The Second World War: PART 6 - Andrew Macdonald - Sagan (1944)
It is just as well that the human body retains little to no memory of exquisite pain - it is only the mind that does.
Squadron Leader and ‘Big X’ Roger Bartlett took a long pull off his mug of scrounged Russian vodka and sat back in the chair awkwardly. The Jerrys had given him a thorough going over this time. The lads had to carry him into Hut 106. Seven cigarette ends had piled up in the ashtray when there was a rattle at his cabin door. He looked to Macdonald, who had been scraping the last dregs of sugar from a tin.
‘Who’s there?’ he called out, setting it aside and clenching his hands into fists.
The wooden door ebbed open. No noise was made. Then the door went wide in a sudden movement. Farrier’s smile appeared first, the rest of him followed.
‘By God, Roger!’ Bartlett said, crossing the room in one movement and taking his old friend by the hand. He shook it vigorously. ‘How’re you doing man?’
‘Not so bad sir, not so bad.’ Farrier averted his gaze and filled it with his favourite Scotsman. ‘Mac!’
‘Roger,’ Macdonald nodded, maintaining the air of professionalism typical of the man’s character. He smiled warmly and offered the man a seat opposite Big X.
Farrier sat and went to cross his legs. He lifted his right leg up, unable to get it over the knee and let it fall back down. He leaned back and folded his arms.
‘Glad to see the Gestapo haven’t lost their touch,’ Farrier said, gesturing to Bartlett’s eye.
‘Me too, you been in the wars yourself?’
‘Fifty days in the cooler.’
‘I thought you’d lost a bit of weight,’ X said.
‘Quite. I could make it as a tunnel man now.’
Macdonald and Bartlett shared a glance. Bartlett polished off his vodka and smacked his lips. He raised the brow of his brooding eye and sat forward conspiratorially.
‘We don’t need you now Roger,’ he said.
‘Sir?’ Farrier asked.
Big X found his feet, placed his hands behind his back and began to pace. It was typical of him when he dictated terms to a fellow officer. There was a hubbub of excitement about his manner, something Farrier hadn’t seen in a long time.
‘We’ve given up work on Dick and Harry and pushed ahead with Tom. The tunnel’s nearly at the trees. Thirty feet to go. Willie, Danny and the boys have dug around the clock to get us there and, barring any problems, it’ll be a fortnight until the escape.’
Farrier’s face lit up, he looked to Macdonald for reassurance; the Scotsman nodded back at him.