“Pilot Officer Moran?” The Wing Commander looked up from the file on his desk and then stood and held out his hand as he came around his desk. “My name is Grace, Dr Ralph Grace.”
Kit’s eyes flickered to his insignia as they shook hands. Grace was a doctor, and his hands were icy cold. But then so were Kit’s. They didn’t go in for much heat at this establishment.
“Have a seat. Would you like some tea?” The doctor asked amiably.
“Not really, thank you, sir,” Kit warily eased himself into the comfortable arm chair the doctor had indicated. He was not feeling well; he’d hardly slept. His thoughts and nightmares would have been enough to keep him awake, but it hadn’t helped that his roommate also shouted in his sleep.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Grace insisted. “I just want to chat with you a bit, go over your case, be sure I’ve got the facts straight.”
“Yes, sir,” Kit hesitated and then ventured to ask. “Are you a trick cyclist, sir?”
“A psychiatrist? Yes, I have a degree in psychiatry.”
“Is this a hospital?”
“Not exactly. It’s a centre where we attempt to diagnose your condition prior to determining a course of action. NYDN stands for Not Yet Diagnosed Nervous. If we determine that you have a psychiatric condition, you will be referred to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. If not, there are a variety of other options.”
“I see.” Court-martial, public humiliation, the infantry, the mines….
“So,” the doctor settled himself behind his desk again and took up the file. “You volunteered for service in September 1939. You were mustered for training as a fitter because you were apprenticed to an engineering firm in civilian life. Promoted to LAC in September 1940, you served with 56 (Hurricane) Squadron, commended and promoted to corporal in March 1941. You transferred to 109 (Mosquito) Squadron in January 1942. You volunteered for Air Crew in August 1942, and on completing training as a Flight Engineer you were promoted to Sergeant and assigned to 626 (Lancaster) Squadron. You completed one full tour of operations in March 1943, you were awarded the DFM and granted an immediate commission. Thereafter, you served in Training Command until October. You had flown six ops on your second tour….” His voice faded away, and he looked up at Kit. He was not avoiding Kit’s eyes; he was looking directly at him.
“Do you want to tell me about your decision to stop flying?”
Kit drew a deep breath. “Do the records show that I flew nearly all those ops with the same skipper, navigator and bomb aimer?”
“No. Do you want to expand on that?”
Kit shrugged and looked out of the window. Visibility was as bad as yesterday, though today it was fog rather than sleet.
The doctor looked down at his records. “I see your skipper was Flight Lieutenant Donald Selkirk. It says here that ‘despite being mortally wounded, Selkirk successfully landed his damaged Lancaster at RAF Hawkinge following the raid on Berlin of November 22/23.”
“You could put it like that,” Kit retorted, an edge to his voice like a spark in the cold room.
The doctor looked at him with attentive eyes. “Were you close to Flight Lieutenant Selkirk?”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish