Thursday, January 3, 2013
No More Bones to Pick
Tom picked himself up. He still couldn’t hear anything but the explosions has stopped, and the heat had died down. He could feel that least. As he looked around he could not comprehend what he saw. What had been hectors of stored aircraft and repair facilities were now smoking, burning rubble with flames reaching for the sky and smoke blotting out the sun. Incredible carnage as far as his eye could see. He only had one eye now as a result of the second explosion that had knocked him down as he tried to man his dual 40 mm anti-aircraft gun. He may have nicked the plane that took his eye, but he couldn't be sure. He couldn't even walk straight, probably something to do with his ears.
One eyed and deaf he wandered around trying to avoid the biggest fires and to search for anyone else. He found a wounded woman and tried to help her, but she screamed and curled up into a ball when she looked at him. At least it looked like she was screaming. Mouth open and that look of shock and fear. Yeah she was screaming only he couldn't hear her. He then felt the something kind of bouncing on his cheek and realized it was his left eye. No wonder she screamed. What the hell do you do with an eye that’s hanging out of its socket? Do you try and put it back? He felt tired and collapsed near the curled up woman.
The piece of charred acreage that Tom was dying on was the home of the former RAF Maintenance and Aircraft Recovery unit 14 stationed in Carlisle. Hundreds of old Spitfires had been transported here for repair and refurbishing. Parts were cannibalized and swapped by the thousands. Hundreds of Spits had been rebuilt almost as good as new by the hundreds of skilled craftsman who used to live and work here. Now the Spitfires where pieces of burning junk and many of the skilled artisans were dead or dying. Tom was one of them. He could make a Merlin hum. Now he couldn't even hear one even if he hadn't passed out.
No one had thought to harden or even defend in detail this bone yard of World War Two surplus Spitfires that were about to be refurbished. Parked in neat rows ready for this or that part, they had been easy to destroy. All lined up ready for the cluster bombs and napalm of the Soviet bombers and fighters. Who had thought that the VVS could reach Carlisle in force? Who thought the Soviets knew about Carlisle and its gold mine of spare parts and mothballed Spits? Who thought that the Soviets knew where the most talented scroungers and scavengers in the United Kingdom were concentrated on this day?
Nineteen other bone yards had been attacked and all but two destroyed. Thirteen of the largest RAF Maintenance Units had ceased to exist as a unit today. 982 surplus Spitfires were destroyed along with hundreds of other aircraft. The greatest loss was to the highly trained mechanics and ground crews. The end result of the first 1000 plane raids by the VVS was that there were not more than a hundred surplus Spitfires available for the next three months and barely enough personnel to put them back together again. The attacks devastated the moral of the RAF in the short term. Shocked the British people and government into an almost catatonic state and brought home the fact that there was nowhere to hide from the Soviet Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily.
Every inch of the British Isles was within range of a massive enemy air force and once again a small but determined few would attempt to save their small nation from an attack from above.