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Thompson’s Lost Plimsole

Part 20

Like a pack of hungry wolves, the Boche fighters attacked. Down they came in a single file before peeling off in order to surround any lone Sopwiths. Jenkins, one of the latest replacements, was the first to be hit. The pilot of one Albatros had dived below Jenkins and put a burst of bullets into the fuel tank. A second Albatros had looped above him and  then swooped in sideways on to give him the coup de gras, a short burst to the head. He was dead before his plane hit the ground.

Major Twist and Lt Bayes carried out a similar manoeuvre and dispatched one of Count Blau’s aces.  Robert Twist strained in his cockpit to look around him and his heart raced as a torrent of lead ripped through his canvas.  He felt a searing pain in his right ear and then saw the blood on his white silk scarf. These silk scarved were given to the pilots to allow for free movement of the head and neck and to stop their necks chafing whilst constantly scanning the skies and the ground for the presence of any enemy aircraft or troop movements.  Robert couldn’t feel his ear properly through his thick gloves, but he sensed that part of his ear had been shot away.

Pulling back hard on his joy-stick, he banked away and then went into a roll, and now he could see his adversary attacking the plane below him. Black smoke was billowing out of the engine of Micky Benton’s Sopwith and he was desperately trying to get away from his attacker by zig-zagging and faking a dive but to no avail. Michael Benton was a young Irishman with a soft voice and a sparkling sense of humour. Twenty two years old, recently married and a baby on the way. He’d only been with the squadron for three weeks, but he’d charmed everyone with his personality. His ready wit and the tales of the characters who lived in his hometown had brought much needed tears of laughter to his fellow officers and men. Another burst from Michael’s adversary ignited his engine. Flames engulfed the Sopwith and as the plane plunged earthwards, Micky released his straps and kicked himself free from the cockpit and fell, and fell, and.…

Robert Twist dived after his friend’s killer and pumped the rest of the drum’s contents into his fuselage. He then went into a loop and straightened out giving himself just enough time to replace his empty ammo drum. He wanted revenge. Smoke was billowing from the Albatros below him and in a blind rage, Robert emptied the full drum into it. He had brought down his prey , but he had stupidly left himself vulnerable to attack and with only his pistol to defend himself.   

Lt Bayes had added another two enemy pilots to his score and had seen another one forced to land behind British lines. Robert had decided that his best option was to land and re-arm himself. Sensing that this plane was leaving the fight, Von Blau now turned his attention to Robert Twist’s Sopwith. Von Blau caught up with Robert, flew at the side of him and matched his speed. The Count looked at Robert and then drew his gloved finger across his throat in a cutting motion before pointing directly at Robert and laughing hysterically.  Robert aimed his pistol at the Count and fired three times in rapid succession. He missed and the Count laughed again before rolling his plane away and then going into a loop so as to position himself behind Robert.

Major Twist looped and banked in order to avoid two Albatros fighters. The first of the two followed him round so Charles drew his attacker into another loop and brought him directly into the path of the second fighter. Charles banked to the left, narrowly avoiding the second plane but leaving the chaser nowhere to manoeuvre. Both enemy planes hit wing on wing, sending them into a spin and oblivion. The Blue Demon levelled out slightly above and behind Robert and strafed down the length of his plane. Robert felt something burn into his back and now he needed to get himself away from the Count and safely back down on terra firma.  He went into a steep dive with the Count on his tail. With a practised aim, the Count put another burst into the tail of Robert’s Sopwith. Robert could now see the landing strip below him and headed for home. A hundred feet, fifty feet, and with the Count still on his tail. Von Blau was now within range of the ground crew who were firing off rounds as if they were going out of fashion. The Count had allowed his enthusiasm for the chase to overwhelm his normal instincts. He banked away in a tight turn and then hopped over the hedge at the side of the field. This put him out of sight of the ground crew and allowed for him to climb and re-join the fight.

The Blue Count now set his sights on Lt Bayes and Major Twist. Two more of Von Blau’s squadron had been forced to land and had been quickly captured. After regaining height, the Count found himself behind the Major; a burst from his twin machine guns put a bullet into Charles’s shoulder and several in his lower leg. Roger was chasing an Albatros that had gone into a dive. He then followed it into a loop and as the German pilot went into the upwards part of that loop, Roger fired a burst into the other man’s cockpit. The Albatros stalled and then fell away and Roger could see that the pilot had bought it. Two more of the Sopwiths had been brought down and now it was down to Lt Bayes and Major Twist to deal with the Count.

Roger caught up with his friend and the Count and surprised Von Blau with a burst of ammo along the side of the Count’s plane. A bullet pierced the Count’s side and entered his lung. The Count slumped forward momentarily and put his plane into a dive. He was followed by Roger and Charles who simultaneously put two more short bursts into the Count’s Albatros. All three planes were now behind British lines and Von Blau was struggling to breathe. Another burst of fire from the Major put a bullet into the Count’s neck, he was done, the fight had gone out of him. If he had to die, then it would be on his own terms. Von Blau aimed his plane at some large trees on the edge of the airfield and ploughed into them. His body was thrown from the wreckage and in that moment the ground crew were racing towards him. Roger and the Major brought their planes down as near to the edge of the field as they could and despite his own wounds, Charles managed to hoist himself out of his cockpit and down to the ground. The ground crew were by now surrounding the Count’s body and tearing souvenirs off his wrecked plane. Charles shouted at them to get back as he, assisted by Lt Bayes, made their way to the Count’s body. Von Blau’s motionless body was laid on its side. Roger rolled the Count onto his back upon which, the Count let out a gasp of breath. He was still alive, barely, his body was a broken mess. Charles struggled to kneel down next to Von Blau and placed his hand under the man’s head. The Blue Demon, the feared air warrior, the scourge of the skies with over sixty confirmed kills, now just another statistic. Von Blau reached up with his hand and grasped at the decoration adorning his neck, the ribbon stained with blood, the Blue Max, presented to him personally by the King of Prussia. He put it into Charles’s  hand. “For you” were the last words that he gasped.

Major Twist was rushed to the nearest field hospital; however, the surgeons were unable to save the lower part of his leg. He was then shipped back to the south coast of England to recuperate in a hospital in Torquay converted from the Town Hall. Charles received a bar for his DSO and Lt, now Captain, Roger Bayes, was awarded the DSO for his part in bringing down Das Blau Dӓmon.

The Count had been buried with full military honours by the British Army and Captain Bayes’ first mission after his promotion was to fly over enemy territory at a pre-arranged time between both parties in order drop off the Count’s personal possessions. Robert Twist was also recovering well from his injuries and would soon be back in the air. On his next leave, he intended to seek out his brother in order to heal the rift that he believed had come between them and wrote to Charles explaining as much.  However, Charles would receive a copy of the universally hated telegram a few days before that meeting could take place and would be unable to tell his brother that he loved him and that he hadn’t wanted him to join the RFC due to the short period of time that most inexperienced pilots would survive aerial combat.

In the bed next to Charles was a chap called Hastings, Captain Arthur Hastings, Army, Eton, Cambridge, Foreign Service. “A bit dim witted”, Charles whispered to his nurse, “constantly banging on about cricket”. Nurse Christie agreed, “Well, as long as he doesn’t go on about golf, I can’t stand the game”.  Nurse Christie had taken a shine to Charles and him to her. “When I get out of here”, he said, “Why don’t you let me take you to the Savoy, we could take in a show”. “That would be lovely” she replied, but then held forward her left hand to show her wedding ring. “Ah”, said Charles, “one never knows with so many chaps copping it”. She smiled at him and turned to walk away. He called after her, “You could at least cheer a chap up by telling him your first name”. The nurse stopped and turned back, “Agatha”, she said. “Agatha Christie, Mrs”.


Published by crispinunderfelt

All round good egg. Humanist and red wine drinker.

7 thoughts on “Thompson’s Lost Plimsole

  1. This was really great. It was sad but inevitable about Robert. I liked the end with Mrs. Christie and the fact that she had worked there (which I only guessed because the rest of the story feels authentic). I had to look up the Blue Max award just to see. Very good. I hope to see more soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. War is a waste but us humans haven’t learned to live with each other without wanting to kill each other…. I am writing a play about the First World War, not that I’ve got anything original to add, but the way I want to stage it might add a bit of originality… We’ll see…


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