BOOK EXCERPT 3:
France, June 1940
(sections of pp.46-48)
The dining room of the mess was far less sterile than the bedrooms had been. It had gracious dimensions and was decorated in Art Nouveau, including electric chandeliers. The tables were set with white linen, silver and crystal - as was standard for the Luftwaffe. There were fresh flowers on every table and the mess stewards, Geuke noted, wore white jackets rather than field grey, as if it were peacetime or they were in the Reich. Geuke was taken to the head table, at which the Gruppenkommandeur and his three Staffelkapitäne, including Hauptmann Bartels, sat.
Bartels was tall, blond, tanned and fit - a German officer straight out of an UFA film. He wore the Iron Cross First and Second Class on his tailored uniform, and smoked long cigarettes. He considered Geuke with a mixture of disbelief and annoyance. Geuke could hear him thinking, "Have we really sunk so low that we have to take officers like this?"
Bartels seemed to overcome his disappointment and with a sigh, he announced, "Find yourself a free place to sit and have a meal. We're flying tomorrow at 09:00 - weather permitting. What do you think, Hartmann," he turned to one of the other officers, "can we trust Feldburg with a Rotte?" Then answering his own question, he remarked with obvious disgust, "I don't suppose we have much choice. He's at least seen some combat." Then turning back to Geuke he said, "You'll be flying wingman to Christian Freiherr von Feldburg. I'll send him over to you after dinner."
… In the bar, the officers clustered together in familiar groups, and Geuke was more an outsider than in the dining room. Here men could shoulder him aside or turn their backs without being rude. Geuke hesitantly went to the bar and after everyone else had been served, he timidly asked the Luftwaffe bartender for a beer.
"Account number, Herr Leutnant?" the bartender demanded without even looking at him.
"Put it on my account," a voice said from behind him, and Geuke jumped and turned around.
The officer behind him smiled and held out his hand. "Feldburg. The CO just told me the good news that you will be flying wingman to me tomorrow. I think that calls for more than a beer, don't you? May I make that beer of glass a Sekt?"
Geuke was so taken aback he hardly knew what to say. This officer was another one of the propaganda-poster-types, and the hand he extended had the distinctive heavy gold ring with the inset stone on which his coat of arms must be embossed. Geuke heard the Staffelkapitän's words ringing in his ears, "You'll be flying wingman to Freiherr von Feldburg." The plumber's son did not believe he had ever shaken hands with a baron before. True, he'd encountered the odd Junker at training, but none with this exalted a title.
"Ah, Herr - Freiherr-"
"Christian," interrupted the other man. "And let's go straight to "Du." As a Rotte we have to work together like brothers, after all. No room for formality. What's your first name?"
"Ernst," Geuke croaked out, still in a bit of a daze.
They shook hands again, and Christian insisted, "Champagne?"
"Of course. Thank you-" Geuke had a hard time not adding, "Herr Baron."
"Buying Champagne, Christian?" another officer joined them.
"Not for you, parasite," Christian countered good-humouredly, and the other pilot laughed without the slightest indication of being offended. Christian was proudly continuing, "Let me introduce my wingman." He clapped a hand on Geuke's shoulder. "Ernst Geuke."
This second officer also offered Ernst his hand with apparent warmth, and introduced himself, "Dieter Möller. Don't let Christian push you around. If he gets too obnoxious, just come to me. I've known him all his life - well, since he was three - and I know how to handle him."
"And vice-versa," Christian retorted.
Now other officers were drifting over. Christian, it seemed, was like a magnet, drawing a crowd. He introduced Ernst to each of them: Busso Appelt, Max Mühlbauer, Otto Neufeldt and Hans Becker. Ernst and Christian's champagne arrived and they toasted one another. Ernst sipped very carefully, and remembered to raise his glass to Christian afterwards. He was glad that he'd been taught that in training; he wouldn't have known from home…. Better not think about home now.
The champagne warmed him almost instantly, and the tension he'd felt since stepping off the train started to ease. In the middle of the little group of pilots, the sound of their relaxed voices and the light music playing on a gramophone in the background seemed to blend together into a warm cocoon. He didn't feel so lonely anymore. It started to sink in that he had really made it. He was an officer and a pilot and these were his comrades. He was one of them, and he started to have a sense of belonging.
|NOTE: In building this site, I thought about many things - such as what spelling standard I should use in
referring to World War II, and what keyword spelling people might use
in a search engine to find this page. I found it interesting to
note the following numbers of page listings for the various ways one
might type World War II into a search engine.
6,050,000 for world war two
5,860,000 for world war 2
134,000,000 for world war II (using the capital i for the 2)
83,900 for world war ll (using the lower case L for the 2)
26,200,000 for second world war
310,000 for 2nd world war
21,600 for ww two
804,000 for ww 2
7,130,000 for ww ii (using the i for the 2)
46,300 for ww ll (using the lower case L for the 2)
21,600 for w.w. two
804,000 for W.W.2
7,130,000 for w.w.II (using the capital i for the 2)
46,300 for w.w.ll (using the lower case l for the 2)
Note that capitalization, punctuation and spacing changes introduced no differences. So if you are looking for information on a particular subject, remember to use all variations of the wrods related to the subject. The pages a search engine will give you to look at will vary with each method. Also in general, I have referred to World War II on these pages using WWII (using the capital i for the 2).
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