Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Emils in the Mist*

German Bf-109E over the Channel
Above the drifting fog, Mariusz Perzan could hear the drone of an aircraft engine. He gestured at the other men to be quiet, he'd been strafed enough both in Poland and in France that he figured he might be able to identify the aircraft by the sound of its engine alone, provided that it was a Niemiec aircraft. He had never seen a friendly aircraft over the battlefield.

Bartosz Podbielski was listening as well, after a moment he was convinced that the aircraft was an enemy. "Come on lads, let's get this sail down!" He looked at Mariusz who simply nodded his assent.

"Definitely a Messerschmitt." young Juliusz Dziadosz offered.

"You wouldn't know a Messerschmitt if one flew up your arse." Klaudiusz Mierzejewski grumbled.

Since reaching the coast Mierzejewski had grown more and more contrary. Podbielski had had trouble with the man in the past, he couldn't read or write and held numerous prejudices against most of the human race it seemed.

"Hold your tongue Klaudiusz, the kid is right, that's a Nazi bird up there." Mariusz said crossly.

Leutnant Werner Fincke had become separated from the others in his Schwarm¹ when the flight had encountered a fogbank. He was chagrined that this had happened to him, he was a very experienced pilot.

When they had entered the fog, he had locked his eyes on his flight lead. Soon after entering the fog, his engine had coughed and begun to sputter. Fincke's eyes had gone immediately to his instruments, they were not far from the English coast. He'd rather not have to put the aircraft down in the Channel here, the odds of being picked up by the Luftwaffe's rescue service² were slim to none this close to the enemy coast. As he was flying the I. Gruppe³ Technical Officer's aircraft, Detlev Rohwer was the duty officer that day so he wasn't flying, he rather hoped to bring the aircraft home as well as himself.

The engine sputtered only briefly then caught and was running fine now, but in that brief moment of checking his instruments his aircraft had drifted off course. He could no longer see his flight lead!

"Blue Leader, Blue Four, I've lost contact!" he announced over the radio.

Of course, as soon as he announced to the world that he'd made a rookie mistake, he broke out the fog. There, about a kilometer to his left and at his ten o'clock, was the rest of his Schwarm.

As they watched and listened, the fog began to clear from around their boat. Podbielski saw three Messerschmitts passing overhead, to their right (his left as was facing aft) and well back, there was a fourth aircraft. Podbielski was sure that the three were well past them and wouldn't spot them. The fourth though was nearly in a perfect position to spot them.

"All right boys, get your rifles ready, I don't propose to go down without a fight ..."

"Don't panic yet my sierżancie'," Mariusz spoke up, "it's a big ocean and we're a little boat. That flyboy is probably not even looking for us."

Podbielski thought for a moment, "True, but just the same, be ready."

Fincke saw something down on the water as he maneuvered back into formation. It was hard to make out from this altitude. While they weren't flying that high, perhaps fifteen hundred meters, things down on the water were notoriously hard to spot. He often wondered how the Seenotdienst managed to find pilots in their little rafts after ditching. But find them they did.

"Hey Four, keep your wingtip out of my cockpit!"

Fincke knew that he wasn't that close to his lead, but he was letting his attention drift. It had been a long day, this was his third sortie since early that morning, and he was exhausted. Whatever was down there wasn't very big, so he figured it was a fishing boat or something like that. He went back to concentrating on his flying.

"Okay, I think we're good, I don't think he even saw us. Let's get that sail back up." Podbielski was anxious to make landfall, they'd been out here now for three days. With no food and only a little water left, he was starting to worry.

"Hold on lads. Bartosz, the wind has shifted, if we raise the sail we won't be able to continue on our old course, we'll have to head to the northeast. I recommend we break out the oars. It will be slow, but we should be able to make landfall before morning."

As Mariusz had not steered them wrong yet, Podbielski nodded. "Break 'em out boys, looks like we'll need to do some manual labor!"

Lance Corporal Billy Wallace was headed down to the beach from the squad's bivouac. His battalion, what remained of it after Dunkirk, was posted along a stretch of beach not far from where William the Conqueror had come ashore. His squad was responsible for a small stretch of about two hundred yards along the water near the village of Bulverhythe. He was going down to relieve Jock McMillan.

As he made his way, he thought about what a nice place this would be if there wasn't a war on. Engineers were already at work stringing barbed wire, the populace had been evacuated inland, and a shipment of mines was due any day now. Once those were implanted he figured his main job would be to keep stray soldiers from wandering onto the beach.

He looked up, and out to sea, he saw a boat.

Now that was odd.

"Put your f**king rifle down, Juliusz. Those are Englishmen." Podbielski couldn't help but notice that two Lee-Enfield rifles were pointed in their direction. The lads holding those rifles did not look like new recruits.

One of the men on the beach yelled out something. At that moment Podbielski realized that no one in their little group spoke English.

Not a good thing perhaps.

"Why are they just bloody staring at us Corp?" McMillan asked.

"I dunno Jock, they don't look like Jerries."

The men in the boat were all seriously disheveled and filthy from their flight to the coast and then their trip across the Channel. All were wearing their French greatcoats, but as filthy as they were, the original color of the coats was impossible to ascertain at any distance.

On an impulse, Jock yelled out, "Parlez vous français?"

The answer came back, very little of which Jock understood. To Billy, it did sound like French.

"What'd they say Jock?" Billy asked.

"Dunno Corp, but it was in French. Funny accent though, maybe they're Jerries in disguise."

Wallace shook his head, "Right you stupid berk, bloody Jerries drive us out of France with tanks and aircraft, then they invade Britain in a f**king fishing boat."

Podbielski sighed in relief when the two English soldiers lowered their rifles and waved them ashore. They even helped haul the boat up onto the strand. Jean-Yves made gestures indicating that they were hungry. Both of the Englishmen nodded and kept repeating, "Oui, oui," to everything that the Poles and their French comrade said. Podbielski gathered that the two Englishmen spoke no French.

But it didn't really matter, they had escaped from France. Now his next task was to find out if there were any more Poles in Britain. He hoped there were. He wasn't done fighting Germans, not just yet.

* The Bf-109E was known as the "Emil" to its pilots and ground crew. ("Emil" is "E" in the German Phonetic alphabet.)
¹ A flight of four aircraft. (German)
² The Seenotdienst (Sea Rescue Service) of the German Air Force operated from 1935 to 1945 and was very effective.
³ 1st Group. (German) German flying units were composed of Geschwadern (roughly wings), Gruppen (roughly groups), and Staffeln (roughly squadrons). The aircraft depicted in the opening photo is actually the technical officer's aircraft of the staff flight of I. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 3, Detlev Rohwer who died of wounds in March of 1944. Rohwer had 38 kills in WWII.


  1. So, our Poles made it! "Fortune favors the bold".
    It'll be a slog to victory, but far better than a POW camp. Likely not all of them will make it through, but you gotta die from something.
    Boat Guy

    1. We shall hear more from these Poles and their attached Frenchman!

  2. The Poles are logging the miles and that Frenchman is starting to total them up also. As BG said ending up in a POW camp would be a death sentence for all. Rooting for these guys Sarge but war is war so.......

    1. I never know where the Muse might take me or the characters in the story.

  3. the Brits weren't dumb enough to put captured Poles in a camp with captured Germans; they weren't, were they?

    1. Well, they're not captured, but refugees from the fighting in France, allies as it were. So no, not even the Brits are that dumb (and they had their fair share of stupidity in WWII, I may get to Dowding, Park, and the infamous Leigh-Mallory one of these days).

    2. Please don't, Sarge. That lot are best left to history's dustbin.

    3. True, why ruin a perfectly good story?

    4. Remember, Poles fought in Spitfires alongside the British, in Polish squadrons with British officers. That came a bit later than the events in this story, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if at some point 'our' Poles wound up in a bar, drinking with Polish pilots! The military, and war especially, lead to some odd chance encounters.
      I was standing a roving watch on CV 67 (USS John F. Kennedy) in '89, and ran across a sailor whose brother I'd gone to high school with. This on a ship of (with the air wing embarked) about 5,000 men, & we came from a town with a smaller population than that. What are the odds?
      --Tennessee Budd

    5. 303 Squadron being the most famous of the Polish squadrons, they flew Hurricanes initially. There were also ships of the Polish Navy which made it to Britain. The Poles don't know how to quit.

    6. I stand corrected. A lot of people forget the Hurricane, but it was a good aircraft. The Spitfires got all the glamour.
      --Tennessee Budd

    7. The Hurricane was the workhorse in France and over England, but yes, the Spit got all the press. German fighter pilots always claimed that a Spitfire had shot them down, never a Hurricane!

    8. Sort of how every German tank was a Tiger, eh? Better yet, a 'King Tiger'!
      --Tennessee Budd

  4. Glad they made it to fight another day.

  5. Dowding and Park were first class leaders who had to manage limited resources, which they did very well under the circumstances.

    1. Yes, and the way they were treated by the Air Ministry AFTER they won the Battle of Britain was disgraceful.

    2. Leigh-Mallory, on the other hand, was evil.

  6. That was easier than I imagined. No fishing? Glad they made it safely ashore!

    1. Well, I thought about drawing that story line out a bit, but decided to make it short. For various reasons.

  7. Oftentimes the very best defense or course of action is to not call attention to yourself at all. Most people, if nothing is out of the ordinary, will simply move on.

    1. I have learned on a number of occasions that if you make yourself inconspicuous or act like you "belong there," whoever is looking for suspicious behavior will move on. Most people see what they expect to see.

  8. Looking forward to the next kink in the story. Glad they made it (thus far). Keep up the good work.

  9. Great to see our Poles - and a Frenchman in tow - reach safe haven.
    AFAIK Polish units were soon organised in Scotland, apart from Naval and Air Force
    I dont have much of a story by myself to write the Ewok Report this week.
    Instead, I recommend awesome analysis that I have found via Cdr Salamander:
    What and why. Damn, Russians seem to be ignoring lessons of own history... Read/watch and you will understand why.

    1. Yeah, Sal has had some good stuff on the war. Fairly good article on Wikipedia on the Polish forces both in Britain and in USSR.

  10. I am glad the porbeagles and white tips were disappointed.


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