‘Colder than my ex-girlfriend’s kiss,’ Squadron Leader Clayton-Graham muttered, shuffling his feet and rubbing his hands.
‘I don’t know,’ Max Aitken replied. His own hands were pushed deep into the pockets of his great coat. It was 3 p.m. on a winter’s afternoon, and the light was fading fast on the airfield. Faces sometimes appeared whilst working on Merlin engines, of the dispersed aircraft accompanied by curious looks and the occasional gesture. The mechanical digger was making slow progress, workmen with pickaxes standing ready.
They were in what had been the grounds of a farmer’s house before being totally demolished by a wayward de Havilland Mosquito, two men dying needlessly. The digger scraped at the ground again, and this time threw up some long splinters of laminated wood. One of the workmen gestured for the driver to lift the arm away, before climbing into the hole, accompanied – with some apparent reluctance – by his younger colleague. As they worked with their pickaxes, more of the Perspex and laminated wood was revealed, some sections intact. There was a smell of burnt pork that Aitken could pick up. The first he saw of the Canadian pilot was a shank of hair with the skull below; next to him sat the crisp remains of an 18 year-old aircraft mechanic.
‘Tragic,’ Clayton-Graham,’ Aitken said.
‘Hard to disagree,’ the Squadron Leader replied.