The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 21

That evening, when he met for his daily briefing with Fouchet. Vajean still had the feeling that he had missed something, call it a Policeman’s instinct or whatever, but it was really beginning to annoy him.

‘Have you made any progress with your investigations into the victims?’ asked Valjean.

‘Not particularly, one of them was not as innocent as we were led to believe, she was having an affair with a married man. But before you ask, he’s not a suspect, he was serving abroad with the Army, all checked and substantiated. replied Fouchet.

‘So, nothing of any consequence to our investigation?’

‘I did pick up one little tidbit that may interest you, Bruno has a cousin locally who breeds boars, the domestic ones of course but their diets are then same. By the way, have you made the acquaintance of the lovely Bruno yet?’

‘Yes, we have met, I left him with a bruised ego and a bloody nose, next time we cross paths he may just remember his manners,’ stated Valjean smiling.

‘Be careful, given the opportunity he’s the type that would stab you in the back.’ warned Fouchet.

‘But, I proved one thing, if the inducement was to his advantage, he would kill!’

‘He appears to be the woman’s creature, do you think she is the one pulling the strings or are they both being controlled by some unknown third person?’ queried Fouchet.

‘I have to admit that something about the woman is bothering me, now that we have met even more so. I have this feeling that I know her, but I can’t remember where from and its really starting to annoy me.’

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Adjutant Paul Tarascon – French Ace – 1882 / 1977

Paul Albert Pierre Tarascom was born in Le Thor, France on the 8th of December 1882. Tarascon joined the French Military in 1901; upon his release from active duty, he was assigned to the 4e Regiment d’Infanterie Coloniale. He became interested in Aviation upon his release, and decided to learn to fly. In 1911, whilst learning to fly, he crashed his aircraft so badly that his right foot had to be amputated. This would spark his later nickname, I’as la jambe de bois ( the ace with the wooden leg )

Despite his handicap, when World War ! began, he volunteered as an aviator and was accepted. On completion of Military training he received Military Pilot’s Brevet No. 1741 on the 4th of December 1914, and became an instructor in January 1915. He requested a combat assignment, and was sent to Escadrille 31 on the 6th of October 1915, to Ecscadrille3 on the 1st of May !916 and shortly after to Escadrille 62.

Flying a Nieuport fighter he scored his first victory on the 15th of July 1916. By the 17th of November he had run up his score of victories to eight whilst flying Nieuports. Before he resumed scoring on the 6th of April 1917, he had changed aircraft and was now flying a SPAD. He scored twice more in mid 1917, then one final time on the 15th of July 1918. Tarascon’s emblem of the fighting cock was adopted by his unit.

Tarascon’s motto ‘Zigomar’ was apparently based on a character in a French mystery story. He was a Criminal Mastermind. I would imagine something similar to Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Moriarty’ in the Sherlock Holmes stories. An interesting choice.

Paul Tarascon was Awarded the Medaille Militaire on the 4th of August 1916, His citation reads, ‘Adjutant Pilot of Escadrille N.62 Excellent pilot, always prepared to work. Although one leg has been amputated, he entered aviation and has carried out numerous reconnaissance’s over long distances and has had 15 aerial combats. On the 15th of July 1916 he downed an Aviatik de Chasse, which fell in flames in enemy territory.’ He was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur citation of 15th of November 1916, reads, ‘Adjutant pilot of Escadrille N.62. Remarkable pilot by his devotion, skill, coolness and initiative. He has distinguished himself for over a year, during the course of numerous reconnaissance’s, protections and pursuits. On the 9th of August 1916, his plane was hit over 100 times by enemy bullets. Since the 1st of July, he has had 35 combats, downing five enemy planes and has forced two others to land in a damaged condition.’ Tarascon was also awarded the Croix de Guerre with Twelve Palmes. He had twelve conformed victories and ten unconfirmed in World War One.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 20

‘No, I met Marcel for the first time several months later. I had travelled to Carcassone to do research for a project that I was working on, this was well before I moved there. I wandered into a bar, Marcel was there sat at the counter, we struck up a conversation, which within a short space of time we both realised we were attracted to each other and we have been together on and off since that day.’

‘On and off? sounds somewhat strange, I thought you were having a relationship?’ queried Valjean.

‘We do, but we both have our own careers as writers, Marcel is based here because his stories are set in this area. I, due to the demands of my research, have to travel frequently. Although my work is fiction, from the historical aspect it must be faultless for my stories to be believable.’

‘I have just one more question,’ said Valjean, ‘ Are you aware that Marcel de Peysac is a convicted rapist, who has served a prison sentence?’

She seemed lost in thought for a moment, as if she were choosing her words very carefully.

‘As I stated earlier, Marcel and I have no secrets between us, I am fully aware of his past as he is of mine.’ She stated, but Valjean was not convinced by her statement.

‘Now if I may’ She said looking a little exasperated, ‘I would like to terminate this interview, I have a prior appointment.’

‘That is fine, I think I have all that I need,’ Valjean faltered, then asked, ‘There is just one small thing, I omitted to ask you the title of your forthcoming novel?’

‘At the moment, it is still very much a work in progress, and as such does not have a title. But if you wish, I will keep you informed of its progress?’

‘I would appreciate that, the title would round of the article perfectly, I apologise for imposing on so much of your time, but thank you once again for your co-operation.’ Said Valjean, so saying he took his leave and left her to whatever business she had planned.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Captain Robert Alexander Little – Australian Ace – 1895 / 1918

Little was born on the 8th of July 1895 at Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne, to Canadian James Little, a seller of medical and surgical books and his Victorian born wife, Susan. His family heritage was Scottish, and he was educated at Camberwell Grammar School and Scotch College, Melbourne, where he was a swimming medallist. He entered his father’s business as a travelling salesman, and was living with his family at Windsor when World War One broke out in August 1914.

With a life long interest in Aviation, Little decided to apply for pilot training at the Australian Army’s Central Flying School at Point Cook, but with only four vacancies, he was rejected along with hundreds of other like minded individuals. He then decided to sail to England in July 1915 and become a qualified pilot at his own expense. Gaining his flying certificate with the Royal Aero Club at Hendon in October, He joined the Royal Naval Air Service in as a probationary Flight Sub-Lieutenant on the 14th of January 1916. He suffered badly from air sickness early in his career, most likely bought on by the fumes from the castor oil that was employed as an engine lubricant in the Aircraft that he flew in England.

Little arrived in France in June 1916 for service with No.1 Naval Wing at Dunkirk, where he initially flew Sopwith One and a half strutters in bombing raids. He married Vera Gertrude Field at the Congregational Church, Dover on the 16th of September. The following month he was posted to No.8 Squadron R.N.A.S. ( Naval Eight ) flying Sopwith Pups on the Western Front, under fellow Australian Stanley Goble. Little scored his first aerial victory on November the 23rd destroying an enemy two-seater north-east of La Bassee. By the following February he had four victories to his credit and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross ( DSC ) for ‘conspicuous bravery in successfully attacking and bringing down hostile machines’. In one action on the 4th of December, Little and Goble ‘fought like mad’ against a large formation of German fighters, each of them claiming an Halberstadt. Little did not return to base with Goble and was feared lost, but had only landed near Allied lines to clear a machine gun blockage before taking off again to continue the fight.

On the 24th of April 1917, Little engaged a DFW. CV, forcing it to land. He than followed the German aircraft down to claim it as captured and personally take its crew prisoner at gunpoint. The Australian flipped his own plane in a ditch after touching down, however prompting the surrendering German pilot to suggest, ‘It looks as if I have bought you down, not you me, doesn’t it?’ Naval Eight’s conversion to the Sopwith Triplane in April saw Little begin to score heavily, eventually registering twenty – four victories on the type to bring his total up to twenty – eight by the 10th of July, including twin victories in a day on four occasions. He was the Squadrons top scorer in the Triplane, mostly in one particular aircraft, N5493, that he christened the ‘Blymp’ which also became the nick-name of his baby son.

The unit then began flying Sopwith Camels, in which he scored a further ten kills in July to make a total of fourteen for the month. When he subsequently rotated back to England for rest, he was ranked as Flight Lieutenant and credited with a total of thirty – eight victories, including fifteen destroyed or captured. A Bar to his D.S.C. on the 29th of June, for ‘Exceptional daring and skill in aerial fighting on many occasions’, and he received the French Croix de Guerre on the 11th of July, becoming along with fellow Australian Naval Ace, Roderic ‘Stan’ Dallas, one of the First three British Empire pilots to be so decorated. In August he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, ‘For exceptional skill and daring’ followed by a Bar to the decoration in September, ‘For remarkable boldness and courage in attacking enemy machines.’ He was mentioned in despatches on the 11th of December and promoted to Flight Commander the following month.

Despite Little’s prowess in combat, as an aviator he was ordinary at best, enduring a number of crash landings. What gave him his edge as a fighter pilot was his keen eye, excellent marksmanship, and the willingness to single – handedly take on entire enemy formations and close in on his prey – down to twenty – five yards on occasion – before opening fire. Fellow No.8 Squadron colleague Reggie Soar recalled, ‘Although not a polished pilot, he was one of the most aggressive…. An outstanding shot with both revolver and rifle.’ Whilst fellow ace Robert Compston described him as, ‘ Not so much a leader as a brilliant lone hand ….small in stature, with face grimly set, he seemed the epitome of deadliness. His squadron nick – named him ‘Rikki’ after the mongoose ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ which outstrikes cobras, in the story of the same name by Rudyard Kipling. Many who knew him saw a sensitive side however, Soar noting that besides his skill with guns, Little was also ‘a collector of wild flowers,’ and his wife contending his appearance in photographs belied his sense of humour. Squadron commander Raymond Collishaw, who would finish the war as the RNAS’ top – scoring ace summed up Little as, An outstanding character, bold, aggressive and courageous, yet he was gentle and kindly, A resolute and brave man,’

Following a period of rest in England, Little turned down a desk assignment and volunteered to return to action on the Western Front, joining Lieutenant Colonel Collishaw’s No.3 Squadron RNAS in March 1918. This unit evolved into No. 203 Squadron Royal Air Force on the 1st of April 1918, formed after the merger of the R.N.A.S and R.F.C. Now with the rank of Captain, and again flying Sopwith Camels, Little gained a further nine victories, Beginning with a Fokker Triplane on the !st of April, and concluding with two kills in one day on the 22nd of May, an Albatros and a DFW. During this stretch of victories, on the 21st of April 1918, he was bought down unharmed by Friedrich Ehmann. On the 27th of May, Little received reports of German Gotha bombers in the vicinity, and took of on a moonlit evening to intercept the raiders. As he closed with one of the bombers his plane was caught in a searchlight beam

and he was struck by a bullet that passed through both his thighs. He managed to crash land in a field near Noeux, and bled to death, before he was discovered the next morning by a passing Gendarme. Little’s skull and ankle had also been fractured in the impact, his body was identified by his friend and fellow ace, Charles Dawson Booker. Colonel Collishaw launched an investigation but it was never established whether the single bullet that killed Little had come from the Gotha or from a gunner on the ground.

Of Little’s 47 victories, 20 were credited as destroyed, 2 as captured and 25 as out of control, he was believed to be responsible for many others driven down or forced to land, none of which were counted in his official score. This score made him the highest scoring Australian ace of all time, ahead of ‘Stan’ Dallas whose official score was 39. Little’s awards were The Distinguished Service Order and Bar, The Distinguished Service Cross and Bar, Mentioned in Despatches and the French Croix de Guerre.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 19

‘Marcel is a close friend and an excellent writer, surely his eight best-sellers attest to that. I agree that early in his career I gave him a little help and advise but that is all, any success he has is due to his own talent.’ her answer was as Valjean had expected, a little defensive but not overly so.

‘There was a certain train of thought that suggested that the books were in fact written by you, but published under de Peysac’s name.’ Her face reddened, this time he had obviously hit a tender spot.

‘I am sorry!’ she said angrily, raising her voice, ‘But I take that as an insult to my good name and the reputation of Marcel, my friend.’

‘I too am sorry, it was not my intention to offend you, merely to speculate on the rumours that I have heard in certain quarters.’ Stated Valjean by way of apology.

‘Would you publish a story without verification?’ She questioned.

‘Of course not, that is why I am here, seeking the truth of the matter?’

‘I am sure that you have heard all the stories concerning Marcel and myself?’

‘Only in respect that you are friends, sometimes lovers and you assist him with his career, am I correct in my assumptions.’

‘As, you are interested I will set the story straight, it is high time the rumours were laid to rest. I had married young, my tutor at the Sorbonne. A man much older than me, but a man who thankfully for me, saw my potential. For a while the age difference was of no consequence, but with his encouragement I wrote my first novel. This novel as you know made me a household name, which in turn meant that I had to promote my product.’

‘Initially everything was fine, my husband was aware that certain aspects of our life would change. I was no longer his student, but not yet his equal. The problem arose because I was young and photogenic, the media loved me and the more successful I became, the more bitter my husband became. Neither of us were happy as things were, and having found fame, I was not about to give it all up. And so, we agreed on a less than amicable divorce.’

‘Did you know Marcel de Peysac at this time, was he the reason for your divorce?’

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Capitaine Armand J. de Turenne – French Ace -1891 / 1980

Armand Jean Galliot joseph de Turenne was born in Le Mans, Sarthe, France, the son of Guillaume Auguste Alyre Georges de Turenne and Marie Therese Madeleine Beaumevielle. On the 15th of April 1909 he volunteered to join the Army for a period of three years, and served in the 10eme Regiment de Chasseurs a cheval ( 10th Light Cavalry Regiment ) He was promoted to Brigadier ( Corporal ) on the 10th of February 1910 and to Marechal -des – logis ( Sergeant ) on the 27th of April 1911. His three years ended on the 13th of April 1912, but he rejoined the Army on the 22nd of February 1913 and was posted to the 21eme Regiment de Dragons ( 21st Dragoon Regiment ) based at Saint – Omer. he was promoted to Marechal – des – logis fourrier ( Quartermaster Sergeant ) on the !8th of April 1913.

On the 10th of August 1914, just a week after the outbreak of World War One, de Turenne was appointed as an aspirant ( officer candidate ). On the 15th of July 1915, he transferred to the Army’s Aviation Service, the Aeronautique Militaire as an observer / bombardier serving in Escadrille VB102 of the 1er Groupe de Bombardement, based at Malzeville from the 21st of July to the 6th of August 1915. He then trained as a pilot receiving military pilot brevet No.2135 at the military flying school at Pau on the 21st of December 1915 and was commissioned as a Sous – Lieutenant on the 26th of December.

After advanced training at the military flying school at Avord from the 4th of January to the 7th of March 1916, he was assigned to the Reserve Generale de l’Aviation ( RGA ) from the 7th of March to the 13th of June, then finally to Escadrille N.48 on the 13th of June 1916, to fly Nieuport fighters. He scored his first victory on November the 17th 1916, and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 31st of December. He was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur on the 22nd of July 1917. His citation reading, ‘ A very courageous pilot who gives daily the highest example of boldness and initiative. On the 6th of July 1917, he downed, in the course of one flight, his third and fourth German aircraft, one of these in our lines. Cited in orders three times.’

By the 30th of September 1917, he had half a dozen aerial victories to his credit. Five of them were shared with fellow aces Jean Matton, Gilbert de Guingand and Rene Montrion. De Turenne was appointed commander of Escadrille SPA 12 on the 12th of January 1918. In his nine victories with the SPADS of this squadron, he continued with teamwork in combat and branched out to become a balloon buster by downing two observation balloons. He not only shared victories with fellow aces Marcel Marc Dhome and Emile Regnier, but with several other pilots. An interesting sidelight on de Turenne’s victory list is that he only claimed two solo victories, and there were no fewer than fifteen other pilots sharing one or more of his other thirteen triumphs. He was promoted to the temporary rank of Capitaine on the 17th of July 1918, and this was made permanent on the 25th of December. His achievements were not just personal ones; his squadron was cited in General Orders for their accomplishments whilst under his command.

De Turenne’s awards included the Legion d’Honneur, Medaille Militaire, Croix de Guerre, the British Military Cross and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. He scored 15 Aerial Victories, this figure included two observation balloons.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

The Ninth Victim – Excerpt 18

Once they were alone in the house, she went in to full charm offensive. Valjean had to admit that the photographs that he had seem of her did not do her justice. She was a very attractive woman, the type that in different circumstances he might have been attracted too.

Her hair was blond, in a modern casual style, her eyes were blue, her lips a little sensual, she was slim but curvaceous where it counted. Only one thing was bothering Valjean, he had the distinct feeling that he had seen her before, it bothered him, but he dismissed it maybe he was confusing her with someone else?

Once the apologies and introductions were over, she sat beside him on the settee in what Valjean considered was an intimate manner, but maybe she behaved this way with all men, after all some women do.

‘Now that we are familiar with each other, where would you like to begin?’ she said and smiled, making it seem almost like an invitation.

‘I think obviously with your forthcoming book, why has it taken you so long, it seems a long time since your last book, have you suffered from writer’s block?’

‘No, not at all, you as a journalist will I am sure appreciate that the most important part of a story is the research that goes into it. this particular story has been very time consuming in regards to the research. Although my writing is historical fiction, the facts and the timeline must be faultless.’

‘Do you think that taking so long between books will have lost you some of your readers, after all their are new books and authors being published all the time?’ queried Valjean, hoping to provoke some kind of reaction.

‘I have a very faithful following of readers, many of whom I am in contact with through social media, so I would say a definite no, but I could be proved wrong?’

‘If I may pry, what is the subject of your new book?’ asked Valjean.

‘It is about the Huguenots, that is why so much research was necessary.’

‘And do you think it will be a best-seller, like your previous books?’

‘I sincerely hope so, I have put several years of my life into this story?’

‘There is a rumour circulating in literary circles that suggests that the reason that you have taken so long is the time that you have spent taking Marcel de Peysac under your wing and helping him to become a successful writer. In fact, your own career has declined as his has risen. Do you consider this the truth?’ Valjean thought this might provoke a reaction.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

Air Aces of World War One

Lieutenant Alan Jerrard V.C. – British Ace – 1897 / 1968

Jerrard was born in Lewisham in 1897 and moved in 1902 with his family to Sutton Coldfield where his father was Headmaster of Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School for 24 years. Later Jerrard attended Oundle School in Northamptonshire and Birmingham University.

Jerrard volunteered for the British Army and served with the 5th South Staffordshire Regiment, before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, where he trained as a fighter pilot. From mid 1917, he served as a pilot with No.19 Squadron R.F.C. in France, but he was injured in an air crash on the 5th of August 1917, whilst flying a Spad VII. From the 22nd of February 1918, he served in No.66 Squadron R.F.C. in Italy, as a Lieutenant, flying Sopwith Camels. Between the 27th of February and the 21st of March he scored four aerial victories, this score included one observation balloon.

On the 30th of March 1918 near Mansue, Italy, Lieutenant Jerrard with two other officers, Peter Carpenter and Harold Ross Eycott-Martin, on an offensive patrol, shot down one of five enemy aircraft. Then flying at 50feet he attacked an Aerodrome with some 19 aircraft either landing or attempting to take off. After destroying one of these aircraft, he was attacked by several more enemy aircraft, but seeing a brother officer in difficulties, went to assist him destroying a third enemy machine, then continued with his attacks only retreating, with five aircraft in pursuit at the orders of his patrol leader. Even then he repeatedly turned around to engage the enemy until he was finally forced down.

After the war, records revealed that the Camel’s opponents were four Austrian Albatros D.III ( O.E.F. ) fighters, one of which was damaged and had to land, while another pilot was injured by a bullet wound. Jerrard was himself shot down by the Austrian Ace Benno Fiala von Fernbrugg from Flik 51J, and became a prisoner of war. Although the R.F.C. gave Jerrard credit for 3 victories in this encounter. Jerrard personally did not claim to have destroyed any aircraft in that skirmish, he only claimed that he shot one up. He was the only Camel pilot to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Jerrard remained a prisoner of war until the end of 1918, when he managed to escape and reach the Allied lines. He later served in Russia in 1919 and reached the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Along with his Victoria Cross, Jerrard was awarded the Bronze Medal of Military Valour ( Italy ) and the Russian Order of Saint Anna Third Class, he was also mentioned in despatches. He was credited with eight victories, and died in 1968 at the age of seventy years.

(C) Damian Grange 2021