As the earth stopped its convulsive shudders and the sound of explosions faded, Bridges picked himself up off the floor and looked down over the balcony at the scene below. Plaster dust covered all of them to various degrees, and the markers on the table had been knocked over and shaken into meaningless heaps. One of the large lights had burst, shattering glass everywhere, and Corporal Winters was already applying first aid to a girl who had been badly cut in the hand. Although she was still wearing her steel helmet, so he couldn’t see her face, Bridges thought it was ACW Hadley. Whoever it was, she hadn’t let out so much as a shout when she’d been hit by the glass.
“Are there any other casualties down there, Winters?” Bridges called.
The WAAF Corporal glanced up at him, her face white with plaster dust, and shook her head. “No, sir.”
Around her the other WAAF were crawling out from under the table, dusting off their knees and removing their steel helmets. As he watched, they started replacing the displaced markers, talking among themselves in low voices about where things had been and also pulling their head-phones back on. Even Bridges, who had always expected they would do well under fire, was impressed. This wasn’t just an absence of hysteria; it was professionalism of the highest order.
“Sir.” His attention was drawn by ACW Roberts, on the balcony beside him. He had reassigned her as his clerk so she could keep the transcript of combat transmissions that Allars had asked for. She also manned the switchboard.
“The telephone lines to Uxbridge are out of order, sir.”
“Right. See if you can reach Kenley or Middle Wallop and have them relay messages to and from Uxbridge.”
“Robinson,” he addressed the Warrant Officer, “see if you can find out exactly what damage has been done so we can report it to Uxbridge as soon as possible.”
Bridges leaned over the gallery. “Winters?”
“Anything else coming in?”
“Ventor’s down again, sir. We’re blind unless they come in east or west of here and then turn.”
“Understood.” That explained how it had happened.
Behind him Robinson was reporting. “Two hangars collapsed in direct hits, sir, and the motor pool has been obliterated under the collapsed garage roof.”
The sound of sirens wailed through the walls, and the deeper-throated hooting of the fire engines penetrated, too. The door was wrenched open, and a man in steel helmet and Flight Sergeant’s stripes stuck his head in. “I need volunteers to come out and mark a runway for our aircraft to get down between the bomb-craters and the unexploded bombs!”
“Go on, any of you who want to go.” Bridges released them all. If RDF and the lines to Uxbridge were down, there wasn’t a lot they could do here.
Click here to see a video teaser of Where Eagles Never Flew