Bill Hornets writes…
When I was young, working on TV, all of my bosses had fought in a war.
I thought they were old men: they were only in their sixties. They weren’t old, they were vibrant, alive guys. They had faced death many times.
They were a great bunch of men, open to anything, that’s why BBC television back then was so important, so cutting edge: it wasn’t run by suits; it was run by men.
One thing they never talked about was the war. They’d seen too much.
I was in an hotel in Glasgow with my then boss, a little Scottish guy with a public school accent whose energy and enthusiasm would power a truck. He was the biggest producer of series and serials in BBC television. I’d just been working for his best friend, another big producer, I’d been playing a Sikorsky pilot, and so conversation naturally turned to flying.
I’d heard he was In the RAF in the war, I asked him what he flew, expecting the Spitfire story. It wasn’t that. He was in aerial reconnaissance, flying planes where they took the guns away and put two cameras in their place.
He did one hundred and forty three sorties.
I was amazed. I asked what happened if you saw the enemy…
“Run like hell Bill, run like hell!” he laughed, and ordered two more gins and tonic.
Then it came. Jerry’s story.
In the retreat from Greece he was stuck on a train for two days. He could not move, as a good friend was lying on his leg with half his head blown away. The medics had no painkillers; all Jerry could do was talk to him in his moments of consciousness.
Jerry knew he was going to die. His regret he didn’t have the courage (his own word) to take his revolver and shoot him, to put him out of his pain.
He had to live with that for the rest of his life.
I’d love to say I moved with giants, but they weren’t giants… they were men. That is all any of us can be, if we try hard.