Over the past weeks I have informed you all about our project: “Pearl Harbor and more”. Launched on November 1, we have had excellent editorial and reader reviews, lifting the set to an average rating 0f 4,7 on a scale of 5!
This week we close the introductory phase of our joint project with a “virtual blog tour” each author publishing an excerpt from the contributed story
Here’s an excerpt from “A Rude Awakening”:
Singapore Straits Hotel, December 6, 1941,
Locating the senior officer was not difficult; his booming voice could be heard on the other side of the swimming pool.
“Flying officer Black, sir,” Jeff said while he saluted stiffly.
“My God, at ease, no formalities here, Black,” the brigadier boomed. “Was that you I saw doing such a nice bit of diving a little while ago?” he exclaimed as he pumped Jeff’s hand.
“Very good show! Were you in a team?”
“Yes, sir; the school’s swimming team.”
It earned him a brief frown and Jeff immediately knew what it meant. Not Eton? Not out of the top drawer then.
“Any other sports?” the brigadier asked.
“Excellent, excellent,” the brigadier boomed. “Glad to hear that. We’re in a bit of a bind. Some of the old sweats have been posted up north and we have this match coming up.” He turned to a colonel next to him. “Make sure this young man joins the team. We are short on bowlers for the match against the Australians.”
“See me in my office tomorrow morning,” the colonel said and handed Jeff his card. It said “Staff Officer Personnel.” Just the man to speak to, he thought, and waited patiently until the colonel was disengaged for a moment.
“Excuse me, sir, I know this is not really the place but I have a question.”
“Well, what is it?” the colonel asked with a trace of annoyance in his voice.
“I arrived the day before yesterday and still have not received any orders. I thought I was supposed to join one of the fighter squadrons . . .”
“Listen . . . eh . . . Black, take my advice and lay low for a while. Enjoy life, party a bit, have a good snooze in the afternoon. You’ll be posted soon enough,” the colonel added and turned back to the good-looking, black-haired girl he had been talking to.
Jeff took a glass from a tray presented by a servant and shrugged his shoulders as he took a first sip of his drink. He had been so eager to get into the RAF, to go into action and fight the enemy. And then he had been posted here, a place where nothing seemed to happen. After living in wartime Britain, it was difficult to get used to everyone’s careless attitude. It was a feeling that grew as he walked around. If it had not been for the uniforms, he felt he might as well have been at an undergraduate’s party back in pre-war England. Everybody was talking: about films, about tea-dances and dinner dances, about the races, about sports cars and motorcycles, about the weather, about almost anything – except the war.
The black-haired girl he had noticed before was surrounded by a small group of admirers. He quietly joined her circle and, sipping his drink, took a good look at her. In her mid-twenties, raven-haired and good-looking – probably smart too. The type of woman he liked. Pity he didn’t have a clue how to approach her and he silently cursed his shyness.
“I see you all are trying to monopolize my Angie,” an army lieutenant said jokingly as he elbowed his way into the circle. “Better forget it! Angela, my dear, will you join me for
“Of course, Kenneth,” she answered brightly and, arm in arm, the couple went off.
“Isn’t she a dish?” a captain whispered to a major standing next to him. “She’s old Laserre’s daughter; remember him, the Darjeeling guy who died last year? She inherited his estate! And that lucky fellow married her last month in Calcutta.”
“Artilleryman called Stone; related to the Fox-Martins; knew his father in Iraq in ’26.”
The brief tropical twilight had come and gone by the time the welcome dinner for the new arrivals had ended. Most guests preferred to stay inside and soon several games of bridge were going on. Angie had joined one of the tables and, partnering with her husband, played against the major and a colonel. But she played poorly and the two senior officers easily won the game.
“What’s the matter with you tonight, Mrs Stone?” the colonel asked, amazed by the girl’s poor performance.
“It is just that I . . . that I . . .” Her voice faltered and tears glittered in her eyes. She pressed a handkerchief against her mouth and turned her head away. Her husband briefly hugged her and explained, “Angela has been told today that, since I’m now officially on post, she can’t stay here any longer. In fact, they’ve told her she’s been here too long already, so they’ll put her on next week’s plane to Sydney.”
An uneasy silence fell. Both senior officers nodded their understanding. It was an old army rule: wives were not allowed on post with their husbands. But it was a rotten deal for a newly married couple.
“I say, wait a minute,” the colonel suddenly exclaimed. He briskly got up from his chair and walked over to the brigadier. They talked quietly for a while and for once, the brigadier subdued his booming voice. Soon the two officers nodded in agreement and the colonel returned. He sat down with a smiling face and turned to Angie. “Meet me in the lobby tomorrow morning at nine and put on your best bib and tucker. I’m taking you out to Fort Canning to introduce you to the commander-in-chief. He needs a secretary. If he gives you the job you won’t have to be transported to Australia . . .”
The games were over and the guests had dispersed around the room with their coffee and cheroots. Jeff found himself part of a small circle, presided over by a red-faced, pot-bellied, middle-aged major, a man of about five foot three in height and with somewhat bombastic behaviour. Angie had joined them too, escorted by her husband, and next to her sat a civilian who, in a lazy American drawl, introduced himself as Mike Murdoch, correspondent for Scripps Howard Press.
“When I did a stint in China, I was told the Japs were a handful to fight,” Murdoch said.
“A story told by the Chinese, I presume,” the major replied haughtily. “If those little men had been foolish enough to attack our troops, they wouldn’t have stood a chance.”
“Still, I did not like the way the Jap air force blasted the Chinese out of the sky!”
“Pooh-pooh, canvas-and-paper Japanese planes fighting antiquated Chinese stuff.”
“I believe the Chinese had Russian planes, quite modern—”
“There, you see! No wonder they got blown out of the sky! What do Russians know about airplanes? Ask this young man here; he’s an expert,” the major said with a nod at Jeff.
“Are you a fighter pilot?” the American asked Jeff.
“Don’t ‘sir’ me; I’m just plain Mike. Done much flying here or in Europe?”
“I’m afraid not, sir; I am just out of training and waiting to be posted. But I agree with the major. We all hope the Japanese will attack so we can score a few easy kills. Might help us transfer back to Europe where the real war is.”
The American gave him a long stare and decided to change the subject.
“Tell me, Major, those Japanese convoys we’ve had reports about, don’t they bother you?”
“What convoys?” the major asked. He put down his glass and frowned at the newspaper man.
“There seem to be several of them, lots of troopships, all steaming south, and escorted by plenty of Jap Navy stuff.”
“Well, they’d better not come this way; Repulse and Prince of Wales will make mincemeat of them.”
“But suppose they do attack Singapore? I vouched not to become a war correspondent.”
“My dear man, what fool would think Japan wants Singapore?” the major asked incredulously.
For once lost for words, it took Murdoch several seconds to reply. “Just for argument’s sake, Major, suppose their planes and ships do attack us here. I heard somewhere it would take the Royal Navy seventy days to arrive here in force.”
“There still would be nothing to worry about,” the major replied. “This place is an impregnable fortress, well garrisoned, with very heavy guns pointing out to sea. And with hundreds of miles of jungle at our back, a land invasion is impossible. So, at worst, we might undergo a minor siege, but even that is unlikely. Anyway, this is all idle speculation. The very idea of Japanese bombs on Singapore! You can take it from me, sir, never will a single Japanese set foot in Malaya – and never will a single Japanese bomb be dropped on Singapore!”
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