THE COFFEE CLUB - (co-submitted by Neil Amoore & Shaun Edley, 317th Sqn)
“O’Brian! Get me Montague, and I want a fresh pot of coffee here by the time he arrives!” Amoore barked, stomping past the diminutive clerk in the 317th’s office. He was tired and in a foul mood, and O’Brian was in the firing line. A few short hours ago it’d been the Krauts that had had him in their sights, and a fitful night’s sleep had done little to calm his nerves. Klagenfurt was going to placed permanently on his places to avoid in peace time. He’d almost bought the farm yesterday, and the squadron had been chewed up pretty badly too.
O’Brian swore under his breath, but scurried off to find the Irishman. In the past he’d have headed straight for the nearest bar, but the old CO was a different kettle of fish these days. Some said he’d found religion, others said he’d just started to take things less seriously. Whatever it was, it’d worked. He didn’t disappear from briefings, meetings or missions anymore. What’s more, with the Major generally legging it home alone from the target these days, Montague had had to lead his old charges on more than one occasion. He’d done it well too, and Amoore had noticed it seemed. O’Brian had heard the Major mentioning it to the CO a few weeks ago, and he’d seemed pleased with the Irishman. What had Monty done wrong to have got Amoore steamed up, O’Brian wondered.
Montague sitting in a home-made deck-chair outside his billet, writing a letter.
He looked up as O’Brian saluted.
“The Major would like to see you sir,” he said. “Seems to be in a stinker, so watch yourself.” O’Brian had liked Montague, even though he’d had to do most of the work during his time in charge. Too much sour-mash, not enough paper work.
Montague stretched lazily, and smiled at the freckled face of the little corporal. “Tell him I’m on my way, son.” O’Brian only just beat Montague back to the office, and had only just had time to get the coffee through to Amoore. His mood hadn’t changed.
“Put it down and go ask the doctors when I can expect an update on our boys in the infirmary,” he snapped. O’Brian pushed past Montague on his way out.
“Come in and sit down, Shamus,” Amoore said, motioning towards a chair swamped by papers and the bric-a-brac of squadron administration. He sighed wearily, and rubbed his eyes. “I’d swear those Kraut bastards hit me with a 20mm yesterday the way my head feels today,” he said, a wan smile on his lips. “I won’t take up too much of your time, Shamus, just wanted to let you know I’ve put your engineer in for the Air Medal. Don’t hold your breath, but he should have something after what he did yesterday.” Amoore stood up and walked over to the coffee, pouring some for both of them. “I’ve also been meaning to have a chat with you to see how you’re doing. You’ve been pretty scarce lately.”
Montague pushed his cap back on his head, and took a long sip of his coffee. He savored the taste, put the mug down on the desk and then spoke. His voice was soft but determined, a hint of sadness in the tone. “You know, major, things got really off the horizon a while back. I got news that the wife was leaving me for a farmer. She didn’t believe I was going to make out of here in one piece. I don’t know if I started hitting the bottle then or before that. It felt really crap having to send the boys up and out every mission knowing that a lot of them weren’t going to be coming back.” Montague reached for his coffee and continued, “I really felt that if at least she had faith I’d make it out, I would. Things kind of fell apart from there. Since I got recalled, I’ve concentrated on getting the guys back each time. So far it seems to be working . I know I haven’t been the life of the party but hey, we all got to do what we do. You’ve been pretty good to me considering how it is you got to be in command, so I’ve got no gripes there. My boys seem to get by as well. I suppose I should get more involved but it’s taking time.”
Amoore had been quiet throughout, noting the changes in the man. He looked better. More rested. “You’re doing enough, Shamus. I’m just happy that you’re up there with us again,” he said. He pointed to the charts on the wall of his office. “We’re doing pretty damned okay as a squadron. Mostly just behind the 316th in terms of sorties, bomb percentages, and casualty rates. So far we’ve been pretty lucky with our losses, and I’d like to keep it that way. I’m looking to my senior pilots to keep things together. Group is happy, but some of the other crews think we get away with too much, and we need them to know it’s down to hard work and cohesion.”
He stood up and moved over to the window. Looking out he took in the scenes played out across air bases throughout Europe. Ground crews laughing, sweating and scurrying to get the big birds ready for tomorrow. There would be no trip for a day or two, though, the weather was closing in. Just a matter of time, he thought bitterly. “Home seems a long way away, doesn’t it?” he mused. He turned round, snapping himself out of his reverie. “Let’s go see what the Ops boys have planned, shall we?”
TOWER RECEPTIONS - MISSION 37
“Fireball One . . . My tail gunner reports seeing Poetic Justice taking a hit on the port wing which immediately caused the wing to fold and then Poetic Justice went spinning out of sight. Only one chute was seen.”
Approaching Sterparone Field:
“Buckeye Two to tower . . . be advised we are inbound out of formation, ETA is fifteen minutes, with one KIA and six other wounded, please have medical on standby . . .”