The Angel On Her Wing - 1 - Bandits Twelve O’Clock

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The Angel On Her Wing


THE ANGEL ON HER WING


War Changes Everyone.

From the Author:
This book originally started life as Angels High, which I wrote back in 2010... wow! I returned to it this year and decided it deserved to be finished. It outgrew its novella intentions and became a novel in its own right. Now ENTIRELY rewritten from start to finish (It is completed) I present... The Angel On Her Wing. She deserved a new title because she's an entirely new book; one that young me could never have written. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter One - Bandits Twelve O’Clock

There was nothing quite as beautiful as a late summer morning in the English countryside. The day had not yet found its fire as Pilot Officer Brian Campbell stretched lazily on his deckchair by the Squadron hut. It was pleasantly warm as the mid-morning sun played lazily over the grassy expanse of The Royal Air Force’s Biggin Hill Aerodrome. Behind him, the Supermarine Spitfires of the Forty-Thrird Fighter Squadron lay waiting for their crews and the day’s inevitable call to action. All around him, his fellow pilots sat, trying to occupy their time before they were called to fight. Some read the newspaper, others slept, and most sat conversing quietly amongst themselves. The tranquility of the scene belied the reality of a momentary break in the savagery of modern warfare.

It was often said by the men of the Royal Air Force that August of 1940 would have been a glorious time had someone mentioned to Mister Hitler that it was cricket season. Every day the men and planes of Fighter Command took to the skies above England to fend off the swarms of Nazi warplanes that plagued land like gnats to a horse. The Battle of Britain was in full swing as they fought the German Luftwaffe for control of their home island.

Drawing on his third cigarette that morning he allowed his eyes to drift up to the sky above, watching the clouds roll past in a lazy procession. This damned war; for all its danger and uncertainty it had certainly given his life some meaning.

Brian had always been the preverbal black sheep of the well-regarded Campbell family. While his school grades had always been good and he had never sullied the family name, he was never able to truly find favor with his strict father. His older brothers were ideal sons; successful sportsmen at school, academically successful, and with a string of girlfriends, they were perfect in their father’s eye. Both had joined the Army before the outbreak of war and now served distinguished careers.

Brian had always been encouraged to follow in their footsteps for the good of the family but seemed to always fall far short of expectations. His father’s career in finance seemed dull and meaningless to him, and as for sports; he simply wasn’t cut from the same cloth as his far larger siblings. Briand had always taken after his mother. He shared her fair hair and short stature; something his father seemed to greatly lament.

Leaving school at eighteen, he had attended university as a way of avoiding his parents’ repeated insistence that he find a job, find a girl, and settle down. Of course, he had made all the correct noises about advancing his life and career without ever holding any real convictions on the subject; nothing had ever felt right to him. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war in Europe had provided him with a chance to escape his father’s mournful disappointment. It had given him the chance to fulfill the niggling feeling that he should make a man of himself. It was good for that much at least.

War was a grand distraction for Brian. It helped him to shove aside his malaise at life and focus instead on something far larger than himself. Nobody could protest his putting off his life decisions when there was a war afoot. The Royal Air Force had only seemed logical; His uncle had been with the Royal Flying Corps in the Great War. During childhood, Brian had spent many a happy summer on his Uncle’s farm in Kent learning to fly in his little Dehaviland Puss Moth.

When the RAF had learned his family name, he had been quickly accepted and entered the pilot training program. Early experience in the war and the poor progress of the British Expeditionary Force in France had changed his career trajectory when command had needed more fighter pilots. Brian hadn’t minded; for once he had found something that he was good at.

The shrill ring of the telephone in the squadron hut snapped him from his thoughts as it did every single man on the flight line. The seconds ticked by slowly as the call was answered; almost always it was a scramble. Of course, there were the occasional false alarms and admin phone calls that got the pilots on edge as they waited for the next frantic burst of action but today was not to be that day. Sergeant Tomlinson’s appearance at the doorway to the hut was enough clarification for Brian and the others in the duty section that this was no false alarm. The pilots were halfway to their aircraft before they heard him call the official order: The boys of Forty-Three Squadron were the best in the whole Royal Air Force.

Jumping into the cockpit of his Spitfire, Brian ran through the startup sequence for his aircraft’s mighty engine with one hand while he used the other to fasten his flight harness about his torso. Checking the straps were secure, save for those at his crotch, he checked over the vibrating cockpit instruments as the Spitfire roared to life. All along the line of aircraft, clouds of smoke and bursts of noise signaled that the squadron was roaring to life. A crewman slammed his door closed and latched it before clapping him on the shoulder as they hopped off the wing. Brian gave the man a salute before opening the throttle a crack and releasing the brakes.

The aircraft began to roll forwards across the grass as he made his final instrument checks and lined up for takeoff alongside his wingmen. He wasn’t sure why he always made sure that he left the parachute straps loose, but it had become almost a personal preflight ritual. He remembered during training, one of his instructors had joked to the group about keeping them too tight for too long was a sure way to see off fatherhood. Like the other young and inexperienced trainee pilots, he’d burned the advice into his memory.

The Spitfire’s engine growled as Brian throttled up for takeoff, the power forcing him back into his seat as he began to accelerate across the airfield. The mighty Rolls Royce Merlin engine’s torque was so powerful that he had to give the aircraft right stick to avoid it winging over and digging into the grass as the tail lifted. Within seconds, the aircraft was pulling itself up into the air and away from the green and pleasant lands of England down below.

“Ascot three, airborne.” He called over his radio transmitter as the heavy metallic sounds of the landing gear tucking themselves into the wings of his fighter reverberated around the thin airframe. Testing the response of the controls with a quick wiggle, he settled into a steep intercept climb alongside his comrades.

“Roger that Three; form up at angels one eight with section, Ascot One out.”

Ascot flight grouped up in tight formation at the designated altitude and cruised south from Biggin Hill towards the channel coast.

The radio crackled in Brian’s flying helmet. “Hello Skipper, Ascot two, what’s on the menu today sir?”

“What have I told you about calling me Sir, Jenkins? For god’s sake stick to radio protocol.” Squadron Commander Barton replied sharply over the radio from the front of the echelon.

Brian smiled as he listened to the sweet sound of someone else suffering the Commanding Officer’s ire.

“Twenty bandits at angels one five; approaching from the southeast… Just bombers lads.” Barton advised. “Don’t get bloody sloppy on me, there might be fighters lurking above them that Radar can’t see so I don’t want anyone showing off, copy?”

Responses from all aircraft signaled their understanding as Ascot flight climbed above the incoming bombers and waited to spring their trap. Masked from view by the cloudy coastal skies, the German aircrews never saw the fighters until it was far too late. The agile aircraft descended on the lumbering Heinkel bombers with the gusto of lurking predators.

The battle was swift and brutal as the fighters darted amongst the German aircraft. Despite their tactical advantage, their training had only barely prepared them for the reality of aerial combat. Tracer fire arced through the sky from the guns of the bombers who desperately maintained their close-packed formation to ward off the marauding aircraft. The g-forces slammed Brian around his cockpit as he ducked and weaved avoiding the vicious streams that lanced towards him.

Every time he depressed the trigger on his control grip, the entire aircraft shuddered violently with the recoil of the .303 machine guns mounted in his wings. The battle was a violent medley of sight, sound, and sensation as they fought to down the German aircraft before they could release their deadly cargo on their targets down below. One by one, the Luftwaffe bombers plummeted from the sky, their broken forms enveloped in smoke and fire, the white dots of parachutes littering the sky.

“One more in the bag, I think that’s the last of ‘em boys. Jolly good work,” Barton announced triumphantly as he climbed back to join the formation after trailing the fiery plummet of a stricken bomber down towards the British countryside.

The radio crackled in Brian’s headset as he heard the voice of his friend Andy Gold. “Ascot Four to Ascot lead, we’ve got two limping away at low altitude. Do I have permission to pursue over?”

Audibly sighing over the radio, Barton reluctantly agreed. “Roger that Four, Three will go with you, and don’t drop your guard, over.”

“Wilco sir, Four out.”

“Tallyho Brian.” Gold called before diving down after the disappearing jerry bombers. Brian shook his head and smirked as he rolled his Spitfire over and dove to follow his wingman.

The two spitfires dropped down and began to trail the enemy bombers as they attempted to flee back towards the channel. Safely out of kicking range of the German aircraft’s guns, they closed the distance. Brian slipped his Spitfire into an attack position off the lower quarter of the damaged aircraft, it was best to stay away from directly astern of the Jerry bomber. As he began to line up the kill, the Heinkel’s starboard engine began trailing a thick black pall of smoke that obscured his view.

“No good Andy, I can’t get a clean shot through the smoke, take a pop at the Bosh and I’ll cover you.” He offered, deferring the kill to his wingman off to his right.

“Roger that Brian, I’ll save you the other one,” Gold chuckled, maneuvering his fighter in for the kill.

As the aircraft got closer, the Heinkel’s final engine spluttered and died spraying thick black engine oil out into its wake. Lining his guns up on the sedate target, Flying Officer Andy Gold never saw it coming as the thick black oil smothered his windshield.

“Blast it Brian I can’t see a bloody thing, I’m pulling out!” He called breaking off from the attack. Brian was in the process of lamenting the difficulty of downing two limping Jerry bombers when he saw his wingman’s fatal error and felt the sickening grip of dread. Instead of diving away to safety, his wingman and friend pulled back on his controls for fear of the low altitude and brought his Spitfire directly into the dorsal gunner’s sights. Yanking his aircraft sharply to port, Brian barely missed being hit by the burning wreckage of Gold’s Spitfire as it was torn to pieces by the hail of German bullets.

“Andy!” Brian screamed in futility as fragments of Gold’s aircraft clattered off his fuselage. “You damn fool, you damn fool…”

With a heavy heart, he centered his crosshairs on the bomber’s port engine and jabbed angrily at the trigger. He felt the airframe shudder as the Spitfire’s eight .303 guns rained down on the German aircraft. With a lurch, the bomber began to come apart before rolling over and diving into the ocean. “That one’s for Andy,” Brian muttered to himself as he lined up on the healthier of the two enemy bombers which was now diving and twisting in erratic evasive maneuvers in a desperate attempt to escape.

Taking a breath, he focused his attention on the final bomber as it dove into a fog bank low above the water. Staying on top of the fog, Brian waited for the German to resurface. He could see the edge of the fog bank coming up quickly and was ready on his trigger to send the bomber to join its wingman once he reappeared.

Without warning, the German bomber speared up out of the fog and shot across his nose. Brian reacted quickly, pulling the trigger as he rolled to port to avoid a collision, his rounds raking the belly of the German beast as it screamed past. His aircraft rattled and shuddered as a bust of fire from the German’s dorsal gunner ripped into his belly.

Circling around again, Brian took stock of his aircraft after the surprise encounter. His instrument panel was smoking and sparking, although for the moment, all seemed to be well with his engine. Feeling his legs and torso, he found no injuries. Craning his neck, Brian looked around desperately as he tried to spot the lone enemy aircraft in the swirling clouds, but it had vanished once again. Dropping down, he dove down under the cloud layer and skimmed the surface fog in a vain attempt to find the marauder as it tried to slither back to its own lines.

The world between the clouds was bright and eerie, a world of mist and shifting shapes. The sun’s light penetrated unevenly through the upper layer, casting warping shadows onto the sea fog below. Out of the corner of his eye, Brian spotted a moving shape a distance off to his starboard. Moving closer to get a better look, he recognized the shadow cast by the German bomber as it was silhouetted by the sun above. The bomber was hiding in the upper layer of cloud, attempting to sneak back to friendly skies.

Brian used the shadow as a guide and eased himself into position to the rear of where the German aircraft would be as he flew alone through the strange in-between world in the clouds. Once he judged himself close enough, he eased back on the controls and began to climb slowly towards the aircraft like a shark rising from the deep. The world became grey around him as he climbed into the clouds, relying entirely on his instruments. Keeping his bearings, he rose until eventually, he could just make out the tail of the German bomber through the soup. Smiling darkly to himself, he depressed the trigger and opened up with all of his guns.

The bomber burst into flames as the bullets ripped through its engines and fuel tanks, lighting the clouds around it in iridescent color. The aircraft seemed to falter and sway before it dove spiraling down into the fog, never to be seen again.

Gritting his teeth, Brian resisted the urge to celebrate the kill. Methodically, he eased back on the controls and began his climb up and out of the clouds to find clear air once more. Keying his radio, he called the boss. “Ascot Three to Ascot Leader, Jerries down, but… sir, Ascot Four bought it, over.”

Hearing no reply Brian tapped his transmitter switch and tried again, greeted only by the cold tone of static. “Ascot Three to any aircraft, do you read me over?” He tried again, cycling through the radio’s channels, hoping that for some simple reason, things would work again. He shook his head and unclipped his mask before muttering a curse under his breath; another repair to add to the list for the ground crew back home.

However, at that moment in time, his blinkered pursuit of the German bomber left him entirely unaware of where home exactly was.

Checking through his instruments, Brian began to spot damage throughout the aircraft. His fuel gauge, compass, and radio all seemed to have faults, holes, or damage. The German gunner’s rounds had done a number on his poor spitfire; heaven knows, looking out at his wings showed that he had been utterly peppered. Gentle tests of his flight controls showed them to be working as well as he could hope under the circumstances. It was a small mercy, he supposed. More worrying was the fact that he now found himself high above the channel, low on fuel, and utterly clueless as to his exact location.

Dropping down below the clouds left him a narrow corridor of several hundred feet above the dirty gray waves of the English Channel. He had three hundred and sixty choices to make and while two hundred and seventy of them would result in reaching land at some point, the remaining ninety could fly him out into the open Atlantic without hope of survival. Crossing his fingers on the control grip, he banked left and took a chance. Sailing had been one of the few interests he had shared with his father. That memory of childhood brought one fact to the forefront of his brain at that moment however: In the morning, winds predominantly blew out from or into the channel, bound either for, or coming in from the Atlantic Ocean with the tides, and judging by the wave patterns, he could estimate broadly which direction that was. Completing the turn, he leveled off flying parallel to the waves below praying that his fuel load held out long enough for him to reach dry land.

Within fifteen minutes of his decision, Brian’s gamble appeared to have paid off; he began to make out the dark mass of land through his propeller’s blur. Heartened by his discovery, Brian opened the throttle to a fighting speed, unsure which coast he was approaching: He didn’t very well want to go strolling over the French coast and become a leisurely target to the anti-aircraft guns the Jerries lined the cliffs with since the fall of France.

Dropping down to the wave tops. He pushed onwards, hoping his gamble would land him on friendly soil. By his estimation his fuel load had to be dropping dangerously low; any port in a storm suited him just fine at that moment.

Racing up over the beach and headland, he sped inland encountering no immediate resistance. It wasn’t a part of England he recognized, but there was no anti-aircraft fire. Flying low over a coast road, his heart sank; traffic was passing by on the wrong side of the road and to make matters worse, it was all dull grey German military traffic.

Brian’s heart rate quickened and he yanked back on the controls, urging his aircraft up and away from potential ground fire. He was flying alone over occupied France with extremely low fuel and a damaged kite. He knew that his chances of making a return trip to England successfully were slim. At between twenty and forty miles in width, depending on the portion of the coast he was over, he estimated that he would need to swim a good distance of the way home at the very best. His other options were less inviting still; bail out now, attempt a crash landing when he ran out of fuel, or wait for a Jerry fighter to turn up and deal with his wounded aircraft.

It was the first time since he had joined the RAF that Brian had been required to decide his own fate with more than just guns and guts: It was not a pleasant feeling to realize one would either die or spend the rest of this sordid affair in a prisoner of war camp. That morning his biggest decision had been whether or not he wanted eggs with his breakfast. He was still pondering his fate when the chatter of guns behind him told him unequivocally that the decision had already been made by a higher power than himself.

Brian cursed and yanked at the controls throwing the fighter into a steep turn up and away from the tracer fire streaking past his cockpit. He worked to evade the German fighter that had so successfully stalked its prey until it was well within striking distance. Diving steeply he barely dodged a second burst as he used what he expected to be the last of his fuel in this fruitless dance. He jerked his head around quickly from side to side trying to catch sight of the aircraft behind him. The German stayed close and remained glued to his tail regardless of the maneuvers he pulled off. That fact alone worried him greatly: For a Jerry pilot to be able to match a Spitfire in their older and less maneuverable Messerschmitt he would have to be quite the aviator.

Brian shook himself mentally and cleared his head. He couldn’t let the German pilot win before the battle was even over. The man clearly knew what he was doing, and what to expect. He was probably a veteran aviator, meaning he’d seen a great deal of spitfires if he was able to keep with one. What Brian needed, was something the man hadn’t seen yet. As he ducked and weaved, dodging short sharp bursts from the German’s guns, he had an idea and it hadn’t come from his RAF training.

Flying with his uncle reminded him of how the little monoplane he owned would buck and pop up when they deployed its flaps, boosting the little aircraft up on short takeoffs. Brian considered the act for a moment. He needed to turn the tables on the German with an unconventional move the pilot wouldn’t expect; It was risky but offered greater odds than the certain death that waited should he keep up this fruitless game of cat and mouse. He didn’t know what it would do to his damaged aircraft, but he had little choice. Using what he knew of the German attacker’s weaknesses, he opened the throttle wide and began to accelerate away from his pursuer. At first, the slower German aircraft lagged behind but soon began to eat away at the gap as it built momentum. As the plane got bigger and bigger behind him in his mirror, Brian cut the throttle and dropped the spitfire’s landing flaps as he hauled back on the controls with all his strength. With a stomach-churning lurch that forced him down into his seat, the fighter creaked and complained as it lept upwards losing significant airspeed. Unable to react in time, the 109 still fighting to match the speed of its faster prey shot beneath Brian’s aircraft. Closing his flaps Brian nosed down and took advantage of the change in positions by opening fire with the browning machine guns mounted within the leading edge of his wings. The German fighter began to smoke as Brian’s bullets raked across it. His guns clicking dry, Brian could only watch as the fighter began to spiral downwards into its death throws. The canopy popped off and he saw the pilot bail out, his white chute popping against the green of the landscape down below.

Banking around, Brian circled the German pilot as he descended under silk towards the French countryside. He knew that he too would soon join the man. Passing the man one final time, he cut his opponent a jaunty salute like a knight acknowledging his defeated opponent. Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to see if the man returned the gesture.

As Brian rolled away to find a location to set the crippled aircraft down, the stresses of the fight and the existing damage caught up to the Spitfire suddenly and violently. With a sickening tear, the port wing ripped away at its root causing the aircraft to roll upside down and begin a vicious spiral towards the ground.

Fighting the g-forces, Brian desperately tried to lift his arms to release his harness. The few seconds it took felt like minutes as the aircraft plummeted closer to the ground. As his fingers reached the catch and released the straps, he was slammed against the sidewall of the cockpit knocking the wind from his chest.

Adrenaline pulsed through his veins he grasped for the canopy handle above his head and fought to find purchase on the release. Fingers finally closed around the handle and he yanked at the catch as hard as he could. The catch slipped free and the canopy was ripped backward by the wind that suddenly enveloped the cockpit. Struggling to breathe in the strong airflow Brian forced his complaining muscles to comply and lift him upwards and toward salvation, his body straining against the crushing forces. With a monumental effort, he dragged his torso upwards and out of the cockpit. Gasping for air as it sped past, he forced his legs to lift him into the buffeting wind. Feeling drained by the simple act of climbing out of the cockpit he lifted himself a fraction higher till the wind caught his body and dragged him from the stricken craft.

As he was yanked by the slipstream, he felt his harness catch momentarily as he tumbled away from the aircraft. Opening his arms as he was taught, he fought to stabilize himself as his Spitfire hurtled past him towards the ground. Tugging at his harness with his gloved hands he checked for damage; His waist strap was flapping in the wind but everything else seemed in order. Ensuring he had a strong grip on his shoulder harness he yanked at the ripcord and waited for the jolt that would follow. It felt as though it took minutes for the tiny drogue chute to pull his main clear but suddenly the parachute unfurled with a deafening crack as it caught the wind, slamming him into his harness as his terminal plummet was brought to an immediate halt. He was, however, barely aware of this as bright white pain flooded his entire body and darkness claimed him.

Brian’s vision swam slowly back into focus as sharp pain coursed through his body. He could hear the rustle and creak of the wind in his parachute and felt the weight of his body against the harness straps that held him aloft. When his mind cleared enough to focus, he began to groggily search for where the bullet had hit him. Finding no blood, he realized the pain was radiating out from his crotch. The damn loose jump straps he realized: His harness was so comfortable in the cockpit and he hadn’t the time to even think about tightening them when it had come time to leave the aircraft. As the parachute had deployed the damaged waist strap had allowed the full weight of his body to slam down into the harness with enough force to make him black out.

Brian fought the pain to stay conscious as he drifted down toward the ground. Each gust of wind that caught the parachute felt as though a knife was being twisted in an open wound. The French countryside rushed up towards him as he hung below the billowing white silk. Brian grimaced through the blinding pain as he attempted to brace for a parachute landing the way the instructors had taught him, but before he was ready, he slammed into the damp morning grass and the world turned black.

Comments are the lifeblood of authors. Please leave a comment with your thoughts/feelings and I'll answer! Let me know what you think!

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Comments

Great start

Leaving the crotch strap loose hinted at what was to come. How his 'battle damage' will impact his presumed disguise in the following parts will be interesting.

It is interesting the Spitfires were sent against the bombers as based on what I read, the Hurricanes, being slower, fought the bombers and Spitfires fought the escorts i.e. the 109. I am guessing they were what was available at that time?

The aerial battle description was vivid and well done.

:D

Kit's picture

I could have left that out and just let the damage exiting the plane to do it... ah well.

Spits did both depending on who was available where... especially during more desperate days.

I like Turtles.

This is Quite Compelling

I thought you said that this work was complete? How often to you propose to post new chapters?

Very interesting story.

Ahabidah

it is!

Kit's picture

It is :) It's finished, i'm still editing some chapters though but it's entirely written. (My new rule before posting something, it must be finished, to prevent my past transgressions)

I'll be posting each week on Tuesday. :)

I like Turtles.

kudos

this appears to be well researched and written. i never found fault with your older stories, so if you feel you have improved with time, this should be a real roller coaster of a tale. i look forward to more.

Thanks!

Kit's picture

This was the easier part, I'm a pilot and aviation fan so this was relatively easy. What's to come? oh if you like researched historical fiction it's coming!

I like Turtles.

Having jumped more than a few times while in the service……

D. Eden's picture

You learn quickly to properly tighten the harness. If it is done right, the opening shock of the ‘chute will result in the entire harness tightening around your body thus transferring the force of the sudden deceleration evenly around your torso.

Having my testicles removed surgically was something I actually looked forward to - having them crushed by an incorrectly worn parachute harness is entirely different.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Mistakes were made :D

Kit's picture

I suspect its an error you make once :D

It's why I had the extra damage to the harness exiting the kite... things just aren't in Brian's favor :D

I like Turtles.

Make once

Yes, LOL. So this begs the question: He had the balls to bail out of the aircraft but will he have the balls to land ? ^_^

:D

Kit's picture

In aviation, there is one certainty. Everything lands. Not everything can fly again, but everything lands.

I like Turtles.

An Old Joke

joannebarbarella's picture

You've probably heard it. A plane load of young marines were up doing their first jump. They all left the plane except for one poor young man who just couldn't do it. The sergeant in charge told him if he didn't jump he would stick his cock up the young man's ass.

Later, in the mess hall his friend asked him if he had jumped. "Just a little, at first." our hero replied.

Well then...

Kit's picture

only a little? :D

I like Turtles.

Also a pilot and aviation fan

I really enjoyed the flying details - I checked a couple of details on google during this and learned quite a bit about limitations of Spitfire flaps, so educational as well :)

Hopefully there will be more aviation as the story develops.

Alison

:D

Kit's picture

There will be at least two more aviation-themed sections of the book... towards the middle and end :D I wanted aviation to be a big theme but not entirely pervasive. It does play pretty big part though!

I may switch the spit to the hurricane in the final version, 43 squadron actually had those for the Battle of Britain and only got Spitfires in North Africa for Torch.... plus it makes the 109 have a more fair fight :D

I like Turtles.

NIce story so far.

NIce story so far.
Historic note the RAF did not use wingmen in 1940. The RAF flew in 3 aircraft formations. Germans had 4 finger formations in 2 air pairs and wingmen. me109 was faster but did not turn as well as the spit.