James Aherne has long believed he had a book inside him, it's almost finished.
He glanced at his watch, it was nearly eleven and the sky was finally cloaked in darkness. They should have embarked the night before, but the weather had been against them. Now the decision had been made, the dye had been cast. In little over an hour they would climb aboard the glider and set fast for Pegasus Bridge.
He couldn’t sleep and he gazed upon his men, each restless in anticipation. Their moment was upon them.
He wondered what they were thinking, were they fearful that they would never see England again?
His father had died in the mud of Flanders. His mother never recovered from the loss, her grief hung like a spectre over the joy of his childhood. He had followed the memory of his father to the same boarding school, the same Oxford College. His father had died for King and Country and now the same siren call beckoned him.
He pondered what his father must have thought in the hours before the offensive that saw so many young men die in grey, leaden ground. His father had been only twenty-seven years old, a married man of just six months.
He smiled at the irony; he was the same age and married just six months.
His mind drifted back to another time. In 1936 he had spent the year in Germany. His mother had been so very angry. How could he live in land that had murdered his father? He hadn’t seen it that way. He’d never known his father, but he could speak German and it was the year of the Olympic games.
He had thought the strutting, preposterous Austrian a knave. Churchill had spoken of war, but no-one else agreed.
He had met her in Munich.
They had travelled to Berlin. She was tall and blond with strong thighs and large soft breasts. In the summer of that year he discovered the gentle, musky joy of woman. He had learned how to arouse and please. She told him that she loved him and wanted him until the end of time. He didn’t dally, he had his life ahead of him and so he returned to Albion. It had broken her heart.
He reflected upon these precious moments in the hours before the great liberation was to begin.
Would he reach Berlin and find her again?
Would he ever tell his wife of his German lover? He wondered what had become of her, and knew nothing of the child she had borne him. They had died in an American air raid on Berlin. Better that he never knew.
The time had come, he summoned his men. He had invested everything he possessed in them and trusted all of them with his life.
At the edge of Pegasus Bridge, in the verdant land of Normandy, lay the danger of boggy ground. In the still of the night the glider was released from the mother plane. It descended silently to the ground. A pilot error was all it took. The gossamer frame hit the ground with a terrible force.
All his wonderful men died alongside him. His last thought was of his mother and a prayer that God would spare her from grief multiplied.
He lies in tranquillity with his company of men. His legend engraved in Portland stone.
It was just after dawn when the sun rose above this place of pilgrimage. He was just twenty seven. He stood by the side of the grave and wept for the father he never knew.
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