Excerpt for Tally Ho, Eagles... Book Two by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

TALLY HO, EAGLES



So many young Americans came to fly and fight for England in 1940-41, they soon formed their own squadron – the Eagle Squadron. As more young Americans came, they formed three Eagle Squadrons.


In the Fall of 1942, these three RAF Eagle Squadrons became the 4th Fighter Group, US 8th Air Force.



They had started out flying Spitfires, and eating British food … then they had to change to the big P 47, and Spam!



This is the story of that change …how they adapted to the American forces; their women, and their losses.





ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR



THE LADY OF THE CANYON



A late foggy night…

Not a good start to his retirement, he is already tired from driving all day in impenetrable fog. Four hundred miles creeping along jammed roads, guided by radar equipped Highway Patrol cars. Finally, he is on a two-lane country road passing through a narrow canyon, a last winding step to his new home.

Suddenly she is there, caught in his light beam, standing in the middle of the road. He stops, stunned by her appearance in the middle of the night…

She beckons to him, then disappears into some trees.

Then she is gone.



Who did he see in the Canyon?










GERALD W. GRANTHAM


The Author was born in Palo Alto, raised in the San Jose area of California, graduating from San Jose State University − that part of the state known as Silicon Valley. After working there for several years, his training in solid state electronics led him to travel extensively throughout the US. He traveled extensively overseas in Asia and Europe and more recently mainland China, where his work involves the installation of complex systems and training of operators. Although having lived in many parts of the US, he always returned home to California. He began to write after moving to a small mountain community in the north of the state where the ridges and valleys, towns and characters have been the inspiration for his stories.

In his travels, he has come upon accounts of roaming spirits, usually out to revenge a wrong. The Lady of the Canyon pays homage to these tales, and the people who believe in them. The Author respects the sincerity of their beliefs, something science is hard pressed to disprove.


Copyright © 2017 Gerald W. Grantham

Published by



Asia’s Print & Digital Publisher






The P-47 Thunderbolt










TALLY HO, EAGLES


Book Two of a Trilogy

by

Gerald W. Grantham






A Series of Stories of the Eagle Pilots in the US 8th Air Force.





Foreword





The Eagle Squadrons of the RAF, were now the Fourth Fighter Group, US Eight Air Force. They have new aircraft, and new responsibilities. They will be escorting US Bombers deep into France. They have already had losses, men and aircraft. The future offers them more of the same. German resistance to their intrusions will not be gentle, and will only grow more violent. The rookies will learn from the veterans, these men will show them how to survive in the sky over Europe. The eager newcomer must learn that this is not a contest for glory and individual fame. The men of the 4th Group pull together, or perish alone.

For some veterans, there will be promotion. With new rank comes new responsibilities, perhaps a new command. Transfers will happen, not always for the best. The men of the 4th must deal with what the war offers them. For some, the offering with be painful and personal. Captain Ted Sanders lost his pregnant wife to a German bomber attack. The women of Great Britain were no safer than the men. What about the gentle sex, was Ted the only one to find them charming? Hardly … relationships were beginning and ending, all over the base. The same was happening all over England. British women drove lorries, operated radar units, packed parachutes, even ferried aircraft to the bases where they were needed. There, they could meet someone. You could meet a young lovely in her folk’s shop, or changing the oil in your car. So many opportunities for contact, and with so many British lads overseas, prisoners, or dead, what was a young lady to do? Then, there were those that simply met that special someone. Nature did its thing, even in wartime. Fate was the arbiter of which relationship would blossom?



Chapter One





Red flare! Take off! Seventy-six P-47s were lined up on the taxi way. Four plane sections began taking off together. The first section contained Colonel Anderson, and his three Squadron Commanders. Many eyes were on the runway as they rose into the air; wives and girlfriends watched with apprehension. What would happen to their man today?

It was mid-April now, time was lost getting the Group ready for combat. Much time was lost replacing all the unreliable American radios with British models. The Brits had bailed out the Air Corps again! The Group was quick to form up, everyone was eager to show the Colonel that he had a sharp unit. The B-17s were actually at the rendezvous point on time! Anderson took his place, as the Escort Commander. There were eighty B-17s, escorted by two P-47 Groups. One hundred fifty plus fighters surrounded the bombers. Bob felt good about his Squadron, they flew a good formation. Ted had worked out some throttle and mixture settings calculated to save fuel. They planned on having enough gas to kick some German butt! Bob still watched Ted, not sure how he was handling his loss. Now that he had Eleanor in his bed, he was keenly aware of what Estelle’s death meant to his Flight Leader. He knew that Ted could have easily been lost to him. Bob was glad that there was plenty to keep him busy.

Every pilot was on alert. It was not a matter of if they would be attacked, but when. Today, Bob and his men flew in front of the bombers. Lately, the Germans had started using frontal attacks. The bombers had fewer guns in front, this made for better odds. The Germans were not stupid. The presence of twenty-five P-47s rather evened the odds. Some pilots were about to write the Germans off, when they suddenly appeared.

About thirty ME-109s lay dead ahead, menacing in their sinister formation, probably forming for an attack. ‘Break them up, Apache Leader. Odin has spoken!’ The Colonel ordered them to attack. Bob led the Squadron right at the Germans, full throttle! This was not what the ME-109s had in mind! Half peeled off, running for home but some continued. The tactic was not new, Bob understood. It could be a trick! One plane fired at Charlie! Charlie fired back. The P-47 was hit, but kept on going. Pieces flew off the ME, then it burst into flames! The flaming wreckage went down! Other dogfights broke out.

It was the yellow nosed 109s of the Abbeville Boys! Ted got on the tail of one, the fool tried to dive away. The P-47 weighed about 50% more than an ME-109, it dived like a rock. The German pilot first realized this fact when his tail and right wing disappeared in great chunks. A fuel tank was ruptured, the fire quickly spread. The pilot yelled, as he tried to open the damaged canopy. He howled as the flames reached the cockpit. He screamed, as the flames reached his flesh. Mercifully, the ME exploded, killing the poor fool.

Bob recalled the troops, ‘Apaches, rejoin bombers! This is Apache Leader!’ The Squadron attempted to form up, turning back toward the bombers. Several of the enemy were forming for a frontal attack. The faster Americans overtook them. It was every ME-109 for itself! The B-17s were forgotten, as German pilots tried to escape. One used the greater maneuverability of his ME, to get behind a P-47. Good, except for the P-47's wingman. He shot big holes in the ME. Don’t think that it was all one sided, some P-47s took damage. But, as the Germans found out, it took a tremendous amount of damage to stop a P-47! Six ME-109s went down, before the bombers reached their targets. No B-17 was touched, and the bombers were able to hit their target with good results. The antiaircraft guns were busy, but damage inflicted was light. It was on the trip home, that the extent of the battle damage became apparent. Charlie had a damaged wing, his controls were damaged. One aircraft had a damaged tail. The most serious proved to be to Bob’s aircraft when he realized that his oil pressure was falling. Was he losing oil? Ted looked him over, spotting the damage to the underside of his engine cowling. Bob had taken 20 mm cannon hits, he never even felt them! Now, it was a contest. Would the engine last all the way to Debden or seize? If it seized, Bob recalled that the P-47 was not a glider, it would fall like a rock! They could now see the Channel. Once past that, he could land almost anywhere in southern England but by the time they were over the Channel, the oil pressure was very low. The engine had begun to miss, that is, miss more than before. The 4th Fighter Group split off from the rest, but Bob could not keep up. Charlie, and the other damaged plane, stayed with him. Lower and lower! His engine was losing power, the propeller seemed to turn more slowly. Manifold pressure was down, like the oil pressure. They were now over forested land. Large houses and small, slid beneath them. A great house loomed ahead. Bob was not sure he would get over it. Afraid of hitting the slate roof, Bob pulled the nose of his plane up. Once over, he had to drop the nose or stall. That provided him with more speed. Bam! The engine ground to a halt, scaring Bob with the horrible noise. That was it, the prop had stopped. The P-47 quickly lost speed, diving into the muddy ground which quickly smothered the wreck, slowing it to a stop. Bob was out cold; the sudden stop threw his head into the protruding gunsight.

Evelyn Howard watched from horseback. She sent one of her men to phone for help, while she rode to free the trapped airman. Field hands flocked to the site. Following the instructions, stenciled on the canopy frame, Evelyn and her company slid the canopy back. The unconscious Bob was unbuckled, and carried by two middle-aged men who quickly wished that Bob was lighter. Evelyn insisted that he be carried upstairs, she had a room prepared for him by the staff. The local doctor soon arrived to attend to the fallen warrior. While he worked on Bob, Evelyn was able to get through to Debden. Ted knew that Bob was down, Charlie had reported in. A team was dispatched to the Howard Estate. Bob and his aircraft would be addressed.

‘Possible concussion, ma’am. He has a nasty bruise to show for his landing.’ ‘

‘Thank you, Dr. Stevens. I plan on keeping him here for the time being. Any idea how long he will be bedridden?’

‘He is a fit young man, probably a fortnight or so. I have written a few instructions for his care.’ He handed them to Evelyn.

‘Ma’am, do you know if they will be sending a Doctor to examine Major Rice?’

She shook her head, ‘No, I have no word on that. Any idea when he will wake?’

The doctor shrugged, ‘Could be any time. I will see myself out. Good day to you.’

Evelyn watched him walk away, then peeked into Bob’s room. She saw his head on a pillow, the bruise on his forehead was starting to show. Evelyn wanted to rush to Bob, to cradle him. But the staff was around, they must know nothing of her relationship with Major Bob Rice. She shut the door, then heard noise downstairs. On her way towards the front of the house, her maid rushed up to her, ‘Ma’am, there are Americans all over the aircraft!’ This was a search party, following up on Charlie’s report of the crash. About twenty minutes later, the maid approached her again, ‘Miss Howard is here, with a doctor! The Americans have a great lot of equipment!’ Eleanor appeared in her drab nurse’s gown and coat, a stranger followed her. Evelyn assumed he was the doctor. ‘Where is he?’ Eleanor demanded of her mother.

‘In the Blue Room. I am glad to see you, too.’

Eleanor ignored the jibe, turning to the man with her, ‘Follow me, Doctor. He is upstairs in a guest room.’ She was off. The doctor looked about him, nodded to Evelyn, then followed. Evelyn wondered about Eleanor, it was obvious she was infatuated with Bob Rice. The question was, did he return her interest? She put that aside, resuming her travel toward the front. She continued a hundred yards, or so to the men gathered around the wrecked P-47. She started by introducing herself, ‘Gentlemen, I am the owner of this land, Evelyn Howard.’ The American enlisted men were startled to hear an American voice, their officer was quick to introduce himself. She was a beautiful woman. Evelyn stayed to watch the P-47 being prepared for transport back to Debden. The bent propeller was removed, then they began to remove the wings. Only when both had been removed, could the damaged fuselage be winched and lifted aboard the flatbed trailer. Mrs. Howard noted that both the large tow truck, and the tractor pulling the flatbed, were left hand drive. Not the right thing for British roads; she hoped that the local constable didn’t choose to visit today.

When Evelyn looked into his room, Bob was awake. Eleanor had the pillows piled behind his head. She was in an ugly long dress, her nursing uniform she guessed. The doctor was writing at the small desk. He turned to her in the doorway, ‘Ah, Mrs. Howard. I hope you don’t mind Major Rice spending a fortnight or so as your guest. It would be preferable to moving him, he has a slight concussion.’

She smiled. ‘No problem, Major Rice has stayed here before, as a guest of my daughter.’

‘Ah, that explains her eagerness to volunteer for this job.’ Evelyn looked at Eleanor, standing by the bed,

‘Job? Do you mean that Eleanor will be staying here, nursing Major Rice?’

‘Yes, Mother. I will remain with Bob until he is well. Isn’t it lucky that I heard about his accident!’

Evelyn forced a smile, ‘Yes, dear. How very lucky. Bob will have the benefit of your experience.’ The doctor handed the written instructions to Eleanor, then addressed Bob, ‘You are under Nurse Howard’s care. The blurred vision should clear up quickly. We will have to see about the dizziness. Two beautiful women to look after you, some men have all the luck!’ Bob smiled, ‘Thank you, Dr. Harwood.’

With that, he turned and walked toward the door. Evelyn spoke up, ‘Let me see you out, Doctor. I need to check on the aircraft recovery.’ She led the doctor out of the room. Eleanor watched them leave, then gave Bob a big kiss, ‘I was so worried about you!’ She kissed him again, this time Bob held her tight. He did not like being out of commission, but it did have its compensations.



Ted did not like Bob being laid up either, he was now Acting Squadron Commander, sitting at Bob’s desk shuffling papers. First, it had been the daily reports, then the weekly reports, now it was the paperwork done monthly! Would it ever end? Then, a flight suit clad figure was ushered into the office. The short stature marked it as one of the female ATA ferry pilots, the Brits had a few. Ted took the paperwork from her, she stood before his desk as he read. The plane she delivered was a new P-47C-5. According to the paperwork, it had a British radio. He noted also, it was equipped to use drop tanks and bombs! It also proved to hold a bit more gas, more capabilities! Recalling that the pilot was still there, Ted looked up, right into two green eyes. She had removed her helmet, to reveal a head of dark red hair. ‘You don’t remember me, do you, Captain Sanders?’ She gave him a half smile. Something clicked in his mind. It was a Prestwick. ‘You work out of Prestwick, I think you were at dinner with us one night.’ Her expression grew somber, ‘I was at your Wedding Dinner. I was very sorry to hear about Estelle. I liked her, and Pat. How are you doing?’ She had a pretty face, even without makeup. Freckles across her nose and cheeks. He was touched by her concern, ‘I’m doing okay, I only miss her two or three times a day, now. It did help to go back up there and see the grave. I like the plaque.’

‘I am glad you saw it, there was a nice ceremony.’

He nodded, then remembered his manners, ‘Where are you headed to next?’ ‘I need to change, then catch a train for Scotland. Where can I dress?’ Ted thought for a moment, glancing at his watch, ‘I believe that the last train headed north is leaving the station right about now! I think they could put you up at Group, they have an old Manor House about five miles away.’

Her brow wrinkled, ‘Well, I did pack a few things. Do you think they would mind, putting me up?’

Ted smiled and shook his head, ‘No, Colonel Anderson likes guests, especially, attractive female guests. I hope you brought something appropriate to wear?’

She smiled. ‘As a matter of fact, I did. Can we go now? I would love to grab a shower.’ He looked at the paperwork on the desk, then he looked at her smiling face. It was no contest! Ted stood up, ‘Let’s go!’ She had a small suitcase stashed in the outer office. Ted threw it in the back of the Jeep, she went into the front. He noticed that she wore a kind of quilted overalls, in medium blue. She was a well-built young woman, filling her flight suit nicely. On the drive, she told him her name was Devon McGinty, from Northern Ireland. Twenty-four years old, she had been a pilot since she was sixteen. A Protestant Father, and a Catholic Mother, meant that someone always hated them. They had problems finding a peaceful neighborhood to live in. Moving around Belfast, she met a lot of people, one of them taught her how to fly. The war gave her plenty of work, ferrying aircraft to various air bases. Ted wondered about her social life. At the Manor House, Ted gave her a tip, ‘See that sedan? It belongs to the Group Commander. Barbara, his driver, is a young WAAF, who you will probably find in the kitchen. She could probably be persuaded to drive you to the Station tomorrow.’

‘Thank you for the tip. Goodnight, Ted.’ She offered her hand. He shook it.

‘Goodnight, Devon.’

On the drive back to Debden, Ted reflected on Devon. She was about Estelle’s height, but stocky. She had broad shoulders, probably strong as well. He knew what force was required to fly a P-47. He wondered about how many other members of ATA were ferrying planes around Great Britain?



Ted ate with some of his Flight, spirits were high. Losses were low, and no one had died. Weather prevented missions for a few days, it was time to relax! After dinner, it was off to the Officers Club for a drink or two. One poker game got started, Ted was sure that there was a crap game in someone’s room. Some guys still had a problem dealing with the greater salary of the US Air Corps. He was in his usual chair when he noticed a small disturbance near the entrance. Devon emerged from a group of pilots. Spying Ted, she made a beeline for him. She was lovely, clad in slacks and a sweater – a well-filled sweater, and she had applied some lipstick. He motioned to the chair beside him. Smiling, she quickly occupied it. ‘Thank you, for the invitation. The sharks are active tonight!’

Ted liked her already. ‘They swim in these waters most evenings. I have to say, they do enjoy new bait.’

‘I want to thank you for the tip. Barbara was so nice, she is a fountain of knowledge. She dropped me off here, on her way home. I feel a bit odd. Barbara and the other WAAFs have to eat in the Enlisted Mess, while I dined with the Group staff.’

Ted leaned over, speaking in a conspiratorial tone, ‘Actually, Barbara eats with her boyfriend, he was holding dinner for her. Many of our WAAFs live in the Married Officers Quarters. Several are married to pilots.’

Devon found that interesting. ‘These pilots must have been around awhile; how long have you been over here?’

‘Over a year, like several of the others. Many of us flew for the RAF, first in regular squadrons, then with the Eagle Squadrons. Many of the others joined the Eagles right from America.’

‘Do you mean that this Group is made up of ex-Eagles? I am afraid that I have not been paying attention. I will have to treat these boys better in the future.’

Ted shook his head, ‘Don’t treat them too well, it will go to their heads but you could still abuse the rookies.’ They both laughed. Ted enjoyed talking to her. She was bright. Devon found herself enjoying the evening. She found Ted attractive, bright, and kind.

When she said that she needed to call Barbara for a ride home, Ted stopped her. He ended up taking her himself. At the Manor House, Ted escorted her to the door. While they waited for the guard to open the door, Devon thanked Ted. She told him she would probably be ferrying other aircraft here. Perhaps they could get together again. Ted looked forward to that. On the drive back to base, he thought about her. When would she return, and what would happen between them. If she was willing, what would he do?



Bob had a good night, morning found him with clear vision but there was dizziness when he tried using the bathroom. Eleanor caught him sneaking back to bed. He was severely reprimanded, then thoroughly kissed. She felt good, so warm and firm. He invited her into his bed. She reminded him that he was injured, and that she was on duty, then kissed him, with lots of tongue. When he reached for her, she was just out of reach. ‘So that’s how it’s going to be!’ She pointed out that she got off duty at five which gave him lots of ideas.



About dusk, the Duty Flight from the 336th was scrambled; intruders from the southwest. The rest of the Base watched them take off. The men of Ted’s flight slipped on their flight suits, they were now on alert. The blue phone rang! ‘This is the Observer Corps! Five Heinkels flying at tree tops. Course 90 degrees! Scramble!’ Twelve P-47s took off, turned to intercept, then climbed to angels three. Landing gear and flaps up, guns armed, gunsight lighting on. Wait for the enemy. Flying at three hundred fifty knots, the sun just started to dip below the horizon. The Flight flew due east. Don’t look into the rearview mirror, the setting sun was blinding; watch the tree tops ahead! A glint of light off a windshield, five Heinkels, headed right for Debden! ‘Red Flight! Defend Home Base! Tally Ho!’ Goggles slid over twelve pairs of eyes. The Flight flew in three four-aircraft sections. Ted led the first four down, the other two followed. They flew level with the Germans. The leading bomber fired, too soon. The stream of bullets fell short. The lead P-47s fired, Ted hit the lead Heinkel head on and glass shattered, shells and bullets hit flesh and controls. The lead plane went nose down, the pilot dead or wounded! Two more were hit, diving into the trees. Three explosions, a fourth plane on fire, too low for the crew to bail out. They crashed and exploded. Two of the P-47s were chasing the lone survivor. Ted and the others had turned around, they were witnesses to the death of number five. One wing on fire, then the other; it crashed into the trees, then exploded with all that gas, and bombs.

‘Fighters!’ His wingman was on the ball – four ME-110 fighters. The P-47s broke in all directions, but several ended up on the tail of a German. Their rear gunners tried to defend, but the Americans were wise. First one, then another was hit, always from underneath where the Me-110 had no guns. Ted found one, it maneuvered, twisting around trying to put the rear gunner on Ted. No luck! The eight .50 Caliber tore big chunks from the wings, then the tail. The gunner was hit and killed, freeing Ted to deliver the coup de grace. He shot up first one engine, then the second. The pilot was fortunate to find an open field in which to land. Ted circled around long enough to watch him slide to a stop, and scramble out of the aircraft. He ran for the trees, probably worried that someone might strafe him, Ted had heard of the Germans doing just that. On the way back to Debden, Ted had a chance to reflect, ‘The attack from the southwest could have been a ruse, or aimed at a second target. This group of Heinkels flew below radar, but the volunteers of the Ground Observers Corps spotted them. Made up of those too old for military service, many had served in WWI. They manned posts day and night. In the cold and wet, they helped to protect their country. In doing so, they helped to save several hundred Americans from possible death and destruction.’ Ted was sure that most were totally unaware. How could they thank these volunteers?

Jake studied the telegram before him, others littered his desk. The man was on a quest, a quest to give the P-47 more range. The combined effect of his many inquiries meant that, hopefully, the search was about to end. Isabel watched him, her own work getting scant attention. She hoped with all her heart for her lover to win this one.

‘Hot damn! Sorry, my dear! They all agree about the tanks!’ He swept his arm over the desk, ‘It's all coming together. Available drop tanks will be shipped immediately! New tank production will be stepped up. We even got them to ship us the plumbing to upgrade the older planes!’

She flashed him her best smile, ‘I am so glad for you. Do you think involving General Arnold made a difference?’

Jake smiled at her. ‘About like having divine intervention, Beautiful. Aside from the Almighty, there was also a nudge from an interested Senator. Seems that he has a nephew in the 4th Fighter Group. It seems that nepotism can be a good thing. I'm just beginning to appreciate that fact.’

‘Really, I could not function without it. Family is irreplaceable in my little world.’

Jake shook his head, ‘Is there a branch of the British government in which your family has no member?’

She considered that for a moment, ‘I will have to get back to you on that!’ Jake just shook his head, life with Isabel was nothing if not interesting. She was a lovely, intelligent woman. Jake was sure she was too bright for her husband, he chose an under-educated mistress. Now, she had chosen Jake. They made a good team, just the right amount of brains and balls. He would never say that to her! Later, they would dine in her suite. He planned on having her for desert.



Sheila was tired, and hungry. It had been a long day, now it was dark outside. ‘Damn gearbox!’ She tried to wash all the grease off her hands. The old bus had broken down at the rail station, loaded with wounded. She went out with the tow truck. It was a chance to use the new American truck. It was a beauty! When she got the bus back here, she found that the gear box was frozen. It had taken her hours to disassemble it, clean off the old grease, and find the fault. The bad gear was replaced, after much searching; she had just gotten it working. Now, the grease! She knew that the others would save dinner for her. How warm would it be? She continued to scrub, cursing her luck. Satisfied, Sheila dried her hands. She put on her RAF parka, then the fur gloves. These were gifts from her husband, the more tangible gifts. The Viking smiled at the thought of their time in bed, she loved married life! The lights were switched off, she locked the steel side door behind her. Sheila smiled, she was on her way home! She cut across the complex, trying for the shortest path to her flat. The grass would be wet, but she intended to cross it anyway. That was the short cut! To reach the grass, she skirted the rear of one of the small hanger. Rushing around the corner, Sheila ran into a masked man. He was startled by the blonde. Taller than him, Sheila gave him her best right. He staggered. She then followed with a big left. It knocked him down! She reached for the whistle she wore on a chain, another present from her husband. The shrill blast alerted two patrols. The man got up and ran, more men were summoned by radio.

Sheila was questioned, ‘When I saw him, I just got mad! I knew he was the rapist!’ It made the sergeant interviewing her wonder about the blonde. How did she treat her husband? Patrols tried to cordon off the base; one soldier said that he had seen a figure in black, heading toward the village. He had followed, but lost him at the edge of town. This was puzzling, there were no young men now living there. The nearest one mending in the Base Hospital, he was missing half of his left leg. The news made Captain Fraser mad, as it looked like he would have to hand this case off to his replacement. He really wanted to solve it, but he had been informed that he would shortly be relieved. The British Army was being replaced by a US Army MP unit. He had expected it, but he hated to leave this peaceful area.

Colonel Anderson was not pleased by the reappearance of the rapist. That this was happening during his time as Group Commander, left him deeply ashamed.



Bob Rice had passed a good day, the dizziness was diminished, and he had caught Eleanor twice. She was a bright and beautiful young woman. All in all, a pleasant afternoon. Evelyn had stopped in for a while. He was sure that Eleanor's presence saved him from an emotional meeting with her mother. Bob had no intention of continuing his liaison with the older woman, but he dreaded the scene that was coming. Evelyn did want to discuss their situation, but she was sure that her daughter knew nothing of the affair with Bob. She wished to keep it that way. After pleasantries were exhausted, Evelyn Howard excused herself, domestic duties called. Eleanor celebrated her mother's departure, by grabbing Bob. They necked until dinner time. Eleanor insisted on feeding Bob from a tray – a bite of food, followed by a kiss. It was her own formula which Bob wholeheartedly approved.

It was late. The Manor House was quiet, even the servants were asleep. Lady Evelyn Howard moved silently down the corridor, wrapped in her wool robe and slippers. The old house was cold and drafty. She stopped before the closed door of the Blue Room. Quietly, she grasped the door knob. She intended to surprise Bob Rice, he was sound enough this afternoon. They would make up for lost time. What was this! The door was locked! Was this Bob's doing? It must be Eleanor, Evelyn started to return to her room, but decided to try the door of Eleanor's room. It opened, so she silently moved to the empty bed. Evelyn was quick to see that Eleanor, her soon to be twenty-year-old daughter, was in bed with Bob Rice. She wondered how long this had been going on? Her first thought was to fight for him but she quickly realized, she could not win this fight. Not with her own daughter! Quietly, Evelyn closed the door and walked the twenty yards to her own room. Eleanor had won, young love and lust had won Bob Rice. Evelyn felt older, tired. She removed her robe and slippers, before sliding back into her own bed. She thought of what she could do now, and with who. Tomorrow, she would pretend that she did not know. That would hurt. But it was the kind of hurt she was used to, like the first time she learned that her husband had cheated on her. What she needed, was a new playmate. Someone experienced, someone discrete.

There was a fire in the old stone fireplace. The gentlemen were in their usual positions, sitting in old easy chairs, whiskey glasses in hand. They talked, at the end of the day. A time to exchange information, and views. Colonel Jake Butterworth was bringing General Eaker up to date. ‘With the 318th becoming operational, that gives us thirty Bomber Groups. Three Wings of B-17s, and one of B-24s.’

‘You know their CO, don't you?’

Jake smiled, ‘Yeah, John Rigby, we flew together in 1918. He was a hell of a pilot. Now he is a Colonel, commanding a bomber group. His boys will be part of our push into Germany.’

Ira nodded, then looked sour, ‘Yes, and we don't have fighters with enough range to escort them that far. Losses have been high, every time we try a German target. What can be done about it?’

It was Jake's turn to look glum. ‘We are close to modifying our P-47s to carry a drop tank. They will then be able to carry a 76-gallon model.’

Eaker had seen his frown. ‘And that will allow the aircraft to reach how far?’

‘The German border, with fuel for combat. The bombers would have to go on without them. We could have fighters pick them up on their return.’ Ira frowned. ‘I knew you wouldn't like it.’

‘You're damned right I don't like it! We need to escort our bombers all the way to their target, and back. How about it? Could we fit them with two drop tanks?’

‘They tell me that they can setup a P-47 to carry three drop tanks. But they would all have to be dropped anytime German fighters showed up.’

Ira grimaced, ‘Sounds like all we'd be doing is giving the Germans free drop tanks. There has to be a better way.’ Jake thought so too, but what was it? Everything he considered, proved to be a dead end. Then there was dealing with General Eaker, a stiffer proposition than his friend ‘Tooey’ Spaatz. Ira Eaker had come up from Bomber Command in December and General Spaatz was now commanding the Air Forces in the Mediterranean.



Devon had spent the day on trains. She had brought something to read, but her thoughts drifted to her situation. She was alone, and she was not happy. Well, she knew how to cure the alone part. Devon had plenty of offers, that and countless lustful looks. All she had to do, was say yes, or walk up to one of the many pilots and find out what they wanted. That had never interested the lovely redhead. She preferred to do the choosing. Would that make her happy? She did not want anything heavy, the war took up much of her time. Then, there were the missing and the dead. A lover could be killed. Ted Sanders had such blue eyes, a widower but not been very long. Would he be interested? She thought that it was worth a try, she had heard some things at Prestwick, Ted had lovers before. No surprise there, many fighter pilots did have affairs. An affair might be just what she needed, but then what? Affair sounded so sordid, she did not want that. If it was, then let it be on her terms. She wanted to be happy.

At Prestwick, Devon asked around. No one found it unusual for an attractive young woman asking about Ted Sanders. Many wondered when he would venture into another relationship. She talked to some WAAFs who had worked with Pat and Estelle. They thought highly of Ted. They said that many from his Squadron stopped here and all asked directions to the monument. Most had known the pair from Debden; all said that they were there for Ted. That he had the goodwill of his squadron mates spoke volumes to the young woman. It appeared that her instincts at Debden had been good. Captain Ted Sanders was handsome, educated, and a good man. He sounded better and better. She got that old feeling about this man. It had been a long time, Devon was neither loose or careless. She did not expect romance, not in wartime, but that was what she wanted. In her heart of hearts, Devon McGinty was a romantic.



*****





Chapter Two





It was June now, a walk around Debden Air Field would quickly remind you. Butterflies fluttered from blossom to blossom, while birds sang from the new foliage. The sun could now warm you through. What a change! Unfortunately, all too often the sound of birds was overcome by the roar of aircraft engines. There had been multiple escort missions to France and Belgium. The 4th Group was scoring well, any attack on bombers escorted by the 4th Group was a risky proposition. The Germans tried once more to bomb Debden. The Brits provided the warning, the Yanks sent several more Germans to Valhalla. Many others ending up as POWs. Two Yanks were shot down over France, both became POWs. One was a veteran, he was able to send word to his wife that he was okay. The other wives helped her to pack for the journey home. She chose to live with her folks until her man returned; she knew that staying on Base would have been too much for her.

Bob and Eleanor announced their engagement, or rather, Lady Evelyn Howard announced it. It was in the Times, no less, as Eleanor's father was a Baronet. A messenger brought his congratulations, although he could not divulge the man's whereabouts – a State secret. Eleanor was grateful for even that, she knew her father too well, he was a man easily preoccupied. Eleanor seemed preoccupied with sleeping with Bob. She was all for cohabiting in one of the flats but Bob felt that they were too high profile to get away with that. She was sitting in Bob's rocking chair, a smile on her pretty face. ‘Okay, you occupy the flat, I will sneak in at night.’

Bob gave a wry smile, ‘Very funny. Eleanor, I don't see your ring.’ She quickly showed him the chain around her neck, the ring was on it.

‘I should have made you search for it.’

Bob smiled at her, ‘Behave, Beautiful. Don't you get enough at night?’ In answer, she rose and walked to him. It began again, two young lovers. For a few hours, Bob's room became their world.



Chesley Peterson was Deputy Commander of the 4th Fighter Group. Some thought that Bob should have been given the promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. Bob was not one of those, he knew that Ches deserved the post. He had been in England since late 1940, nearly a year before Bob and had quickly risen in rank while they were still in the RAF. He was young and lacked higher education, but was one with natural abilities. His promotion to Squadron Commander in the RAF, and now Deputy Group Commander surprised few who knew him. He was scheduled to lead when the Group received orders for a 'Rhubarb', a fighter-only ground attack. All older P-47s had been upgraded, meaning that one squadron would carry a five-hundred-pound bomb under their fuselages. The target was their hated enemy, the E-boats. The Group intended to destroy all E-boats they found, and their base as well. Ches was obviously fired up at the mission briefing. It was infectious, among those who knew firsthand what the E-boats could do. The seventy plus aircraft took off without incident, the 336th Squadron carried the bombs. Targeted was the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, the main E-boat Base on the Channel. The 4th Group flew over Essex and Lincolnshire, before crossing the Channel. Bob and the 334th Squadron led the way. The 335th was high cover, there was sure to be a German response to this raid. Ted watched for the harbor mouth, two jetties jutting out from the shoreline. There was a fifty-yard opening between the two jetties, that was covered by two gun positions. On the tip of each jetty was a 37mm antiaircraft gun. These were the first targets for Ted and his men. They were to go in, shooting up every gun or boat they saw. The 336th would then attack with bombs. Their target was the buildings along the shore, and particularly the lock gates to the inner harbor. If that was jammed closed, no E-boat could exit to the sea. They would be caught, sitting ducks for the following P-47s.

The jetties came into view. The Germans were surprised, but recovered quickly. These were no amateurs, manning the guns protecting this harbor. Tracers whizzed past Ted's plane, these were large cannons – 37mm and 20 mm shells were coming at them hot and heavy! The two jetty positions were doused with .50 caliber bullets, their crews died to the last man. No cowards, these German gunners. Ted plastered a 20mm gun, then an E-boat tied to a wharf. It exploded with flaming debris everywhere. More guns were hit, the defensive fire diminished. Time for the 336th!

Right on cue, Ches sent them in. A warehouse on the wharf exploded! Must have housed ammunition, secondary explosions continued for some time. Bob and the 334th were in the inner harbor, killing guns and E-boats. The 336th hit the lock gate with three bombs, ruining the mechanism. It was stuck shut, holding most of the E-boats captive. Lambs to the slaughter! Ted and Charlie took turns attacking the beehive of shooting boats and one by one, they exploded and burned. Warehouses were destroyed, burning brightly. Finally, the 335th reported visitors!

A swarm of FW-190s arrived. Ted took the 334th up to help. The pilots of the 336th without a bomb any longer, joined them. Their blood was up! This was payback for so many past injuries, too many good men lost. The Americans tore into the German's, destroying their attack plan. All they could do was scatter, putting themselves on the defensive but now they knew there was no running away from these new aircraft. Even so, a few tried to stay and fight; they quickly died, shot to pieces. Others were chased down, attempts to dogfight met with limited success. If they out-maneuvered one P-47, another found them. Thirteen Germans failed to return to their base. Not all died, however. Several had to hitch a ride home on a truck. For many, it was a new experience. Even when they hit an American, the P-47 just kept going. It was depressing, for pilots who had things so much their own way for so long. Next day, their squadron stood down, too many were gone or damaged. Hardly a plane was operational and the wreckage of crashed aircraft littered their field.

Ches recalled the Group, fuel was a concern. Landing back at Debden showed an assortment of damaged aircraft, but no pilots. It was time to celebrate! The E-boats would not bother anyone, for a long time.

That evening, there were festivities in the Officers Club. Many of the pilots brought a date. Allen brought Ellen. She was so proud of him, he was credited with a FW-190, and an E-boat Most pilots drank between missions, but few drank to excess. Fewer still drank too much in the company of a young lady. Allen was very moderate, Ellen did not drink at all. She did not, however, object to being taken to a dark corner, where she was kissed and fondled. It was there that she agreed to go to a certain Inn for some time alone. The little nurse could not help herself, Allen was the one!

Sheila and Neil were there. He was still protective of his wife, she had confronted a rapist! Phil brought Jennifer, but she was nervous. She just knew that enlisted personnel were not allowed! Phil had her wear a dress. The way she looked, no one cared about her rank and anyone seeing the couple, knew they were very much in love. Eleanor was working on Bob to get one of the flats as Miss Howard wished to cohabit with her Fiancé. Perfectly understandable, just like Barbara wishing to be engaged like Eleanor. Something she was sure to tell Charlie who saw it as something serious. Whatever he did about it, would not be done carelessly, or quickly.

Ted was surprised when Devon showed up in a dress. He couldn't take his eyes off her. She caught quite a few eyes, but seemed only interested in the blue pair belonging to Ted. She stayed with him right through the evening – even when he broke up an argument between two of the more aggressive members of the fighter community. Both had too much to drink, always a bad start. Neither gentleman wished to take on Ted. He outranked both, then there were his impressive muscles. Lieutenant Colonel Peterson thanked him for his peace keeping duties. All of this happened in front of Devon. She was deeply impressed, this and several German planes to his credit. Ted found her attentive, and a bright and outgoing young lady. It was no surprise to anyone when Ted offered to drive her back to the Manor House. They talked for a bit, it was a warm evening. Ted's instinct told him that Devon wished to be kissed. At the door, she was willing, so he kissed her. Her response was warm. He liked the redhead; obviously, she liked him in return. She knew about Estelle, he didn't have to explain a thing. On the drive back to base, Ted thought about her. Devon was bright and knew a lot about aircraft. She always seemed to have something to say, without being pushy. She was her own person, confident and independent, which made him wonder about the kiss. What, exactly, was Devon looking for?



The string of trucks unloaded wrapped, disk shaped objects. They came on pallets, a half dozen in a stack. Colonel Anderson had received a call from Jake Butterworth, so they were expected. There was enough for the entire Group, thanks to Jake. Bob and the other Squadron Commanders were pleased, this shipment was supposed to fix one of the big problems with the P-47. The Curtis Aircraft Company had designed a new propeller, to improve the climb rate. The twelve-foot diameter assembly was touted to make their aircraft more competitive with the FW-190. Ted and Charlie flipped for who would test it, on their own plane. Charlie won, or lost according to how one viewed the endeavor. The pair observed as the mechanics installed the huge device.

‘Don't the blades seem wider?’ They compared the new with the old.

‘Yes, they are wider. What about the twist?’ Every blade had a degree of twist in it. They were assured that the propeller had been properly tested. This was not the first Squadron to be so equipped. When it was installed, the engine was run up. Nothing unusual, fine adjustments were made. Finally, it was time. As Charlie climbed into the cockpit, he was glad that Barbara knew nothing about this little experiment, she was bound to be anxious about this test. Lately, she had started letting little hints about their relationship. How it should move to the next level. He got permission to taxi. The P-47 was now parked at the runway threshold. Barbara wanted marriage. Permission to takeoff. He pushed the throttle forward. The P-47 gathered momentum, maybe a bit more quickly. He lifted off the runway. He could feel the pull, much more powerful, and that was saying something for a craft with a 2000 horsepower engine. Wheels up, time to soar! Charlie pushed the throttle full on, pulled up the flaps. He pulled the stick back, ‘Man, this is wild!’ He watched the altimeter needle spin, indicating the altitude gained. He figured that he was climbing about twice as fast. He turned on the oxygen as ten thousand feet was passed, then twelve thousand. He leveled off, to check his aircraft. No problem apparent, so Charlie climbed again. It pushed him back in his seat. At twenty thousand feet, Charlie leveled off as he needed a moment to collect himself; his hands were shaking! Never had he experienced such power. After a moments revelry, the Harvard grad realized a basic bit of physics, if his plane climbed faster, it would surely dive faster! Charlie pushed the control stick forward. In no time, the dials told him that he was approaching five hundred miles an hour. Whether it was wisdom or fear, Charlie pulled back on the throttle. When his speed dropped a little, he gradually pulled back on the stick. The P-47 flew straight and level, at five thousand feet. Charlie's heart raced, what an experience!

His landing was a bit fast, this new prop would require some pilot adjustments. Charlie gave his report, and it was decided to modify Flight B first. Ted, and Flight A would pull any alert duty.

That evening, Barbara asked Charlie how the new propeller worked. Seems that she knew all about it! Charlie told her how well the test went, the propellers would be installed on the entire Squadron. She never asked who did the test, he never said. Charlie could not tell if she knew or not. She was a bright young woman, experienced in the way of men and their secrets. Charlie was beginning to think that perhaps, he had met his match.

Bob had news from Group, several decisions about the base had been made. The Hospital and staff would stay as they were. This was an important Regional Hospital, recipient of all locals wounded or injured. There should be an English staff to care for these patients. An English Hospital required vehicles, they had use of a bus, three trucks, and six cars. These vehicles required maintenance, therefore English personnel would remain in the Motor Pool to handle this task. The Army Air Corps was unable to currently staff either of the messes, so the British staff would remain. Greater effort would be made to supply the needs of these departments from US stores. They did send a Mess Officer to Debden. The first time he tried to impose US menus on the kitchen staff, the small, bespectacled Captain had a two-hundred pound female cook tell him what he could do with recipes for dishes containing Spam. When he complained, Group wanted to know what was in Spam? No one was pleased when they found out.

Sheila, Linda, and a redhead named Brenda were staying in the Motor Pool, as the Yanks called it. Sheila was married, Linda had a Yank boyfriend, and Brenda had hopes. All three were pleased to be staying right where they were. Sheila and husband Neil had settled into domestic bliss, except for the part about him risking his life in a P-47. Linda had Tony, he was a Yank.

He treated the shy young Scot with great tenderness. He knew about the loss of her first love, it made him very patient with her. One evening, they were both working on hot projects, when Linda stopped and looked at him, ‘Tony, I like you. Do you like me?’

This stopped Tony Bronowski cold. Linda never talked like that! ‘Yes, I do. Linda, I like you a lot.’

She looked puzzled, ‘Then why don't you let me know? I have been wondering.’

Tony stopped what he was doing, then walked to her, at the bench, ‘Linda, I know you lost someone; I didn't want to rush you.’

She smiled at him, ‘I had heard that you Yanks were fast. What happened to you?’ Tony did not need to be asked twice. He embraced the pretty brunette. They shared a long kiss, after which Linda looked up at him, ‘That is much better. Can I expect more like this?’ She was passionately kissed. Tony started having visions of Linda and he, in his uncle’s garage. The implications were serious.

Brenda had a thing for Ralph, a pleasant but unspectacular pilot. He had been in combat for the last ten months, but had no victories to show for it. He was not alone in that, there was as much luck as skill involved in the downing of a German aircraft. There was no reason for Ralph to visit the Motor Pool, so she had to improvise. Brenda found that he liked to walk in the woods toward the village. Since she was originally from the village, Brenda knew those woods well. One Saturday, Ralph took his usual stroll. At one point, there was a small meadow, normally a pleasant area of grass in the woods, but this time was different. The meadow held an attractive redhead, sitting on a blanket. She wore a pretty sun dress, and she looked familiar. They introduced each other, Brenda invited Ralph to sit on the blanket. A little later, Brenda was sitting in Ralph's lap. Brenda found him to be a superior kisser. After that, the pair were inseparable. Ralph knew that he had been ambushed, but was wise enough never to mention it.



The Motor Pool was now under command of First Lieutenant Murphy. Arnold Murphy was another Reservist, now doing for the military what he had done in civilian life. He had worked in a large California Motor Pool. Fleets of trucks and cars was nothing to the thirty-two year old, but he did find the weather a big change from Los Angeles. He had Tony, and one other Sargent to help him run the place. Since Tony already knew the WAAF contingent, Murphy put him in his charge. This suited the women fine, especially Linda. She practically purred now. Tony was her boyfriend, everything was right with her world. She knew that Tony was not going to go off on a dangerous mission. Sheila was happy with Neil, and Ralph was attentive to Brenda. The female contingent was content.

Among the drivers and mechanics, there was a different feeling. Many were plain homesick. Everything was different, the barracks were crowded, and the food often strange. Were they kidding with this Spam? And powdered eggs? Forget it! The weather was warm, but it frequently rained. Sudden storms struck the base, reminding some of the Eastern US or the Midwest. More reminders of home, more reminders that they were far away. They saw the young women in the Mess Hall, or in the PX. Then there were the Officer's wives, some with babies. Life went on without them. Being in England, cut them off from life at home. They had aircraft to repair, trucks to drive, laundry to fold – three thousand miles from home.

Base security became the responsibility of the US Army, a Military Police company took over from the British Army. Armed, a Colt 1911 .45 semi-automatic pistols was on the hip of every MP. They took over quietly, but firmly. The MP Captain was not happy to receive the file on the rapist. He was sure that an American unit would have no trouble in nailing this vermin. The eight-foot wire fence that had already been begun, was finished under the MP’s supervision. Two weeks later, a damaged P-47 took out fifty feet of it, trying to land. The Captain discovered that an Air Base had a few differences from an Army Base. Security was stepped up, AGO cards became necessary to get onto the base. No more being waved through the Main Gate. The former Eagles saw the last vestiges of the informal British manner taken away.

Within ten days, the entire Squadron was reequipped with the new propellers. Every pilot had a chance to fly his modified aircraft. There was an optimistic feeling about their next encounter with the enemy. The Group Chaplain felt it. He occupied a small office in the Hospital. Sister Margaret had to vacate, she now occupied an office near the Morgue. He was a calm man, in his thirties. The men on the base, brought their problems to him. Before the war, he had been on staff at a big city Mission, he was neither naive or jaded. As a long-time Army Reservist, he held the rank of Captain. He never let it get in the way, he treated each of his clients with understanding and compassion. There was a war on, everything needed to be approached with common sense. For the most part, these were good young men, most away from home for the first time. For these reasons, Chaplain Oliver was concerned when the people entered his office. There were two middle-aged couples, farmers by the look of their clothes and hands. These garments were probably their best. The young couple held hands as they approached his desk, ‘Chaplain, we want to get married.’ The young Sargent began. He handed the Chaplain a folded piece of paper. The Chaplain unfolded it, he was surprised to see that it was the Permission to Wed Form, already signed by the Sargent's CO. He looked at the pair, ‘Your CO has signed this, but I need both of you to sign it.’ He laid it out on his desk, with a pen.


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-26 show above.)