Jonathan Doering was born in Manchester in 1975. He studied at UEA Norwich and Trinity College Dublin and now lives in West Yorkshire with his family where he teaches English. He has had stories, articles and poetry published in: Contemporary Review, Cascando, Icarus, Backdrop, Silver Carrier, Concrete, Bucket of Tongues, Circus, The Quango Annual, Dogmanet.org, Bacchus, LitSpeak, and The Guardian.
Battalion 202: A Blinded Falcon
by Jonathan Doering
5 September, 1940 …
It has built up gradually. So gradually, in fact, that it now seems as if this tension has always existed. Like an electric charge in the air, making your hairs stand up on the back of your neck, on your scalp. A scent in the air. Soon this tension will shift to fear.
One by one you hear, then see, the advance squadrons of the Luftwaffe. They have attacked before, but never in these numbers: fighters and dive bombers at the moment. They tear across the sky, shrieking like satanic mosquitoes. You stand and watch these planes pass over at high altitudes, on your way to work, in the street where you live, looking up from the field where you dig, from the window of the office where you shuffle paper and pretend to be focused when all you can think about is when the next sortie will cast its shadow. There is something terrible about the fact that none of these planes attack any civilian targets: you know that ultimately you will suffer because of them, but it is as if they are ignoring their true victims in order to secure some other, necessary, prize.
And so they are. Over the coming hours and days, whispered reports flood into London, then gossip and eventually government statements confirm the fact. Early warning stations, observation posts, and RAF air fields have been specifically and ruthlessly targeted, over and over again. Your country’s air power has been severely weakened. The falcon has been blinded in its nest.
14 September, 1940…
With the RAF seriously weakened and unable to anticipate enemy attacks, the Luftwaffe has proceeded to attack harbours, ports and naval bases. Setting sail from Norway and Sweden, Kriegsmarine vessels engage the Royal Navy, with decisive Luftwaffe support. HMS Hood, one the glories of the waves, is critically damaged and reduced to a maximum speed of twelve knots. Cruisers such as the Manchester and the battleship Rodney, are scuttled. Britain, the greatest naval power at this time, lies vulnerable to further invasion.
29 September, 1940 …
Your work is all but forgotten. Ordinary life is now all but forgotten. The German invasion force has been ashore for more than a week, pushing inexorably inland. You hear gossip, announcements on the radio; you read the brief news sheets that are being issued periodically. You put your uniform on, clean and assemble your rifle. You embrace and kiss your wife and then report to your Home Guard unit.