Saturday, August 13, 2022

At Sea, Heraklion Bound, Then Back into the Mix

HMS Garland - G Class Destroyer
Imperial War Museum
The passageways below decks were crammed with survivors from the disastrous Greek campaign. The weather decks were no better, Fitzhugh and his crewmates had found a spot just forward of the forward gun mount. It was packed with troops, hardly room to move. Fitzhugh wondered if the sailors would be able to fight the ship if it came to that.

Fortunately they were in an area of low clouds with rain blowing in off and on. It was miserable on deck but it beat being herded into a German prisoner-of-war camp, Fitzhugh thought.

Sgt. O'Connell nudged Fitzhugh, "Fitzie, did you lads manage to cadge any rations from the pier?"

"Just a few tins of stale biscuits, Sarge. Better'n nothing, how are we fixed for water?"

"Just what's in my canteen, lucky for us I managed to fill it before we boarded. The swabbie I talked to said it's about a ten hour trip to Crete. Provided we don't run into any trouble."

As he said that, both men heard the drone of aircraft overhead. Neither man believed it was the RAF, the engines sounded like those they'd heard before, Ju 87 Stukas.

Hauptmann Hans Reiländer led his Kette of Ju 87s on a southerly heading, the rest of his Staffel trailed behind. He'd been briefed to search for Allied vessels steaming towards Crete. Though he had no certain knowledge of future operations, the buildup of transport aircraft and the steady arrival of German Fallschirmjäger convinced him that Crete was the next target. Malta was a possibility but he presumed that any assault on that island would stage out of southern Sicily.

"Horrido!¹Black Lead, Black Three, I see a wake at my two o'clock!"

Reiländer looked to his right, sure enough, he saw it too. Over the radio he called, "Stormbird group, Stormbird Lead, follow us in. Targets at two o'clock low."

The men on the overloaded transport looked up in horror as they heard the scream of German dive bombers tipping over and headed their way. The transport was unarmed, fortunately it was escorted by two Royal Navy destroyers, whose guns opened up on the diving gull-winged predators.

The bombs of the first aircraft splashed just off the transport's starboard bow, it flew off trailing smoke. Before the men on the ships could celebrate, the next aircraft's bombs dropped squarely on the fo'c'sle of the transport. Dozens of men were killed or wounded in the explosions which followed.

The third aircraft in the first attacking section dropped its bombs squarely on the stern. After the bombs detonated, the ship slowly came to a stop, smoke billowing from its stacks as the fire in the boiler room quickly consumed the engine spaces.

The captain of the lead destroyer watched in horror as the other destroyer in the small group was overwhelmed by the third attacking Stuka section. It broke in half and was quickly swallowed up by the sea.

As he turned to order his ship in to pick up survivors, he watched as the transport began to settle by the bow. Looking up he saw that he was doomed, another Stuka group was coming in.

"I wonder what all that commotion is out there?" Fred McTavish had been sleeping. As he stirred so did O'Shea and Walsh.

Their ship was passing through yet another squall, they could hear explosions and anti-aircraft fire not too far away. Though conditions at sea were nothing like they were used to, O'Connell had postulated that the sounds were within a mile of them.

Steaming into the sunlight once more, they beheld a scene of sheer horror. Upon the water were struggling men trying to stay afloat, mostly evacuees from Greece. A single ship was still above water, its stern missing, the remainder gradually settling as the sea overwhelmed the sailors' efforts to keep her afloat.

"Dear God ..." Walsh murmured.

"God's not here today laddie, this is the devil's work." McTavish said.

After a brutal twelve hours at sea, the destroyer that O'Connell and his crew were embarked upon pulled into Heraklion. The Redcaps² marshaled the men coming ashore into groups which were then marched off into the interior under officers and sergeants regardless of regiment, or even nationality.

O'Connell, McTavish, Fitzhugh, O'Shea, and Walsh found themselves in a group led by a very young British lieutenant. Fortunately they also had a senior Australian warrant officer with them who knew his business.

"Right mates, git yourselves in order, we'll be marching across to the southern side o' the island. The Huns control the skies on this side, the next bus to Egypt leaves to the south. So let's get marching. Give the order leftenant."

"Certainly, alright lads ..."

"Just give the order. Sir. Leave the speeches for when you're safe in the land of the Pharaohs."

"I say ..."

"Today Leftenant."

"Right lads, by the left, quick march!"

After a march of three hours, O'Connell noticed that they were not headed south, but west. He wondered what was going on but knew better than to ask.

Two hours after that a rest halt was called. While there, the men were ordered to fall in and draw weapons. Puzzled, the men did as they were told, there were weapons in crates stacked by the side of the road, but not much in the way of ammunition.

"Sir, what's up, where are we headed?"

The big Australian turned around and looked hard at O'Connell for a moment. Then he answered, "A major cock-up Sergeant, seems the bloody Huns are landing paratroopers all over the fecking island. We're ordered west, to Maleme. You lot are tankers right?"

"That's right Sir. A10s and A11s."

"We've got an anti-tank gun, think you lads can handle it?"

McTavish spoke up, "A cannon is a cannon, if it kills tanks, we can operate it. Are the Jerries dropping tanks then?"

Giving McTavish a dirty look, O'Connell said, "We'll do it, transport?"

"An old Greek truck is the best we can do, it runs but it sounds like it'll die at any minute."

O'Connell looked at Fitzhugh, who said, "If it runs we can get to where you want us, one way or the other. Let's see the beast."

O'Connell felt like he and his crew were back in the war, an AT gun wasn't a tank, but it was better than carrying an old rusty rifle. Bring them on, O'Connell grumbled, we'll meet 'em in battle and see who wins this time.

"Right then, let's get stuck in lads."

¹ The German equivalent of "Tally ho!" Based on an old huntsman's call.
² British military police, so called because of the red covers worn atop their caps.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Another Debacle

Private James Fitzhugh thought back to his latest encounter with the German army. They had been in a great position, the hull protected by an earthen berm just forward of the tank, the turret mostly protected by the same berm.

They had draped boughs from the nearby trees (olives he thought, rather ironic considering that olive branches were considered an offering of peace) over the turret. From fifty yards away it looked like a brush pile. Plausible enough, as the farmers who maintained the olive groves did gather up downed branches and pile them up for later disposal. In the middle of a fork in the road was perhaps an odd place for such a thing but as Sergeant O'Connell said, "I doubt the Jerries know how olive groves are maintained, they have none of that in the Fatherland!"

They had Kiwi infantry dug in to either side of them, the position felt like a good one.

Until the Stukas came.

The bent-wing dive bombers seemed to know exactly where to drop their bombs for maximum effect. Other than a direct hit, the men were safe within the armored walls of their Cruiser tank Mk.II. But they could hear the screams of the infantry as the bombs killed them in their rifle pits.

Corporal Fred McTavish had shouted out that he could see Jerry tanks coming down the road. "Mark 3s from the look of 'em, too big for Mark 2s!"

O'Connell had come on the intercom, "Steady lads, wait until they're at point blank range Freddie. Willie, you keep the rounds coming, we need to kill a couple of them to block the road."

Private William O'Shea stood hunched over inside the sweltering heat of the dark turret. He held the next round in his hands, ready to load as soon as the breech was cleared of the previous round. He wasn't so much worried about the German tanks, their armor was readily defeated by the 2-pounder anti-tank rounds such as the one he held in his hand, he was more worried about the German infantry.

His tank carried no high explosive rounds at all, doctrine called for using the machine guns against infantry¹, the problem was, the hull machine-gun was blocked by the very same berm that protected the hull. The co-axial machine-gun pointed where the turret pointed which would negate the use of the main gun for dealing with armor.

O'Shea was a new soldier, scarcely six months in the Forces, but he paid attention, he learned quickly and what he saw here was a recipe for disaster. Not to mention which, his ankle still hurt like Hell. They'd laced his boot up tightly to keep it stable, but truth be told, he couldn't hobble more than a few yards without assistance.

The tank shook as a near miss rattled the bones of everyone inside the vehicle. O'Shea heard one word over the intercom, from the Sergeant.

"Shit ..."

The gunner in the lead Pzkw IIIH watched as the dust from the last bomb explosion settled. What he saw made his blood run cold. "Feindlicher Panzer, direkt voraus!²" The last bomb had blown off all of the foliage covering a British tank sitting not forty meters away.

He laid the gun on the target, but he was a fraction of a second too late. He saw a flash, then the world went black.

"Hit! Second tank, to the left ten degrees!" O'Connell had watched their first round hit the German tank right below the gun mantlet. The round must have glanced down and into the turret ring as the tank immediately jerked to a halt and begin to smoke. He ignored the crew bailing out as he wanted to hit the second tank he had glimpsed to the left rear of the tank they had just killed.

"Round is up!" screamed O'Shea as he reached for a third round.

"Firing!" McTavish barked as he hit the trigger.

The Panzer commander looked down into the turret, his gunner was nearly torn in half and the driver's position was a mess of blood and viscera. He wondered where the driver was, then it struck him, his driver was still in his seat, what was left of him from the shoulders down.

He saw the interior get brighter in all the smoke when the loader opened his hatch and dove over the side of the vehicle. That's when he noticed that the bow gunner's position was sunlit, so he had bailed as well.

He tried to climb out but his left leg wasn't cooperating. Puzzled he sat back down, perhaps his pant leg was caught on something. He checked by sliding his hands down his leg, only to discover that his leg ended just below his knee.

He was thinking, the pain hadn't hit him yet, "Now what do I do?"

A second later the ammunition in the ready rack exploded.

O'Connell nodded savagely, McTavish's second round had blown the right track off of the second tank, immobilizing it. That tank's turret was now traversing to line up on his tank. He heard the gun crew go through their drill, then his blood froze when he heard his gunner scream, "HANG FIRE!"³

"Get us out of here, Fitzie!" he barked at the driver.

Fitzhugh was ready, he'd had the engine running and had kept the transmission in gear, both of his legs were sore from nearly standing
on the brake pedal. But to his immense relief the tank rolled forward, he immediately moved his levers to pivot the tank to the right where they'd be screened by the now burning German tank.

O'Connell screamed over the intercom, "Fitzhugh! What the Hell?" The sergeant had expected Fitzhugh to back out of the position, keeping their front to to Germans. Then he remembered, that bloody clutch.

"Hang on lads, I'll get us out of here, swing the turret to the rear, I can't back up!" Fitzhugh screamed his answer over the intercom. O'Connell was already swinging the turret to the rear.

Fortunately, the smoke from the burning German vehicle had masked the second German's vision, he had fired at them but the round had missed by far enough that O'Connell hadn't even noticed.

The clutch on the old beast had finally given up the ghost some thirty-five miles back and two days ago. Now Fitzhugh and his crewmates were queued up on a pier at Piraeus waiting to shuffle aboard a Royal Navy warship tied up to the pier.

They had carried O'Shea for a large part of the way until an old Greek farmer had sold them an even older donkey to carry the injured O'Shea.

One of the Kiwis with them had said that what they'd paid for the donkey was way too much, he also said that he hoped the old farmer didn't try to spend the money they'd given the man. As Fitzhugh remembered it, the crew had had ten shilling coins among them. Not even a pound!

O'Connell had pointed out that the coins were silver, the old man was smart enough to melt them down for the silver. After all, he'd managed to sell a worn out donkey which he probably couldn't have given away in normal times.

The donkey had given out some ten miles further on, but still it had helped. Still and all, he was glad that they didn't have to carry the lad any further.

Each time the men had heard engine noises overhead, they had all looked up. The Luftwaffe had been ever more active over the past few days, fortunately today was overcast, with lots of low clouds and scud. The Germans were up there, but couldn't come down.

"All right, you lot, get aboard, leave anything and everything. You! Soldier! Leave that rifle, if it ain't weightless, it ain't going aboard."

Fitzhugh turned around and watched as a burly sailor snatched the rifle from the soldier's hands and smashed it over a bollard, shattering the stock and bending the barrel. Then the sailor pitched it into the harbor.

"What the bloody Hell am I supposed to fight with now?!" the soldier screamed in frustration.

"Ain't no fighting where you lot are going, ye'll be there a week or two then it's back to Egypt where you'll be re-equipped. Now move along or stay, makes no never mind to me!"

"Where is it we're going then mate?" O'Connell asked a sailor preparing to cast off the lines holding the ship to the pier.

"An island out in the Med, Crete it's called. You'll be safe from the Huns until we can get you to Egypt. Now let's go, all of you!"

Fitzhugh nodded, Crete, he thought to himself, an odd name but one he seemed to remember from school, something about minotaurs or something.

Well, they should be safe there. After all, the Royal Navy controlled the seas. Right?

¹ See this.
² "Enemy tank, dead ahead!" (German)
³ A "hang fire" means the round in the gun didn't fire, either due to a faulty fuse/primer or a problem with the propellant. Either way, the gun didn't fire when it was needed. It will still fire, but after a delay. A misfire is when the fuse, or primer, doesn't detonate the propellent at all.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Follow Up to This Morning's Very Quick Post ...

Okay, the early post was done on my cell phone last night when I realized that I was too tired to do a real post. This post is by way of an explanation.

The Wee Lad's birthday (son of Tuttle and The Nuke) is this Saturday. That's the callsign I'm hanging on him for now as The Nuke is expecting a second wee laddie come February. And I haven't got to talking about Die Lorelei who was born last February, the newest child of The Naviguesser.

The grandchildren seem to be pouring in! (And it makes me happy, yes it does!)

Anyhoo, some weeks ago I thought that a trip to Maryland was in order to help celebrate the Wee Lad's 2nd birthday. So we pulled pitch and headed out on a southerly course Wednesday morning.

Traffic was surprisingly "not bad," though we purposely avoided the GW Bridge in New York, opting to take the road across the Tappen Zee (no, I shan't call that bridge by its new name).

For the southbound approach to the GW is an absolute mother bear. My recollection of it is spiral on ramps climbing to the heavens, jam-packed with tractor trailers who all wish to be in a lane other than the one they currently occupy.

So yeah, no thanks.

Back to the novel tomorrow. We're going to go out for sandwiches now. Food, I'm into it.

Be seeing you.

On the Road


Be back online tomorrow.

Read the folks on the sidebar if you would.

Be seeing you ...

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Road to Piraeus

Cruiser Tank Mk.II broken down in Greece
Quartermaster Sergeant Joseph Burnside wiped his hands on a semi-clean rag as he turned to Sgt. O'Connell. "Best I can do O'Connell. The transmission is iffy, the clutch should be replaced, and the engine runs rough as Hell. But it's all we've got left. You still want her?"

O'Connell nodded at Fitzhugh who promptly climbed into the driver's position. He started the engine and though it took a minute to catch, was soon running. Roughly, as Burnside said it would, but it was running.

Burnside jumped a bit when the tank moved forward, stopped, then moved back, it was apparent that Fitzhugh was checking the clutch.

After a minute or so more, the engine stopped and Fitzhugh came up out of the driver's seat, nodding at O'Connell as he did so.

"Well, my driver likes her, so rather than walk back to the coast, we'll take her. Ammo?"

"I scrounged up roughly half a full load, over there." Burnside nodded to a number of ammunition crates half-covered by a canvas tarp. "You'll have to load it yourselves, I've got other vehicles I need to get back on the road."

"You know where we're going, right?" O'Connell asked Burnside.

"To the coast, a lot of the units have been ordered to make for Kalamata, awfully far if you ask me. I'd head for Piraeus were it up to me." Burnside answered.

"Our orders say Kalamata as well, we'll go wherever the Royal Navy can take us off. Piraeus you say?"

"A lot of the logistics staff and units are ordered there. They might try to lift our heavy equipment off from there, at least that's what I've been told."

"Piraeus it is, thanks Quartermaster!"

O'Connell and his tank were temporarily attached to the 4th New Zealand Brigade. These troops had been detailed to block the narrow road to Athens leading down from the mountains further north. The Kiwis¹ called the narrow road south, the "24 Hour Pass."

O'Connell and his lads knew nothing of that, their only liaison with the Kiwis had been with a very busy major who told them, "Park your crate here, kill any Huns coming down the road. If you run out of ammunition, throw rocks at them. We're buying time for others to get away. Hopefully we'll get word when we can scarper as well."

"What do we have for support, Sir?" O'Connell had asked the man.

"Those blokes over there, behind that stone wall. If they run, well, I suppose you can run too."

Now they sat and waited. They had all the hatches open and the inside of the tank still felt like an oven. Fitzhugh had been tinkering with the engine and it was running smoother now, but he wasn't confident of the clutch.

"The clutch is constantly slipping Teddy, we might get into a situation of not being able to change gears. If our luck is really bad, it could go out when I'm changing gears and we won't be able to run at all."

"Suggestions? Anybody?"

Finally McTavish spoke up, "If we have to move, put 'er in 2nd gear and leave it there. Should be enough to get us moving and keep us moving, right Fitzie?"

Fitzhugh nodded and said, "I'll bet you never saw a motorcar before ye came down from the Highlands, Fred. But yeah, that's what I'd do. It's a good idea."

McTavish grinned and said, "The only motorcars we ever saw in the Highlands belonged to the lairds. The Army taught me all I need to know about tanks and the like. How can ye even run a tank in Ireland, what with all the bogs and that?"

O'Connell chuckled and said, "That's enough lads, let's get some food down and try to catch some sleep. The Kiwis look to be settled in for now. If the Jerries come, we'll know from all the noise their bloody machines will make coming down this sorry excuse for a road."

"And to think these Greek fellows conquered most of the known world back in the day." Billy O'Shea marveled.

"Well, everyone's roads sucked back then, didn't they? And it warn't the Greeks, 'twas the Macedonians under Alexander, " McTavish pointed out.

"The Masa-whos?" O'Shea asked.

The German sergeant was moving his men up with great caution, they'd been nearly ambushed by a group of Australians the day before, only a passing reconnaissance aircraft dropping a message to them had prevented them from being cut to pieces.

Sunrise wasn't for another two hours, his company commander was convinced that the Tommies were all running for the coast, just like France the Spieß had quipped. The sergeant wasn't so sure, he'd faced the British in France, bunch of tough bastards is what he remembered. Didn't matter what part of the Empire they were from, they knew how to fight. Probably how they got such an Empire one of his men had pointed out.

His point man froze and went down on one knee, signaling for a halt, the sergeant waited a second, then moved forward. He put his ear to the point man's mouth, that man whispered, "I could have sworn I heard a man cough."

The sergeant nodded, he motioned to the squad and the men spread out. Staying low, they moved forward, slowly, cautiously, every sense alert. Gefreiter Pohl heard something, the sergeant watched as his assistant began to point ...

Lance Corporal Hamilton didn't bother with shouting a warning, he assumed that opening fire with his Lee-Enfield would be sufficient to let the lads know what was what. He wasn't wrong.

All Hell broke loose when enemy rifle fire penetrated the still of the night. It had also penetrated Gefreiter Pohl who now lay sprawled in the road, hit squarely in the chest. He was still alive but couldn't cry out, he was desperately trying to breathe, he assumed that he'd had the wind knocked out of him. He was right but his wound was far more serious than that, his left lung had collapsed.

He was gasping for breath when he felt hands pulling on his Y-straps² to get him out of the road. All he could think of was where he'd left his rifle. The Spieß would surely chew his ass for losing another rifle. He'd already had one shot out of his hands in France.

The sergeant was directing his squad to fall back, they'd done their job, the enemy was located. He was helping the Sanitäter trying to patch up Pohl and keeping an eye forward at the same time. They were protected in the ditch they were in, but if the enemy moved up?

"How long, Sani? We need to move."

The medic looked up, "Let's go, Franz is dead."

The sergeant looked once more at his assistant squad leader's corpse, "See you in Valhalla Franzchen.³"

"What the Hell is going on out there, Teddy?"

McTavish couldn't see much from his gunner's position, rifle fire in the night was never a good thing.

"Bit of a skirmish, I think Jerry's pulled back but the Kiwis caught some in the road from the sound of things. Let's get ready lads, you know the drill, the buggers will be back, probably with tanks. Fitzie, let's move up to that next dip."

The engine revved, everyone in the crew could hear the transmission grinding. Fitzhugh's shout of, "C'mon ye filthy bastard!" could be heard over the noise of the engine without the intercom as he struggled with the gears. The tank then lurched forward, the engine nearly stalling, before it started to move forward.

When the tank reached the position O'Connell had pointed out, Fitzhugh came over the intercom, "Much more like that and we'll be a pillbox Teddy."

"I know Fitzie, I know, but there ain't anything I can do about it, is there? Hang on a bit, keep her in gear, I'm goin' down the road to see how we're sitting."

O'Connell climbed down from the tank, he liked where they were, the hull was completely covered by the berm to the front of the vehicle. He walked down the road about 50 yards then looked back at the tank. Throw a few boughs over the turret and the Jerries might not notice them at all. He was satisfied.

As he walked back to the tank, he noticed the body in the nearby ditch. A German, probably killed by the rifle fire in the night. The man's eyes were still open, his tunic was open as well, a swath of bloody bandages were on his chest. Obviously a medic had tried, and failed,  to save the man. O'Connell was still not used to seeing the dead left behind.

He walked over to the side of the road and knelt next to the body. He said a quick prayer, crossed himself, then closed the dead man's eyes. "Rest in peace, ye Hun bastard."

¹ Traditional nickname for New Zealanders.
² German load-bearing equipment were leather straps, two in front, one in the back. Laid out they looked like a "Y."
³ Affectionate nickname for Franz, literally "little Franz." (German)

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

North of Athens

Cruiser Tank Mk.II¹
Private James Fitzhugh of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment wondered if his luck would ever change. First he'd been sent to France as a replacement. He had joined the remnants of his regiment retreating towards Cherbourg. Some elements of the regiment had been trapped in Dunkirk where a number of them had been evacuated. All of their tanks stayed in France, destroyed or captured. The group he'd been with had headed towards Cherbourg, they had a single tank left. It had thrown a track just before entering Cherbourg. They had destroyed that vehicle rather than let it fall into enemy hands.

Then he had found himself on a ship to Egypt along with his current crew -

Commander, Sergeant Theodore O'Connell
Gunner, Corporal Fred McTavish
Driver, Private James Fitzhugh
Loader, Private William O'Shea
Bow MG Gunner, Private Herbert Walsh

He had remarked that he was happy to be with an all Irish crew, Corporal McTavish had corrected him immediately, "I'm a Scot laddie, and dinnae ye forget it. I'm here to keep you Irish in line."

That remark had drawn a dirty look from Sergeant O'Connell who said, "And who's to watch you?"

It didn't take Fitzhugh long to realize that the crew was a tight-knit bunch and got along with each other very well. Once he'd established his skill as a driver, he had been accepted as part of the crew.

Now here they were, no longer in Egypt but motoring up a narrow road in the backcountry of Greece. The Germans had invaded after their Italian allies had once again made a great hash of the job. The Prime Minister vowed to assist the Greeks in any way he could, so from Egypt to Greece they went.

"Fitzie, keep yer eyes peeled, this road ain't much more than a goat track!" Sgt. O'Connell barked at him over the intercom. He sounded as if Fitzhugh was hitting all the ruts on purpose. "Bloody road is nothing but ruts." Fitzhugh muttered, making sure that his mic wasn't on.

Fitzhugh then noticed that he was getting closer to the tank to his immediate front, so he slowed down.

They were near an open area, rocky fields to either side of the track. Fitzhugh was ready to move before O'Connell gave the order to turn off to the right. The platoon was deploying, Fitzhugh had to wonder why.

As he reoriented the tank to face the direction they'd been heading, he saw a sickening sight not a hundred yards up the track. A British tank sitting in the road, burning furiously.

"Panzergranate geladen! the loader sang out as he pulled his hand clear of the breech of the 5.0 cm gun.

The gunner stomped on his trigger sending the round down range. He watched as the second Tommie tank abruptly stopped. In the blink of an eye the edges of the hatches began to leak smoke.

When the loader sang out again, the commander laid his hand on his gunner's shoulder, over the intercom he said, "Wait."

The bow gunner opened fire as the crew of the British tank began to evacuate their disabled vehicle. At least one man went down. Before he could swing his gun to another target, the inside of the turret rang like a bell being struck by a hammer.

"That's a hit, Freddie, nice shooting. Damn it! Reverse Fitzie, fast as you can!" Sgt. O'Connell had seen the enemy tank's turret, he thought it was one of the newer Mark IIIs, begin to rotate towards their position.

Though they were mostly hull down, the turret on the big Mark II presented a rather large target.

"No effect on the target Teddy!" McTavish screamed over the intercom.

Fitzhugh had the tank in reverse and was applying left stick to get behind the burning wreckage of Will McDonough's tank. He nearly made it.

Everyone in the crew felt the hit, somewhere on the outside of the tank, it didn't enter the hull. Then everyone heard Fitzhugh yelling, "Shit, shit, shit! Right track is buggered!"

Angered at the situation, O'Connell managed to keep his cool. "Right then lads, over the side with you, rendezvous back at that farm house we passed on the way in!"

The men got out cleanly, though young Willie O'Shea managed to sprain his left ankle jumping down from the machine. Fitzhugh and Walsh half-dragged and half-carried him back to the rally point.

"What now Sar'nt?" Fitzhugh asked.

Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, a party of riflemen passed by, heading forward to take up defensive positions. Their officer, a captain, looked at the tank crew and yelled, "You lot better sod off to the rear, we'll cover. We're withdrawing soon as everyone's clear!"

Fitzhugh shook his head, was he destined to go from one defeat to another? Maybe his old Da' had been right, but it was too late for second thoughts now. He was at the sharp end now, no mistake!

¹ Most of the known photos of this vehicle in France and Greece are knocked out, broken down, or captured by the Germans. This is one of the very few depicted in France still operating and in British control.

Monday, August 8, 2022

I've seen Fire and I've seen Rain (NOT!)

Little Juvat's Daughter (LJD), is doing well.  1.5 Lbs and, as of last Monday, 12".  They've removed most of the things sticking in her and, best of all, she seems to be becoming aware of her surroundings and interacting somewhat.  The nurse put her on her side, and she rolled back over onto her back, a couple of times, before staying on her side.  I'm told that's actually a good thing, although preventing bed sores was the reason for shifting her.  

What do I know? I'm not a Doctor nor have I played one on TV.

Thanks for all y'alls prayers.  They're definitely working.

Other happenings, of somewhat lesser import, happening around the 'Burg.

 Earlier this week, Mrs. J was working on a major project (subject of a future post) and called me into her office for my opinion.  (Yes, Beans, that happens....occasionally.) So, I go offer my opinion and she starts typing it into her computer.  Her desk does not face the window, so, as I had not yet been dismissed, walked over and looked out.  My intent was to take a peaceful, relaxing view of Rancho Juvat.  However, something caught my eye.

That got my attention!  We've been under a Burn Ban for forever, or so it seems, to prevent this sort of thing from occurring.  Since we've had little to no rain in months, there's also little chance this was caused by lightning.  What follows is second hand from a guy who's got several friends in the local VFD, so...grain of salt.

It seems that because of the Burn Ban, cleared brush can't be burned.  Duh!  However, the owners of a large ranch about 8 miles from us hired some local itinerants to run the brush through a wood chipper.  Which sounds like a good choice.  But, you have to use one carefully and under the procedures outlined in the manual.  For instance, don't let the machine get too hot. 

You know what's going to happen now, right?  Oh, did I mention that the wind was blowing pretty steady at about 20 knots?  So things started burning.  The itinerants didn't have cell phones, so drove into town to alert the Fire Department.  In the time to do that and have them respond, the fire had burned 20 acres.  As of Friday, the Fire Department said the fire was 80% contained but had burned 1459 acres.

7 fixed wing airplanes, to include a DC-10, and 2 helicopters were involved in trying to control it. 


We're not that far away from that picture.  6 or 7 miles.  So...Thank you Lord!

In another aspect of this week, while Little J and LJW were in San Antonio doing the Parent thing, I decided most of my other projects were done, on hold or abandoned, so I no longer had an excuse.  So, I started finishing the inside of the workshop.  

Over the course of several hours, I managed to get 2 sheets of 1/4" plywood hung.  


Pitiful progress, I know.  However, it wasn't the hanging it that was the issue, it was getting it into position.  First I had to move it into position to mark where the wall sockets were.  Unfortunately, it's fairly flexible and it kept trying to fall away.  Once marked, it had to be hoisted onto the table for cutting.  Finally figured out to take it by the short end to the short end of the table, then drag it, slowly, into position on the table.  

Did learn something else new.  I didn't know that interior plywood has a front and back side.  And if you mark the position of something with the back side facing out, chances are really good it won't fit when you turn it around. Like really, really good.

So, called it a day and came back the next day, with Little J in tow.  Amazing how much easier hanging it is with two people.

The cutout for the window took a little bit more effort.

But that's the opposite corner from the first picture. I also bought some knock together shelving to start some organizing.  And so I can walk around and not trip over things. 


Work should resume while you're reading this.  Hope to have the bottom half done at that point.  I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to finish the top.  Some pegboard of course, but I don't think I want it all to be.  Probably some combination of pegboard, shelves and French Cleat, but, I'm very open to suggestions at this point.  

On a different note, Mrs. J, Little J, LJW and I had a little Flappy Hour last Saturday night.  (Flappy Hour being Mrs. J's name for sitting out front of the house with an adult recreational beverage, watching birds and telling stories.  It's only done when the Temp is below 100o.  So, hasn't happened a lot lately).  We're watching, with excitement, a large cumulonimbus heading our way with something coming out the bottom of it.  

Huzzah!  We're going to get some...

Not so fast, juvat!

That was the direction the thunderstorm was coming from not 20 minutes before.  No, we didn't get any rain. It just disappeared. 

Lastly, one evening this week as I was entering the barn to feed the horses, I noticed this.

The ridge to its right is about an inch wide.

Everything's bigger in Texas!

And just for a little relevant yet mellow music

Peace out, y'all!