Thursday, 14 March 2013

Appointment in London

At the same time as I watched a film about the naval men who attempted to guard the North Atlantic convoys and commenced to reread Nicholas Monsarratt’s fictional tale The Cruel Sea, the government announced that a new medal would be awarded to the men, the wives and surviving relatives who had travelled the most northern route, the Artic convoy route. The government also announced that it was also awarding a medal for those who served in Bomber Command during World War II and last year the Queen. For decades of peace between the UK and Germany as joint members of the EEC it has been considered de riguer  (don’t know the appropriate German equivalent)  not to mention or show approval for the blanket bombing of German towns and cities by the allies in  revenge for what the Nazis did to British and European cities.


Two weeks ago now after listening to Bruce Kent explain why there is no justification for governments to hold, let alone develop weapons of mass destruction, a former Airforce pilot expressed his anger and frustration at the CND the Satyagraha protests, actions and peace camps in which I participated and where I am reading the excellent analysis of the causes and roles in Sean Scalmer’s thesis Gandhi in the West and the rise of Radical Protest in the UK and the USA. I resisted the temptation to get up and try an explain that I regarded him to have been a man of great courage and service to his country and that I hoped he would continue to regard his working life in a positive way, but then as I now I believed it was morally wrong to engage in the wilful bombing and threatening to bomb children, women and men who are non combatants


Last year, half a century later, the national memorial to the men who did not return from bombing missions was opened by the Queen in London. It is therefore another coincidence that a film channel also showed once more one of the few films which paid tribute to the brave men who flew in bomber command knowing that odds were against then surviving the maximum number of flights before being assigned to ground or other duties. The film is called Appointment in London and starred Dirk Bogard,


The appointment is at the end of the film at Buckingham Palace and a tribute to the men who were unable to participate. The film has a limited story in that Bogard plays the Wing Commander coming to the end of his third tour and 90 missions and ordered to stop flying because of the danger to him. The crews have begun to say there is a Jinx because of the number of fatalities and the wife of one of the pilots has written expressing concern (assumed at the time to be the man’s mother). When he does not return from a mission she visits Bogard at the station and on finding she has booked in at a local Inn he offers to introduce her to some of those who were friends with her husband.


This is not a love interest for Bogard. This is someone in the WRAF who he meets in London and is able to talk about his responsibilities and need to complete the 90 missions. A number of the latest bombers arrive with their new crews and the settling in induction party is held where the fun consists of furniture being piled up and soot from fire being missed with water and one by one the new pilots imprinting their soot covered feet on the ceiling. At the party are the widow and the girl friend observing the boys will be boys.


The base is to participate in a major blitz of an important industrial complex and they all set off with the exception of one participating which develops undercarriage problems and which cannot be immediately fixed. Bogard who has been officially grounded and to be assigned to training role elsewhere offers the use of his plane and decides to accompany the crew but in effect as an observer. Their task is to assemble at a point where planes from other wings will gather and then follow a led path finder who lays down red flares for the route and eventually green flares for the target area.  When this plane is hit, Bogard is in a position as the senior officer present to use the plane he is in as the new command guidance control in the air ensure  many of the others hit the target,


Thinking that he will be upset after being grounded the female friend has come up to the base to console him before he leaves to a location abroad, and then finds  that  no one knows where he is and then that contrary to orders although he is not acting as a pilot he is in the air. The base radio man has rigged up a unit which enables those in the control room to hear what is going on in the air over Germany and because she is part of the service she is invited to listen in.


As the film draws to a close all the aircraft return except one, that of the plane of Board and when there is contact all the station rushes out to the landing area who greets their hero. He has shown there is no jinx completing his 90 missions. Dianah Sheridan, Walter Fitzgerald, Bill Kerr, Richard Wattis and Bryan Forbes all participated.

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