Patrick was on the bridge and saw Simon coming towards the ship and waved. He went down to the top of the gangway and told him they were sailing at midday tomorrow.
"Did you have a nice time Simon?"
"Good thanks. Great to see my father and hope it can happen again."
"Yes, I hope I can get to see my father soon, but he travels all over the place and its hard to keep tracks on him. He is involved a lot on the Type 271 and installing it on the escort ships, just hope we get it soon." Patrick was on watch and Simon said he would get a couple of mugs of coco and bring them to the bridge.
"Simon when we do get leave perhaps you would like to spend it with me? You will love our house and grounds, so big and peaceful."
"Thanks Patrick, but I need to see my father, so it may not happen."
"And girlfriend no doubt? Don't tell me a handsome chap like you doesn't have one?"
"No, no girlfriend and not looking, not now anyway."
"Gosh, how do you keep them off you?"
"Same way as you do I guess. You have a girlfriend?" Patrick looked at Simon and wondered if he should risk it? Not yet.
"No, same as you, not when we are at war." They left it at that, but Patrick was dying to tell him the real reason he hoped he would go on leave with him.
Simon was allowed to ask the signalman to tap out a "goodbye" to his father as they sailed past the Hamble River. It seemed so unreal as he saw him and the whole work force through his binoculars waving back. They were going to join up with the main convoy while escorting a small number of ships towards it. They had got clear of the Solent and now in the Channel with Simon on watch when the call came from the radar shack saying there were aircraft approaching from the south east of them. Simon for the first time rang the alarm.
"Hard to port and full ahead." He ordered so that the 4 inch could come to bear on the aircraft.
The CO got to the bridge and took over and saw them coming at the convoy diving to attack.
"Fire when ready Number One." On this ship the First Officer (Number One) was also the gunnery officer, not the best situation as he would have to take over the ship if the captain was unable too.
Four enemy aircraft came under fire from the other escort nearest the convoy and opened up a few seconds before Blossom did with a good result, one aircraft was hit and broke off. Blossom then fired her 4 inch and then the 12 pounder. They were still out of range of the Lewis guns. The guns tracked them as they got even closer and watched in amazement as their 4 inch got a direct hit and the Heinkel simply blew up and only bits of it fell into the channel. The other two Heinkel's carried on with their attack, but now the Lewis's joined in and another Heinkel was hit and it too flew off. The last one dropped its bombs but missed.
"Bloody well DONE lads!" It could not be a better start and the Blossom had got her first "kill" of the war, but more important no ship was hit or damaged. Charles slapped Simon on his back.
"Well done Simon, you got us into a good position to engage. Well done everyone." They stayed at action stations and would not get much time to stand down during the whole of this escort. During the west passage most ships would sail with ballast, no ship could sail without cargo or ballast to give them weight, they would be in danger sailing empty. That did not stop attacks of course, killing crew was as important as sinking ships to the enemy and on this convoy they would lose a lot of both.
Tony had said goodbye to Andrew and thanked him again. He was much happier as he went back to his room. He was even smiling as he opened the drawer to get his writing pad out, but as soon as he looked inside his world fell apart. He sat down and stared at the floor for a long time..."Oh shit and I am in it and so could Simon as well."
Those letters could destroy both of them and now they were gone they would be used to blackmail him into having sex with the only person who would have taken them. Gary of course. Gary had made that obvious since they had got back from Dunkirk and it was also obvious to him now that the only reason why he helped him get into the Medical Corps and supported him throughout his training, was only to get him into BED!
"Fucking hell. I am going to have to work this out otherwise Simon and I could be finished if Gary shows those letters to the wrong people. Still, I read some time ago that the best way of defence was to attack, do something the enemy does not expect. OK, but what the fuck is it that Gary won’t expect?" He now knew how serious the problem was and because of that he could now think through it. Ok he did not have a clue what to do, but by staying calm, he would be able to think it through in a rational way. "HEEEEELP!" He even laughed at that and went for a bath. It would get worse though.
The Blossom had joined the main convoy and the opinion they all had was how the hell could six warships protect 50 merchant ships which were spread out eight miles in length and four miles wide and three of them not that well equipped to engage the U-boats.
Ships like the Blossom had to rely on the flotilla leader, who was equipped with the new Type 271 radar, to alert them of impending air attack. The plan did not work that well and often the only warning they had was their own radar which only gave them less than a minute to get to action stations. The naval ships were totally dependent on Asdic in the hope they would find themselves able to attack, rather than being attacked. It did not happen that often in 1941.
The alarm sounded and 85 men scrambled to their action stations.
"Surface contact! 216. Half mile."
Simon as always stood towards the rear of the bridge and would stay there hoping he would not be needed.
"Guns," fire a star shell." Off it went.......... Nothing.
"And another please "guns." This time they all saw the U-boat's conning tower.
"Full ahead. Fire when ready."
"Signal we are attacking." The signalman clanked out the message on his lamp. This was his first convoy as well as 10 other of the crew who were new to Atlantic convoys.
The 4 inch gun fired off 4 shells before the U-boat submerged, but before she did there was a hit.
"I think we have a damaged U-boat gentlemen, full ahead."
"CONTACT! Asdic, Two Oh Oh, 500 yards."
"Depth charges, stand by."
"Still got it?"
"300 yards!" The operator was beside himself!
"200!" He screamed out.
"SIR! WE ARE OVER THEM!"
Charles stood upright and focused and thought of his brother. He already knew what the outcome of this attack would be.
Four depth charges were fired off the sides and two dropped over the stern, all set at 100 feet.
"Slow ahead." They all looked aft and watched as the charges exploded sending massive volumes of water 100 feet up.
"Hard a Port, take us back." Blossom screwed round and was soon heading back towards the first depth charge attack.
"Set the DC's to deep." Charles did not wait to see what the result was after his second attack, instead he told the cox'n to go hard to port again and get back to the target area for his third attack
"Set the DC's to shallow......"
The U-boat had been damaged by the Blossom's second shell and she had to crash dive, but was not deep enough as one depth charge exploded too close and did even more damage. They were sinking fast as the forward torpedo room was flooding. The Captain had only one choice and ordered the ballast tanks to be blown in the hope they could surface.
On the way up, they met the third set of depth charges coming down. Mercifully the whole crew died instantly as all six depth charges blew up and with two of them so close, they ended yet 58 more lives to add to Hitler's grand total.
What with shooting down the Heinkel and now the U-boat sinking, there was a lot to celebrate. But as soon as the action with the U-boat was over, other U-boats attacked the convoy and Blossom now become a rescue ship. By the time they got to Halifax they had 135 survivors to land and thank the Blossom for their lives.
"Hello Tony, everything ok in here?" Tony was in emergency reception. He had worked on all wards, but this was his favourite place to be, you never knew what was coming through the door and you worked by your wits and skill.
"It’s not bad, you look happy, got promotion?" Tony smiled at Gary. Tony did not want to appear over enthusiastic, Gary could put him somewhere else if he knew he liked it there. The shit had hit his fan and he had every reason to be worried.
"Not yet. So, you say it’s not bad in here, don't you like it then?" Tony pretended he did not hear.
"I'm on a break in an hour do you want to meet in the canteen?
"Oh sure, that will be great, see you there." Gary went off happy convinced he would be told what he wanted to hear.
Gary came in and got his tea and sat close to Tony.
"So, what do you want to chat about? You coming on leave with me and get to know one another better?"
"The letters you stole from my room." Gary looked at Tony and pretended not to understand.
"What do you mean?"
"You stole my letters and my guess is you won’t give them back unless I agree to something and we both know what that is. I am right aren't I?"
"What if I said I don't know what you’re talking about?"
"You would be lying. Ok, you have got me by the balls, so what's the bottom line? Sex and I get the letters back, or is there something else you want to blackmail me with as well?" Gary smiled at him.
"No, just sex."
"That will never happen."
"So you want me to hand them into the police? You know if I did both you and Simon would be in serious trouble."
"So is blackmail Sergeant."
"I will take that risk, sex is just sex no one will get hurt and when Simon gets home when this war is over you two can carry on as normal and nobody need know what happened."
"Do I get the letters back?"
"Yes, but I don't suppose you will believe me, but that's your problem. Tony I will make you an offer, every time we have sex I will give you one letter back and by the time you get all 21 of them, you will most probably be gagging for it anyway, many have. Just relax about it Tony, nobody gets hurt and you won’t get pregnant. Simon need not know about it unless you are stupid enough to say something and in any case I bet he is fucking about with some randy sailor himself by now."
"And when is all this supposed to happen?"
"I will give you a week to think about it, after that and you don't cooperate I will take the letters to the police, just doing what's right and being a good Senior NCO and protecting vulnerable men from your possible homosexual advances. I might even get that promotion. It’s down to you Tony, do you want to see Simon thrown in jail and disgraced for life?"
"So you don't care how you have sex with a bloke even if it is rape?"
"Tony, listen to me. I don't give a fuck how I get it, I want you and that's all I'm interested in, if you are too stupid not to enjoy it, then that's your problem not mine. Anyway as I said, you will love it, all 8 inches of my cock in your mouth and up your tight little ass." Gary got up and left. Tony was in trouble and had no idea how to get out of it. All he could come up with was to let Gary have his way!
Blossom was at rest now and they all started to clean her up. They only had two days before they had to meet the next convoy, but this one would be slightly different for them.
"Shower time Simon?"
"I had one before we left home Patrick, I think I will be fine until we get back."
"Stupid man, I know you want to see my cock again, go and get your things." Simon grinned at him, Patrick was right and went to their cabin.
The shower room was not as crowded as the first time they were there, but once again Patrick got a lot of attention and Simon watched as one then the other would nudge a mate and nod towards Patrick. He stopped looking at the men and had his share of cock watching. It was magnificent!
"End of yet another freak show Simon. Still, I don't mind you looking, it’s different somehow." Simon stopped and as he did so did Patrick.
"Patrick, I'm sorry if I have got this wrong, but are you homosexual, like me?" Patrick nearly fell over.
"Yes I am. My word you don't hang about do you?"
"Patrick I do like you a lot, but I have my man at home and we are together as a couple and neither of us will go behind the others back. Hope you understand." Patrick looked at Simon with a sad smile
"All I can say is, whoever he is he is lucky. I could very well fall for you Simon. Ah well there is someone for everyone, somewhere, I just wish I knew where."
"Right chaps we have another role on this escort and we will be sub hunters and will sail up and down between the second and third line of ships. In other words we will not stay on station as we have done. There are three extra corvettes joining us on this trip from the RCN and two of them will patrol the other two lines, the Flotilla commander thinks it will give us better cover and a chance of keeping the U-boats submerged longer. We will go to full speed when we are on station one at a time with 30 minutes between each ship rather to stay in line. It’s worth a try and it may make it more interesting for us. That's it, let’s have a nice cruise, I have ordered champagne for this one." There were quite a few insults directed at the captain and they left to go about their work.
The weather conditions were dreadful, calm sea, moderate wind and clear sky's, perfect for the attacking side. However, the convoy escorts also had good conditions to search without having to endure a ship being thrown all over the place and better radar and Asdic cover.
The blossom was at full speed nearing the end of their line and would have to come about within 10 minutes.
"CONTACT ONE EIGHT OH! 1000 yards."
The alarm sounded and all the men sat up, stood up, or stopped leaning against something. They had been at "relaxed" action stations for the past four hours and this was their third contact.
Blossom changed course towards the contact. They knew that the U-boat would already know they were under attack and would dive unless this one fancied a surface fight. A U-boat out gunned any escort ship with her 8 torpedo tubes making the difference.
"500 YARDS!" The crews were at the depth charges ready to release.
"Shit, lost contact." Charles waited...
They made four more passes dropping 6 charges at a time, the last two towards the nearest line of ships just in case the sub was heading that way. Just as that last drop erupted there was a massive explosion behind them and a fuel tanker literally blew apart. No one would survive.
"Well, we won’t know if that was our sub or not, but let’s try to keep the buggers down." They continued searching the same area and during it there was an attack going on in the next line and Charles took them to join in the search, but by the time they got there the RCN Corvette was celebrating a sinking.
This system of sub hunting was bringing about some good results. As the Battle of the Atlantic progressed there would be 4/6 ship hunter/attack groups that would be just one reason the tide would turn. Another one was the installation of the Type 271 radar system, improved sonar and the forward throwing 24 anti-submarine mortars called the hedgehog which not only enabled a head on attack, Asdic contact could be maintained. Using just depth charges Asdic contact was nearly always lost and the attack became guess work. However, on this escort it was felt that having three ships hunting could have kept the U-boats submerged longer and they could lose contact with the convoy. There was no way of calculating how many attacks were thwarted like this, but there is no doubt this stopped many more cargo ships from being sunk.
They finally arrived in Liverpool and counted the cost. Five ships had gone down, 89 men lost and many more badly injured and many of those would die or take no further part in the war. The allies were not only loosing thousands of tons of ships but also their best asset, merchant seamen.
The Blossom moored up and the first thing they noticed was a group of officers and civilians waiting to come on board. Charles Thickness welcomed them and took them to his cabin.
"Wonder what that's all about Simon? Promotion and a pay rise for you and me do you think?"
"Or a sex party Patrick. I dare you to go and knock on "Thicko's" door."
"No dear boy, there would be no room in there if I got a hard on."
"Would you get one then?"
"Only in our cabin Simon."
The visitors left and Charles called the officers to the wardroom.
"Happy days chaps. We will be going on leave for two weeks! That's the good news, but it gets better. When we get back we will have Hedgehogs fitted, the 12 pounder will go and replaced by a 40mm Bofor and two twin 20mm Oerlikon's to replace the Lewis's. ANNND! That's not all, we will get the new 271 radar system when we get back from our next escort.
"Will you go and stay at home Patrick, or go and find your dad?"
"Well, as I know I will not get invited to your home, I will stay with mother for the first week and then, as you say, find father, he may even be at home. I won’t know until I get there. Simon, just in case your man has dumped you, here is my phone number for you to come and cry in bed with me!" They were interrupted when a sailor came and asked Simon to report to the captain, but not before Simon gave Patrick his phone number.
The First lieutenant was in Charles cabin as well.
"I will come straight to the point Simon, congratulations Lieutenant Walsh." Simon looked from one to the other and it at last sunk in, he had been promoted.
"Oh.......oh bloody hell, thank you sir."
"We both recommended you Simon. You deserve it and I will tell you one more thing, Peter here will most probably be leaving us after our next escort and when we get back, he will have his own command and I want you as my next Number one."
After two more doubles and shaking hands, Simon went off to the tailor for his second ring to be sewed on his sleeves. His father he knew would be over joyed. He rang him to say he was coming home, but did not mention his promotion, he wanted to see the look on his face.
"Well done Simon and congratulations. Goodbye and have a wonderful leave, but don't forget my phone number."
They were in their cabin and Patrick was packed ready to go. They looked at each other and Simon did not move as Patrick closed the gap and kissed his cheek. Patrick stepped back still looking at Simon.
"I said to you when we were in Halifax I could fall for you. I am sorry but a I lied, I already had." He smiled at Simon and left. Simon stood there and knew just how easy it would be to fall for someone else, that's just the way things were and this war would see many affairs going on and many split relationships because of them and the Yanks had not even got here yet!
He went back to the tailors to pick up his jacket and could not stop himself from being rather pleased with himself and for the first time thought about how far he could go. His father had made Lieutenant Commander and he wondered if he also could get that far. What he did know for sure was he must be good at what he did, Charles Thickness would never recommend a promotion unless it was deserved and to be also considered to become First Lieutenant gave Simon a huge boost of confidence.
Tony was in the canteen having in a cup of tea before going on night duty. He always did that half an hour before any duty began. He was only thinking of one thing and had been since Gary's ultimatum two days before.
He had not got far in the options department, Gary was not one to compromise and even though he knew the risks he was taking by blackmailing Tony, the outcome would be much worse for Tony and most probably Simon as well. Gary could get away with it anyway, all he had to say was he had found them on the floor in the changing room and the blackmail issue would never come up, or him liking sex with men despite what Tony would claim. No, Tony was in trouble, unless he went along with Gary's demands. Ok when he had first seen him climbing on Peace at Dunkirk he had thought how good looking he was, fantastic in fact, but that was all. What really "attracted" him to Gary was his ability in his work and knowing that that's what he wanted to join up to do as well. Not once did it enter his head about liking him in a sexual way and now actually hated him, BUT unless he came up with an escape plan it could very well end up in tears. There was only one thing he was certain of and that was this fuckwit would never get anywhere near him. "Big words, but how do I stop Gary going to the police?"
Tony's problem was he had forgotten how to be street wise since he had been adopted by two of the most beautiful people that ever existed, The Reverend and Mrs Williams, meeting Andrew who gave him so much support and treated him like a second son and then of course, the main man, Simon the man he fell in love with and now this shit who could destroy it all.
Tony was beginning to think "outside the box." he would have to become street wise again and this little chat he was having with himself was beginning to help him think more positively. He looked at the clock, time for another cup. He got it and sat down, but as soon as he had he looked up and saw Gary coming towards him, he had a face like thunder.
He sat and stared at Tony. "Aren't you the lucky one, I have been sent on a month’s fucking course and go first thing tomorrow morning. This you need to remember though, the day I get back is the first time I fuck you and there won’t be any excuses. You just get your ass ready."
Tony could not be more relieved, he had time to plan, and still he needed to say two things.
"Do you want me to look after the letters Gary? You never know who may go into your room while you’re away and steal them." He got sneered at.
"They are safer than the Bank of England. As I say, just get your ass ready, no more fucking about."
"It’s ok, I have had time to think about it and I guess if you promise me I get the letters back, then as you say its only sex and Simon will never know. There is one thing though" He smiled at him and Gary had suddenly lost his anger.
"I don't think it’s safe getting together in our rooms, but there are plenty of empty ones around the hospital and I can find a safe one while you are away, that ok?"
"Fine, just make sure its sound proof."
"And I do get the letters back?"
"I told you, one at a time." Gary got up ready to go, he looked down at Tony.
"Just in case you are thinking something up, there is a little disappointment coming your way. Don't fuck with me Tony, only I do the fucking."
It was scary as shit, but the best encouragement Tony needed. He also knew with Gary's last remark he would never get ALL the letters back and Simon would be the first to know he had sex with him, he would never to able to resist shouting his mouth off about it.
Tony watched him go and went back to thinking about a way out of this mess and that could only be, create one for Gary himself, it would be risky and he would need help. He got up to go on duty and at the same time he had the beginnings of a way to get out of this shit, he stopped at the reception desk.
"Fancy that drink tomorrow Jean?"