the dimming of the light (Part 17)
six Arospatiele Puma helicopters of the French Army Aviation division lifted off near the modern terminal building and clattered into the light fog over the English Channel
leaving a dusky trail of kerosene fumes in their wake - before heading north in a loose Vee formation
climbing steadily from the airfield at Cherbourg on a mission engaged more out of fact-finding than help - the French, like much of the world were curious to know what had happened to Britain
what, who, still existed and what potential still remained on the island?
Apart from the flight crew of pilot, co-pilot and attendant there were twenty personnel in each aircraft. Five were Special Forces solders - each armed with a submachine gun and two hundred rounds of ammunition. The rest were a mixture drawn form many skills, mostly selected from the medical professions doctors, paramedics, nurses others specialised in germ warfare detection, rare diseases and new viruses that were known to be evolving.
All including the military personnel wore protective bio-chemical overalls and masks as it they might encounter highly infectious germs or viruses
and some were equipped with Geiger counters
They seemed equipped for almost anything except a mission of mercy
Approaching landfall on the south coast just east of the Isle of Wight, one of the pilots radioed to the formation leader that he detected an unusual vibration in the tail rotor and requested permission to return to the airfield at Cherbourg
this was granted
At a speed of one hundred and thirty knots height five hundred metres above sea level the remaining five helicopters flew relentlessly northeast, seeing virtually no sign of activity on the ground passing over the South Downs covered by some patchy mist before sighting a deserted Gatwick Airport
then above Reigate they made visual contact with London
(To be continued)
Peter Hunter 2012
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