Monday, August 19, 2013
Cambridge, after the bombing by Tallthinkev
Major Whitbread introduced Jack Smith to Reg Markham, they shook hands.
'As you can see well have a bit of a problem here' Jack looked around and could see what the Major meant. From he had already caught a glimpse of some planes on the common from Coldhams Lane. Now that he was closer could have a quick count up.
'I can see seven. Any more?' he couldn't see every part of the now improvised strip.
'We have nine here, two on Midsummer, three on Stourbridge and one on Jesus Green and another on Parker’s Piece.' said the Major.
'That's sixteen in all Mr Smith.'
'Yes I can count, Sargent Major. Also I do prefer Jack we maybe working for sometime,'
'If you say so sir.'
Jack let that go. He had taken a liking to Reg already.
'So, what do you need Mr Smith.' asked Whitbread
'If you can let me have a couple of your men for the rest of the day? They can write down the things, right or wrong with each plane. Will that be all right?'
'Mr Markham. Sort out a couple of the lads to help Mr Smith. It also maybe an idea if you stay as well.'
Whitbread left them to it.
Fifteen minutes later they had reached the first aircraft, a Spitfire Mk XIV. Jack went to inspect it more closely and then asked an army corporal to get in the cockpit.
'In there sir? What do you want be to do?'
This might be a little harder than Jack had thought. 'Get into the cockpit and wiggle the stick around and move the pedals a bit. And don't touch anything else.'
Twenty seconds later there was a burst of machine gun fire.
Jack and Reg had thrown themselves down. After a good minute, lying on the sodden ground they got to their feet.
Very sheepishly the corporal said 'Sorry.'
'Bugger me. I told you not to touch anything else.'
'I didn't, the stick thing had a red button on it and I..'
Jack cut him off. 'Get to the airport and find Willy or Tom. Anybody. And get back here as soon as you can. Take my bike.' It took nearly all his composure not to hit the man.
'Be quick about it man.' shouted Markham. With that the man started running towards Jack's bike and away from CSM Markham.
While the man was away Jack and Reg started chatting. 'Fag, jack?'
'Thank you no, I don't. You got called up again?'
'That's about the size of it. What did you do, the last time around?'
Jack told him 'You?' Reg replied.
'What about before?'
'Working at the Star.'
'The Burleigh Arms still the brewery pub?'
Again Reg nodded.
'Pint after we finish?' This was typical of Jack, anything for a cheap pint. Free, was even better. The same went for food. Fifteen minutes of more chatting later, Tom came up to them.
'What's what then?'
Two of the planes were right off's, good for spares but not much else. Four more had had a wheels up landing. As with all landings like that different things happened to different aircraft, some, of course, worse than others. Jack thought they could be brought up to standard within a week or so. Another had collapsed it's port undercarriage. The wing tip, on first check, should be all right. Bash it out a bit, it only a bit of ally. But you never knew.
The other two , at first glance seemed to be all right. Still they needed a better look. They were fine.
Clear the rest out of the way and they should be OK for taking off from, almost, where they stood. Would 750 yards be enough?
The consensus was yes.
If they were able to clear everything out the way, tow or push them as far back as they could and then the very short hop to the airport.
That was if they could get the airport back up and running, a tall order at the moment.
The airport had taken some damage on the concrete runway from the bombing. However the grass strips where in much better shape.
Send them to Waterbeach, or Witon? Could well be a better idea, but than they would have to be refuelled, for anything more than 25 miles and this would increase the take off run.
Another thing to take into consideration when space was tight.
Even with Double Summertime it got dark at 8.00pm, so nothing could be done until the next morning.
Jack left, with Reg. A pint or three called.
Things were in hand, the next morning, when Jack had put his bike up at Coldhams Lane. An hour after he arrived and rode the half mile to Stourbridge common.
Nothing could be done there, two were beyond repair and the third, even though flyable, there wasn't a chance it could take off. It was always damp here and the recent rain, short but very heavy showers, had made it more a like a fen than normal.
Nothing to be done could be done with these apart from taking them apart, they couldn't fit them on a lorry as the trip meant going via Oyster Row.
It was getting a little too warm for Jack as he biked the along the river to Midsummer Common
It was almost hot, he stopped by River Lane and took off his jacket.
A minute later he arrived at the common, A slight smile came across his face as her saw the first aircraft.
Something he did know about.
Fabric wings, fabric fuselage and as tough as old boots.
The fly in the ointment was the Fw 190, wheels up, ten feet in front of it and the fact in was upside down made things worse.
'Bugger.' was all he could say.
By the middle of the afternoon Jack had made a quick inspection of all the planes that had been recorded landing in Cambridge. There will be more that was for sure.
Jack return to the airport just after four. Willy rushed up. 'Have you seen it?'
'It came in last night, it's wonderful news.'
'Come on spit it out boy.'
'What's bloody wonderful? Jack was a little peeved now.
'A Yak, one of the jet ones and the pilot he landed it here,'