Thursday, May 26, 2022

Becalmed ...

Brig becalmed
Francois Geoffroi Roux
Work has been very busy, life has been, well, life. If'n you know what I mean.

Surgery tomorrow, not feeling real creative right now. So posting might be light for the next cuppla, we shall see.

I like this song, when I was a kid I had this album. I liked the song back then as well, though I didn't really understand it.

I do now ...

In My Life
(John Lennon and Paul McCartney¹) 

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more

In my life, I love you more

Peace out, see you soon ...

 ¹ Source for the lyrics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

In the East, On the Soviet Border

The border between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union from September 1939 to June 1941,
somewhere in the occupied territory of Poland.

"What the Hell is the name of this place again?" Gefreiter Ernst Paulus asked the two Poles assigned to his machine gun crew.

"Samowicze, Herr Gefreiter!" Schütze Kazimir Dutka barked out, coming to a rigid position of attention as he did so.

Schütze Jan Kołodziej nearly choked as he tried to stifle a laugh. It got worse when he saw the look on Paulus' face.

"Verdammte Polacken!!" Paulus yelled, then burst out laughing.

He actually liked the two Poles assigned to his machine gun team, Dutka was a real horse when it came to schlepping ammunition and Kołodziej made a superb assistant gunner. The man swapped out belts as smooth as silk so that the gun never missed a beat.

The two Poles had been discussing just how beautiful this section of Poland was, not far from the border with the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Dutka had mentioned slipping over the border and stealing a cow, "It will be like the old days Jan!"

Jan had laughed and said they shouldn't do that as their new masters, the Germans, might not understand them starting a war with Russia before Hitler was ready.

Paulus had never seen a bleaker landscape, endless sandy fields interspersed with woods. Even the people of the region seemed a throwback to medieval times, he doubted that they even knew what electricity was.

As they laughed, manning their post at the border crossing, Leutnant Spahn came up with their squad leader, Unteroffizier Werner Baumbach, "I'm glad you boys are having a good time. Any sightings of our 'allies' across the way." The lieutenant had had a smirk on his face when he had used the word "allies," they all hated the Russians and couldn't wait to cross over and destroy them.

But for now, they lived in an uneasy coexistence, both sides understood the need for separation, the nearest Soviet border post was a good kilometer to the east. Jan had mentioned that it wasn't far enough, "You can still smell the bastards when the wind is in the right direction."

"Don't like the Russkis, do you Jan?" Paulus had commented after the lieutenant had left.

"Nope, dislike them even more than Germans."

Though Jan had smiled when he said that, Paulus wondered. It hadn't been quite a year since Germany had marched into Poland, both of his erstwhile comrades had been in the Polish Army then, no doubt they had both killed Germans while wearing a Polish uniform. Though both men seemed to like him alright, he wondered if they would just as soon kill him as look at him.

It was then that Dutka had clapped him on the back and said, "My dear Gefreiter, you shouldn't worry, ever. You're almost a Pole yourself, being from Gdansk¹. Er, I mean Danzig ..." Dutka grinned, he actually liked Paulus.

Jan nodded, "Yes, you would make a good PolackGefreiter Ernst."

"You two make me nervous, you know that right?" Paulus had hissed at the two as Baumbach came out of the small guard shack next to the road.

"Okay, you three, knock off the grab-ass and get on your gun. According to Leutnant Spahn, the Commies are sending over some officer to talk with our colonel. Don't shoot the Russian bastard, but keep an eye on them while I check their papers."

"Do you read Russian, Herr Unteroffizier?" Dutka had asked.

"Just enough to get in trouble and seem like I know what I'm doing."

Jan mumbled to Dutka, "Sort of like your German Kazimir."

Dutka gave him an evil look before grinning, "Better than your Polish, you half-German mongrel."

Both men stopped when Baumbach stood in front of them, "Something you two would like to share with me?"

"No, sorry Herr Unteroffizier, we were just commenting on the weather. It seems dry this year.. We should see the dust from the Russians' vehicle when they're approaching." Dutka answered.

Baumbach just shook his head, "Verdammte Polacken." Then he walked back to the guard shack.

Jan mumbled in Polish, "We get that a lot from the Niemcy, don't we?"

Dutka smiled and said, "Yes, not everyone has the honor of being Polish, makes 'em jealous I think ..."

¹ The Polish name for Danzig, and the name that fair city bears today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Life on the Border Between War and Not-Quite-War

MG 34 general-purpose machine gun mounted on a Lafette 34 tripod
"Jan, I heard it straight from the Spieß, we're shipping out to the east, next week," Schütze Kazimir Dutka insisted, "we're headed somewhere around Chelm. He wasn't sure of the exact spot, and honestly he knows so little of Poland, but from the orders he's seen, it has to be Chelm."

Schütze Jan Kołodziej shook his head as he looked at his friend. Dutka was a big man, like Jan he was part German, from the village of Stegna in the area which the Poles called "Pomorze" and the Germans called "Pommern¹." He too had been deemed "German-enough" to be conscripted into the Wehrmacht². "Are you sure Kazimir? This isn't just another barracks rumor?"

"Yup, I'm sure. We're marching to the railhead, then heading east. I've seen the supply requisitions. The Spieß is convinced that Hitler means to attack Russia, he's always hated the Communists, his deal with Stalin was just to get us out of the way while he dealt with France and England." Dutka had been a stevedore in Gdansk, while he wasn't well-educated, he paid attention.

"Damn." Jan muttered, setting the ammunition belt he was loading with 7.92 mm rounds aside, he looked at Kazimir. "What am I to do about Elżbieta, how can I get a pass to Warszawa to try and see her? Also, she's seen me in this Nazi uniform, I'm sure she hates me now."

Dutka nodded and said, "Her problems may be worse than yours. Rumor has it that the Niemcy are rounding up everyone who has a college education. Priests, lawyers, doctors, and professors are being killed out of hand. The Niemcy are forcibly removing all Poles from Western Poland to resettle the area with "pure" Germans." Dutka spat as he said that.

"Elżbieta was due to finish school this past spring, of course, after the invasion ... My God, do you think she's been arrested?" Jan had trouble controlling his voice, the more he thought about her, the more he realized he loved her.

He was seriously considering deserting and trying to get to Warszawa, but his common sense told him that that would likely result in his own death and help Elżbieta not at all. Once his unit went to the East, there was no telling what would happen next.

On the other hand, if there was an opportunity to kill Russians, that would be all right in his book. If Hitler wanted to attack the Soviet Union, well then, Jan would help.

Elżbieta Chlebek looked around the hospital. Her shift was nearing its end and the number of sick and wounded Germans was much less than before. Those wounded in the campaign last September were being moved to the Reich if they were incapable of rejoining the army. The less injured and the sick were sent back to their units as soon as they were healed. Even in a army not actively fighting, accidents happened all the time. Men were still dying.

Though Elżbieta still hated the Niemcy, as a general rule, she had discovered that some of them were not so bad. She still shuddered at seeing her Jan in one of those uniforms, but she had since learned that many Poles had been conscripted into the Nazi army, whether they liked it or not. She supposed that they were simply doing whatever they had to do to survive.

She had a moment of shame when she realized that what she had done was no different from what Jan had done. She now had papers indicating that her name was Elisabeth Brodt, a German version of her own name.³ Though she had been very close to completing her medical degree, the Niemcy were suspicious of any educated people in this area of the world.

As her accent was obviously Polish, she did what many had done, claimed to be from what the intelligent learned to refer to as the German areas illegally annexed by Poland after the first war. In her case, she claimed to be from Lauban (Lubań in Polish) in Silesia, an area which had already been reclaimed by the Reich.

Currently she was employed as a nurse in a hospital taken over by the Germans. Though still in the capital city, she dared not visit her old friends or even her parents' flat. Any suspicion that she was Polish would have led to her being shot out of hand or transported to a camp. She had heard the rumors. The Polish intelligentsia were being slaughtered by the Nazis. Any hint of her true nationality or that she had been training as a doctor would be a death sentence for her.

"Elisabeth!" She turned as the German doctor hailed her. She was treated like dirt in this place, what was it with these Nazis?

Caporal Guillaume Micheaux, late of the 142e régiment d'infanterie of the 8e division d'infanterie, stood in the parlor of his cousin's small house on the outskirts of Reims. She had provided him with civilian clothing, the rough attire of a farm laborer but it blended in nicely with the other civilians. The clothes had been her husband's, Pierre had been killed in the initial fighting in the Ardennes around Sedan. Guillaume had liked the man, a lot.

"How are you doing Michelle, now that, well now that ..." Guillaume had trouble saying the words.

Michelle Cordonnier (née Micheaux) shook her head, "Now that I'm a widow? Is that what you mean Guillaume? I thought the army might make you less, I don't know, polite?"

Guillaume chuckled, "Well, I'm a little less polite than I used to be, but around my family? Never!"

"I am doing well enough, I visit your mother every day, and why don't you go see her?"

"Les Boches paroled me, they didn't let me go. If I visit maman, they will know. I haven't reported in yet, I'm thinking of going into the forest and joining the resistance. Or perhaps trying to get to England and join De Gaulle ..."

"De Gaulle!?" Michelle barked at her cousin, "he is simply another politician, if he wanted to fight, why didn't he stop the Boches from taking Paris?!"

Guillaume shook his head, "If only it were so simple. I must go, thank you for the clothing, and the food. Let maman know that I'm alive and well, tell her someone told you that, don't admit to anyone that you've seen me. I don't want you getting in trouble."

"There are no Boches here, no occupiers, they are all in the major towns and the cities." Michelle protested.

"Don't underestimate those bastards, soon they will be everywhere. There are also those who will collaborate, to live a better life helping them. Be wary. Now, I must go my dear."

He kissed his cousin on the cheek, then left quickly, without looking back. He didn't know what he would do, but he refused to do the bidding of the Nazis and their minions. Somehow, he must continue the fight. Somehow get back into the war which had ended without him firing a single round.

His honor demanded it!

¹ Pomerania in English
² The German Armed Forces - the Army (Heer), the Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the Navy (Kriegsmarine). This didn't include the Waffen SS, who were an arm of the Nazi Party for all intents and purposes.
³ Chlebek can be translated into English as "bread." There is also a German surname "Brot" (literally bread) of which Brodt is a variant spelling.

Monday, May 23, 2022

"God is Great, Beer is good, People are Crazy" troisième partie

 So there we were...* Deep in the heart of Texas in the midst of a very severe drought (somewhere around an inch of rain this year so far and we're about to enter the dry season). Yesterday a huge thunderstorm popped up and the radar return was pink and purple.  Unfortunately it went south of Rancho Juvat and we got nothing. 

It was a mist opportunity.

Thank you, thank you verr much. Be sure and tip the wait staff.

Been a pretty good week overall although I did get a bit of bad news.  Went back to the ENT Doc for my post-meds follow up on my sinus infection.  Part of the visit was a cat scan of my head.  Apparently, my right maxillary sinus is nearly totally full of fluid.  So they've got me scheduled on the 9th for a "procedure" to clear it.  It involves a balloon up the nose and then inflated.  I'll be sedated but awake.

Sounds like fun, don't it?

But the good news is MBD and MG came and stayed with Mrs. J and I for the past week.  Pastor Bob is on a Men's retreat  in Alabama.  He, and they, will be back home as this post hits the web.  But it has been fun, memory recovering, educational,  family bonding in the interim.

MG is way more developed than the last time we saw her.  She'll be 7 months in a couple of days.  She's not talking yet, but is very vocal and does a pretty good job of communicating happiness or wet diapers/hunger.  She's also able to stand up, but requires a bit of stabilization, so we're practicing that exercise in a lap with hands very close to her armpits.


This Grandparent gig is even more fun than my previous most fun gig (something dealing with altitude and hundreds of MPH).  Besides, I doubt my current shape would stand the previous funnest gig.  

But one of my "opportunities"to spread my Grandfatherly knowledge to my youngest relative was in showing her how to, and assisting her with, eating semi-solid food.  In this case, a puree of apples, strawberries and beets. (No Beans, I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to try it myself.)

Things went swimmingly!

 Even though she needed a bath and I a shower shortly thereafter, we both got a lot of laughs.

If the Olympics ever decide swimming should be conducted in a pool of a puree of apples, strawberries and beets, she's a shoe-in for a Gold.




Had an interesting revelation about one of our restaurants that, pre-WuFlu, we'd frequently visit.  The owners took advantage of the relative lack of customers to do some renovation and decorating.  This was the first time in a long time that we ate inside (Tx gets hot, even in May).  We had just ordered and I'm looking around when my eye catches this.

Astute Chant readers will immediately recognize the gentleman in the top left corner.  And I was aware that Admiral Nimitz was born in the 'Burg and his family owned a hotel in town (which is now "The National Museum of the Pacific War" officially, and, locally, "The Nimitz Museum".  Smithsonian quality museum, definitely a "must see" if in the area).  

Anyhow, what I didn't know was the room I was sitting in was the room that Admiral Nimitz was actually born in.  The Life article had been found in a closed off room when they were renovating and they decided to hang it for the folks that have an interest in such things.

I asked our waitress about it, she filled me in about the significance and told me a bit more that had been discovered.

This is the area we usually sit in when we visit this restaurant.  Very relaxing.  What the waitress told us was that BITD, the white building on the left behind the red umbrella was the Nimitz family's first home.  The building across the breezeway to the right was the Nimitz' Butcher Shop.  The Nimitz Museum is across the street and to the right as you leave that breezeway.  

Little things like that, bring history to life.  Or...It does for me.

Which pretty much ends the events of the week.  Lots of fun.

But...As one might suspect from the post title, not everything went swimmingly.

Past posts with variations of this post's title can be found here and here. We've also had 2 near misses with regard to the oven/stove in our guest houses.  The first of which, the guest was looking to toast some French Bread for dinner.  Instead of looking in the drawer below the oven (an obvious place to store oven pots and pans), they used the plastic mat used under the dish rack to funnel water into the sink.  Dried it off, put the bread on it and put it under the broiler.  Didn't mention anything about it to us, but we do check around when we clean.  Took us a very long time to clean the oven. They received a very low guest rating on our review of their stay.

Then there was the guy who got up early and wanted to make his wife some tea and serve it to her in bed.  Didn't want to wake her up, so didn't turn on the lights.  Grabbed the tea kettle, filled it full of water, put it on the stove and turned the burner on high.  Went outside for a breath of air, came in a few minutes later to see the electric tea kettle with a plastic bottom was on fire.  Fortunately, he kept his wits about him, grabbed the fire extinguisher and put the fire out.  He then called us and explained what had happened and apologized profusely.  

We had a couple of guests last week.  A twosome, mother and daughter.  Mom was in my age bracket, daughter was in my kid's.  Spent a lot of time in town shopping, and sat on the front porch in the evening talking.  So far, so good, right?

Well, not exactly.  Because of the drought, the county has been on a burn ban for months.  No open flames, period.  Mrs. J being the thoughtful, romantic person she is, removed the candles for the tables outside and replaced them with battery powered candle look a likes, complete with flickering "Flame".


Apparently, they tried, and succeeded to set it aflame.

We think alcohol just might have been involved.

So, based on all that,  I'm thinking Billy Currington might need to be invoked again.

Peace out, Y'all!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Pause That Refreshes

Scottish Infantrymen of the 8th Royal Scots, 15th Infantry Division, pause to regroup after coming
under heavy fire from German forces. Near Tilburg, North Brabant, Netherlands. 27 October 1944.

All right lads and lasses, it's time for me to regroup, straighten out the lines, get the replacements settled in, and figure out just where I'm going with this story. It all tends to flow from my imagination (often willy-nilly) and there are times I need to take a deep breath and get it all sorted.


I've introduced some new characters, from the Royal Air Force and the Deutsches Luftwaffe, we've re-established contact with von Lüttwitz and his lads. We've also seen what Billy Wallace and his boys are up to, not to mention the "new" Poles with their French sniper in tow.

I realized the other day, that Jan Kołodziej and the love of his life, Elżbieta Chlebek, are still languishing in Poland, unaccounted for in some time. The last we saw of them was Jan getting a dirty look from Elżbieta as he is now wearing the uniform of the hated Niemcy.

Jan did it to survive of course and return to his love, but Elżbieta doesn't know that. I need to get that situation squared away and updated. But it might take a while, all of the action at the moment is along the Channel coast and it's mostly in the air. (I'm not sure if I'll throw some sailors in shortly, I mean it's the English Channel and there were naval units all over the place!)

But I do want to touch base with Jan and Elżbieta shortly, even if it's just in passing. Jan is a very important character in my D-Day to VE-Day story, as some of you might recall.

Did anyone recognize the name of Willi Hoffmeister and his tankers? He was in the later book quite a bit, right up until near the end as I recall. Willi and his crew are going to see a lot of action in the East and perhaps even North Africa, I haven't decided yet on including the Afrika Korps in this tale. We shall see.

Also, as the war progresses we'll start seeing the Americans creep in, which makes me lean towards including North Africa as that's where Flavio Gentile got his start. (Who? What, you've forgotten Stump already?)

With all of that being said, it was a long week, productive and busy, but long. I'm getting some laser work done on the left eye next Friday which, while it doesn't worry me, does give me something to stress about. (For glaucoma, it's a procedure to shrink the tissue which pumps moisture into the eye, need to slow that as the increased liquid in the same volume increases the pressure, which isn't good. My doc says the eye drops aren't really cutting it anymore.)

Ear doc on Monday (geez, I am falling apart) for some issues I've had lately. So this coming week will probably be hectic as well. Been busy, will get busier still.

So, I'll get back to the book shortly, but the Muse asked for a breather which I gladly gave her, after all, I need it too. She comes up with the ideas, I just type. (And boy my fingers are tired!)

So stay tuned, hang in there, smoke 'em if ya got 'em, (I know, I know, not good, but I used to do that so I understand the urge, it's been ten years since I puffed, so far, so good, knock on wood and all that) and be cognizant of the fact that our characters need to be standing by for heavy rolls. It's war dontcha know?

See you Tuesday or so, stay frosty.

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)

Friday, May 20, 2022

Herr Heinkel Comes Calling ...

Heinkel He-111 medium bombers
Flying Officer Reginald Morley was airborne with his squadron well before the sun was up. As they climbed the world lightened until they reached an altitude where the sun was already shining. The earth below was still in shadow. Morley was still shaken by the events of the previous day, but miraculously the woman he cared for had gotten word to him.

She was alive. He had asked her if she was hurt, all she had said was, "I'm all right, I'll heal in time. Just some cuts and bruises."

He had taken her at her word, which had given him a great deal of relief. Now he had to focus on his flying, the RDF station to the north had given them warning that another raid was forming up across the Channel. The controller had ordered the squadron to orbit over The Solent at 10,000 feet.

As they continued to climb and head out over the Isle of Wight, Morley nodded. Already the altimeter was passing 12,500 feet. The squadron commander wanted lots of height when they encountered the Huns. No more getting bounced by Messerschmitts if he could help it. The controller wasn't up here, they were.

"Green Flight, Green Leader, bogies at 12 o'clock, our angels. Look for the fighter escort."

Before anyone could answer, another voice came over the R/T, "Green Flight, this is Yellow Leader, with twelve Spitfires, we'll get the 109s, you chaps go for the bombers."

"Green Flight, WILCO."

Hauptmann Theodor Schenk sat comfortably in his seat keeping his eyes moving in all directions as they approached the English coast. The formation had formed up, gone south, then west, trying to feint the British into thinking that a raid on Bournemouth was coming. As they had flown across the Channel they had gradually slid to the north, their real target was Portsmouth.

His crew were all veterans of Poland and the recent operations in France, this was their first trip to England. Intelligence had indicated that there was a gap in the Englanders' Funkmeß¹, a gap they hoped to exploit to hit RAF airfields in the Portsmouth area.

A call from the aircraft's dorsal gunner alerted them all to the fact that their fighter escort, some 2,500 meters higher than them, were being engaged by English Spitfires.

"All stations, keep your eyes peeled, if the Spits are attacking our escorts, their Hurricanes must be around as well." Schenk sat up and focused. If they were attacked he intended to jink just enough to throw off the enemies' aim but still stay on track for the bomb run.

"Hartmann, you better take your position." Schenk instructed his bomb aimer. Max Hartmann slid forward into the nose of the aircraft and readied his equipment.

Morley was well above the flight of Heinkels, it was time, "Blue Flight, slip into right echelon, then follow me down. I'll take the aircraft on the left, Two take the center, Three, the bird to the right. All right chaps, let's go."

Morley advanced his throttle then bunted the nose to put his Hurricane into a dive. He wanted to pass through the enemy formation with enough speed to throw off their aim and then come around for another pass. If they could break up the formation, that would be mission accomplished in his book.

Gefreiter Heinrich Stüber called out, "Hurricanes, dead astern!" as he began to engage the incoming British aircraft. The Englanders were jinking just enough to mess up his sight picture, but he began firing anyway. He didn't notice the winking along the leading edge of the British aircraft as the pilot triggered the eight .303 machine guns, four to each wing. It wouldn't have mattered if he had.

Stüber sat down hard, he didn't understand why he had lost his grip on his gun. He only sat there a moment before he toppled to the floor of the aircraft. Unconscious and losing blood rapidly, he would die before his crewmates knew he had been hit. But they were in a fight for their lives, a fight Stüber had already lost.

"Blue Lead, Blue Two, sorry Reg, but I've copped it. Engine is smoking, oil is spattering my windscreen and I've got a nasty hole in me. I'm off for home."

As Morley and his surviving wingman arched up and to the left, he caught sight of Teddy Wilson's aircraft. It was indeed smoking and losing altitude.

"Teddy, jump when you get over land. Don't try to ride her down, we can get you a new aircraft, we can't get another Teddy."

"I'll try Reg, but she's starting to burn, I'm going over the side now. Cheers!"

The Heinkel was dying, Schenk had managed to turn her back to France but the left engine was smoking badly, the right seemed to be losing oil pressure and at least two of his crew were hit. He had no idea that Stüber was already dead. But Hartmann lay wounded and bleeding in his bomb aimer's position and the side gunner reported that he too was hit but could still man his guns.

"Kurt, how is the radio?"

Kurt Graebner responded, "I can transmit, but I think the receiver's dead. Can you keep her in the air long enough to get home?"

As Graebner asked that, the right engine coughed and seized up, the oil was gone. "No, transmit a Mayday, I'm going to try and put her down near the rescue buoy off Barfleur, that's as close as I can get to land. If the Seenotdienst can get to us, we'll make it through this."

Max Hartmann stirred, coughing he said, "Provided we survive the crash, Herr Hauptmann."

Graebner nodded, "There is that, there is that."

Morley touched down, Sergeant Roger Friedman's Hurricane behind him and to his right. He wished he could feel the elation he should have felt at badly damaging one Heinkel and shooting down another. Friedman had a kill as well.

As they pulled up to dispersal, Morley noted that, as always, O'Donnell was waiting.

Morley sat in the cockpit for a few moments as the engine shut down. After a bit, all he could hear was the ticking of the hot engine in front of him. O'Donnell knew enough to wait for Morley to collect himself.

"Any word on Teddy?" Morley asked, hoping against hope that his downed wingman was alive.

O'Donnell shook his head, "Mr. Wilson went into the Channel, Sir. His chute was spotted but an offshore wind pushed him further out to sea. By the time the rescue boat got to him, he'd drowned."

"Damn it." Morley sat a moment longer, then climbed onto the wing of the aircraft, with O'Donnell's help.

He stood there, looking to the east, towards the Channel. He would have to write a letter to Teddy's Mum and Dad. They'd already lost one son in France, now this. He looked at O'Donnell, "I hope you've improved the contents of that flask Chiefy."

O'Donnell nodded and handed it to his pilot, "Whiskey, Sir. Traded with a fellow I know over at our sister squadron."

"Nothing vital I trust?"

"Of course not Sir, just a few typewriter ribbons that I nicked from the Station Commander's office."

Morley managed a smile.

Schenk's Heinkel made it to the rescue buoy, two men out of his crew survived the water landing. Schenk did not.

Final tally for the day: Four Heinkels shot down, three returned to France with dead and wounded crewmembers aboard. Two of the escorting Bf-109s were shot down to one Spitfire damaged.

Teddy Wilson was the only loss among the Hurricane crews.

¹ Radio-measuring, what the Germans called radar.