Short Stories. The Skunk’s Room

The Following is from my screenplay; Cast of Eagles. Air Commodore Al Deere is not mentioned in this. Skinner existed, other characters are fictitious. That said, I had two versions ref., Sq/Ldr., Skinner: first, his dialogue as written. Another, he didn’t say this. I left it my screenplay for greater effect, as I believe this the true one. Even the skunk’s room, first it existed and maybe still does. The other version, it never existed.

Either way, it’s my way of saying Thank You to these brave young men. I lived in Chatham, Kent. It was in a sky-path aptly called Bomb Alley. Between Dover and Lydd was Hell Fire Corner. I remember the dogfights as if they happened yesterday.

The old reinforced concrete walls and roof of this very old neglected world war two building is out of sight and now covered in lichen and ivy. A large sign warned: Keep away. Building un-safe. So no-one goes near it nowadays.

Things were very different during the Battle of Britain. RAF fighter command station Biggin Hill in Kent was and still is the most famous base in this momentous air battle.

The original hand-painted sign said: The Skunks Room. It has worn away and no-where to be seen where it once stood for battle-weary Spitfire pilots.

The Biggin Hill Air Fare and display is one of the most popular weekends in England, so well revered is its reputation. The building is forgotten and away from the flying displays and stationary aircraft. So what happened decades ago in this building and why?

It was the briefing room for the brave young pilots stationed there. A short car drive away at Brasted is: The White Hart Country Pub and Eating House, out in the open lush Kent countryside away from any targets for the Luftwaffe bombers. The beers are from Kent hops; 200-gallon wood barrels stand in a cellar below ground to keep it cool. Brasted was first recorded in 1086.

It must have tasted good, as these men swigged back a pint or two. Usually, they had wives or girlfriends’ along and enjoyed some great pub food together. They always toasted comrades who didn’t return from a dogfight, and there were many. Experienced combat pilots and some with only a few hours under their belt.

In those days nailed on the door of the brick building, a crooked hand painted sign –

THE SKUNKS’ ROOM

Pilots strolled through the door and chatted about women and flying. A pilot stopped, straightened the sign, everyone following barged into him and one another.

A voice from the back called out. “I bet that’s bloody Smithson again? Come on let’s see what this bloke’s about”.

Smithson cheekily took the stance of a doorman and saluted everyone as they went through the door. Kicking anyone he can up the Arse.

Inside on the bullet-riddled wall are two chipped Notice Boards. One is headed:

AVAILABLE PILOTS, it listed names of available pilots, most are dated and lined through. Another board is headed: Aircraft. This has four sub-headed columns:

SCRAPPED   UNDER REPAIRS   DATE AVAILABLE   ACTION READY

34         29 total = 63   Wed 16th         31

Pilots scrambled for a seat and waited holding mugs of tea, coffee. Many fall asleep, others dozed, all worn out. A figure strutted to a desk.

Squadron Leader Bill Skinner immaculate, mid-thirties, stern, looking, placed his identity plaque on the desk. It reads Squadron Leader. Bill Skinner, he stared at his motley crew, flouting every notion of correct military dress. Check shirts, old school ties, and suede boots. His haggard, unshaven pilots are unimpressed.

“I’ve studied my officers’ behaviour with concern, and frankly it stinks. You’re the most conceited, insubordinate lot I’ve had the misfortune to meet. Worked hard admittedly, got damn good scores-better than any squadron. Your carnalities, however, are appalling”.

The pilots looked at each other, glanced at Skinner and shook their heads in disbelief. Then, in silence, made for the door.

Snubbed Skinner is livid, he shouted after them. “Your discipline is slack; you never get any sleep; drink like fish. You get your lady friends down to spend weekends whenever you please. You’re a lot of skunks”.

Quinn stepped forward, looked at Skinner, swigged back his coffee, wiped his mouth and plonked the chipped mug on the table. “Until now today’s been a good day for me. You don’t even fart the same side as us”.

Quinn turned and walked away. He reached the door and stopped, then tapped a newspaper page stuck on the wall, as always touching it for luck.

It reads: ‘The Defence of Southern England will last 4 days and the Royal Air Force 4 weeks. We can guarantee invasion for the Fuhrer within a month’. Reichsmarschall Goring, July 1940.

Scribbled right across it – BOLLOCKS

Quinn turned, nodded at Skinner, and pointed to Goring’s name. “He dyes his hair too”.

Four pilots: Cobb, Faversham, Newton are piled into Quinn’s open-top sports car. Smithson’s lost out again. Quinn rubbed his hands together, jumped in driver’s seat, and drove off leaving Smithson. Quinn braked suddenly, without looking back waved to Smithson, who smiled and dashed to the car and jumped on Faversham’s lap.

One calls out. “Now for the Pub. They’ve just opened”.

Churchill called them. ‘THE FEW.’

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