Author Topic: Scrapped Without Thought  (Read 3932 times)

Offline Robomog

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Scrapped Without Thought
« on: August 24, 2018, 06:17:39 AM »
Hi All

A slightly less boys own and a bit more romantic story than the last one

This one is inspired by a picture i saw in a book about the Lancaster, the caption stated that the aircraft had done over 100 missions but was scrapped without thought. A few days later this story dropped into my head.

Note the squadron number and aircraft serial number are fictitious.

As Always all comments and criticism gratefully received.




Scrapped Without Thought

The war had been finished a while but dad was still in the middle east fixing Seafires and other aircraft on an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, it was looking like it would be some time before he came home.  Mum in the meantime had taken a secretarial job to earn some extra money which worked well around my school hours.

School holidays however were proving a problem until my Uncle Edward and Aunty May stepped in and offered to look after me during the day. This on the face of it was unremarkable a lot of mothers with kids were working to make ends meet but what was absolutely amazing to a young kid like me was Uncle Ed was the owner of a scrap yard!

The scrap yard was virtually in the back garden of his house, he had a big four or five bedroomed place that opened straight onto a country lane, behind was a postage stamp of a garden that was Aunty Mays pride and joy and through a wicker gate at the back was acres of fields that made up the scrap yard.

To make things even more interesting the scrap yard abutted a live airfield, it had been a deliberate decision by Uncle Ed and he reaped the benefits of all the scrapped aircraft, cars and metal structures that the military considered surplus to requirements.

‘If they don’t want anythin’ they can just lob it over the fence!’ he used to quip.

For my part I had the most fantastic adventure playground a young boy could wish for. This was in the days before any real health and safety rules so I had virtually free reign to go anywhere I pleased. For hours I could be a fighter pilot, a bomber pilot, drive a lorry and occasionally be a tank commander (Ok it was only a little armoured scout car but to this youth it became a main battle tank).

It was one dinner time that I wandered back to the house to get my sandwiches, mum always sent me off with a packed lunch so as not to impose on my uncle and aunt too much, in the kitchen was Aunty May she was the archetypal jolly fat lady much in the same way Uncle Ed was the archetypal jolly fat man, always friendly, always smiling. With her were her tabby cats Rango and Jinty, they were the two scrap yard “mousers”, tucking into some scraps of meat on the floor while  her two sons Wesley and Ben were just starting their meal sitting at the kitchen table.
They were a funny pair, Wesley was the image of Uncle Ed slightly taller and not quite so big around the stomach but nonetheless the family resemblance was striking. Ben on the other hand was totally different, he was tall and had an athletic build. The only family trait he seemed to share was the deep brown hair colour that they all had.

‘Hello young Andy’ greeted Aunty May “Come fer yer lunch no doubt”

‘Yes, please” I replied

‘Tell yer what, could yer do us a favour and take yer uncles lunch out to him, he’s kinda busy out there’

‘Yes, of course, where is he?’

‘Probably sittin’ in his Lancaster’ Ben said in a derogatory tone.

‘He should scrap that ‘plane’ said Wesley ‘lot of metal in that ‘plane’ 

‘Ah leave him alone you two’ said Aunty May ‘you know he uses that ‘plane as a site hut and store’

‘’E could use one of the big lorries grumbled Wesley ‘’e just don’t wanna get rid of it’

‘Enough of that’ said Aunty May, pointing at them with a wooden spoon that she had been stirring a pot with ‘it’s yer fathers business an’ what he says goes OK?’

The two boys grumbled some more then concentrated on their food. 

Aunty May turned back to me ‘Would yer mind?’ she asked.

‘No’ I replied ‘I’ll take my sandwich as well’

‘Thanks love, if he’s not in the aeroplane he’ll be somewhere near’

She poured the content of the steaming saucepan into a Billy Can and put the lid on it, I stuffed my sandwich in my coat pocket and took the Billy Can and a large chunk of bread, she also gave me a couple of apples which I shoved in the other coat pocket.

I set off on one of the paths that wound through the rusty piles of wire, derelict cars, aircraft parts and stacks of reclaimed metal.

The Lancaster sat on a slight rise roughly in the centre of the scrap yard, there wasn’t much left of it. The engines and gun turrets had been removed long ago as had the undercarriage most of the instrumentation. It was lying on its belly with the wings and tail propped up with oil drums to make it stable. Uncle Ed had welded some steel sheet over the turret openings to keep the weather out. Somehow the cockpit canopy had remained giving the aircraft an air of desolate dignity.

I came up to the door in the tail and climbed the rough wooden steps that had been constructed for easier access, sticking my head through the door I called,

“Uncle Ed are you in there?”

‘Eh?’ came a reply, echoing down the fuselage ‘young Andy is that you?’

‘Yes uncle, I’ve got your lunch’

‘Arr well I’m in the cockpit, best bring it up here’

I entered the aircraft and walked up towards the cockpit, passing tools, cutting gear and paint pots on the way, the main spar was a bit of a problem but I managed to negotiate the “big step” in the floor without spilling anything.

When I arrived at the cockpit Uncle Ed was sitting in the pilot’s seat and seemed to tower over me.

‘Hullo lad, thanks for bringing’ me lunch, I’ve got the kettle on fer a brew, care to join me?’

I passed up the Billy can and the bread.

‘Yes’, I replied ‘but I’m going to need somewhere to sit’

He smiled and put the Billy can and bread on the top of the instrument panel,

‘Step up here’ he said, indicating the space in front of him.

I struggled up into the pilots position with my back against the instrument panel, my head bent against the canopy. Uncle Ed then reached over and folded down a seat set in the right hand side of the cockpit that came out over the walkway. Carefully I worked my way into the seat my legs dangling into space.

‘How’s that?’ he enquired ‘year now sitting in the engineer’s seat’

Sitting where I was I could just see over the side of the cockpit, but facing front all I could see was the instrument panel?

‘The fliers must have been very tall people’ I commented ‘I can’t see where we’re going’

Uncle Ed chuckled ‘Aye, they were a bit taller than you but, the engineer didn’t have to know where ‘e were goin’ ‘e just had to fiddle with the dials, I can see fine from ’ere’

He started pulling an imaginary joystick backwards and forwards with his left hand,

‘Tell yer what’ he said with a deep laugh ‘if they hadn’t taken away the steerin’ wheel I’d ‘ave taken you for a flight meself!’

We both laughed together, and then he started swiping his right hand in front of the control panel.

‘Bugger me if they haven’t taken the throttles as well! Looks like you an’ me ain’t goin’ very far today, young lad’

Between giggles I said ‘perhaps we just stay here and have our lunch on the ground Uncle’

A kettle started whistling behind us.

‘Aye’ he said with a huge smile ‘maybe yer right there, I’ll get us a brew’

He squeezed past me and went into a compartment behind the pilot’s seat, I heard the sound of tin cups and water being poured.

He came back through with two steaming tin cups and squeezed back into the seat.

‘’ope you like it sweet’ he said passing me one of the cups ‘we only got condensed milk.’

He sat down took the lid off the Billy can and sniffed, ‘Ahh nuthin’ like Aunty Mays stew, what you got?’

I unwrapped the grease proof paper parcel on my lap, ‘cheese and pickle sandwich’ I said.

‘mmm, your mum does a good sandwich, tell yer what young Andy how about I swap half me stew fer half yer sandwich’

The smell of the stew was mouth watering but I was a fair lad then as now.

‘If we swap I will get more than you’ I said ‘that’s not very fair’

‘O aye’ he replied ‘I see where yer comin’ from, ‘ow abouts then I pour a big sploge into the lid that will be less than half but a fair portion.’

The lid was wide and relatively deep so I agreed. We wrapped the sandwich up for later and concentrated on the stew, he split the chunk of bread in half as well.

Uncle Ed produced a spoon and was about to start his meal then realised, ‘err sorry lad only got one spoon.’

‘It’s OK’ I said and carefully lifted the lid to my lips and ate the stew like drinking tea from saucer.

‘Clever lad’ he said chuckling and tucked into his meal.

We had only been eating a few minutes when there was a sudden hollow bang to our right, I peeked over the cockpit sill to see one of the cats walking up the wing, seconds later the other cat leapt from a derelict lorry and landed with a bang on the wing.

‘The cats are here!’ I cried

‘Clever little buggers must’ve followed you here’ Uncle Ed replied, grinning ‘’ere watch this’

He pushed open a flap that had been formed by cutting and hinging one of the Perspex panels in the canopy, seconds later the two cats appeared on top of the canopy circling impatiently and meowing for attention. Occasionally one would put its head through the gap and wail, Uncle Ed would stroke its head and scratch it under the chin.

He produced a battered tin tray and poured a little of the stew into it, realising what was happening I poured some of my portion in as well. Carefully he lifted the tray through the hole and slid the tray onto the canopy roof.  The cats tucked in to the food like there was no tomorrow.

‘They’ve done this before’ I said as the tray started to shimmy across the roof.

‘Oh yea’ replied Uncle Ed with a smile of satisfaction ‘don’t tell yer aunt though she’ll get the hump with me, thems working cats there ‘ere to catch mice and rats, it’s just that I like to give ‘em treat now an’ then, a sort of reward if you like because their pretty good mousers especially that Jinty.’

We continued to eat our meal looking up while the cats lapped up every tiny morsel that was in their tray, eventually it slid too close to the rounded edge of the cockpit canopy and slid off  to crash to the ground. The cats, taking this in their stride, ran back along the fuselage and jumped down onto the wing, from there they leapt to the ground to search for the errant tray.

A few minutes’ later two fighter planes rose from the runway over the fence and thundered low over our heads.

‘Spitfires’ said Uncle Ed ‘beautiful elliptical wings, can’t miss ‘em”

‘Did you fly aeroplanes?’ I asked Uncle Ed now that the entertainment was over.

‘No lad’ he replied ‘Artillery man me, young enough for the first war, too old for the last one, “reserved occupation” being a scrappy, the lads did some service but we managed to get them back safely. Mind you I do have an interest in planes, this plane we’re sittin’ in, fer instance, is pretty special that’s why I’m wont to scrap it just yet’


‘Well yer see it’s done over 100 missions, not many Lancaster’s managed to survive that long durin’ the war. If you look on the nose when yer get out you’ll see a tally of all the missions.’

‘What’s it doing here? Shouldn’t it be in a museum?’

‘Now yer on my wavelength’ he chuckled ‘when the war ended and the squadron disbanded  there was a big celebration on the base, there’s probably a load of photos of this ‘ere plane swimming around somewhere, and then most the planes flew out leavin’ a few to just sit out in the weather.

Anyway a month or so later they fired up the engines of this one and took off, they obviously hadn’t checked it properly because the next thing we knew it was doin’ a wheels up landing and comin’ straight fer our fence!

Fortunately it stopped short by fifty feet or so and everybody got out safely with only a few scratches.’ He laughed ‘I can remember yer aunt runnin’ out with cups of tea fer the crew an’ fireman. She always loved a man in uniform’ he laughed even harder ‘that’s why she fell for an ugly bugger like me!’

‘What happened next?’ I asked enthusiastically finishing the stew and sipping some of my sweet tea.

‘ Eh well it sat there for a while then a load of engineers came along and started taking all the useful stuff off it, engines, guns, radios and what not. When they’d finished they came and ‘ad a word with me then got a couple of cranes and lifted it over the fence, when they’d gone me and the boys fired up the yard crane and moved it here, makes a good store and rest room, although our Wesley’s got other plans for it’

‘He says he wants to scrap it’

‘Yea, well he’s got no idea, I’ve written to a number of museums an’ such but nobody’s got any money or their not interested. Can’t blame them, people want to forget the war, there scrapping aircraft like there ain’t no tomorrow. It’s gonna be years before they realise that they gotta preserve a bit o’ history’.

We had finished the stew and bread, Uncle Ed collected all the bits and put them to one side. I opened the grease proof paper and offered him a sandwich.

‘Mmm’ he said taking his half ‘two course meal fer a change’
‘And afters’ I said, fishing the two apples from my coat pocket.

‘We’re eating like kings today’ Uncle Ed smiled.

‘I tell you what will happen to this plane’ he continued warming to the subject ‘eventually it will get scrapped then a fair few years down the line someone’s gonna find them photos and publish them in a book with a caption like “aircraft da-di-da-di-da at the summink squadron disbandment ceremony was badly damaged in a landin’ accident a few months later and was scrapped without thought”, probly usin’ better English than that but yer get me drift’

‘I hope you find a buyer’ I said earnestly

‘Aye, mebbe I will then again mebbe I won’t. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be like this plane. Scrapped without thought’

‘You, scrapped?’

He smiled, ‘Eh, just me bein’ funny’ Uncle Ed replied.

‘Yer see yer got to look to the future lad, gotta plan ahead. When I started this scrappy I deliberately put it here because of the airfield. But the wars over now and I’m pretty sure that the airfield will close eventually. So yer gotta look ahead find other lines of supply’

He pointed towards the house with his half eaten sandwich ‘Trouble is them offspring o’ mine are gonna be pretty useless, Wesley is good at processin’ and sellin’ the metal but ‘e hasn’t got a single business brain cell in his body, so ‘e ain’t looking to the future, and Ben, well e’s a waste of space, his brains are in his trousers, so I ‘ate to say it, but ‘e ain’t gonna come to much’

He looked at me earnestly,

‘Don’t tell em I said that though, just between you an’ me right?’

‘I won’t say anything Uncle, I promise’
‘Thanks Lad, we’ll have to do this again, its good ‘avin a chat’

I dropped off the engineer’s seat into the gangway and folded it back up so that Uncle Ed could get down.

‘Give me the Billy can’ I said ‘I’ll take it back to the house’   

He passed it down to me and we made our way back down the fuselage to the back door, after we had both walked down the steps he motioned me to come to the front of the plane.

We walked around the nose and there, as he had said, was the bomb tally and the name of the aircraft.

I read the name but it made no sense.

‘”Maid O’ Tynne”’ I read, ‘I don’t understand?’

‘It’s a play on words’ Uncle Ed said laughing at my confusion ‘If you pronounce it “Made O’ Tin” would that make a difference?’

I mulled it over in my brain and then everything dropped in to place.

‘”Made of Tin”, yea I see it now, that’s really clever!’ I exclaimed ‘and I see what you mean about the bomb tally’
‘The bomb shaped ones are obviously bombing missions,’ he said with some authority ‘ then the little boats are attacks on ships, the round ones with spikes are mine laying and the spam tins are food drops to the starving people in Holland’

‘There are more than a hundred’ I said ‘and the last four are little stick figures’

‘Stick figures?’ he peered closely at the mission tally ‘oh yea I remember, them’s missions for bringin’ back freed prisoners o’ war’

‘It’s really impressive, I really do hope you find a buyer’.

‘Aye mebbe I will’ said Uncle Ed throwing his apple core away ‘anyways gotta get back to work, I’ll see you later young Andy’

And saying that clapped me on the shoulder and walked away, closely followed by two tabby cats, tails erect, sprinting after him for a few feet, then sniffing, then sprinting again to catch up.

The Spitfires thundered over our heads again and disappeared over the house. Uncle Edward stopped stood there with his hands in his pockets grinning in the noon sun and watched them go. He turned his head towards me.

‘Beautiful’ he mouthed then chuckled and carried on walking.

I sat with Uncle Ed a number of times after that and shared lunch with him and the cats, but the school holidays ended and it was back to school so I could only visit him infrequently at weekends. That also eventually stopped as life and school work got in the way.

Some years later Aunty May died suddenly of a heart attack while she was attending her beloved garden and the next time I saw Uncle Ed was at the funeral. He looked devastated and we only had a short conversation.

I met him only a couple of times after that, but he wasn’t the same man I had talked to those years before, he was jolly and friendly as always, but there was something missing in his eyes. It was no surprise that less than a year after the funeral Uncle Ed went to sleep one evening in his favourite chair in front of the fire, and never woke up again. It was a common consensus that he died of a broken heart.

Some months after he died I got word from somewhere that they were breaking up His Lancaster. I pedalled furiously up to the scrap yard on my bicycle and confronted the brothers. I tried to explain what Uncle Ed was trying to do with it but they were having none of it. All I could save was the section of the nose with the name and bomb tally which they begrudgingly allowed me to take.

It was then that I saw the cats and was shocked at how thin and ragged they had become.

‘What have you done to those cats?’ I demanded.

‘Nuffin’ replied Wesley.

‘Have you been feeding them?’

‘Don’t have to’ replied Ben ‘they’re wild cats they live off rats and mice’

‘Of course you have too feed them’ I said my voice rising ‘Aunt May gave them at least one meal a day’

‘Not any more’ Ben said arrogantly ‘we run the yard now’

‘Find me a cage’ I demanded ‘I’m taking them away’

‘You don’t tell me what…..’

‘FIND ME A CAGE! Or I’ll get the police and RSPCA in here’

It was a hollow threat but they didn’t know that, some of their dealings were a bit shady now, so they didn’t want the police sniffing around.  Ben was renown for being a loud mouth bully but on most occasions if people stood up to him and called him out he backed down and that’s what happened here.

I was only in my mid teens but tall for my age, we glared at each other for a few seconds then he stomped off in a huff and returned ten minutes later with a rusty animal trap.

He threw it at my feet and said ‘There, take the bloody cats and don’t come ’ere no more, you ain’t welcome’

‘Do you really think I came here to see you? I only came here to save the plane for Uncle Ed’ I retorted ‘now that I’ve got the cats out there’s no point in coming here anymore, the best people have already gone.’ 

I turned my back on him and walked away with the cage. I think he made some snide comment but I only heard him mumble and ignored him.

Fortunately my bicycle had a parcel rack on the back and I securely wired the aluminium panel to it so that it looked like my bicycle had wings, on top this I wired the animal trap then went in search of the cats.

I thought I was going to have a difficult time catching them but they still knew me from old and I managed to carry them squirming in my hands one by one to the trap and put them in.

It seemed a long way back to my house, the combined weight of the panel, cage and cats had squashed down the back tyre so that it looked almost flat. It was hard to pedal and even on the slightest incline I ended up pushing but I made it home only to be confronted by my dad.

‘What have you got now?’ he asked knowing my kleptomaniac tendencies.

‘It’s a bit of Uncle Ed’s Lancaster’

‘They’re scrapping “Maid O’ Tynne”?’

‘Yes, it’s the only bit I could save’

‘Bastards!’ he said vehemently, it was unusual for dad to swear in front of me, but he was like Uncle Ed and knew the historical value of the aircraft. He walked over to me and inspected my cargo.

‘You’ve taken the cats as well, I see’

‘They were starving’ I said in my defence ‘I nearly had a fight with Ben to get them out’

I braced myself for dad’s reaction, I could tell he wasn’t angry but I didn’t know how he would react to the cats.

‘OK, we will keep them’ he decided ‘but they will have to live outside, they’re wild cats and they’re not used to houses’

I knew he was wrong, but didn’t say anything. He was impressed with the piece of aircraft that I had salvaged and later hung it in my bedroom.

The cats lived outdoors in the shed for about a week, then started feeding in the kitchen and so endeared themselves to mum they were napping in front of the coal fire within a fortnight. It wasn’t long before their frames had filled out and the lustrous sheen had returned to their tabby coats. They lived their remaining years in what could only be described as cat heaven.

Looking back I think Uncle Ed was something of a visionary, the scrap yard blundered on under control of the two sons but as he predicted the airfield closed and virtually overnight their line of supply disappeared. Within a few months they went bankrupt and then Wesley found out that Ben had been milking the company of money causing it to prematurely collapse. There was a big legal hoo-ha and Ben ended up in jail.
Perhaps his greatest prediction came when I was leafing through a Lancaster book and I came upon a series of photographs of “Maid O’ Tynne”.

‘Well I’ll be buggered’ I said quietly to myself quoting Uncle Ed.

The Caption on one photograph read.

“Lancaster BIII AR5910 named “Maid O’ Tynne” at the 618 squadron disbandment ceremony. This aircraft was celebrated for surviving 109 operations. It was badly damaged in a landing accident six months after this photograph was taken and was subsequently scrapped without thought”.

By Mog

Mostly Harmless...............

Offline Old Wombat

  • "We'll see when I've finished whether I'm showing off or simply embarrassing myself."
  • "Define 'interesting'?"
Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2018, 09:08:10 AM »
"This is the Captain. We have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and, ah, explode."

Offline Kerick

  • Newly Joined - Welcome me!
Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2018, 09:29:54 AM »
You have a talent for writing great stories!

Offline Robomog

  • ...had a very bad experience with [an] orange...
  • Would you buy a used kit from this man?
Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2018, 08:20:19 AM »
Thanks for the comment guys, much appreciated

Mostly Harmless...............

Offline elmayerle

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Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2018, 11:14:49 AM »
Good and involving story.

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2018, 04:40:24 AM »
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

You can't outrun Death forever.
But you can make the Bastard work for it.

Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2018, 09:10:11 AM »
Beautiful story!

"What young man could possibly be bored
with a uniform to wear,
a fast aeroplane to fly,
and something to shoot at?"

Offline Robomog

  • ...had a very bad experience with [an] orange...
  • Would you buy a used kit from this man?
Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2018, 08:27:17 PM »
Thanks for the feedback chaps, kinda encourages you to do some more

Mostly Harmless...............

Offline Small brown dog

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Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2019, 06:06:46 PM »
Marvellous stuff :)
I could imagine that as a short season TV  period drama based on the family and the Lanc story as the middle theme.
Its not that its not real but it could be that its not true.

Offline Robomog

  • ...had a very bad experience with [an] orange...
  • Would you buy a used kit from this man?
Re: Scrapped Without Thought
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2019, 06:04:18 AM »
Thanks Mr dog, you are very kind

Mostly Harmless...............