The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 6

Anthony Barker, relieved that he could stay at Cambridge, behaved and concentrated on his studies. Johnny Faulkner, who had already adjusted well to university life, once again forgave his friend for his misdemeanours. Both young men joined the university’s political societies, Johnny becoming a member of the Tory Club and Anthony the Fabian Society, which he found more suited to his political leanings.

They continued to lead a hectic life, excelling in the track events they took part in against other universities and national athletic meetings. Recognising their success, the Men’s Blue Committee awarded Anthony Barker a full blue for competing at the highest level of university sport and winning varsity races against Oxford. To Johnny Faulkner’s delight and Anthony’s chagrin, they awarded Johnny the extraordinary full blue, given to world-class standard athletes, although their tutors wrung their hands in despair as their coursework and exam results suffered.

However, the masters of their respective colleges wrung their hands in delight, when hearing the Amateur Athletics Association of Great Britain had selected both the young men to represent their country in the Olympic Games in Germany.

The friends even found time to take up the offer of two free air experience flights with the Cambridge University Air Squadron. They fulfilled their dreams as young boys back on the clifftops of Dover as they soared high over the Cambridgeshire Fens, strapped into the front seat of an Avro 504 bi-plane with an instructor in the rear. Anthony went up first for the short 30-minute flight and landing, climbed out of the cockpit with a big grin on his face. Johnny was next and after the Avro had landed and taxied to a stop, he removed his flying helmet and turned to his friend who had run up alongside.

‘That was bloody marvellous!’

‘Yes, it was.’ agreed Anthony in an excited voice.

They thanked the instructor and went to the old cricket pavilion that was now the squadron’s office. Both agreed on the spot they would join the Royal Air Force, realising they could experience excitement and exhilaration that would be impossible to find in any normal job.

The Squadron was seeking recruits as events on the world stage were bringing about a massive increase in the number of pilots required by the Royal Air Force. With their heads still in the clouds above, they applied to join as student members with the title of officer cadets, which carried the privileges, but not the rank, of commissioned officers.

Accepted into the RAF as cadets the studies for their degrees suffered even more as their love of running and now flying took precedent. Johnny and Anthony enjoyed their flying lessons, impressing their instructors with their natural flying ability and before long, they were offered and accepted commissions in the RAF Volunteer Reserve with the rank of acting pilot officers. Attending a minimum of one training night a week during full term, in the form of a lecture given by a guest speaker on some aspect of the Royal Air Force, they completed two weeks of continuous training during the long vacation from Cambridge, squeezed in between athletics meetings.

Fellow student Tom Becket, who had followed Johnny’s advice and was dating one of the chorus girls performing in a musical at the Cambridge theatre, had listened with interest to his friend extolling the joys of flying in the RAF and had joined the squadron. They became experienced pilots, little realising that in the non-too distant future, they would be part of a very select group of young men fighting for their lives in the skies over Kent, defending their country against the overwhelming might of the German Luftwaffe.

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