“Frank is never going to live this down!” Nigel declared, only half in jest, as he took a swig from his pint of frothing beer. “He’s grazed by a piece of shrapnel no bigger than a thumbnail and he’s screaming ‘I’m bleeding to death! I’m bleeding to death!’” Nigel’s high-pitched imitation of panic triggered laughter among the others.
“Well, there was a lot of blood,” Terry pointed out as they quieted down. “I nearly fainted when I came into the fuselage and saw blood dripping out of the turret! I looked up and a drop fell in my eye. Thank God Adrian arrived at that point and took over. He got Frank down and together we heaved him onto the rest bed, then Adrian got a compress on and wrapped him in blankets to stop him from shaking. He even gave him the shot of morphine! He was amazing!” Turning to Adrian he asked, “Have you ever thought of going into medicine after the war?”
“No,” Adrian retorted firmly. “I actually don’t like dealing with things like that, but —” He shrugged. “It had to be done and done fast.” His eyes met Kit’s, who nodded in understanding. He’d been in Adrian’s shoes when Reggie was hit. He also understood that Adrian’s focus on saving Frank had prevented him from noticing the flak around them. To the others Adrian declared emphatically, “I hope I never see anything like that ever again.”
Terry nodded vigorously in agreement, but Nigel leaned forward and remarked pensively. “I don’t know. After the war, I think I’d like to learn more about first aid. It can save lives, and that would be a nice change.”
“You know what I want most when this war is over?” Stu spoke up. “I want never to get up in the middle of the night or have breakfast in the dark again!”
“When the war’s over, I want to go to places like the British Museum and the National Gallery and be able to see things!” Terry confided. “You lent me that book, Skipper, remember? But when I tried to go and look at some of the things in it, I was told that everything had been moved into a cave somewhere in Wales ‘for the duration.’”
“Sorry, about that.”
“When this ruddy war is over, I’m nae getting in an aircraft again as long as I live,” Daddy growled downing his beer in a long, sustained series of gulps. The others gazed at him astonished. He thumped the glass back on the table and pugnaciously returned their stares. “Anyone who willingly entrusts his life tae a fragile contraption made frae bits o’ aluminium and steel riveted together is insane!”
“Are you saying you’re afraid of flying?” Stu asked in disbelief.
“Damned right!” Daddy confirmed meeting his eye squarely.
“Every time we fly?” Kit couldn’t grasp it.
“From the minute we get a green until I hear the squeal of the tyres on tarmac on landing.”
“But why did you volunteer for aircrew?” Nigel asked for all of them.
“Because I was nine tenths of the way through flight engineer training before I had my first ride in an aeroplane and found oot what madness it was! By then it was too ruddy late! If I’d said I didnae want to fly, they’d have posted me LMF. Thank you very much! How am I supposed to feed the missus on erk pay? But the day Germany surrenders, I swear to God, I’m nae leaving the ground ever again.”
“On that note, let’s get another round,” Nigel suggested. “What are you drinking, Skipper?”
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