Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Bridge

Pont-Rémy. Chars allemands traversant un pont, fin mai 1940
6FI67 Archives de la Somme¹

As the platoon came out of the woods on the heights above the town, Willi spotted a sign along the road. It had been knocked down, but there was no other reason for the sign than to announce the name of the village they were approaching. The sign gave the name of the place, Pont-Rémy, about six kilometers up river from Abbeville according to Willi's map. 

"Fritz," Willi announced over the intercom, "slow down. I don't like this."

Willi felt the tank slow as Fritz simply let up on the accelerator. He was sitting low in his hatch, it was open but he was using the vision slits. He could see Leutnant Ensbach in his tank, about twenty meters ahead, the distance was opening as Fritz slowed 223. The lieutenant was actually sitting on his open hatch, he was very exposed.

Willi saw the lieutenant turn and it was obvious that Ensbach was angry that 223 was falling back, as was the remainder of the platoon, behind Willi's tank. As the lieutenant began to gesture angrily at 223, all Hell broke loose.

"Can you take him from this range, Jean-Yves?" Sergent Podbielski asked the young Frenchmen.

"I think so, there isn't much wind, shall I?" Jean-Yves asked.

"At your convenience, mon ami."

Willi jumped as he saw the lieutenant clutch his chest then slump to his right. What the Hell? Then Leutnant Ensbach toppled over the side of Panzer 221 and fell heavily to the road. He wasn't moving.

Then Willi saw sparks fly from the side of 221's turret as the tank cut suddenly to the left and drove off the road. Willi could see smoke coming from the commander's cupola, 221 had been hit.

"Fritz! Find us some cover! Horst! Is the gun loaded?" Willi was trying to do twelve things at once, or so it seemed, and everything was in slow motion.

Raising his head slightly, Willi looked to his rear, 222 and 224 were already deploying to Willi's right, away from where the shot which killed 221 had come from. What were they facing? Had to be infantry and anti-tank guns, maybe French tanks, he knew from the Ic² that French armor was in the area. Damn it, where was the Luftwaffe?

"Nice shot, Jean-Yves. Time to cross the river! Chodźmy chłopcy!³"

No sooner had the words left Sergent Podbielski's mouth than the Poles, with their French colleague in tow, were scrambling down the embankment to the small bridge across the Somme. Rumbling down the street which led up the hill and out of town to the north were two Somua S-35 tanks, both heading for the bridge.

The first tank got across the bridge, the second stopped, Podbielski noticed that its turret was facing back up the road, as if to cover the withdrawal. As he watched, an enemy tank moved into the open at the top of the street and stopped.

The Somua fired.

"Scheiße! That was close!" Willi had heard the shot from the French tank go whistling over the top of the turret, it couldn't have been more than a meter over his open hatch. Willi fired the tank's cannon then prepared to fire again.

A quick glance through his sight indicated that there was no need for a second shot at the French Somua. Which he noted was now blocking the bridge they had to have.

Podbielski watched in horror as the German tank fired, he winced at the clang of steel on steel as the German's shot hit the rear of the Somua. Moments later the hatch on top of the turret popped open, as did the main crew hatch on the left side of the vehicle.

Podbielski could see smoke billowing from the top of the turret, he saw a hand rise up out of the turret, then slide back down inside. He shuddered as he could hear the crew screaming inside the tank.

Only one man got out of the side hatch, his tanker's uniform was smoldering. The man took three halting steps before falling to his knees. Soldat Krempa and Soldat Mierzejewski rushed over to the man, Krempa was yelling in French as they did so.

Before they could reach the French tanker, the man fell on his face. By the time Krempa and Mierzejewski reached him, the tanker was dead.

"Damian, Klaudiusz, come on, we need to get out of here!" Podbielski could see the German tank at the top of the street, he didn't think they had seen him and his men yet. Then he saw the turret begin to move.

In his direction.

Willi had seen the infantry only at the last minute. They were beginning to fall back after apparently trying to help one of the tank crewman from the vehicle Willi had just killed. "Horst! Load high explosive, infantry in the open!"

Willi fired the coaxial machine gun as soon as the turret was laid on the target. He had the satisfaction of seeing one of the French soldiers fall to the ground. Before he could open fire again, the Frenchmen had vanished.

Soldat Mariusz Perzan was sobbing with the pain of being hit in both legs. Jean-Yves had dashed out and pulled the man to safety before the German tank could fire at them again. One of the Poles helped him drag the wounded man across the bridge,

They took shelter in a building just down the street. Jean-Yves took post in an upstairs window to cover the street leading from the bridge. He had a front row seat when the French engineers blew the bridge. Though the knocked out French tank was blocking the far side of the bridge, Jean-Yves knew that it could be pushed off the road by a big enough vehicle. The Germans, he was sure, had such vehicles. Better that the bridge was in the Somme, it halted the Boches, for now.

Willi had sworn in frustration when the bridge had been destroyed, he figured that he could have pushed the knocked out Frenchie off the road with his own tank, which would have gotten his platoon over the Somme on the first day. But it was not to be.

It was two days before the engineers had a temporary bridge over the Somme at Pont-Rémy. The first platoon across had been hit by French artillery, which destroyed one tank and damaged two others, the little Panzer IIs weren't very tough.

Worse still, the infantry which had crossed in support of the panzers took heavy casualties, twenty-two dead and thirty-eight wounded.

Only on the fourth day did the Luftwaffe make an appearance.

Then the Panzers could continue south.

To Paris!

¹ Pont-Rémy. German tanks crossing a bridge, end of May 1940 6FI67 Somme Archives
² Intelligence officer
³ Let's go boys! (Polish)

Friday, April 29, 2022

Case Red, Across the Somme

Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) - France 1940
Unteroffizier Willi Hoffmeister was walking back to his tank, the little 38(t)¹ had held up well since the beginning of the offensive. They'd managed to scrounge a new set of tracks for the beast, which the crew had nicknamed "Helga." Officially she was Panzer 223, 2nd Company, 2nd Platoon, 3rd vehicle. He had just come from the Spieß², the unit was ready to move out and hit the French again.

Some of the boys expected an easy time of it, the French seemed in disarray, but Willi had seen the intelligence reports. The French across the line seemed far more confident than the men they had cut off in Belgium. The German tactics were no longer new and unexpected. The French were learning.

"Hey Jean-Yves! Are those guys cops or something?" Sergent Bartosz Podbielski had spotted a checkpoint on the road ahead. It appeared as though the men at the checkpoint were collecting stragglers while directing formed units further down the road. There was a sandbag emplacement just off the road with a machine gun crew watching the proceedings.

Podbielski wasn't really worried, his men had orders, printed orders, though they were out of date by two weeks. He was more worried about Cahun, the Frenchmen was miles from where he was supposed to be, but with the collapse in the north and the evacuation from Dunkirk, perhaps the authorities would be more understanding.

Gendarmerie Caporal-Chef Ferdinand Chaufourier watched as a small body of men, all properly equipped and dressed, approached his checkpoint. Many of the stragglers they had been rounding up and organizing were missing weapons, gear, and even items of clothing, such had been their haste in fleeing the Germans.

"Papers gentlemen, I need to see your papers." One of his men, Soldat Raoul Cormier said as he held his left hand up, palm forward, his right hand resting on the holster of his revolver.

One of the men, a sergeant, produced a set of typewritten papers along with his pay book. As he spoke to Cormier, he kept gesturing to one of the other men in his group. After a few minutes of conversation, Cormier waved for Chaufourier to join him.

"A problem Raoul?"

"I'm not sure, this man, and these to the left, are Poles, all from the same unit. They have papers assigning them to a training course near Abbeville. Their unit is in the east, supporting our Sixth Army, they were ordered back to their unit when the Germans broke through in the Ardennes. They were caught up in the fighting and are attempting to rejoin their unit." Cormier explained.

Podbielski spoke up, "We'll go anywhere you'd like us Caporal-Chef, anywhere we can kill Germans. This fellow with us is French, not one of us, but a good comrade and a wonderful shot. Most of his unit was evacuated at Dunkirk."

Turning his gaze to Jean-Yves, Chaufourier asked, "And you are not with your regiment because?"

Jean-Yves began to answer when Podbielski answered for him, "He was by himself, he had been ambushing small German parties. We saw him take out a staff car just before he joined us."

Then Jean-Yves said, as he handed over his pay book, "My only wish is to kill les Boches, as many as it takes to drive them from le Patrie³."

Chaufourier nodded, then handed all of the papers back. "A noble sentiment Soldat Cahun, I wish you good hunting. Now if you gentlemen would, please join that officer over there," he pointed to a man with a small group of men under a nearby tree. "He is forming a unit of stragglers to dig in along the road here. I believe the Boches aren't far behind you. We shall hold them here, then fall back over the Somme."

Willi Hoffmeister sat in his commander's cupola wondering if the weather could get any hotter. It had been a hot, sunny day so far, it hadn't rained in a while. The French roads were dusty and being the second vehicle in the column, one ate a lot of dust.

He saw the dust plume from the south and wondered if it was their reconnaissance element returning to the column. Two four-wheeled armored cars accompanied by a squad on motorcycles had gone ahead that morning. Willi suspected that the French were across the Somme by now, he also wondered how they were supposed to get across that river. Their bridging column was at least ten kilometers away in the rear.

SdKfz 222
After the single armored car turned around and headed south again, Willi's lieutenant, a Berliner named Wolfgang Ensbach, dismounted from his vehicle and waved at his tank commanders to join him next to Willi's tank.

"Alright men, listen up. The scouts made contact with the Frenchies about five kilometers from here, for some reason, they left a bridge over the Somme for us. Perhaps they simply withdrew too fast and didn't have time to take it down. That being said, we're going to make a run for that bridge and get across before the French can react. Questions?"

Georg Feldmann, commanding Panzer 224, raised his hand, "This doesn't smell funny to you, Herr Leutnant? Why leave the bridge up?"

Ensbach nodded and said, "I had the same thought, but the reconnaissance team indicates that the French are further back, entrenched along the edge of a small wood. Infantry only, they didn't see any guns or tanks. I think we've chased them so fast and so far that they are very disorganized. Battalion is confident that they will collapse and surrender as soon as our tanks are across the river. That suit you Georg?"

The other men, with the exception of Willi, laughed. Willi agreed with Feldmann, something didn't smell right here. He suspected a trap. The French were learning, they had met up with a couple of their smaller tanks two days before, though they had killed both of the French vehicles, Panzer 225, Hans Grimmer's tank, had been destroyed, no one had survived the fire and subsequent explosion.

"Go back to your vehicles, we will be moving out in ..." consulting his watch, Ensbach thought for a moment, then said, "... 30 minutes gentlemen. Be ready for my signal."

Willi had a bad feeling about this, he thought that the lieutenant, Hell everyone in the chain of command, was far too overconfident. Not taking the enemy seriously, even one you had been trouncing since early May, was foolhardy. The French were toughening, learning how to fight the armored onslaught. They were even using their formidable tanks more flexibly, not tying them to the plodding infantry but fighting them in units similar to how his own side fought.

As he climbed aboard 223, his loader, Panzerschütze Horst Krebs gave him a quizzical look. "Are we advancing, Uffz?"

Willi nodded and answered, "Jawohl! Once more unto the breach, dear friends ..."

Horst shook his head, "Shakespeare? You're quoting Shakespeare to me? We are certainly doomed."

Willi laughed, "It's all I know of that fellow, I left school to work on my uncle's farm when I was fourteen, never looked back. He liked the Bard of Avon, I did not."

"More of a Wagner fellow aren't you?" Horst laughed as he took up his position in the turret.

"Good God no, too turgid and dark for my tastes, it's Strauss for me! Just don't tell the Führer!" Willi ordered Gefreiter Fritz Weber, 223's driver, to watch the lieutenant's tank, "When he moves, follow."

Horst chuckled and began to bellow out the opening of "The Ride of the Valkyrie" as 223 moved out. Willi just looked at him and shook his head. "I'm surrounded by comedians."

¹ The Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) was a Czech designed and built tank which the Germans took possession of a number of after they had annexed Czechoslovakia. This and the PzKw 35(t) made up a lot of German tank strength in Poland and in France. The "(t)" after the number is how the Germans designated foreign equipment in German service. In this case t = tschechoslowakisch.
² Literally "spear" or "pike," German company sergeant major, equivalent to an American First Sergeant. The Spieß served in the grade of Hauptfeldwebel, which was a position in WWII, not a rank. In modern times Hauptfeldwebel is a rank in the Bundeswehr.
³ French, The Fatherland.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Guest Post - Ukraine: Is Russia Desperate?

Poland has sent T-72 tanks to Ukraine as the country defends itself against a Russian invasion.
(Polish Armed Forces)

Ewok report, part ? I stopped counting ...¹

I'll try to keep it short, but the events seem to be accelerating again... Besides some hard , but inconclusive fighting in the East of Ukraine, and Russia targeting rail infrastructure with barrage of ballistic and cruise missiles ...


Russia has decided to preempt EU embargoes and embargoed itself.

I presume this is warning shot towards Germany, but it might backfire if EU shows solidarity here... Mind you, Poland was on a track to decouple from Russian gas anyway, with Norway-to Poland pipeline about to be operational this year, and LNG deliveries from US and Qatar ...


It might be in reaction to this news:

Since UK has not much use for tanks in home islands, this might be a good trade. Will make Polish logistics a bit strained, though, trying to operate Leopard , Abrams and Challenger at same time ...


Even Germany seems to be waking up ... To what extent, it shall be seen ...


Yet another suspicious fuel depot fire ? I see a pattern here ...


And this might be why ...


Another front ready to go? Though Transnistria itself is quite isolated from Russian "mainland" ...

That's all for now and see you next week!

¹ This is #9, I'm counting for you Paweł. - Sarge

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

How My Week is Going ...

I was working on the next installment in the series when I completely ran out of gas ...

The Missus Herself is temporarily deployed to The Nuke's house, but she's back today ...

In the middle of the night ...

Of course ...

On the bright side I get to help clean the pond!

Oh. Wait.

That's work.

I gave the Muse the rest of the day off, even she was tired of my "getting too old for this" schtick.

I'll be back ...

I need a nap.

Uh, sure, that'll work.

Until next time ...

Tuesday, April 26, 2022


Soldat Jean-Yves Cahun had at first counted himself lucky to have slipped out of the German encirclement of Dunkirk. He had assumed that the Royal Navy would only be taking off British soldiers from the beaches. He had been wrong, French troops had been evacuated as well. But the vast majority of them had been returned to France within hours. They had escaped captivity at Dunkirk, but faced a renewed German onslaught.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire as the Yanks might say, Jean-Yves thought. Though the French expression "aller de mal en pis¹" was far more accurate and succinct.

Two days ago, after escaping from Dunkirk, Jean-Yves had made contact with a group of soldiers that he initially thought were French. Their sergeant spoke French, but with an odd accent, well, odd to Jean-Yves. For all he knew the man could have been from a section of France he didn't know, speaking a dialect he had never heard. But when two of the other men had laughed at the look on his face and began talking in a language unfamiliar to him, he was completely confused. Until the sergeant noticed his confusion.

"Ah, you think we are French, yes? We are Polish and we too are lost."

Jean-Yves looked even more puzzled until the sergeant explained, "We are with Sikorski, 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade. We were on a training course when the Germans entered Belgium. We've been trying to rejoin our unit which was outside Reims the last we knew."

"You're a long way from home Sergent, Reims is a good 150 kilometers from here." Jean-Yves pointed out.

"Warszawa further still." the sergeant said in a voice filled with despair.

Before Jean-Yves could reply, the sergeant continued, "We were driven out of our homeland by the Niemcy, now it appears that France is falling as well. We had thought to go to Dunkirk and leave with the English, but were too late." Pausing, the sergeant looked at the rifle Jean-Yves held.

"Do you know how to use that?"

Jean-Yves simply nodded, he felt no need to explain himself to these men. Though he did note that the Poles were all carrying the MAS-36, the same rifle as his own. Which eased his concerns about obtaining ammunition. The MAS-36 was intended to replace the older rifles still in use but issue wasn't all that widespread.

"I've killed Boches with this rifle, how are you lads fixed for ammunition?"

"We have plenty, we have yet to encounter any of the Niemcy. How much do you need?"

"Twenty rounds, if you can spare them."

"Where are you headed Soldat? Are you planning on killing more of these Boches, as you call them?"

Jean-Yves grinned, then said, "You boys feel like going hunting?"

The Poles all nodded.

Jürgen was dozing in the passenger seat of the LKW², his squad had been selected to provide the escort for a supply convoy moving up to the front. He had no problems with that, it certainly beat walking.

Officially the 2nd and 3rd Squads had been combined, the platoon was at half strength for now. Bernd Osterfeld had 1st Squad, Jürgen the 2nd, the other platoons in the company were also short of men. Replacements were promised but were not yet forthcoming.

Oberschütze Leon Schwarz, Wittman's old assistant, had recruited a couple of men from another company during a pickup football³ match. Leutnant Acker, upon seeing the records of the men Schwarz brought in, stated, "No wonder 3rd Company was glad to be rid of these two." For in truth, neither Schütze Christian Möller nor Schütze Martin Busch would ever be mistaken for choir boys.

"Don't worry Herr Leutnant, these lads are from my village, they're good lads, I'll keep them in line." Schwarz had assured his lieutenant. While skeptical Acker decided, "Why not? We need the bodies." So von Lüttwitz's squad had an extra man.

Now the squad looked like this:
  • Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier Jürgen von Lüttwitz, Squad Leader
  • Obergefreiter Sepp Wittman, Assistant Squad Leader
  • Oberschütze Leon Schwarz
  • Schütze Bodo Hermann
  • Schütze Michael Offenbach
  • Schütze Karl Wachsmuth
  • Schütze Hans Warstadt
  • Schütze Walter Schnabel
  • Schütze Christian Möller
  • Schütze Martin Busch
  • Schütze Helmut Schneider
Jürgen was looking over his roster at the moment that a rifle round pierced the LKW's windscreen and blew glass into the driver's face. That man, Oberfahrer⁴ Manfred Weiss, though partially blinded, kept his composure long enough to stop the LKW off to the side of the road. The drivers behind followed suit, not knowing what was going on but trusting their lead driver. When they too came under fire, the men from 2nd Squad reacted quickly.

Jürgen pulled Weiss out the passenger side door and was pleased to hear his squad MG 34 open fire from two trucks back. Schwartz and Möller were manning that weapon and had brought it into action quickly. Weiss was moaning and trying to rub his eyes.

"Stop that or you'll blind yourself." reaching down for the man's canteen, he told Weiss to lean to one side and just run water over his eyes. "Don't rub them!" Jürgen again barked as he moved up the ditch to ascertain where the fire was coming from.

It ended almost as quickly as it started when the enemy ceased fire and moved off.

Wittmann came up to Jürgen's position and said, "Delaying action, looks like the boys expecting this shipment are shit out of luck for now. Two of the LKW's took some damage, the drivers say they need their maintenance guys to fix them. I sent Warstadt back to report to company."

"By himself?" Jürgen thought it imprudent but then realized that they needed the bodies here, in case the enemy hit them again.

Before Wittmann could respond, Jürgen said, "Good decision Sepp, we need as many bodies here as possible. Anyone hit besides my driver?"

"No, not a scratch. Just two f**ked up LKWs."

"I don't think you hit anyone." Sergent Bartosz Podbielski laughed, "But that lead driver will need new underwear I'm sure!"

Jean-Yves shook his head. "That shot should have hit the driver dead on, it surprised me that he seemed alive. Now answer me this, why did we withdraw?"

One of the Poles, Damian Krempa, looked at the Frenchman and said, "You saw how many there were, a couple of squads at least, if you count the drivers. We are but six men." He nodded at the other Poles and said something to them. For Privates Klaudiusz Mierzejewski, 
Mariusz Perzan, and Juliusz Dziadosz didn't speak French. Mierzejewski spoke Russian in addition to Polish and Perzan was fluent in German. Only young Dziadosz had no other tongue but the one his mother spoke.

"He's right Cahun, we delayed them for a bit. We'll move down the road a few kilometers. If we don't find a French or Polish unit to join up with, then we'll become highwaymen, attacking Niemcy convoys wherever we find them. Does that suit you?" Podbielski asked.

"I suppose, mon Sergent."

"Perhaps we can find you a scope for that M-36 as well. That wasn't a bad shot really, I made the range to be 200 meters or so." Krempa said.

"Closer to 250, I didn't account for the wind ..."

"Don't worry chłopaczek⁵, you did better than I expected. We'll make you a myśliwy yet!"

Jean-Yves looked puzzled for a moment, "Mish-she-vlay?"

The Poles all laughed, Krempa looked at Jean-Yves and said, "A chasseur, a jäger, what the Tommies call a hunter. I think you'd do well as a huntsman in the Carpathians back home. Maybe someday ..."

"After we drive the Boches out of France." Jean-Yves hissed.

"Or maybe kill them all," Podbielski suggested, "that's my preferred solution."

The men got up and moved off as night fell. The sergeant wanted to put as much distance as possible from where they'd ambushed the supply column. The Germans were a thorough race, they'd be looking for their attackers at first light.

¹ Go from bad to worse.
² Lastkraftwagen, the German word for a truck. Typically pronounced letter by letter, in German it would sound like "ell-kah-vay."
³ Fußball, or soccer if you prefer.
⁴ Senior driver.
⁵ Boy or lad. (Polish)

Monday, April 25, 2022

People are Crazy, Redux

 Morning All! Hope y'all had a restful weekend.  Unfortunately, Mrs. J and I were in sad shape this past week with whatever it was that MBD and Pastor Bob had Easter weekend.  I started feeling better on Saturday, Mrs. J is still suffering as I write this.  Hopefully she'll feel better soon.

The end of February, I posted a story about a puzzlement involving our guest houses.  Now, by and far, we've had good luck with our guests.  I enjoy going to meet them on arrival as it's nice to have someone new to talk to.  I mean, after nearly 40 years, Mrs. J has heard all my "War Stories".  Indeed, she can tell them better than I can.  So, meeting new people brightens my day.

Sometimes, though, meeting new people...Well...

It's mid-week, Holy Week, and Mrs. J tells me we've had a cancellation for Casseta Al Mare (the one on the right above).  No big deal, happens quite frequently,  situations change, life goes on.  A couple of hours later, she tells me it's been reserved again, by a foursome.  This whole iteration is not unusual either.  We are ranked high on AirBnB's recommendations for this area.

So, it's now Friday after Lunch, I notice a car parked down there and make a note to go down and say hello.  But by the time I get free, the car has departed.  Important shopping mission downtown no doubt.  Meanwhile the guests for the other cabin, Casseta Toscano, arrive.  It's a Mom and her two daughters.  They're celebrating her birthday.  So, we go down and say hello and bring a small cake.  Nice people with a nice friendly dog.  The vibes are good.

A bit later, we notice two cars at Al Mare. Ok, all present and accounted for.  Shortly thereafter, we get a call saying the Casseta is locked and they can't get in.  It's a puzzlement, so I grab a spare key and drive down to meet them.

At this point, I'm thinking they inadvertently locked the door when the first folks went into town.  Oh, No, it's MUCH worse than that.  I unlock the door and they enter, the first thing they see is someone's bags.  They're concerned.  I'm confused, hadn't they been here earlier?

No, juvat, they hadn't.  I said I'd be right back as I needed Mrs. J's help in straightening this out.  On the way back to the house, I call her and explain what's going on.  She's on the phone with AirBnB when I get there.  The folks that are currently there are the correct people as the prior reservation had been cancelled.  

Unfortunately, the reason the reservation had been cancelled was the final payment hadn't been made.  It took a bit of digging to figure out how all that had happened, but while we were trying to figure it out, our foursome had gone online and reserved another place.  I came back down to explain it to them,  They told me they had a function to go to that evening and needed to get ready.  

I couldn't blame them and apologized for the mix up.  The Dad was ex-Navy and understood the concept of "Semper Gumby", so we were good as far as they were concerned.  However, we are not good with the guy staying not having paid.  Mrs. J is pretty adamant about that.  Turns out the reservation was made by the guy's brother.  Mrs. J contacts him through AirBnB and explains what's going on.  He said, that he made the reservation in his brother's name.  OK, that makes sense.  However, when he tried to make the final payment, he couldn't as his credit card didn't match the name on the reservation so wouldn't be accepted and when the final payment date passed, the reservation was cancelled.  He didn't inform his brother of this.  His brother arrived first, dropped off his bags, grabbed the keys and went about his business.

After quite a bit of back and forth between Mrs. J, AirBnB, the Brother and the Guest. the Guest finally ponied up the final payment.  He checked out Easter Sunday and left.  Locking the door behind him.

Meanwhile, it's Saturday, the Ladies in Casseta Toscano are sitting out on the porch enjoying a bit of fresh air.  My nearest neighbor has his extended family over to celebrate Easter.  He's got about a half dozen Grandchildren in the 6-12 age range.  His ranch is about a hundred acres with a fair sized herd of cattle on it.  He's also got a small draw on it where he sets up targets.  He's teaching the grand kids how to shoot and how to shoot safely.

As always, the first round causes me to jump, then I realize what's going on and settle in.  Our Ladies?  Not so much.  Shortly thereafter, Mrs. J's phone rings.  The daughter's are asking if we can tell them to stop shooting, it's distressing their dog.  Now, Mrs. J is a very diplomatic woman.  She explains that they are not on our property, that it is not against the law to shoot on their own property, that he is teaching his grandchildren about gun safety and that we are not going to jeopardize our relationship with him by asking him to stop.

She says it won't go on very long and suggests a wonderful nature trail in the city park for their dog to visit in the interim.  Later, that evening I'm returning from town and pull on to our property.  I notice the Mom and the dog are out for a walk.  I stop and talk to her.  I apologize for not being able to do much about the noise.  She said she understood and would explain it to her daughters, but didn't expect much.  Ahh Well!

I like this song and, while I've embedded it before, I think it apropos.  Enjoy!

God is Great, Beer is Good, People are Crazy.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

The End of the Beginning

It struck Caporal Guillaume Micheaux as ironic that he would be traveling deeper into Germany as a prisoner-of-war in the same type of rail car which had transported him to the front in late 1939.

It was one of the ubiquitous "Quarante et huit" boxcars, designed to hold either forty men or eight horses. It had obviously not been cleaned in some time and was overpacked, to say the least. If Guillaume had to guess, there had to be at least sixty men packed into the car. From what he could see, not all of them were alive.

The men were so packed in that one could barely move, let alone sit or even perhaps lie down to get some sleep. Guillaume had started awake not long ago, he had actually fallen asleep while standing up.

"Hey Caporal, do you see that man near the air vent?" Guillaume heard the dusty rasp of the voice in his ear but it took him a moment to realize that the man was talking to him.

"Where? Oh ... I see him now."

There was a man just under the air vent, most of the openings in the car had been boarded up by les Boches, no doubt to prevent escape. A few vents were left in order to let the occupants at least breathe. Looking hard at the man, Guillaume noted the vacant stare, the slackness of the man's mouth.

"He's dead, isn't he?" Guillaume whispered.

"That fellow is my old sergeant. Owed me money he did. Now the bastard's died on me. I blame the f**king Boches, for what it's worth. I'm Etienne by the way, Etienne Larousse, late of the 27th Regiment."

"Um, Caporal Micheaux, Guillaume to my friends. Do you know where we are headed?" Guillaume didn't expect the man to know any more than he himself knew, which was nothing, he was just making conversation. Which he felt was rather absurd, maintaining the social graces when packed into a filthy Quarante et huit.

"Probably the coal pits in the Saarland. The Boches wouldn't bother packing us into a train and taking us into Germany just to pen us up in a POW cage. No, I think we're meant to be used as laborers." Larousse opined.

Guillaume grunted and asked, "Is that legal? Aren't we protected by the Geneva Convention?"

Larousse sighed and said, "The men with the guns get to make the rules. Perhaps the Boches will let you hire a lawyer, sue the Reich. You can ask, if you're insane."

Guillaume shook his head, "I think I'll pass."

"Bollocks!" Private Robert McLaren swore loudly as he jumped from the top of a lorry into the boat which was pitching and rolling as if to purposely throw him into the Channel. In the process he lost his grip on his rifle, which caused the outburst as the young man watched his rifle disappear into the depths.

"Easy lad, I'm sure the King will let you have another." Private Teddy Fraser quipped. "Or here, you can have mine."

The other men laughed, only to stop when the man captaining the small boat barked at them to sit down and stay out of the way. In truth, the small pleasure yacht was seriously overloaded with, from what Sergeant Major Cornwell could see, a good thirty plus men.

"Aye laddies, settle down, it's a long trip back to Blighty. Might as well be comfortable. Dinnae worry about your Lee-Enfield McLaren, you'll get another. Provided we all survive the boat trip!"

As the boat pulled away from the makeshift pier, the movement of the small boat in the angry chop caused more than one man to lose his breakfast over the side.

Private Malcolm Bain remarked, "I'd puke too, if I'd eaten anything in the past couple of days. When d'ya think we'll get fed Corp?" 

Corporal Billy Wallace turned to the young soldier and said, "Sing out if ye see a mess tent or the like. Okay, Bain?" Then he leaned over the side and once more had the dry heaves over the choppy waters of the English Channel.

Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier Jürgen von Lüttwitz watched through his field glasses as the last few boats disappeared over the horizon. Turning to Obergefreiter Sepp Wittman, technically the 2nd Squad leader but now the de facto assistant squad leader in Jürgen's 3rd Squad, he said, "I think that's it then, the Tommies have fled, most of the French seemed inclined to surrender at this point."

"Ja Uffz, I think you're right. We had a messenger come in not long ago while you were reconnoitering up here, we're commanded to rejoin the company. Seems the war isn't quite over. According to the messenger, we're going to be attacking south, into France. Apparently the French are trying to dig in along the Somme." Wittman then took his own glasses and studied the wreckage which lay all along the shore. He wondered just how the Tommies could continue the war, most of their equipment was here, along the beach.

Jürgen contemplated the name, the Somme River. So many had died along that waterway in the first war, would history repeat itself? He thought not, with few exceptions the French soldiers he had seen had lost the will to fight. They were stunned at the rapid German advance to the Channel. He wondered if they would bother to fight at all once the panzers turned and moved south.

Would they even fight for Paris?

"Sepp, would you fight for Berlin?" Jürgen asked.

"What? Berlin, why would I fight for Berlin? Leipzig? Sure, maybe even Dresden, but Berlin? Why would I fight for that Prussian shithole? I'm a Saxon, f**k the Prussians."

Jürgen could tell that Wittman was not angry because of the Prussians, well, not solely on their account. Most Germans associated the National Socialists with the Prussians, when actually that movement had originated in Bavaria, in München. Sepp was no doubt upset at the losses they had sustained over the past week. The Prussians were all considered to be warmongers anyway.

"I'm just wondering if the French feel the same way about Paris. Why would a Gascon die for Paris? It's not his city, is it?" Standing up and brushing the sand from his uniform, Jürgen turned to join the remainder of the squad. What had started as a half platoon of eighteen men, now had only eleven men.

"Let's go Sepp, let's go finish this."

Wittman shook his head as he followed von Lüttwitz. The man was something of an idealist, probably make a good officer someday.

If he survived.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A Day at the Beach ...

Wounded British soldiers evacuated from Dunkirk make their way up the gangplank from a destroyer at Dover, 31 May 1940.
Billy was nursing a twisted ankle, he had hurt himself during a brief fire fight with the Germans as they had fallen back into Dunkirk itself.

"Seriously mate, you fell off a bloody sidewalk?" Sergeant Major Cornwell had a big grin on his face.

"Well, in my defense Sar'nt Major, the bloody Jerries were shooting at me and I was in a bit of a fecking hurry to get out of the line of fire!" Though Lance Corporal Billy Wallace was glad to be reunited with the Sergeant Major, he wasn't all that thrilled at their current predicament.

"So we're to wade out to that line of lorries, climb up, then make our way along to the end, in the hopes that one of those weekend sailors will pick us up and take us back to Blighty¹?" Billy asked.

"Yes laddie, that's the plan - lock, stock, and barrel."

Billy looked at the man skeptically until Private Teddy Fraser nudged him and nodded at the sky, "Huns in the bloody sun, Corp."

Sure enough, Billy saw them at the same time the screams from the sirens mounted on the landing gear reached his ears. To the south there was a full squadron of Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers roaring down in their characteristic steep dive.

"Cover lads, I think they're heading further down the beach, but you never know." Billy tried to burrow deeper into the sand dune they were sheltering against.

Leutnant Horst von Schwartz-Waldberg held his crate steady as he settled on a small ship, maybe a corvette he thought. As always, the nearly 90° dive towards the ground exhilarated him, it was moments like this that ...

"Herr Leutnant! Englische Jäger!²" Von Schwartz-Waldberg's gunner, Klaus Schulze, shouted out as he began to fire on the English aircraft behind and above.

"Scheiße!" Von Schwartz-Waldberg barked as he aborted his dive, pulling desperately while kicking in rudder to hopefully throw off the enemy's aim.

The pilot heard a grunt, then a sob over the intercom at the same time he felt the aircraft shuddering as it was hit multiple times by enemy gunfire. He was sure that Schulze had been hit, but he had no time to think about that as he felt the controls suddenly go slack. Something was seriously wrong.

Von Schwartz-Waldberg chopped the throttle as he muttered "Perhaps if I ..."

"Die you arsehole!" Private Jock McMillan screamed as he watched the German aircraft slam into the water mere yards offshore.

"Finally, the bloody RAF is getting stuck in!" Private Malcolm Bain yelled as he pounded Alfie Morris on the back.

"Jesus, settle yerself lad, it ain't the Cup Final and there's more of the bleeding bastards coming in!" Private Morris barked as he knocked Bain's arm away. Morris pointed at a flight of German twin engined bombers sweeping in from the north.

Even as they watched the approaching bombers, the attacking Stukas were breaking in all directions as an entire flight of Hawker Hurricanes flashed through the German formation. At least three other Germans were smoking and two were in flames, struggling to escape the onslaught of the British fighters.

"Red Leader, Red Three, traffic at your two o'clock"

Squadron Leader Lionel Jeffries was already aware of the approaching enemy formation, he had spotted them seconds after splashing one of the bent-winged Nazis into the Channel. "Right-oh, Blue Flight, stay on the Stukas, Red Flight with me, let's get that incoming trade!"

Cornwell was watching the steady approach of the German formation, though a flight of Hurricanes had streaked through, downing one and damaging two of the approaching He-111 bombers, the rest came on without wavering.

"Heads down lads, things are about to get a bit dicey." Cornwell announced.

The first string of bombs fell just inside the town, back from the beaches, the second seemed to be marching straight down the beach in their direction.

"We're in the shite now boys!" Malcolm Bain yelled before his voice was drowned out by the exploding German bombs.

When the smoke and the dust had settled, Billy checked on his squad. Connor McGuire was swearing a blue streak as he held onto his left calf, "F**kers hit me Corp!"

"Robby, bind that up, ye're gonna live Connor, stop yer crying." Billy looked around, something made him look up. There was a man under a parachute, slowly swinging his way down to the ground.

"Heads up, might be a Jerry. Might be one of ours." Cornwell had his rifle at the ready. He needn't have worried though as he watched a party of French infantry move down onto the beach, all watching the parachutist.

"Can you see who he belongs to Corp?" McGuire's attention was no longer on his wounded leg.

As the British infantrymen watched, the parachutist freed himself from his harness and then stood up, his hands in the air.

"Guess he's a Hun." Billy offered.

A shot rang out as a Frenchman, he looked like an officer, walked up to the German airman and without a word shot the man in the face.

"Yup, that's a Hun." Billy sat back. He'd seen enough death by now that nothing shocked him anymore, not even the summary execution of a German airman.

"Guess he should have stayed in his kite." Connor said.

"Guess so." Sergeant Major Cornwell said. "Now lads, someone help McGuire, let's get down to that line of lorries. I'd rather not spend another night in France."

"Right lads, on your feet. Bain, Morris, give Connor a hand. Let's go!" Billy had the odd thought that in happier times, Dunkirk would be a nice place to visit. As he got to his feet, the pain in his ankle reminded him that they weren't out of it just yet.

¹ Informal term for Britain/England. In common use during WWI and WWII by the soldiers of the United Kingdom. Also in military slang a "blighty" was a wound serious enough to require evacuation back to the UK but non-life threatening.
² Lieutenant! English fighters!

Friday, April 22, 2022

April, the Longest Month (Or so it feels ...)

Actually, I did sign up for this.

April, longest month, ever.

So far it feels like it's about 90 days in, and it ain't finished, not hardly.

The Missus Herself went out to California back in early March, she returned after three weeks. It wasn't even a week before I was flying out to California myself. I think I was out there for ten years.


Thirteen days?

Preposterous, lemme check my calendar ...

Well damn, so it was.

Flew back to Little Rhody last Saturday, slept fully twelve hours on Easter Sunday. I awakened to realize that I had no idea where I was, what day it was, or even what time it might have been.

Took Monday off to go see an eye surgeon (yes, surgical things might be on the horizon). Took Tuesday off, just because I could, then returned to work on Wednesday.

I worked Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday, then Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, Thursday ... (You get the picture.)

Lawn looks like crap, I think there are gazelles out there, so I called my lawn guys.

"Uh, sorry, left you a message, damn, wrong number. Sorry Sarge but our truck broke, we can't afford to buy a new one, or even a used one (gee, thanks Brandon) so we're out of the lawn care business."

Well yes, that sucked.

In the market for a new lawn team, they're available for double what I was paying before. Again, let's go Brandon.

So either I cut it myself ...

.. or I suck it up and pay the extra shekels. Yes, that's going to hurt.

(For those who might be wondering, I despise yard work, in all its many forms, the smell of fresh cut grass, while not really bad, makes me want to hurl. Too many lawns mowed as an impressionable young lad made me "dislike" the cutting of the grass.)

Then I had to fill out the expense report from Hell. The hotel sent me a weird looking receipt which didn't quite add up, then our expense report software had two entries for hotel charges. That alone took me over an hour to decipher. What did they use, an Enigma machine to do this crap?

Anyhoo, got it done, then sat down to write another gripping tale of World War II, which, I must confess, not many of you seem to read.

Sigh ...

I doth perhaps protest too much, what I'm writing ain't exactly Tom Clancy.

So you get this post, more whinging on my part, more suffering through it on your part.

Oh well, I have Friday off (when I'm not interviewing prospective lawn care specialists), perhaps my Muse will return to the fold and stop meandering off on her own.

One can only hope.

Again, sigh ...

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Guest Post - Ukraine: Loss of the Moskva and Other News


Hello, this is Paweł from Ewok Report, and here is what I have to deliver this week on the Russo-Ukrainian War of 2022.

First of all, the much awaited Russian offensive in the East is about to commence, with artillery barrages on the frontline and missile attacks aimed at rear areas presumably to disrupt reinforcements and resupply:

Second, a nice analysis of how and why of the Moskva sinking came to be appears here:

S-300 and the Osa seem to have minimal usage ceiling set to 25m, to prevent waves from triggering proximity fuses, presumably.

So this means only point defense AK-630 guns were able to try and stop sea skimming missiles approaching below 10m.

Also, note that all the systems fire control radars seem to be one-hemisphere at a time, so if everybody was "watching to the starboard", the backboard would be open for strike ...

This means TB-2 distraction is at the least, very plausible.

And for AK-630 fire, fast sea skimmers had only like, 9-6seconds time window to be killed ...

Note that unlike R2D2 Phalanx , AK-630 use central fire guidance, not autonomous own radar, so if that was looking other way... OOPS...

And our amphibian friend, Cdr Salamander has interesting breakdown of who is doing what to help Ukraine:

Note especially the  "by percentage pf GDP" graph.

Poland and Baltics are not surprise, considering they are next on the "hit list" if Ukraine falls ...

But Sweden? It isn't even member of NATO.. Yet. Although this might just be changing soon - but Finland seems poised to go ahead first:

Germany , unsurprisingly is dead last...

Ewok out, hope to see you next week!