The gunnery master rapped sharply with his cane on a desk at the front of the room to get their attention. “Take your seats, gentlemen! Sit down! Quiet!” Reluctantly, the crews drifted away from the back wall with the photos and settled onto the chairs facing forward. Forrester led his crew to sit in the front row. Moran sank down in the row behind them, and his crew joined him, Peal to his left and Osgood on his right. The chatting slowly faded away
“We have some interesting results today. One of you got in excellent shots — and this is the astonishing thing — on two different fighters. In fact, the results are so good, that we’re crediting you — unofficially, of course — with two kills.”
Levesque jumped up with a hoot of triumph.
“Don’t make so much noise, Levesque,” the gunnery master reprimanded with a frown.
Levesque sank back into his seat still grinning with confidence. Forrester gave him a thumbs up.
The gunnery master took four photographs from the speaking roster. These had not been posted on the back wall. He pinned them up on the main board, where the map for operations would have hung had they been here for an operational briefing. “Here,” he narrated as he tapped one photo with the tip of his cane, “in the first photo, you see the fighter just coming into the gun sight.” He shifted his pointer. “The second photo shows the fighter more centred than before with the gun sight bang on the cockpit. If using live ammunition, this would almost certainly have killed the pilot of the fighter — provided it was a full two second burst, of course.”
He turned to the second pair of photos. “Here you see the first shot is from 300 yards and a bit to the left, but the second — and this is the remarkable thing — is from just 150 yards and spot on that starboard engine. Very good shooting. The most astonishing thing here is to see the range closing that much between the first and second shot without the gunner losing his focus. Usually, the fighter is closing, and the bomber is evading fire, disrupting the gunner’s ability to refine his aim. I don’t know if this was courage, luck, or something else, but these two fighter kills were made without suffering a single hit in return.”
Moran turned to look at Osgood in amazement; he’d done it. Osgood lifted his chin and his eyes glittered with pride over his swollen and bruised face.
“Who was it?” Someone called from the back of the room.
The gunnery master was smiling now. “Flying Officer Moran with Sergeant Osgood at the guns.”
Forrester turned around and tossed at Moran. “More fool you for not taking my bet!”
Moran just laughed.
That evening, the Australian cornered Kit in the bar of the mess.
“What’s the trick, mate?”
“Your wet dick of a gunner didn’t turn into a wonder boy overnight. Hitting one fighter might have been luck, but not two. You pulled some trick out of your sleeve. Let me in on the secret.”
“You’re wrong, Forrester.” Kit told him levelly. “It was my gunner’s idea, and I didn’t think it would work. It did today, but I’m still sceptical. So, we’ll test it again on the next fighter affiliation exercise.”
Kit knew that Nigel would as soon kill him as share his secret with the hated Levesque. “It’s just a different means of coordinating our actions to get better results.”
“What does that mouthful of baloney mean?” Forrester challenged him, his blue eyes icy cold now.
“It means I’m not going to tell you.”
“Look, mate, I know Levesque has been a bit of a twit with his bragging, but — bottom line — we are on the same side in this war, remember?”
That, unfortunately, was the point, and Kit knew it. This manoeuvre might plausibly save Forrester, his entire crew and a precious Lancaster from being shot down one day. He settled on, “I’ll tell you what, Forrester: you get a grip on that clot Levesque, get him to belt up and lay off Osgood, and then I’ll let you and Levesque in on the secret — guaranteed before you go on ops, but not before Levesque eats a little crow.”
Forrester thought about the offer for only two seconds. Then he held out his broad hand. “Deal!”
They shook on it.
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