“Pulpit duty Sam!” called Major Jack Larson. It was August 1915.
Shit! I lowered Ransome’s biography of Oscar Wilde.
Nicotine-stained fingers tossed me a small envelope containing white powder.
With cocaine surging through my brain, our BE9 experimental biplane roared upwards, leaving Farnborough far below. Before long, the English Channel sparkled, silver and luminescent beneath us.
Hitting the French coast we turned northwards, soon spotting our target, the ominous cigar-shape of a London-bound Zeppelin.
My body vibrated with the thunderous noise of the engine directly behind me, and, mounted in the wooden pulpit before me, lay our powerful Lewis gun, the magazine loaded with incendiary rounds, ready to ignite the airship – and its occupants.
Suddenly, hearing a high-pitched whine, I looked upwards, shielding my eyes against the sun. Something silver flashed and for the first, and only, time in my life I saw the glint of a Fokker Eindekker. I felt my guts emptying.
Then came the wasp-like buzzing of bullets and we were spiralling down towards the sparkling waves. Jack was gone and I cursed the BE9’s designers, knowing that in one minute the RAF-1a engine would impact my spine…