Thursday, May 26, 2022

Becalmed ...

Brig becalmed
Francois Geoffroi Roux
(Source)
Work has been very busy, life has been, well, life. If'n you know what I mean.

Surgery tomorrow, not feeling real creative right now. So posting might be light for the next cuppla, we shall see.

I like this song, when I was a kid I had this album. I liked the song back then as well, though I didn't really understand it.



I do now ...

In My Life
(John Lennon and Paul McCartney¹) 

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

In my life, I love you more

Peace out, see you soon ...



 ¹ Source for the lyrics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

In the East, On the Soviet Border

The border between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union from September 1939 to June 1941,
somewhere in the occupied territory of Poland.

(Source)
"What the Hell is the name of this place again?" Gefreiter Ernst Paulus asked the two Poles assigned to his machine gun crew.

"Samowicze, Herr Gefreiter!" Schütze Kazimir Dutka barked out, coming to a rigid position of attention as he did so.

Schütze Jan Kołodziej nearly choked as he tried to stifle a laugh. It got worse when he saw the look on Paulus' face.

"Verdammte Polacken!!" Paulus yelled, then burst out laughing.

He actually liked the two Poles assigned to his machine gun team, Dutka was a real horse when it came to schlepping ammunition and Kołodziej made a superb assistant gunner. The man swapped out belts as smooth as silk so that the gun never missed a beat.

The two Poles had been discussing just how beautiful this section of Poland was, not far from the border with the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Dutka had mentioned slipping over the border and stealing a cow, "It will be like the old days Jan!"

Jan had laughed and said they shouldn't do that as their new masters, the Germans, might not understand them starting a war with Russia before Hitler was ready.

Paulus had never seen a bleaker landscape, endless sandy fields interspersed with woods. Even the people of the region seemed a throwback to medieval times, he doubted that they even knew what electricity was.

As they laughed, manning their post at the border crossing, Leutnant Spahn came up with their squad leader, Unteroffizier Werner Baumbach, "I'm glad you boys are having a good time. Any sightings of our 'allies' across the way." The lieutenant had had a smirk on his face when he had used the word "allies," they all hated the Russians and couldn't wait to cross over and destroy them.

But for now, they lived in an uneasy coexistence, both sides understood the need for separation, the nearest Soviet border post was a good kilometer to the east. Jan had mentioned that it wasn't far enough, "You can still smell the bastards when the wind is in the right direction."

"Don't like the Russkis, do you Jan?" Paulus had commented after the lieutenant had left.

"Nope, dislike them even more than Germans."

Though Jan had smiled when he said that, Paulus wondered. It hadn't been quite a year since Germany had marched into Poland, both of his erstwhile comrades had been in the Polish Army then, no doubt they had both killed Germans while wearing a Polish uniform. Though both men seemed to like him alright, he wondered if they would just as soon kill him as look at him.

It was then that Dutka had clapped him on the back and said, "My dear Gefreiter, you shouldn't worry, ever. You're almost a Pole yourself, being from Gdansk¹. Er, I mean Danzig ..." Dutka grinned, he actually liked Paulus.

Jan nodded, "Yes, you would make a good PolackGefreiter Ernst."

"You two make me nervous, you know that right?" Paulus had hissed at the two as Baumbach came out of the small guard shack next to the road.

"Okay, you three, knock off the grab-ass and get on your gun. According to Leutnant Spahn, the Commies are sending over some officer to talk with our colonel. Don't shoot the Russian bastard, but keep an eye on them while I check their papers."

"Do you read Russian, Herr Unteroffizier?" Dutka had asked.

"Just enough to get in trouble and seem like I know what I'm doing."

Jan mumbled to Dutka, "Sort of like your German Kazimir."

Dutka gave him an evil look before grinning, "Better than your Polish, you half-German mongrel."

Both men stopped when Baumbach stood in front of them, "Something you two would like to share with me?"

"No, sorry Herr Unteroffizier, we were just commenting on the weather. It seems dry this year.. We should see the dust from the Russians' vehicle when they're approaching." Dutka answered.

Baumbach just shook his head, "Verdammte Polacken." Then he walked back to the guard shack.

Jan mumbled in Polish, "We get that a lot from the Niemcy, don't we?"

Dutka smiled and said, "Yes, not everyone has the honor of being Polish, makes 'em jealous I think ..."




¹ The Polish name for Danzig, and the name that fair city bears today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Life on the Border Between War and Not-Quite-War

MG 34 general-purpose machine gun mounted on a Lafette 34 tripod
(Source)
"Jan, I heard it straight from the Spieß, we're shipping out to the east, next week," Schütze Kazimir Dutka insisted, "we're headed somewhere around Chelm. He wasn't sure of the exact spot, and honestly he knows so little of Poland, but from the orders he's seen, it has to be Chelm."

Schütze Jan Kołodziej shook his head as he looked at his friend. Dutka was a big man, like Jan he was part German, from the village of Stegna in the area which the Poles called "Pomorze" and the Germans called "Pommern¹." He too had been deemed "German-enough" to be conscripted into the Wehrmacht². "Are you sure Kazimir? This isn't just another barracks rumor?"

"Yup, I'm sure. We're marching to the railhead, then heading east. I've seen the supply requisitions. The Spieß is convinced that Hitler means to attack Russia, he's always hated the Communists, his deal with Stalin was just to get us out of the way while he dealt with France and England." Dutka had been a stevedore in Gdansk, while he wasn't well-educated, he paid attention.

"Damn." Jan muttered, setting the ammunition belt he was loading with 7.92 mm rounds aside, he looked at Kazimir. "What am I to do about Elżbieta, how can I get a pass to Warszawa to try and see her? Also, she's seen me in this Nazi uniform, I'm sure she hates me now."

Dutka nodded and said, "Her problems may be worse than yours. Rumor has it that the Niemcy are rounding up everyone who has a college education. Priests, lawyers, doctors, and professors are being killed out of hand. The Niemcy are forcibly removing all Poles from Western Poland to resettle the area with "pure" Germans." Dutka spat as he said that.

"Elżbieta was due to finish school this past spring, of course, after the invasion ... My God, do you think she's been arrested?" Jan had trouble controlling his voice, the more he thought about her, the more he realized he loved her.

He was seriously considering deserting and trying to get to Warszawa, but his common sense told him that that would likely result in his own death and help Elżbieta not at all. Once his unit went to the East, there was no telling what would happen next.

On the other hand, if there was an opportunity to kill Russians, that would be all right in his book. If Hitler wanted to attack the Soviet Union, well then, Jan would help.


Elżbieta Chlebek looked around the hospital. Her shift was nearing its end and the number of sick and wounded Germans was much less than before. Those wounded in the campaign last September were being moved to the Reich if they were incapable of rejoining the army. The less injured and the sick were sent back to their units as soon as they were healed. Even in a army not actively fighting, accidents happened all the time. Men were still dying.

Though Elżbieta still hated the Niemcy, as a general rule, she had discovered that some of them were not so bad. She still shuddered at seeing her Jan in one of those uniforms, but she had since learned that many Poles had been conscripted into the Nazi army, whether they liked it or not. She supposed that they were simply doing whatever they had to do to survive.

She had a moment of shame when she realized that what she had done was no different from what Jan had done. She now had papers indicating that her name was Elisabeth Brodt, a German version of her own name.³ Though she had been very close to completing her medical degree, the Niemcy were suspicious of any educated people in this area of the world.

As her accent was obviously Polish, she did what many had done, claimed to be from what the intelligent learned to refer to as the German areas illegally annexed by Poland after the first war. In her case, she claimed to be from Lauban (Lubań in Polish) in Silesia, an area which had already been reclaimed by the Reich.

Currently she was employed as a nurse in a hospital taken over by the Germans. Though still in the capital city, she dared not visit her old friends or even her parents' flat. Any suspicion that she was Polish would have led to her being shot out of hand or transported to a camp. She had heard the rumors. The Polish intelligentsia were being slaughtered by the Nazis. Any hint of her true nationality or that she had been training as a doctor would be a death sentence for her.

"Elisabeth!" She turned as the German doctor hailed her. She was treated like dirt in this place, what was it with these Nazis?


Caporal Guillaume Micheaux, late of the 142e régiment d'infanterie of the 8e division d'infanterie, stood in the parlor of his cousin's small house on the outskirts of Reims. She had provided him with civilian clothing, the rough attire of a farm laborer but it blended in nicely with the other civilians. The clothes had been her husband's, Pierre had been killed in the initial fighting in the Ardennes around Sedan. Guillaume had liked the man, a lot.

"How are you doing Michelle, now that, well now that ..." Guillaume had trouble saying the words.

Michelle Cordonnier (née Micheaux) shook her head, "Now that I'm a widow? Is that what you mean Guillaume? I thought the army might make you less, I don't know, polite?"

Guillaume chuckled, "Well, I'm a little less polite than I used to be, but around my family? Never!"

"I am doing well enough, I visit your mother every day, and why don't you go see her?"

"Les Boches paroled me, they didn't let me go. If I visit maman, they will know. I haven't reported in yet, I'm thinking of going into the forest and joining the resistance. Or perhaps trying to get to England and join De Gaulle ..."

"De Gaulle!?" Michelle barked at her cousin, "he is simply another politician, if he wanted to fight, why didn't he stop the Boches from taking Paris?!"

Guillaume shook his head, "If only it were so simple. I must go, thank you for the clothing, and the food. Let maman know that I'm alive and well, tell her someone told you that, don't admit to anyone that you've seen me. I don't want you getting in trouble."

"There are no Boches here, no occupiers, they are all in the major towns and the cities." Michelle protested.

"Don't underestimate those bastards, soon they will be everywhere. There are also those who will collaborate, to live a better life helping them. Be wary. Now, I must go my dear."

He kissed his cousin on the cheek, then left quickly, without looking back. He didn't know what he would do, but he refused to do the bidding of the Nazis and their minions. Somehow, he must continue the fight. Somehow get back into the war which had ended without him firing a single round.

His honor demanded it!




¹ Pomerania in English
² The German Armed Forces - the Army (Heer), the Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the Navy (Kriegsmarine). This didn't include the Waffen SS, who were an arm of the Nazi Party for all intents and purposes.
³ Chlebek can be translated into English as "bread." There is also a German surname "Brot" (literally bread) of which Brodt is a variant spelling.

Monday, May 23, 2022

"God is Great, Beer is good, People are Crazy" troisième partie

 So there we were...* Deep in the heart of Texas in the midst of a very severe drought (somewhere around an inch of rain this year so far and we're about to enter the dry season). Yesterday a huge thunderstorm popped up and the radar return was pink and purple.  Unfortunately it went south of Rancho Juvat and we got nothing. 

It was a mist opportunity.

Thank you, thank you verr much. Be sure and tip the wait staff.

Been a pretty good week overall although I did get a bit of bad news.  Went back to the ENT Doc for my post-meds follow up on my sinus infection.  Part of the visit was a cat scan of my head.  Apparently, my right maxillary sinus is nearly totally full of fluid.  So they've got me scheduled on the 9th for a "procedure" to clear it.  It involves a balloon up the nose and then inflated.  I'll be sedated but awake.

Sounds like fun, don't it?

But the good news is MBD and MG came and stayed with Mrs. J and I for the past week.  Pastor Bob is on a Men's retreat  in Alabama.  He, and they, will be back home as this post hits the web.  But it has been fun, memory recovering, educational,  family bonding in the interim.

MG is way more developed than the last time we saw her.  She'll be 7 months in a couple of days.  She's not talking yet, but is very vocal and does a pretty good job of communicating happiness or wet diapers/hunger.  She's also able to stand up, but requires a bit of stabilization, so we're practicing that exercise in a lap with hands very close to her armpits.


 

This Grandparent gig is even more fun than my previous most fun gig (something dealing with altitude and hundreds of MPH).  Besides, I doubt my current shape would stand the previous funnest gig.  

But one of my "opportunities"to spread my Grandfatherly knowledge to my youngest relative was in showing her how to, and assisting her with, eating semi-solid food.  In this case, a puree of apples, strawberries and beets. (No Beans, I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to try it myself.)

Things went swimmingly!


 Even though she needed a bath and I a shower shortly thereafter, we both got a lot of laughs.

If the Olympics ever decide swimming should be conducted in a pool of a puree of apples, strawberries and beets, she's a shoe-in for a Gold.

UPDATE:





 

 

Had an interesting revelation about one of our restaurants that, pre-WuFlu, we'd frequently visit.  The owners took advantage of the relative lack of customers to do some renovation and decorating.  This was the first time in a long time that we ate inside (Tx gets hot, even in May).  We had just ordered and I'm looking around when my eye catches this.


Astute Chant readers will immediately recognize the gentleman in the top left corner.  And I was aware that Admiral Nimitz was born in the 'Burg and his family owned a hotel in town (which is now "The National Museum of the Pacific War" officially, and, locally, "The Nimitz Museum".  Smithsonian quality museum, definitely a "must see" if in the area).  

Anyhow, what I didn't know was the room I was sitting in was the room that Admiral Nimitz was actually born in.  The Life article had been found in a closed off room when they were renovating and they decided to hang it for the folks that have an interest in such things.

I asked our waitress about it, she filled me in about the significance and told me a bit more that had been discovered.


This is the area we usually sit in when we visit this restaurant.  Very relaxing.  What the waitress told us was that BITD, the white building on the left behind the red umbrella was the Nimitz family's first home.  The building across the breezeway to the right was the Nimitz' Butcher Shop.  The Nimitz Museum is across the street and to the right as you leave that breezeway.  

Little things like that, bring history to life.  Or...It does for me.

Which pretty much ends the events of the week.  Lots of fun.

But...As one might suspect from the post title, not everything went swimmingly.

Past posts with variations of this post's title can be found here and here. We've also had 2 near misses with regard to the oven/stove in our guest houses.  The first of which, the guest was looking to toast some French Bread for dinner.  Instead of looking in the drawer below the oven (an obvious place to store oven pots and pans), they used the plastic mat used under the dish rack to funnel water into the sink.  Dried it off, put the bread on it and put it under the broiler.  Didn't mention anything about it to us, but we do check around when we clean.  Took us a very long time to clean the oven. They received a very low guest rating on our review of their stay.

Then there was the guy who got up early and wanted to make his wife some tea and serve it to her in bed.  Didn't want to wake her up, so didn't turn on the lights.  Grabbed the tea kettle, filled it full of water, put it on the stove and turned the burner on high.  Went outside for a breath of air, came in a few minutes later to see the electric tea kettle with a plastic bottom was on fire.  Fortunately, he kept his wits about him, grabbed the fire extinguisher and put the fire out.  He then called us and explained what had happened and apologized profusely.  

We had a couple of guests last week.  A twosome, mother and daughter.  Mom was in my age bracket, daughter was in my kid's.  Spent a lot of time in town shopping, and sat on the front porch in the evening talking.  So far, so good, right?

Well, not exactly.  Because of the drought, the county has been on a burn ban for months.  No open flames, period.  Mrs. J being the thoughtful, romantic person she is, removed the candles for the tables outside and replaced them with battery powered candle look a likes, complete with flickering "Flame".

Well....

Apparently, they tried, and succeeded to set it aflame.

We think alcohol just might have been involved.

So, based on all that,  I'm thinking Billy Currington might need to be invoked again.

Peace out, Y'all!





Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Pause That Refreshes

Scottish Infantrymen of the 8th Royal Scots, 15th Infantry Division, pause to regroup after coming
under heavy fire from German forces. Near Tilburg, North Brabant, Netherlands. 27 October 1944.

(Source)
All right lads and lasses, it's time for me to regroup, straighten out the lines, get the replacements settled in, and figure out just where I'm going with this story. It all tends to flow from my imagination (often willy-nilly) and there are times I need to take a deep breath and get it all sorted.

Right?

I've introduced some new characters, from the Royal Air Force and the Deutsches Luftwaffe, we've re-established contact with von Lüttwitz and his lads. We've also seen what Billy Wallace and his boys are up to, not to mention the "new" Poles with their French sniper in tow.

I realized the other day, that Jan Kołodziej and the love of his life, Elżbieta Chlebek, are still languishing in Poland, unaccounted for in some time. The last we saw of them was Jan getting a dirty look from Elżbieta as he is now wearing the uniform of the hated Niemcy.

Jan did it to survive of course and return to his love, but Elżbieta doesn't know that. I need to get that situation squared away and updated. But it might take a while, all of the action at the moment is along the Channel coast and it's mostly in the air. (I'm not sure if I'll throw some sailors in shortly, I mean it's the English Channel and there were naval units all over the place!)

But I do want to touch base with Jan and Elżbieta shortly, even if it's just in passing. Jan is a very important character in my D-Day to VE-Day story, as some of you might recall.

Did anyone recognize the name of Willi Hoffmeister and his tankers? He was in the later book quite a bit, right up until near the end as I recall. Willi and his crew are going to see a lot of action in the East and perhaps even North Africa, I haven't decided yet on including the Afrika Korps in this tale. We shall see.

Also, as the war progresses we'll start seeing the Americans creep in, which makes me lean towards including North Africa as that's where Flavio Gentile got his start. (Who? What, you've forgotten Stump already?)


With all of that being said, it was a long week, productive and busy, but long. I'm getting some laser work done on the left eye next Friday which, while it doesn't worry me, does give me something to stress about. (For glaucoma, it's a procedure to shrink the tissue which pumps moisture into the eye, need to slow that as the increased liquid in the same volume increases the pressure, which isn't good. My doc says the eye drops aren't really cutting it anymore.)

Ear doc on Monday (geez, I am falling apart) for some issues I've had lately. So this coming week will probably be hectic as well. Been busy, will get busier still.

So, I'll get back to the book shortly, but the Muse asked for a breather which I gladly gave her, after all, I need it too. She comes up with the ideas, I just type. (And boy my fingers are tired!)

So stay tuned, hang in there, smoke 'em if ya got 'em, (I know, I know, not good, but I used to do that so I understand the urge, it's been ten years since I puffed, so far, so good, knock on wood and all that) and be cognizant of the fact that our characters need to be standing by for heavy rolls. It's war dontcha know?

See you Tuesday or so, stay frosty.



Saturday, May 21, 2022

Plans and Schemes ...

Invasion barges assembled at the German port of Wilhelmshaven.
Bundesarchiv
Oberleutnant Ferdinand Busch shook his head as he and newly promoted Fahnenjunker-Unterfeldwebel Jürgen von Lüttwitz surveyed the collection of river barges tied up to the pier in the fishing port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer roughly 32 kilometers to the southwest of Calais. The port was on the River Liane where it emptied into the Channel.

"What do you think Jürgen? Do you think we can ride these over the water to Dungeness, under tow mind you, into the teeth of the Royal Navy? All the while with the Royal Air Force overhead? Do you like our chances?"

Jürgen wasn't sure how to act sometimes around the new company commander. Busch seemed serious and all business a great deal of the time, then at other times he acted almost whimsically. Jürgen chose his words carefully.

"Are you sure this isn't just some grand ruse to make the English think we're going to invade? I'm sure the Luftwaffe can handle the RAF, but the Royal Navy? Our flyboys are good at supporting ground offensives, no doubt they can fight an enemy air force as well, I mean, they proved that in Poland and during the spring offensive here in France. But attacks on naval vessels? I'm just not convinced that they have the wherewithal to do that. Sorry to sound so pessimistic Herr Oberleutnant, but that's my honest opinion."

"Not to worry Jürgen, we are unter vier Augen¹ here, my opinion is in line with yours. Frankly, I think the Führer is bluffing."

Busch had been badly wounded in Poland, he was missing the little finger of his left hand and was badly scarred on the left side of his face. For all that, he was an athletic man, very smart, and popular with his men. It was obvious that he had, at least physically, fully recovered from his wounds.

"I know you're not an officer yet, Jürgen, but I consider you to be one. Has there been any word on you being sent back to Germany to attend officer school?"

"Nein, Herr Oberleutnant, the battalion commander has remonstrated with headquarters on a number of occasions, as he put it, 'If I'm expected to invade f**king England, then I need my experienced non-commissioned officers, rather than having them back in the Reich learning which f**king fork to use at a formal dinner.' So I'm still here, as is every other Fahnenjunker in the battalion." Jürgen grinned as he said that, Major Kurt Hassel was something of a character.

Hassel had been a very young sergeant at the end of the Great War. He had then found himself in one of the many Freikorps involved in the fighting in the east in 1918 and 1919. They also were involved in the many uprisings and alarms which led to the fall of the Weimar Republic.

He was an ardent nationalist, but didn't care for the Nazis, they were too "political" as he put it. But the man was a fighter and had gained a commission when Hitler had rearmed Germany. By the Anschluß he was in command of a company and for the invasion of France he had been given a battalion. But the man was something of an oddity among the other officers. Jürgen was given to understand that he was not looked upon fondly by the more traditional officers.

"We best be getting back to the troops Jürgen, I fear they will get up to no good in our absence."


Unteroffizier Willi Hoffmeister and his crew had assisted with loading the company's armored vehicles aboard the flatcars which would take them east. He had been surprised that most of the armored units were being moved back into Germany for refitting.

"So Willi, do you think we might get a spot of home leave?" Panzerschütze Ulrich Neuhäuser, the crew's radioman, had a sweetheart back home and was keen to get back and see her. Though he had had opportunities with the ladies here in France, he had remained faithful to his Hannelore.

"I don't know Junge, the Führer has not seen fit to advise me of the movements of our division. Hell, for all I know we may get nowhere near your hometown. Where did you say you were from?" Willi asked.

"Cottbus, well, near Cottbus. The village of Gallinchen." Neuhäuser answered.

"Cottbus? I suppose we could wind up at Wünsdorf, that's less than a hundred kilometers from Cottbus. Of course, if they send us to Munster instead?"

"Munster, in Niedersachsen²? That's a long ways from Cottbus!" Neuhäuser protested.

Gefreiter Fritz Weber, the driver, laughed and said, "Haven't you heard, Ulrich? There's a war on! Come on man, while we're preparing to smite the enemies of the Fatherland, we can't have you haring off chasing some woman!"

Neuhäuser blushed.


Flying Officer Reginald Morley entered the hospital with some trepidation, he was supposed to meet Assistant Section Leader Janice Worthington there, she was having her bandages changed, or something, Morley wasn't that clear on the subject.

"Flying Officer Morley! You needn't have troubled yourself Sir."

When Morley heard that voice, he stood up and turned to her, he must have looked somewhat shocked. The left side of her face was shrouded in bandages.

"You must find me hideous." she said, her eyes lowered.

"Not at all Assistant Section Leader Worthington, I find you most, er, ah ..." Morley stumbled over the words.

"Most what, Sir?"

"Well, damn me, fetching, you're quite lovely, bandages and all. Now, shall we go to lunch? With this horrid weather I won't be flying and I believe you have some convalescent leave, or something?"

"Just three days. The doctors say I'm fine, they just want me to take it slow for a bit. Even though Flight Lieutenant Hansen told me to take all the time I need, I'm keen to get back to work. I lost friends in that raid. I want to do my bit, I want to help you lads kill Huns. Oh dear, that's very vicious of me, isn't it?"

Morley slid his arm into hers and patted her hand, "Not at all, love, not at all. I think we'd all like to kill more Huns these days. Now let us be off, there's a lovely pub down in the High Street which I've heard actually has a source for fresh food, even meat I've been told."


"Damn it O'Donnell, you'll put on these bloody corporal stripes and you'll bloody well like it!" The voice of Flight Sergeant Clive Mackenzie bellowed causing men further down the line of dispersal huts to jump.

Willis O'Donnell, who had thought to stay in the lower ranks forever, looked at the stripes Mackenzie held in his hand, said hand being waved in O'Donnell's face at that moment. "Well, Flight Sergeant, if ye think it's for the best ..."

"Wot I think ain't got nuffin' to do with bleeding reality!" Mackenzie's voice, it was said, could be heard two counties over. "Get the bleeding things on yer uniform. TODAY!"

"SAH!" O'Donnell barked back at the Flight Sergeant.

Mackenzie's face turned beet red at being called sir. "I am not, repeat not, a bleeding officer. I WORK FOR A BLOODY LIVING!!! Now get yourself gone laddie before I overrule the bleedin' WingCo and bust you down to Aircraftman 2nd Bloody Class and put you on permanent kitchen duty. GO!"

O'Donnell scrambled out the door and headed for the hangar. D for Dog was having its engine replaced and he needed to make sure it was done properly, he supposed he should sew the stripes on first. He looked at the sky.

"Bloody weather guessers say it's going to be like this all week. Huh, probably be sunny tomorrow then, they never get it right." he muttered.

O'Donnell continued to mutter as he headed for his quarters. Though he wouldn't admit it, he was rather satisfied with the promotion, no doubt it wasn't the WingCo at all but his pilot Morley who was behind this. Heh, he probably thinks I can afford better booze now.



¹ In private, literally "under four eyes," i.e. between just two people (German)
² Lower Saxony (German)

Friday, May 20, 2022

Herr Heinkel Comes Calling ...

Heinkel He-111 medium bombers
Bundesarchiv
Flying Officer Reginald Morley was airborne with his squadron well before the sun was up. As they climbed the world lightened until they reached an altitude where the sun was already shining. The earth below was still in shadow. Morley was still shaken by the events of the previous day, but miraculously the woman he cared for had gotten word to him.

She was alive. He had asked her if she was hurt, all she had said was, "I'm all right, I'll heal in time. Just some cuts and bruises."

He had taken her at her word, which had given him a great deal of relief. Now he had to focus on his flying, the RDF station to the north had given them warning that another raid was forming up across the Channel. The controller had ordered the squadron to orbit over The Solent at 10,000 feet.

As they continued to climb and head out over the Isle of Wight, Morley nodded. Already the altimeter was passing 12,500 feet. The squadron commander wanted lots of height when they encountered the Huns. No more getting bounced by Messerschmitts if he could help it. The controller wasn't up here, they were.

"Green Flight, Green Leader, bogies at 12 o'clock, our angels. Look for the fighter escort."

Before anyone could answer, another voice came over the R/T, "Green Flight, this is Yellow Leader, with twelve Spitfires, we'll get the 109s, you chaps go for the bombers."

"Green Flight, WILCO."


Hauptmann Theodor Schenk sat comfortably in his seat keeping his eyes moving in all directions as they approached the English coast. The formation had formed up, gone south, then west, trying to feint the British into thinking that a raid on Bournemouth was coming. As they had flown across the Channel they had gradually slid to the north, their real target was Portsmouth.

His crew were all veterans of Poland and the recent operations in France, this was their first trip to England. Intelligence had indicated that there was a gap in the Englanders' Funkmeß¹, a gap they hoped to exploit to hit RAF airfields in the Portsmouth area.

A call from the aircraft's dorsal gunner alerted them all to the fact that their fighter escort, some 2,500 meters higher than them, were being engaged by English Spitfires.

"All stations, keep your eyes peeled, if the Spits are attacking our escorts, their Hurricanes must be around as well." Schenk sat up and focused. If they were attacked he intended to jink just enough to throw off the enemies' aim but still stay on track for the bomb run.

"Hartmann, you better take your position." Schenk instructed his bomb aimer. Max Hartmann slid forward into the nose of the aircraft and readied his equipment.


Morley was well above the flight of Heinkels, it was time, "Blue Flight, slip into right echelon, then follow me down. I'll take the aircraft on the left, Two take the center, Three, the bird to the right. All right chaps, let's go."

Morley advanced his throttle then bunted the nose to put his Hurricane into a dive. He wanted to pass through the enemy formation with enough speed to throw off their aim and then come around for another pass. If they could break up the formation, that would be mission accomplished in his book.


Gefreiter Heinrich Stüber called out, "Hurricanes, dead astern!" as he began to engage the incoming British aircraft. The Englanders were jinking just enough to mess up his sight picture, but he began firing anyway. He didn't notice the winking along the leading edge of the British aircraft as the pilot triggered the eight .303 machine guns, four to each wing. It wouldn't have mattered if he had.

Stüber sat down hard, he didn't understand why he had lost his grip on his gun. He only sat there a moment before he toppled to the floor of the aircraft. Unconscious and losing blood rapidly, he would die before his crewmates knew he had been hit. But they were in a fight for their lives, a fight Stüber had already lost.


"Blue Lead, Blue Two, sorry Reg, but I've copped it. Engine is smoking, oil is spattering my windscreen and I've got a nasty hole in me. I'm off for home."

As Morley and his surviving wingman arched up and to the left, he caught sight of Teddy Wilson's aircraft. It was indeed smoking and losing altitude.

"Teddy, jump when you get over land. Don't try to ride her down, we can get you a new aircraft, we can't get another Teddy."

"I'll try Reg, but she's starting to burn, I'm going over the side now. Cheers!"


The Heinkel was dying, Schenk had managed to turn her back to France but the left engine was smoking badly, the right seemed to be losing oil pressure and at least two of his crew were hit. He had no idea that Stüber was already dead. But Hartmann lay wounded and bleeding in his bomb aimer's position and the side gunner reported that he too was hit but could still man his guns.

"Kurt, how is the radio?"

Kurt Graebner responded, "I can transmit, but I think the receiver's dead. Can you keep her in the air long enough to get home?"

As Graebner asked that, the right engine coughed and seized up, the oil was gone. "No, transmit a Mayday, I'm going to try and put her down near the rescue buoy off Barfleur, that's as close as I can get to land. If the Seenotdienst can get to us, we'll make it through this."

Max Hartmann stirred, coughing he said, "Provided we survive the crash, Herr Hauptmann."

Graebner nodded, "There is that, there is that."


Morley touched down, Sergeant Roger Friedman's Hurricane behind him and to his right. He wished he could feel the elation he should have felt at badly damaging one Heinkel and shooting down another. Friedman had a kill as well.

As they pulled up to dispersal, Morley noted that, as always, O'Donnell was waiting.

Morley sat in the cockpit for a few moments as the engine shut down. After a bit, all he could hear was the ticking of the hot engine in front of him. O'Donnell knew enough to wait for Morley to collect himself.

"Any word on Teddy?" Morley asked, hoping against hope that his downed wingman was alive.

O'Donnell shook his head, "Mr. Wilson went into the Channel, Sir. His chute was spotted but an offshore wind pushed him further out to sea. By the time the rescue boat got to him, he'd drowned."

"Damn it." Morley sat a moment longer, then climbed onto the wing of the aircraft, with O'Donnell's help.

He stood there, looking to the east, towards the Channel. He would have to write a letter to Teddy's Mum and Dad. They'd already lost one son in France, now this. He looked at O'Donnell, "I hope you've improved the contents of that flask Chiefy."

O'Donnell nodded and handed it to his pilot, "Whiskey, Sir. Traded with a fellow I know over at our sister squadron."

"Nothing vital I trust?"

"Of course not Sir, just a few typewriter ribbons that I nicked from the Station Commander's office."

Morley managed a smile.


Schenk's Heinkel made it to the rescue buoy, two men out of his crew survived the water landing. Schenk did not.

Final tally for the day: Four Heinkels shot down, three returned to France with dead and wounded crewmembers aboard. Two of the escorting Bf-109s were shot down to one Spitfire damaged.

Teddy Wilson was the only loss among the Hurricane crews.





¹ Radio-measuring, what the Germans called radar.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

They Also Serve

WAAF radar operator Denise Miley plotting aircraft on a cathode ray tube in the Receiver Room at Bawdsey 'Chain Home' station,
May 1945.

Imperial War Museum
Flying Officer Reginald Morley was on his bicycle heading back to his station. He had spent an enjoyable evening with his WAAF¹ friend, Assistant Section Leader Janice Worthington. Their nights off had coincided so they had the rare chance to spend some time together.

He had met her a fortnight ago during a briefing where the pilots of Morley's squadron had had the chance to tour one of the Chain Home radar facilities, where Worthington worked. The two had hit it off and had become good friends. Morley worried that he was becoming far too attached to her. With the war and his being on ops nearly everyday, he didn't want to burden her with the thought of loss. He could tell she really cared about him.

Facing the Huns didn't bother him, hurting her in any way did. He needed to think this through carefully.

He arrived at the gate to his station to be greeted by the sentry with, "Weather's supposed to be good tomorrow Sir. The WingCo² wants everyone to get a good night's sleep, the mess is closed up tight, as is the Officer's Club.

"Right-o Corp, I'm off to bed anyway, sunrise isn't that far away."


Flieger Hans Decker was flying with the Gruppenkommandeur³ this morning, Oberstleutnant Erich Furtwängler. His regular pilot, Feldwebel Ernst Wolfram was in hospital, a nasty tear in his side which had taken multiple stitches to close. The doctors wanted him to rest for at least a couple of weeks.

Though nervous flying with a new pilot, Furtwängler was a superb "stick," he made the big Ju 87 dance. Decker thought that it made Wolfram seem almost ham-handed at the controls.

The target today were the strange aerials along the English coast. Intelligence reports varied as to what they were, the Geschwader's Ic was convinced that the aerials had something to do with the British early warning system, something he called Funkmessgerät⁴. Apparently one could detect large metal objects by bouncing radio beams off of them. To Decker it sounded like black magic.


"Janice?" Flight Lieutenant Bill Hansen spoke as he laid his hand on Worthington's shoulder.

"Sir?"

"I'm going over to the mess hut, care for anything? A tin of biscuits perhaps, tea?" He had removed his hand from her shoulder, not wanting to give the much younger WAAF the wrong impression. Hansen was in his fifties and had been recalled to active service due to his experience in planning air operations in the Great War. He had wanted to be a pilot but his eyesight was bad enough to disqualify him.

Truth be told, he loved the task of determining the path and target of incoming raids. It was a game to him. Much more exciting than determining how many aircraft carrying how many bombs would be needed to destroy a target. Looking back on things, those raids were pinpricks compared to the tempo of operations in modern war.

"Biscuits would be nice Sir, a cuppa perhaps?"

"Ladies, anything for you?" Hansen asked the other women in the Receiving Room, most of whom had just come on duty.

No one wanted anything so he moved off. Stepping outside he couldn't help but notice what a glorious day it was. The sun was coming up, seeming to rise from the waters of the Channel and lighting the sky with a glorious rose-like hue on what few clouds there were in the sky.

As he took a deep breath and sighed at the simple pleasures of life, he turned to head to the mess hut. A voice from the door to the hut containing the Receiving Room stopped him dead in his tracks. "Better come back in, Sir. Looks like a big raid forming up over the Cotentin."

Sighing once more, Hansen went back in, tea and biscuits would have to wait.


Oberstleutnant Furtwängler transmitted over the radio, "Coast in sight. All echelons get ready. Adler⁵ flight, clear?"

The commander of the Messerschmitt escort radioed back, "Sky is clear, no enemy in sight. Waidmanns Heil!⁶"

As the target, a group of huts near the base of one of the tall aerials slipped into the window of the floor of the aircraft, Furtwängler pushed the aircraft into a dive approaching ninety degrees. Decker felt as if he'd left his stomach at the altitude the Ju 87 had tipped over into its attack. But it was a thrill he never tired of.

Decker felt the aircraft lighten as its bombload was released, then he felt the crushing weight of gravity as they pulled out of their dive. He could barely hold his head up, he nearly died of fright as he saw one of the tall aerials pass close aboard. How on earth had the pilot missed that?


Morley had the gear up on his Hurricane nearly as quickly as they had left the ground. The warning of the raid had come in very late and his squadron was scrambling for altitude. The men knew that they were too late to stop the raid, but they could possibly catch the Germans on their trip home. A dead German was a German who couldn't bomb England again.

"Morbid thought for such a pretty day," Morley muttered aloud as he checked that his wingmen were still with him. They were, though young Hawkins was again having trouble keeping up.

"Blue Three, close it up laddie."

"Three!"

He was a good lad, but a very green pilot, this was his first op.


Hansen slowly regained consciousness, his head ached and his ears were ringing. One bomb had hit very close to the hut. He looked around, the Receiving Room was a shambles. He could hear someone crying dimly through the ringing in his ears, he also saw that at least two of the girls in the hut were on the floor, and not moving.

"Sir, sir, all you all right?" Hansen became aware of someone shaking him. He turned and looked into the eyes of Janice Worthington, her face was bloody and her uniform was torn.

He shook his head and immediately regretted it, "I'm fine Janice, I'm fine. Are we still on the air?"

"No sir, the generator room took a direct hit. We have no power at all, the screens are all dark and the phones are dead." Janice drew a sleeve over her face. "Sir."

"What is it Janice?" With the young woman's help, Hansen managed to regain his feet.

"Martha and Jane, Sir."

"What about them?"

"I think they're dead Sir."

"Damn it." was all he could say.


The Hurricanes arrived far too late to even intercept the raid as it moved away over the Channel. It was discovered later that an inexperienced controller had vectored the closest squadron in the air in the wrong direction, Morley's squadron was too late getting into the air to do anything at all.

As his element circled, he looked down and recognized the target. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he realized that was Janice's station below. Three buildings were destroyed, a fourth, the mess hut he thought, was on fire. Dear Lord, he prayed that she was all right.


After the day's operations were complete, Morley received word that Janice's station was offline completely, for the moment there was a gap in coverage along their part of the coast. Orders were for them to take off before the sun rose and patrol that gap.

Word was also received that the station had suffered twelve dead and upwards of thirty wounded. No word on names though. Morley spent a very sleepless night, wondering. He resolved that, should Janice still live, he would tell her how he felt about her. Perhaps even ask her to marry, but he had to wait.

He had never prayed so hard in his life.





¹ In the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, an Assistant Section Leader is the equivalent of a Corporal. (More info here.)
² Short for Wing Commander.
³ Gruppenkommandeur is a Luftwaffe position (not rank), that is the equivalent of a commander of a group or wing in other air forces. A Gruppenkommandeur usually has the rank of Major or Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel), and commands a Gruppe, which is a sub-unit of a Geschwader. A Gruppe usually consists of three or four Staffeln (each of which is commanded by a Staffelkapitän). (Source)
⁴ Literally "radio meter," an older term for radar (German)
⁵ Eagle (German)
⁶ A traditional German hunting greeting, which hunters would say wishing each other luck in their search for game.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Angel

Heinkel He 59 of the Seenotdienst¹
(Source)
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)