In 1953, Col. Scott Crossfield would don a flight suit, parachute and helmet, then be secured to an ejection seat inside the cramped cockpit of a Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. After weeks of planning and preparation, a four chamber rocket engine would thrust Crossfield into the history books, making him the first human being to exceed twice the speed of sound. During that golden age of flight test, few could dream that we would one day sip Champagne and watch movies aboard a double sonic airliner. Concorde would make that dream a reality.
The joint Aérospatiale / British Aircraft Corporation Concorde flew at Mach 2, allowing passengers to enjoy opulence and comfort as they traveled from New York to London in 3.5 hours, not the 8 hours of a conventional airliner. Concorde flew for more than three decades as the first supersonic transport. It truly made the world a smaller place.
One of only 20 built, tail number F-BVFA was the first ship delivered to Air France. She would roll up 17,820 flight hours over the course of 6,966 flights, culminating in one last landing at Washington Dulles International Airport for permanent display at Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, as the first Concorde to be permanently displayed in the United States.
WW1 German Zeppelin crewman poses in his leather flying suit and parachute harness. (Source - The Drakegoodman Collection.) A total of 115 Zeppelin-type airships was used by the German military in the First World War. The army and navy lost 53 airships and 379 highly trained officers and men, and 24 airships were so damaged they could not be used again. The German Zeppelin fleet was used much more for reconnaissance missions than bombing, with over 1200 sorties flown over the North Sea alone.
You strapped a couple pistols to your legs and looked at your boyfriend. Steve was inserting a comm into his ear and watching you. “What?” You smiled.
“Nothing,” Steve responded, holding out a comm for you. You took it and inserted it into your ear. Steve pulled on his helmet then moved to the door of the quinjet. The hatch descended and Steve jumped from the quinjet.
“Did he have a parachute?” Bucky asked, coming up beside you.
“Nope,” you rolled your eyes. Bucky shook his head then began to put on his parachute. You followed suit then walked over to the hatch, waiting for the right time to jump.
When the quinjet got near enough to the boat, you, Bucky, and the agents with you jumped and released your parachutes. You guided yourself down to where Steve was. You noticed a man with a gun against Steve’s head. You pulled out one of your pistols and shot the man in the head.
“Thanks, sweetheart,” Steve smiled at you.
“Yeah, like you needed my help,” you scoffed, moving to the edge of the boat. You hooked a line of cable to the railing, glanced over your shoulder, winked at Steve, then jumped over the railing.
You free-fell for a moment before the cable pulled taut and you were jerked to a stop. You slammed against the side of the boat, you hands and knees taking most of the shock.
You glanced in to the rather large window to your left and saw the control room. The boss sat in the middle of the room with a guard stationed on both sides of him.
“Y/N?” Steve muttered through the comms. “Are you in position?”
“Yes,” you responded, pressing against your ear so they would hear you.
“On my count,” Steve said. “Three…two…one.”
You ran to your right and pushed off the boat with your feet. You went flying through the he air, swerving to the right. You pulled your pistols from their holsters just in time to straighten out to go through the window.
The window shattered and you landed with cat-like agility in the middle of the control room. You shot the boss then pointed your pistols at the two guards.
Just as you pulled the trigger of your pistols, a searing pain ripped through your body. The focal point was a place right underneath your left breast.
You dropped your pistols and your hands immediately went to your wound. You fell to your knees in pain and lifted up your shirt to reveal where the bullet had hit you. It was bleeding profusely and you knew you wouldn’t be able to get it to stop.
“Shit,” you muttered.
“Y/N?” A familiar voice crackled in your ear. “Y/N!” It was Steve, you realised a moment later.
“Yeah?” you asked.
“Is the control room clear?” Steve asked.
You looked around then muttered “Yeah.”
“Then get back to the quinjet,” Steve commanded. You did as you were told. You pressed a button on your belt and the cable began to retract, pulling you with it. When you reach the deck of the boat, you pulled yourself over the rail and lay there for a moment.
The quinjet had landed on the very top deck of the boat. You still had five decks between you and the quinjet. You groaned but pushed yourself to your feet and began to walk to the stairs.
There were moments during your walk to the quinjet that you doubted you would make it but you shook your head, took a deep breath, and continued onward. The walk was long and felt more like a hike than a walk. When you got to the top deck the very first thing you noticed was that Steve was calling your name.
“Steve,” you called as loud as you could, which to be honest wasn’t all that loud. He turned, saw you, and sigh in relief, obviously not noticing the blood dripping from inbetween your fingers. He stepped toward you and you stepped towards him, but you stumbled and, if you hadn’t stabilised yourself against the wall, would have fallen.
Steve’s eyes swept your body and immediately a look of worry came on his face. He sprinted toward you and swept you into his arms, bridal style. He rushed towards the quinjet, yelling, “Y/N needs medical attention, immediately!”
Two emergency medics took you from Steve’s arms and began immediately on digging the bullet from your diaphragm. Steve stood helplessly off to the side, holding your hand tightly and looking into your eyes, a reassuring look in his.
A couple hours passed. You had been transferred to a hospital and the doctor was viciously trying to save your life but you could feel yourself fading. You could see Steve through a window, watching helplessly.
‘He changed his clothes,’ you observed, looking into his eyes, an apologetic look in yours.
“I love you, Steve,” you mouthed then everything went black.
Steve saw you mouth something to him and recognised it as I love you then your eyes closed. The machines started beeping and the doctor got suddenly frantic. They worked hard to restart your heart but nothing worked.
“Alright, I’m going to call it,” the head doctor sighed.
“Time of death: 12:52 A.M.” One of the nurses said.
Steve’s knees buckled and he would have fallen to the ground if it had not been for Bucky supporting him. The doctor and nurses disconnected you from all the machines and moved you to a different room.
Steve rushed to that room and knelt by your head. He dug in his pocket for a moment before pulling out a small velvet box. He opened it to expose a ring.
“Just before she died, my mom told me to give this to the girl who captures my heart and I guess that’s why it wouldn’t feel right to give it to anyone besides you,” Steve said, tears beginning to stream down his face.
He lifted your left hand and slipped the ring on your ring finger. Steve laid his head on your unmoving stomach and sighed heavily.
At the office I had received part of my equipment. My papers: a ration card, a clothing card and an identity card, all made in England to the exact image of French ones. I was given money: 99,000 francs and 1,000 in small cash, and a little gun, a Czech .32. I was the only woman in a group of twenty-two men briefed to leave the same night.
We were led to a small hut where we received our last bits of equipment: a green-and-brown camouflaged parachute suit with long trouser-legs and dozens of zip-fasteners and pockets, a flashlight and spare batteries, a knife and a compass, a small flask filled with rum; even a sharp spade, tucked into a leg pocket, in case we had to bury our parachute ourselves.
Anne-Marie Walters, SOE agent, on the equipment given to her before parachuting into occupied France in 1944.