When a blizzard smothered the whole of northeast England in snow on the 20th of December, all hopes of Christmas leave were dashed. Instead of getting in training all hands, officers and men, were put to shovelling the runways and taxi ways. Just when they had everything cleared, fog rolled in. They were kept standing-by in hopes of an improvement in visibility for another two days but remained grounded. They had lost three days of training and were informed that rather than ending at noon on 23 December as originally planned, the course would be extended by one more week to end at noon on 30 December.
Frank complained loudest. “That’s not ruddy fair!” He told his crewmates at the local. “We’ve got a right to time off and holidays.”
“Not any more you don’t, laddie!” Daddy told the youngster bluntly.
“We’re not slaves!” Frank retorted hotly. “We’re free citizens —”
“In uniform!” Daddy reminded him.
“Look, this isn’t arbitrary,” Kit intervened before tempers flared further. “The HCU is supposed to give us 30 hours of flying in the Lancaster. If the weather closes down and we can’t take off, then they have no choice but to extend the course until we get the flying in. If the operational squadrons were screaming for replacements, they might have shaved a few hours off the course, but this weather has closed down ops as well. We’re here to learn something that could save our lives. Don’t look at it as chicanery, Frank.”
“But why couldn’t we go home and come back after Christmas?” Stu asked. He sounded less belligerent than Frank, but resentful all the same.
“Because the Met is promising good flying weather tomorrow.”
“As they have for the past three days! We could end up sitting around all day Christmas Eve and Christmas Day too!” Stu whined.
“We could,” Kit conceded, “but what if they sent us home only for the weather to clear? We need to fly at every opportunity until we’ve clocked those 30 hours on Lancasters.”
“They’ll put on a fine dinner for us too, and the officers serve the airmen,” Daddy tried to console the younger men.
“And why shouldn’t they? What makes them better than us, anyway? Aren’t we all fighting the same war? Aren’t we taking the same risks?” Frank shot back.
“Officers are gentlemen, which is more than I can say for you, laddie!” Daddy rebuked him hotly.
“When this war is over, things are going to change in this country. I’m not going to take orders from anyone just because they’re richer than me — and I’m not alone.” Frank declared. “We’re not going to recognise the authority of anyone who derives it from nothing more than being born to it!”
“That includes the king!” Stu gasped out, shocked.
“Does, doesn’t it?” Frank thrust out his chin.
“Are you talking about me, Frank?” Kit fixed the gunner with his eyes. He was still leaning back in his chair, but he had crossed his arms in front of his chest tensely.
Frank pulled back startled. “Of course not, sir! You’re not some toff! You earned your right to command.”
“So, there’ll be no mutiny on my aircraft?”
“No, sir! Of course not.”
“Good. Then let’s leave it at that. Until the war is over, we all obey the rules as they are. Agreed?”
A rumble of unhappy “yes, sirs” greeted him. This was evidently one night when drinking together was not going to console them, so Kit got to his feet. “Excuse me, I’ve got to make a phone call. See you tomorrow.”
Back at the mess, Kit put a call through to Georgina to explain what had happened. He was sorry to miss Christmas with her and her family, but not until he heard the distress in her voice, did he feel bad. “Oh, Kit! That’s terrible! We’ve all been looking forward to having you with us. Mummy went to so much trouble to scrape together enough sugar and margarine coupons to make a plum pudding because you said you liked them so much, and I’ve organized mounted carolling, where everyone with a horse rides to the more isolated farmhouses to sing carols. We always get invited in for hot drinks, and the horses get apples. It’s so much fun!”
“I’m sure it is. I wish I could be there.” Kit wasn’t lying. Communal singing resonated with memories of his African childhood and the idea of going carol singing on horseback appealed to him.
Georgina continued over the phone, “My father’s three sisters are here, as well, and they’re ever so anxious to meet you. Not to mention the parishioners.”
“Georgina, please give everyone my apologies, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“I’m sorry. I know,” she sounded small and dismayed. “It’s just that I ruined everyone’s Christmas last year. I’d hoped to make up for it by being doubly happy this year — and I’d been so looking forward to sharing all our Christmas traditions with you.”
“Georgina, I’m sorry. Really, I am. But there’s nothing I can do. I can’t come for Christmas.
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