Saturday, May 21, 2022

Plans and Schemes ...

Invasion barges assembled at the German port of Wilhelmshaven.
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)


  1. On seeing the picture of the barges I thought "those aren't landing craft", I've been indoctrinated by too many movies! Vessels of that general shape & size have been used for invasions for hundreds of years.
    I was unaware of the war in the east after the end of WW1... but again I was raised & educated in the US and that seems to have skipped a lot. My free time back then was spent outside or with comic books & later science fiction, not much German (or European) history!

    1. The history of Eastern Europe in the aftermath of WWI is very interesting. Few people in the West know of the Russo-Polish War which ran from shortly after the armistice in the West until 1921. The Soviets invaded, the Poles kicked their asses. Reminiscent of current events in Ukraine.

    2. Where and when Stalin learned to hate the Poles. G. Sager

    3. There also have been Polish -Germans conflicts like Wielkopolskie Uprising and three consecutive Silesia Uprisings. And the Freikorps were instrumental in putting down German communists attempt at revolution in 1919... Messy times

    4. Russia invaded Poland? Sounds like the Ukraine was part of Russia then... After 1918 I guess Russia was the Soviet Union.

    5. It was much more complicated -Poland allied with Ukrainian nationalists took Kiev at first, then soviets counterattacked all the way to Warsaw, only to be counterattacked there by Poles even more decisively.

    6. Rob - More than once! Prussia, Russia, and Austria used to divide Poland up between themselves all the time.

    7. Paweł has the right of it. Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine have ties which go way back.

  2. Great catch-up, Sarge. Promotions for those deserving rather than "entitled", very refreshing. Good backstory on the Co and Bn Cdrs.
    Having been in the amphib business and having sailed the channel, the idea of a "bluff" would be far more attractive than trying to pull that operation off. Of course we know now that it didn't happen but our characters don't. Exciting and unpleasant times to live through, if one could. In the meantime one should live as one can.
    Boat Guy

    1. During wartime if you don't live for the moment, you might not get a second chance.

  3. One of the more interesting wargaming scenarios with miniatures I read about when I was much younger was an re-creation of Operation Sea Lion as if Germany had invaded. Also as I recall, it may have been part of the basis of the book SS-GB.

    Nice pacing Sarge: action, action, action, then catch up.

    1. A very good book by one of my favorite authors!

  4. Those "invasion barges" would be hard-pressed to transport machines of any kind, men being more flexible but still.....

    1. The Germans did have some purpose-built landing craft (look up the Pionierlandungsboot) but they were few and far between. Certainly they weren't available for an operation like Sealion.

  5. Crusty Old TV Tech here. I can just hear Flight Sgt Mackenzie's voice! Bravo! Except, being a good Scotsman, I suspect what you wrote for the good Sgt was run through a de-NCO-4-letter-aria-izing filter! I am confident the good Flight Sgt blistered the air with a few choice epithets. I was once witness from afar to a stellar NCO running an Airman mosquito winger through the verbal wringer over a very bad choice made by said Airman. The air was blue for minutes afterwards, and I think in the 3 or so minutes of the song he sang, he never repeated himself in choice of salty language! This is how Airmen learn, and become Sgt's.

  6. I'll just say this again:

    "Yesterday's history, tomorrow's a mystery;
    Today's a gift, that's why we call it the present.
    Wht we do today builds our tomorow."

    Great story, wonderful telling.

  7. As far as I know, some serious military wargaming outfits played the Sealion time and again, and it always ended up with disaster for Germans. In fact, the more of them managed to land, the more ended as POW when logistics broke down, either due to RN interdiction or to worsening weather in September.

    1. It would have been an unmitigated disaster.

    2. Indeed!...The barges were not landing craft, easy to disembark, Few craft (from your comment Sarge) able to carry tanks and heavy equipment, no careful reconnaissance of the landing areas (at the Allied raid at Dieppe, the tanks couldn't get off the beach), no apparent plan for logistics follow up. No clear naval or air superiority, let alone supremacy. And I believe the British were prepared to go "all in" and use poison gas on the invasion beaches....

    3. The British were ready to play serious hard ball to kill any Nazi invasion, no holds barred warfare would have been the theme!

  8. Re the unawareness of post WW1 operations, please remember both the Norther Russia Expedition, and the Siberian Expeditionary Forces which were fighting Russians, on Russian soil, from late 1918 into 1920-21. Ostensibly to protect the Czech Legion hostile to Germans, so they could move across Russia to the Siberian port of Vladivostok and sail around to the Western Front. Also to protect huge supplies of war materials shipped to the Czarist Russian which were to be kept from falling into the wrong hands. Aside from fighting several differenc warring factions of Russians (Red Russians and commies; White Russians with Czarist leanings, assorted free range thugs and opportunistic warlords, and unhappy ethnic groups). Plus, in Siberia, you had "our friends" the Japanese busy carving up real estate from Russia and Manchuria to add to their empire, regardless of any U.S. unhappiness about their conduct.

    John Blackshoe
    That is one reason the Russkies hate Americans.

    1. That intervention has always struck me as "wrong-headed."


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