Winning His Wings_ A Story of the R.A.F.
Winning his Wings
PERCY F. WESTERMANLieut. R.A.F.
Winning his Wings: A Story of the R.A.F.
The Thick of the Fray at Zeebrugge: April, 1918.
With Beatty off Jutland: A Romance of the Great Sea Fight.
The Submarine Hunters: A Story of Naval Patrol Work.
A Lively Bit of the Front: A Tale of the New Zealand Rifles on the Western Front.
A Sub and a Submarine: The Story of H.M. Submarine R19 in the Great War.
Under the White Ensign: A Naval Story of the Great War.
The Dispatch-Riders: The Adventures of Two British Motor-cyclists with the Belgian Forces.
The Sea-girt Fortress: A Story of Heligoland.
Rounding up the Raider: A Naval Story of the Great War.
The Fight for Constantinople: A Tale of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Captured at Tripoli: A Tale of Adventure.
The Quest of the "Golden Hope": A Seventeenth-century Story of Adventure.
A Lad of Grit: A Story of Restoration Times.
[Illustration: THERE WAS NO TIME FOR QUESTIONS. DEREK COULD DISCERN SEVERAL FIELD-GREY FIGURES ADVANCING RAPIDLY]
Winning his Wings
A Story of the R.A.F.
PERCY F. WESTERMAN
Author of "With Beatty off Jutland"
"A Lively Bit of the Front"
"A Sub and a Submarine"
Illustrated by E. S. Hodgson
BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
|II.||Derek's First Flight|
|IV.||The Night Raider|
|V.||The Next Day|
|VI.||Across the Channel|
|VII.||When the Hun Pushed|
|VIII.||The Hun Bomber|
|IX.||A Slight Disturbance|
|XI.||The Jammed Machine-guns|
|XIII.||The Count's Ruse|
|XIV.||With the Tanks|
|XVIII.||The First Day at Sableridge|
|XIX.||U-boat versus Motor-boat|
|XX.||The Blimp and the Skate|
|XXI.||An Independent Command|
|XXII.||A Mouldy Station|
|XXIII.||An Error of Judgment|
|XXVII.||Hard and Fast Aground|
|XXVIII.||To the Sea-plane's Aid|
|XXIX.||In the Interests of the State|
WINNING HIS WINGS
The cry, taken up by a score of youthful voices, echoed and re-echoedalong the concrete-paved corridors of the Averleigh T.D.S.—suchbeing the official designation of the Training and DisciplinarySchool—one of those mushroom-growth establishments that bid fair toblossom into permanent instruction schools under the aegis of thejuvenile but virile Royal Air Force.
Ensued a wild scramble. The morning mail had arrived but five minutesbefore the momentous summons. Some of the cadets had seized upontheir share of letters, and had retired, like puppies with daintytit-bits, to the more secluded parts of the building, in which littleprivacy is obtainable. Others, with scant regard for theirsurroundings, were perusing their communications when the order thatmeant the commencement of another day's work brought them back toearth once more.
"Where's my cap?—Who's pinched my stick?—George, old son, what didyou do with those gloves of mine you had last night?—Now, then, mybrave, bold Blue Hungarian bandsman, get a move on."
The wearer of the latest pattern of the R.A.F. blue uniform raisedhis hands deprecatingly. One of a few similarly attired amid a swarmof khaki-clad flight-cadets, he was beginning to feel sorry forhimself for having been up-to-date, and vindictive towards the Powersthat Be who had given instructions for him to appear thus attired.
"Chuck it!" he exclaimed. "Not my fault, really. If this is theR.A.F. idea of a sensible and serviceable get-up, I'm sorry for theR.A.F."
"It'll come in handy when you sign on as a cinema chucker-out aprŤsla guerre, George," chimed in another, as he deftly adjusted his capand made sure that his brightly-gilded buttons were fulfilling thoseimportant functions ordained by the Air Ministry Regulations andService Outfitters. He shot a rapid glance through the window, forthe long corridor was now ejecting the crowd of cadets in acontinuous stream of khaki, mingled with blue.
"Buck up, George!" continued the last speaker, addressing aslightly-built youth who, red in the face, was bending over hisup-raised right knee. "What's wrong now?"
The individual addressed as George—and in the R.A.F. it is a safething to address a man as George in default of giving him his correctname—explained hurriedly and vehemently, directing his remarks withthe utmost impartiality both to his would-be benefactor and to arefractory roll of cloth that showed a decided tendency to refuse tocoil neatly round his leg.
"These rotten puttees, Derek!" explained the victim. "I've had aproper puttee mornin'—have really. Got up twenty minutes beforerťveillť, too. Razor blunt as hoop-iron; hot water was stone cold;three fellows in the bath-room before me; an' some silly josser'spinched my socks. Not that that matters much though," he added,brightening up at the idea of having outwitted a practical joker."I'm not wearing any. Then, to cap the whole caboodle, I lost abutton off my tunic in the scrum at the mess-room door."
Derek Daventry, one of a batch of newly-entered flight-cadets atAverleigh, was a tall, lightly-built fellow of eighteen and a fewmonths. Dark-featured, his complexion tanned by constant exposure tosun and rain during his preliminary cadet training, supple of limband brimful of mental and physical alertness, he was but one of manyof a new type—a type evolved since the fateful 4th day of August,1914—the aerial warriors of Britain.
The second son of a naval officer, Derek had expressed a wish toenter the Royal Air Force, or, rather, the Royal Naval Air Force asit then was, from the moment when it became apparent that theschoolboy of to-day must be a member of one of the branches of HisMajesty's Service to-morrow. Captain Daventry, R.N., D.S.O., and adozen other letters after his name, was equally keen upon gettingDerek into the navy by the post-entry of midshipmen process, thusmaking good an opportunity that had been denied the lad at an agewhen he was eligible for Osborne.
"It's not only now," declared Captain Daventry. "One has to considerwhat is to be done after the war."
"Time enough for that, Pater," rejoined Derek. "The end of the'duration' seems a long way off yet."
"Possibly," said his father. "On the other hand it may be much soonerthan most people imagine. Of course I know that there are thousandsof youngsters similarly situated to yourself, but the hard factremains that the war must end sooner or later."
"But the R.F.C. and the R.N.A.S. must carry on," persisted Derek."Flying's come to stay, you know."
"Quite so," admitted the naval man; "but unfortunately that doesn'tapply to flying-men. The life of an airman, I am given to understand,is but a matter of three or four years, apart from casualtiesdirectly attributable to the war. The nervous temperament of theindividual cannot withstand the strain that flying entails."
"You're going by the experience of pioneers in aviation, Pater,"replied his son. "After the war, flying will be as safe as motoring.When I'm your age I may be driving an aerial 'bus between London andNew York. In any case I don't suppose the Air Board will turn afellow down when his flying days are over. They'll be able to makeuse of him."
"You are optimistic, Derek."
"Yes, Pater," admitted the flying aspirant, "I am. It's a new thing,and there are endless possibilities. I only wish I were six monthsolder. It's a long time to wait."
Captain Daventry still hesitated. An experienced and thoroughlyup-to-date naval officer, he understood his own profession from topto bottom. The navy, notwithstanding rapid and recent developments,was a long-established firm. There was, in his opinion, somethingsubstantial in a battleship, in spite of U-boats and mines. But thewear and tear of an airman, the fragile nature of his craft, andabove all the uncertain moods of the aerial vault made flying, in hisestimation, a short-lived and highly-dangerous profession, albeit menlook to it with all the zest of