My story for Summer of Words continues… You can read it from the beginning, starting here.
The July morning began unseaonally cool, grey, blustery, and showery. Archie cycled to work as usual, for an early start. He met up with the two men who were to work with him, and then headed below decks. Today’s job was to set up the water-tight doors for the engine-room. George Baird was down there, too, ready to commission the lighting that would enable the engineers and greasers to work easily on every part of the enormous engines.
An ethos of industry prevailed until the supervisors called for a break at ten-fifteen. Men scrambled up stairways, eager to enjoy a few minutes of daylight and a drink. But as they chatted and joked in the open air, a drone of engines could be heard to the North. One of the mechanics frowned. “That’s nae one o’ oors, Archie…”
The roar of the plane increased, then faded. A minute or two later came the sound of four ear-splitting blasts. Men turned pale and gripped the handrails. Conversation was hushed, almost in whispers. After another minute or two come a further four explosions.
Men looked at Archie and the other supervisors inquiringly. No air-raid warning had sounded; what were they supposed to do? Stand by the fire equipment? Go back to work as if nothing had happened? As Archie himself considered the situation, the vessel’s ‘tannoy’ system crackled into life.
“Attention, please: We understand that enemy action has taken place nearby. More information will be announced as it becomes available. It is believed that there is no continued threat at present. Normal work should therefore continue.”
Work resumed, although hardly a word was spoken. The war had suddenly become vivid and very personal. More details were announced some time later. Many of the men lived near to the areas affected. What would they find when they went home? More to the point, who would they find – or not find?
You can read part four here.