Monday, February 04, 2008

Personal Diary: Stg. Valentine "Val" McDonald, RAF

May 28th, 1944
By goodness, this house is odd. The upstairs lavatory flushes entirely of its' own accord, and the piano in the dining hall randomly bangs out notes as if a tone-deaf child were playing on it. Worse, the new wing that we were using to bunk in is constantly cold at night. Even with a fire in the hearth it was too cold for a night's sleep. Today we spent the morning moving the bunks into the room we were using for storage, and moving the equipment into that hellish icebox. The storage room is smaller, but at least we'll be able to rest at night. Minor annoyances, but annoyances none-the-less.

Yesterday I was busy helping the lads set up some of the perimeter flak cannons. I've flown through fire from those things quite a few times now, and let me tell you, they're as impressive up there as they are on the ground. With enough firing into the night sky, the law of averages says you'll hit something. We now have the manor surrounded with flaks and two further anti-aircraft guns in the drive. Nothing to stop a tank rumbling up to say hello, but this far into the British countryside, I doubt those krauts will make it here on the ground. We should be fine.

June 1st, 1944
A new month. The boys and I have been here three weeks now, waiting for orders and monitoring the situation on the continent. Reports from command suggests that there is something big going to happen very soon. Thompson has been telling me that he's heard through the grapevine that we're going to assault France, but as usual, the boys here have been left out of the loop. I can't imagine we'll have anything to do. This manor has been under RAF use for four years now and it's the dead-zone assignment. Anyone who gets stationed here just sits on the ground for their term of duty scratching their hind quarters and praying for a scrap.

That is something that still unnerves me. The war is raging across Europe, yet we're here with four Spitfires, three American Hurricanes, our own Lankie and far too much anti-aircraft support for such a small area so far inland. I've seen the command centre in the study. It certainly looks the business, but I can't help feel that it's too far away from anywhere it can do any good. And why have a fully manned bomber here? The Spitfires and Hurricanes I can understand. They're here in case we do end up getting hit. But what would our target be? There's nothing for miles around this manor, and I know even our Lankie would need to refuel before carrying out a mission over the Channel. Sitting in my safe on board the bird is a sealed set of orders. I wish I knew what they said, but I'll have to wait for an attack to open them.

Honestly, I hope I never do.

June 13th, 1944
Reports on the radio say that D-Day was quite the jolly good success. Now that the smoke has cleared and a fair chunk of occupied France is no longed occupied, it looks like this war might finally be coming to an end. The boys around the manor are claiming intelligence has word that Hitler thoughtNormandy was all a decoy! Never underestimate us Brits. Best damned military in the world, despite what the Americans claim. Gretzky loves to get the boys blood boiling, talking about all the great things America has done in the war already. I know he's just having fun, and I try not to rise to the challenge, but he isn't making any friends among the lads, and we've been here long enough now.

Too long for some. Wilkinson worries me. He's gotten used to constantly being on the move, never in one place for more than a few days. Last night he told me that he's been seeing ghosts. He claims to see them moving on the back stairs, but I use that all the time and have never seen anything. If this were any other of the lads, I'd send them packing and restrict rations for a few days for trying to pull such a pathetic prank. But Wilkinson is not like that. I don't think I've ever heard him tell a joke or try something funny. He gets so focused on the task at hand, and he keeps that focus. I think it might be that. He's been focused for five weeks now. Everyone's getting on edge. We've been here too long.

God. Let this war end soon, or let us back in the air for something more than test and maintenance runs. We have a lousy two hours scheduled for tomorrow in the air. We haven't spent more that a few hours among the clouds since we first got here five weeks ago. This is the longest most of us have been on solid ground since the war broke out.

June 15th, 1944
While I was dropping off yesterdays flight check reports to the command room I noticed the pins on the wall-map. Seems like the Luftwaffe is making pushes into the English countryside under the dead of night. I'm not sure what they're looking for, or why it's so important that they are willing to come this far into enemy territory, but if I didn't know better, I'd say those pins were coming here.

Damn this house. Damn this place. Damn this war.


Cian said...

That picture of the house is driving me nuts. I know I recognise it, I thought it was Bletchley park but it's not. I thought it had something to do with the Manhattan project but I can't find any reference to it. Maybe it was used in a film or something but I don't know which one. Please, tell me where you got that photo.

Denis said...

I just googled "English Manor" images. It's the fiftth one across the top.

According to the page it is Virginia House:

"Constructed from the materials of a sixteenth century English manor house, it was the home of Alexander and Virginia Weddell. Completed in 1929, it is now owned and operated by the Virginia Historical Society as a museum."

Cian said...

I guess it was just a film location or something, according to IMDB there were 120 films shot at least partly in Richmond, Virginia. On the other hand maybe it's the style of the house that's familiar rather than the house itself.