The map itself had to have its scale changed from the first Battle of Britain. The accursed Soviet planes could reach every corner of the British Isles, and therefore, the map had to cover over five times what the original maps had to cover. The girls' reach was not five times farther so the map had to stay the same size yet show the increased area hence the scale change. The number of blocks representing the VVS squadrons did not seem to be getting any smaller yet the ones representing the RAF were noticeably less, much less.
There were calls for "Lend Lease" planes from the US and rumors that they were on the way but nothing as of yet. Some said that the Yanks were setting us up for a defeat by not sending more help. I had heard that there were ideas afloat to put thousands of RAF pilots onto the Queen Mary and have her bring them to the states to ferry the planes we need back from the US bone yards where they were being brought back into fighting shape. The sticking point would be how to get them past the VVS and they how to land them safely without being destroyed like all the others by marauding packs of Bats and Yaks and Beasts. Then how do you fuel them and take off again.
Night would seem to be the key as the Red Air force was still not up to RAF standards at night despite their new Nightmare Missile. Yes, I recall thinking, Nightmare Missile, as the press named them. I guess our radar that could see into the night, would seem like a nightmare to the other side as well. We are trading nightmares, how lovely.
Bill Sullivan:I could see Johnny Winslow's legs were moving faster than they have ever moved before. He was a track runner in secondary school, but he had never had motivation like this. There was a trail of 12mm machine-gun bullets that were fast approaching from behind him. Luckily, it was the rear-facing gunner of a Tu 2s Bat that was trying to take his life. It's hard to hit a small target from a moving plane. Not that I've tried, mind you. Johnny was a pilot who had no plane. However, he was also a former mechanic that knew the Spitfire in and out. One of the few remaining and undamaged Spits at the airfield and was sitting pretty as you please under some camouflage. Somehow Ivan missed seeing this one. All it needed was a critical part. I completely forgot what it was sorry to say. Johnny knew where there was one, and it was in danger of being destroyed as a petrol fire was inching its way towards a wrecked Mark 21. Johnny claimed it was the only one available for hundreds of miles, and we needed one from the wreck that was about to become a melted hunk of metal. The fire, you see, was started by them Red buggers flying that twin engine job they got similar to the ME 110, but it was actually a medium bomber that could out fight most fighters in its day. They were tearing up Wittering like nobody's business. The only thing moving that day was Johnny running to get to that soon to be flaming wreck. What good was one more target flying around for the Reds to shoot down was what I was thinking, but Johnny was convinced that if he could get that Spit in the air the war was won.
I have to admit Johnny was a good pilot but his running across the open for 300 meters, during an air raid that consisted of every low flying, strafing, napalming plane the Reds had was a decision only the young would make. I tried to hold him back, but he was stronger and more determined than me. Well, he made it 217 meters. I measured it. That tail gunner in the last Red bomber got a lucky shot. Johnny never knew what hit him. I did. A 12 mm bullet makes a pretty big hole in the middle of a 20 year olds chest. It hit him with so much force that he practically flew backwards, so come to think of it. He actually made it 219 meters. Funny how I never thought of that before.
Nicola Kornev:I was one of the few surviving ventral gunners from our squadron. The Tu-2 is a good plane...for the pilot. The pilots almost always survived and were heavily protected by sheets of steel in the just the right places. The planes vital parts were also protected. In fact, of the thousands made I have read that only 70 were shot down in the Great Patriotic War. It was remarkable for a ground attacking bomber. The designer had neglected however, to give even a modicum of protection to the gunners who faced the rear. Each has a single 12 mm machine gun and in the case of the dorsal gunner and my position, not even bullet-proof glass. If there was any air opposition, then the gunners average life span was limited to five sorties yet the plane flew on. We patched up the holes washed out the blood and other body parts, and a new gunner or gunners were installed. I had fifteen missions done already. Most were from the current battle over the British countryside. Other gunners rubbed my head for luck. It did them no good.
It was a typical sortie. We were sent to one of the last remaining airfields in Southern England. We were in the third wave and so things were usually pretty finished with by that time. Our wave concentrated on the mechanics, ground crew and were even given rewards for killing the most personnel on the base. I find it highly distasteful to shoot at someone who is not trying to shoot me but my comrades demand we do our duty. First, the dorsal gunner started shooting as the pilot started a steep climb. Then he yelled at me to take a shot. I spotted the young limey dressed like a pilot running down what was basically the runway of the airfield. He was out in the open and running as fast as he could towards something. What he was doing there I have no idea, but I could not ignore him.
As is the case with most accidents, I'm sure, I could not have hit the running pilot if I tried, but I knew I had to take some shots or be put up on charges. I shot and hit him, in mid stride, just as the pilot straightened out the plane. The force of the bullet sent him flying backwards in a spray of blood. The bullet caught him while he had neither foot was on the ground. It was not something I'm proud of.
They gave me a medal for it. The running man was so far from any cover that it was hard for anyone not to see what was happening. I swear I hear a yell of rage from the ground after he fell in a tangle of lets arms and did not get up. Others must have been watching his run from the trenches and bunkers; we were supposed to strafe in the hopes of killing some grounds crew or even a mechanic.
We never again were we attacked from the air in those last weeks before we were hastily transferred to the Black Sea area. I regret to this day taking the life of the runner. It really was an accident more than a well aimed skillful killing. My deeds, whether by design or not, did get me transferred from the gunner position. I was given a medal and sent to bombardier school. I can think of two times that the armor plate near the pilot saved my life in my new position. During the whole of the war, we never had another gunner last more than eight missions. One or the other was always getting killed or maimed. The gunners in the IL-10 were given more armor but not our gunners in the Tu-2S. I guess the Runner saved my life by giving up his.
After Johnny was hit the same plane that shot him found the last Spitfire on the field. We knew it was the same one because it was painted with a sharks mouth and was quite distinctive. A few well-placed burst of fire and it was aflame, and then it blew up. We've talked it over, and we all agreed it was the same gunner in the tail area of that plane that both killed Johnny and hit that Spitfire. I sure hope he's proud of his days work.
By the time we got to Johnny, he was dead. He probably died instantly. I hope so. At least that gives us some feeling of comfort. I recall that William was really upset. He even tried to stop Johnny from going running all that way in the open like that. I mean what bloody good is one more plane going to do with the bleeding Reds flying willy-nilly all over like they owned the place. In fact, they did own the air for the most part. You couldn't drive a vehicle, especially a lorry in the day. Those bloody red bastards seemed to smell diesel fuel and appeared out of nowhere whenever a truck engine started up much less tried to run down the road. There was just too many of them and they were all over the bleeden place. Excuse my language mum, but I get upset when I think about those times and bad times they were. Yes bad times they were.
They sure put a crimper in the air operations out of Wittering. We never got a plane off the ground again during the whole battle. They would come and check occasionally and attack anything that looked like it was new or being repaired or just not destroyed. Those Red bastards never let up during the day. They was always around. Flying around looking for something to kill or destroy. There were just too many of them. Just too many of them...
I knew what had happened the minute William showed up at the house. He and Johnny were mates, mates for life. William showing up alone meant only one thing. Only one thing... my Johnny was dead. Oh it hurt so bad I couldn't even cry it hurt so bad. It just sat there like an explosion behind my eyes trying to find a way out. It did of course eventually. Oh how it did. Then the tears came, and they still haven't stopped. Every night I think of me Johnny. The way he laughed and could make you feel like there wasn't a care in the world. Now that's all that is gone. All the cares of the world have returned.
Mr. Winslow still hasn't acknowledged that our Johnny is gone. He sits on the porch like he expects him to come down the lane at any time. He doesn't go to work and barely eats. The Vicar can't do anything with him. He just looks right through you. Looks right through you trying to see Johnny coming down the lane. Not even the official notice delivered by the RAF changed his mind.
Who knows maybe he sees Johnny, and we just don't. How can a man go from being life itself to being a lifeless body? Still breathing, still going to sleep, still going to the loo but not quite alive. I'm so ashamed, but I'm angry at Johnny for leaving and taking Mr. Winslow with him. I've lost both my boy and my husband, my friend, my life.