On his fourth day with the squadron, Lt. David Andrews had already had enough of flying for His Majesty’s Royal Flying Corps, that afternoon in April, 1917.
After he lost his third squadron mate in two days, he visited his CO, Major Alan Hastings, to ask how to get through just another day.
“See here, Andrews, you’re doing quite well to have lasted as long as you have, young pup that you are. Those chaps we lost came over here with you, right? That you’re standing there shows you have the stuff to make it over here,” Hastings said as he took a pull on an old briar pipe.
“But, Sir, these were my mates for months. I even went to school and university with Ellis. How do I deal with losing so many men?” Andrews said.
“Well, Lieutenant, it’s not something one can stop to think about for too long, really. You just have to pour yourself into the work. Take down more Gerries than they do us. Perhaps you should talk to one of the older men here,” Hastings said.
“Older men, Sir?”
“Yes, older. Like Darrow.”
“Sir, Darrow was a year behind me at Eton. And I tried. He barely speaks to anyone. He just climbs into the cockpit, flies his sorties, blessedly comes back to the aerodrome and goes to visit some whore in St. Omer until the next day,” Andrews said.
“Really? He seems so much older than you. Perhaps that’s what’s necessary, young Andrews. The lesson might be to not get so close to too many of the men. And perhaps you might wish to find some local mademoiselle to take to your lap help ease your nerves and share some wine or whisky. Use your lips to do more than fret and cry. Above all, do your job. Now is that all?” Hastings said.
“No, Sir. Thank you, Sir.” Andrews said. He then spun about face, banged down his heel and headed out to the flight line for his next sortie. That was the one where his Martinsyde was jumped by four Albatros Scouts and sent down in flames, burrowing into the mud on the German side of the lines. Lt. Darrow did not return from the flight either. Though no one saw him go down.
That night, after reading the day’s report, Major Hastings, retired to his room and brought out a twelve-year-old bottle of Glenmorangie, pouring himself one tumbler and then another, as he did every night. And there on his lap sat the beauty whose smooth skin he stroked those nights by the yellow light of a small kerosene lamp. And, as he had for the past two weeks, he passionately pressed his lips to the open mouth of his companion.
Only tonight, the .455 Webley revolver kissed back.
A ten-minute free write.