Thursday, August 18, 2022

On the Docks

Pfluge and his men, though in superb physical condition, were nearly staggering when they entered the village of Askifou on the road to Sfakia. The English¹ and their Greek allies were making good time to the coast. It didn't help that the locals were taking every chance they could find to slow the German pursuit.

Pfluge had lost another man, Flieger Paul Weigl, to a Cretan ambush the day before. Three men, two with rifles that probably had seen use in World War I, and another farmer with a shotgun, had opened fire on them when they came around a bend in the road. Weigl had gone down immediately in the opening volley.

The Cretans were cut down before they were able to fire a second.

Adalwulf had wanted to head for the nearest village, about a half-kilometer off the road, and start killing people. Pfluge reminded him that their mission was to keep the English on the move, harry them all the way to the coast, not conduct reprisals.

"Who is being harried here, Herr Feldwebel?" Adalwulf had retorted, "It seems the Cretans mean to try and stop us in our mission. They seem to be succeeding."

"That's enough, Adalwulf. Shut up and march." Pfluge growled.

O'Connell had found a place to sit on the crowded deck. A sailor had tried to make him and his crew go below decks but he had refused.

"There is no way I'm going to take my men down into that stinking hole. If the ship gets hit, we won't stand a chance." O'Connell had gotten right in the sailor's face when he had said this.

"Now look here mate, I've got to get ..."

Corporal McTavish had sidled up to the man and hissed into his ear, "Leave it laddie, we've been in the shit for over a month, we've killed men better'n you. And no, we're not putting our weapons over the side. We made that mistake back in Greece."

"Then you'll need to get off ..."

"Damn it, Williams, we don't have all day for you to be chatting with the squaddies, get 'em aboard and be done with it!"

The man who had shouted down from the bridge was an officer, he was obviously impatient to get under way.

The sailor named Williams shot O'Connell a nasty look before moving away to get other men aboard.

"Keep an eye out for that one Teddy, he looks the type to hold a grudge." McTavish had said, watching the sailor walk away, shouting at a new group coming over the brow.

"Aye, I'll do that Fred. Get the lads all the way forward, I need to see a man about rations."

Hauptmann Hans Reiländer was in the air for the third time since the sun had come up. The high command was adamant about stopping the English from getting away. Again. His entire Staffel was up, only eight aircraft as opposed to nine as one was still awaiting parts from the mainland. But as they had not seen hide nor hair of the RAF for a couple of days, he wasn't all that worried.

"All Stormbirds, Lead here, hit the docks, don't try to hit the ships." As he said this he looked ahead at the masses of humanity trying to get aboard the small flotilla of destroyers and transports. He pitied those men he was about to try and kill. But that was his job and he was very good at that job.

A Greek anti-aircraft battery had set up on a hill just outside the port. The battery commander noticed the German Ju 87s before they had committed to their attack. Unless they flew out to sea, then came back in, there was only one viable approach to the port. Down the valley covered by his battery.


Reiländer had made the mistake of assuming that the troops he was attacking were demoralized and on the run. While that may have been true of the Commonwealth troops, the Greeks were still defending their homeland and meant to go down fighting. If it came to that.

Reiländer's wingman was blotted from the sky almost immediately, his survival instincts told him to flee, his training told him to press home the attack. His aircraft was rocked by a nearby explosion. Whoever these gunners were, they knew their business.

"Number Three! Why have you stopped firing!"

"Feed jam, Sir! Give us a minute!" the gun captain yelled back.

"Those men on the docks don't have a minute, get cracking soldier!"

After the last of Reiländer's Stuka Staffel was off the target, the three Kette reported in, two aircraft had been shot down, parachutes were seen for only one, and Leutnant Fritz Wohlerscheid's aircraft had been badly damaged.

"Green Three, Stormbird Lead, can you make it back to Maleme?"

"The engine starts to lose power, then seems fine. If I keep the throttle around 40%, she seems all right. If I'm careful, we'll make Maleme." The pilot of Green Three was young, this was his third mission, and very green. But he was a very good pilot for all his inexperience.

"We'll stay with you, unless anyone has a pressing engagement back at Maleme?" Reiländer transmitted to the Staffel.

He hadn't expected an answer, and to his satisfaction, the squadron frequency stayed quiet.

As the ship pulled away from the dock and headed out to sea, O'Connell breathed a sigh of relief. The Stukas had worked over the dock area and the signs of death and destruction were everywhere. Little did he know that the aircraft which would have hit their section of dock had been shot down on the initial run in.

He had seen two German aircrewmen bail out of their crippled aircraft. They had landed inside the town, O'Connell had no doubts as to their fate, the Cretans were not in a forgiving mood.

Next stop Egypt, as McTavish had said, "There is no next time lads, this Scotsman has run from the Jerries for the very last time. Next time it's conquer or die."

No one disagreed, Fitzhugh had raised his voice though and said, "When we get to Cairo, I'm lifting a glass to Herbie Walsh. Let's not forget him lads. Ever."

A chorus of "ayes" followed. No one spoke for quite some time, each man alone with his own thoughts.

Would they, could they, ever stop the Germans?

¹ Technically speaking the "English" were English, Scots, Irish, New Zealanders, and Australians. The Germans would refer to them collectively as "Engländer."


  1. Good installment, Sarge. Keeping things moving (as they did, in fact move). Fate has been kinder to our tankers than they know, yet Rommel and the FAM are over the horizon

    1. The minions of Erwin Rommel will be making an appearance soon.

  2. Fumble finger! Should be "...the DAK are over the horizon." Will Fitzhugh have to go through the whole grind, to eventual triumph? Only you and the Muse know for certain.
    Boat Guy

    1. And here I thought you meant "Rommel and Family." (Though I'm fairly certain Lucie and Manfred stayed home.)

  3. Post has a good flow going Sarge, now it's how long to Cairo?

    1. It's roughly 450 miles by boat, so traveling at 12 to 15 knots it would take 30 hours or so to get to Alexandria. Then it's another couple of hours by vehicle to Cairo. Figure two days.

      Whether I get them there quicker depends on a couple of factors, my ability to come up with a good story and, oh yeah, guess what's waiting to happen about 1,500 miles north of Cairo. Think Eastern Front ...

      We might do that first.

  4. I'm glad to see they kept their firearms this time.

  5. What time did they get underway? I hope it is close to dusk, I want them to have a fighting chance to get to Alex.

  6. Your previews and cliff-hangers are driving me nuts! Oh, really, it's only a short putt.
    Thanks Sarge. Enjoyable all the way!

    1. Thank you kind Sir! (Driving people nuts, it's what I do ...)

  7. "...they had not seen hide nor air of the RAF..."
    Interesting. I don't know if it's a mistake or intentional (keep 'em guessing, Sarge!), but it works!
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. D'oh!

      You can see where my mind was at.

      Fixed it.

  8. The few 40mm Bofors batteries well concealed on the island took HORRIFIC toll on Ju-52 transports... as they had to fly slow-and-straight to drop their passengers off

  9. Crete lead directly to the formation of the RAF Regiment with a main role of defending airfields. Apparently Churchill was 'exasperated' that the army had not recognised the strategic importance of the airfields.

    1. Oh yes, I remember that detail now. No doubt Sir Winston had a few choice words for those responsible.


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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