BRITAIN AND FRANCE AT WAR WITH GERMANY
Paul Chappel felt a sinking feeling in his stomach as he read the words. He had been five years old when his father returned from the Great War a man broken in body and spirit. He had been ten years old when his fathers demons got the best of him and he blew his head off in the old barn. He had never forgotten the haunted look in his fathers eyes that morning, a man seeing beyond, a man reliving a horror Paul could never have understood.
Only it seemed that he might understand at last. But where his father had served in the trenches, Paul was determined to take to the skies. He slapped the paper down on the rack and turned from the store without a word, ignoring the query of surprise from the shop keeper. He stepped into the early morning of the capital, already the heat was rising and he was beginning to sweat in his tweed suit. His footsteps seemed loud on the pavement as he wove his way through the early morning carts and pedlars.
Ahead, tucked into the face of an attractive brick building, as the recruiting office, a union jack hanging limply in the motionless air. Tall posters, clearly scrounged from some First World War stockpile, were plastered in the tall windows. The door was open and Paul strode in without so much a knock.
A huge Sergeant, his walrus moustache hanging down past his chin, looked up from the papers on his desk. The days newspaper lay beside him as well and Paul thought that the man looked a little sick.
"I have come to enlist." Paul said the words before his brain could stop him. It might be a bit rash to come so early but he had nothing else in South Africa. His elder brother had inherited the farm and Paul had been making a living flying small parties here and there across the country in a small bush plane.
"You're that young pilot fellow aren't you? Works all over the territory. Paul isn't it?"
"Yes sir." It was all Paul could say.
"Well, if you've come to join up, good thing you came early. We only have room four six pilots. Everyone else is going into the army." The Sergeant muttered as she pulled a sheaf of paper from one immense desk drawer. He drew out a form sheet and quickly added information into the blanks. Occupation was entered as pilot; military trade as pilot; height and weight were random guesses as best Paul could tell.
"Sign here." The Sergeant pushed the document across the battered wooden surface and held a pen out to Paul.
It suddenly seemed immensely hot in the small room and Paul found himself very aware of the huge moustache as it loomed over the desk, the two blue eyes above it watching him with an almost detached interest. He reached out a hand, willing himself to not start shaking in front of his huge man, and took the pen. He quickly dashed of his signature. It was done.
"Good. Report to Pretoria Airfield at the end of the week. 9 A.M. sharp. Ask for Captain Prescott. Welcome to the South African Airforce." The Sergeant held out a huge hand and shook Pauls hand so violently he thought his arm might tear from its socket.
He turned from the office with a sort of dazed look on his face and stepped out into the sun where he was shocked to find a small line had already formed, waiting for him to leave.
"Well done Paul!"
"There's a good chap!"
"Plucky chap, well done, bru!"
"Good on you, mate!"
He forced himself to smile as he shook hands with the other men in line; moving as quickly as he dared he hurried around distant corner and ducked into a small alleyway. He had done it. He had signed up! Would his father have been proud? He didn't know, instead he turned and vomitted into the gutter.