It features my dad (Fred Jones)… and yes, his role in the V2 saga is accurate.
Author’s Note: The following owes much to ‘Air Crash’ written by Fred Jones.
Mr Jones was employed in the English government services between 1935 and 1980.
Mr Jones worked out of Farnborough and specialised in Air Accident Analysis. Fortunately for me he was there during WW2 and was involved in one very particular bit of analysis which is mentioned below…and yes, he did have ring-ins for the job, but he doesn’t say who or where from. This being the case I took a minor liberty and added one of my own people.
August 1st 1944 – Weybridge, England
I take a simple view of life: Keep your eyes open and get on with it. – Sir Laurence Olivier
Hope had been staring at the telephone in perplexity for over five minutes…Mac had been timing it. It was an odd expression of her face and Mac was less than comforted by it. It was an expression she tended to wear when something had gone wildly wrong with an aeroplane. It was an expression which had been becoming more frequent ever since work had begun on the jets. No one knew what happened with high speed flight, the casualties were mounting and the problems becoming increasingly bizarre and senseless.
“Hope?” There was complete silence and Hope continued to stare at the telephone.
“Hope!” A little more volume drew no more response.
“HOPE!” Mac settled for a yell and was relieved to see Hope twitch, it would take a moment or two before her full attention returned from where ever it was though.
“Something up?” Hope looked around and blinked rather owlishly.
“You’ve been staring at the telephone as if it’s a particularly nasty crash.”
“Oh.” Hope moved away from the telephone and found a chair. “It was Jones from Farnborough, seems to think he’s got an interesting job on hand and wanted me to show up because of something to do with the recent crashes we’ve had here.”
“Our crashes have been remarkably boring…except for the fact that we seem to be studying how many pieces you can separate an aeroplane into.”
“That’s what worries me.” Hope twisted restlessly and frowned out the window. “Fred has seven others over there and all they do is spend their time dissecting smashed planes. Why me?”
“Did you tell him no?”
“He said it would be interesting.” Hope was frowning at the counter top.
“Then go pack.” Mac settled himself down carefully. “Me and the twins will endeavour not to destroy ourselves, or the house, before whatever interesting problem has passed and I trust the big sneeze doesn’t mind letting you go.”
“It’ll probably come out of my leave.”
“You haven’t had leave in years.”
“Take it up with him, not me.” Hope was frowning at the bookcase, one book in hand and her intention clearly to obtain another one. “I really…no, no, no…possibly not…maybe…is it at all important?” Hope turned away from the bookshelf with a perplexed expression.
“It coming out of my leave. Is it an important matter?”
“No one else given such an invitation or request would have it taken out of their leave.”
“Oh.” Hope turned back to the bookshelf and pulled a book out. “Fred’s usually reliable…or at least if not reliable he’s not boring…that Halifax…”
“Which Halifax?” Mac looked up from the book he had acquired.
“Oh, it was back at the beginning of the war.” Hope returned the book she held and grabbed another. “Rocket assisted bombs or something like that. The Halifax blew up and no one knew why.” Hope began to flick through the book. “It was really rather idiotic because they loaded the plane for multiple tests and one of the bombs fired but wasn’t released…it was rather bad for the aeroplane.”
“Really?” Mac carefully swallowed a smile as he noticed that Hope now had seven books and was searching for more.
“I wonder…” Hope had pulled yet another book from the shelf and was thoughtfully thumbing through the pages. Mac smiled quietly to himself and went back to his book, the house could blow up and Hope wouldn’t hear it now.
Hope knelt among the litter of metals and knew a moment of awe. They’d been working for days now, simply sorting the different fragments into their individual metal types. There were days more work to do before they even began attempting to assemble this mess, and they intended to compress the assembly time and analysis time as well. It was the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. It was also a secret which Germany undoubtedly considered to be safe…to any sane person this was the outcome of obliteration. The people gathered at Farnborough were not sane though, mathematicians were already working on the trajectory information balanced by the mass of metal which had been collected. This mess was a gift from Sweden, a high altitude explosion and many fragmentary scraps of metal…well, hardly a gift, the Swedes got Spitfires in return. This and some mathematics were all they had to work with, but Hope knew no doubt, they would know success before Hitler ever used it against them. Hope fingered a sharp-edged piece of metal and pondered which of the millions available to choose from would actually have once joined it. The clues were sometimes subtle, sometimes glaringly obvious, but always there. Explosions sometimes actually made the job easier, for explosions marked the metals. This was going to be fun…long, hard, fun.
“I trust your absence for the past couple of weeks has been suitably interesting.” Mac glanced up from some cheap paperback as Hope let herself in through the back door. Hope noted with faint curiousity that there was actually quite a significant stack of books next to Mac’s chair.
“Yes.” Hope sank into another chair with a sigh. “Marmelade and Marine?”
“Upstairs and asleep.” Mac laid the book aside and rubbed his forehead. “Very hush-hush?”
“Hmm?” Hope blinked in momentary bewilderment. “Oh, yes.” Hope gave her head a small shake. “Some rocket which came out of Germany and detonated. We think we got it sorted…but we may be wrong.”
“That is always a possibility.” Mac smiled faintly and then it slowly widened. “Payload?”
“Nasty…also a whole sudload of senseless electronic stuff. At a guess we assume they’ll start arriving in London within the next couple of months…but we’ve got their flight trajectories, ranges…we know where to look for the launch sites even if we can do nothing about them.”
“Nice.” Mac picked his book up again.
“Mac?” Hope had finally managed to bring her mind back to the present and that pile of books was bothering her.
“Mm?” Mac looked up from his book.
“It’s two o’clock in the morning and you have eight thrillers piled next to your chair.”
“Oh.” Mac glanced at the pile with a faint frown. “Obviously I only thought about aski…” Mac stopped what he was saying and turned back to his book.
“Mac?” Hope’s brows had risen questioningly.
“Picked a fight with the back door and lost…resulted in some enforced rest I’m afraid…the kitchen is the most shocking mess.”
“When?” Hope was feeling distinctly resigned.
“Ten..twelve days ago.” Mac gave a slight shrug. “Just something else I’ll have to get the hang of not doing.”
“Why do you usually seem to save your best attempts at killing yourself until my back is turned?”
“Skill.” Mac gave a tired smile. “Marmelade’s managing the dogs so you needn’t worry about that this time…though I might have to worry about finding a new job…he’s good with them.”
“Well…try not to get one in London.” Hope gave a tiny smile.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Mac returned the smile and then picked up his book. “I’m not sleeping much courtesy of pain, there’s no need to wait up.”
“Am I allowed to sit and chat with a husband for a bit after not seeing him for twenty days?”
“Certainly…said husband felt his company was pretty rotten though.”
“Well, said husband is not made up of crumpled pieces of duralumin I’m trying to piece together and is therefore a very welcome change.”
“Oh.” Mac laid his book aside again. “That being the case said husband will stop imitating being a piece of stuffed furniture.” Mac rubbed the back of his neck and then yawned. “You’ve been offered a week of leave.”
“Good.” Hope kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet up. “Such an odd fin formation on that thing…must have a chat to someone about the effects of such variations…might be a…” Hope trailed off her eyes fixed on something in the infinite distance outside the window. Mac smiled quietly to himself and picked up his book once more. Life was good.
A/N: September 8th 1944, the first V2 Rockets arrived in Kent with specifications exactly matching those predicted by RAE…the senseless electronics were absent though, they were a remote flight control system which had never received permission to use a rocket.