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'Brother Bosch', an Airman's Escape from Germany

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It was November 9th, 1916. I lay in a state of luxurious semi-consciousness pondering contentedly over things in general, transforming utter impossibilities into plausible possibilities, wondering lazily the while if I were asleep. Presently, to my disgust an indefinable, yet persistent “something” came into being, almost threatening to dispel the drowsy mist then pervading my brain. The slow thought waves gradually ceased their surging, and after a slight pause began to collect round the offending mystery, as if seeking to unravel it in a half-hearted sort of way. They gave me to understand that the “something” recurred at intervals, and even suggested that it might be a voice, though from which side of the elastic dividing line it emanated they were quite unable to say. With the consoling thought that voices often come from dreamland I allowed the whole subject to glide gently into the void and the tide of thought to continue its drugged revolutions. The next instant a noisy whirlwind swept the cobwebs away. I knew that the voice was indeed a reality, for it delivered the following message: “A very fine morning, sir!” Obviously my dutiful servant desired me to rise and enjoy the full benefit of the beautiful day. Agreeing with Harry Lauder, that “It’s nice to get up in the morning, but it’s nicer to stay in bed!” I am sorry to say I cunningly dismissed the orderly with a few false assurances, turned over on my side and promptly forgot all about such trivial matters. Conscience was kicking very feebly, and just as sleep was about to return, the air commenced to vibrate and something swept overhead with a whirling roar—an “early bird” testing the air. Galvanised into action by this knowledge, I sprang out of bed, and seizing whatever garments happened to be the nearest, was half dressed before I had even time to yawn! Then snatching up my map, coat, hat, and goggles, I burst from the hut and began slithering along the duck-boards towards the hangars, at the same time endeavouring to fasten the unwilling hooks of my Flying Corps tunic and devoutly hoping that I should not be late for the bomb raid. For weeks we had been standing by for this raid in particular, the object of which was to bomb Douai aerodrome. This was a particularly warm spot to fly over, for in these days it was regarded as the home of “Archies” and the latest hostile aircraft. It is, therefore, not surprising that the general feeling of the squadron was that the sooner it was over the better for all concerned. Arrived at the sheds I was relieved to find that I was in good time, at all events. The machines (two-seater artillery machines, then commonly known as “Quirks”) were lined up on the aerodrome with bomb racks loaded, their noses to the wind, awaiting the signal to ascend. I saluted the C.O., waved to a friend or two and climbed into the pilot’s seat of my waiting machine. Then, adjusting the levers, I signified to the waiting mechanics that I was ready for them to “suck in” (an operation necessary prior to the starting of the engine)....