The outbreak of WW2 means a Canadian teenager spends his formative years growing up in England. Intelligent and thoughtful, slightly naive, he does his best to fit in. A skill with electronics helps, but he's always a bit of an outsider.
As Brussels falls to the Allies, a German mine blows up the truck he is in, killing his comrades, and he and a young Flemish widow with an infant daughter must deal with the aftermath, both immediate and in the post-war period.
The first class of the afternoon was missing a couple of boys. Last night there’d been 750 people killed by bombing of the East End, and while most of the boys came from the Sutton area, a few had family members in the affected areas and were excused to allow them to assist in funeral arrangements or helping to salvage belongings and rehouse those bombed-out.
Martin was sleepy. The sirens had sent the Tremblays to their Anderson shelter, and the unsettled weather meant it was an uncomfortable night. He’d finally slept about 4 hours in all, but that wasn’t enough. Others, of course, had it worse. The teacher was struggling, too, trying to present one of the topics in physics. After about half an hour, the teacher decided that the class was not working. It was, in any case, a small class, usually just eleven of the Sixth formers, and today down to eight. One sick, Two away.
“Perhaps, given the hostilities last night, we should undertake some private study,” said Mr. Rhys-Jones. “And if any of you finds it necessary to put your head down, I will not consider it an infraction.”
There was a murmur of appreciation, and the boys turned to different books or papers, or in one or two cases simply put their heads on their arms.
Martin took out his workbook on radios. He was working with some circuits from the Radio Amateur’s Handbook and Practical Wireless to try to learn how to calculate the voltages and currents needed for different parts of a circuit. He’d found a 1938 Osram Valve Guide Pocket Reference which gave the data for Osram valves – tubes in North America. That would have to do for now, and hopefully the Public Library might have books for valves by other manufacturers.
He started a table to record voltages and currents on different parts of a simple amplifier circuit he was hoping to build with some parts he had bought in a junk shop in Croydon a few months before, along with things in his growing ‘parts inventory’. On the opposite page he wrote his equations and the numbers for the cathode heater of one of the valves, and took his slide rule out of his satchel and worked out the heater current at two likely low tension battery voltages.
Mr. Rhys-Jones was beside him. He hadn’t heard him come up – soft sole shoes!
“Tidy work, Tremblay. What are you calculating?”
“I’m trying to work out whether a valve I found can be run with a couple of bicycle lamp batteries in series or parallel,” Martin responded. It was the truth, and no need to hide it.
“And you’ve learned to use a slide-rule. Useful. But better not get too dependent on it. The authorities allow no aids in the university exams.”
Rhys-Jones moved on. His advice was valid, but for the real world, a slide rule was going to be what was used.
The university exams! They were about a year away. Then what?