Internationalism

Following on from the previous post…

It’s odd to think that I have to thank two of the most evil men in history for my wife.  Her father was a Pole escaping Hitler.  Her mother was a Latvian escaping Stalin.  They were both welcomed, or at least accepted, into Britain.

The result is that my wife is a somewhat religiously confused Lutheran Catholic, with a scattered family around Latvia, Germany, Denmark and Britain and with an excellent ability to speak ‘Forrin”

Add to that the fact that her brother married a Japanese lady and you will understand that family get-togethers sound like the Tower of Babel, and as the only Englishman in the room I just have to do my best.

Luckily I have a half-decent command of French, German and Italian, a smattering of Swedish, and can say “yes”, “no”, “please” and “thank you” * in most European languages, thanks to my previous work experience.

* And once in Hungarian, “Where are the toilets?” Followed by a rapid revisit with the question “Which is men and which is ladies?” 🙂

A D-Day remembrance for all combatants

Last week our radio, TV and podcasts were full of the D-Day 75th anniversary events.  From a British perspective, how many covered the German remembrance?  Almost none, that’s how many.  There was coverage on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme, but that’s all that I could find.

We celebrate our heroes and all our veterans.  Most of them were conscript soldiers, just as the enemy were.  Both sides suffered; men on both sides were killed and suffered horrific injuries, both physical and mental.  I find it heartening that men who could not talk to their own generation or their immediate family about the traumatic events can now open up to their grandchildren and to the media, and can find friendships with the men on the other side who endured those days.  As they come to the evening of their lives, I believe that the importance of remembrance of the sacrifice of young men and women is high on their priorities.

And let us not forget in our national commemorations all the other nations involved in D-Day and the Normandy campaign.  For example, there were Poles fighting on both sides in Normandy.  My own late father-in-law was an unwilling Polish conscript in the Wehrmacht for most of the War, and ended up serving with the Polish army in exile in Great Britain.  I only found out most of his story at his funeral.

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As an aside It’s odd to think that I have to thank two of the most evil men in history for my wife.  Her father was a Pole escaping Hitler.  Her mother was a Latvian escaping Stalin.  They were both welcomed, or at least accepted, into Britain.

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D-Day and beyond. Part 6

Being a narrative story of a continuing wargame.

When I had the idea of this project I thought that I would very quickly fall behind the timeline of 75 years to the day.  I was right!  Even without taking into account the restricted weekend gaming time, I cannot afford to spend the requisite amount of time staring at a game board, making decisions and rolling dice.

Anyway, here is the next part of Captain Copley’s report.

8th June 1944.

This morning we began to receive reinforcements.  First to arrive, around 10:00, was a platoon from C Company.

As they arrived, the remains of A Company launched an attack on the Germans who were trying to cut us off from the beach.

One of Lt. Smythe’s PIAT teams moved up into the woods, stalking the SP gun which gave us some bother yesterday.  They successfully put it out of action. They were accompanied by a rifle squad which attacked enemy infantry on the road.  The enemy ran back into the woods, but then the squad came under rifle fire themselves.  To add to their problems they then suffered artillery fire.  None apparently survived.  The PIAT team was also wiped out in this bombardment.

On the left flank Sgt. MacGregor’s platoon began to move southwest towards the main road, and I moved my HQ southwards to keep in contact with the company’s advance.

The Churchill tank moved cautiously up the road and took position in a defile between two cliffs.

I ordered Sgt. MacGregor to try to get his light mortars to a position from which they could attack the enemy artillery, which was believed to be behind the far hill (point 538 on my map).  He acknowledged the order and I observed his platoon moving over the hill crest towards the southwest.  I continued to move my own HQ up to remain in touch with the company.

I ordered Lt. Smythe to keep moving forward.  For the time being I took command of the newly-arrived platoon from C Company, who advanced along the road.  I also instructed the commander of the Yeomanry’s single Churchill to continue along the road, reporting any sighting of the enemy.  After a few minutes he reported that he had found the enemy’s artillery and destroyed one of the guns.  He was intending to pullback behind the cover of the woods.

Around 10:30 I suffered W/T problems and lost touch with both my own platoon commanders, but urged the reinforcing platoon to  push on up the road.

Next to land was a troop of 25pr guns.  They were a sight for sore eyes!  I suggested to the Troop Commander that he should move to point 621 and deploy behind the crest.  He agreed and advised that the whole regiment (16 guns) would shortly be landing.

I could not raise the Yeomanry tank commander and feared the worst.

I heard shooting to the south and looking around from my vantage point on one of the bluffs I was able to make out a column of enemy infantry moving up the road on our left flank.  They  were already engaged With our infantry on the left.  I immediately called up Sgt. MacGregor, who told me he was already taking action to redeploy his platoon to meet the new threat.

Lt. Smythe reported that he had cleared the immediate threat from the west and was turning to assault the hill to his left flank.

A few minutes later Sgt. MacGregor reported that he was in a spot of bother on the southern flank.   One of his Bren teams had “bottled it”, disturbing the chaps behind them as they ran.  I ordered him to hold as well as he could while I attempted to reinforce his position.  On the right I ordered Lt. Smythe to push on up the hill as he had planned.  I had no response from third platoon commander.

As the first 25pr troop began to set up their positions a second troop arrived, followed by another infantry platoon from C Coy.

Sgt. MacGregor established a defensive line against the enemy infantry arriving from the south.  Lt. Smythe pushed on up the hill, encountering some disorganised infantry in the woods.

The first artillery section took position and their observer moved forwards and established an OP in the woods on the forward slope.

I looked at my watch.  11:00.  Had all of this happened within only one hour?

…to be continued…