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Seek and Destroy

An homage to Heroes of Britain skies

By Keb RogersPublished 12 months ago 6 min read

Purpose is a funny thing. We were all made to join the war effort, but we were not all meant to find ourselves in its cause. Perhaps I am biased to my station, but let me say, there are so many tired mouths I have heard speak of their longing for home and the end of war. While I can’t argue with their logic, I can resent their burning desire for someone else to end it for them. Their faces are long and weary and pained by the inevitability of untimely death or unremembered service. To them, all they were – all their worth – was but a number and their initials on a page without even the decency of writing their full name upon this ledger of Britain's sacrifice. Still, I often found myself wondering why I wanted to wake up and penetrate skies riddled with so many offenders of peace and prosperity. It may have been my hate for the detestable, despicable Nazi regime or my unwavering sense of national pride for our great motherland of Britain; no, I always came to the same conclusion: it was the skies, my terrible love for the freedom above that only the clouds could bestow.

Regardless of the conscription, I would have joined the fight after hearing Churchill’s ode to war and the British people, Finest Hour. I was already a part of No. 41 Squadron out of RAF Catterick by then and had just returned to Catterick for rest, resupply, and remaining of our squadron. The loss of Lowery and Derrich only inflamed Churchill’s spirit in me, in all of us. No words were spoken on the return flight to Carrick. We took our time to grieve on our own terms inside our cockpits and pushed forward. Patriotism won that day.

We headed to Merston, Sussex with a heap of sprogs from the Air Training Program to join up with the Tangmere Wing for offensive strikes along the coasts of Eastern France. I was happy to be out of Catterick, because it only deepened the wound left by the loss of good pilots and even better friends. The Battle of Britain took so many. Our four righteous remaining few – the damned survivors – we would be guides for these eager, green pilots through the black curtain of hate that exists only in war. I wouldn’t let any of them die, surely. I wouldn’t see any more death… I couldn’t. Martyrdom won that day.

It was 0600 on 18 October 1941 and I had just awoken to find myself desperate for a visit to the latrine on my way to the briefing room. Today would mark the beginning of our initial sorties to terrorize the northeast coast of France, hitting a span between Le Crotoy and Fécamp in the hopes of thinning out the German air supremacy and setting up for Operation Jubilee in the coming months. I crossed the threshold into the torrent of squadron personnel and officers racing through the room in preparation for the day’s flights. This was our first sortie in weeks, and everyone was on edge. I avoided the rabble of people and slid behind the large desk into the private pilot briefing room where Jacks, Frylind, and Ryder waited in their respective seats, combing over the op plans.

“So, we got two spoofs and a hit then?” Jacks asked.

“Looks that way, '' Frylind replied in a thick Cockney accent, “And it looks like we'll be doin’ the strikin’.”

“Bloody hell! Alright then, lads. Looks like we will finally get to give a little back today then, eh?” Jacks said, excited.

They were young – far too young to be thrown into the maw of death that would be war. I was only about seven years their senior, but I felt far older than that. These were infants in my eyes, all of them finally hitting eighteen and being pushed into the machine of combat labeled “Nationalism”. I hated having to look at them knowing they wouldn’t make it out. None of us would. If you didn’t die in the skies above or as a prisoner of war in a cell below, then you would accept the slow death, the worst death, one of painful memories over years and aching bones from wounds. I watched them get charged up over the sortie briefing a moment from the doorway before walking in.

“Ten-chun!” They yelled in unison upon seeing me, their hands all in a ready salute.

“As you were.” I said back, blinking hard as my ears reoriented themselves after the loud shout.

“Right then. Sit, and we shall discuss today’s objective.”

They sat quietly with hands holding sortie papers and hearts full of excitement, each of their faces anxiously beaming at me in poorly hidden angst.

“Today marks the beginning of a long-standing OP called Operation: Fox and Hound. We'll be running a series of deceptive air-to-air and air-to-ground strikes against the northeastern coast of France. These strikes are scheduled to last until the assault of Dieppe in Operation: Jubilee with the Canadians in July or August. Hear?”

“Heard,” the three of them replied.

“Good. Today, we will be escorting eight B-24 Liberator Bombers from 427 Squadron to the city of Puys near Dieppe. They will be tasked with removing the heavy artillery batteries and AA guns located throughout the town, and our job will be to make sure they all get to wear their best blues and kiss their wives when we take France back.”

“They’ll need to give us a few brews when we get back. I heard it’s no easy work keeping those big Libs in the air, especially with all the Gerry’s swarmin’,” Jacks shot out eagerly.

I looked him dead in the eyes, “We won’t ever ask them for anything in return, and if you do, for God's sake, ask for something better than a beer. Maybe see about taking one of their wives out on the town,” I laughed.

The room filled with anxious laughter that was probably louder than the joke was funny. Nonetheless, it was good to hear them laugh.

“The chain-gang will have us ready for preflight checks at 0900 and I will need you to be in your seats on the dot. This only works if we have efficiency and cohesion. At 0715, 124 Squadron will lead the 55 Blenheim Squadron on a spoof strike just south of Dieppe in Le Mesnil, and 96 Squadron will do the same with 13 Bleneheim Squadron to the north in Vassonville. Their objective is to pose as assault bombers on a similar mission to us but with the capability of full aerial supremacy if met with any Luftwaffe resistance. They will pull the aerial resistance in both directions leaving a clear line of fire for our strike in Puys. Hear?

“Heard,” they responded again.

“We will be the initial spear into this beehive. Expect bags of flak; expect losses. We have done enough dickey flights, me personally in the co-pilot seats and flying alongside. I believe in you – all of you – and I will do my best to ensure you above all else look bloody damn good in your best blues to women you wish you had.”

They smiled, but it was a reverent smile. They knew I had come from the Battle of Britain; they knew I was in the echelon of Aces like “Marmaduke'' Thomas Pattle and William Vale. I saw the moment it all sank beneath their skin, past the anxious excitement of premature combat experience. They knew there was a chance we wouldn't make it back. I looked at each of them for a long moment, making sure to deeply remember their facial features, their nervous ticks, and their goofy quips. It pained me to imagine their faces on the off-white report of KIAs and MIAs after each sortie, the smiling faces of boys and men alike taken by the cruel mistress of Conflict. I had to deliver three of them to the wives of my brothers from the Battle of Britain. I wasn’t sure how much more of that I was capable of enduring. I was clapped out – tired.

“Give me everything, boys, and I promise to return the same.”

Frylind stood, “Aye, Flt Lt, we’ll have yer’ back til we’re all flamin’ onions in the sky.”

“On then. Get prepped and make your final amends with your God and your loved ones. Not a single Nazi in those clouds would hesitate to take your life given the chance. Don’t give them the chance.”

“Dismissed.”

Fiction

About the Creator

Keb Rogers

I am a writer who focuses primarily in the science fiction and fantasy genres. I'm excited to share my ideas, stories, and worlds with you all! I look forward to the feedback from this lovely community's vast sea of talented writers.

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