Captain Matthews escorts the able-bodied members of the party into the back of a ‘deuce and a half’ truck while Piotr and Bob are led into the back of the ambulance. The bodies of Richard and Lorelei are immediately put into bodybags and are also put into the hospital.
Both of the truck and the ambulance drive to the hastily constructed buildings around the apron. Piotr and Bob are immediately put into hospital beds and a doctor quickly comes over to tend to their wounds, replacing their bandages.
The others, meanwhile are taken to the canteen.
“Let’s get a hot meal inside you,” the Captain says. “Looks like you chaps could do with one.”
Indeed they could, it having been several days now since they enjoyed the hospitality of the guesthouse.
The Captain and the Military Police stay with the party members as they eat, escorting them to sit on the other side of the room from the others inside the canteen. As they eat, the Captain exchanges small talk and pleasantries, but he expertly sidetracks any conversation that starts heading towards the subject of where they have been, what they have done or where they are going.
After seconds (or fourths in Lodd’s case) they head off again.
“Time to get you out of those civvy rags you’re wearing and into something a little more presentable,” Captain Matthews says.
He then escorts you round to the Quartermaster’s store where the QM asks everyone for their sizes, ranks and units and everyone is issued with a standard British issue battledress. Somehow he is able to rustle up a Padre’s dog collar. He gives the Padre his Captain’s pips and Taffy is given sargeant’s stripes plus a needle and thread so that he can sew them on himself. The Padre gets uniforms for Piotr and Bob too, together with Corporal stripes for Bob.
“What about me?” asks Terry.
“Don’t ’ave nuffink for Yanks, mate,” the QM apologizes. “That’s the best I can do until you meet up with yer own unit.”
Captain Matthews leads everyone onwards once more.
“And finally we need to get you cleaned up a little. Don’t take this the wrong way, chaps, but quite frankly, you stink!”
Everyone gets rid of their ‘funny Jew clothes’ and takes a long, well-needed shower and a shave before putting on their new uniforms in an empty barracks area.
The Padre spends a long time attending to his uniform.
“Better smarten up, me ockers,” Bruce says. “Looks like we’re back in the army now. Remember that? Discipline and doing what you’re told to do? That’s the downside of having decent clothes to wear, decent tucker and not having to worry about the SS running through the door any minute.”
“I’m going to leave you chaps to get a little R&R,” Captain Matthews says. “I will be back in a few hours to escort you to your connecting flight.”
The Captain salutes them all and then leaves them. They notice that the two MPs stand outside the door, however.
Meanwhile, Bob lies in his uncomfortable hospital bed trying to ignore the poor bastard next door with no legs. A remarkably cheerful Kiwi who laughed every time he told the story of losing the legs in an auto accident while on a date with the First Lord’s grand-daughter. Bob wasn’t sure why the story was supposed to be funny.
Maybe it was the overwhelming feeling of doom hanging over the whole affair. He hadn’t seen Piotr since they arrived at the hospital, and now he had a private room with his own MP guarding it.
“I should’ve laughed with that bloody kiwi,” he thought.
The able-bodied party members spend a few welcome hours relaxing or dozing while they wait for Captain Matthews to return. It’s around 8.30pm by the time he reappears.
“Right-o, chaps, your ride home now awaits.”
They head into the awaiting truck and this time they are led to a USAF B-24 Liberator and told to board. Ten minutes later and an ambulance arrives bringing Piotr and Bob with them on stretchers plus the two corpses still in their body bags.
Despite the Liberator being a substantially larger plane than the Catalina, once more it was still not designed with passenger comfort in mind and so is even more cramped if anything.
Once onboard and everyone is sitting as comfortably as possible, the B-24 starts to taxi down the runway. Being totally unscathed, the take off is a lot easier than the previous one and the large silver bird is soon airborne, quickly passing over Sicily and out over the Mediterranean.
The B-24 is a lot faster than the badly damaged Catalina, but the journey is a lot further. After a couple of hours in flight, one of the gunner brings everyone a K-ration supper. The crew of the plane mostly keep out of the way of the passengers. The crew don’t seem to be unfriendly – it seems as if they are under strict instructions not to speak with any of party members. From their position in the plane, they are able to listen in on the chatter between the two side gunners located just behind them and so are able to get a fairly good idea as to their progress.
The drone of the motors is hypnotizing and, shortly after midnight. shortly after hearing that the plan is passing Algiers, all of the passengers are asleep.
Everyone is awake again once light starts to appear through the windows. The gunner comes around with more K-rations so that everyone can have breakfast.
As the plane flies on through the morning, the party members each have different reactions to the upcoming return to England ranging from fear in the case of Dr. Holdst through to relief and excitement from many of the others. Lodd thinks only of escaping by getting as far away from the war as possible.
It’s late in the morning when you receive words that everyone should get up and prepare for landing. At this point Bob decides that he’s had enough of being a stretcher case. His encounter with the one-legged Kiwi was enough to convince him that being among the maimed and mad in a military hospital in no cushy holiday. He gets dressed into his battledress and sits with the other, leaving only Piotr on the stretchers.
A few minutes later and the B-24 touches down. From here it is a repeat of the landing at Catania. A jeep, truck and ambulance soon come up alongside the plane.
“Welcome to RAF Northolt, chaps,” a RAF officer says with a stiff salute. “I’m Captain Franks.”
This time there are four MPs with him. Piotr and the corpses are put into the ambulance which heads of first. The other party members are shepherded into the back of the truck. Two of the MPs get in along with them and secure the canvas.
As the truck takes off, all of the party members have a strange feeling of deja vu at being in a similar position to the one where they were in at the start of their adventure.