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Jean Learns His Place
By Sea Daddy

As WW2 progressed German units began to pour into France, winning on all fronts with no serious obstacles. As French naval vessels began to escape to Britain, the British launched Operation Catapult, to either convert them to Royal Naval vessels or destroy them. Only one French vessel resisted, the Surcouf, the largest, best armed submarine of its time. A seaman suffered a bayonet wound and was taken to hospital, the rest of the crew were used to deploy the vessel from Portsmouth for sea trials and familiarization for the British. It was soon lost with all hands.

The seaman in hospital recovered, and began living as a French exile in Britain, stranded by the war along with people from everywhere, among them a young female French student. They bonded and survived, and when the war ended they stayed and became British, married with a Son, Jean.

I met Jean back in the 90s working an ex-North Sea dive boat named Balmoral Sea, based out of New Orleans. He was almost a British gentleman: loved shooting birds over dogs, had the drawling upper class accent. He lived in the heart of England in a cottage with an exceptional Labrador dog and a Winchester model 21 shotgun, a realized man and a deadly wing shot. A damned fine diving technician as well, and a good man with a pint.

He was broken though. He had come to hate the British and their skillful snobbery. We sat at a bar and he told me the story of his Father, and how his Father swore his shipmates had scuttled the Surcouf to keep it out of the hands of perfidious Albion.

He told me of the day when he won the dog trials, shooting a perfect match, a cup and notice in the papers. Then the secretary of the local Laird, calling him up and inviting him to the shoot up by the castle. He had arrived. His skills had transcended his class. He worried.

His gun was fine, but these fellows all shot matched pairs. He found he could rent a matched pair of Boss guns for the day, along with the proper garb, just like a visiting Arab. His Escort could be replaced with a rented Range Rover and a dog cage. He'd need lunch, but found the right wines, fruit and sandwiches in the proper basket all there at hand. No one beats the Brits when it comes to separating swells from their cash, and he could see the day costing him over 1500 pounds...but he was willing. This was his moment.

He made his arrangements, putting down deposits and being fitted. He was getting into it, a bit too much maybe, but this was it; the place he'd always belonged. It was fine until the phone rang, and the company wanted him at the dock in two days. They were serious, and there was no appeal.

He called the Lord's secretary, said he was sorry but he'd have to pass on the shoot. A shame really, as he'd gotten a pair of guns and all. Well, said the secretary, it's probably for the best. We only wanted to use your dog after all.

There is a line that divides us from our betters. It is long and strong and cemented in blood over the ages. It will be perfect for hoisting them onto the scaffolds, voiding in confusion.

Sea Daddy

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Add Comment
ShepNovember 24, 2017 3:53 PM UTC

Surcouf saga: