“Good morning Major, welcome home!”
“Donald I have told you before, stop calling me Major, other ranks call officers sir and it’s not home either, I’ve just left it. Anyway good morning, any calls?”
“Yes Major (!) a Brigadier Hunter-Fellows has called and says he will meet you in your office first thing tomorrow morning at nine.”
“Did he say why?”
“Of course not Major! A Brigadier telling another rank things that are well over our lowly heads!?” Sarcastic bugger!
“Please go and make me a ham sandwich Donald.”
“No ham Major.”
“Sort of Major but it begins with Corn!”
“Two please with pickle and when you come back I want to ask you something.”
Donald came back and put the sandwiches on my side table and waited.
“Sit down Donald and tell me about Rupert.”
“The “Doctor” and I met two years ago and fell in love after he had given…”
“Yes, I know. Tell me about him, you obviously don’t live together.”
“We meet when we are both free from our duties and go to a hotel for a night or two after which he has to return to his most important work.”
“When did you last see him?”
“Two months one week and three days ago Major.” Oh Christ!
“You must know the war is coming to its end at last, what will you do after that?”
“Continue as I am I suppose Major, I had hoped to find employment in a grand house, but that is unlikely. No, just carry on as Batman to another fine officer, just like yourself Major!” I could have hugged him.
“Donald, Lord Penton and I would like to ask you to become our butler. It’s not a grand house and all that will be living there will be his Lordship, a very good friend of ours and me. There will be just a butler, housekeeper/ cook and a maid. Think about it but I am afraid it will not include Doctor Rupert living there.”
“A LORD you say?” He had already forgotten Doctor Rupert it seemed. “A LORD!?”
“And an RFC Major Donald… Me!?”
“Oh I know THAT! But a LORD! Oh my goodness… In service to a LORD! I accept.” Apparently, Jonnie and I had just been hired.
“Albert old chap, good to see you again my boy and congratulations about everything.”
“It’s good to see you again sir. Sir, I’m going back to France aren’t I?” Why else would he be here?
“That’s what I hope Albert and after I have explained, I hope you will volunteer.
“A rather prominent German left-wing politician has been on the run for some time and hopes to get to America and meet with Wilson in an attempt to influence him to bring about a settlement that will give Germany the chance to rebuild once this war ends and he knows it will be a defeat for his country, but he also knows there will be massive demands for reparations as Germany will forever be blamed for starting it.
“Look Albert, none of us ordinary people understands the political side of all this but this man has to be bought out because the Americans want him not just to learn from him, but also to appease the many American Germans who were against America going to war in Europe. That rather tells me a lot but I have to stay at my level and keep my opinions to myself as a serving officer. My orders are to get him out, now I am asking you to carry them out for me! Will you go?”
“Well of course I will, apparently I am still serving my King and country, even though it seems we ourselves are under the influence of another power now?”
“We always ask if it’s a special operation and you are right we do expect the reply to be yes! When you get home you will fly from Farnborough in a BE2c and go to St Omar and wait because they are moving this bloke all over the place because the Hun are trying to find him and we don’t know where he is but we need you to be in place to take off at a moments notice.”
“Just a thought, why me and not an American pilot? After all they want him badly it seems and he won’t be brought back to Britain, so why should we bother to rescue him?”
“Albert I could cuss you sometimes dear man, you STILL don’t know how good you are, do you! Look at those bloody ribbons for God’s sake and ask yourself why they are there! Albert you are the only pilot I know who could fly a hundred miles and find a needle in a haystack at the other end!”
“Fine, so what happens when I get him back to St Omar?” Sebastian smiled at me, massively!
“He will be wined and dined my dear boy and he will be the guests of mine and others from the SIS, not that he will know that and by the time you take him to the American’s we will know as much as he will be telling Woodrow and his people!
“Albert, we are no amateurs when we want to gain information, regardless of how we get it.”
Shit, he was scaring me!
“When?” Sebastian made a face.
“After this meeting, then fly to St Omar tomorrow?”
“I will go to the manor today and I don’t care about security shit, I will be telling Jonnie all about this when I get home. He will fly me to Farnborough tomorrow morning. I will have to make a couple of calls first.”
Sebastian stood up and we shook hands. “Good luck old chap, come back safe but don’t leave that gold mine behind!”
“Major Albert Dowling VC’s residence this is the butler, oh sorry his Batman speaking.”
“Donald, pack a bag for three weeks I am coming back and will be going to the manor as soon as I can be picked up.”
“Yes Major, would you like me to include silk or cotton underwear?” Donald’s war must be hell! “Cotton.”
“Jonnie, I can’t explain but I am coming back, could you send the car it will be quicker and when I get home will you fly me to Farnborough tomorrow please?”
“Oh bugger, something’s up. Yes of course, Hicks will be there within three hours.”
I was dropped off and climbed the stairs to my apartment. I never found out how he did it but as soon as I got to the door Donald opened it. He took me into my bedroom to show me what he had packed which I knew I had to approve of. I went to the unlocked safe and got my Webley .45 revolver out and loaded six rounds then put it back in the holster. I then got a box of twenty more rounds and chucked the lot into the case.
“And may I ask Major why you have included those horrible items?” Donald shivered.
“I’m going back to France.” His eyes rolled up and fainted!
He came to leaning up against the bed where I had put him with a cold towel over his head.
“You feeling better now?”
“Not at all! How DARE they send you back, have you not done enough!?”
“I’m hoping it won’t be long and if I don’t make it back you will always have his Lordship to serve.” That was about as subtle as a ton of shit and Donald fainted again!
At least it passed a bit of time getting him to stand up and walk around the apartment talking to him all the time.
Two hours later Stanley arrived and after two more hours Jonnie and I were back to kissing.
“I’m going to fly to St Omar tomorrow and then wait until I have to fly into Belgium and pick up some German politician who is desperate to get to America, then fly him back to St Omar. The following morning I will take him to an airfield in the south where the Americans are and hand him over. After that, I have to fly back to St Omer and I assume wait for orders, but I hope they will be to come home… Jonnie, I have this feeling this will be my last flight of this war and I know Namu was right that I will come through, but if I do, why couldn’t they!? Trevor, Namu, Ben, William, Andy and so many more of my friends… Jonnie, at least there will never be another war like this thank God!”
There would be no sex even though we were naked but stayed limp, we just cuddled into one another kissing the whole time until we both fell asleep. We would often wake up during the night, kiss some more then fall back to sleep. It was a long goodbye.
As we took off I looked down at the manor which included the stables and my best mate Ben working there after I had gone but having special times with him.
As Jonnie banked over I had a clear view of Paulet House, it was a lovely sight with the large gardens that Mathew could possibly be transforming soon, I just hoped I would be part of it and of course with my man… and my memories. But I now had to think forward and beyond to St Omar.
We were able to say a private goodbye in one of the offices and then walked to his aircraft. “Come home please Albert, I have no life without you.” I started him up and stood aside as he waved to me and turned into the wind then took off.
“I will come home Jonnie, Namu told me I would.” My thoughts went back to Trevor and Namu. Two of the most beautiful people who had nothing but love in their hearts but were taken by the royal, military and political classes who would never come up to their level.
My reception when I landed at St Omar was quite different to when I first landed there in 1914, but this time a Colonel was waiting for me, we shook hands and I was taken to the senior officers mess where a meal was served and I was bought up to date with the situation regarding this politician.
“We are still waiting to be told where he is and when you can go and get him Albert. Look we know it will be somewhat risky but we think we can make it less so.”
“We have a captured German aircraft called the AGO C2 which was used in 14/15 mainly on artillery direction and observation. It is a pusher aircraft which allows the observer in the nose to have a machine gun to fire forward at a target without shooting it’s self down! It has quadruple landing gear which is very stable on touch down AND twin tail booms that are extremely advanced and gives it a marvellous stable platform in flight even though it’s not that fast but quite manoeuvrable. But most importantly for you is that you will be flying over German-held territory in one of their aircraft which hopefully will stop you from being fired at… until of course you cross back over our lines!”
“I need to fly this thing, where is it?”
I was taken to a hangar and for the first time saw this amazing aircraft. It stood on four wheels two being at the front of the plane. The front cockpit was for the observer/gunner. A short distance behind him was the pilot both of whom had excellent views over the side. Behind the pilot was the Benz B2 iv inline engine driving the pusher propeller. It gives a top speed of 86 mph and range of 360 miles. Originally it was used for armed recognisance with the observer in the front cockpit with his machine gun, but the most innovative design feature were the twin booms making up the tail and giving very good control with its larger elevator than would be found on more advanced aircraft of the future and also the twin rudders which, once again gave very good control.
I eventually took it up and liked it. I spent some time flying and learning her characteristics and after many flights we had become friends!
We waited and wondered if this flight would ever take place as I had been there a week and nothing from them at all.
I piddled around in my cockpit and fixed racking on the sides of the cockpit that would take six hand grenades on each side to chuck at anyone coming too close. I also had my Webley fixed to the right-hand side. Armed and ready I may have been but really only as some sort of comfort.
“Major Dowling, would you please go to the ops room now sir.” I put the phone down, It was on.
“Albert we have four pigeons back with the same codes.” That would give us the exact location and time to arrive. We poured over the map and located the site and calculated the distance, 165 miles.
“That only gives me a 30-mile reserve, I will have to take a couple of cans of fuel and fly direct. Just let me study it for a while and one of you go and tell the lads to get her ready. I will let you know what time I will take off after I have sorted the flight plan out.”
I had constant weather reports coming in and it was good with a half moon and only patches of cloud and light winds. Perfect for me, but also perfect for German night fighters.
I took off as dusk was falling and as I flew over our lines four Lewis guns opened up but intentionally missed me, they had been ordered to do that and when I flew over German lines their guns stayed silent. I had just got over the first hurdle. I climbed to 3000ft and settled down for the two and half hour flight and the whole time flying by compass, knowing the wind strength and direction and the pocket watch Mathew had given me. The only other thing to do was to look out for the Germans.
Jonnie poured two more glasses of champagne and handed Sebastian his. “Thank you for coming to see me Sebastian and letting me know Albert is on his way, cheers to him and a safe return.”
“Cheers to Albert! Well I was in the area so I thought I would pop in and let you know what’s happening. I fly to St Omer in a couple of hours and will meet the fellow Albert is picking up tomorrow.”
“Let’s pray you have someone to meet Seb. Albert told me he has had a lot of luck, I just hope he doesn’t run out of it now.”
“Well, we both know he has the skill, it’s all down to mechanical problems and meeting an unfriendly Hun but you know that anyway. Just think positive old boy, that’s the only way.” He laughed. “And you two will be doing all sorts when he gets back!”
As it happens just as he said that a Fokker Dr1 Triplane flew up on my starboard side, just about the best fighter of the entire war even if it was a copy of the British Sopwith Triplane!
I waved to him but he just stared back at me and I knew he was wondering why I was flying at night. This aircraft was no longer operational and I rather stood out a bit and not only that I was flying solo and no one in the front cockpit. I carried on waving in my friendly way but near to pooing myself as well. I thanked the bloke who said I must be in a German flying suit and helmet!
The Fokker seemed to make up his mind and pointed at me, then the ground. Oh shit, what now!? Well all I could do was play stupid and continued to wave. He shook his fist and disappeared behind me and the next thing I knew was a burst of machine gun fire that just missed me. He came back on my starboard side and pointed at the ground again and then made the biggest mistake of what life he had left.
I continued on the same course and speed but now just staring at the German and thinking I would have to land and hope to be taken prisoner and not shot. I found myself holding my Webley, I cocked it and took it out of the holster as Fokker man flew over the top of me and stayed there “telling” me to land. The underside of his plane was so close even I could not miss and fired three shots into the engine and watched as the Fokker suddenly did a sharp turn to starboard and went into an instant spin and did not pull out. It hit the ground and blew up.
I circled and felt certain he had crashed well away from any built-up area but knew they would eventually be out looking for him as soon as he became overdue. But now the next problem, when I picked this politician up the return flight would be completely different, I would be flying at no more than treetop height, if I was spotted I had to make it as difficult as I could for them to line up and fire at me. That problem led to another one, who the fuck was going to believe me when I told them I had shot a Fokker down with a revolver!
No, all I could do was tell them was I had spotted German fighters on the way to the rendezvous and we would have to fly low and hope we would have enough fuel to get over British lines.
After two circuits of the field I saw the torch signal and went out to line up, as I approached 6 dim torches came on, three either side and I touched down on my four wheels. I taxied to the far end and switched off.
“What the hell do you mean he is still in the house? I was expecting him to be here waiting and after I refuelled take off.”
“He is having second thoughts as he now thinks by going to America will make no difference.”
“Right, where is he because I’m having second thoughts about taking him anyway. I’m going to refuel first then take me to him.”
It turned out the cottage was right in the middle of thick woodland just a hundred yards or so away, it was a bit Hansel and Gretel I thought. I was taken in and saw this man in flying suit talking to others and all in German of course.
I was introduced and got a few nods back. It was as though the “chauffeur” had arrived and expected to wait until the master was ready for his services. I was not about to wait, there was the small matter of danger to myself to consider.
“Either you come now or I will leave without you”
“YOUNG MAN! You are not aware of what is happening and the risks involved, just wait!”
“I am aware of the risks I have taken getting here to pick you up and then more risks flying out again. Now I find you are having second thoughts and I am giving you 5 minutes after I get back to the aircraft and if you are not there in that time, I will leave.” I walked out and got back to the C2.
Four minutes later politician man was in the front cockpit and the engine running and me yelling down the voice tube. “This will be low level all the way back. Your fighters are up and I need to try to avoid them.” I opened the throttle and took off knowing there was yet another risk, running out of fuel before we crossed British lines.
If this had been peacetime, it would have been great fun as I broke every aviation rule in low flying as I just about cleared every tree and then dived down to follow the terrain.
I was now flying over German front lines and just lobbed my hand grenades over the side hoping to do some damage then climbed knowing I was about to run out of fuel and needed height to land on my side and hoped no bugger would shoot us down while trying too.
I was lucky (again) and as the engine spluttered I saw a field ahead and just landed.
Fifteen minutes later a patrol turned up and after a lot of talking and me swearing my fucking head off to prove I was English, we were taken to St Omer where Sebastian and others took Herr Whatshisname away and I would never see or hear of him again as an American pilot turned up the next day and took him away. No one would ever know I shot down a German aircraft. Even Jonnie laughed his lovely head off when I told him when I got back home
“YOU shot a German fighter plane down with a revolver!?”
“So you think I’m making it up?” He kissed me.
“No I don’t but everyone else will” I never spoke of it again.
“Anyway, that’s me done. It’s been nice talking to you but I have other things to do, like pack my trunk, I am going home to that bloke who can’t love me more than I do him!
Robert said he would finish off in the last chapter.
Goodbye and keep safe.”
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