“Do you mind if we join you?”
Bridges had been so busy watching the exchange between the WAAF officer and the padre that he had not noticed the men who had come over to his table. He looked up, and then got to his feet respectfully at the sight of a gaunt Squadron Leader with wings but a wooden leg. He was accompanied by a round, soft- looking Flight Lieutenant with glasses and no wings. “You must be from 606,” Bridges stammered out.
“Allars, Douglas Allars, the spy” (i.e., intelligence officer), the Squadron Leader introduced himself.
“Michaels – or Mickey, squadron adjutant,” the Flight Lieutenant followed suit.
“Bainbridge, one of the Station Controllers,” Bridges answered, adding a little awkwardly, “You’ll probably hear me referred to as ‘the Cyclops’ on account of this.” He pointed to his eye-patch, still not fully comfortable with the situation.
“France?” the Squadron Leader asked, settling himself opposite.
“Nothing as noble as that, I’m afraid. Motorcar accident last January. The road bent around to the left and I’m sure I put the helm over, but somehow I just kept going straight into the telephone pole and woke up in hospital.”
“Dreadful ice all over the country last January.” 606’s adjutant commented sympathetically, and the “spy” agreed with a nod.
“Where have you come in from?” Bridges asked.
“Dyce. Operated from Debden during Dunkirk, however. Lost five pilots, three killed. We were quite surprised to be posted back into the thick of things so soon.” This came pouring out of the adjutant, who was clearly more than a little shaken by the turn of events. “Things hotting up around here, I gather?”
“Not really,” Bridges admitted. “More like the lull before the storm. Hitler appears to be giving his troops a breather and marshalling his forces before really letting loose.”
“There are those who think he doesn’t really want to attack us at all,” the adjutant ventured with a slightly nervous glance around him. “I mean, why should we fight on now that the Continent is lost? If Hitler is willing to let us retain our Empire and command of the seas—”
“He’s a bully, and the only way to keep bullies from oppressing you is to fight back!” Allars interrupted hotly, with a heavy frown. “Don’t talk that peace rot to me, Mickey. Keep it for the CO.”
“Your CO favours a negotiated peace with Hitler?” Bridges asked incredulously, before he could stop himself.
“Squadron Leader Jones’ father is quite high up in the Foreign Office,” Mickey was quick to explain, “and he says that if you read carefully what Hitler has written and said, it is very clear that he admires the British and never really wanted to go to war with us in the first place. Apparently, he sees Germany’s destiny in the East and, according to Mr. Jones senior, has said that Britain and Germany are natural allies. He has said that with Britain as the dominant Sea Power and Germany—”
“Hitler also said he had no more territorial ambitions after the Sudetenland – and look what’s happened since!” Allars interrupted again.
“Of course, of course, I know. I was just telling you what the CO’s father reported….” Mickey fell silent.
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