COMING SOON: LMF – Malcolm Havard
ARCs AVAILABLE NOW!
Set against one of Britain’s most controversial campaigns,
the RAF night bomber offensive.
An investigation has been initiated by RAF Bomber Command into disciplinary action taken by the squadron following the raid that found the pilot to be LMF – ‘Lacking Moral Fibre’, despite his previous record and his having completed 29 previous missions.
The central characters are a pilot suffering combat fatigue and desperate to complete the last mission of his tour so he can rest and recover, his navigator, a Quaker struggling to reconcile his beliefs with the morality of his task, and an Australian engineer whose wife is dying of cancer.
The novel covers a 24-hour period in January 1944, exploring the events of a mission through the eyes of a single crew of seven men.
Murray stood awkwardly in front of the Squadron Leader’s desk, awaking long buried memories of being called to the Headmaster over some indiscretion.
His discomfort was odd. He was at least a decade older than the man he stood in front of and they held the same rank. But the nature of Bomber Command meant the combat experience of the 24-year-old, a grizzled veteran of some 60 missions over enemy territory, meant he was de facto superior.
And he knew it.
He was clearly irritated. ‘For God’s sake, what the hell does Group want? I thought I’d been put in charge to get results and run things as I see fit. Surely that applies to discipline, they know that don’t they?’
‘Well, yes, of course.’
‘So what’s all this about? This is questioning my authority.’ He jabbed his finger at the file.
The file that had been thrust at Murray by his section head the previous afternoon.
‘Take a look at this,’ he’d been told. ‘Looks like it’s in your remit. See what you think.’
That was it, the sum of his instructions. That and the travel warrant to the Fen country. That clearly said; ‘go and find out’ clearer than any orders.
So here he was. He kept calm, knowing that diplomacy was the key
‘Harvey, I’m sure it’s not, it’ll be someone high up getting the wind up for some reason. I’m sure it’s nothing. I’ve just been asked to take another look, that’s all.’
He felt a little sick and extremely uneasy, he’d had to force himself not to use Harvey’s rank as a title, to gently remind the man that their ranks, if not experience were equal. It was a line in the sand he had to draw.
‘Well it’s bloody ridiculous if you ask me. Psychological mumbo-jumbo, junk ideas of how things should be done made up by people who’ve never even flown over Germany.’
Murray felt himself redden. Harvey had landed a blow where he was most vulnerable.
‘I’m sure you’re right, Squadron Leader,’ he said, then kicked himself for weakening. ‘Look, it’s what I’ve been ordered to do. I honestly don’t know why, maybe he’s got friends in High Places, who knows? All I know is that I’ve been asked to have a look at the files and see if I can work out what happened.’
‘It’s patently obvious what happened.’
Murray took a deep breath. ‘I know. It must be bloody annoying. I know you have a squadron to run and…’
‘Yes, I have. I’ve no time for this. There are more than 400 people on the base who I’m responsible for, why should I care about this one?’
On cue, only slightly muffled by the window panes which rattled with the vibration, an engine coughed, caught and then roared into life. The sound was unmistakable, rich, deep, mellow yet savage, a Rolls Royce Merlin, a ground test breaking the chill stiffness of the Winter’s morning. Somehow it stiffened Murray’s resolve.
‘Seven,’ he said.
‘What do you mean seven?’
‘There are seven in the crew.’
Harvey shrugged. ‘So? You don’t think I know that?’
‘Of course I do. It’s just that only one of them was disciplined…’
‘So?’ said Harvey again.
‘They were all on the mission. Group is concerned about morale, things like this can affect it badly. Those seven will have pals -’
‘Six of them do,’ said Harvey.
‘Six then. Those six will talk to their pals and they, in turn, will talk. What happened to them will ripple through the rest of the crews, then the ground crew and the WAAFs and -’
‘Gossip, nothing more. I’d rather have that spread than malingering and cowardice. That needs to be nipped in the bud.’
‘Yes, of course it does but -’
‘Look, Murray, what are you looking to prove? What’s your agenda?’
Murray paused. Interesting, Harvey was being more than defensive, he was aggressively so. Perhaps there was something in this after all? For the first time he really wanted to look at the files.
‘I don’t have an agenda, I promise. It’s just something that’s come down from the medics. Look, I’m sure you’re right and everything has been done properly. I’m just another pair of eyes looking things over, it’s just a paper exercise, it needn’t be too disruptive. Just put me in an office somewhere with the files, I’ll give them a quick shufty and then I’ll be gone and out of your hair.’
He waited whilst Harvey chewed the stem of his unlit pipe, a frown on his young, lined
‘Oh, for God’s sake, all right,’ he said at last. ‘If you must. Let’s get this farce over with. Harrison! Harrison, get in here!’ He looked up at Murray and, almost as an afterthought, smiled at him. ‘Sorry, old boy,’ he added in a softer tone. ‘Got a lot on my plate. I know this isn’t your fault. I’ll get Harrison here,’ he nodded at the corporal who had stepped into the office. ‘To sort out the paperwork on the case and find you somewhere to work.’
Murray forced himself not to sigh in relief.
‘Thank you,’ he said.
‘Then, when you’re done, we can have a spot of lunch. If you’re not hurrying off, of course.’
The line was delivered casually but the message was crystal clear. Lunch was at 12.30 sharp on bases like this. Harvey wanted everything over and nicely swept under the carpet in just over two hours.
Murray forced himself to smile.
‘Of course, that would be nice,’ he said
About the Author
Malcolm grew up in Sheffield, has lived and worked in academia and industry in Australia and the Middle East. He now lives in Crewe in Cheshire, England. He is a prolific and award-wining author who writes both novels and short fiction. He has, in the past, worked in a variety of genres.
Despite the variety, all have a similar DNA containing strong, often flawed but believable characters and telling great stories. His current body of work include the mountaineering thriller, The Last Mountain, a 1950s Spy novel, Contrail and Touched, a haunting novel about love and loneliness.
He has now found a niche writing historical fiction usually with an aviation background. He has published bestselling stories about WW1, and Hurricane Season, a blend of fiction and non-fiction stories and features centred around the legendary aircraft, the Hawker Hurricane.
The next few years seem sure to be very busy with several book launches. The first will be LMF.
The LMF of the title refers to ‘Lack of Moral Fibre’, a disciplinary sanction available to RAF’s Bomber Command in WW2 – effectively a finding of cowardice. This was inflicted on crews who were under intense strain in increasingly hazardous skies – some of whom almost certainly were suffering from mental illness – and applied by officers who were very young and relatively inexperienced. The novel LMF concentrates on the experiences of a single heavy bomber crew on one night in February 1944.
LMF will be followed by two more novels, Eleven Days, set around ‘Bloody April’ in 1917 and Three Brothers, the first of a trilogy which will cover the turbulent period from 1910 to 1939.
Praise for Malcolm’s books
“More twists than a Red Arrows display!”
“The author’s research into this 1950s era is first class and the many twists and turns in a pulsating and intriguing story will have the reader turning the pages quicker than the jet turbines of the illustrious jetliner.”
“Reads like a true story.”
“This book was great. Through the first half I’d get so engrossed I had to keep reminding myself it was a novel. By the second half it didn’t matter.”