problems with cantona's flights!
In a mad burst -we got 6 turns in!
More than enough to write about..........in fact lots and lots to write about.
So, here is more!
“hands fall out from action stations, hands fall out from action stations, assume readiness state two..
Prepare for flight deck operations”
Swift eagle steams over a mirror calm sea, shining, oily. Above her, perfect blue skies, the usual thunderheads growing on the horizon.
They have escaped Truk unmolested, and 800 men breath easier, it would take a skilled submarine man indeed to penetrate this screen.
But such things happen in war……….
Too her port, a thousand yards distant, Shohos bow creams white as she works towards launching speed.
Ahead, wakes still visible as they follow them, black smoke shovels from Junyo and Hiyo, as they too work up towards flight operations.
There is no wind
They will have to make their own today.
Around them, a multitude of destroyers, and Hyuga’s towering great bulk.
And falling astern now, Yamashiro’s pagoda slides over the horizon, shepherd to 4th division transports.
And somewhere behind them, more transports, and 144th regiment………..
Hidaka stands, legs aplomb, hands on hips, on the flight deck edge, staring at the ships spreading into formation over the dozen square miles they need.
An almost savage pride fills him. Action brewing.at last. At long, long last.
Time again, to show those white imperialists that Japan too, carries a big stick.
Time, time indeed.
Below him, gun crews are swinging the big 4.7 inch AA gun around, preparing to conduct yet more drills. One of the sweating men looks up, and dares to speak to the officer standing so proud above him.
“Do you think we will see action this time sir?’
Hidaka smiles. “yes, yes we will. But if we need you guys, then I have failed. But our eagles won’t fail, I promise you. We are going to smack the Yankees out of the ball park”
Deep below them, Zuiho rumbles, and smoke shovels briefly from the funnel, and the fans begin to whine, imposing themselves, as they must, as they do, every moment of the day, into the fibre of the ship.
Zuiho is working up to speed now, and the first zeros begin to bark into life on her fantail.
‘But keep a close eye out ney?......a 500 pounder can ruin our day!’
He turns, and walks to meet the first pilots of this CAP.
Excitement, real excitement pulses through him. It is going to be a glorious day.
And action becons.
And what pilot could wish for anything less?
Zuiho works towards full power.
Below, the flames of hell are pouring out of all the burners, the boiler front trembling, the vent trunking shaking, pulsating under the press of the air being forced, crushed, pounded into that hell, consumed, blasted up and out through the tubes as heat, power, raw, beautiful energy.
The men tend the boilers, the turbines that work zuiho towards full power.
They assume a total nonchalance, actions casual, stripped to the wastes mostly, sweating freely, smiling, grinning at times.
The great beasts, these boilers, are at full forcing rate, all powerful giants, ready, willing, able to snuff these mens lives in a moment………….and the men grin, for these giants are theirs. Slaves to them.
This power is theirs.
Full forcing rate………….and these pits of hell convert water to steam, to power, and deliver it to the turbines.
And the men, so casual, watch and tend .
But their eyes are hard, and sharp…………….and nothing escapes them.
Zuiho works to full power
That pure energy , unseen, but felt, sensed about them, slams into turbines, converting energy to power, to torque, to movement, movement transmitted to the great screws astern, where the water boils, pounds, vibrating the stern into an insane, never ending dance.
And that power pushes her forward………ever forward.
And again, those eyes, in bodies so casual, are hard, watching that mass of dials in the engine room, alert to the first twitch, the first vibration, the first sign of trouble.
Zuiho works to full power…………….but things are not going well.
‘Port boiler……….port engine room……..charge speaking”
“Is that controller fixed yet? – I am none the too happy feeding by hand at full power!’
Bloody controller………how in the hell they get a hole in them is beyond me? –heavens, my house has better resistance to holes………..
“”Engine room, boiler room! –the answer is No!.......and the water tender would like the charge to know he is none to happy too!’
Despite himself, the charge grins. None too happy too. Who would be? – full power, 4 burning, all turning, and on the top plates, in that heat, feeding by hand
‘tell the poor hard done water tender I am going to come over….would he like a nice ice water while I am at it?’
Grins all round. Watertending, the toughest job in town. And as if warships would ever have ice machines……..
The charge, 24 hours with out sleep now, is smiling as he heads to this latest crises.
Hasegawa is not smiling. He too is tired, with out sleep now for a similar time.
His stomach hurts, and pain from tired legs shoots spasmodically up his back, his spine, slams into his skull. He needs to rest. But he cannot.
He cannot leave the bridge.
Around him, Hyuga’s task force plods on, at a steady 15 knots, the battle ship leading the two columns of heavy cruisers.
But the carriers have to have wind, have to make wind….but stay in the screen, this far flung destroyer screen.
It is their only warning of air attack they have.
And so, Swift eagle has to cut back and forth, across the front of Hyuga’s force, then back, then back again………..and each time, co coordinating with the other carriers, the plane guard destroyers……and hopefully, hopefully, not plough into some bloody body….
The bridge is alive, bodies, reports, flowing in, assimilated, calculated, assessed.
All end with him.
And Hasegawa gives his orders, and manoeuvres Zuiho, 800 men in his care……..and silently prays for nightfall, and a finish to this day
Zuiho works to full power, and Diogawa waits, his propeller a blur ahead of him.
Excitement too, bubbles in him. It has been too long, too long.
Again, he does ‘the rounds’ Flaps, set, trim, set, throttle, warm under his hand.
He pushes the rudders, confirms the straps over the bridge of his feet…..round the world the stick -, stick hard to his left hip –the aileron comes up hard towards him, the right one hard down.
Stick fully forward, fully back.
Oil pressure good, manifolds good, fuel good………..and the little red flag is waving.
Home is steady, no swell today……….and the engine roars, a little drift, tail up, steady, steady, and away………….gear up, flaps up, trim ……trim, back the throttle, 1000 feet already………….too long, too long
Delighted to be flying again, he heels her over, barrel rolls, ocean blue ‘above’ his head.
It is a beautiful day…perfect in every respect.
Diogawa’s zero settles into its race track over the fleet, a silver dot over the calm , calm blue.
And even Diogawa, who cares little for ships, is impressed with the vast armada below him.
The last zero touches down.
“message from Hyuga sir”
The pain is steady now. And he can feel the sweat slide down his back.
But he must stay. Must.
“read it please”
‘We are to be off Narua island, dawn tomorrow. Prepare for possible engagement with enemy aircraft, surface forces.
battle speed two…execute”
battle speed two. Twenty four knots……..in the dark. He must remain on the bridge. Must.
“very well………..revolutions 230!, course 160 degrees!’
The bells tingle
Zuiho, and Japan, plunges south into the thickening night. The thunderheads, so far away this morning, are now upon them.
And just after dark, it begins to rain.
“And the day charge?’
He is drunk. Can you believe it.?. he tries to hide it……….but he is drunk.
How does the captain not notice?. Does he care?
“We have fixed the float controller………..a win. But a few losses I am afraid.
Lost the port fuel pump in Starboard engine, transfer arm has spat the dummy…..tore out the bush. We are machining a new one.
There……..and I told you it was on the way out……….or don’t you remember?’
“Thanks charge………keep her going……..we don’t want Hasegawa on our backs, do we?’
And Minobe takes in his charge……….. he looks tired. Too tired. But are we all not as tired? Damn this war. Damn this ship.
Damn bloody airplanes……….
Charge will keep her going. He will. Then, this mission over……..a refit. Home. Please, God, home………….
The phone rings. Minobe takes it.
Voices, raised, urgent…….. “Problems in starboard boiler charge……….let me know”
36 hrs with out sleep now, and the charge goes again to his giants…………to keep his slaves in line.
Admiral Yamaguchi reads the reports
Heavy raids on Port Moresby, gassmatta, lunga,
Enemy ships at Tarawa.
Enemy raids on mearuke island………enemy ships at Horn island.
Enemy ships sighted west Akyab.
Enemy planes over kwaljien.
The board has been set.
The pieces are moving………