On one of these nights, in nineteen, forty, four, he met a young woman, a girl really.
Her name was Kate Torrington, and she lived in a small cottage in the picturesque village of Hebington Bridge, near the airfield.
She was tall and slim, with diamond blue, sparkling eyes, and Saxon blond hair, tied up with a white ribbon, and this handsome young Irishman, fell in love with her straight away, and she fell wonderfully, in love with him.
Soon they were courting, but their courtship was brief.
For as it was war time, when a life could be cut short, in an instant , and plans could be erased, in the blinding flash of a second.
So, they decided to marry, as soon as possible.
In late, forty, four, on a beautiful, golden-leaf, noon time, they were happily married in the old church in Hebington Bridge.
But as he was due to fly on a mission the next night, their honeymoon was limited to a short motor trip in his battered old M.G. for a picnic, on the wild and desolate Pennine range.
When they came to a quiet place, on the side of the mountain, he stopped the car and they sat on the grass by the roadside, ate their egg sandwiches, drank a beer or two, and watched a hawk as he soared high in the blue sky.
And their hearts soared with him.
They returned late that evening, to her small cottage, in Hebington, and that night, after making, soft, gentle love, and, happy in each other’s togetherness, they talked and laughed, and planned a long life of happiness together.
But as they drifted into sleep, they were unaware of a large owl, the harbinger of death, that had alighted on their windowsill, and was gazing at them with, black, demonic, eyes, through the bedroom windowpane.
As dawn approached, Paddy awoke, sweating, and trembling , from a troubled, and terrifying nightmare.
In it, he found himself standing in the middle of a crumbling, devastated city, with tall buildings falling, around him, where, thin, naked children, stood on a bubbling, blistering, street, their mouths open in piercing screams, as if, asking,
“Why, is this happening to us”?
In his dream he watched in horror, as the firestorm engulfed them, and swept them into a towering pillar of fire that reached, to a glowing sky.
On leaving the next day, to return to the airfield, to make ready for his mission that evening, he held Kate, close to his trembling body, as they kissed, for what was to be their last time, before destiny would intervene, and put an end to love.
As he was driving away, he turned to look back, at his beautiful, young wife, one last time, and was suddenly overcome, with a premonition that something dreadful was about to happen.
But, when he looked again, he saw a small, black and white dog, standing beside her, as if protecting her from something unknown, and threatening.
He reminded him of his loving, and faithful, Captain, who stood beside him, on the day, he cut down the fairy tree, in the high field.
As dusk descended over the airfield, and night drew in, his deadly war machine climbed to the sky, joined the rest of the bomber formation and disappeared into the dark, ominous, clouds that hung over the airfield.
Little did he know, what, awaited him, that night, as he flew, east to
The following morning, Kate, cycled the four arduous miles, to the airfield, as she did every morning, to await the return of the aircraft, from their deadly raids, over Germany.
After laying her bicycle in the hedge, beside the road, she stood, anxiously, behind the barrier, at the end of the long, concrete runway, and watched in silence, as the war planes began to land.
On landing, the fatigued, and shaken, flyers, began to descend from their aircraft, as the ambulance and rescue crews, arrived, to tend to the wounded, and remove, the dead
In a sudden, paralysing moment, she realised that there was no sign of Paddy’s aircraft.
She stood alone in the dim, grey light, of the breaking dawn, and as a cold wet, drizzling rain, began to dampen, her long flaxen hair, a terrifying, foreboding, overwhelmed her, and she knew, in her heart, she would never hold her beloved, Paddy, in her arms again.
After what seemed an eternity of waiting, she turned to leave, and as the tears ran down her grief-stricken face, she retrieved her bicycle, and turned for home.
But as she was about to leave, the silence of the morning was broken, by the distant drone, of an approaching aircraft.
She stopped, and listened, her heart suddenly pounding, in her chest, as she felt a ray of hope, that this might be Paddy's plane.
She stood once again at the barrier, listening and watching as the plane, neared the airfield
Then she saw its wings, navigation lights, shining red and green in the morning gloom, as it approached the landing strip.
But instead of slowing down, to make a landing, it increased engine power, and flew low over Rose’s head, blowing, and tossing her hair, in its slipstream.
And as it passed, it dipped one of its wings, in the traditional, airman’s salute.
Then with roaring engines, it climbed into the rain-soaked clouds , circled the field, and started its perilous descent once again.
As it approached the airfield, slip-sliding, from side to side, it lowered its landing gear, and touched down on the wet landing strip, bouncing twice, and sending out a cloud of black acrid smoke, from its screaming tyres.
It sped down the runway, then slowed to a shuddering stop, not twenty yards, from where Kate, stood, behind the perimeter fence.
She watched in anxious anticipation, as the four, great engines, were shut down, and the spinning, propellers, whined, to a stop.
Suddenly, an uncanny silence spread over the airfield, as the great flying machine stood alone, and still, in the growing morning light.
The giant bomber just sat there, as if, trying to forget the terrors of the night, and the terrible devastation it had caused.
As the airmen inside seemed to be making no attempt to leave the plane, a puzzled, senior flying officer, who had arrived first at the scene,opened the fuselage door, and made his way inside.
An uneasy feeling overcame him, when he noticed the remnants of the crew’s parachutes, scattered on the floor, and a nauseating, smell of decay, hanging in the stale air of the aircraft.
After looking up and down, the inside of the plane, and searching every nook and cranny of the war weary machine, he came to the horrifying conclusion that something unearthly had occurred.
There was no sign of the seven-man crew…. the plane was empty!
He made his unsteady way to the flight deck, and as he gazed around the unoccupied cockpit, he noticed, lying on the pilot’s seat, a set of rosary beads.
With trembling hands, he picked them up, put them in his pocket, and quickly left the damned and, cursed, aeroplane.
On descending the plane, he forced his way through the quiet, mystified, group of men, who had gathered around the empty Lancaster.
He made his way, slowly, to the perimeter fence, to where the forlorn figure of Kate was waiting, he explained, with a trembling voice, what he had seen, or rather, what he had not seen, then handed her Paddy’s, rosary beads.
Then saluting her, he turned and walked away.
Before she turned to leave, she looked back, one more time, at the empty plane.
And as it was the practice of airmen, during, World War, Two, to name their, personal bomber, she saw a green “Shamrock”, emblazoned, on the fuselage, under the cockpit, and beneath it, written in gold, her name, “Kate”
As she, cycled back to her cottage, she remembered the story, Paddy had told her, of the time, he cut down the hawthorn tree, on his father’s farm, and of the, ominous, fairy curse, which, in retribution, would, eventually, bring, misfortune, and death, to the person, responsible.
And although many years had passed since that day, the dwellers of the under-world, had bided their time, to exact their diabolic revenge.
Later, that fateful morning, as she sat in her kitchen, she pondered on the empty years that lay before her, for there could be only one, Paddy, and she would, forever, be faithful to his memory.
As she sat, alone in her grief, and unaware of the passing of time, and the onset of twilight, she was disturbed by the sound of a low whimpering, outside her front door.
She walked to the door and opened it, and was baffled by the sight of a small, black and white, collie, sitting on the doorstep, staring up at her, with one sorrowful eye.
She looked at him for a moment, then, standing back, let him in.
Soon the war ended, and an uneasy peace came over the world.
But, now a new enemy, who once had been an ally, was rising from the rubble, with the ambition of world domination, and the subjugation of free nations.
Was it starting all over again?
But for now, it was time to rebuild, shattered lives and civilisations, and bury the horrific past.
For some years after, the question of what caused the mysterious, and tragic disappearance of the bomber crew, was discussed in many, official enquiries.
As to how, an unmanned, heavy bomber, aircraft, could fly home, from its mission over Germany, and make a perfect landing, in bad weather, with no one at the controls
But the wise men in the dusty halls of power, could come to no conclusion, as to what caused the disappearance of the airmen, and in time, grew weary of the whole, embarrassing, business.
For now, there were more important items on the agenda, than the lives of missing airmen, and in time they were forgotten.
But Kate Sullivan, would never forget.
Months later, after that terrible morning, when Paddy had failed to return, she lay in her bed, and thought of her handsome, loving husband, and how happy he would have been, to see her, with their beautiful infant son, Patrick, lying close to her breast.
And as she gazed into, her son’s, dark eyes, in the holy, quiet of the room, she said, softly, to herself,
“ My loving man, has come home, at last”
P.S. Fifty, five- thousand, five - hundred, and seventy-three, R.A.F. air crew-man, lost their lives, in bombing raids, over Nazi Germany, during the nights of World War Two.
It took, almost sixty years, for a memorial to be erected in their memory, as well as for civilians of all nations, killed during raids.