Book excerpt: Courage in Combat: The Flying Fighters

Courage in Combat: Volume 1 – The Flying Fighters
This new fiction book, very much a departure from my previous efforts and current-day genre, will introduce some characters that I will follow from 1938 to 1941. In possible further books in the series, I hope and intend to follow the characters from 1941 right through to the end of the war in 1945, and perhaps beyond. The book(s), while fiction, will be based on historical fact, and I hope to introduce readers to some lesser known facts, situations, and locations that formed part of the overall fighting in WWII.  The book is intended for a Young Adult audience, and is initially about teenagers who signed up to be Air Force pilots.

Some of the characters will accurately portray Americans who traveled to Canada and to England, to join up with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force in order to get into the war and fight. After the US went to war in December 1941, many of them returned home to join the US Army Air Corps, but many stayed with the RCAF and RAF until 1945.

I hope I will be able to bring that dramatic period of history to life for my readers.

There is not yet a planned release date for the first book in the series, Courage in Combat: Volume 1 – The Flying Fighters.  

An short excerpt of the book follows:


Attleborough Airfield, East Anglia, England
Height above sea level, 252 feet
September 28, 1940, 1610 hours

Pilot Officer Jon Sinclair climbed out of the cockpit of his Hawker Hurricane to be met by the squadron’s second in command.  Jon had been the last one to make it back, and he’d had to nurse his small fighter plane all the way in.  By the time he made it back, Flight Lieutenant Smallwood had firmly established that this new Canadian addition to the squadron had met the standards necessary to be considered an ace, with the downing of four more German planes on today’s sortie.
“Welcome back, Mr. Sinclair!”  Smallwood’s greeting was warm, genuine, and authentically congratulatory.  “From what I’d heard, it was doubtful that we’d see this plane back here at Attleborough.  Congratulations on making it back.”
“Thank you, Sir,” acknowledged Jon.  “I wasn’t sure myself, but it kept together long enough.”
Twenty minutes later, Smallwood and Jon were shown into the squadron leader’s office.
Squadron Leader Alistair Greentree, DSO, DFC, looked up from his efforts to draft another condolence letter. 
“Gentlemen,” he proclaimed.  “I heard you were back, Mr. Sinclair.  I am truly glad to see you.”
Jon joined his squadron deputy at a slightly-relaxed attention in front of the squadron leader’s desk.  “I’m glad to be here, Sir.”
Greentree stood, and waved his hand at the paper on his desk.  “I already have too many of these, and I am glad I don’t have to write one to your family.”
Jon just nodded, as he spoke the only word that was appropriate at that point. 
“Sir.”  He waited for the squadron leader to carry on.
“Flight Lieutenant Smallwood has already gathered the necessary statements, Mr. Sinclair, so we can now confirm your status as an ace.  Congratulations.”
Greentree walked around the desk, and put out his hand.  Jon took it in a firm handshake.  Smallwood turned and offered his hand in a similar gesture.
“Good, now that’s done,” Greentree said.  “Let’s do something about that.”
The squadron commander went back to his desk and pulled out a bottle.  In a moment, each of the three officers was holding a small glass.
“To our newest ace,” Greentree intoned, “And I daresay one of our youngest ones.”
“To Pilot Officer Sinclair,” added Smallwood.
Jon just nodded as he followed the example of his superiors and downed the small amount of whiskey in a single shot.  It hit his throat and burned its way down.  With a supreme effort of will, Jon was able to keep from cough and choking.  However, that didn’t stop the other two officers from noting the sudden redness of Jon’s face.
“Watch that first bite of the day,” Greentree warned, with a little light laughter.
Jon wondered what his commander would say if he knew this was the first alcohol he’d ever had.
Greentree had more to worry about, however.  He was going to have to break some bad news to his new young ace.  Only that morning, Greentree’s Wing Commander had informed him that they desperately needed well-qualified flight instructors for British and Commonwealth pilots training in Canada, and that meant pilots who knew how to shoot down experienced Germans.  It was suggested to the various squadron leaders that each squadron should nominate an ace.  The thinking was that while an ace was useful in air combat, an ace was even more valuable teaching more pilots how to become aces. 
The Wing Commander had also mentioned that their commander Air Vice Marshall himself had expressed an interest in who was nominated, and woe betide those squadron leaders who did not give their best.
As he stood looking at Pilot Office Sinclair, there was no doubt in Squadron Leader Greentree’s mind that Sinclair was the best he had, even if Sinclair was the youngest looking eighteen-year-old he’d ever seen.
With those thoughts in mind, Greentree dismissed Smallwood with the suggestion that his second in command had urgent and pressing business to attend to.
A moment later, Jon was sitting across from his commander and listening as Greentree gave a preamble about the requirement for instructor pilots and then broke the bad news.
As Greentree expected, Jon expressed his objections in the strongest but most respectful terms.
“But, Sir,” was one of Jon’s arguments.  “I just got off the boat three weeks ago, and how you’re asking me to get right back on?  I’ve just barely had a crack at the Germans.”
“Sinclair.”  The squadron leader was ready with his rebuttal.  “You have accomplished more in a short two weeks with this squadron than most of the pilots will ever accomplish.  You truly are a natural, and you have developed great abilities as a combat pilot.  You anticipate their moves, and you skills allow you to move your airplane around the sky to put yourself where you need to be and when you need to be, in order to do damage to the enemy.  We need more like you, and the only way for us to get that is for you to train some more.”
Jon could see he was fighting a losing battle, but he also had an objection based on his age.  “Sir, I still have to wonder about how my apparent youth will be accepted in a role as an instructor pilot.  Surely there will…”
Greentree interrupted the younger officer.  “Yes, Sinclair, you look young, but as soon as they see you in the air, and with your reputation as an ace, you’ll be the role model that they need.”
After another ten minutes, Jon had to do something he hadn’t done in the air.  He had to concede. 
When the young ace ran out of objections, Greentree glanced at his watch. 
“Right, Jon,” he said, using his young ace’s first name for the first time, “We’ve got to get going.  Group Captain Farnham is expecting all of us by seventeen hundred.”
His eyes wide, Jon glanced down at his miserable looking flight suit, and then up at his commander.
 Greentree knew what Sinclair was about to say.  “Sorry, old boy, no time to change.  Besides, an ace needs to look like a real pilot, and right now, you certainly look like one.”
The squadron leader looked at the oil and grease-stained flight suit and the tired, worn face of the young man.  Right now, Sinclair looked as old as he’d ever seen him.
Greentree softened his look for a moment.  “I think we have just enough time to visit the head, and then we’ll go.  I think my driver will be anxious enough with the little time I’ve given him to get us there.”
Just under an hour later, Squadron Leader Greentree was standing beside Flying Officer Sinclair as they waited in a semi-circle of about 24 officers.  Group Captain Farnham was accompanying the Commanding Air Vice Marshall who was making his way down the line, trailed by group of senior officers along with press people and a movie camera.
As the group got closer, Jon could see and hear that the Air Vice Marshall was giving out Distinguished Flying Crosses and Distinguished Service Orders to the various squadron leaders and pilots.  Jon was beginning to realize that all of the pilots such as himself were destined for assignment as instructor pilots in Canada.
Jon also heard a few pilots getting promoted, and he supposed that they were supposed to take heart in the little token as a way of making up for removing them from the fight against the enemy.
A moment later, the Air Vice Marshall was standing in front of Jon’s commander.
Without making it appear to obvious, Jon looked out of the corner of his eye to watch as he took in the conversation.
“Squadron Leader Greentree,” the AVM intoned.  “How nice to see you again.  I hear you’ve brought with you the young man who is the fastest ace.”
“Yes, Sir,” was Greentree’s inevitable reply. 
“Right,” stated the AVM.  “Well done, but you’re out of uniform.”
“Sir?” The one word response was the only possible way for a junior to question a senior.
The AVM’s aide de camp handed over a paper.  “It would appear,” the AVM glanced at the paper, and continued, “That you were promoted this morning, and we’re expecting you to take command of the Wing at Attleborough next week.  Congratulations.”
The AVM reached forward to shake Greentree’s hand.  Then, with a scarce pause, the AVM stepped in front of Jon.
“Pilot Officer Sinclair,” the AVM stated.
“Sir,” was Jon’s one word response.
“You, too, are out of uniform.  That stripe on your shoulder needs to be wider.” 
Jon knew that the AVM was referring to the narrow single stripe of a Pilot Officer, the most junior commissioned rank in the RCAF and RAF, or what would be a Second Lieutenant back home.  The wider single stripe denoted a Flying Officer, or the equivalent of a Lieutenant in the US Army Air Corps.
Jon just gaped at the very senior officer in front of him, not knowing how to respond.
The AVM’s look softened a bit as he put out his hand.  “Congratulations, Mr. Sinclair.  You have done your country proud with your service.”
Jon suspected the AVM, as most people around him, knew that Jon was an American who’d traveled to Canada to join up, just to get into the fight against the Germans.  There were a few other Americans spread around the squadrons at Attleborough.
Jon managed to find his voice enough to say, “Thank you, Sir.”
The AVM glanced to his aide, who handed the AVM a small box.  The AVM opened it, and pulled out a medal.  Jon recognized the ribbon colors denoting a Distinguished Flying Cross.
“I am honored to be able to present,” the AVM said, as he pinned the medal on the left side of Jon’s chest, “This small token of our esteem for your service and your example of courage and leadership.  You have truly done your part in the short time you’ve been here.”
For the first time in years, Jon was now struggling to hold himself together.  The memories of the past and realities of the day were starting to hit home. 
The barely remembered times after his mother’s death, and the initial days after his father’s death when he took over all of the crop dusting duties.  Making his way to Canada and then to Britain.  And then the activities of earlier in the day, with the dog fights and attacking the German fighters.  The struggle to get through the fighter screen to the bombers, and prevent a few extra bombs from landing on London.  The satisfaction of success and the frightening moments when he thought he wouldn’t make it home.  And now, just hours later, standing talking to the regional commander of the RAF.
The AVM watched the emotional response play on the face of the young man in front of him.  It was a far cry from the tough and determined reputation that young Sinclair had established in the short two weeks he’d been flying against the enemy.
“I understand you really got home on a wing and a prayer, Mr. Sinclair.”  The AVM’s voice was as kind and gentle as his aide had ever heard.  “I’m very glad you made it.”
Jon finally nodded.  “Thank you very much, Sir.”  He’d regained control of his emotions after the short lapse.
The AVM’s tone sharpened up, just a bit.  “No.  Thank you, Mr. Sinclair, and congratulations, again.”
With a final handshake, the AVM moved on.
A moment later, Wing Commander Greentree turned to his young ace.  “I will be very, very sad to lose you, Flying Officer Sinclair, but I am sure you will continue to make your mark as a pilot, and as a fine officer.  Please accept my congratulations on a well deserved promotion and medal.”


RAF Attleborough
Height above sea level, 252 feet
September 28, 1940, 1845 hours

Keeping pace with Wing Commander Greentree, Jon entered the Officers’ Mess.  In keeping with Air Force tradition, the first officer to spot them called, ‘Mess,’ and all of the noise instantly ceased as all of the officers came to attention.
“Gentlemen,” intoned Greentree.  “Thank you.  Please stand at ease, but gather round.  I need to say a few words.”
As directed, the officers present in the mess relaxed somewhat, but started moving toward the position of the new Wing Commander standing near the bar.
Greentree’s arrival was expected, as he’d phoned ahead to Flight Lieutenant Smallwood and asked him to gather all the officers for an important meeting.
After waiting a few moments for all the officers to close in on him, Greentree spoke.
“Gentlemen,” he started.  “I have a few announcements, and then I’m going to ask you to pay attention for a very important lesson.”
The Wing Commander glanced around to satisfy himself that all present were paying attention.
“As you may have heard,” he spoke in a self-deprecating voice, “I will have to move over to the Wing Commander’s office in two days.” 
A round of cheers interrupted his little speech.
“I am sorry to leave you, but I will be nearby.  As you will expect, Flight Lieutenant Smallwood will take over as your acting squadron commander for now.”  He paused.  “But that’s not the main reason I’ve called you here.  I need for you all to pay careful attention to what you’re going to hear in the next few minutes.  You are going to hear the secret to beating those Jerry pilots.  You’re going to how to get inside them, and give them the beating they deserve.”
All eyes were on Greenwood now, waiting for the undisclosed information that had eluded most of them in the last four or five months.
“I’d like to introduce you to this evening’s instructor in advanced fighter tactics.”  Another pause, as Greentree milked the moment.  “Gentlemen, your guest lecturer, a flying ace with five certified kills in just the last two weeks, Flying Officer Jon Sinclair, Distinguished Flying Cross.”
For just a fraction of a second, there was silence, so momentous was the news.  Then a loud, long and dynamic cheer overwhelmed the room.
Jon felt the eyes of the whole mess upon him.  For a moment, he felt small and uncertain, but then a determined look crossed his face.  He knew how to battle the Germans, and this was his chance to tell them all.
After waiting at least two minutes, for the noise to start to die down, Jon started to speak.


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