'What the bloody hell is going on now?' he said to himself.Before him was a number of very out of date planes. 'All they need is a Heyford' he went on.
A few minutes later he was knocking on the door of Arthur Marshall.
'Come in Jack.' Jack did. 'I knew you would be here before long. You want to know what's going on, don't you?'
'Well I erm, was going to ask.'
'No need to ask I'll tell you right now. As you should know the Russian's used small slow planes to cause the very devils havoc to the Germans. Now it's our turn to do it to them.'
'By doing what?' asked Jack
'We need to find the best way to, buzz, I think the Americans call it, the Reds at night.'
Jack nodded, even though he didn't understand
Mr. Marshall carried on. 'We have to find out which of the one the Air
Ministry sent us is the best.'
'What do they mean by that.' Another nod.
'You know what they mean. As long as someone is doing something we can keep them of our backs, for a while at least. But we have to take this seriously. Shall we go and have a good look at what we have here. One thing I do know is one of them was sent by lorry in bits. Best bring young Wilhelm along, he may know what the Russian did.'
Two days later the biplanes they had been sent were ready for flight testing, even the Westland Wapiti. Apart from a few small bits and bobs things went well as expected and all flew.
The next day Jack again was called to the office.
'Right Jack, I want you and some other men to make your way to Wimpole Hall' said Arthur Marshall'
'Erm, why?', was Jack's reply.
'Why? I'll tell you why, because I told you to!' Arthur was not in the best of moods and it showed. Very unlike him in fact. Jack thought it was best to keep his mouth shut.
'I'm sorry Jack, that was uncalled for. We need to get to the hall because of prying eyes.'
Jack started to open his mouth, Arthur held up his hand. 'What I am going to tell you must never leave this office.'
'Spy's have been seen and caught in Newmarket Road.'
'Well I do know that, there was the bloke we captured at the Star. He was a wrong'ern.'
'Sorry, again, I had forgotten about that. Well anyway get to the hall and see how flat it is. We will test the planes there.'
It was the next day,Tuesday, before they got to Wimpole Hall. Coming over Orwell hill took the little Austin van all it had, mainly because it was five up. Jack and Will in the front and another three in the back. Jack was surprised to see a couple of lines of tent set up in the grounds as they got there, and a strip had been marked out along the tree less avenue the ran from the front of the house It only took an hour or so check things over before heading back to Cambridge Airport.
The next day, at Wimpole Hall the small team of airport workers waited for the planes to land. When they had all arrived, they took some time for the sight to sink in, it was strange mix to say the least. From left to right were the six biplanes and one monoplane farthest the right.
First thing first, was to get them undercover. Large tent had been erected for this purpose and each did not look like anything like a place to hide a plane. One even had a field kitchen next to it, the fact that it was a field kitchen certainly helped. The place did look like a small training camp with a shooting range to one side and an cross country course to the other. A small Home guard camp was the idea, something the Russians would not worry about.
Another concern was what to do with the Westland Wallace, with a wing span of nearly fifty feet and length of thirty five it was just too big for a tent which was likely to be used by the army. The fact that it needed a tent height or twenty feet was yet another thing.
The Lysander was even bigger.
'Why wouldn't a Lysander be here anyway.' asked Will
'What do you mean.' said Jack
'It is too big to hide, is it not?'
'So why don't we let anybody see it. It would not be out of place at a camp like this, and it would also make the marks on the runway look like one plane.
Jack wouldn't have put it quite like that, but he knew what Will was on about. 'Good lad.' was all he said.
Two days later all the equipment they thought they would need was at the hall, hidden in the six man tents. Machine guns, drop tanks, dummy bombs, amour plate. They all knew that there was going to be stuff they would need that wasn't here.
The Tiger Moth was the first to be worked one and the first one to be discounted. Where to put two 20mm canon was the sticking point. The Gloster Gladiator was next in line, yes canon could be fitted but there was just no place with fixed hard points to carry bombs. It was a fighter after all. It was also too fast, if fast was a bad thing, it was the first time anyone had heard that.
Germany had used the Heinkel He-51 for the same role as Russia, with the Po-2. The trouble was they had no Heinkels. The two things they did have was two Hawker biplanes. A Hind and an Audax
First things first, they were both in very good condition, both very much the same performance.
One thing did stand when just looking at them on the ground. The Hart had a tail wheel and the Audax a skid under the tailplane. Things that you couldn't see were the hard points on the Audax, for a very good reason, it didn't have any. The Hind by contrast did and they decided to start with that.
It took only an hour and a half to look over the Hind. Everything that should be there was..
Bright and early the next morning, too bright and too early as far as Jack was concerned, they were back. The powers that be had been thinking. Not that they had asked anyone who had to do the works opinion. The Hind was going be turned into a single seater.
'How would you do it?' was Jack reply.
'Well I would take out the seat, the ring mount for the Lewis gun and then cover with fabric.'
'I never thought I would say it, but you are learning young Tom.'
Jack was pleased how Tom had come along within the space of the last few months.
'Get to it then Tom, you're in charge.'
It took longer than Tom had hoped it would, mostly down to rusted bolts on the ring and the Lewis gun mount. He stuck to it anyway and was not put off by the delay.
'The lad is really getting to be a good worker.' said Arthur.
'Yes I think you well maybe right there.' said Jack standing beside him.
'There is just one thing.'
'We had to put a fuel tank in there.'
'Where? The place where the gunner was? I wouldn't want to fly it if it was there.'
'That makes two of us Jack. But as luck would have it we will also be putting in armor plate as well as the normal fire wall.
Jack did a bit of adding up. 'That's going to add the best part of 500lb to the all up weight. No, I haven't taken out the gunner.'
A few seconds later.
'Let's say without the gunner, seat, mount and gun and other bits and bobs.' Jack brow creased. 'It's still the best part of 250lb'
'Not quite.' was the answer from Arthur.
'What do you mean?'
'The added armor plate under and besides the pilot, the new tank and fuel, four 20mm canon plus a bomb load of, at least 750lb.'
Jack had to speak up, 'You mean it's going to be, what? 6500-7000lb? How the hell is it going to get of the ground?'
The work started two days later to find out if it could take off, let alone fly.
On the Friday, repair's started on the Hind. There was not too much to do, just where the starboard wing had clipped the ground. Cutting and fitting the tubular framework and then sow on the fabric and dope it. The under carriage somehow survived the 15ft drop from the hop the plane had managed to make before it ran out of runway.
Whilst Jack worked on the wing the rest striped the Hind of the extra fuel tank and took off two of the Hispano canons from under the wing. That already had taken the weight down by, the best part of 800lb, if the fuel was taken in to consideration. Still the Hind weighed more than the 4,650lb it was meant to carry. Jack after finishing the wing pointed, out that observer and his equipment was the best part of 250lb. That was taken off as well. Until Will pointed out that had already been take off when the tank was taken out.
'He's getting too clever by half.' muttered Jack.
This time for real.
Sluggish was the word that came to mind, others thought death trap.
It took the best part of 10 minutes to get to 7500ft, over twice as much as normal. This could be a real problem. But as Mr Camm said. 'Does it need to get that high if you want to attack the ground and not be detected by the Reds radar?' Another thing that hadn't been crossed the minds of those there.
Sunday morning was the set time for the mock attacks. The attack started at 15.00hrs along the course of the hundred foot drain, near Earth.
'A case of if you don't try, you don't know.' said Jack as they headed back to Cambridge.
Back home Jack slept. Then with almost a start he woke, got up and managed to find pencil and paper. This was something so obvious no one had though about.
'It's not what we had in mind, but should work. Why the hell didn't think of this myself.' said Arthur Marshall.
'I don't know why anybody didn't think of it.' said Jack 'Do you know where we can get some from?'
'Not too sure. Warboys might. Could still use one or two as station hacks I'll give them a ring.'
With that Jack left the office and went to collect his pay packet. He took it back a couple of minutes later.
'Anything wrong Jack.' asked Mavis
'There's 15 bob too much.'
'Let me check that, then dear.' Mavis looked in the large ledger. 'no everything seems to be fine. Well that'll mean a little more pocket money for young John won't it.'
'Yes I suppose it will.' and a good bottle of whisky for me thought Jack. It had been a very good day, after the last two weeks, it was about time. A plane for night attacks on the Russians and a pay rise. What's the next thing? They always come in three's.