A Return of Eagles James Follett © 2008
In fond memory of Sir Harold Ridley, MD, FRCS. 1906-2001 (knighted 1999).
His pioneering work in artificial lens implants in the eye has given sight to millions, including myself.
(Harold Ridley’s patient No. 288 Royal Eye Hospital, Moorfields, London. 1953)
“He once told me that in the early years, when he first was investigating intraocular lens implants, his adversaries were almost in competition with each other as to who could be the most virulent in their criticism of him.”
Howard Fine, MD, clinical associate
professor at Oregon Health Sciences
University, Portland, USA.
“If the Americans ask me and my colleagues for the moon, we will be the ones to give it to them.”
General Walter Dornberger. 1885-1980.
of the German Wehrmacht’s V2 rocket
There was no charge, no trial, no conviction, but there was an execution. A brutal and bloody execution.
From his hiding place in the bombed and abandoned farm cottage, Dr Eric Hoffmann peered fearfully through a shell hole and watched the two Waffen-SS officers order the young soldier to kneel. The sound of shouting carried across the bomb-cratered field. The kneeling soldier was waving his arms in terror, pleading and, to Eric’s horror, pointing in his direction at the shattered farmhouse. The taller of the two SS-men shouted something about deserter scum. He pulled his Mauser from its holster and, without a moment’s hesitation, shot the officer in the head.
Despite having had little to eat for two days, Eric was physically sick. It was if the departing soul of the murdered man had wrenched everything from him, turning him inside-out. His mind reeled with the enormity of what had happened. A living person, who had been brought into the world, fed, clothed, cherished and cared for, packed off to school, and doubtless the centre of the world for many people and maybe now with a wife and children awaiting the return of a beloved husband and father from this terrible war, brutally snuffed out by the casual pulling of a trigger.
The SS officers’ driver ran halfway across the field from the entrance from where he had parked a quarter-track reconnaissance car. He was yelling frantically and pointing to the west. The two officers abandoned their search of the murdered man’s pockets and raced to their vehicle. All three piled in and the vehicle took off, heading east, accelerating hard, its tracks grating harshly on asphalt. A few minutes later the heavy roar of powerful engines heralded the arrival of three tanks. Eric’s heart sank when he saw them. Before his carefully planned flight, he had acquired an army identification book of allied fighting vehicles and spent what little spare time he had had learning to recognise silhouettes. These were either British Army Cromwell heavy tanks or the later Comet derivative.
“Whatever you do, don’t give yourself up to the Tommies –– they’ll hang you,” his chief had advised his department heads at a meeting to discuss their flight west to escape the advancing Soviet army. “You must find the Americans.”
The unexpected appearance of the three British tanks, advancing line abreast to avoid presenting a target in a column that could be picked off, meant that Eric had miscalculated and gone too far west. He hadn’t heard heavy gunfire recently so he assumed that the armoured unit was a probe –– an incursion to test German defences along this section of the front before the final great push to the Rhine and Germany’s inevitable defeat. Eric’s guess was that Field Marshal Model had decided to concentrate his Army ‘B’ group’s armour further east along the eastern flank of the Wilder valley where his units would be difficult to dislodge. Eric had been obliged to take a long detour on his bicycle the previous day to avoid them.
The centre tank moved along the road with its companions churning the fields on either side to keep pace. A soldier on the tank that passed near Eric’s hiding place accorded the murdered officer a passing glance. A dead German soldier lying in a field was an inconsequential brushstroke on the great canvas that was being painted across Europe.
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