Incendiary~ by Glenn James
Over they come again, great droning shapes in the sky, black against the clouds above, and flying in formation like flocks of malicious crows.
Making for Coventry so they said, using the old University clock tower, Old Joe, all 330 feet of it as a map reference. The authorities had long since ordered that the lights of the clockface be turned off at night and the bells which chimed the hour held silent, but there was a treacherous bombers moon tonight, and the tower stood dwarfing the landscape for miles like the centre of a massive sundial. The navigators took careful note of it. Swiping across Birmingham like a hoard of guided vultures, heading for the factories and workshops of the city of Lady Godiva, they carried a payload which had nothing to do with wages.
Well, he was ready. Bill stood in a little cupola on top the factory rooftops, a tiny tower dwarfed by the looming bulk of Old Joe, and he snapped on his spotlight. A great sweeping arc of brilliant white light stabbed up accusingly through the clouds, and pinpointed the squadron above, grumbling over the city. No doubt about it, they were German Bombers.
The second his light hit the clouds the Ack-Ack guns started, and flack hurled itself through the air, soaring up at the deadly passing hoard. Bill kept his place, tightly holding binoculars in one hand and directing the light with the other, following the progress of the planes as they passed over head, keeping them as much in sight as possible for the anti-aircraft gunners.
There was no cover at all, except the sand bags. The factory roofs below spread out like a flat and unending sea of grey, with him raised twenty five feet above it all, well and truly sticking his head above the parapet, with the biggest carbon arc light this side of Birmingham. He had nothing more deadly than a couple of broken half bricks he could throw and a broom handle with a knife lashed to it, as he was waiting for a rifle to be delivered. A dive bomber could probably take him out in two seconds flat, and he was well and truly a sitting duck. Well, just you let them try it, sunshine.
Powder Keating had tried to enlist. Although only small and slight he had the courage of a man twice his build, and was not afraid to do his bit for King and Country. But he had such a heavy pair of glasses that the weight of them left a deep red weal on the bridge of his nose when he took them off at night, and the army had deemed him unfit for service due to his vision.
So, on joining the Home Guard, he now spent the night’s fire watching, and ready to send up a searchlight whenever there was a raid. Only last night Lord Haw-Haw was at it again, boasting of raids over the Midlands on the radio, and he was ready for them.
Bill took a bite of a sandwich (jam again) and kept an eye on the beam of his light. He wasn’t going anywhere, and he would keep it steady for as long as it took, until they got the message and went away. He could see other lights and hear other Ack-Ack guns. He might be short sighted, but he kept that light steady, and held his post. And he knew the others would, too. You can’t undermine that kind of spirit, and leaning back on the rail, he looked at the clouds and shouted “Just you try it!”
Hitler would get the message in the end; it was just a matter of time.
© 2014 Glenn James
Glenn’s Grandad, William George Keating
Dedication For my Grandfather Bill “Powder” Keating
Bio: Glenn James is a Writer, Artist, Storyteller & Performer