Monday, April 6, 2009

The Pigeons

Our lives hang by the most tenuous threads of gossamer.

Prompted by a postcard rumination by my wise brother Hamish (received this morning), I am led to this conclusion by the curious fact that in the later stages of World War I my late grandfather, Tom Compson Trumble, “Pa,” as we knew him, who served in the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, was shot down over the North Sea, and one of his crew was killed.

Successfully he ditched his bullet-riddled flying boat, which Nick seems to recall was built of mahogany, wire and canvas, and promptly released his homing pigeons. These brought word of the incident to home base (above), and a destroyer was immediately dispatched to tow Pa back to England.

He must have had to wait for quite a long time, not knowing if enemy ships, submarines or aircraft were in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately the flying boat sank
en route, but without any further loss of life.

How close those bullets must have come to hitting Pa, and how nearly that flying boat didn’t make it. And without those plucky carrier pigeons, no Pa. And no Pa: no Dad, nor any of us, not at least in our current configuration. And so, and so, and so, by some miracle we dangle at the end of any number of those fragile threads of gossamer.

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