Friday, September 23, 2022

Blood on the Sand, Western Desert, October 1941

Destroyed Crusader Mk III, North Africa
Fitzhugh spotted the German tanks first, "Mark IIIs 10 o'clock!" He was already in the process of slewing the turret when something hit the engine compartment.

Caddick screamed over the intercom, "The bloody engine's seized up!"

O'Connell had sat down hard when the tank was hit, banging his head on the hatch coaming. He saw stars and nearly passed out before collecting himself. He poked his head up out of his hatch and saw an Italian anti-tank gun to his right. That gun was shifting its fire to another target, the gunner making the assumption that he had killed O'Connell's tank.

While he tried to regain control of his senses, his own tank cannon barked. Turning his head quickly, and instantly regretting it, he saw a German Mark III not fifty yards off. The wind was abating and things were becoming clearer now. But he was still in something of a fog mentally.

"Damn it Teddy, what's going on out there?!" Fitzhugh was screaming at him.

O'Connell's head cleared. He saw the German tank starting to burn, it's crew bailing out as he watched. He thought it odd that he could already smell the enemy tank starting to burn when the wind was blowing at his back. Then he turned and looked back towards his own engine compartment. His tank was starting to burn!

Hoffmeister gasped as he saw his friend Johannes Becker's Panzer come to an abrupt stop. It had been hit, that much was obvious. As smoke began to issue from the hatches he sighed in relief as he saw the crew jumping from the tank and heading to the rear. Almost immediately he saw the vehicle which had killed Panzer 412. His gunner had seen it as well.

The cannon barked and he saw the English Panzer take a hit in the engine compartment. It stopped, but the turret was still moving. In less time than it took to think it, the enemy gunner's barrel was pointed directly at Panzer 413. Hoffmeister winced as the enemy fired.

"Gott sei dank!" Hoffmeister whispered as he heard the enemy round hiss past, a near miss!

"Horst!" he barked at his gunner.

"On it!" Krebs answered.

"Verdammt!" 413's shot went high as the English tank began to reverse. Whatever damage he'd taken to his engine didn't prevent them from reversing apparently.

Caddick was working the levers frantically as he managed to get the tank into reverse. "It ain't the engine, transmission is wonky, Sarge!"

"Hold here!" O'Connell ordered his driver as the tank was now out of sight of the Germans. "We must support the infantry. Eyes open lads. Fitzie, kill anything that comes over that ridge to our front!"

"Wilco, Teddy."

As the firing of tank cannon died out, Morley risked taking a peek over the lip of the trench, Falasco didn't seem to notice. The young Italian had his rifled trained on something in the near distance. With a sharp grunt, Falasco fired his rifle.

"Ti ho preso, bastardo!¹" Falasco bellowed as he worked the bolt on his rifle. Then he gasped and turned to his left, swinging his weapon in that direction.

Morley heard the sound of metal impacting flesh and winced. He couldn't believe his eyes, the young Italian who had been watching over him had been hit in the head. The man's helmet went flying and Morley was showered with the young man's blood. As Falasco slumped to the floor of the trench, Morley heard a voice speaking English.

"Take that you Italian bastard. Where's your friends, I'll bloody kill them too!"

The accent sounded Australian, Morley yelled out, "Don't shoot! I'm English! A pilot!"

"Hey Winnie! We've got a right Pommy bastard over here! Bleeding Eyetie speaks pretty good English too." Private Larry Babcock had a man standing in front of him at bayonet point as he beckoned to his sergeant.

"Sergeant Winston Humphries trotted over and pointed back to the British lines, "Get his arse back to the lorries. The bleeding tankers have driven the Jerries off for now and we've done for most of the Italians. F**kahs put up quite a fight!"

Humphries took a moment to check on Babcock's prisoner, the man was soaked in blood.

"Jaysus mate, you alright then? You look quite the mess."

"It's not my blood Sergeant, and I am British, the Italians took my identification after capturing me. If you look in that tent," he nodded towards a large tent just behind the trench line, "you'll find my papers and my flying kit. About a half-mile further on you'll find my Hurricane."

Humphries grinned then prodded Morley with his bayonet, "Cheeky bastard, ain't ya? Get a move on, we'll let the captain sort you out. But for now we've got to be off before the bleeding Huns regroup."

"Right then, lead on." Morley began to lower his hands.

"Nah mate, after you and keep those paws in the air."

Rather than risk being pricked with the man's bayonet again, Morley did as he was told.

Destroyed Panzerkampfwagen III, North Africa
Hoffmeister crawled to the edge of the slight ridge his Panzer was behind. He had two vehicles still alive besides his own. On the bright side, they hadn't lost anyone. Max Petersen's driver had a slight wound but all they had lost was vehicles, no men.

The Italians hadn't made out so well. Their camp was a shambles and there were a number of bodies strewn around, especially near the Italian gun pits. Those gunners had sold themselves dearly, some of the bodies were English. (Hoffmeister had no way of knowing that they were Australians, to him the enemy were "the English.")

Fritz Weber soon joined him, staying on his belly as the enemy were still in the process of withdrawing. "Engine is all right, that fire you saw was Lutz's blanket burning. Poor bastard will be cold tonight!"

"His blanket?"

"Yes, the English round hit one of the ventilator fan mountings and must have thrown off a lot of sparks, it's all scorched there, but all it did was set Schumacher's blanket alight."

"No damage otherwise?"

"None, she's drivable, ready for action."

Gesturing towards the Italian camp, Weber said, "I don't think we'll be getting any infantry support from that lot, will we?"

"No, the ones who didn't die are probably halfway to Benghazi by now. We should report back, at least we stopped that English patrol."

Weber nodded towards the wrecks of two British tanks, "Looks like we traded two for two."

"Yes, we got lucky. The English were close in, we had no advantage other than surprise. The bastards recovered well. Let's pack it in."

Morley was being shoved along by one of the Australians when they came upon an Australian officer.

"Lookee here Cap'n, caught myself an Eyetie. Poor bugger keeps claiming he's bloody English."

Captain Miles O'Donoghue looked towards the man speaking, "Right then, how do you know he's Italian, Babcock?"

"Well, caught him in the Eyetie camp, hunkered down in one of the trenches, we gunned his mate down then took him prisoner. All the fight was out of him by then."

O'Donoghue looked at Morley, "You can put your hands down Flight Leftenant. Are you the Hurricane pilot that went down in these parts four days ago?"

Morley lowered his hands, his left shoulder was aching, he suspected that he'd damaged something up there. "Thank you, name's Morley by the way, Reginald Morley, friends call me Reg."

"I'm O'Donoghue, despite the name I'm from Sussex, as English as can be. Friends call me Miles, need a lift?" O'Donoghue gestured at one of the Bedford lorries, "You can ride with me, seems we have some space now, sorry to say we lost about twenty of our chaps. The Italians wanted to fight today."

"Don't suppose you've a medic with you? Bashed my shoulder pretty good during your attack, fell on an ammo crate."

"Well no, we don't. Is it broken?"

"Don't think so, just aches. I'll be all right I suppose."

As the lorry he was riding turned about and headed east, Morley saw that the Australians had tanks with them as well. He also saw the wrecks of two British and two German tanks. He wondered why the Australians were leaving their dead behind until he saw a dust column to the west, the Germans, maybe the Italians, were reacting to the small British raid.

Collect the dead, you might join them. Harsh but then again, that's the very nature of war.

As the camp dropped out of sight, he thought about the young Italian soldier. A decent kid, he'd treated Morley well. He felt bad about the man's death. He wondered if the grumpy Italian sergeant had survived. Hard to say.

But for now, he was safe.

He wondered if Janice had been informed of his being missing. He would soon find out.

 ¹ "I got you, you bastard! (Italian)


  1. At least Morley will have a few days off.

  2. So English flying kit is the same as Italian infantry kit, got it Babcock.......... :) Another good tense post Sarge.

    1. In all fairness, everyone wore some shade of khaki in the desert, also everyone was covered in dust have the time. Babcock perhaps should have noticed that Morley had no equipment, just his uniform (khaki shirt and shorts) without a hat. But heat of combat, etc.

      Thanks Nylon12.

  3. Early Morning Me: "I wonder what Sarge wrote today."

    "I cannot handle this level of excitement every morning without more coffee..."

    Great writing as always, Sarge. I think this week is one of the first times we have met the Italians?

    1. Yes, this is the first time the Italians have been in the series directly. They were mentioned before but only in passing.

  4. There were always jokes amongst my father’s generation about Italian rifles for sale; never fired and only dropped once. Apparently they didn’t come from this lot. Excellent writing and your muse is certainly keeping us guessing.

    1. The Italians in WWII are often mocked, but with good leadership they were the equal of soldiers anywhere. Their artillerymen were noted for their professionalism in North Africa. The Italians routinely suffered from bad officers.

    2. Italians had weak industrial capacity to support the war, and most of the kit was ww1 vintage. Hell they sent biplanes into battle of britain. Most of their tanks were machine gun armed tankettes. And so on..

    3. Italians were good people. My Dad was a medic with the 46 Gen. Hospital outside of Oran, Algeria. His civilian carpentry skills were deemed more valuable building hospital facilities than working as a ward orderly. He had a work crew of Italian POWs (being put to work building hospital facilities being allowed under the Geneva Convention) collected from the stockade every morning. He was issued a rifle to guard them (but being a noncombatant, no ammunition). Only once the Italians raised a fuss when they went out the stockade gate "Mac forgot his rife. He can't guard us!"...

  5. All right on a couple of fronts!
    First the story took up still in the desert (we could have been visiting Norway under the occupation). Second, our current hero made it past the battle and is on his way back to his people.

  6. Crusty Old TV Tech here. Bravo Musie, she must have had a nice Chianti with her Bolognese! The Ozzies finding Morley in an Italian foxhole was a very nice touch.

  7. You and the Muse done good. Again.
    John Blackshoe

  8. Just checking in. Good stuff. Out.


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