The skipper didn’t believe that stuff about night glasses. . . But you never can tell with a guy like Dopey Dodds of B for Bertie

ARCH WHITEHOUSE November 1 1944


The skipper didn’t believe that stuff about night glasses. . . But you never can tell with a guy like Dopey Dodds of B for Bertie

ARCH WHITEHOUSE November 1 1944



HAD the wheels of B for Bertie been down when Squadron Leader Hal Goodrich led the first section of No. 428’s new Mosquito bombers across the North Sea, it is more than likely his course would have been scarred with Vshaped notches of green-white spray all the way from Harwich to Flushing.

Goodrich operated that way to prove something. Just what he was trying to prove was never quite clear, but he had done one tour of duty flying Spitfires, and perhaps he was trying to reclaim what he considered his youth. Not that it isn’t wise to approach the enemy coast at practically zero altitude. It’s a very smart thing to do, but you shouldn’t have to prove something every time you go over.

“Don’t sit like thut,” Goodrich said, looking back at Flt.-Lieut. Dodds in the retrospect mirror. “You give me the gripes! If we hit, she’ll float. These wooden wonders are just Mae Wests—with wings. Slacken off.” But Dodds always squirmed in the air. Somehow he never overcame that all-gone feeling that left a cold hollow below his belt buckle whenever he went into the air. He’d first experienced it back at the Air Navigation School when they took him up in an old Avro Anson to fly a course from Hamilton to Guelph. In ail those months he had never learned to move about inside a kite with any degree of familiarity, or with that free abandon so many of the students enjoyed. He was always tripping over cables and burking his shins on lower cross-members. He experienced that all-gone feeling on swings and merry-go-rounds. Same thing when he rode the elevatore in Toronto’s big buildings.

It almost finished him when he was flown aboard a TCA air liner from Montreal to Moncton, where he finished and got his brevet.

They were on the intercom and Goodrich’s voice always sounded as though it were being taken off a twanging metal tape with a rusty nail.

“I’m all right. Don’t worry about me. I’m just making myself comfortable and looking around,”

Dodds answered. He wished Goodrich wouldn’t talk so much. But the pilot was still trying to prove something.

Flt.-Lieut. Dodds never wanted to fly, but you never can tell what you’ll do for a girl. Janie Bethune was shackled to an invalid father in Ottawa or she would have been in all this with both twinkling feet.

Janie Bethune had decided months ago that Mr. Gerrard Dodds would go big in the RCAF, and if Janie had decided that Gerrard Dodds was quite capable of playing centre for the Maple Leafs, there wasn’t any question in Mr. Dodds’ mind that she’d have made all the arrangements and had him in there, bodychecking with the best of them.

Mr. Dodds had once entertained the idea that he might look well in the kilt and sporran of the Toronto Scottish, but Junie Bethune had u different idea . . .

“Where are we going anyway?” enquired Goodrich as he leapfrogged the radio antenna of a Sea-Air rescue motor boat. “You got it straight, didn’t you?” But he knew Dopey Dodds, as he had quietly named him, would have the “gen.”

He detested Dodds already for just

that reason. Dodds was one of those birds who could always be relied on, and by the same token he knew Dodds had little respect for him. Goodrich was supposed to be senior squadron leader of No. 428, but he wasn’t particularly interested since they had nudged him off Spitfires to fly Mossies. Dodds and all his junk cluttering up the kite! He wondered why the wing commander had tagged him with a guy like Dodds.

“We’re going to Jena,” Dodds answered, unhooking his oxygen supply after another look outside at the greasy rollers.

That was another hate Dodds had on this flying business— this being shackled to something: hooked into the intercom line; belted to your seat; sucking on an oxygen teat for hours on end; and now they were bundling him into a new E-type flying suit, jacked into a power line, which was supposed to keep you warm, but more often threatened a third-degree burn or a lingering form of electrocution. Since coming to No. 428 he’d been handcuffed to Goodrich, who was still trying to live up to the Spitfire pilots’ sobriquet: “They Fly Like Careful Madmenl”

“Jena? Where’s Jena?” Goodrich exploded, as though Dodds were making up names as he went along. “I never heard of Jena!”

Dodds pointed to the course card clamped under the compass: “You will!” he promised. “It’s just a few miles the other side of Gotha. Thirty-nine, to be exact.”

Goodrich considered that as the Dutch coastline

took form. He cupped his radio mike over and spoke

to the rest of his section:

“Snuggle up, No. 1,” he ordered. “Tighten it up, lads, and let’s hit the knots until we clear.”

That was the old Spitfire stuff, and Goodrich gloried in it. Back to the days when he went out on intruder patrols! Now they had him being mothered around with a navigator, Dopey Dodds, who came aboard with a valise full of maps and gen.

THE navigator sensed the boost in speed and drew his knees up so that his toes just touched the boards of the gangway. He peered out gingerly and saw Pinkie Jacobs’ Mossie nudging up closer. Dodds closed his eyes and wished he were back on Beaufighters, laying mines in the Skagerrak. That was a cakewalk compared to this. A bong of desultory flak made him open his eyes, and he looked down at the tracery of canals and the open formation of phlegmatic windmills that waved them on. They roared across an open stretch, and several Dutchmen on bicycles slowed up near a gash of ditch, threw their legs over the saddle and waited. One of them waved, then glanced around with a guilty hunch of his shoulders.

Dodds glanced at the small instrument panel that offered air speed, altitude and outside temperature. He moved the parallel rulers down and drew a line from a point south of Flushing to Turnhout, and put in his pin point and the time-check figures. He’d need all that when the Intelligence officer had him up for “lats and longs” when they got back.

He looked out and down again to check on Turnhout, and make sure of the cloth-weaving factories and the old chateau, once owned by the Dukes of

Brabant, which now served as the court of justice. He’d picked all that up from an old copy of Baedeker’s.

“Did you know they had a leech-breeding establishment in Turnhout?” he said impetuously to Goodrich, once he had checked his chart.

Goodrich watched an Me.-110 cross their course and head north, then considered Dodds’ ridiculous statement. If this was the sort of dope he’d been saddled with to do Mossie shows, he’d soon scotch all this.

“Where do you get that stuff?” he demanded. “I mean, what good is all that?”

“I read it in this Baedeker,” Dodds explained, and wished he could approach a long-range bombing show in such a detached manner. “I just thought—just thought it was interesting. Can you imagine leechery in these days?”

“Do you mean to say you brought a copy of Baedeker along with you? That’s a German guide, isn’t it? Holy mackerel ! Isn’t there little enough space aboard this kite without loading it up with a lot of junk like that?”

“I don’t know. You can pick up a lot of information in these things.”

“Like getting the gen on the leech business, I suppose,” grumbled Goodrich. “This is a bombing show, not a Cook’s tour. Your job is to get me to this - this— Jena.”

Dodds snapped the hooded light over his table and went back to bis figures again. They were small tight-curled figures that reflected his tenseness. He never wrote like that when he answered Janie’s letters. A compact hand, but still free, and the swirls were as smooth as a design on a chased wineglass. He wished Janie had let him join the Toronto Scottish.

They were streaming across a series of German reservoirs now and the flak was getting hot. It came up, scrawling scarlet lines out of the Kruff inkpots below, and Dodds felt his insides trying to worm themselves into something hard and cold with a narrow neck. His eyebrows itched, and he loosened his

chin strap so he could scratch under the frontal flap. Getting to his feet Dodds shoved his head up into the narrow space above and looked aft. He could see Jacobs scowling at him from D for Dewdrop; but Simmons, the third member of their section, was nowhere to be seen. He tapped Goodrich on the shoulder and formed a letter “C” with his thumb and forefinger. Then he gave the washout signal with his open palm.

“I know,” the pilot said over his intercom. “Simmons just slid into Baldock, of No 3 section. They both crashed. Boyers just told me.”

Dodds swallowed a ping-pong ball and tried to look back, but there was nothing to be seen but flak and smoke. Ahead, an industrial haze was blotting out Krefeld, so he went back to his chart and jabbed in some more figures. He felt cold now, and pawed about for the heater-duct latch, and wondered what Simmons was doing to get into a mess like that.

Goodrich’s voice came over the intercom, his words clacking like a stick over the grating of a storm sewer. “That fool Simmons!” he was saying. “You can’t keep him in close. What the devil was he wandering all over the sky like that for?”

There was no compassion in Goodrich. He had already decided that Simmons crashed, and took another Mossie with him, because he was afraid to fly tight formation. Goodrich couldn’t see any difference in bashing into one of your own section because you make a mistake flying tight, or skittering all over the shop until you pile into someone in another unit. The possibility of being picked off by flak never occurred to Goodrich.

DODDS was picking nervously at a small Christmas seal someone had pasted on his instrument panel. He knew this was Simmons’ second tour of operational duty. He’d done one on night fighters, and picked up a DFC. Then he’d had a stretch of instructing, which had probably taken more out of him than a dozen trips to Jena.

“Simmons didn’t like low-formation flying,” the navigator said into the intercom. “Said a guy never had a chance this low down.” “Never gave himself a chance. All you have to do is stay w-here you belong.” It was as simple as all that to Goodrich. “Where are we?”

“That’s Krefeld ahead. Not that you can see anything but smoke. Hadn’t we ought to get upstairs? We’ve got smoke, clouds and hills ahead.”

“What about this Jena place?” Goodrich was talking to keep himself from arguing about Simmons. He was wondering whether he should order No. 3 section to come up and join him, but they were in the murk by then. “Check me when we get out of that hill area, will you?”

“Why not put on your navigation lights, Skipper?” suggested Dodds. “It might help the others some.”

He had the Christmas seal picked down to a sprig of holly and two gilt bells now.

Dodds was always worrying about the others, which was one way of worrying about himself and his responsibility of getting a Mosquito over Jena. The murk was sooty and washed through with a purple rinse. He checked his time, and moved the pencil line toward Wuppertal on his chart.

“It’s a yellowish building.” Dodds found himself explaining.

“We make our approach from the southeast, and follow a narrowgauge line in until you see three chimneys square - topped chimneys. You’ll have to watch out for the balloons, though. They have u lot of stuff there.”

He wished he hadn’t mentioned the balloons. Goodrich hated balloons. Dodds knew that, by the way he attempted to belittle them.

“Balloons! A waste of time, balloons!” ranted Goodrich. “How we coming now?”

Dodds got up again and looked around. The rest were huddling in close and taking their course on Goodrich’s navigation lights, which were probing into the murk like colored ceremonial lances. There was no gleam from the Mossie exhausts because they were fitted with flame dampers. Dodds went back to his chart and considered the jeopardy of flying with the navigation lights on.

“I think you can go down again, Skipper,” he suggested. “We’re in open country now. Visibility isn’t so bad, is it? And what about those lights?”

Goodrich just nodded and flicked off the wing-tip lights, then nosed down through the smudged gloom. There was a sky lane winding uncertainly through the low-hanging clouds, and Dodds began to perspire for fear they’d get too far off their course. He watched Goodrich’s compass, and timed the length of the zigzagging legs and then crawled forward to kneel in the narrow bombing chamber. Through the optically flat observation window he peered down and noted that they were just south of Kassel and crossing the Fulda River.

The skipper didn’t believe that stuff about night glasses. . . But you never can tell with a guy like Dopey Dodds of B for Bertie

“We’re on course. We’re quite all right,” he assured Goodrich when he went back. “I’ll check the rest again, and ...”

Continued on page 18

Continued from page 17

But the Mosquito was suddenly tying itself into knots. Goodrich, hunched over his stick, was peering out to his left. The fighter bomber went over with a skirl of supercharger, and plunged toward a three-ship formation of Focke-Wulf fighters that were standing on their rudders in an effort to get up at them

“They can’t catch us!” yelled Dodds. “Stay on course, Skipper!”

“No. But I can catch them,” the pilot answered.

“We’re loaded, Skipper!”

But Goodrich had been a Spitfire pilot, and set out to prove it. The Mossie went at the German fighters, and the four machine guns in the nose picked up their rhythm and punched a perforated line across the sky and spattered .303 slugs dead into the lead FockeWulf. The Mossie was flat-out now, and before Goodrich could rudder out and pass astern of the Jerries, the leader rolled over, slapped a wing back at his rudder and exploded. Goodrich dragged the control column back—and hoped.

The Mossie went up like a skimmed platter. There was a thump somewhere aft, and Dodds went to his knees and caught his chin on the chart table.

“You nicked him, Hal! Judas, you scraped our tail!”

But B for Bertie came around, proving the rudder was still intact. If she’d level off that would prove they still had some elevator surface left. The climbing turn continued, and Dodds felt nauseated. They belted around, clanging and vibrating until they plunged headlong into a sodden cloud and lost sight of everything. Dodds pawed over his chute pack and clamped in one of the shackles, t* “What about it, Skipper?” he pleaded. “Are we under control?”

Goodrich turned and grinned at the navigator huddling there.

This was what Goodrich was trying to prove. “You Spitfire pilots fly with that degree of casual perfection —like careful madmen.” Someone had said that in a War Wings Week speech somewhere.

“Did you see me take that guy apart, Dodds? Did he fold up?”

“What about it?” Dodds yelped, clicking the other shackle. “Are we under control?”

“Sure, we’re under control, Watch this!”

The Mossie went up, held her climb and then snapped over and started to spin. She made three full turns, and then came out below the clouds with a scream of slip stream. Dodds hung on, awaiting the end, and then saw his chin was drooling scarlet all over his chart. His ears ached, and the joint of his jaw seemed to have seized up.

Goodrich pulled her out, laughed aloud, throwing his head back like Cagney in “Captains of the Clouds.”

“Baby! Did I plaster that Nazi?”

“Sure! Now where are we?” bleated Dodds. “Where’s the rest of the formation?”

“Stop standing there looking like an unfrocked dominie! You figure out where we are.”

THEY shot out into open country again and Dodds tried to find the river while he unsnaffled his parachute pack. It was almost dark now, and there were too many glows from industrial centres to figure which was which. 1

“You get me out of here,” Goodrich ordered. “You get me to this Jena joint, Dodds!”

Dodds couldn’t understand Goodrich. Already he had lost two of his formation, but he had displayed no particular remorse. He had ignored the fact that four men had gone to their doom. Goodrich was actually in charge of this show, but he hadn’t turned up for briefing. Something about an American Wac from Buffalo. He’d rambled off, chasing Huns, and had shot one down, and now he was somewhere over Hunland, minus his formation, and with absolutely no idea where he was. Goodrich hadn’t even asked Dodds about that blood streaming from his chin.

“Well, what about it?” Goodrich called from up front. There was a pleading tone in his voice now.

“Give me a minute,” Dodds said, dabbing at hLs chin with something from the first-aid kit. “I’ll find out where we are if you’ll stay put a minute.”

“I’ve got to get these four bombs into that Jena place, remember. I’m not taking any alternative target. I don’t work that wav, Dodds.”

“Just a minute! Just a minute, Skipper!”

Dodds worked out another check and decided they were somewhere south of Eisenach. If so, they were dangerously low, because the Thüringer Wald poked up into that area. He gave Goodrich a new’ course calculated to bring them out over Gotha. Once they were there, he explained, it would be simple to follow Continued on page 27

Continued from page 18

the tracks into Jena. Perhaps they could find the others too.

“Better get back upstairs/’ he advised. “Are you sure we have any control left?”

Goodrich stirred the stick and kicked the rudder about until Dodds had to hang on again.

“We got control, Kid! What about that Jena target?”

“I’ll get you on course again in a few seconds. You keep your eyes open for balloons.”

“Always balloons!” Goodrich grumbled. “Intelligence is always talking about balloons, but we never see any.”

“You’ll see plenty tonight,” muttered Dodds, dabbing at his chin again. Goodrich looked back at him and saw the tangle of equipment, charts, notebooks and leather cases piled up. Dodds’ station always looked like a rummage sale that hadn’t quite gone over.

“Why don’t you clean that mess up?” the pilot growled. “How the devil do you expect to—What is all that junk, anyhow?”

“I need all this stuff. Give me a minute to collect myself, will you?”

“Are those binoculars you have there? What the deuce do you expect to see with binoculars at night?”

“There is such a thing as night glasses, you know,” Dodds explained, wondering how Goodrich had ever become a squadron leader. “Hello! There’s Erfurt. That’s right—two citadels and the Friedrich Wilhelmsplatz, with the Domberg showing two big churches. Yes, that’s Erfurt. Jena is exactly 22 miles dead east. Take it from here. Dead east.”

GOODRICH suddenly realized the value of Dopey Dodds and his navigation junk. It startled him that Dodds could produce such amazing details—like an automatic filing cabinet —but it pleased him now.

Goodrich knew he’d never be able to find Jena without Dodds. He knew it was a beaut of a show, and that to get any credit you had to come back with pictures. You could leave that to Dodds too. They’d be talking about this Jena raid for weeks.

The pilot brought B for Bertie around and picked up the course. Then he began to worry about the balloons. He turned and saw Dodds peering about with the binoculars and wondered what there was to see. Goodrich didn’t believe that stuff about night glasses—but you can never tell with a guy like Dodds.

Twenty-two miles in a Mosquito is a mere matter of about three minutes, but by now the visibility was such that when they were within two miles of Jena there was no sign of the target. At least, there wasn’t to Goodrich. Dodds had moved up now, and was kneeling alongside the pilot, with the binoculars to his eyes.

“Watch out, dead ahead,” Dodds warned. “There’s the three chimneys and a zigzag string of balloons. Can you see them?”

Goodrich jammed the throttles up the box, and the Mossie leaped with the increased flail of the blades. He didn’t know what Dodds saw, but he sensed he was right. Goodrich hoicked the kite, and flak came up in scarlet streams and set up a latticework of red-hot bars all around them.

“I can’t see anything!” wailed Goodrich helplessly. “Do you mean to tell me you can?”

“Night glasses, Skipper!” grinned Dodds. “They filter out the glare and bring out the solid masses. I can just

see the chimneys. Bomb doors open! I’ll slip up front, eh?”

The navigator put the glasses on the floor beside Goodrich’s seat and crawled forward. Goodrich looked down, picked them up, took a quick glance and finally made out the masses Dodds had been talking about. Queer, how Dodds knew about these things!

Dodds crawled forward, jacked in his intercom line to the prone position outlet and uncovered the Wimperis sight.

“On target!” he called to the pilot. “You’ll see a yellowish building in a second. Hold your course, Skipper!” Goodrich worried about the balloons again, and then something exploded outside. There was a great hole just above his throttle box and something flicked at his arm and slapped his flying boot.

“Now! Now!” Dodds was screaming. “You’re on it, Skipper! Now!” At the last second Goodrich saw the yellowish building and zoomed the bomber up between two guardian chimneys that had the letter “Z” built in with glazed brick. The Mosquito leaped as the four 500-pound bombs nosed out of their racks and plunged away. There was a terrific explosion outside. The port prop caught a chunk of metal, and the whole wing vibrated madly.

“Balloons! Balloons ahead, Skipper!” yelled Dodds, scrambling back from the bomb sight. “Look out!”

BUT from the series of violent explosions somewhere behind, shagged banners of flame spread out and ate away the gloom below; and amid the crossfire of scarlet flak Hal Goodrich came into his own again. His left hand was bathing the top of the control column with a warm sticky fluid. His left leg had no feel to it.

Goodrich knew it was his show from now on. Dodds had brought him this far and put him on the target—Dodds and those ridiculous nightglasses. Who ever heard of night glasses? But Dodds couldn’t fly her back and get a picture. Dodds had found Jena with his night glasses; but from now on it was up to Goodrich.

“Beat it! You’re in the clear!” yelled Dodds, bending over and shouting in his ear. “You’re empty—beat it!”

Goodrich waved a hand in derision and swished a spray of crimson down Dodds’ sleeve.

The navigator stared at the specks and smeared them with his finger tips. “You hit?” he peeped.

“Not too bad. Get back there and make sure that camera flare is prime. We had delayed-action stuff, you know.”

“You’re not going back over that stuff, are you?”

“Intelligence will want pictures. We’ll give ’em a beaut. Get back there and kick that flare out.”

They were skating in and out of the ruddy balloons, and heading back for the yellowish building against which a series of saw-toothed roofs seemed to lean. A column of writhing smoke curled up and interlaced itself through the three chimneys. There was a triumphant roar as the four bombs let go, and a sizzling splat of white glare as their camera flare burned in the evidence on a slab of gelatin.


. The Mossie went over with the concussion and pounded through the welter of debris that was blasted skyward. Goodrich tried to pump his legs back and forth to get rudder control, and finally brought B for Bertie around until she levelled off. “Beat it, Skipper! If the others don’t Continued on page 29

Continued from page 27 find that bonfire they ought to be digging latrines,” said Dodds.

“I’ll get her back,” Goodrich growled. “I’m not too bad. Get a length of bandage, will you, and bind my right foot to the rudder pedal. Can’t seem to do anything with my left.”

The pilot suddenly looked old, but he was still in command. Dodds didn’t quite know why, but he floundered back and grabbed a roll of bandage and flopped on his belly again. He tied Goodrich’s right foot securely to the wide metal, and got to his knees. The pilot worked the leg back and forth and squinted at the compass. Eventually the letter “W” came into the little window.

Dodds worked fast, taking quick glances at the compass as he tried to make his pilot comfortable. Goodrich grinned, gritted his teeth and wondered how one guy could get to know so many things—like first aid, and knowing there was a Friedrich Wilhemsplatz in Erfurt; like knowing about night glasses, and that there would be balloons and three chimneys at Jena.

“What about that leg?” Dodds demanded, squatting on his haunches.

“What about it?” repeated Goodrich thickly. “I don’t know about it. It’s there, but it won’t work. That’s

funny, eh? A leg that won’t work.” “How about getting out of there and letting me have a look? You can hook the automatic pilot in.”

Goodrich considered that for several minutes, while the flak raged and screamed about them. He seemed to be trying to remember what an automatic pilot might be.

“Okay, Doddsy, old boy!” he beamed. “You did a show, getting us here. I’ll get you back, old pal! Don’t worry about the Skipper, kid!”

“You are all right, Skipper?” Dodds pleaded again.

“Right as rain! Tell me, Doddsy, what was that Jena place back there?” “Jena?” answered Dodds. “Why Jena is the Carl Zeiss optical works! Didn’t you know?”

“Funny, eh, Doddsy? I mean, about those glasses? They were Zeiss binoculars, eh? Rather funny, you using Zeiss glasses to go and knock hell out of their factory, eh?”

“Good Lord! I never thought of that!” Dodds gasped. “What a coincidence!”

“Coincidence, my eye, Mr. Dodds,” said Goodrich with mock reproach. “It was ingratitude, thou marblehearted fiend! I think a guy named Shakespeare cooked that up.”

Goodrich sat back and laughed aloud, and Dodds had a pretty good idea they’d get back all right.