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This is my first attempt at writing some fiction. I have always been a fan of war fiction and this is a short story (which I may develop) about the crew of the Lorna Jane, a B-17 based in Lincolnshire.
The Last Flight of The Lorna Jane
Flames were erupting from the control panel. Luckily they weren't near Roy yet. However the co-pilot's clothes were starting to burn. It didn't matter too much as he was dead, cannon shells from the ME 262 had gone straight through the front of the B-17 Flying Fortress and he had died instantly. He was just sat in his seat, head lolling forward, eyes staring sightlessly ahead.
Roy struggled to hold the aircraft, the crew intercom still worked, he could use some help so he shouted to his engineer
'Mike are you ok?'
'Yes Sir' , he replied, 'I'm fine and dandy'.
'Get up here will you and bring the extinguisher, that 262 nearly took me out, he got Schmidt and he's burning.'
'Damn it, yeah I'm coming.'
Mike Watson grabbed the extinguisher and made his way up through the fuselage of the aircraft, the stench of burning flesh and rubber nearly made him retch. Why did the smell of burning flesh smell like pork? He doused the flames on the control panel, then turned his attention to the dead co-pilot.
‘Hey skipper, that 262 he’s coming back !’, shouted Castilano, one of the waist gunners.
Sergeant Eugene Castilano was a decent shot with the 0.5' machine gun.
'Coming in fast at three o'clock!!' he shouted at the same time as opening fire. The enemy jet fighter passed under the aircraft enabling the ball gunner and other waist gunner to fire on the Me262. The problem was they were so fast, and the gunners only had 500 rounds of ammunition per gun. This meant they had to be very careful about conserving ammunition.
Roy took advantage of some cloud cover to try and lose the enemy fighter jet. He increased the throttle speed and applied full rudder, hopefully if they couldn’t see the enemy he couldn’t see them. Roy thought he had better check the rest of the crew.
'Hey guys check in, will ya? I need to know if you're all still ticking.'
One by one the crew checked in with Roy, Varsinski, the tail gunner was the last of the crew to respond. He was a kid from Idaho who had been a mechanic before the war. He used to go duck hunting with his father and was now able to use his skills to shoot down enemy aircraft. He had caught a flak splinter in the shoulder but was fine.
Roy took a moment to survey the damage. Altimeter and artificial horizon had stopped working, the windscreen was shattered letting in a gale of a draught. Thank God for heated flight suits. Even though Roy was 6'' in height and weighed 210 lbs, he was starting to struggle to hold he B-17 straight and level. He was having to keep the rudder pedal down all the time, every time he let go the aircraft would veer to the left.
'Hey, Dave, you busy?' shouted Roy to the navigator.
'No sir, sat with my feet up' .
'Get up here and give me a hand. You are now the unofficial co-pilot.'
'On my way', Dave replied.
Dave Barker made his way up the fuselage of the aircraft, he had to move the dead co-pilot out of his seat first, this wasn't easy as he was a big man. He dumped him unceremoniously in the bomb bay, leaving a dark red smear of blood in his wake.
'We seem to have lost him, everyone' said Roy, referring to the enemy plane, 'but keep your eyes peeled.'
Apart from the damage to the front of the aircraft and the dead crew-member, Roy felt that they had got off quite lightly. All engines were still working ok and they were on their way back to Lincolnshire, England. He wished he hadn't lost the formation but he hadn't much choice. First there had been flak, hitting the aircraft sending it all over the sky and then the cloudbase. The Lorna Jane had been at the very back of the formation, the most vulnerable place to be. His C.O had told him it was because he was the most experienced pilot, he had a good record of getting back to base after a mission had finished.
His mind drifted back to the weekend dance in the village.
There was little to occupy the American bomber crews in rural England. The only events that sparked some excitement were the local village dances. The absence of local young men and a surplus of young ladies usually meant a good night. Roy, a tall handsome all-American man was single. His strong athletic build from time spent on the athletic track had resulted in plenty of admirers of the opposite sex, but he had always been shy in female company.
'Look at that broad over there Roy – the dark haired one, she’s never taken her eyes off you since we got here', said Frank Schmidt, his co-pilot.
Roy was busy draining another pint of weak English beer. He put his glass down and glanced over. She was in her early twenties and slim with a pale complexion. Everyone in England looked pale, the rationing was to blame for that. This girl had the most beautiful brown eyes . Their eyes met. She smiled at him, he smiled back.
'Aren't you going to ask her for a dance?' If you don't , I'm flamin' sure I will', said Frank, who had also been admiring her.
'I'll finish my beer first man'.
Unfortunately for Roy, another airman had made his way over to her and was leading her on the dance floor as he was putting his empty glass down.
'You've lost your chance there Roy', goaded Frank.
'Wanna bet?, he replied.
Roy straightened his tie, and walked towards the dancing couple.
'Excuse me, I believe there is a Sergeant Wallace looking for you, he's waiting outside with the jeep'
'What ?', said the young airman.
'You are needed back at base, something to do with your 'plane, some flak damage that wasn't reported'.
'It'll wait 'til morning, can't you let me dance ?'
'That's an order', said Roy, in his best parade ground voice.
His adversary stopped dancing, and was going to say farewell to his dancing partner but she had not stopped staring at Roy since he walked over. He walked over the dance floor, avoiding the other couples and walked out of the door without looking back.
'May I have the pleasure of this dance Ma’am?', said Roy
'It would be rude of me to say no'.
'What do they call you anyway?', asked Roy as they danced round the hall.
'My name is Kate and you?'
'Captain Roy Stevenson of the U.S Army Air Force at your service'.
'ROY. ROY! Two Focke Wulfs on the starboard side', a voice shouted at him over the intercom, waking him up from his daydream.
'Hang on everyone, corkscrew to port'. Roy took the B-17 into a steep corkscrew dive, in an attempt to shake off another enemy fighter. Would they make it home?