Sunday, August 14, 2022

Outside Maleme

Canon de 75 M (montagne) modele 1919 Schneider
"Hhmm," McTavish had his chin in his hand as he looked at the rusty old gun they were supposed to take into action, "O'Shea, limp on over there and check the breech."

Turning to O'Connell he said, "I guess our Aussie Warrant Officer doesn't have a lot of experience with anti-tank guns, because that ain't one."

O'Connell walked over to the gun, it was then that he noticed the caisson back in the shadows, opening the lid he took a look. Though he didn't speak French or Greek, it looked like they had high explosive rounds only, but as McTavish had quipped, the Germans would not be dropping tanks.

McTavish came over, "The gun's operable, how are we fixed fer ammo?"

"Looks like HE only, but that should be more'n sufficient, yeah?"

McTavish nodded, "All we need now is for that lorry to run."

Fitzhugh wiped his hands with a rag he'd found in the lorry's cabin. He nodded at Walsh who closed up the engine compartment. Jumping into the driver's seat, he pressed the starter, the motor coughed, sputtered, then caught. Fitzhugh listened to it run, once again he nodded.

Switching the motor off, he jumped down, "She'll do Sarn't O'Connell. She's older'n dirt, but she still runs sweet. Whoever had this lorry took good care of her. Whoever checked her out didn't check the plug wires, a couple were loose, which is why she was running rough."

O'Connell smiled for the first time since they'd arrived in Crete, "Well then lads, looks like we're back in business. Move the ammunition from that caisson onto the truck, then let's hook the gun up."

McTavish shook his head, "Yes, yes, the gun's fine too, she'll not blow up if we fire it."

O'Connell laughed, "I had no worries about the gun, they're built to take abuse from soldiers like us, the truck on the other hand ..."

Feldwebel Tobias Pfluge, shed his harness and scrambled for the equipment canister which had dropped close by. In future jumps he resolved to somehow keep his weapon with him, this dropping the weapons separately was something he had always hated.

Verdammt! The canister was dented badly and the hatch wouldn't open. He started as he heard someone approaching, "Klaus, help me get this damned thing open!"

Gefreiter Klaus Adalwulf pulled out his jump knife, then realized that it wouldn't work. The exasperated look he got from Pfluge told him that the sergeant had already considered, and rejected, that course of action. Then Adalwulf realized, he had an entrenching tool he'd found near where he'd landed.

In short order the two men managed to get the equipment canister open and equipped themselves with ammunition and weapons. Pfluge had an MP 40 submachine gun, Adalwulf a K98k rifle.

"Let's find the rest of the squad." Pfluge went off into the brush.

The crew had been stuck on Crete for nearly a month now. O'Connell had inquired about being sent on to Egypt as they were a tank crew without a tank. Each request had been answered with official silence.

The rag-tag unit they had been attached to had been put into place to defend the airfield at Maleme. They had emplaced their gun in the hills overlooking the field with a good view out to sea.

Looking up they watched as wave after wave of German transports droned towards the island. The Royal Air Force was nowhere in sight, a single destroyer was steaming just off the coast and began firing at the Ju 52 transports overhead.

"Looks like we're in the shite again." McTavish grumbled.

Pfluge had gathered what was left of his squad, two men were missing. They were going down a farm track towards the airfield his unit had been assigned to capture.

"Heh, look at this, I guess this farmer means to stop us." Flieger Jost Hartmann chuckled as he advanced on the old man standing in the middle of the track.

"Αυτή είναι η γη μου!¹" Tassos Argyridis waved the barrel of the old shotgun at the soldier coming towards him.

"Now, now, put the shotgun down Opa, we're here to ..."

The shotgun blast surprised the men, Hartmann went down with painful wounds from birdshot over his face and chest. The old farmer was cut down by Pfluge who had reacted without thinking.

Now they stood in the middle of the track, the old farmer was quite dead, Hartmann was struggling to control the pain from his wounds. Fortunately none of the birdshot had hit his eyes, but his face was bleeding profusely.

"Drag him into the brush, we need to keep moving." Pfluge felt sick to his stomach. The old man should have stood aside, what the Hell had he been thinking?

O'Connell gave the order to fire, the Germans coming down the hill weren't expecting resistance, when the 75 mm shell exploded in their midst they were slow in reacting.

But now they were advancing, it was obvious to O'Connell that the Germans had nothing heavier than machine pistols and rifles. The mixed bag of Aussies, Kiwis, and Brits were resisting well, laying down lots of fire on the Germans.

Fitzhugh and Walsh were back with the truck, both men had old Austrian Mannlicher rifles, probably from the First World War O'Connell thought. When he heard those rifles firing, he began to worry.

He told McTavish to pick his targets carefully, knowing that there would be no ammunition resupply, then he headed back to the truck.

Fitzhugh was aiming his rifle up the hill to where O'Connell could see a dead man, from the looks of the uniform it was a German. "Where's Walsh?"

Fitzhugh lowered his rifle and gestured towards the front of the truck. Walsh was lying there, unmoving, against the front offside wheel of the truck.

"That Jerry potted him from up the hill." Fitzhugh pointed at the dead man. "I got him with my second shot, he didn't see me."

"By the time I got to Herbie, it was too late, he was already dead."

"Shit," was the only thing O'Connell had to say.

It seemed to Fitzhugh that his sergeant had been saying that a lot lately.

¹ "This is my land!" (Aftí eínai i gi mou! - Greek)


  1. Good stuff Sarge!
    Typo; should be "Ju-52 transports" as opposed to "Ju-87"

  2. "...the old farmer was quit dead..." No wonder he quit, he was quite dead

    1. You're not dead until you're quit dead ...


  3. So much of war seems to be improvised.

  4. There are days when the word "shit" gets used a lot.

  5. One might wonder what could have been if German paratroopers and transport planes did not suffer such casualties and instead were used to drop on Red Square on the day German frontline troops saw Kremlin towers thru field binoculars...

    1. If Hitler had had the patience to hold them back (nd not use them as infantry in the fall battles), they probably still would have been cut to pieces. But it is an interesting "What if?"


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