by Hymenaeus Alpha 777

As I said in my last rap, I would see Crowley one more time at Bell Inn at Ashton Clinton. At the time it seemed all very accidental. Looking back, it seems all very karmic. But anyway...

What happened was that, having survived the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of Northern France, we were up in Belgium preparing for the assault on the Rhine. This was where the incident of the eighty 500 pounders occurred. One day I read in the Stars and Stripes, our Army newspaper, that they were offering a course in Explosive Ordnance in England to any Ammunition Supply Officer who didin’t know his ass from his elbow. Since I had gone to Quartermaster O.C.S. (Officer Candidate School) and had never even seen Aberdeen Proving Ground, two things hit me at once: (1) It would be interesting to find out something about what I was doing, and (2) Crowley was in England. It was a long chance, but there was always just that possibility. So I find myself piling into a British plane up in Brussels Airport so antique that it had two pilots, but only room for four passengers. We started taking off down the runway under the usual cloud cover, as I thought at the time... it is always raining in Northern France and Belgium... stupid me, how was I to know that this was the fog blanket into which Glenn Miller would disappear flying east to France at the same time... and under which von Runstedt would launch the Ardennes Offensive (the Battle of the Bulge to you history buffs)... things like that I would find out later. At the time what I noticed was that neither pilot was looking down the runway in front of us, as pilots normally do on a take-off, but that the one on the left was looking to the left, and the one on the right was looking to the right. This did seem unusual, so I did the same. That was when I grabbed my seat and hung on for dear life. This twin-engined crate was so ancient that the tachometers were on the engine nacelles, and what the two pilots were trying to do was to keep the two engines turning at the same speed so we wouldn’t ground -loop and wind up a fiery pile of junk. But we finally lifted off, cleared the cloud cover, and started pocketing along toward England at about 60 miles an hour, maybe 6000 feet off the ground, under a brilliant sun and looking down on a pure unbroken carpet of white that went on... and on... and me twisting my head round to see if some stray line of ME-109s would come rolling in for a little target practice like that day in Normandy... but then I had been on the ground and could duck... a little hard to duck at 6000 feet... and on... At 60 miles an hour it takes a while to fly from Brussels to London.
Finally there was the blue of the English Channel... and the White Cliffs... and we landed at Croydon and by truck and bus and trolley and train up to Leicester (which we pronounce lei-CES-ter and the British pronounce LES-ter).

First they introduced us to the ka-VET (which seemed to be the British way of pronouncing the French word for cavity). A kavet was where a bomb had exploded underground, but had not broken the surface, leaving a thin layer of soil that would not support you if you stepped on it. Which meant that you would be dead by the time you scrambled out due to the toxic gases left by the explosion. Kavets were definitely to be avoided. Check. Then we met Herman, good old Herman. Herman was about the size and shape of a great white shark, had a funny ring welded to his nose to retard his depth of penetration on impact, was painted a sort of off-navy gray-blue, and weighed 1000 pounds. Herman was what the British called a “block-buster.” Also Herman was a man of mystery. Yes, Herman had many mysteries. The mystery was in the fuse. Herman could think. Now we Americans are very straightforward kind of people. A little mindless, maybe, but certainly straightforward, and our technology reflects. Our bombs were fused mechanically fore and aft. As she went in, if the firing pin in the nose fuse didn’t function, it didn’t matter because this neat little metal rod in the tail fuse would come slamming forward and she would blow anyway. But suppose she lands on her side, says Uncle Heinie? So they devised a whole new technology of electrically fused bombs. By flipping a complicated set of toggles the German pilot could give Herman any number of options. He could explode on impact. He could be set to go off as a time-bomb hours later (very important in wartorn London. A UXB [UneXploded Bomb] found near a subway or power station could shut down a goodly part of London.) Or he could just lie there and think about it indefinitely while these curious little electrical charges went percolating through these rheostats and other circuit devices, waiting for the vibration of the jackhammers from the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) squad (there is an awful lot of concrete in London) to break that final circuit and set him off. Obviously the British had a problem. They had to get him out of there, but how? Solution #1: defuse him on the spot. The fuse was at about the center of the bomb on one side, and secured by these funny looking little locking rings. Unlock the rings, lift out the fuse, and away with old Herman. Unfortunately Uncle Fritzi had thought of that too, and had all these happy little anti-withdrawal devices so that as you lifted the fuse out he would blow anyway. Scratch Solution #1. Also the guy who was working on the fuse with the telephone around his neck, “I am now moving ring #2 to the left...” and then this god-awful explosion. Finally the British had lost so many EOD experts that they resorted to the only real practical solution, and that was to hoist Herman out with a crane, put him onto a sandbagged truck (for all the good that would do), and take him out with sirens screaming to some god-forsaken place and blow him on the spot. Yes, Herman was definitely bad news.

So was Betty. “Bouncing Betty,” they called her. The Germans had this empty casing about the size of Herman (painted yellow) that would crack open about half-way down and spew the countryside with grenades retarded in their descent by these cute little beanies... a sort of four-bladed parachute. Once Betty had bounced, she would lie there with this timing device about the size and shape of a quarter, and ridged on the edge like a regular coin, waiting for any vibration to make that little gear move that one more notch and then all of a sudden there you are looking like a funny kind of shish-kabob. This was all very interesting, and fun in its own kind of way, but terribly academic, until the world exploded. I came down to breakfast one morning to find the Stars & Stripes on my table, headlines all over the place, and a may full of spear-heads supposedly depicting German armored divisions all pointing directly at where I left my Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Company at Brugelette, about 30 miles south of Brussels. What to do? Well, school’s over, back to London, back to the Continent, back to the War. Only to have the desk sergeant tell me, “Lieutenant, we can’t even drop paratroopers into Bastogne. How in the hell are we going to fly you back to the Continent?”  So, my hunch paid off. But first things first. Grab one of those funny spare London taxis with the open front-end that can turn on a dime and score a bottle of black-market Scotch for an exorbitant price. Then scrounge up a couple of cigars from some place and off to Bell Inn at Aston Clinton.  That may have been where I met Kenneth Grant, because I definitely remember meeting him at the Bell Inn. We rapped about many things, but the only thing he said that really stuck in my mind was his last sentence, which was, “You really must come back for Xmas. It is going to be the traditional English Xmas dinner complete with flaming plum pudding!” After all, the Bell Inn is a traditional English country Inn.  And so back to London and check in with Air Transport and, “No, Lieutenant, all flights are cancelled for today, but be sure to be here at 8 o’clock in the morning.”

It was about this time I met those Canadian girls and got introduced to the British Officer Club Circuit (which is quite different from the regular street pub) and a few days of living it up goes by... and then it is Xmas, and time to visit Crowley up at Aston Clinton. But hold! Enter the villain. The British Railway drivers (we call the guys who man the throttles on railroad engines “engineers”) had had it up to the ears, and decided to pull a one day strike. They were not being unpatriotic, but you must understand that they had been fighting the war since Hitler had invaded Poland and the British were a tired people. So the railway employees just told the government flat, “For one bloody night, Gov, in all the years of this bloody war, we are going to have Xmas dinner with our families at home.”  Personally I approved, but it damn sure left me up a bloody creek, because how was I to get back to London by 8 o’clock the next morning? On the other hand, who could miss having Xmas dinner with Aleister Crowley? So I said, “To hell with it, I’m going.” After all, I had been risking my life on a daily basis ever since Normandy. Why should I worry about a reprimand?  So by taxi up to Paddington Station, that great, gloomy, sooty cathedral to Victorian bad taste where you take the trains going north, and off at Aston Clinton station. Everything looked normal. Gates open, lights on. Looked cheerful enough. Even serving that awful slop they call “tea” in British railway stations in war-time England. That’s why they filled the glass half full with watered milk, so you could gag down the stuff. At least it was hot and warmed your tummy on a cold night. Maybe everything would be all right. So off cheerfully to the Bell Inn and Crowley and we toasted the Yuletide with brandy and it was time to go down to dinner and all those suett things that only a Saxon stomach can take, and sure enough the flaming plum pudding. Then back upstairs for more talk and brandy and the cigars and a wonderful time and around midnight it is time to say goodbye and I walk back down to the station in the fog that had come up. It looked like a tomb — Lights out, gates locked, and not a person in sight. What in the hell am I going to do?  Ah. Brilliant inspiration! What is the one place in town that is going to be open all night? The police station, of course. Not hard to find. It was the only house in town that had its lights on. So I walked in and explained my problem to the Desk Sergeant. He was sympathetic, but said, “Not a chance. With the heavy ground fog not even the lorries are running.” (English country winters are subject to what we would call a Yule fog, and a lorry is what they call a truck.) Then he brightened and said, “But there’s a bobby on a wheel (motor cycle) coming through in a few minutes going down to the next town toward London. Maybe you can hop a ride with him!” So I find myself on the back end of a motor bike blasting along through the fog freezing my end off down to the next station. And again to the next station. What happened after that is a blur. All I remember for sure is waking up standing in the open back end of a milk truck running into the outskirts of London in a cloudy dawn trying to find some place where I can catch a tram. I made it to the Air Transport Office at just exactly 8 o’clock only to be told, “Sorry, Lieutenant, all flights are cancelled for today. But be sure to be here at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning!”  It is really remarkable what some people would go through just to have lunch with Aleister Crowley, but personally I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Editorial Note: This issues, like the previous, ends with a 'To be continued'
but regretably this was the last issue of the O.T.O.Newsletter

From the O.T.O. Newsletter, Berkeley, California
Vol. III, No.10&11 [Double Issue] Winter 1979-Spring 1980, pgs. 3-6