The Crew of the Bette Davis

Here are a set of characters of a Very British Civil  War – stats files for GURPS will be added to this post over the weekend. With some tweaking these could do for seaplane based Daredevil adventures game or as a  globetrotting Call of Cuthuhlu party..

The wonderful artwork was done by David Wynne you can checkout more of his art and monthly webcomic at http://particlefiction.posterous.com/ he is available for commission.

The Bette Davis is also know as the Moby Dick as it’s Livery is a plane light grey and so it was named the ‘Moby’ by the Dockers of the Merseyside waterfronts.

It flies out of Liverpool on a variety of missions including

  • Convoy & navy vessel escort
  • Early warning & reconnissance patrols
  • Deploying & picking up diplomats, spies and commando teams
  • Depth charge attacks on government & pirate submaries
  • Conventional bombing attacks on ground and sea targets
  • Air Sea Rescue (including getting medics or engineers out to stranded ships)
  • Artillery and naval gunfire spotting
  • Rescuing downed airmen

As well as a bomb or depth charge load the plane is armed with a bow .50 machine gun and a .30 browning in each ‘waist’ position. In addition to their individual arms Hawkmoon has also acquired a half a dozen of Canadian WW1 era Ross Rifles whose famed sensativity to dirt and grit is not too great an impediment as back-up weapons for a aircraft crew.  

Here’s a quick biography of  crew members.

Captain Jack ‘Skipper’ Hawkmoon is a flamboyant lecherous bisexual American pilot (not based on any Dr Who/Torchwood character honest.) Hawksmoon if that’s his real name is in his late 30s. He claims to have been a volunteer pilot with the French in World War One, a barnstormer, aerial smuggler of Champagne into Prohibition New York and flown with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He also claims to have been the lover of Bette Davis, Betty Gable, Marlene Dietrich & Errol Flynn – sometimes he’ll claim all on the same occasion. What is known that he enrolled as a US Navy officer in 1936 and was made a Navy test pilot with indecent haste which he puts down to his winning charms.  In 1937 he somehow managed to steel a US Navy Catalina and what’s more fly it Liverpool and put it at the Free State’s service.   This story is verified by the attempts by US Navy planes flying off carriers in the Atlantic and Office of Naval intelligence American spies to arrest him and recover the plane.

Owner and skipper of the Bette Davis Jack’s motives for fighting in the UK’s civil war are unclear and he won’t come forward about them. What is clear is that he loves flying, cameras, interviews, carousing, women and men. Most of all he has a love of his crew and hasn’t made any moves on any one of them, which appears to be his one golden rule. He affects a piratical swagger with his flamboyant cravats, twin pearl handled M1917 Revolvers and 1917 model cutlass. He’s a keen tactician and his shady past has left him a smattering of useful skills outside the confines of a cockpit.

Lieutenant Charles Issac Winchester is a refined Bostonian dilettante whose passions include classical music, fine cuisine and the finest malt whiskey. Prematurely balding with a rich timbre to his voice he comes from an old and respected Episcopalian (American Anglican) family which includes a number of Bishops. He was also the proud owner of a Curtis Trimotor which he piloted on jaunts for his socialite chums. When the news of the Civil War broke out including the Anglican League fighting the King and Mosley Winchester came across a cause worth fighting for. His ship to Southampton was diverted to Liverpool by Government action and he found himself becoming Hawkmoon’s co-pilot.

Winchester has a patrician attitude to the lower orders in general. He is kindly, feigns interest and patronising. To those he is familiar with he let’s his snobbery have full reign. Despite being crewed with women, a pole, a black, a Chinese which would be difficult for most 1930sWASPs to stomach Winchester reserves his scorn for poor table manners, philistine culture & bad grammar. He does refer to Hawkmoon as a ‘Prancing catamite’ but in an amiable way. He enjoys a drink and female company but when he has the choice would seek that of an equivalent class and equally refined drink. When he doesn’t he’ll take what he can get – there’s a war on you know.

Once Winchester was captured by a Government regular army patrol the Major of the unit recognised a gentleman and treated Winchester to an excellent dinner including aperitifs, wine and port. When Winchester had drunk the Major under the table he got him tucked in, left an explanatory note and promptly swaggered back to Liverpudlian lines nearly getting shot has wears a tailored form of 1937 Battledress he had got made before he left the states. He therefore always makes sure he has a Liverpool tricolour armband (three horizontal bands like Dutch Flag but top-bottom red, blue, green) clearly visible.   

Mike ‘Beefy’ Emmery – is a shop steward involved in the Dockworkers Union. A great war veteran and former merchant seaman he served in a Worker’s Army battalion but after his unit was routed in the battles around Ormskirk he was made a scapegoat and dragged in front of a Revolutionary Court Martial. Several dozen dockers were involved in a face off with Liverpool Regiment troops guarding the court martial and it was only when Hawkmoon and Winchester spoke on his behalf and offered to take him on as a ‘penal conscript’ making the job of bow gunner sound particularly hazardous that a bloody confrontation was avoided through the face saving sentence. The alternative was shooting at dawn.

‘Beefy’ knew the pilots though some drunken card games in ‘Ma Boyles’ an ale house and night club fashioned out the abandoned ground floor offices on Liverpool’s strand. He is grateful for their support on such as casual acquaintance though Hawkmoon’s sexuality and sagger and Winchesters class and snobbery means he’s not a friend but a loyal ally. His experience of revolutionary justice means he as cynical of the Free City leadership as he is of the ruling classes. In his heart of hearts he would like to see a real and British revolution but what that really is he is unclear.  

Emmery devotes his ground time to helping mediate Docker concerns with the authorities and a big softy at heart helping with good causes such as repairing orphanages etc; He routinely carries a round of thick ‘Doorstop’ Corned beef sandwiches and thermos of Bovril on his person or on the Bette Davis and equally routinely ends up giving them away to waifs and starvelings at the first opportunity. It is a miracle that he maintains his prodigious strength which is often at the disposal of ‘Jane’  in the more robust solutions to the mechanical problems of the Bette Davis.  He also follows Liverpool Football Club and spots a red and white scarf on most occasions as well as carrying a bowie knife in sheath and a swan off shotgun.

Tsai ‘Jane’ Luo – A striking lady of Chinese origin most on first meeting her are struck by her beauty, height and strong Brooklyn accent courtesy of a New York orphanage. ‘Jane’ as she finds it easier to be called ran away aged 14 and travelled the boxcars eventually falling in with a Midwestern Farmer as an odd job girl who taught her about engines. When a Barnstormer outfit came to town ‘Jane’ was hooked and ran away a second time finding work as a mechanic’s mate. Eventually she ended up back in New York which lead her to research her family and discover that her mother had left New York and sailed to join family in Liverpool in disgrace. So aged 24 ‘Jane’ decided to sail to Liverpool to find out why she was abandoned.

With what ‘Jane’ describes with her caustic humour as ‘perfect timing’ she arrived in Liverpool late 1936 her mother having already died. Working to get her passage back in Liverpool’s China town with the outbreak of war, trapped in the City she joined ‘Bessie Braddock’s Amazon’ an all female Workers’ Army unit. Eventually she came to Hawkmoon’s attention and after his initial rebuttal he discovered she was a flight engineer and offered the change to fight and fly as his Flight Engineer. She jumped at the chance and had never looked back.

‘Jane’ doesn’t have an ideological relationship to the war. She’s seen the effect of the siege and thinks she can do the most good fighting the besieging forces. She strives to promote good humour and a can do attitude through good deeds and good times. She is perhaps an incarnation of other, earlier Knights…



Szymon Bartowski was a Polish Bolshevik as a teenager in World War Danzig he thought against German rule. On Polish independence he served against the Polish government in favour of the Soviet Union and World Socialism. Finding exile in the Soviet Union he fought in the tail end of the Polish Civil War ending up in the Red Air Force. In the 1930s he fell on the wrong side of the authorities and ended up escaping to the decadence of Shanghai, the US and eventually recognising the threat of Fascism went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Fleeing there with the Russian spies hot on his tail for his crimes against the revolution he ended up in the UK and Liverpool come the start of the Civil War. He once again took up arms and with his aviation experience found a job on the Bette Davis as the radio operator. He sometimes thinks he doesn’t have the best luck…

Bartowksi is immensely experienced with wide ranging talents – a jack of all trades. He has a tired resigned attitude to war. He has an abiding dislike of Germans as well as fascists & the betrayals of International Socialism by Soviet Communism. Soviet agents might still be seeking him for his supposed crimes. He does trust his crew mates despite ideological differences acting as something of a grandfather figure with a wise word or a wordly story for his colleagues.    

Lady Amy Harriet Coleman acts as navigator jumbling figures on wind speed and vectors with a map in her manicured hands and an ivory cigarette holder clenched in her teeth. She is also a pilot in her own right as the Daughter of the Earl of Moray she had a fine education but rejected it for the thrills of life as an exotic aviatrix. Her globe spanning life of parties, astounding flights and erotic adventures eventually lead her to marry  Theodore ‘Teddy’ Tarelton a Liverpool banker with a good war and easy charm and she retired to the life of a respectable housewife. ‘Teddy’ decided to side with his city in the Civil War and was killed early in the conflict. Coleman sought revenge flying a armed Tiger Moth as the ‘Black Widow’ she reigned death on BUF units surrounding the City. Eventually shot down she survived friendless and plane less roaming the battlefields of Liverpool with a captured MP38 shooting up the besiegers. Befriended by Hawkmoon he offered her a chance to fight in a more meaningful way and a sort of family.

Coleman hates any and all government forces. She is still grieving and while she may indulge in hard drinking, drug use and cold impersonal sex with stranglers its more a numbing of life than a celebration of it. She has slowly developed warmth for the crew – but she will rarely show it. She is efficient and deadly. She is able to dissect the rakish plans of Hawkmoon and put in the detail that makes them work. Her coldness means she is not given to show sympathy for refugees or other victims of war.

Curtiss Jonson –originally from Baltimore Curtiss joined the US navy in the 1920s serving in the Yangtze Squadron of River patrol boats. There he was exposed to the activities of the Chinese Communist party and took an interest in their activities and ideology. On transferring to the capital ships (he was a prized shipmate in the peacetime Navy due to his boxing prowess) she eventually decided on a more anarcho-syndicalism outlook and eventually jumped ship in Marseille and travelled to Paris where working as a jazz pianist and bouncer at night and a street sweep at day he hung around in the right circles and fulfilled his revolutionary education. He also learnt about explosives and other revolutionary techniques. Dismissing Spain he eventually decided to return to the US but was stuck in Liverpool when the war began. The suffering in front of him was too much for him to abandon. He was a founding father of the Jamaica Street Rifles the principle Black-Scouse militia but a leg wound meant he was willing to take on Hawkmoons offer of port waist gunner on the Bette Davis. He is still active in the anarcho-syndicalism cause in the city as well as speaking out for minority communities.

Jonson has a romantic interest in ‘Jane’ but hasn’t shared it with her content with the hope of being friends. He has an angry attitude that belies a kind even homely and self-effacing humour.

Patrick ‘Taffy’ Baker – A dark good looking man of mixed Welsh and Scots origin Baker doesn’t fight for idealology or politics. He doesn’t fight for revenge or friendship or humanitarian reasons. He just bloody loves it. Had he at the wars start been in a BUF area he’d likely be a black shirt. As it is a sometime merchant seaman and small time hood Baker found war suited him and took a shine to it. Unlike his crew of ‘grand dads’ he hasn’t had their weight of experience. He does have gusto, energy and is as tough as old boots. The thrill of flying meant Baker pushed himself practically onto the Bette Davis.    He has a bold brash bullying attitude and can’t match the wit of his shipmates but takes any Mickey taking like a sock to the jaw – it tends to bounce off him. He also relishes winding up pilots of other Free Liverpool units – and anyone else really. He is also inordinately fond of sausages or as he says ‘bangers!’

On the plus side Baker is loyal to his current crew.  Did I say current crew…

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Published on November 28, 2010 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  

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