Friday, September 30, 2022

Out of the Fog - South of Leningrad, USSR, October 1941

Schütze Christoph Witting was tired, cold, and wet. He was on outpost duty some ten meters in front of the main line held by his 3rd Squad. Unterfeldwebel Klempner had wanted him out here in the small hours before dawn as he was considered reliable, a conscientious soldier.

This was one of those days that Witting wished his reputation wasn't so stellar. But he was here and he was desperately trying to stay awake, warm, and dry. So far he could only manage the first.

When he'd relieved Schütze Roman Wolf it had been drizzling, more of a heavy mist than a light rain. After Wolf had left, it had started raining harder, then the temperature began to drop. Witting was convinced that there was sleet mixed in with the rain, making things even more miserable.

Sometime before sunrise the rain stopped and the fog began to rise. The forest was a loud, dripping nightmare, the fog so thick that visibility was less than ten meters. Witting was painfully alert, his eyes blinking, trying to stay awake was less of a problem now. For Witting had heard something in the mist, something human in origin.

Stárshiy leytenánt Chekhov winced when one of the men he was leading forward stumbled and fell. The man's rifle had made a tremendous noise when he dropped it.

The men around him stopped, looking to him for guidance. Chekhov gestured angrily at them to keep moving. It didn't matter if the Germans had heard them or not, his orders were to attack, and that's what he would do. Though communications with Leningrad Front were sporadic, their last message had been clear, the attack would go in, regardless of any other considerations.

Which told him that his attack was a diversion, get and keep the Germans' attention. So they would press home.

It took Witting a moment to understand what he had heard, someone had dropped his rifle out there in the fog. Close or far, he couldn't tell, sound traveled in weird ways in foggy weather.

But he had his orders. He aimed his rifle in the direction where he thought the sound had come from and fired a round. Racking the bolt of his K98k, he fired two more rounds, then began running back to his squad, yelling at the top of his lungs "Pass auf! Die Russen greifen an!¹"

3rd Squad's machine gunner Gefreiter Jörg Straube had been nodding off since first light. The brim of his helmet was resting against the buttstock of the gun and he was having an odd dream. His mother was trying to wake him up for school when it was a holiday.

Straube's assistant gunner, Schütze Alex Winzer was pounding on Straube's shoulder screaming at him to open fire. Though it took less than five seconds, it felt like an eternity to Winzer.

Straube jerked awake, leaned into his weapon and opened fire down the lane established for his weapon by the lieutenant. He had no idea what he was shooting at, or why, but Alex had screamed "fire," so he fired.

Chekhov took cover behind a downed tree, looking to either side of him, he could see men falling as the German line began to react. But most of the men were moving forward, intense expressions on their faces as they closed with their hated enemies.

As German machine gun fire intensified, Chekhov could sense that the men were starting to waiver. So he acted.

Springing to his feet he bellowed, "

"Dlya Rodiny! Ura!!²"

The men nearest him took up the cry as Chekhov advanced, firing his submachine gun as he did so.

"Ura!" came the cry from fifty men, then a hundred, soon the cry sprang up along the entire line as five hundred men charged at the German line, held by a single company.

Unterfeldwebel Hansen heard the roar, he looked for the lieutenant, who was nowhere to be seen. Standing up he looked at the reserve squad and the small company headquarters.

"Alois! Drop as many shells as you can, fifty meters beyond our lines, as fast as you can! The rest of you ... Mit mir! Für das Vaterland!³"

Obergefreiter Alois Steppuhn the leader of the mortar team turned to his men, who were already setting the range and fusing the first round, "Let's go boys, you heard the man!"

Leading the seven men of the 4th Squad and the platoon horse holder, Schütze Phillip Dessauer, Hansen moved towards where he felt the biggest threat was, at the hinge between 2nd and 3rd Squads where the 3rd was set back, refusing the platoon's flank. He could see Russians headed straight at that vulnerable point.

When mortar rounds began impacting amongst the advancing men, Chekhov gathered a group of twenty, "Follow me!"

He had sensed that the end of the German line was not far, the Germans seemed focused on the men rushing towards where there was a discernable gap in the German line.

As he led the men in a rush, all bent at the waist as if running into a high wind, Chekhov felt victory within his grasp. If he could turn the German flank, get into their rear, he could stop the mortar fire which had driven many of his men to ground.

Then they could drive the Germans hard.

Turning to the 4th Squad's leader, Unteroffizier Hannes Kohl, Hansen shouted, "Do you have this under control Hannes?!"

"Yes, we're okay."

"Good, I'm going to the end of the line, a party of Russians are headed that way. If you see the Leutnant ..."

Kohl waved him off. Though Kohl resented Hansen, Hansen's position as platoon sergeant led him to follow Hansen's lead. Besides which, the man seemed to know his business.

Leutnant von Lüttwitz crouched behind 4th Squad's machine gun team, which was some fifteen meters beyond the end of 3rd Squad's line. The men had looked at him nervously when he'd led them to this spot. But it was a very good position.

Von Lüttwitz had returned when the Russian attack began to roll in, closer and closer.

"So, you boys ready for some action?" he asked the two men manning the MG 34.

Both Oberschütze Harald Toman and Schütze Torben Krukenberg looked back at him in some amazement. They thought he'd abandoned them out here, but now he was back, he was also carrying two cans of ammunition for the gun.

Toman laughed and said, "Ready if you are, Herr Leutnant!"

Chekhov was urging the flanking party forward, much as he hated to, he had to hang back and keep an eye on the rest of the attacking force. When his men had a full head of steam and were charging at bayonet point, screaming their "Ura!", Chekhov began to run back to where he could better keep an eye on the entire battle.

Moments later, his heart sank as he heard the ripping snarl of a German machine gun, far enough off of the German flank to catch his flanking party in the flank, just as the German troops facing them began to waiver.

Von Lüttwitz tapped Toman's foot and said, "Fire!"

He could see that 3rd Squad was ready to flee, but as soon as the MG 34 chopped into the Russians assaulting them, they began firing again. One or two even began to advance before their squad leader halted them.

Within seconds, the Russians hitting 3rd Squad had been chopped to red ruin. Not a man was left standing.

Chekhov sobbed in frustration as he led the remnants of his force back into the depths of the forest from whence they had come. He could see that casualties were heavy, he doubted that half of his men had returned. Neither of the two women in his band were to be found, he assumed they had both met their fate upon the field of battle.

"Come lads, we must regroup. The Fascists won't follow, I'm sure we hurt them badly. We will fight again."

Chekhov managed to suppress his rising fury at the idea that the attack for which his force was to provide a diversion had never materialized. Another example of the disorganization and lack of planning that had allowed the Nazis to penetrate this far into the Motherland.

"When will Moscow learn?" he muttered as he watched two of his men collapse as they tried to continue on. Both were wounded, but they refused to quit.

Chekhov had the thought, "When will the Motherland produce leaders worthy of these men?"

Many of the troops had similar thoughts, they felt betrayed by their leaders, led into hopeless slaughter again and again, they would have asked themselves, "Why?" - but for one thing.

They did not fight for the Party, nor for Stalin, nor for the generals in Moscow - no, they fought for their homes, they fought for Mother Russia. Like Russian soldiers have for centuries, they would fight, they would die, but Russia would live on.

"Casualties, Georg?"

Hansen looked up from his notebook, "One man lightly wounded in 1st Squad, two in 2nd Squad, two in 3rd Squad, one bad enough to require treatment back at battalion. The company Sanitäter says he should be fit for duty within a couple of days."


"Thirty-nine, Herr Leutnant, but some of them are so badly wounded they won't last until sunset."

"Well, do what you can for them. They fought bravely today, stupidly, but bravely. Any idea of their dead?"

"Company stopped counting at a hundred and fifty, the bodies are everywhere. They just wouldn't quit."

"It's going to be a long war, Georg, a long war."

Hansen sighed and looked around the command post, "We need to resupply Sir, we're low on machine gun ammunition and mortar rounds. I wonder if we'll run out of bullets before they run out of men."

Von Lüttwitz sighed, "A very good question. Only time will tell."

¹ Look out! The Russians are attacking! (German)
² For the Motherland! Hurrah! (Russian - Для Родины! Ура!)
³ With me! For the Fatherland! (German)

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ominous Signs - South of Leningrad, USSR, October 1941

During the night the snow had switched over to rain, the temperature was much warmer than it had been the day before. The men of 3rd Platoon awakened to fog, drizzle, and unfrozen ground. Which all knew would soon turn to mud on the roads and paths of northern Russia.

"This is going to really slow things down, Herr Leutnant." said Unterfeldwebel Georg Hansen through a mouthful of stale ration bread.

Von Lüttwitz looked at his platoon sergeant, he wondered who the man knew at battalion to have secured this particular post, usually held by a more senior sergeant. He seemed competent enough, but he wondered.

"Yes, it is Georg. Note how soft the ground has gotten, we're going to get our boots dirty today."

Von Lüttwitz waited a bit, letting Hansen finish his breakfast, before asking him, "So Georg, what was your job at battalion?"

"Supply sergeant, in charge of the 2nd Echelon. I was placed there during my recovery."

It was after Hansen had mentioned that, that von Lüttwitz remembered that Hansen did have a wound badge. "France?"

"No, Herr Leutnant, Poland. Left arm was broken in three places. I was in hospital until July of this year."

"Who ..." before von Lüttwitz could continue, Hansen spoke again.

"Major Hassel was my company commander in Poland, I was one of his runners. When he heard that I had been cleared for a return to active duty, he asked for me."

Von Lüttwitz wouldn't ask Hansen about the entire story, he had enough respect for his battalion commander to be confident that Hansen had been given to him for a reason. Hassell may have been disliked by the more traditional officers, but he was very popular in the battalion as a tough, but fair leader.

"Danke Georg, I like to know about my men, especially those with whom I'm in close contact every day."

"I understand Herr Leutnant, thank you for asking."

The three lost Russians had stopped, Sukhanov really had no choice in the matter as he had lost consciousness.

While Schastlivtsev was looking around, trying to figure out what to do next, Fedoseyev noticed that their injured comrade was no longer awake, and he had a fever. When Schastlivtsev rejoined them, Fedoseyev hissed at him.

"Sukhanov is burning up, Bogdan Ilyich, I think he's hurt worse than he let on."

Schastlivtsev looked around in an exaggerated manner, whispering, "Then let us drop him off at the first field hospital we see. What can we do about this, Yulian Valerianovich? We cannot carry him all the way to Leningrad. We must leave him."

Both men jumped when a voice behind them said, "You two idiots make enough noise to wake the dead." As Schastlivtsev and Fedoseyev reached for their rifles, the voice continued, "I would not do that comrades, or surely we will kill you where you stand."

The two men then noticed that they were surrounded, a number of men and two women, all armed, surrounded them in the dim light. The voice spoke again.

"What is your unit?"

Both men answered nearly simultaneously, "70th Rifle Division, Comrade."

"48th Army then."

Schastlivtsev answered, "That army was just being formed when we were cut off by a German attack and driven into the forest with most of our company. If the 70th was attached to them, I wouldn't know."

"An honest answer." turning to three of the men nearby he gestured for them to pick up Sukhanov. "We have a doctor, your comrade will be treated. As for you two, welcome to the Leningrad Oblast Militia, my name is Stárshiy leytenánt Pavel Yurievich Chekhov. I command this ragtag little army."

The platoon's horse and two Infanteriekarren¹ (aka IF.8) can be seen in the photo.
Hansen was making sure that the company's two IF.8 carts were loaded and ready for the move forward when he saw one of the battalion runners approaching.

"Hey, Siegfried, new orders?"

Schütze Siegfried Oberholzer nodded as he caught his breath, "Where's your Leutnant?"

Hansen pointed and said, "He's over with 3rd Squad. Are we moving?"

"Can't talk!" Oberholzer ran off towards 3rd Squad.

Schastlivtsev and Fedoseyev watched as the doctor examined Sukhanov's leg. The man didn't seem overly concerned, which gave them hope that Sukhanov would be all right. But when he spoke, they were stunned by his words.

"The leg is badly infected, Comrade Lieutenant. If we had medicine I might be able to save the leg, but we don't. The leg has to come off today, or this man will surely die."

Chekhov looked at the men who had brought Sukhanov in, both looked shaken. Only Fedoseyev spoke.

"Lose the leg or die, seems a harsh choice, Comrade Doctor."

"What is his occupation?"

"I have no idea."

Chekhov decided for them all, "Amputate if that's what it takes to keep him alive. The rest of us have an attack to launch."

Looking at Schastlivtsev and Fedoseyev, Chekhov said, "How about you two? You can stay with your comrade or you can join us in the attack. I'll let you choose, looks like you've been sleeping rough the past few weeks."

This time it was Schastlivtsev who spoke, "We'll fight the Fascists with you. When?"

"Tomorrow at first light, you have time to eat and get some rest. Go with the doctor, he'll show you where the rations are kept."

Von Lüttwitz was nervous, the runner from battalion had stopped at Busch's command post first. The captain had directed him to continue on and brief von Lüttwitz.

The Luftwaffe had detected a large number of men off to the northwest. They were not moving towards Leningrad, they were moving towards the battalion's position. The report had said upwards of five-hundred Soviets could be involved.

"Was there anything else, Herr Leutnant?" Oberholzer asked, obviously anxious to return to battalion.

"No, thank you, Schütze, you can head back."

Turning to the men with him, he said, "Start preparing defensive positions, make sure your MGs have good fields of fire. I'll have more ammunition brought up. They might come tonight, but I suspect tomorrow morning more likely. First light, hope to catch us sleeping."

Von Lüttwitz had a very long night, getting everyone positioned and dug in. He had moved 4th Squad's machine gun crew out to the left, to support 3rd Squad. He had a feeling that the Russians would hit that flank, it's what he would do.

He managed to get an hour or so of very fitful sleep at the platoon command post. He was sure that he had done as much as he could.

But was it enough?

¹ Infantry carts (German)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Advance to Contact - South of Leningrad, USSR, October 1941

Leutnant Jürgen von Lüttwitz paused to watch a column of Panzers and Panzergrenadiere pass by on the dirt track his platoon was following. The ground was hard, that morning had seen four degrees of frost.¹ Which was good for the vehicles, in the rains of a month back the LKWs would have had trouble.

It was also good for the infantry as they weren't getting spattered with mud!

As the platoon continued up the dirt track for another kilometer, von Lüttwitz had time to think. As his platoon was leading the company, which in turn was leading the battalion, when they reached the point where they were to enter the forest, his men would be heading deeper into the woods than the rest, his position would be on the far left flank of the battalion.

Hauptmann Busch had left it up to him as to how to handle his platoon, but the company commander had recommended that von Lüttwitz advance with three squads up with one squad back as a reserve. He had also suggested that a left echelon formation would be a good idea, easier to change front should the Russians hit them from the open flank.

Infantry left echelon formation
Gruppe = Squad, Zugtrupp = platoon HQ
The squads don't have to be in this order, any order would work.
4th Squad is in reserve
As he heard Busch blow his whistle to signal the turn into the forest, von Lüttwitz saw no reason to deviate from the captain's advice. His 3. Gruppe was turning into the woods as he jogged to catch up with it's squad leader, Unterfeldwebel Leo Klempner. As he passed the leaders of his other squads he gestured for them to follow.

"Leo! Hold up!" Though Busch had chided him for his insistence on calling his men by their first names, he still did it. Acker had encouraged a certain familiarity in the platoon, which for the personnel they had, seemed to work well. He remembered the day Busch had brought the topic up.

"Look, von Lüttwitz, you can't allow yourself to become too familiar with the men, nor encourage them to do the same with you."

"I understand Herr Hauptmann, but Leutnant Acker ran the platoon that way and it seems to work well, the men have a certain comradery that I haven't seen in other platoons. The men know that I'm the man in charge, the noncoms make sure of that."

"Well, be correct if there are big shots around."

"Like Major Hassel?"

"Dear God no, he has nicknames for everyone, he's not one to stand on formality at any time. No, if the regimental or division commander is around, not that I expect that."

"Zu befehl, Herr Hauptmann." von Lüttwitz said with a short bow.

"Cheeky bastard. Now go and sin no more."

Klempner waited by the edge of the forest with von Lüttwitz as the other squad leaders joined them. Von Lüttwitz explained what he wanted, the squad leaders all nodded, they understood. Before Klempner moved out to catch up with his squad, von Lüttwitz grabbed his sleeve.

"Make sure you've got an experienced man on the far flank, none of the Grünschnabeln.²"

"Will do Herr Leutnant, I'll have my assistant squad leader out there, Obergefreiter Egon Böhnisch has a cool head, saw plenty of action in France."

"Very good. Watch yourself out there."

The three Russian soldiers were hopelessly lost. Their unit had been completely destroyed in the early days of the Fascist invasion. Their commissar had survived and had brought them to a unit of partisans in the forests to the northwest of Luga.

But the Germans were everywhere, driving on Leningrad as if men possessed. The Russians understood, soon General Winter would make his appearance.

"I tell you, Yulian Valerianovich, if they can't take up winter quarters in and around the city, the winter will kill them, if not, then our counteroffensive will destroy them!" Krasnoarmeyets Bogdan Ilyich Schastlivtsev waved his hands in the air, as if that motion alone would destroy the grey-green legions assaulting their homeland.

Krasnoarmeyets Yulian Valerianovich Fedoseyev sat up and threw the stick he had been chewing on into the small fire they had built. The nights were starting to get cold, he was sure they would see a significant snowfall in the next few days.

"I tell you, Bogdan Ilyich, it's going to snow, and soon. I can smell it!"

Krasnoarmeyets Dionisiy Valeryevich Sukhanov looked at Fedoseyev and shook his head, "Smell snow? Bullshit comrade, the only thing you can smell is yourself. None of us have washed in over a week. I disgust even myself!"

"Where are you from Comrade Sukhanov? "

"Alushta, in the Crimea. What does that have to do with anything?" Sukhanov spat into the fire as he said that.

"You see, Bogdan Ilyich? Our boy here is from a warm southern clime, what does he know of our northern ways?"

"It snows in our northern mountains, but no, where I'm from the weather is very mild. But smell snow? What does snow smell like?"

Fedoseyev laughed and said, "It smells the same as rain, only colder!"

Sukhanov shook his head as both Schastlivtsev and Fedoseyev had a nice laugh at his expense. But they were right, he had very little experience of snow. He also recalled his grandfather saying that one could smell rain. He had to smile at that.

Schastlivtsev held his hand up, he had heard something in the forest. No one ever questioned his woodland knowledge, he had been a hunter in Siberia before the war.

"Douse the fire, quickly!"

Böhnisch was on the far flank of the skirmish line. He had just given one of the men a dirty look. Schütze Gustav Hengsbach and Schütze Clemens Rickenbacher were fooling around again. He should have known to separate the two men.

They were both in their late twenties, fairly typical for the 223. Infantrie-Division, a unit raised in Saxony just before the invasion of Poland. There were a large number of reservists in its ranks. Hengsbach and Rickenbacher were from the same small village, neither, as Unterfeldwebel Leo Klempner liked to say, had a lick of common sense.

Hengsbach had thrown a small branch at Rickenbacher which had made a surprising amount of noise. Both men looked chagrined at the look Böhnisch gave them.

As he motioned at his two clowns to continue to advance, Böhnisch swore that he could smell something ...


"Damn it, how many do you think there are?" Sukhanov whispered in Schastlivtsev's ear.

Before he could answer, Fedoseyev said, "Company strength at least. See how the line stretches back into the trees?"

"What do we do?" Sukhanov moaned.

"Be still you idiot." Schastlivtsev hissed.

Von Lüttwitz moved as quietly as he could to his left flank. The word had come up the line that 3. Gruppe suspected something or someone in the woods some hundred meters away. By the time he arrived, Klempner had already taken a small patrol off into the woods.

"What's going on, Egon?"

"I smelled smoke, like a campfire. We found a spot where someone had doused a fire, within the past few minutes. It didn't give off a lot of smoke, not that you could see, but the wind carried the smell to me. Unterfeldwebel Klempner took a couple of the lads further out to investigate."


"Most definitely, one of them left a military cap near the fire, probably dropped it in their haste to get away."

Von Lüttwitz turned to Schütze Heinz Baar, one of his runners, "Heinz, get to Hauptmann Busch, tell him we've made contact with a small party of Russians." Turning to Böhnisch he asked, "Scouts maybe?"

"No Sir, more likely stragglers. Remember, the SS had that big anti-partisan operation going on down near Luga a week or so ago. Flushed a bunch of 'em, inevitable some of them got away. Poor bastards are probably just running from us."

"Even so, we need to make sure."

Living in the forest for over two months had taken its toll on the three men. Sukhanov fell heavily as he tripped over a dip in the ground filled with leaves, he hadn't seen it.

Schastlivtsev hissed, "Get up Dionisiy Valeryevich, the Fascists aren't far behind."

Sukhanov tried to stand, he grimaced then dropped back to the ground, holding his lower leg. "I think it's broken Comrade. Leave me, I'll hold them up."

Before Schastlivtsev said a word, Fedoseyev gripped Sukhanov under one arm, "Use your rifle as a crutch, if we can get into that thicket, we might be all right."

Sukhanov looked in the direction Fedoseyev had indicated, they were still a good distance from the thicker part of the woods. But he got to his feet, gritting his teeth, he let his two comrades assist him along.

"Look here Leo, one of them must have fallen, someone is dragging him now!" Schütze Roman Wolf pointed at the disturbed ground around a shallow dip in the forest floor.

Klempner looked ahead, a ways off he could see that the forest thickened, he would bet his next promotion that the Russkis had gone that way.

Realizing that he couldn't do much with just himself and two other men, he reluctantly decided to pull back to the main body of the platoon and make his report.

Hauptmann Busch listened as the sergeant made his report to him and to von Lüttwitz. He didn't think that there were many Russians out there, as one of the men had said, probably fleeing stragglers.

"What do you think, Jürgen?" Busch asked the platoon leader.

"I think we keep moving, we're going to be stuck in these woods over night and I'd rather not get scattered chasing ghosts." von Lüttwitz shook his head, "It's always something, isn't it Herr Hauptmann."

"Yes, yes it is. I'll send word back to battalion. Also, bring your platoon in a little tighter with the rest of the company, as you say, it will be dark very soon. We'll let the Major decide if we hunt those men down or continue our sweep."

"Well, one of the objectives was to drive the Russians out of the woods." von Lüttwitz said.

"Yes, we've used a battalion to drive out a few stragglers. We'll never get to Leningrad at this rate. Let's set up camp now, I want to know what battalion wants before going further."

"Zu befehl, Herr Hauptmann!"


Von Lüttwitz turned to where Unterfeldwebel Klempner was standing, pointing at the sky. "What is it Leo?"

"It's starting to snow."

"Scheiße," was all von Lüttwitz could think of to say.

¹ -4° Celsius, roughly 25° Fahrenheit
² Greenhorns or rookies. (German)

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

New Orders - South of Leningrad, USSR, October 1941

Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel Jürgen von Lüttwitz ran a hand across his face, the stubble of his beard was starting to annoy him. It had been a number of days since anyone had had the chance to shave, but he felt he should set an example, so he felt slovenly.

Commanding the platoon in Leutnant Acker's absence, von Lüttwitz had a small staff to help him. His platoon sergeant (Führer des Zugtrupps), Unterfeldwebel Georg Hansen, was also new to the job, his predecessor, Oberfeldwebel Friedrich Kleist, had been killed in action the day before Acker had been wounded. Hansen was sent down from battalion to take Kleist's place the same day the company commander had given von Lüttwitz the platoon.

His three runners (Meldern) and the horse holder (Pferdehalter - for the platoon's single horse and two small carts), made up the rest of the platoon headquarters. He also had his mortar section leader (Führer des Granatwerfertrupp) with his two mortarmen. At full strength the platoon had one officer, six noncommissioned officers, and forty-two men. After the encounter with the KV-1 outside Dubrovka, they were short four Landsers, one of whom had been killed the other three evacuated to the rear for wounds.

Of course, they were also short one officer. The last von Lüttwitz had heard of his lieutenant, his wounds, while requiring hospital treatment, weren't serious enough for Acker to be sent back to the Reich.

"I can get you water if you wish to shave, Chef." Oberschütze Otto Wandesleben said to von Lüttwitz.

"Can you get enough for the entire platoon?" von Lüttwitz asked, cocking an eyebrow at his senior Melder.

"Not really, no."

"Very well, if there isn't enough for all of the men, then I won't take advantage of it."

"Very good Chef. Did you still want to ..." Wandesleben was interrupted by the arrival of the company commander who had the battalion commander with him.

Von Lüttwitz and Wandesleben both stood as the two officers joined them. Both officers looked as grubby as everyone else.

"Wandesleben, von Lüttwitz." Major Kurt Hassel, a gruff man at the best of times, barked his greeting at the two soldiers.

"Herr Major." von Lüttwitz answered for both of them.

"Es ist saukalt, ja¹?"

Von Lüttwitz laughed and said, "So gentlemen, I take it this isn't a social call?"

"You did say he was perceptive, didn't you?" Hassel said as he looked at Busch.

Von Lüttwitz said, "Begging your pardon Sir, but one needn't be von Clausewitz to know we can't stay here, we need to advance and take Leningrad before the snow comes."

Hassel nodded, "Quite right. Problem is, regiment has no idea what is to our left flank, other than endless forest. Which my contact in the Luftwaffe tells me stretches all the way to the Gulf of Finland. Aerial reconnaissance indicates that no large, formed bodies of troops are in that area. Most of the Reds withdrew towards Leningrad to defend the approaches to that city."

Busch pulled out a map and spread it out on the ground. The major leaned in and studied it for a moment, "We are here, just north of Sorochkino. Our task is to get into the woods, then sweep north in a giant skirmish line. The hope is that the Russians have fled. If not, we will have artillery on call from division."

"Has the entire division arrived?" von Lüttwitz asked. He knew that his regiment was in place, and most of the logistical tail, but he had heard that the other two regiments were awaiting rail transport and were still at Pskov, along with the artillery.

"No, we're still short two regiments, but the artillery arrived late last night. Heeresgruppe Nord took over a number of trains which the SS were using to move civilians back to the Reich." Hassel answered.

"Civilians, why would ..." von Lüttwitz started to ask but was cut short by the battalion commander.

"It's better you don't ask such questions, Leutnant."

"Uh ..."

Hassel looked at Busch, "You haven't told him yet?"

"No Sir, I've been with you all day, since we got the word as a matter of fact."

"Sir?" von Lüttwitz was confused.

"Word came down from OKW, you've been promoted. You're now an officer, congratulations!"

Without another word, Major Hassel spun on his heel and headed back to the battalion command post.

Von Lüttwitz looked at his company commander, "He's not much for small talk, is he?"

Busch chuckled shook his head. "Get your men ready Jürgen, we step off at first light."

¹ It's freezing cold, yes? Saukalt is literally "pig cold." (German)

Monday, September 26, 2022

Family and friends

 *So...There I was...*

Mrs. J's 6 month campaign to get the Juvat Clan and friends together for an overseas cruise has finally arrived at the execution phase.  All the covid stupidity has been complied with.  Shot Cards are enclosed with the passports.  Airline Tickets are in hand.  Rendezvous with MBD, SIL and MG is complete and drop-off at the airport completed.  In-processing is complete and airport security is next.

I get told I have to take off my suspenders as the metal clasp on the shoulder straps might set off the metal detectors.  I also get told to take off my belt.  And the person supervising the metal detector happens to be female.  I get told to hold my hands up high and not spread my legs quite so much.

You see where this is going donch'a?

Well the first time they turned it on, I had to break formation and grab my pants otherwise...

Splained that to the lady.  She laughed and said "Don't do it again".

Fortunately for all concerned, a combination of large inhale and sneaking my thighs a little closer together prevented a catastrophic rampaging exodus from the airport.  

Loaded onto the airplane and discovered that my Travel Agent, being the wonderful woman (and Wife of mine) she is, had arranged for bulkhead seats.  In addition to the extra leg room, it also allowed MG to either have a bassinet to sleep in or a reclining crib sort of thing attached to the bulkhead.  More room for her parents, more room for her.

Or so we thought.

Unfortunately, MG is in the 96 percentile of growth for her almost 11 month old age group.  She didn't fit in either option.  

Arrival in Barcelona the next evening and rendezvous with our winemaker friends went smoothly.

View from the B&B balcony.

MG charming our winemaker friends

The following morning our meetup with our Uber driver for the drive to the cruise ship involved a bit of my HS Spanish as well as his HS English. Luckily, global war did NOT break out. After a minor hiccup or two, we arrived at the cruise ship in a timely fashion. 

Since the harbor looked out over the Mediterranean, the military historian in me got a kick out of the fortress on the top of the hill overlooking the port.   Back in the Day, Captain Hook's real life compatriots were a definite concern.

First Port of Call was Toulon where we planned to visit a few wineries on a cruise company tour.  (That's kinda important because if a cruise company tour is delayed for any reason, the ship waits.  If it's not a company sponsored tour...KMAGYOYO!)

Unfortunately, the tour got cancelled.  But, Toulon is a big French Navy base, which meant two things.

One, there was an old fort overlooking the harbor.

And the French Navy was present.

MG was enthused. Mrs. G, however, was underwhelmed.

The day passed and it became time for an Adult Recreational Beverage and Relaxation Break (ARBARB in Naval Vernacular).

Next stop was Nice, which was nice.  Actually, the ship anchored in Villefranche-sur-Mer which is a very pretty and small town just east of the city. 

Even the houses had cannon turrets.  

 A quick train trip and we're downtown Nice.

In addition to Castles, we explored cathedrals.  Some were pretty breathtaking.

Although it was a bit of a downer to walk out of the cathedral and watch a drug deal going down not 50' down the road in broad daylight. 

No, Beans, I did NOT take a picture!

Next stop was Ajaccio, Corsica.  AKA somebody named Bonaparte's final home birthplace (Oops).

Line was WAY too long to go inside.

But, I did think this was humorous.

Went to the Open Market, wandered around a bit, and found a wine tasting booth. can imagine what happened next.  Was waiting in line and the guy and his wife in front of me asked if I knew anything about wine.  

"A Bit...what would you like to know?"

We ended up spending about an hour with them over a bottle of a nice Corsican Red.  But MG was the star of the show.

 I also got a few woodworking project ideas there.

After a long day, we headed back to the ship for a little relaxation on the veranda.

The following day was Civitavecchia, the port for Rome.  Mrs. J, MG and I stayed on board as we'd been there before and it was an hour and a half bus ride out and back.  Chilled, enjoyed peace and quiet and a little nap.  

The following morning, we were in Portofino.  A nice little town.

Which still warranted Castle support.

Stopped in Cinque Terra next.  Unfortunately, I had not charged my phone overnight, so I am having to rely on Mrs. J for photographic assistance.

We had stayed in Cinque Terra for a week back in 2010 or so.  Very quiet, very small, very pretty villages.  Not so much anymore, lots of turista's.   Course back then, we went in late October instead of the ending of the "season" this time, so our fault.  Nice to visit again though and the food was fabulous.

The local wine was PDG also!

Last port was Palma de Majorca.  Plan was to ride the funicular up the mountain to Sóller and have lunch.  Got on Board and shortly thereafter, the conductor came on board and said they were having mechanical difficulties and it would be 15 minutes until departure.

MG decided she'd pass the time entertaining the two ladies from Germany in front of us.  Always the diplomat, that girl.  Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes, we started looking at the time, comparing it to the sail time and watching the progress (AKA None) on fixing the problem.  Discretion being the better part of valor, we elected to disembark and ask for a refund.  Took a bit of cajoling but we got paperwork to submit to our credit card company.  Hustling back to the trolley stop, we passed by the Cathedral.  The line wrapped around the cathedral and sailing time hadn't changed, so all we got was this.

Note the battlement in front and closer in around the Cathedral.

As we're walking to the bus stop, the god's of weather decided we needed a shower and provided the water.  Surprisingly, it was fairly refreshing.

All in all, a very nice 10 days.  The tourist-ing was interesting and fun, the ship stuff was OK not great, but the Family and Friends part was fabulous.  MG was a blast.  Very little fussing.  In fact, when the airplane landed in Austin after an overnight flight from Barcelona, we're standing up getting ready to deplane.  There was a French Guy in the row ahead of us who noticed MG in Mrs. J's arms.  He asked where she'd been sitting.  When we told him she'd been behind him the whole time, he was astounded.  We just shrugged and asked "Isn't every baby like that?"

He chuckled.

Peace out, y'all!

*Standard juvat caveat indicating what follows is a "War Story" where the Author agrees to "...never let the Truth interfere with a good Story."