know about you two but I'm starving."
"Oh I haven't forgotten old chum, and I'm fully prepared to help you part with some of your ready cash."
"Did you have a nice time at the bar, Jim? Looks like you're a fair distance ahead of us on the celebration track." Alex smiled thinly while raising an accusing eyebrow at her escort.
"Nonsense, I've only been lubricating the wheels of the train in preparation for the trip."
Alex returned the notebook, pen, and empty cigarette holder to her bag then stood, adjusting her skirt slightly as she did so. "Well I'm ready."
Swany, who had stood when Alex rose, slid the chair out of her way and followed as she and Jim headed through the small bar, across the foyer, and out into the street. The air was cooling again and it was fine weather for the short walk up the High Street, over to Bridge Street, and onto Minster where the Haunch of Venison stood. As the three of them strolled into the wonderful old establishment, with Miss Anderson being flanked by the two VC Captains, every head in the place turned. In all likelihood it was Alex who was the far greater attraction over the two RFC heroes, but either way the crowd inside parted like the Red Sea and they were led to one of the finest tables available. A complimentary bottle of champagne materialized almost immediately, providing a marvelous start to the evening. It would prove to be an evening to remember.
#4491066 - 10/01/1909:01 PMRe: Deep Immersion DiD campaign -- Player Instructions (UPDATED 28 Nov 2018)