409 Squadron RCAF: The Nighthawks
(continued from previouspage)... I've joined the air force to be in charge of something or other. And leading a convoy - well, nothing to it! I've seen lots of convoys - - even Padre Loftus took a convoy from Lille to Rheine! Piece of cake! "OK Fixer! Gimme a pin-point! Where is this place?" Half an hour later, at 1430 hours to be precise, the Herrenvolk were privileged to see a six truck convoy heading out for Lingen, the Educational officer in charge well burdened with maps, instructions, pin points and threats of what would happen if said con- voy was not back by 1830 hours.
Victoriously we rumble through town. At the bridge the Hun policeman pays proper deference to the convoy and we head north. Suddenly we come to a fork, which way to go? No directions. The obvious road well paved says "Not for military traffic". The other road is a cow-path. We end up in a farmer's what do you call it? Further entrance verboten. I descended from my Crossley, somewhat handicapped by a hog trying to embrace me, through the lorry window.
My hard bitten Canadian airmen surround me and regard me reproachfully. They know full well that our ultimate destination is not a German farmyard. We about turn and carry on.
The tires burn on the excellent German roads. Spirits soar. After all, even Napoleon made mistakes. Mile after mile hums by. We're on the right road. We may be a few hours late but -- better late than never!
Then out of the blue the road ends. The river - it's a nice little river but no bridge. We were stymied. My airmen cluster around. I feel their thoughts. "Clueless Smith, wrong road again".
A young Jerry appears. "Detour" he says in perfect English. I've visions of traps, bombs, machine gun nests, mines etc on lonely side roads. My airmen eye me. We hear some frightful explosions in the distance. Cannon? Mines? Werewolves? - - Grim? Yes! But the kites must fly to-morrow. "Forward" I cry. We reach Lingen, I think by paths hitherto untrod by man. But we reach Lingen, load up and set course for home - - Rheine.
It is nearly dark. The sun sets in a glory of splendour. And I realize that I'm lost again. Something went wrong. The Jerry sign said "Rheine - - straight ahead '. But it was wrong. Maybe I shouldn't say wrong. Misguided perhaps. Anyway Crossley's can't swim. And there is no bridge. Only a sullen Hun river blocking an otherwise commendable road.
We turn back to Lingen, try another road. Ten miles go by. We chug effortlessly along. Soon home now. Bit late perhaps. Anyway the kites fly to-morrow night. Perhaps we saved the war - - MBE - - presentation by His Majesty - - quite modest - - men deserve all the credit - - I snooze.
"Cor stone the bleedin crows!" I jolt myself awake.
Another bridge out. Oh Lord! But what's this? A
horrible little road leaving the highway. Must be a
detour, - - doesn't look so good - but damn! It
must be the road. I lead the way. Through a couple
of fields we go. I look back. Headlights pierce the
gloom (thank Gawd I'm not alone). Down into the
depths of a forest the road leads on. A breeze whistles
menacingly through the branches.
"HEH! HEH!" it mocks, "Machine gun nest right ahead; Bags of mines". A frenzied honking of horns. I get out. One truck in the creek! Blackie and Hawky curse and work and out comes the huge lorry. We press on. We reach a corn field - - the road leads on. And on - - in a circle. We find ourselves back in the forest the way we came. No bridge. And so back to Lingen and sleep in the trucks 'till dawn.
It's 9 A.M. the next day. Rheine at last! Fiksdal's huge but non-amiable bulk descended upon me. "No time now for a damn honeymoon!" There's a war on. "Where in hell have you been?"