The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 55

After their busy day in the office, Charlie and Samantha arrived at the museum in Hawkinge where Dave met them at the entrance and invited them.

‘Hi guys, how’s it going?’

‘Fine, thanks.’ they both replied.

‘What have you got to show me?’ asked Dave.

‘We’ve got the court martial record.’ said Charlie. ‘But it’s still secret, so mum’s the word.’

‘I thought the restriction was lifted by now.’

‘Nah, it’s been reclassified.’

‘So how did you manage that?’ asked Dave in surprise.

‘Ways and means. But it’s on a strictly need to know basis.’ joked Charlie

‘C’mon, let’s go up to my office.’

In the old control tower, Charlie asked Samantha for the papers. She took them out of her bag, handed them to Charlie and told Dave about the diary she had found. Charlie showed Dave the findings of John Faulkner’s court martial which he read with interest.

‘Tell Dave your theory about what you think happened, Sam.’ said Charlie, turning to look at Samantha.

’As you know, Dave, John Faulkner was my great uncle and a fighter ace before the court martial. The contents of my grandmother’s diary paint a very different picture to that of the official findings and if true, he was innocent and instrumental in saving the top secret equipment fitted in that Hurricane you found from falling into enemy hands.

‘Yes, and I see from the statement they thought it crashed in the sea.’

‘That’s right.’ agreed Samantha.

‘Well, that wouldn’t have been unusual to have got the crash sites mixed up. There was a lot of confusion during the heat of the battle as the RAF was stretched to the very limit.’ emphasised Dave.

‘So do you think the Hurricane my uncle was flying was the one that crashed in the sea, Dave?’

‘I can do more than that, Sam. I can confirm that it did.’ replied Dave.

‘Great!’ exclaimed Samantha.

‘I’ll let you finish and then show you something downstairs in the museum I think you both might find rather interesting, after what you’ve just told me!’

’OK. Because in the diary it also states my uncle’s aircraft crashed in the sea after being attacked by Anthony Barker’s Hurricane. My uncle related to gran that after being hit, he had stayed at the controls and steered the damaged and burning Hurricane away from the town of Hythe, before bailing out with burns to his face and hands.

‘There’s one hell of a difference between the court martial findings and what’s been recorded in the diary.’ exclaimed Dave.

‘Yes there is, and if we can prove it’s true, then my uncle’s story should be told and his name cleared. He deserves to get a hero’s recognition, even though it happened so long ago.’ insisted Samantha

‘I’ll second that.’ acknowledged Dave, impressed with what Samantha had said.

‘What have you found out, Dave?’ asked Charlie.

‘Let’s show you.’

They went down the stairs from Dave’s office and into one of the large hangars of the museum, full of old aircraft and relics from the Battle, where he led them to a pile of metal in a corner. Samantha thought it was a pile of scrap metal, although she thought better than to ask Dave why he hadn’t sent it off for recycling.

Picking up a large piece from the pile, Dave showed it to them and explained,

‘This is the rudder spar from the Hurricane we’ve just dug out of the ground.’

‘The one with the secret radar and spy film?’ queried Charlie.

‘Yes. When we were examining some of the wreckage this morning, we found these bullet holes through the structure.’ Taking a tape measure out of his pocket, he measured across one hole.

‘Just over three tenths of an inch in diameter.’

‘Three tenths of a . . . what’s that in metric?’ asked Samantha.

’Oh, just over 7.5 mm. Which means a .303 machine gun bullet fired from a Browning machine gun fitted to Hurricanes made it. All the German Messerschmitt 109’s had smaller calibre machine guns and 20 mm canons. In other parts of the wreckage we found further evidence of damage caused by machine gun bullets fired from a Hurricane.′

‘So it was shot down by another Hurricane?’ asked Charlie.

‘Yes, I would say so. But come and have a look at this.’

Dave led them inside a smaller, low roofed hangar towards a long row of large aero engines on display and stopped by one in the middle.

‘This, Samantha, is the Rolls Royce Merlin engine that powered your uncle’s Hurricane on the day he was shot down in 1940.’

Samantha looked at it in surprise.

‘But I just told you upstairs that the diary stated his Hurricane was shot down and crashed into the sea after he bailed out.’ exclaimed Samantha, with a puzzled look on her face.

‘And so it did. A trawler’s net snagged the engine while fishing off Hythe a few years ago. The captain phoned me and we collected it from the harbour and brought it back here.’

‘It’s in very good condition for all that time under the sea.’ exclaimed Charlie,

‘How do you know it came from his Hurricane?’

‘We cleaned the engine up and identified it by the serial number, before putting it on display.’ said Dave, pointing out a bright stainless steel plate with a series of numbers stamped on it.

‘And look at this sticking out of the broken stub of one of the propeller blades.’

Charlie and Samantha leaned over.

‘A bullet?’ asked Charlie. ‘You’d expect that if the aircraft was shot down, wouldn’t you?’

‘Yes, but it’s not just any old bullet. It’s a B Mark VI incendiary bullet that failed to go off.’

‘A what?’ asked Samantha?

’To emphasise the point Dave took out of his pocket a similar spent bullet and showed it to them, holding it up between his fore finger and thumb.

‘What’s significant about that?’ asked Charlie.

‘It’s significant when you consider the fact that it’s another type of bullet fired only by RAF fighters. Samantha, your uncle shot the Czech pilot down as the court martial findings show, but now we’ve just confirmed that his Hurricane was also shot down by another Hurricane.’

‘Could it have been the Czech pilot who damaged your uncle’s Hurricane in the fight or was it fired from Barker’s Hurricane?’ asked Charlie.

‘It says in Gran’s diary that uncle thought Barker shot him down. But if he did, for what reason?’ wondered Samantha.

‘That’s what we intend to find out.’ confirmed Charlie.

‘Let’s go and have that drink.’ said Dave. ‘Do you mind giving me a lift to the pub and dropping me off later. I fancy a pint or two.’

‘Sure, no problems.’ replied Charlie.

Dave locked up and they walked over to Charlie’s car, Samantha squeezed in the back and Dave climbed in the front. They drove off and Charlie followed Dave’s directions to the Cat and Custard Pot pub next to the boundary fence of the old wartime airfield. Inside the pub, they ordered their drinks and joined a few of the volunteer members from the museum already sitting at a long table, warming themselves up in front of a roaring log fire crackling away in the large fireplace. The pub was full of atmosphere with two large models of a Hurricane and Spitfire hanging from the ceiling and prints of pilots, aircraft and memorabilia from the Battle of Britain displayed along the walls.

Over more drinks and tucking into the delicious home cooked pub food, the conversation inevitable came round to discussing the state of the country. All agreed that the country was in a right mess and hoped that the newly-elected Prime Minister, Carol Dowding and her new government would get it back on the right track. The consensus around the table was why had the country been allowed to get in such a mess.

Julian Richardson, a large friendly guy and a wizard with all things mechanical spoke up.

‘I blame it on the likes of Tony Blair and his cronies with their fudged economic policies and non-existent immigration controls. I reckon it was a cover up so Blair could make millions for himself out of the chaos. By rights they should bang him up and chuck the key away after all that weapons of mass destruction crap which resulted in Iraq being invaded.’

‘Here, here.’ agreed Ed, another volunteer and a competent joiner who repaired and kept the museum’s wooden exhibits in top order.

‘And another thing, what about all these bloody refugees?’ Julian continued, ‘They’re coming over by the boat load and the majority are healthy young men fleeing their country in time of war! They’re nothing better than deserters and I bet there’s more than a few ISIS terrorists in their midst. Just imagine what our country would be like now if our RAF boys had done a runner before the battle! We would all be living under a large Nazi jackboot, just like that new series on the box, what’s it called?’

‘SS-GB. I’ve read the book it’s based on written by Len Deighton.’ replied Louis Turner, another competent mechanic.

‘That’s the one, and with all this immigration, they will succeed where the Nazis failed, and destroy our culture, unless something is done about it pretty damn quick.’

‘Too bloody right!’ agreed Lucy, one of the few girls helping at the museum.

‘Some of our town councils won’t even allow us Brits to fly the flag of St George in case it offends the extreme Muslims. Yet they allow them to fly their ISIS flag and even their battle flag. It’s a load of bloody tosh!’

‘Too right, my mate’s wife is a nurse at the local NHS hospital, and her boss told her to remove her silver cross necklace, as it might upset Muslim patients!’ growled Julian.

‘We want to do the same as Trump proposes on the Mexican border, build a bloody high wall on the coast of Kent to keep them out. If any do-gooders claim it’s against the immigrants’ civil liberties, kick them out as well!′

‘And talking about Trump, I saw in the news he’s coming over to complete the talks made when Carol Dowding flew over there to meet him after getting elected. It looks like there could be interesting times ahead!’ said Charlie.

‘Let’s put our faith in this new government, shall we.’ said Samantha, knocking back her fourth gin and tonic and agreeing with all the comments.

‘At least we’re on our way out of the German dominated EU now which will give us the opportunity of renewing trade with the Commonwealth and America, and hopefully stricter controls on immigration.’

‘Bravo!’ came shouts from around the table and beer mugs thumping on the table.

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