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Deja Vu


The dew was lying on the grass and dawn was waiting to beam its
welcoming early morning light onto the land illuminating and chasing away the
dark shadows and fears that come with darkness. The night had been quite a
cold one for mid summer as Major Kurt von Ruger made his way to the mess
tent. His mechanic Willie Shultz was coming towards him so Ruger stopped to
wait for him his breath plumed out in front of him as he exhaled. He and Willie
had been together since he had first arrived at the Jasta, and that had been
two years ago which was a lifetime for a pilot on the Western Front. Now there
were only three of them left from the original Jasta himself, Willie and Captain
Carl Dietz. This war had taken a large toll of the pilots of the Jasta and Ruger
shook his head wondering where it would all end. Then he smiled of course it
would end when they were all dead when the men on all sides had been killed
when no armies survived. Watching the bow legged Willie come towards him
he thought if anyone deserves to survive this horror it is you my old friend and
I certainly hope you do. Because in the Germany that comes after all this
carnage it is men with sound heads and forgiving hearts that will be
needed.
Ruger took a drink of schnapps from the silver hip flask he carried in
the inside pocket of the big fur coat he wore. The coat and flask had belonged
to the leader of the Jasta and Ruger’s best friend Colonel Manfred von Drexel.
Ruger shrugged his large shoulders Manfred had gone down in a ball of
flames somewhere over the British front line; the British had given him a
military funeral with full honours. A Sopwith Camel aircraft with a red streamer
attached to its wing strut had flown over the airfield and dropped a canister
with a long black streamer attached. When it was opened a photo of
Manfred’s funeral was in it and a note to say that a hero had been given the
mark of respect that was his due and saluting him for his chivalry. Ruger
shook his head as he remembered this there was damn little chivalry about at
this stage of the war.
He took another swig from the flask and laughed because it didn’t
matter much to Manfred now after all he was just a charred piece of meat in a
cold grave. Then he mused for this was a pilot’s worst nightmare after all they
were sitting in a wooden plane whose wings and fuselage were covered in
strips of canvas, and then daubed with highly flammable resin and varnish.
Add to this that the pilot sat on top of a tank full of aviation spirit and you had
a very incendiary piece of equipment under your arse. So that when it did
catch fire it was an inferno in minutes, that was when a pilot had to answer
the big question which was did you burn or just jump from your stricken
machine? He knew that lots of pilots had jumped fearing being burnt alive
even more than the heart stopping plunge as you fell to the ground so far
below. Ruger felt the hardness of the Luger pistol in his coat pocket and took
comfort from it he knew what he would do if it ever came to the choice
between burning and jumping.
Willie had joined him now and Ruger looked at him with fondness
remembering the familiar face. The gravy dipper moustache and the veins
running through the broken capillaries in the bulbous nose giving it a blue red
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