Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Angel

Heinkel He 59 of the Seenotdienst¹
Feldwebel Ernst Wolfram and his gunner Flieger Hans Decker had been on their second mission of the day when they had been bounced by a section of two aircraft which had cut through their formation like a scythe. The fighter escort from JG 54 had been surprised as well. They hadn't seen the British fighters until it was far too late.

One Ju 87 had exploded in mid-air when a single .303 round had hit the 250 kg bomb slung under the fuselage. That explosion had sent that aircraft's wingman into a spin from which it never recovered. Wolfram swore he had seen the aircraft's empennage tear loose as the bird spun towards the dark waters of the Channel far below.

As Wolfram sat briefly mesmerized, his own aircraft had been rocked by a series of strikes along the wings and across the nose. The controls had immediately turned to slop, but far worse, a piece of the fuselage next to his seat had been blown inwards. Slicing through his life vest and flight suit like a hot knife, then embedding itself in his side. The pain had been immediate and intense.

Grimacing he assessed the condition of his aircraft, she had but minutes to live, the engine was already sputtering and coughing. Thick smoke was issuing from the exhaust stacks.

"Hans ..." Wolfram paused, taking a breath which sent pain through his entire left side, "are you okay? I think we need to step over the side."

"I'm okay, Herr Feldwebel, but the bird is a mess, I think the left aileron has been shot away and the rudder looks like Swiss cheese. You're hit, aren't you?"

"Ja Junge, I am, it hurts but I don't think it's that bad." Wolfram lied.

Even as he said that he reached back with his right hand and pressed the wound gently. His hand came back with the glove soaked red with blood. He had felt the metal protruding from his side. Though tempted, he knew better than to try and pull it out. His mind screamed for his hands to do something to stop the pain. 

"Hans, I'm switching the radio so you can transmit. Call the Seenotdienst, I'm going to try and get the bird as close to the coast as I can, I'm aiming for Cherbourg, but I don't think we can stay airborne much longer."

Before Decker could take any action, a radio call got the crew's attention. "You boys need any help, you look shot to shit. Look to your right."

Decker turned immediately and saw a Rotte² of two Bf-109s from JG 54 flying formation with them. Not close, it was apparent to the lead Messerschmitt pilot that the Stuka was in rough shape.

Wolfram was woozy and didn't turn, "Is this a miracle Hans? Am I dreaming?"

"Nein, Herr Feldwebel, the Grüne Herzen³ have come to watch over us."

"Stuka, can you maintain this altitude?" the Messerschmitt lead radioed.

"Negative, the controls are mush, the engine is ready to quit. I want my gunner to jump while I can keep the bird in the air. How far from the coast are we?" Wolfram managed to answer.

It took all of Wolfram's strength to try and control the aircraft and speak. He had checked his wound again, the bleeding seemed to have stopped. While he didn't feel any worse, he didn't feel any better either. He now wondered if he would be able to jump.

"Seenotdienst is inbound and should be on station in ten minutes. You're losing altitude gradually, if it were me, I'd let her sink to twenty-five hundred meters then jump. Can you manage that?"

Wolfram checked the altimeter, then remembered that it had been smashed, "My instruments are shot away, let me know when we reach twenty-five, ja?"

"Will do." The Messerschmitt lead transmitted.

The big Heinkel biplane, with its white paint job and prominent red crosses painted everywhere, lumbered over the water. The pilot was homing on the transmissions from the fighters escorting the stricken bomber. He had heard the mention of the Stuka crew bailing out, at least they should be able to spot the chutes easily enough, the sky was as blue as he had ever seen it.

It was then that Hauptmann Gerd Richter saw two dots, low on the horizon, slowly growing in size. Had to be two aircraft, down on the deck, coming their way. But whose were they?

"Grünherz Lead, this is Engel⁴ One, approaching your position. I think I've got company inbound. Looks like two bogies at my ten o'clock, same altitude."

"Copy Engel, we'll have a look."

Flying Officer Horace Buckingham was nearly salivating as his flight of two bore in on the lumbering rescue aircraft. Though standing orders stated that only rescue aircraft in the vicinity of active operations could be attacked, he considered the entire Channel to be an active operation.

His younger brother, James, had been killed in action in the early stages of the German attack in the west. His brother had been a Battle pilot and had gone down in an ill-advised attack on a bridge in Belgium. Since that day, Buckingham lived to kill Germans. Being transferred to a Spitfire squadron had made that goal even easier.

"I say Bucky, seems we're a bit farther east than we should be. Petrol's going to be iffy pretty soon." Buckingham's wingman, Pilot Officer Louis Trotter, transmitted. He was leery of getting too far away from England. There was just the two of them and those rescue aircraft often had fighter escorts.

"Break off then Lou, if you don't have the bollocks for it, go home."

Oberleutnant Joachim von Bolleberg lined up his gun sight just forward of the lead Spitfire. He was content to wait as the range closed. The big floatplane wasn't in range of the British fighters yet. He had ample time to kill them both he calculated.

Far above him he heard the last transmission of the crippled Stuka as the crew abandoned their dying aircraft. He knew that his wingman, Unteroffizier Klaus Riess would protect the Stuka crew as they dangled in their parachutes. He could focus on the two men who had attacked and broken up the Stuka formation.

Trotter saw a shadow on the water, as he pondered what it was, his lead was spattered with gunfire from above. Buckingham never had a chance, from being hit to plowing into the waters of the Channel, maybe three seconds had elapsed. Now Trotter was in a fight for his life.

He rammed the throttles forward to put on every ounce of speed he could. As he did so he began to gain altitude, ever so slightly, he hesitated to maneuver this close to the water. Glancing in his rear view mirror, he caught sight of the Hun who had killed his lead.

Von Bolleberg thought about how pretty the Spitfire was, those elliptical wings are distinctive, he thought. He knew the Tommy really only had one chance, von Bolleberg was too close for the Spit to outrun him. He figured the Englishman would try and chop his throttles and drop his flaps, trying to abruptly slow his aircraft and cause the Messerschmitt to overshoot.

"Keine chance Tommy, not a chance." von Bolleberg, with six kills in Poland and five in France, hissed as he squeezed his trigger.

Trotter chopped the throttle and dropped his flaps, far too late. The machine guns of the pursuing Messerschmitt walked from the tail of his aircraft up to and over the cockpit, Trotter was hit multiple times. He knew, almost instantly, that his wounds were mortal. Time seemed to slow to a standstill.

At the same time, the Messerschmitt's two, 2 cm wing cannons smashed into the beautiful wings of Reginald Mitchell's superb design. Had Trotter been at a higher altitude, the wings would have folded upwards, forming a shroud over the dying pilot. But at just above the water, they simply snapped off as the Spitfire caught the peak of a wave.

Trotter was already dead, dying within seconds of being hit, when the aircraft smashed into the sea and broke up. The shattered aircraft quickly disappeared into the dark depths of the English Channel.

Decker had dragged Wolfram into the raft, he hadn't seen the short engagement which killed the two Spitfires, but he involuntarily ducked as the Messerschmitt which had downed the English fighters boomed low over their raft, waggling his wings, then zoom climbed to rejoin his wingman.

The big He 59 floatplane was down and taxiing over to their raft. Decker squeezed Wolfram's hand. "You still there, you big lout?"

Wolfram blinked then moaned, "Yes, I'm still here. You're buying the beer tonight, klar?"

"Aber natürlich, Herr Feldwebel. No doubt you would claim that you forgot your billfold in the aircraft."

"No doubt. Am I still bleeding?"

"Yes, a little, here's the Angel, you'll be in hospital in no time, now shut up would you?"

"Cheeky bastard." Wolfram groaned before closing his eyes and listening to the Heinkel's engines slow. Perhaps he had survived again.

But for how long?

¹ The Seenotdienst (sea rescue service) was a German military organization formed within the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) to save downed airmen from emergency water landings. The Seenotdienst operated from 1935 to 1945 and was the first organized air-sea rescue service. (Source)
² An element of two aircraft (German)
³ Green Hearts, a green heart was the emblem of Jagdgeschwader 54 (German)
⁴ Angel (German)
⁵ The British Fairey Battle light bomber had seen serious losses early in the attack on the Low Countries (Source)
⁶ But naturally, Sergeant. (German)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Hurricanes at Two O'clock!

Messerschmitt Bf-110 over the Channel
Major¹ Karl Hönigberg checked the positioning of his Staffel of Zerstörergeschwader² 76 as the formation reached the midpoint of the Channel. They should be over the target within minutes. His formation was stepped up from five-hundred to a thousand meters above the Stukas they were escorting.

Hönigberg was not happy with today's assignment, he felt that the big fighters would be better used sweeping inland to attack the RAF fighter bases directly.

"Make them come up to meet us, Sepp! Fighter on fighter, don't tie us to those lumbering dive bombers!" he had remonstrated with the Geschwader's operations officer the night before.

"They will come up to intercept the 87s, do you doubt that?" Oberstleutnant Josef "Sepp" Steiner had countered.

"But they would come up to stop us alone wouldn't they? Why tie us to those slow, clumsy crates?" As he spoke Sepp's counterpart from the Stukageshwader came into the briefing room.

"Slow? Clumsy? You forget yourself Major, the bird is also ugly as Hell!" Major Wolfgang Niebuhr laughed as he spoke, but there was an undercurrent of anger as well.

"Easy Wolf, I'm not insulting that fine aircraft produced by the engineers of the mighty Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke Aktiengesellschaft,³ but they certainly aren't the most nimble of craft are they?"

"Gentlemen, can we knock off the banter and get on with the briefing?" Steiner interjected.

Flying Officer Reginald Morley listened intently as ground control vectored them towards an incoming group of aircraft. His group of fifteen Hurricanes had been climbing since takeoff in order to get above the incoming Germans. He had to assume they were Germans, who else would be approaching the English coast from the Continent?

As Morley continued his scan, he heard the voice of Squadron Leader Bertie Wilson come up on the frequency, "Look alive chaps, Jerries at two o'clock low. Looks like Stukas with 110s as high cover. Green and Blue flights go for the Stukas, Red Flight with me, let's splash the 110s."

"Herr Major! Tommy fighters, coming around from three o'clock high to our six!"

Hönigberg turned to look, sure enough, he could see the British aircraft, perhaps a flight of six. He assumed there had to be more and they would go for the Stukas. "Shark Flight, engage the British fighters, Lion and Tiger flights, keep covering the 87s!"

Hönigberg advanced his throttles and began to turn into the British fighters. He knew that he shouldn't get into a Kurvenkampf⁴ with the far more nimble Hurricanes, but if he could get his forward-firing armament⁵ on the smaller aircraft, he would have a distinct advantage. Though some argued for always forming a defensive circle in the face of single-seat fighters, so that each aircraft could cover the others in the formation, Hönigberg was of the more aggressive school. Go straight at them.

The problem was, the Bf-110 had terrible acceleration. Though nearly as fast as a Hurricane at altitude, the 110 was slow to get up to speed. Hönigberg figured he had enough time to get around, the Hurricanes had the altitude advantage but hadn't moved to intercept the 110s just yet. Though they could have easily outpaced the Hurricanes by putting the heavy 110s into a dive, their mission was to protect the Stukas, so diving to get away wasn't an option.

Morley saw the big fighters coming around, judging by the angle his formation had on the Huns, the Hurricanes would be through the enemy formation before the Germans would be in position to engage the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes would have to worry about the rear gunners, but Morley wasn't that worried about them.

"Tallyho!" came over the R/T. Morley shook his head as he picked out one of the Huns, some public school boy no doubt.

Hönigberg realized, too late, that the British fighters would be on them before they could bring their own noses to bear on the enemy. "Hang on Rudi, take your shot as they pass through!"

Gefreiter Rudi Wagner answered with a simple "Verstanden!⁷"

Hönigberg was struggling to bring his nose around, the big aircraft just wasn't coming around fast enough. He had to be careful and not stall the bird. He was still confident that he could ...

Morley held the firing button for a full two seconds. He could see strikes all over the nose and cockpit of the twin-engined fighter as his own aircraft flashed past the target. He winced and ducked his head as he saw tracers pass over his canopy. Obviously the rear gunner was alert.

After diving through the formation he looked back, his wingmen were still with him. "Red Flight, Red Lead, let's get some altitude and pitch back in," Morley transmitted as his aircraft leaped higher, exchanging speed for altitude.

Hönigberg winced in pain, he had a bad cut over his right eye which was bleeding profusely. Though his instrument panel was shattered, he still had control of the aircraft and the engines seemed to be running just fine.

"Rudi, report!" he transmitted over the intercom, almost expecting that to be inoperable.

"I'm okay, Herr Major, are you hurt?" The rear gunner had felt the impact of the British guns as they had smashed into the big fighter. He had fired at the Tommies as they had flown past, but had hit nothing.

"I'm having trouble seeing out of my right eye, Junge. I'm heading back to base, we're out of this fight. Keep your eyes peeled for those Hurricanes."

Morley touched down, very satisfied with himself. He had damaged one German and was sure he had shot down another. Green and Blue flights had downed at least five of the Stukas and the remainder had jettisoned their bombs and fled to the east.

As he taxied to the dispersal area, he could see O'Donnell waiting for him, no doubt more concerned for his aircraft than his pilot. Still and all, Morley knew he was lucky, he had one of the best men in the RAF watching over the aircraft and, by extension, Morley himself.

As O'Donnell climbed onto the wing to assist him with the harness, Morley grinned and yelled out over the noise of the engine shutting down, "Hit two, killed one. At least I'm pretty sure of it."

"And 'ere you've used up all my ammunition I'll wager. Sir." O'Donnell offered sternly.

Morley winked and said, "Pretty sure the bullets belong to His Majesty, Willis, but yes, used 'em all."

As Morley climbed from the cockpit, O'Donnell handed his pilot a flask. "Not a problem, Sir. I'll have her ready to go within the hour. Any gripes?"

Morley coughed as he took a drink from the flask, "Damn, we need to find you a better source of alcohol, that's hideous. The kite is just fine, she's running like a top. Anything to eat in the hut?"

"Sandwiches Sir, cucumber I think."

Hönigberg let the medical people help him from the cockpit. He was woozy from loss of blood, his flying kit was stained with it, the cockpit was as well. He passed out as they loaded him onto a stretcher.

"Will he be all right?" Rudi Wagner asked the Sanitäter.

"He'll need stitches but he should be fine. Rough out there?" Unteroffizier Hans Scheibel nodded to the orderlies to load the Major into the ambulance. The pilot would be given intravenous fluids as well, he had lost a lot of blood. Head wounds tended to bleed badly, making even small wounds look nasty. The pilot most likely had a severed facial vein or artery from flying debris and that would be tended to immediately.

"Rough? Leutnant Seger's bird blew up in mid-air. He and Dietrich never had a chance." Wagner answered.

"No chutes?"

"They blew up," Wagner snapped his fingers, "happened in the blink of an eye, there was no way they could have gotten out. A bad day for them. We didn't even make it to the target, so I don't know how successful the raid was. We'll have to wait until the rest of the boys return."

The final toll for the day was three Ju-87s shot down (the RAF claimed five) and two of the escorting Bf-110s were shot down. All for the loss of a single Hawker Hurricane. Downed by "friendly" anti-aircraft fire.

The air war over the English Channel was heating up.

¹ I have italicized this rank, which is the German equivalent to the American rank of "major" because the pronunciation is different, "mah-yor" as opposed to "may-jor." I wish to be consistent here and not make you think I'm using the English equivalent of the German word.
² Destroyer Wing (German), the nomenclature used for wings consisting of the heavy, twin-engined Bf-110.
³ Literally "Junkers aircraft and engine works joint-stock company" (German)
⁴ Dogfight, literally "curve fight" (German)
⁵ Early versions of the Bf-110 had four 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns in the upper nose and two 20 mm MG FF/M cannons fitted in the lower part of the nose. (Source)
⁶ Radio/Telephone also Receiver/Transmitter.
⁷ Understood! (German)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Un peu de ce, un peu de ça* (**)

It's been a busy week since last you and I spoke. Nothing earth shattering, mind you, just lots of things.

MG (My Granddaughter or her First Initial Middle Initial, take your pick) has passed the six month point and is now eligible to fly. So, MBD, Pastor Bob and she flew to NYC to visit an old family friend, who also happened to be the person that presided over their wedding. 

 Flight was scheduled to leave at 4:30 PM. 

You know what's coming next doncha? 

 "The plane has some mechanical difficulties which will be fixed...shortly."

 An hour later they unlatch the doors and allow the passengers to return to the terminal. Folks, the plane was leaving from Austin, TEXAS in May in the late afternoon. No, the AC wasn't running.  MBD said it was "Warmish, kinda like an oven." I wish I had her way with words.

It finally departs about 9 PM arriving about 1 AM.  After a $135 Uber ride, they arrive at the friend's house about 2:45 AM. 

How did MG do?

Well...She had a drink, (As did her Parents, although I think theirs might have contained a bit more kick than hers)

Pastor Bob looks like he'd like to take a nap also.

Then managed to sleep the rest of the way.  Granddaughter's got some fighter pilot in her blood.

On a different note, the kids sent Mrs. J and I probably the best Parent's Day (combined Mother's/Father's Day) gift of all time. It's called a "Skylight", a computerized picture frame.  Which is somewhat cool in itself, but the software that drives it makes it great.  The owner sets  up a personalized e-mail.  He can then send that e-mail address to anyone he wants to have access to the pictures.  Pictures are added by emailing them to that address.  Their server automatically downloads the attached picture and adds it to the collection.   Permissions include the ability to add pictures or just view them.  


Very shortly after I sent the info to MBD and Pastor Bob, this one appeared in the rotation.  Might be my favorite (so far).

Shortly thereafter, this picture arrived.  I had never seen this one before.  Yes, Beans, I rechecked the settings. I had NOT allowed anonymous access.  So, I asked Mrs. J if she knew anything about it.

Turns out, that's her mother and father on a date in the early '50s, when he was stationed in England.  Her Mom passed while Mrs. J was in college, so I had never met her.  

Now I have. That's why I think it is the greatest gift EVER!

Finally, the smartest purchase I've ever made was a riding lawn mower.  Mrs. J tried it one time when we first got it.  I haven't mowed the lawn since!  

Smart, Right?

Peace out, y'all!

*A little of this, a little of that.  Apparently, neither French nor German differentiate between this and that. (or maybe Google doesn't.)

** Updated with a little help from a friend!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Hun in the Sun

RAF Fighter Command 1940 The CO of No. 85 Squadron, Sqn Ldr Peter Townsend, jumps
down from Hurricane Mk I P3166 VY-Q while being refueled at Castle Camps, July 1940.

(Imperial War Museum)
Senior Aircraftman Willis O'Donnell gave the canopy of his Hurricane one more look, it was clear as elbow grease and patience could make it. Flying Officer Reginald Morley would not being seeing things in the sky which weren't there.

Just last week in another clash over the Channel, a pilot in their sister squadron had led his Vic¹ off chasing what he thought was an enemy formation, turned out it was a collection of dirty specks on his canopy.

Though O'Donnell had always given his full attention to making everything about his Hurricane spotless, not all of the ground crewmen were as attentive to their duties.

O'Donnell had been in the Royal Air Force since 1933, he was an old hand and an expert in keeping the Hurricane in tip top shape. If, as his Flight Sergeant often admonished him, he hadn't been so fond of strong drink, he no doubt would be a sergeant himself by now.

"Ah, it's content with me duties I am," O'Donnell muttered to himself as he looked to the skies once more. Was it his imagination or was the weather to the east starting to clear?

Oberleutnant Beppo Ehrhardt was keeping a keen eye on the skies around the formation of Ju-87s that his Schwarm of Bf-109s from JG-26 Schlageter² were escorting in another attack on British shipping off the east coast of England. When they had taken off the weather was clearing, the intelligence boys said that the clouds and rain would keep the Royal Air Force on the ground this day.

Ehrhardt didn't mind, though he had no fear of the RAF, he had shot down three Tommies over France, he also liked the idea of no opposition. These constant escort missions against what he felt were worthless targets, were starting to wear out the men. Most of whom had been flying constant sorties since the beginning of May. A few Routinefluge³ would not be unwelcome at this point.

As he continued to scan the sky for the enemy, he couldn't help but notice that the weather seemed to be much clearer than forecast.

"Leave it to the weather guessers to get it wrong." he muttered to himself, over the radio he announced, "Red Flight, Red One, eyes peeled the weather is clearer than predicted. The Tommies will no doubt be on their way."

O'Donnell wasn't surprised when the klaxon went off and the pilots came scrambling out of their dispersal hut. He was in the cockpit and had the engine on D for Dog purring in no time. As Flying Officer Reginald Morley climbed onto the wing, O'Donnell was climbing out of the cockpit.

Morley looked at O'Donnell, an unspoken question. O'Donnell gave him a thumbs up and yelled into Morley's ear, "She's right as rain, Sir! Good hunting!" as he strapped Morley into the aircraft.

Scrambling down, he joined the other ground crew as the aircraft trundled out to the field where each Vic took off in succession. The grass field had excellent drainage and O'Donnell preferred it to the newer airfields with their fancy tarmac. He considered himself "old school."

Morley followed his lead into the sky, he could hear their flight being vectored to yet another Jerry raid on a Channel convoy. He cinched his harness a bit tighter and got himself into a position in his seat which maximized his view outside the cockpit.

As they crossed the coast, Morley heard, "Yellow Flight, Yellow Two, bogies at my 12 o'clock. Look like Stukas!"

"Right lads, Yellow Flight, let's kill some Huns. Red Flight, watch the sun for us, won't you?"

Ehrhardt saw the enemy fighters before anyone else. What were the Tommies thinking, sending their aircraft aloft in dribs and drabs? He could see three Vics of Hurricanes, two going for the bombers, one flight remaining high, no doubt to keep the Bf-109s busy. But seriously, nine Hurricanes against twenty-seven Messerschmitts? What were they thinking?

He got on his radio, "Blue and Green Flights, this is Red Leader, engage the Hurricanes at nine o'clock, Red Flight with me, we'll go for the top cover!" Beppo waggled his wings and advanced his throttle. The top cover were motoring along as if they were putting on an air show.

Sergeant Geoffrey Wilkinson never saw the Messerschmitt which killed him. Sparks were coming from his engine cowling as machine gun rounds walked from the propeller back, his last thought was of Margaret, the girl he had just met the evening before.

His aircraft spun out of control towards the choppy waters below as the Schwarm of Bf-109s tore through the English formation. Wilkinson was not the only man who died in that first slashing attack, but his death was at least merciful. Pilot Officer William Farnsworth was trapped in his aircraft with a jammed canopy and screamed all the way down.

Flight Lieutenant Michael Bovington had come through the attack unscathed, he was puzzled at first that no one had answered over the radio. But then he was in a fight for his life, one Hurricane against four Messerschmitts.

Feldwebel Ernst Wolfram had no choice but to jettison his bombs, his gunner Flieger Hans Decker had screamed that there were two of those Tommy Hurricanes on their tail. He saw strikes on his left wing as he tried desperately to jink his aircraft, but the Stuka flew like a farm cart compared to those nimble fighters. He began to despair of ever seeing his family again.

Decker screamed, "Stirb du Schwein!⁴"

Looking over his right shoulder, Wolfram saw a Hurricane pulling off, smoke streaming from underneath the aircraft's engine. He heard Decker's gun continue to hammer, then he heard an exultant scream from Decker. He had managed to hit the pilot on the second craft which had been attacking them.

Pilot Officer Wilfred Shaw had seen Tommy Lloyd's aircraft pull away from the fight, he wondered who had hit him? He saw no other aircraft other than the lumbering Ju-87s. He had forgotten that the Stukas had rear gunners.

When he saw the winking of what could only be a gun from the rear section of the enemy cockpit, he was surprised. But he went in anyway, one gun against eight? He'd take those odds any day.

As he went to trigger his guns, the Stuka was nearly filling his windscreen, he felt a sudden silence and what felt like a punch in the belly which took all of the air out of him.

His hands seemed to refuse to do his bidding, but he was fully conscious of the fact that his engine had quit. The German gunner had hit the engine squarely, one round had gone high and into Shaw's cockpit, into Shaw as it turned out.

Shaw was staring at his windmilling propeller, it was so quiet without the roar of that beautiful Merlin engine. He felt a sense of panic when he realized that unless he could get control of himself, he would die.

Shaw's engine was indeed damaged badly, what Shaw couldn't know was that his aircraft was also on fire. That fire soon reached the auxiliary fuel tank, directly forward of the cockpit. Within seconds after being hit, which felt like an eternity to Shaw, his aircraft exploded.

Senior Aircraftman Willis O'Donnell and the other ground crew watched, and counted, as the aircraft returned. They had everything in readiness to rearm and refuel the planes as soon as they landed. Minor repairs would also be carried out.

As they waited, Bert Albertson shouted out, the lad had very good eyes, "There they are!"

Slowly the remnants of the squadron drew into view. Of twelve aircraft which had taken off, seven were returning, two of which were trailing smoke.

As O'Donnell climbed onto the wing of D for Dog, he said a silent prayer, thanking the Lord that his aircraft and his pilot had returned. In the same instant, he had a pang of guilt for those whose aircraft hadn't returned. One more had been lost when the pilot had tried to land without his badly-shot up gear deploying. The aircraft had flipped over when it came in nose low. The resultant crash had killed the pilot, Sergeant Jimmy Smythe.

Morley sat in the cockpit, making no move to switch off the engine, so O'Donnell reached in and did so. Staring at the pilot, O'Donnell placed a hand on the man's shoulder. "Sir? Are you all right, Sir?"

As the engine wound down, Morley shook himself, "It was a slaughter Will, bloody Huns jumped us as we went in for the bombers. Thirty of 'em at least. Get her fueled up and rearm her, I need to urinate. Badly."

Decker was strangely quiet in the back of the aircraft. He had only grunted in response to calls over the intercom. As they regained the coast of France, he finally spoke.

"Herr Feldwebel, I killed a man. I could see him as my gun hit his aircraft. I saw his head jerk when my bullets touched him. I've killed before, why do I regret it now?" Decker sounded horrible.

Wolfram didn't know what to tell his gunner, other than, "It's war Junge, we kill them, or they kill us. It is the way of things."

"I know Ernst, I know. But today feels different."

"When we land, I shall buy you a beer, we can talk."

"All right, but I don't know what difference that will make." Decker answered again.

"Can it hurt?"

Decker was still wondering about that when the wheels of the Ju-87 touched down. If he lived through this war, he had much to answer for. For now, he could only try to survive.

¹ A formation consisting of three aircraft in a V. Obsolete in 1940, the British would soon learn to abandon that for the more free-flowing Schwarm of the Luftwaffe. What we would call a "finger four" formation now-a-days. (Hold your right hand out in front of you, fingers spread. The tip of middle finger is the flight lead, the index finger is his (or her, these days) wingman, the ring finger is the leader of the second element, the little finger is the second element leader's wingman.
² The wing was named after Albert Leo Schlageter, a World War I veteran and Freikorps member who became famous for acts of post-war sabotage against French occupation forces. Schlageter was arrested for sabotaging a section of railroad track and executed by the French military. The Nazis considered him a martyr, though Schlageter himself had never been a Nazi, but a German nationalist.
³ Milk runs (German, literally "routine flights")
⁴ Die you pig! (German)

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Post? What Post?

IL-2 Sturmovik: Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovka
In Game Screen Shot
As you may gather, I'm still playing with the new toy. This beast -

This is for Beans, who doubted the very existence of the new machine!
As the French knight might say ...

And yes, yes it is.

Porting stuff from old machine to new machine, getting cables and the like to connect old VGA type monitor plug to jolly-good new technology HDMI port on the new machine and other things. Still trying to figure out why my speaker system doesn't work with the new machine. I'll get there, I probably forgot to plug something in.

What's that? The opening screen shot? Oh yes, newest game there, pricey but oh-my-soul you're right there inside the tank. (Yes, yes juvat, hiding from airplanes and other tanks, life on the Eastern Front most certainly was nasty, brutish, and short.)

So you may gather that I was a bit busy on Friday, not to mention taking The Missus Herself out for a nice late lunch/early dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse. We both had the ribeye and the loaded baked potato. I also had a bowl of shrimp and lobster chowder (or chowda as it's said round these parts). First time I had my steak "medium," I used to get it "medium well."

No more, apparently I've been eating saddle leather all these years. Medium was, let's just say, more juicy than The Missus Herself cares for. Me?

Yum, juicy.
Yes, you should chase this link and read the story. Lions eat poacher. It's a very nice ...
Yes, it suited me fine, I shall do it that way from now on.

Anyhoo, something you all should know, all of these military simulations I like to play, I get lots of ideas from them. Ideas you get to read second hand, somewhat translated to fit the story I'm trying to tell.

Anyhoo, Horst tells me that the engine in our Tiger is starting to overheat and the battalion commander is screaming at us to advance.

Hope we have some air cover this time ...

Back to the book soon, I hope. The Muse is enjoying this new computer nearly as much as I!

Friday, May 13, 2022

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming ...

So, a few weeks ago my computer decided that it had had enough of my abuse and crashed.

Not "blue screen of death" crash but a "Please wait ..." screen, which lasts approximately forever. Okay, not forever, just a very long time.

After waiting far longer than my level of patience usually allows for, I went online, via my smart phone, to determine a course of action. Something about powering the machine off enough times that it will finally give you a system recovery screen. I forget most of the details as the experience was, in some ways, rather traumatic.

Anyhoo, at the recovery screen you can basically say "No" (I'm okay with never using my computer again) or "Okay." Now the screen warns you that basically the machine goes back to it's factory settings, all applications are removed. Your data is preserved, but all the cool stuff you had loaded will need to be reloaded. Which, you may gather, is a pain in the ass.

So I reloaded the things I needed right away, then gradually began restoring my games library, which is pretty large. It's been a few weeks now and things are, more or less, fine. But as time has gone along, the machine occasionally just locks up and refuses to go any further. (Very mule-like I noted.) Which requires a "hard" restart (hold the power button down for five second or so, do a five count, then power the beast back up).

Now this has sufficed for the nonce. I've noticed recently that there is often a ticking noise from the hard drive, which is "hard drive-ese" for "Hey, Ima gonna die soon."

So I decided that a new computer was in order. As my retirement date is now visible from the masthead, I decided to get a laptop (the company provided laptop has been very useful and I've grown accustomed to having a computer - not a smart phone - with me everywhere I go). A powerful laptop. Of course, The Missus Herself was absolutely thrilled at the prospect.

"How much does it cost?"

"Well over three grand for a good one."


But she agreed, which rather stunned me, she usually makes me work a lot harder for such things.

Anyhoo, long story short, my son, The Naviguesser, called me on my birthday. As he is something of a genius when it comes to computers (hardware and software) I asked him for his recommendations as to which machine to look at.

"Wow, what a coincidence Dad. I was planning on getting you a computer for your birthday. Good to know that you want a laptop, I'm going to send you some data on the one I think you should get, let me know."

Now of course, that was not the full extent of the conversation. But that was the part relevant to this post.

Which by now you are probably wondering, "Uh, what IS the point of this post. (Grumble, grumble, where is my WWII story?)"

Ah yes, the point, the salient point ...

The new computer has arrived at Chez Sarge, so I will need to spend some time getting it set up. Which I will be doing rather than give you a real post.

Sorry ...

Kid ...

New toy ...

I'm sure you understand.

A domani!

Editor's Note: Yup, AAR to follow.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Wenn wir fahren gegen England!*

Junkers Ju 87 Sturzkampfflugzeug "Stuka"
The formation crossed the coast of the Cherbourg Peninsula shortly after leaving their base at Théville. They were still gaining altitude, their orders were to intercept and bomb an English convoy which was expected to make landfall at Southampton around noon. Feldwebel Ernst Wolfram grinned as he recalled his gunner, Flieger¹ Hans Decker, complaining that they would miss lunch, again.

"It's not right Herr Feldwebel, this will be the third day in a row with us in the air while the rest of the Geschwader gets lunch. I'm tired of brötchen and cold cuts, a hot meal would be nice!" Decker had been very insistent on this as they had preflighted their aircraft. "Why can't one of the other Staffeln take this mission?"

Wolfram had stopped in mid-stride, turning to his gunner he smiled and said, "I'll take that up with the Reichsmarschall² the next time I see him, ja?"

Wolfram smiled again as he remembered the look on young Decker's face, for the briefest of moments the lad had taken him seriously.

"How are you doing back there Junge?" he asked over the intercom as he looked back over his shoulder to see how his wingman was doing. As always Jürgen Meyer's aircraft was exactly where it was supposed to be.

"I'm all right, I'm surprised you can't hear my stomach rumbling over the noise of the engine." Meyer answered.

Wolfram snorted, the lad was still exercised over missing lunch.

"Ah, I thought it was the wind making that noise. You'll live."

Bill Evans was deck crew on a small steamer out of Felixstowe. His ship was sailing in convoy with ten other small ships, bound for Southampton. Evans was looking forward to a bit of shore leave. He'd been working this route since the Germans had invaded France and had been at sea the entire time.

He was taking it easy at the moment, the First Mate was harassing someone else for a change. He thought about lighting his pipe, then thought better of it, their cargo was highly flammable. So he sat back and watched the sea and the sky. He enjoyed days like this, clear, warm, and without much wind. A perfect day to be out on the water.

As he leaned back against the bulkhead he saw small spots way up to the southeast. After a moment, he realized that they were aircraft, a lot of aircraft. So he headed for the deckhouse, better to report and look a fool than not report and get his arse chewed by the Captain.

"Ships at ten o'clock." Wolfram heard over his radio. He looked in that direction, sure enough, he could see the wakes of a number of ships.

"Make sure your harness is tight Hans. Targets ahead."

Again the radio came to life, Wolfram recognized the Staffelkäpitan's³ voice, "All flights, attack in succession."

As he watched, the lead flight prepared to attack. Soon they would go into the steep dive which virtually guaranteed good bomb hits. Provided the pilot didn't lose his nerve and pull out of his dive too soon. Very few Stuka pilots lost their nerve.

The First Mate yelled at Evans to man the single 20 mm gun that was just forward of the hold, and just aft of the fo'c's'le. Though he had minimal training on the gun, it was better than the man they told off to be his loader.

"Miller, just load each one of these into here, like this." Evans demonstrated by loading the first magazine, the Oerlikon was simple enough, but Miller didn't seem all that bright.

"Ow, do I know when ta' reload the thing?" Miller asked.

"When the bloody gun stops firing or when I yell at ya. After you attach the magazine, go grab another. Keep 'em comin'!"

Evans adjusted the gun to his height and then swung it around to get a feel for it. Looking up he could see that for the moment his ship wasn't being targeted. But others around him were. He was quickly in action.

Looking through the window on the floor, Wolfram was watching for his target to appear, when it did, he punched the speed brakes out, then moved the throttle to idle as he pitched the aircraft's nose over. And there it was, just above his crosshairs, perfect.

Glancing over at the marks scribed onto the canopy glass, Wolfram could see that he was spot on, 60 degrees of dive, that mark aligned with the horizon. Looking forward he could see that his target was nicely centered along his line of attack. Then he saw that the ship he had chosen was starting to slip to his left, damned thing was maneuvering!

He adjusted for the ship's movement and he was dead on once again. At five hundred meters he pulled the bomb release, then retracted his speed brakes. Pulling back on his stick, he grunted as the G-forces pressed him down into his seat.

He could barely make out Decker yelling over the intercom. As the blood flow returned to his head, he could make out what the man was yelling, at the same time he heard Decker's gun hammering at something behind them.

"Englische Jagdflieger! Break left!" Decker was screaming.

Then there was a harsh thump aft and he could no longer hear Decker, the man's gun also fell silent. Wolfram knew they were in deep trouble.

"Hold your fire!" Evans could hear the First Mate screaming from just behind him, "You'll hit our boys!"

As he tracked the Stuka which had just pulled off of its bomb run, he saw a Hurricane in hot pursuit. As he looked away to find another target, he saw a thin stream of smoke issue from the German plane he had wanted to fire at, "Looks like the flyboy nailed him!" Miller yelled.

In the next instant a burst of antiaircraft fire from one of the other ships blotted the Hurricane from the sky.

Wolfram tried to see to the rear, he couldn't see or hear Decker. Then he heard the man's gun firing again. Perhaps the intercom was out. With his tail covered, he realized that he needed to concentrate on flying, he had just seen one German aircraft banking too low, the aircraft's left wingtip had caught a wave, sending the Stuka cartwheeling out of control and into the sea.

The convoy entered the Solent just after one o'clock, the brief action had scattered the ships and they took some time to reform. No further attacks had been forthcoming. The gunners aboard the various ships claimed seven dive bombers shot down and three fighter aircraft.

In reality, three German aircraft had been lost, the lone fighter shot down, and claimed by the gunners, was a Hurricane from 501 Squadron.

No ships had been lost, only one had suffered any appreciable damage.

Upon landing back at Théville, Wolfram discovered that he had lost one of the radios in his aircraft. Which accounted for the loss of the intercom system. Decker was unhurt, though still angry at missing lunch.

"Come on Junge, there's a café downtown which makes a very nice beef bourguignon, I'm buying."

"What the Hell is a bourguignon?" Decker asked.

Wolfram chuckled, "Ah, the ignorance of you provincials, it's a stew of beef braised in red wine, often red Burgundy, and beef stock, flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, and herbs, garnished with pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon. I think you'll like it."

"And you're buying?"

"Natürlich, your gun saved us! It's the least I can do but feed you!"

The two Luftwaffe airmen received a pass, Decker was not disappointed with his meal.

Wolfram had noted that they were on the schedule again tomorrow. Again at lunchtime.

He made sure Decker was well fed.

Evans and Miller went ashore after their cargo was unloaded. They too went into town and headed for the nearest pub. Both reported for duty the next day very hungover.

They would be heading out again tomorrow, before lunch.

* When we drive against England! (German marching song)
¹ Airman (German)
² The rank of Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe and Hitler's number two man.
³ Squadron commander (German)