Thursday, June 18, 2020

The 18th of June, 1944 - D + 12, Bloody Sunday

A-20s hitting a rail yard in France

"Bloody Hell, Sarn't Fitzhugh, did ya ever see such a thing?" Corporal Willis Seckington watched as the twin-engined bombers disappeared into the distance, heading back to England, he supposed.

"Sure I have Will, back during the Blitz, of course the bombers all had great big swastikas on their tails and were trying to kill us. Then I saw those planes which just passed overhead in Africa as well, Bostons I think we call 'em. Yanks call 'em something else." Sergeant James Fitzhugh said as he replaced his beret with a helmet. He expected that they'd be in the thick of it any moment now. Sure enough, there was the wee Lowland Scot, Corporal Billy Wallace himself, coming down the track with his mates.

"Why do the Yanks give them different names, Sarn't?" Will asked.

"What, oh, I dunno, do I look like a bleeding American?" Fitzhugh had answered his loader a little more gruffly than he should have. But wee Billy looked a bit worried.

The Scotsman stopped next to the Sherman VC, bent over to catch his breath, then looked up at Fitzhugh, "The Huns are coming, and they've got Tigers, great big furniture van-looking things with guns bigger'n yours!"

"We did toast a halftrack with a PIAT¹, there was another that ran off."

"No infantry? Very well, they'll be coming in blind."

Wallace looked back down the track which entered the hedgerow after it crossed an open field. An open field which he and his squaddies had just crossed as if they were being pursued by the bean-nighe² herself. Which in a sense they had been, he'd never seen tanks that big. Too young for Dunkirk, he'd only been in the Army since 1943. He couldn't believe how shaken he was.

"Right then laddie, run along, our gun is a match for any Jerry panzer. Get back to the crossroads and hold there. It's time to fight..."

Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. E "Tiger" of schwerer Panzerabteilung 503³

"Fire the beast up Krebs! Let's go defend Caen!"

With those words the men of Tiger 224 clambered aboard. Each was in position as Horst Krebs turned over the engine in the Tiger. The big Maybach V-12 roared to life and was soon purring like a cat. Horst wondered absentmindedly if real tigers could purr, probably not he decided.

The tank commander, Stabsfeldwebel Gerhard Lindner, looked back at his platoon leader, Oberleutnant Wilhelm Altendorf who gave him the sign to take the point. As the big tank started to roll forward, two SS-Panzergrenadiere 251s4 passed him to his right. Arrogant SS bastards, he grumbled to himself. Well, good for him, bad for them. If there were any Tommy anti-tank guns ahead, they'd find them first. A 251 wouldn't survive a hit from even a small gun, whereas his Tiger would shrug it off. Might scratch the paint though.

A few kilometers ahead, one of those 251s passed to the rear, loaded with wounded. Around a bend there was the other 251, on the verge and burning furiously.

"Button up boys, there's danger in the air!"

As he peered through his vision blocks he could see English infantry ahead, they loosed a few rounds in his direction, then began to pull back.

"Help them along Georg," he commanded the tank's bow machine gunner.

At least three of the Englishmen weren't quick enough and they went down hard. The others ran like the devil was upon them. Which in a sense, he was. Lindner had received a letter from his mother in Düsseldorf that very morning. The English terror bombers had visited the city again last week. His childhood home was gone, while his parents were still alive, his little dog Schatzi had been killed. Lindner was in a killing mood.


Fitzhugh was watching the clearing carefully, he saw them emerge from the treeline. Yes, bloody Tigers indeed. The one in the lead was using the terrain nicely, he was only getting glimpses of the top of the Jerry's turret, but the one behind, wasn't nearly as cautious.

"Gunner, target tank, at 11 o'clock, range 750 yards. Engage."

Gunner Fritz Weber had the round out before Fitzhugh had gotten to the second syllable of 'engage.' In an instant loader Will Seckington had another round loaded, he shouted, "APCBC loaded!"

Fitzhugh saw, after the dust kicked up by his cannon settled, that the first Tiger had taken a solid hit to the turret ring. Thank God there was a breeze today. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the ammunition in the enemy tank cooked off. The explosion sent the Tiger's turret (and three of its crew) at least 30 feet in the air. Fitzhugh still couldn't see that lead Tiger. Hopefully one of the "lambs" would deal with him.

"Shift left, target tank..."

The big 17-pdr barked before he could get the rest of the command out. The Tiger behind the burning one slewed to its right and came to an abrupt stop. He rather wished for a bow gunner at the moment as he watched three of the Tiger's crew bail out as their vehicle began to smoke.

"Right then! Time to bugger off, put her in reverse Tommy, we need to move!" Lance Corporal Thomas Ginns had them backing briskly down the track in the nick of time. An 88 mm tank round flew over their turret and slammed into a tree behind them. The Germans were finally reacting.


Out of the four tanks in the platoon, two were left, his and Kurt Schneider's. Lindner was now the platoon leader. He was amazed that the Tommies hadn't fired at him. While Horst was very good at using terrain, he was sure some of the turret was visible from time to time, he could see across the field, I wonder what the...

An armor piercing round spanged off the mantlet of the Tiger's 8.8 cm gun. Lots of noise inside, lots of sparks outside. Though his ears were ringing, they were still alive. Whatever had killed two of their tanks hadn't killed them. Yet.

"Gunner, Sherman at 675 yards, sector..."

"Got him!"


The enemy tank showed a glowing hole where the round had penetrated the front glacis. Moments later, the crew began to bail out. Bow machine gunner Georg Hansel left at least two Tommies hanging out of their hatches, they had been slow.

Fitzhugh saw Levinson's crew climbing from their hatches, at least two didn't make it. From the scarf around his neck, completely non-regulation, he knew that his friend since North Africa, Sergeant Scott Levinson was dead. There was no mistaking that silly bright green silk scarf he always wore.

"Keeps me neck from chafing boyo! You should get one!" He remembered Scotty saying a few days before the landing. His wife had sent him a new one "just for this occasion," Scotty had laughed.

As he watched, the Germans were apparently withdrawing. Probably only a single platoon and wee Billy had killed a lot of their infantry, scaring off the rest.

No doubt the Jerries would be back.

Much as he'd like to have a few drinks that night, he had letters to write. Letters to the families of the chaps who wouldn't be going home.

"Sod war, sod it all." he yelled at the sky.

"Too right Sarn't, too right. We're all with ya there." Will patted Fitzhugh on the knee. He'd seen Scotty's tank get hit, Scotty's loader was a mate of his, knew him from school. They'd joined up the same day. He wondered if his pal was still alive.

As the sun set, Fitzhugh had a random thought, he had studied history for a term at school before the war, today was the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, June 18th. Huh, that had been a Sunday as well. He remembered the quote the Headmaster loved -
Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.
Now he understood what the great Wellington had meant.

¹ PIAT - Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank, a stubby looking thing which you can see here.
²The bean-nighe (Scots Gaelic for "washerwoman") is a female spirit in Scottish folklore, regarded as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. Similar to the Irish banshee.
³Panzerkampfwagen - armored fighting vehicle. Aus. E - Model E, schwere Panzerabteilung - heavy tank battalion (Abteilung is sometimes translated as "detachment)
4 Panzergrenadiere - Armored infantrymen, typically road to battle in halftracks. In this case the German SdKfz 251


  1. Forth and back, forth and back.......going to be a loooong month until Goodwood and Cobra kick off. Am enjoying your efforts Sarge, helps to forget for awhile the hulabaloo going on in real life.

    1. Which is one of the reasons I'm doing this, the other is that it's hard to find time to a) actually work at the paying job, b) write an interesting daily blog, and c) work on a novel. So I combined b) and c). So far, so good.

      We're all going to be sick of the bocage if I don't do this right!

    2. "We're all going to be sick of the bocage if I don't do this right!"

      Which pretty much sums up the feelings of the participants doesn't it? So, pretty much dead on target, so far, Sarge.

    3. Thanks juvat, the grand experiment seems to be "so far so good." Haven't lost any readers that I can tell.

  2. Oh bugger, the tank is on fire.

    1. He just did.

      From what I've read, though the hatches on the Tiger were decent sized, they were very heavy and hard to open. So, unless they were already partially or fully open, if a Tiger caught on fire, it was death to the crew. Of course, cooking off the ammo was pretty much death to the crew anyways.

    2. The comment refers to a Lexism.

  3. I can't imagine riding in one of those things to battle. Gives me shivers. German's called them Tommie Cookers... Zippos.... Ronsons..... egads....

    Shoot and scoot is a valid tactic. I sure hope we don't NEED to know that in the near future....

    1. Shoot and scoot is a must, if you want to live! Tanks do it, snipers do it, self-propelled artillery does it...

      It's the smart move in a fluid battle, if you have to defend a position, you're kind of stuck in one place.

    2. Shoot while scooting is one of the things the Abrams and the Bradley (with the gun) excel at, moreso than any other nation's tanks, except maybe the Israelis. As seen at 73 Easting, a moving Abrams is a killing Abrams.

      That, and things not moving on a modern battlefield are targets for drones, helicopters, A-10s and Javelins (shoulder-fired Anti-tank missile, really smart, has a boosting charge that punts it out of the tube so it can be fired in a room full of people with little side effects and very little signature, then goes full tilt down range and does a vertical attack on the turret top or engine deck of vehicles. We finally have THE premiere infantry-carried anti-tank weapon, finally.)

    3. Gyro-stabilized guns make firing on the move practical, and lethal.

      The Sherman had a gyro-stabilized gun, Germans didn't.

    4. Shoot and scoot is a must in all types of battle, whether in the air, on the ground, on the water or underneath. Once you've fired a weapon, you have id'd your position. Better not be there one time of flight later.

    5. One of the reasons I like grenades. Throwing, not catching. Of course, it's a bit closer than I care for, but no muzzle flash.

    6. (Don McCollor)...One of Bill Mauldin's cartoons had Willie & Joe watching a tank pass by. "I'd rather dig. A moving foxhole attracts the eye"...

  4. Thank you for this. One of my "wants" in life has always been to drive a tank, although I accept how hazardous it would be.

    1. As a kid I wanted to be a fighter pilot, when I discovered that my crappy vision wouldn't allow that, I wanted to be a tanker. After trying to convince the Army to let me enlist as a tanker in 1973, I went Air Force. The Army kept telling me I was "too smart" to go into combat arms, the Air Force recruiter suggested I might be "too smart" to join the Army. Heh. That sold me!

  5. Melancholy is the right of it.

    "On the actual day of battle, naked truths may be had for the asking; by the following morning, they have already begun to get into their uniforms." Sir Ian Hamilton

    Enjoying this very much Sarge, thanks!

  6. When tanks well capable of knocking out each other meet head on, results are no pretty, though often spectacular. Firefly versus tiger was such a case...

    1. Definitely a case of 'he who shoots best, wins.' Not always 'he who shoots first.' You have to get the good hit in to win.

  7. You got me with the cats. There are better videos but I can't find the one I've had for ages that shows a few of the smaller, cuter ones like ocelot..

    Know what I think about when I see these magnificent creatures? The Lion of Judah, and from the signs of the times it won't be long now before He comes back to claim His throne, and roar a bit. And then, the lions and leopards and lambs eat grass and lay down beside each other. Until then, I'll observe the big kitties from afar, and take heart that He has it alll under control.

    1. Loves me some big cat sounds.

      Faith is what keeps me going, and sane!

    2. The largest cat that purrs is the American Mountain Lion/Puma/Cougar/Florida Panther. Whether it's in the Rockies, in the Appalachians, the Florida swamps and flatlands, the spine of Central America or the South American mountains. All localized variations of the same beastie.

      Second largest that purrs is the Cheetah.

      Tigers do a kind-of purr-growl-grumble-chuff thingy. Not a real purr.

      Mountain Lions/Panthers can rip a purr very loudly, though. So maybe a Panther tank purring is possible.

      Though I have heard of people describing the start-up of a Tiger as a loud chuff, and the engines definitely grumbled.

    3. Chuff and a grumble, I like it. (Very tigerish it is, both feline and tank!)

    4. (Don McCollor)...the mountain lion/cougar have been expanding (or reclaiming) their range. A couple have been killed in MN/ND in the last couple of years..

    5. Nature really does find a way.

  8. Excellent as usual. The Bocage was definitely a place where the shortest tank was at an advantage in not-being seen. But that came at a cost of oftentimes not being able to shoot.

    Everything has its ups and downs.

    The Germans hated the PIAT because it was such a sneaky weapon, totally not fair. The Brits hated the PIAT because you couldn't aim the weapon down without a chance the bomb would fall out, and it wasn't the most easy thing to use, being spring powered. Again, ups and downs.

    The Sdkfz 251 was a nice half-track. A lot more track than comparable US designs, and normally carrying 2 MG-34/42 machine guns, one in the front of the troop compartment and one in the back. The troops could dismount the two guns and add them to the squad's other two MGs, or they could leave them and the track crew could fight with at least one. The armor was good to stop rifle-caliber rounds and shell splinters.

    Other than that, keep on going on.

    How's working at work going?

    1. I spent about three hours on Monday at the lab. Things were not ready. I had a new Linux box which no one had thought to set up correctly. I wrote the ticket to get that done, it ain't happened yet. My bosses are very happy with my "work from home" output so I'm back at the Fortress of Solitude for the nonce.

      We'll see what happens next week.

  9. The A-20G, like in the photo, is my favorite version of the Havoc.

    1. We actually had two of them at the local airport when I was a kid. We used to get inside them and look around. Then we got chased off and the owners padlocked them.

      Booooo. Hisssss.


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