Priestman could not resist a victory roll as he came in to land. He came low over the field counting 10 aircraft on the ground, and did a slow roll at 1000 feet, then banked sharply to the right and set down on the grass.
Even the dour Sellers was smiling as the two erks caught the tips of his wings to swing the Hurricane around and back it onto the edge of the little field. Priestman shoved the hood back and shouted out to them, “A Heinkel! The crew jumped and I saw it go in!”
“Good show, sir! That makes 4 altogether. Flight Lieutenant MacAllistair, Flying Officer Ibbotsholm and Sergeant Pilot Bennett made claims as well.”
Douglas was on the wing already, helping him with his straps.
“Is everyone back safe?”
“Yes, sir. Sergeant Pilot Turner took a bit of lead in the tail, and Pilot Officer Smith couldn’t get his undercarriage to come down, so he had to belly-land it. Bit nasty, that, as we haven’t got the spares or equipment to repair it over here. But he’s all right.”
By the time Priestman’s feet hit the grass, Ibbotsholm and Shakespeare were there to greet him. “Congratulations and all that,” Shakespeare offered, while Ibbotsholm threw an arm over his shoulder and remarked, “Well done, my boy.” (He was two years older than Robin and affected this fatherly manner when it suited him.)
“We have some good news and some bad news. Which would you like first?”
“Let’s start with the good.”
“Can you imagine? In the midst of all this chaos where no one knows what’s going on or where the enemy is, a telegram has arrived promoting you to Flight Lieutenant.”
Priestman was taken aback by the timing. He’d hoped for the promotion all through the winter. He’d even spoken to Sharp about it, who had told him to “just give it time.” So maybe they had forgiven him after all? Then he remembered the bad news. “What’s the bad news?”
“Bit of a graveyard promotion, you might say, and Yardly’s all in a dither. You see, it seems the Germans have taken Abbeville. The BEF is cut off.”
Robin stared at them. Maybe it was time to start praying – seriously.
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