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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 89 - Watch Your Tails

..."Above all, watch your tails and keep the sun out of your mirror. It's always out of the sun the bandits come. You'll not see them until it's too late if you don't watch your mirror all the time." Then he left the table, telling them to make themselves available for take-off in fifteen minutes...

The aerial battle intensifies in the skies over England, and John Illingworth is in the thick of it.

John Waddington-Feather continues his absorbing novel which revolves around the lives of the Illingworths, a Yorkshire mill-owning family. To read earlier episodes please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

The next day, Sydney flew with John as a replacement for one of the dead pilots. John shadowed him like a hawk, taking on any German fighter that came their way, till he felt Sydney had been blooded and could handle himself. After that, they flew regularly day after day for some weeks.

Whenever there was a lull in the bombing, they would snatch a day or two's leave when Sarah would join them in a cottage that John rented.
It lay deep in the Sussex countryside, in another world it seemed. Autumn was drifting in, heavy with scent from the hedgerows. The evenings brought with them the pungency of damp earth when the dew fell. As ever, it was a time of the wistfulness, of departing summer. Leaves were already beginning to turn and there were hints of frost. The Goldsteins and John savoured every minute.

As night fell they sat before a roaring log fire reminiscing about the past, about their salad days before the war, about Helen and their motor jaunts. They never spoke about the future. None of them dared think what it might hold.

The morning after one such leave, John was wakened roughly by his batman telling him to get up. "Jerry's sending another lot over, sir," he said. "They picked 'em up on the radar heading this way. Reckon they'll be here in an hour. Oh, and there's a couple of new gentlemen, sir. Came while you were away. I said you'd see 'em over breakfast."

John thanked him and after a quick shower scrambled into the fresh clothes his batman had laid out. Then, when he had dressed, he went over to the mess to meet the newcomers. Most of his squadron were there already and stood as he entered. He told them to carry on, then went to his place where the new men awaited him, eating their breakfast.

He wished them good morning then told them they would be in the
thick of it before long, briefing them what to do once they were in the air. One of the newcomers looked so young John asked him his age. "Nineteen, sir," he replied. He had gone straight into the air-force from his school cadet force. For the first time John felt the enormous weight of responsibility he carried and avoided the youngster's eye through their meal.

"Nervous?" was all he could muster.

"A bit like going in to bat for the first time," he answered. "But I'll be all right once I'm flying, sir."

John merely nodded. "I'm sure you will," he said, then turned to the rest of the squadron, speaking quickly while they were still eating. He told them they would be in action within the hour, stressed crucial points to the new men about what avoiding action to take and what to do if they were hit.

"Above all, watch your tails and keep the sun out of your mirror. It's always out of the sun the bandits come. You'll not see them until it's too late if you don't watch your mirror all the time." Then he left the table, telling them to make themselves available for take-off in fifteen minutes.

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