Aviation of World War II
A chapter from Lieutenant Colonel Leo-Leonard Cheshire's The Bomber Pilot. The author of the book is a veteran of British long-range aviation and was recently awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for military prowess. Cheshire made his first sortie shortly after the outbreak of hostilities. Among the first, his crew switched to four-engine Halifaxes - powerful machines that appeared in service already during the war. The great experience accumulated in the bombing of the largest military installations of Nazi Germany put Cheshire into the ranks of the pilots who performed the most difficult tasks. So he became an "illuminator".
In mass raids on Cologne, the Ruhr, Berlin, Cheshire, being the first to enter the target area and illuminating it, facilitated the work of the rest of the crews of the heavy vehicles driven by them. Among the many books on the actions of British aviation, the diary of Leonard Cheshire is undoubtedly one of the best works.
The Raid on Cologne
Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Cheshire
Good morning Colonel.
Good morning. Did you find a target?
- No. Clouds...
- Others say the same. Back with bombs?
- No. Of course not. Cologne.
— Did you keep the height decent, at least?
- Two four hundred. So at least the navigator says.
— Is there a hit in the car?
- Several pieces.
- You see, it is much better to walk at a height. Is not it?
I don't think so. Or maybe you're right.
Did the lighting bombs help? This is requested by the command of the group.
Helped. But the result is less than the command expected.
- Make a written report. I hope no one is hurt?
- Radio operator.
— No, he couldn't fly. Davy. Newbie. First flight.
- Yes, it seems serious. It will be a miracle if he can be saved.
— So... Go to sleep. You look tired. There was no communication with you from the very start until landing. We were wondering if something had happened.
— The radio is out of order. I don't want to sleep. I'll go eat something. Let's go. Desmond... Let's go Reeves... Goodnight... Let's go Taffy... Taffy...
- Listen, sir.
— Thank you, Taffy...
Damn you, Taffy!
Be damned, damned! Understand that this is not a game to play with. From anti-aircraft guns it becomes just hot. We cannot hang here forever and ever. Cloudiness is growing. If you don't come soon, we won't see anything at all. Answer me... Answer me, damn you! The moon is full, the earth is lit up like daylight. Never in all my life has the Rhine been so distinct. If you can't navigate today, give up your seat. Desmond, go to the navigator, see what happened to him. If he's sane and it's all about finding our place, rake the map. Let's see it ourselves. Do you hear me...
- OK. In the tail. Reeves. Reeves... Rear gunner!
- Rear gunner speaking.
- The commander is here. You do not hear me?
- I hear. Only very weakly.
- Attention! I see a fighter. On the left side. It's going in the opposite direction to us. Look at both. He fell into the gaps of his own anti-aircraft guns. I hope they deal with it themselves. Watch for breaks. The Fritz are very accurate today.
— Yes, Commander.
- Radio operator!
- This is the radio operator, sir.
- Hello. Davy! In order?
— All right, Commander!
- OK. I'm sorry it's so noisy on board. Obviously the navigator fell asleep. Prepare lighting bombs and await my orders. The height is the same. Two seven hundred. Look only, do not drop, otherwise it will explode ahead of time. Then... After all, each has an absolutely impossible number of candles.
- Excellent. I will be careful. Finally Desmond returned. He hit his head on the dashboard and, as usual, began to wail softly. Desmond settled into his seat very slowly, fidgeting until he got into a comfortable position, and only then did he join the intercom network.
- Well, what happened?
- The internal link appears to be out of order. Either it's the navigator's headphones. He says he has been trying to contact you for twenty minutes. You do not answer and turn in the opposite direction from the one he requires. The navigator knows absolutely exactly our position, puzzles over why you do not bring the car to the target.
Where are we?
- Twelve miles north: between Wesseling and Cologne.
- Excellent. I turn south.
- Too late. The target is covered by clouds.
- Damn! It's pointless to go looking for a window. In a few seconds, the entire Rhine will close. Well, the wind.
- Northwestern. Eighty miles an hour. Taffy observation.
— Then let's go to Cologne. I will find it myself. Here the course is flawless. Go tell Taffy about it. Okay? Let him aim at the sorting room. As soon as we are approximately above the target, let him kick him out where to turn. And you pass it on to me. Is it coming?
— Yes, Desmond.
- I'm listening.
- Tell him: not knowing what the matter was, I swore at what the world was worth. Say I'm asking for forgiveness.
- That's right.
- In five minutes. Davy, we'll need your lights. I'm sorry it took so long to be patient.
- Excellent, sir.
— I'll go along the east coast, Desmond. Then I'll lie down, approximately, on the course home... Let's bomb out... The anti-aircraft guns' fire has weakened a little. They transferred it to someone else... Do you see anyone? On the port side and below us. Directly to the west of the river. It's on... The anti-aircraft guns are heating up. There's no way he can get out of those spotlights. Who is he? Not Jimmy, I hope... Jimmy was going to go low... Reeves. keep an eye out for the fighters. We take care of the rest. It looks like they got it. Yes, they did. His left plane is on fire. Now the right one. It seems that all the same control is not lost. Probably the tanks or motors are on fire. They keep the course, but quickly lose altitude. Get behind the parachutes. They have enough time to jump out. I think they already did it.
- Seems like a fighter is behind you, Commander.
- Excellent. Follow him. Let me know if you see it when it closes.
- Lost sight of him. I don't think he saw us.
- We are over Cologne. Desmond. Taffy ready?
- Yes. He's busy aiming. The fuses have been removed. The bomb bays are open.
- Right. I'm on a new course. I can't see the ground ahead, so everything is done approximately. Pass it to Taffy. Okay?
- Yes, he is warned. To the left... More to the left... The anti-aircraft guns stopped firing. Nowhere are there any signs of breaks, searchlights.
What time is it?
— One hour thirty-five.
— So we're ten minutes late. We're probably the last ones on target.
- Here is their air defense and decided that we had already dropped the bombs and were leaving for our base. That's why they don't care about us.
Don't be naive. The familiar game is a trap. I don't know exactly what the trap is, but it's definitely a trap. Probably fighter jets.
— More to the left... More to the left... Even more to the left... Twenty degrees. And the guns on the ground continue to be silent. Unpleasant feeling. A strange, but very clear premonition. It's stupid, of course, that I can't get rid of him.
- To the right a little. Keep it up!
What the hell are they up to? It's just weird...
“Attention... turn faster... turn...
The noise of the explosion hits the mind. Down. Down. We are falling. I feel air flow. We are going very fast - two hundred, three hundred, four hundred miles an hour. I don't know the exact speed. But who can know her? .. Why do my eyes hurt so much? My God! I do not see. Everything is dark, everything is absolutely dark. Of course I'm delusional. Yes, I'm delirious. I'm probably blind. I have long wanted to know what blindness is. Now I know it. It's funny, but there's no difference. I just don't see. It will probably be different later. Maybe I'm not used to the new sensations yet. No, how stupid I am. And I'm not blind at all. It's just a lighting bomb. Yes, I'm starting to remember.
Right in front of me. Scary bright, yellow lighting bomb. It seems that she tore my eyes, penetrated into the deepest convolutions of my brain. Yes, a bright lighting bomb blinds you, but only for a few minutes. Then you start seeing again. Minutes? Or is it seconds? Don't know. I don't seem to be able to do my job well enough. Perhaps I'm tired. No, we are talking about minutes, since from the moment when all this happened, an immensely long time has flown by. It's like walking out of a lighted room into total darkness.
Then noise. Yes, and noise! It seems that all the bones of my body are broken. I don't think it really was. Feeling more or less good. A little tired. That's all. Sensation of an incipient illness. The heart hurts the most. But the source of the pain is lower, in the stomach. You need to jump. Jump? Yes, jump. Never in my life have I jumped. Often I wanted to do it, but I didn’t have to. And now it is necessary. Of course, jumping under such circumstances is a completely different matter. Well, if you jump, then when you want, and not "fritz". Often I wondered if we would have time to do everything that was necessary on board. Unfasten the belts, get out of the seat, go down, get the parachute.
God alone knows where my parachute is now. I hid it somewhere in the nose and have not seen it since. Some time ago there were two knapsacks. It is not known, however, whether mine was among them. Yes, from time to time I thought about the parachute, but it was always limited to good intentions alone. Only now I realized how crazy I was.
If this is the end, if there are no more reports after the flights, no more "Good morning, Colonel", no more letters from my mother, no more phone calls from Maxine, it takes time to remember everything for the last time. Such a big event in my life cannot just come and go into the past. This is not how things should happen. Not this way? Yes, not at all. I can't say what's wrong. But I know what's going on is wrong. He knew that not everything was in order during the first flight with Desmond. Then it turned out that the identification lights were on.
Ah, I know what's the matter! What a fool I am. Now everything seems stupid to me. Yes, steering wheel. It is not in my hands. Hands are empty. But it shouldn't be. Hands should grip the steering wheel. He couldn't have disappeared. Need to search. Yep, here he is. Yes, I'm holding it. What a striking change. I feel like a completely new person. A little hand movement and we stop falling. No. I don’t know what’s the matter, but we are still going down and, moreover, going fast. I know we seem to be going fast as the wind whistles in our ears. Down. Why is it always down? And rain... Where did I read that? "King Lear", "Hamlet", "Richard II"... That's right. It's in Richard. No, I'm not sure. It's been so long since I've read Shakespeare.
What made me say this word? I didn't think about bombs at all. I didn't even mean to say that. She pulled herself out. No one seemed to answer, I think that no one was left alive. Why am I coughing? I'm not cold. Yes, I'm sure I don't have a cold. Anyway, a few seconds ago I was healthy. But if I'm coughing, it means I've caught a cold. Now the eyes are watery. And the smell. Gorky, as then, in the shelter, when the Junkers bombed our airfield. If the smell doesn't stop, I won't be able to breathe soon. Need a wet rag...
— Desmond, give me a towel. Clearly, Desmond is gone. What about him?
Oxygen mask! Here is the thought. Oxygen mask! Where is she? Somewhere near.
But where? My God, found. Quick, friend, quick, before it's too late. No, not so fast. Faster, but slower. Let's hold our breath. So-so. It remains to find the switch. Let's take off the gloves. Do not move the lever with a gloved hand. Like this. Finally some relief. Finally some relief. Now I will never part with a gas mask.
No one seems to be answering. Funny, is not it. Someone must be on board without saying goodbye. Desmond won't jump. Here... Someone is talking. What he says? I can't make out. No, I can...
- I'm hurt... I'm hurt...
Who is this. I can't recognize the voice, but he doesn't give his name. As if the words are coming from the forward fuselage. No, tail. Something terrible happened in the tail. I do not know what exactly, but the main explosion occurred there. Started with a lighting bomb. And then there was an explosion behind. He was much stronger than the first.
There, of course, no one was left alive. So the words come from the front. What should I say? Thoughts are confused. Everything is irrelevant now. First of all, you need to stop falling. How hard it is to force yourself to think... I can't help him. I can't do anything for him...
The smoke dissipated and, like a sunbeam, I regained the ability to see. I don't remember, maybe I blinked once or twice, closed my eyes. In any case, now I can see well. I looked at the altitude indicator. One thousand five hundred meters.
The height is enough. Far more than expected. It seems that we dived for many years, and continued to dive now. The instruments dangled from their wires. So their testimony should not have been taken into account.
When the fall stopped and we returned to level flight, the instrument needles began to slowly return to their normal position.
Apparently the devices themselves were not damaged. I began to figure out the damage done to us.
First of all, motors and planes. Probably fragments of burnt metal. After all, they took the brunt of the explosion. I looked out and was dumbfounded. Both motors were running. Worked as usual. I suddenly regained the ability to perceive sounds, and then the music of humming engines reached my consciousness. Why didn't I hear the hum before? How could I doubt my motors?
Something stirred. He looked down and made out the outline of a man standing there. He looked at me. The light turned off. In the ghostly glow of the moon, the silhouette seemed distorted. Huge hands. Wide open eyes. There is blood on the face and shoulders. God alone knows who or what it was. At least I didn't know. Tried to imagine who the man below was. And he couldn't. Obviously, the words: "I am wounded, I am wounded" belonged to him. We looked at each other. Suddenly he looked away and yelled in a low voice:
- Fire. The tank is on fire!
- Turn it off!
Finally, I mastered myself. I don't think the person below heard my words. Before I could finish my sentence, the figure disappeared in the direction of the burning tank. For a while I was left alone.
We walked in a more or less horizontal position, but something, somewhere, was obviously messed up. The car rocked like a small boat rocking on a steep wave. It felt like the control rods were loose. My heart sank the moment I glanced at the engine. A new take on the dashboard. Amazingly, none of the instruments gave the slightest cause for alarm. I could hardly believe my eyes.
The compass needle kept on the same course. The same was shown by all other navigational instruments. And they weren't damaged. I synchronized the gyrocompass, as its normal operation was disrupted by the explosion. It was only then that I realized what it was. Crazy! Well, isn't he crazy? We were on an almost clear course eastward into the interior of Germany with eighty miles an hour wind behind us.
Just think - forget such elementary things. Immediately I began to turn around, again and again scolding myself for what the world was worth. The left plane tilted. The nose went up. From that moment on, I treated the controls as if they were made of putty. Three minutes elapsed before we were back on course to the west.
The thought of what I've done made me feel hot. This was reassuring. But happiness was short-lived. The smile disappeared from his face. I felt that sweat was covering my back, however, strangely, it was not on my face, chest, shoulders. Worse, the back was constantly heated. By this time I was already ready to believe anything. But such a thing, of course, did not fit into any framework. Turned his head. What I saw finally removed the seal of calmness from my lips. Thick, black, oily smoke billowed from the fuel tank behind. And even further - red flames.
It didn't take long to look. A curtain of exploding shells rose from the port side and ahead. They appeared in bouquets of twenty or thirty pieces each, as on that memorable Saturday over the Ruhr. Only now there was more noise, as the lantern above my head was broken. Instinctively, I began to maneuver.
If only I knew what happened to the controls. How much easier it would be to drive then.
One thing is clear - it's better to get a new hit than to break control. And I went horizontally, straight ahead, straight ahead.
The searchlight grabbed us in its beam. Then a few more ... And almost immediately the fragments drummed in the fuselage, somewhere behind me.
I turned on the microphone and began to speak. No one answered. The temperature didn't seem to rise. However, there was no time to look around.
I couldn't take my eyes off the exploding shells. On the floor at my feet I saw a parachute. Stranger. And he knew. that in the nose - two others ...
I was alone on this side of the burning tank.
What happens if they fail to put out the fire?.
They'll never get here. Cursing myself, I clutched at the steering wheel like a drowning man clutches at a straw. I tried to focus on what was vitally important right now. The thought slipped away. And I couldn't hold her.
Strange visions again. Damn them! It's like I'm drunk. Blurry silhouette in the hatch.
Who is he?
Here he is again. Now I will know. Now I will ask him directly who he is. Looked into his face. Didn't have to ask for a name
— Desmond, where have you been hiding?
- Can you hold the car?
— What about the fire?
- If you hold out for another five minutes, we'll manage.
What a long, long five minutes. They contained the fire. Taffy was the first to return, bleeding with a smile on his face.
How are you?
He laughed loudly and contagiously. I answered the same. My heart felt lighter. Much easier.
— What about the bombs? Are they still there?
- Of course.
- Good. I'm going to Cologne. Taffy looked back over my shoulders, shouted: "My God" and rushed along the fuselage.
There were as many explosions as before, but the concentration of anti-aircraft fire was reduced. Behind someone fell. I turned around. The man was sitting on a ledge. His head was between his knees, his face was covered with his hands. I stretched and cautiously raised my head. I pray to fate never to see what I saw again. Instead of a face - a mask. Black, covered with scabs, blood. Instead of eyes, two bloody spots.
- I'm going blind, sir. I'm blind...
I didn't answer. Even if he wanted to speak, he couldn't. He continued to speak, but too quietly to hear his words. He moved closer, trying not to miss a single word. The car rolled over and I almost fell on it. He yelped and buried his face in his knees again. Suddenly he jumped up.
- I have to get back to the radio. I must return. You need a connection. Do you really need it, sir? Give me light, please. I do not see anything.
So, this is Davy. Davy. First combat sortie. Someone approached him and hugged him carefully. Desmond showed up. He sat down next to me and extended his hand to me. I took it with both of my own, staring into deep, smiling blue eyes.
- It's okay...
Thank you. Desmond. What will happen to Davy? Will die?
Don't worry. Rive with him.
- What kind of damage? Just don't hide anything.
- It's bad.
- Hold on?
I don't know. The entire left side of the fuselage was torn out.
- What's with the controls?
I don't know. Like it's okay. But it's hard to say for sure. Should we investigate more carefully?
- No. If the control is damaged, we will soon find out anyway. And it's better not to find out ... When will the anti-aircraft guns stop firing? No strength. I can handle anything, but not this. They froze us. No turn, no dive, no speed. One more hit and...
Crack. Desmond covers his face.
— Desmond, Desmond, what's the matter with you?
- There's blood on you.
- Trivia. Probably a piece of plexiglass. I didn't hit the shard myself. Taffy signals: "Bombs are ready."
- Where to turn?
Right. Sharply to the right. More to the right.
- Tell him to shut up Thinks he's in a single-seat Spitfire.
For some time we continued to maneuver, continuously turning, slowly, but still turning. And all the time to the right. finally the bombs went off. At the moment of dropping them, I was thrown. Desmond got up and returned to Davy.
Where are we?
Yes, right below us is the Rhine.
I recognized its wide bend to the south of the city.
Taffy has appeared. He raised the thumbs of both hands and laughed.
— Like God! Into the thick of warehouses.
Good. Go and give me a course home. We are heading three hundred and ten more or less correctly.
He looked at me.
Do you think we'll make it, sir?
Why not. Taffy?
I've never experienced a greater sense of relief.
Do you have the map sir?
- No. Isn't she with you?
- Bottom sheet only. The rest burned down.
- Try to build a quarter-inch and lay a course on it.
- Impossible. Most of the sheets are gone. There is England, there is a target area.
- Damn! Try to remember which course we usually go. Is there wind power? Or did the instrument readings also die?
- Targets. But I don't know what course we were heading then.
Me too. Wait, let me remember. If only I could make my head boil. Yes I remember. One hundred and forty. Maybe a hundred and fifty, but a hundred and forty is more correct. Do the calculation of corrections for the wind. A hundred and fifty miles to shore?
- Approximately, sir.
The device in question. Teffi used daily for almost two years. He knew him like the back of his hand. But now the prnber was useless. For about ten minutes he looked helplessly at him, then looked away.
- Okay. Let's send him to hell. Let's go the way we are now. If there are deviations, they are trifling.
Desmond sat next to me.
How are you?
- Not so bad. What is Davy?
- Did what I could. I put some taniafax on it. The pain seems to have subsided.
- Give him morphine.
- Doesn't want to. Insists on going back to the radio. They gave me an opportunity. Let him calm down.
- But he does not see.
- I know. It indicates the location of the verniers. Rive tries to install them, brings Davy's hands to the key. So far, nothing has been accepted. Obviously, the radio is out of order.
- We'll manage without her somehow. We'll crawl, even if we have to land in Hyde Park.
- I understand. But he can't be banned. It will be worse. How are you feeling?
- Nothing. The anti-aircraft guns got me. The first blow absorbed all the forces. There was no time left to gather himself into a fist to withstand the shelling. You know how it happens - in a moment you use up all your strength and remain defenseless. Until you get back on your feet. Now the reserves are tightened, the state of health is excellent. They can shoot all they want.
— I feel the same way. The fire and Davy engulfed all attention. There was no time to think. The worst thing is the cold.
- Holes in the ceiling. The temperature is low - minus sixteen, but the thrust ... The legs are stiff. Here is suffering for Devi. Can he arrange it so that it does not blow?
- Everywhere the same. It's quieter on the radio.
Gradually, the anti-aircraft fire fell silent. We slowly crawled along the track. The bright moon was now high. Beneath us was a blanket of rippling white clouds. The motors sang their swan song. Silence reigned inside the plane, occasionally interrupted by remarks.
— Desmond, ask Reeves here. I want to talk to him.
Reeves came and squatted next to me. Calm, slightly smiling. Picking his jaw, Reeves said:
— Great, Leonard. I sit like I'm at home.
- Well, well, Reeves. More on that later. Is there any news? We need to persuade Davy to leave the radio.
- Already done about five minutes ago. Could not resist. He laid him on the floor, covered him. It's better not to think of anything.
- Good. I'm glad we have such a doctor. Can he speak? Does he understand when he is called?
- Okay. Tell him we know our place and we'll get by without communication.
- He is very worried about this. Do you know that there is no one parachute? Desmond wanted to hide. But I think you can handle it.
- How did it happen?
- Burned to the ground.
- Clear. Ready Davy in case the car falls apart?
— Good, Reeves, very good.
- Return to the turret? Light as day. Against the backdrop of clouds, we can be seen for miles.
- I know. Thought about it. Stay here. Fighters will notice, so they will notice. That's all.
- Maybe you can go into the clouds?
- No. I will not risk.
Davy called Reeves. And Reeves left. He sat down on the floor next to the radio operator, supporting him, hugging Davy's shoulders with his arms.
From his seat, Taffy watched the air through the window. Mechanically, he turned some kind of device in his hands. Minutes passed. The moon was leaning towards the horizon. Enemy fighters never showed up. The clouds below us remained as dense as before. They were not going to reveal a secret precious to us.
— We're probably going over the sea already... It looks like several hours have passed since the bombs were dropped. And how much really?
I don't know. An hour and a half.
- It's quarter past five. When did we head back?
I don't remember. I'll try to restore the events.
— And I don't remember at all.
The secret was revealed in half an hour with the first window in the clouds. Earth. Taffy muttered, "Damn!" And silence reigned. At half past five we saw the sea. According to our calculations, England should have opened. Taffy fidgeted in his seat and Desmond hit him.
Another hour has passed. Not a trace of our recent joy remained. Above the ground, we could use parachutes in case of emergency. For some of us, at least, that was an opportunity. Over the sea, they are of little use. Just to know where we are. BUT we didn't know that. England finally opened at six-fifty. Not only that, we passed Cromer. So we were right on track! They exchanged glances with Desmond and burst into laughter. For the first time in our history, we have not deviated one iota from the set course!
— Reeves, tell Davy that I'm landing at the first airfield. As soon as he survived this flight...
— Davy asks us to return to the base. He wants to see friends.
At five minutes to eight, I turned off the engines at the command post and the ambulance took Davy away.
Come on, Reeves.
I don't know much.
— Don't be stupid, Reeves, spread everything.
- The real truth. When I came to, the moon was between my legs. Everything seemed dead. Just the whistle of exploding air. I was sure that the turret had been ripped off and was falling, falling on its own. I only remember the thought: “I wish it were over” and my own words; "I'm hurt, I'm hurt."
— So it was you? And I couldn't figure out who was talking.
- I think I said this in an unconscious state. In memory, everything was imprinted very vaguely. Then, for some unknown reason, he turned on the light. To my surprise, the light went on. Not understanding what was happening, he turned on the turret control motor. He also worked. Now I've come to my senses. It seemed to me that I was sleeping, that I saw everything in a dream. Probably, a lot of time would have passed like this if it weren’t for the voice: “The tank is on fire.”
You said, "Turn it off." It was said as if it was about handing over a plate of butter. Went to help. What he saw made his eyes pop out of his head. The entire left side of the fuselage was torn out. Huge gaping hole. The floor is on fire and smoke.
Desmond came up to me and told me to come back and take a parachute. He believed that the tail would come off any minute. I didn't waste time. When he returned, the fire was almost extinguished. Only lighters, lighting bombs and ammunition smoldered.
How mad. Taffy and Desmond threw them overboard. We threw everything away, except for the items that lay on the very port side. They were afraid to fall. The car shook a little. Now it's even strange to me how none of us flew out. In the end, I grabbed onto the bomb release and, holding Desmond by the leg, helped him drop the rest. Returning to the radio, they found Davy burning from head to toe. Taffy put it out. You know the rest. Desmond went to get a first aid package. I could not. Walking on the fuselage is scary.
— Yes, Desmond turned out to be exactly what I imagined him to be. Even better.
- It's interesting to know what happened in the fuselage before me. There was a living hell. The fire started a long time ago. The height of the flame exceeded half a meter. Smoke hung in a thick dense mass. Desmond and Taffy won't say anything, of course. Davy hardly remembers.
- Taffy and Desmond crawled under the tank, leaving the parachutes on the other side of the front of fire. Seeing the burning tank, I decided that the explosion was the matter of the next few seconds. Nothing would make me do what they did. But they won't say anything.
How did it all start?
- Here is the examination protocol. Now we can restore the events from start to finish. There were two hits. The first round, probably a 118mm round, passed through the forward turret and exploded two dozen meters below us. This explosion deafened me. Taffy says that the explosion was preceded by a blow for some second. The hydraulic system broke. Taffy's face was doused with oil. When it first appeared in my field of vision, I mistook this oil for blood. And he was absolutely sure that it was blood. Seeing the expression in my eyes, Taffy decided that he was dying. I really thought he was going to die, and I couldn't hide my confidence. That's why I don't blame him.
The second shell exploded almost simultaneously with the first behind the left plane. A fragment of it hit one of the flares and blew it up. Desmoid found both the shard and the fire tube. Not surprisingly, the port side plating was torn off - there was more than enough explosives there. At that moment, Davy was near the bomb release, half a meter from the explosion site, facing the starboard side.
If this had not happened, the face and name would not have remained. The mystery of the second lighting bomb remains. She was lying on a bomb releaser - Davy reported his readiness to drop it shortly before the start of events. So someone pushed her. Taffy and Desmond claim they did it. You too. Davy remains. The flash completely blinded him. He lost his sense of reality. Desmond found Davy with his head between his knees, mumbling something about putting out a fire. Arriving in time, he barely saved Davy from falling overboard. God alone knows how Desmond managed to deal with everything at once. The bomber burned out. If the bomb that was in it exploded, there would be no memory left of the car. Desmond couldn't get to him in time.
— The doctor said that he hoped to save Davy's eyesight.
He's strong and he's only eighteen.
Davy never complained all the way, but how did the burns hurt in such a wind? Davy only talked about the radio, but from time to time he asked: “How much is left before landing?” The only thing he could endure was loneliness.
— After breakfast, I'll go to the city, try to get to his hospital, then visit the commander. to celebrate Penny's engagement.
— Penny's engagement? He's only eighteen.
- As much as Davy. These eighteen year olds are wonderful people.
Vacation. First in a whole year. that's why it's so expensive. Met with Maxine. Her reddish hair shone, her eyes sparkled, her smile was as beautiful as ever. We drank and danced and drank again. London seemed amazing. And yet I was sad. Maxine is getting married. Drove home to Oxford, as peaceful and quiet as ever.
Having changed my uniform to trousers and an open shirt, I walked along its streets. During one of these walks, an elderly woman stopped me.
— What's the matter with you, my boy?
"I'm heartbroken," I replied.
- But this is no reason for a physically strong young man to remain outside the ranks of the army, especially now.
I had nothing to say, so I moved on.
Having returned from vacation, I learned a lot of news. Davy saw again. After two surgeries, he was on the road to recovery.
The day I left for Oxford. Penny died in the Berlin area. Rensom, my first radio operator, died with him, and the flight commander did not return from the mission. There was no hope for his salvation. But it seems like only yesterday we celebrated Penny's engagement...