As always—I do not own any rights to Swing Kids, nor do I have official connections, yada yada, you've probably heard this speech a million times. However, any characters you don't recognize from the movie are mine; you're free to use them, as long as you credit me please!
Okay, rant over. Happy reading.
"…And finally, crew assignments shall be posted momentarily. You have been placed according to the position you trained in, so the highest performance is expected. It is an honor to be chosen for the first airborne assault on Great Britain, remember that. You will report silently and promptly after dinner. Dismissed. Heil Hitler!"
Thomas echoed the Nazi salute, but there was no feeling in it. Of all places, he had to end up here. Hitler, in order to step up the advance, had ordered all HJs of seventeen or older into the armed forces. Only an elite group was admitted to the Luftwaffe, although many work camp detainees had been sent too. The mortality rate was expected to be high in any direct attack on Britain. At least the first one would have the advantage of surprise. After this, I'll find a way to disappear, he thought. If I survive.
It took awhile to get through the crowd, but at last Thomas made it to the list of assignments. With him would be Emil, some pilot named Horitz Schuler…and Peter.
As if on cue, someone softly started whistling "It Don't Mean a Thing." Thomas spun around.
"You! You're here…"
Peter's face was unreadable. "Hello, Thomas." It had only been for two months, but his face was paler, more gaunt from living in a work camp. Then he'd been forced to enter training for the upcoming mission.
Thomas didn't know what to say. The last time they'd been face to face, he'd nearly killed his best friend. Did Peter resent him for it?
"You're not a murderer, Thomas." "I know who my friends are."
Something had happened that night outside the Bismarck. Ever since, Thomas had felt disgusted at what he'd said, what he'd become. He wanted out. Now it seemed he was as much a prisoner as Peter was.
Peter saw the haunted look in his friend's eyes. The Thomas he knew was still in there, fighting the cage the Nazis had put him in.
"It's okay, I don't need to hear it."
"No, I really need to say it. I was such a—"
"Forget it," said Peter. He was smiling in a way he hadn't for a long time. "That's all behind us now. And anyway, if we're gonna die prisoners, at least we'll eat better here."
Thomas couldn't help but grin back, his old, cocky grin.
"So, it's back to keeping an eye on you two."
Emil strode up, hands held casually in the small of his back. "Especially you, Müller. Such a waste, to be caught at a swing club."
Thomas threw Emil a dirty look, but luckily it went unnoticed. "Save the lectures for the flight, Emil. Let's get some food while they still got some."
They headed for the mess hall, Thomas feeling lighter than he had in months. Maybe he hadn't lost everything after all.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
So far we've seen little action, but there are rumors that Germany is planning to attack Britain directly. How, I'm not sure. I hope this letter finds you safe and whole; it is the reason I chose to fight in this war. God's purpose will come out in the end, as Dad would say. Someday he'll understand. Pray for the war effort, and keep your nose clean for me.
Your loving brother,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"In the wake of the bombing, Londoners remain shaken but undeterred. Volunteers spent the night battling fires throughout the city. Now the search continues for survivors in the worst of the damage. Several Nazi planes were shot down, but so far no enemy has been found alive. Meanwhile…"
"Emmaline Anne, come to breakfast. You've wasted enough time in front of that machine."
I rolled my eyes and stood up. Dad hated newfangled inventions in general. The only reason we had a radio was because I convinced him of the need when Ben enlisted. My brother was four years older than me, but we'd been really close since Mum died. I followed every scrap of war news I could find. Dad gave me a cross look when I finally sat down.
"I hope your radio told you that school is still on and you'd better hurry up," he said sternly. He wore his vicar's collar even though he didn't have to work today.
"You heard me," he said in his no-nonsense voice. "They called about twenty minutes ago. You'll have to go through the park; there's an unexploded bomb in the middle of Ash Street."
I wolfed down my sausage and eggs, and then dashed upstairs to get my schoolbag and shoes. Good thing I dressed in my school uniform out of habit. My curly brown hair, cut above my shoulders, was as unruly as ever, but that couldn't be helped now.
The park was spookily quiet, deserted because of the time of day and the bombing. Right in the center was a plane crumpled on the ground behind the trees. I was nearly level with it before I caught a glimpse of the black swastika on the tail. A figure was still slumped in the blood-spattered cockpit.
I had to swallow a scream and a wave of nausea as I broke into a run. German or not, that was a human being who had met a sudden and violent death. Somewhere, far away, a worried family had just lost a son.
"Emma, are you alright?"
Not looking where I was going, I nearly ran headlong into my best friend, Catharine Hemler.
I did, indeed, have tears streaming down my face. Catharine handed me a hankie and guided me to the nearest bathroom. It was a few minutes before I could calm down enough to talk.
"There w-was an unexploded bomb on Ash Street, so I had to go th-through the park. I saw a c-crashed plane with a G-German inside. He was d-dead. It was awful!"
Catharine clapped a hand to her mouth, then hugged me tightly. Her family had fled the worsening condition in Germany when she was only five, so she still felt some connection. But they supported the Allies as much as any Briton.
"I'm sorry you had to see that," she said, trying to comfort me. "No one should have to see such times."
"Why do people feel they have to attack and kill to accomplish things?"
"God gave mankind free will. Some people choose the path of the devil." Catharine also went to our church. "At least that's what your dad would say."
Good old Catharine. She never failed to make me smile.
"Now wash your face, and we'll go to class."
I giggled. "Now you sound like my mum."
We both giggled all the way to class. Catharine told me about how her little brother, Hans, had gone out as soon as the all-clear sounded to look for souvenirs of the attack.
"Everyone's on the treasure hunt for whatever they can lay their hands on," she finished. "I picked up a bullet casing on the way to school, but I wouldn't go looking for them."
I shuddered. The thought of someone poking around the ruins of planes and buildings for souvenirs was creepy.
The day passed slowly. The memory of the park kept resurfacing, so Catharine had to keep distracting me. By afternoon she was starting to worry.
"Maybe we should skip your lesson for today."
"No!" Catharine had secretly been teaching me German, a subject I found quite intriguing despite the war.
"You're clearly still in shock. Mama can drive you home, where you can have a nice cup of tea and a nap. That always makes me feel better."
"Please, the last thing I need is more breaks in routine. Anyway, I actually got to practice this week while Dad was at a meeting. I just need something I really enjoy to take my mind off things."
"Maybe we'll be able to go swing dancing later."
Swing dancing! There was nothing I loved more than those electrifying nights at the dance hall. Dad disapproved of the whole business, like that ever stopped me. Ben used to take me all the time before he left.
But the dance halls were closed. As days turned into weeks and months, the German Luftwaffe continued to pound London to rubble each night. My life became a blur of blackouts, safety procedures, and nights in the bomb shelter. Many of our valuables had been moved to either the shelter or the basement.
One night, as we were crossing the back yard, a plane crashed so close we could feel the blast of wind it created. I wanted to stop and look, but Dad pulled me through the door.