Thursday, January 20, 2022


Troops of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) Embark for France
Private Billy Wallace of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers had been rather pleased to be assigned to garrison duty in Edinburgh. His Mum and Da' lived some fifty-five miles away in Kilmalcolm, when he wasn't carousing with his mates, he'd visit them whenever he could.

But now with war breaking out in Europe, he rather wished that his battalion would be called up to join the BEF, which was getting ready to move over the Channel to France.

"So, Sar'nt Major, when d'ya think we'll be headin' for France? Get stuck in against the Huns, help out the Poles, I mean we're at war aren't we?"

Sergeant Major John Brown looked at Wallace for a long minute before he spoke, "We'll go when the bloody government tells us to go, and not a second before. Anxious to get shot at are ye?"

"No Sar'nt Major, it's just that I joined up to fight, not to spend my days square bashing."

Brown shook his head, "Ah the innocence of youth, ye'll see action before you know it. Besides, the Frogs will probably get stuck in well before we do."

Like Wallace, Private James Fitzhugh of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment was wondering when they would go to France. He realized that he wouldn't be going any time soon as he was still in training, learning to drive a tank at Bovington Camp in Dorset.

His father had been wounded badly in the Great War and had cautioned his son about being too anxious to go to war. "Believe me son, you don't want to go to war. It's a nasty horrible business. Best hope the politicos find some way of settling this before we have to go."

"But Dad, we've declared war, how could it be stopped now?"

"If people started being reasonable for one thing, why the Hell should we care about bloody Poland, it's practically on the other side of the world as far as I'm concerned. Let the bloody continentals sort it out."

Jan Kołodziej and his two men, Kornel Jabłoński and Patryk Kalinowski, were sitting in an abandoned farmhouse, it was apparent that the occupants had left in a hurry. Clothing, pots and pans, and other household items were scattered about.

Kalinowski was stuffing his face with bread, the only thing they had to eat. "So Jan, should we surrender to the Niemcy? I think we're lost."

"Do you see any Niemcy to surrender to? Should we go find them? More than likely they'd shoot us on sight. No lad, we keep moving east until we link up with our unit or another one. The army has to make a stand somewhere, they can't keep running."

Jabłoński looked at Patryk and said, "Are you afraid Patryk? You've seen what the Niemcy are capable of, and yet you want to try and surrender?"

That evening they had watched from the cover of a small copse of trees as the German aircraft, four of them, had strafed a column of refugees fleeing the fighting. Each plane made multiple passes until nothing moved on the road. Men, women, children, all were killed without mercy.

"We're all afraid lads, only a fool isn't, but Kornel's right, the Niemcy are in a killing mood. You're welcome to stay, but I'm moving out." Jan stood up, "In fact right now. Let's go!"

Soldat Guillaume Micheaux of the 142e régiment d'infanterie of the 8e division d'infanterie had sentry duty on the Maginot Line. Rumors were rife that his army, the 3rd, along with the 4th and 5th Armies were to strike into Germany and advance to the German fixed defenses of what the Germans called the Westwall. He gave no credence to those rumors, after all, hadn't France won the Great War by letting the Germans break themselves on the French defenses?

Three billion francs had been spent to build the Maginot Line, why advance? Let the Germans come to them. He had mentioned that to his sergeant, Yves Poisson.

The sergeant had lit his pipe, drawn on it to get it going, then after letting out a cloud of smoke said, "I agree with you lad, but we have an agreement with the Poles. Les Boche have attacked our allies, so the honor of France demands that we attack the Germans. They are weak here in the West, most of their strength is in Poland, now is the time to strike."

Guillaume nodded thoughtfully, what Sergent Poisson said made perfect sense.

So why were they still sitting in their fortifications, he had asked.

"We need to mobilize our reserves first, fill out the units like ours who depend on filling the ranks with reservists. Patience lad, a week, or perhaps two, will see us advancing into Germany, a la baïonnette!¹"

Guillaume didn't think he would like that, advancing into machine gun fire with bayonets fixed? Hadn't his own father died doing just that in 1916, at Verdun?

The politicians in both London and Paris were afraid to make the first move against the Germans. Talking of offensives into Germany was one thing, actually doing so was quite another. Reserves were being mobilized, the British had yet to land in strength.

Besides which, they feared that any overt move against the Germans would bring the Luftwaffe over the cities of Britain and France. Best to wait until everything was in place, two weeks, perhaps the 19th of September, and they would be ready.

Surely the Poles could hold until then?

¹ With bayonets fixed.


  1. Sarge, what sticks out to me in this vignette is how far behind everyone else was in Europe. It almost seems as if everyone else thinks that the Germans were where they were in terms of planning and execution: vague, hoping for peace, and certainly not in the midst of executing anything like a war. The German government had a plan; the Western Allies had a series of hopes and aspirations.

    The other thing that sticks out - thanks Soldat Micheaux - is the assumption that this time would be like last time. Said, perhaps, millions of soldiers and civilians since the history of war began.

    1. When you look at what's going on now in Eastern Europe, you have to be worried. While past performance is no guarantee of future results, you never know.

      History may not repeat itself, but I'm increasingly leaning towards the concept of "it rhymes."

  2. Especially where geography provides familiar scenery for new play in every century...

  3. Yes. The echoes become faint and are ignored, then forgetten. Until the return with key changes and new costumes.

    1. The Gods of the Copybook Headings comes to mind.

    2. Kipling saw these things in his time, it's unfortunate that we see them in ours.

  4. As I watch that "they" show me (on the news) happening in Europe today my first question is "why is this happening?". My next thought is that it's been a long time since we had a big war in Europe...

    1. The why is rather complex, not sure if I understand most of what's behind the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, but I would blame traditional Russian fears of the West. And yes, it's been a long time since the last big war in Europe. Seventy-seven years to be precise.

    2. It is, unfortunately, long overdue.

    3. Just from a historical viewpoint. I don't want one, either.

    4. StB #1 - If the Euros want a war, they'll get one the usual way - bad diplomacy, people being assholes, and an endemic inability to learn from past mistakes.

    5. StB #2 - Only fools want war.

  5. Sitzkrieg? My grandfather got some nasty stomach virus right before his overseas shipment, so his war was more like a Shi... You know, not gonna finish the joke/story. :P

    1. Heh.

      Which leads to the question of where does a bear ...

  6. OT- Peter Grant has some very interesting comments from an author's perspective on revenue from his books, which Sarge may want to contemplate.
    Followed by some great squirrel/religious humor, and an astute observations on Ukraine.

    John Blackshoe

    1. Peter is very good at what he does. (He's on the sidebar.)

  7. Hey Old AFSarge;

    The French wound up going into Saarland for a bit then retreating if memory serves, and it was a reconnaissance in force, and the French didn't go very far, and they got cold feet and returned to France. The Maginot Line worked too good, the Germans went around it instead. And you are bringing in more characters, another stellar installment.

    1. It was envisioned as a major attack using over forty divisions, but it fizzled.

    newest update on Ukraine standoff
    global naval exercises, huh...
    it almost seems like some animals that get puffed to scare potential predators...


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