Dawn, Sunday 20th October, 1940.
On the bridge of the 'Nishga' the sound powered telephone screamed. The bridge messenger lifted the receiver. "Depth charge crews closed up, sir."
Lieutenant Usbourne, newly promoted to Acting First Lieutenant, in the absence of Lieutenant Hilt made a tick on his crib sheet and saluted the Captain.
" Crew closed up at dawn action stations, sir."
" Very Good ,Number One."
The ship had fallen silent, in sharp contrast to the orderly chaos when the men had rushed and clattered to their stations. Barr could feel the tension. The ship's company knew they would be in for a pounding this morning. The gun crews checked and double-checked their weapons; turrets swung on oiled runners, ready use lockers were topped up. Below the surgeon cast an eye over his neatly laid out instruments. The steward stretcher-bearers sat in the flat outside the sick bay anti-flash hoods pulled down in grim anticipation. Damage control teams had their hoses run out along the passageways. Deep in the bowels of the ship, stokers checked water pressures and greased bearings. Everyone was ready.
Barr began pacing across the front of the bridge watched by his men. The air cover was late. He snatched a look out over the bow.
Abruptly the starboard lookout yelled, " Aircraft! Aircraft! Aircraft!"
Barr had his glasses to his eyes before the report had been finished.
"Green one seven oh! Aircraft! Aircraft! Aircraft! Angle of sight one five"
No need for glasses, there they were, two Messerschmitt 109's diving in out of the dawn sun.
The gunnery speaker burst into life in a whine of feedback. "Target bearing green one seven oh, angle of sight one five. Commence! Commence! Commence!" Immediately 'X' and 'Y' turrets crashed out, joined seconds later by the rapid fire of the after pom-pom. Black mushrooms flowered in the sky. The two 109's began to weave, swaying in the sky like the weights of pendulums. Still they came on, in and out of the black smoke of the exploding Ack Ack, eerily, soundlessly, the roar of their powerful engines swamped by the rolling thunder of 'Nishga's' guns. As the Messerschmitts came in range of the bridge machine guns they ripped and rattled into life. Tracer lifted into the sky in bright arcs. The target’s wings flickered orange and red as their cannon rippled in deadly reply. Aft feathery spouts of water clawed hungrily at Nishga's stern. Suddenly there was a tinny rapping on the mast and on the gun director, something hummed past Barr's ear. He ducked instinctively, looking up he saw jagged holes in the gun director. Someone was screaming, the noise seemed to build to an ear-splitting crescendo, black shadows flashed by as the two aircraft ripped the air above their heads and then they where gone, climbing higher and higher to escape the hornet’s nest.
The after guns fell abruptly silent, but for'ard 'A' and 'B' turrets were in waiting, their training motors purring . There was a ripple-crash and acrid cordite fumes inundated the open bridge.
The quick smoke from the salvo whipped away on the west wind to show only one Messerschmitt. In the sea between it and the 'Nishga' a welter of white spray marked the others' passing.
A third salvo winged its way after the fleeing 109 just as the 'Nishga's' bow sliced through the still burning pyre of the wingman, the climbing wave lifting the wreckage on high as if to say look, look what you have done.
Barr heard muffled cheering from the turrets. He envied them their optimism. He had a feeling they had merely tasted the entrée; the main course was yet to come.