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Flying Yak Studios
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Lensmen: The Brave and the Bold
Our Witches at War
another serial experiment
© 2015 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
511th Joint Fighter Wing
The 511th, a relatively new unit, is headquartered at Château de Lichtenberg, overlooking the village of the same name, in the Bas-Rhin department of Alsace (about 60 miles north of the 501st's base in Haut-Rhin). Its personnel are mainly Gallians, Karlsländers, and witches from Liberion and Farawayland. Peculiarly for a Europe-based JFW, it has no members from Fusō.
Date of birth: March 24, 1931
Familiar: Eurasian sparrowhawk
Striker model: Messerschmitt Bf 109L-4
Weapon of choice: MG 42
Though one of the youngest members of the 511th JFW, Col. Knoke is also among its most experienced, having been on the front line since shortly after her 11th birthday. One of Karlsland's Wunderkinder, she was commander of Jagdgeschwader 11 before being named to head the 511th. Early in her career, she flew briefly with Gertrud Barkhorn and Hanna-Justina Marseille (not at the same time) in JG 52. She was transferred to JG 11 before Barkhorn joined the 501st JFW and Marseille the 31st JFS, and so hasn't seen either of them in a long time. Thoughtful, articulate, and occasionally prone to be gloomy about the prospects for recovering Karlsland from the Neuroi, she nevertheless fights on with all her strength, convinced that to do otherwise would be to dishonor the memories of the witches who have fallen in the course of the war. Like many Karlsland witches, she has a somewhat exaggerated sense of personal honor and a strong belief that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things - but unlike some, she understands that the right way is the way that works, not necessarily the one that's in the book, which is why she was chosen to command a Joint Fighter Wing.
Her callsign is short for die Letzte ("the last"), which is itself short for die Letzte Preußischerin ("the Last Prussian"), an ironic nickname given by her colleagues early in her career as a reference to her Let's Do This Right philosophy. Letzi's ace archetype is Heinz Knoke, author of I Flew for the Führer, one of the first of the WWII pilot memoirs to come from the losing side in the wake of the war.
Date of birth: April 12, 1929
Familiar: Tabby cat
Striker model: North Liberion P-51D Mustang
Weapon of choice: M1919 .30-caliber Browning machine gun
One of the famed "Tuskegee Witches", the first group of African-Liberion witches to be permitted into combat by the segregated US Army, Wild Billie Campbell is a pioneer in many senses. A bit of a tomboy and always up for a fight, she much prefers being on the front lines to downtime back in the States - the Neuroi don't care what color she is, and neither, she finds, do most of the witches she fights alongside, particularly once she shows them how good she is at her job. She's highly experienced, having been in action first in North Africa, and then in Europe, since shortly after the USL joined the war in 1942.
She and Shirley know each other from the latter's sojourn in Africa between the Britannia and Romagna campaigns; like her, Campbell was an unattached operative ("witch without portfolio" is her joking phrase for it) who spent some time with, but was never formally attached to, the 31st Joint Fighter Squadron (Afrika). She's now with the 511th Joint Fighter Wing out of Lichtenberg, Alsace (about 60 miles north of Ribeauvillé where the 501st is based), but her P-51 Striker still sports the distinctive red tails of her old unit, the 99th Fighter Squadron. It's a slightly outdated model, but she doesn't care - it's served her well, and at this point it's almost as heavily modified as Shirley's.
Willa's archetype is William A. "Wild Bill" Campbell, the most decorated of the Tuskegee Airmen, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross twice during his service in Europe. (Her familiar is a yellow tabby cat because she's a graduate of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, later Tuskegee University, whose mascot is the Golden Tigers.)
|Dara Jane Ealing "Darjeeling" Bishop|
Sergeant, Royal Farawayland Air Force
Date of Birth: May 28, 1931
Familiar: Britannian Blue Shorthair
Striker model: de Havilland Farawayland DH.98-FB Mk 26 Mosquito
Weapon of choice: Cannon, Aerial Specialised, Mk VI (Mosquito)
Wilma and Lynette Bishop's youngest sister, two years younger than Lynne. Eccentric even by the rather liberal standards of the Bishop family. Like Wilma, she chose to join the RFAF, their mother Minnie's old outfit, instead of the Britannian RAF, despite having been born in Britannia. Would have preferred to be a tank witch, but the exigencies of war intervened. Calm, polite, more refined than Wilma and more self-assured than Lynne was at her age; she has a curious habit of saying things that sound like wise adages, but upon closer inspection are generally nonsensical. Her Striker is a rare fighter-bomber variant of the Mosquito (a unit more commonly configured as a bomber and employed against ground-based Neuroi): among the swiftest Strikers to be found in Europe and powerfully armed, but fragile. (Most of it's made of wood!) The Mk VI Aerial Specialised cannon that goes with it is a hybrid weapon that combines a .303-caliber Browning machine gun with a Mk II Hispano 20mm cannon.
Darjeeling's perennial nickname and radio callsign both derive from her deep commitment to the Britannian national beverage, which surpasses even her elder sister Lynne's. Like Lynette, she has no specific ace archetype, but her mother's is WWI Canadian ace Billy Bishop.
(The connection is that Humikane Shimada, creator of Strike Witches, designed the Girls und Panzer cast. Note that this doesn't mean she doesn't also exist as a Tankery team captain in the 25th century! Parallel universes. It happens. And yes, I know the original character is really supposed to be Japanese. :)
Date of birth: June 29, 1920
Familiar: Fennec fox
Striker model: Lockheed F-5B Lightning
Weapon of choice: Fairchild K-17 aerial reconnaissance camera
A Gallian national treasure, Antoinette de Saint-Exupéry ("Saint-Ex" to her friends) is more famous as a poet, writer, and adventurous peacetime aviator than a combat witch. In her teens, she was one of the pioneers of the aerial postal service developed by the Gallian colonial authorities in the country's North African colonies, and wrote several lyrical memoirs of the experience of desert flight, which secured her international reputation. (She is probably most famous outside of Gallia for the fantasy novella The Little Princess.) When the Neuroi invaded Europe in 1939, she was considered too old to retrain for combat flying, but her passionate devotion to her country persuaded the brass to let her do so anyway. Now 25, long since shieldless, and nursing more than her share of old injuries (from peacetime crashes as well as battle wounds), she's well past the age for active frontline service, but she refuses to retire so long as Gallia remains under threat. The only concession she's made to her lack of combat fitness is to transition to photographic reconnaissance - sublimely unconcerned with the fact that flying around a war zone with only a camera is probably more dangerous than carrying a gun. (In practice she often does also carry a gun, in open defiance of General de Gaulle's personal injunction against doing so.)
Antoinette's archetype is the French poet-aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, who - well over the accepted age for active duty pilots and beset by old injuries - disappeared on a photo reconnaissance mission in 1944.
Date of birth: February 21, 1930
Striker model: Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
Weapon of choice: M2 .50-caliber Browning machine gun
"Dogged" is the word that comes up most often when Roberta Johnson's colleagues are asked to summarize her, and it's not just a pun on her bloodhound familiar. Aggressive, relentless, and tenacious, with the greatest endurance of any of the 511th's witches, she'll pursue a target to the gates of Hell before she'll give up on a kill. The legend is still told around her old unit, the 61st Fighter Squadron, of the time when, having run out of ammunition before she ran out of targets, she turned her spent Ma Deuce around and used it as a club, dispatching another Neuroi in that fashion before her exasperated commander ordered her to return to base. More or less indifferent to enemy fire, she's been known to come back with only half a Striker Unit and/or only half a uniform, but so far has managed to avoid losing any body parts. Some witches think she's brilliant, others think she's just lucky; Johnson herself has been known to joke that she's simply too dumb to die. (She also comes in for some ribbing for missing the climax of the Venezia campaign because she hit her maximum allowed combat hours and was rotated home the day before, not that the 61st played much of a part in Operation Mars in the first place.)
She's one of the rare witches whose personal Striker Unit has its own nickname: in honor of the fact that at least part of it has survived more than 50 combat missions with one of the most aggressive, battle-damage-prone witches in the Liberion forces, her P-47D is called "Lucky".
Roberta's ace archetype is Robert S. Johnson, author (with famed aviation writer Martin Caidin) of Thunderbolt! The P-47, who was credited with 27 victories over Europe in 1943-44 and, coincidentally, rotated home at the mandatory end of his tour on D-Day.
|Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor DSC|
Squadron Leader, Royal Britannian Air Force
Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth
Date of birth: April 21, 1926
Familiar: Welsh corgi
Striker model: Hawker Tempest Mk V
Weapon of choice: Hispano Mk V 20mm cannon
King George VI of Britannia is a conflicted man. On the one hand, he could not conceivably be prouder of his eldest daughter for playing such an active role in the defense of the realm, the Empire, and indeed the world. It simply isn't humanly possible. On the other hand, he is bloody furious with his eldest daughter for eluding all of his attempts to keep her off the front line and otherwise exercise royal prerogative to protect her from harm. (He probably also rather wishes that not quite so many of her future subjects had seen her underwear, but that isn't the sort of thing a gentleman discusses.) At the very least he was hoping that she would retire after the Gallia campaign concluded in the fall of 1944, which saw the removal of any imminent Neuroi threat to the Britannian Isles.
HRH the Princess sees things a bit differently than her old man, though. As far as she's concerned, she has a royal obligation to do everything that she can do to help secure the world, not just her own country, against the Neuroi - and since she happened to be born a witch, what she can do amounts to rather more than speaking to the kingdom on the radio at Christmas and waving prettily from balconies to crowds of well-wishers. She's a genuine flying ace with 57 confirmed Neuroi shoot-downs, including six major unit core destructions, most of them scored during her service with 601 Squadron RAF in the defense of London in 1940-43. As she approaches her 20th birthday, many are watching for signs that she might be slowing down. So far, to her father's dismay, there aren't any.
Conscious of her royal status but determined not to be burdened by it, Elizabeth has insisted since the start of her uniformed career that she not be addressed by her royal title by her comrades - hence her official appearance on the RAF's books under the surname "Windsor". Cheerful and resolute, she claims no honors other than those she has earned in combat, and no title other than her RAF rank. (Confusingly to foreigners, the RAF rank of "squadron leader" is equivalent to "major" in other services; it does not actually mean she leads a squadron.) Her colleagues in the 511th JFW, and those who served with her in 601 Squadron, just call her Liz.
Her callsign is a wryly premature reference to the fact that, when she succeeds her father, she'll be Elizabeth II. The real Princess Elizabeth, now the Queen, served in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service as a mechanic and truck driver. (Which rather puts in perspective all those younger heads of state being a bit patronizingly nice to the old lady at the anniversary do's in Normandy last year.)
Date of birth: March 23, 1930
Striker model: Northrop P-61C Black Widow
Weapon of choice: M2 Browning machine gun
Notes: A "90-day wonder" - product of the Liberion armed forces' accelerated wartime officer training program. Through no fault of her own, 2nd Lt. Hutchins has seen little actual action, despite having been overseas for three years and being older than several of the 501st's veterans. When she had just about finished flight training, her magic radar manifested and prompted a switch to the Night Witch role, which meant still more training, and by the time that was finished, so was the Battle of Britannia. A posting to the 507th JFW in Suomus followed, and while she did see some action there, she missed out on the Venezia campaign as a result.
If Perrine thought Yoshika was a country mouse, she hadn't seen anything until Eleanor showed up; she comes from the northern reaches of Dawnland, the northeasternmost Liberion state, where there is (in Eleanor's own words) "not much but woods and potato fields." (The latter piqued Hartmann's interest; few people love a potato more.) Still, what she lacks in urban refinements, she makes up for with canniness and a number of interesting woodland skills, which may prove useful if she's downed in the Belgican wilderness. As befits a witch with a raccoon familiar, she's mischievous and fun-loving; gets on well with Lucchini and Hartmann. As an up-and-coming Liberion Night Witch, she has some of the best equipment currently available to that specialized profession, and her heavy P-61 Striker, though not as maneuverable as some, enables her to pack a heavy weapon and a lot of ammo.
She is also the local DC of Gryphon's grandfather Leonard, which he finds slightly startling. (She first came to his attention in '43, when Shirley noticed her uncommon last name in that month's issue of Star and Stripes, the Liberion armed-forces newspaper, as one of that country's forces newly arrived in Britannia for advanced training.) Her callsign is an Abnaki (Native Liberion) word meaning "whistling duck", which is the name of a lake in the region she comes from; how it ended up attached to her is unclear, but it happened at some point during basic flight training at nearby Presque Isle Army Airfield in 1943.
Date of birth: April 13, 1928
Striker model: Hawker Hurricane Mk XII
Weapon of choice: Hispano Mk V autocannon
Notes: Phee comes from the same borderland region of the North Liberion continent as Eleanor, having been born in the town immediately across the Farawayland-USL border from the latter's birthplace, and her unit is now posted out of the same forward base. Two years older, she's seen a good deal more action, having joined up with the RFAF in 1941, and fought in the Battle of Britannia (but not Venezia, having been on a home-defense posting in Britannia at that time). Her interest in the current campaign goes beyond a simple desire to contribute to the fight against the Neuroi, as her ancestors came from Alsace-Lorraine - the Gallia-Karlsland border region where both the 501st and 511th are currently based, and one of the present frontlines of the war. Her Striker is based on a Britannian design now considered obsolescent by the RAF, but still in production in Farawayland. Though not as fast or maneuverable as the current-generation Spitfires or Hawker's own late-model Tempest, it's very sturdy and powerful enough that she can carry the devastating Mk V autocannon. Strong-willed and not shy about telling people exactly what she thinks, she's sensitive to jokes about her familiar's somewhat legendary lack of brightness... which Eleanor generally can't stop herself from making.
She, in turn, is the local DC of Gryphon's grandmother, which really messes with his head when he sees her and Eleanor in their natural habitat. Her callsign is a reference to the most dramatic side effect of her familiar - where most witches merely manifest animal ears and a tail (if their familiar has one) when employing magic, Phee's entire head of hair turns into a spiky mass of barbed spines. These normally lie flat back but stand up most impressively when she's agitated. (She also does manifest a quill-covered tail, which can be used as a weapon in an emergency.)