Escape From Stalag VIIIB

Back to the Med
October 8, 1943

General Thomason is sat behind with his boots resting on his huge, cluttered desk, a tumbler of whisky in one hand and a dossier resting in his lap.

“At ease, guys,” the General says, not looking up from the folder. “Grab yourselves a seat.”

He puffs on a large cigar and seemingly ignores everyone for the best part of five minutes as he continues to read the dossier.

He slaps it shut over-dramatically and tosses it on his desk.

“Good work, guys,” he says as a rare smile crosses his face momentarily.

“After all that, I’m sure that you’re ready for a little vacation,” he says.

Taffy nods vigorously. "Yes, that we are, Sir. “Me Mum’s dead angry at me for missing supper the last time – after she cooked me favourite rarebit, she did. It’s hard to get all the ingredients, what with the rationing and all.”

The General doesn’t seem to be listening.

“Yeah, a nice little vacation is what you all need,” he continues. “I’ve heard that the Med is nice at this time of year. The weather’s a lot nicer than it is here in Limey-land – not to mention up north in Kvalen-land.”

“Where about in the Med, exactly?” asks the Padre suspiciously?

“Gibraltar. That nice, safe little rock well away from all of the troubles.”

“And what are we going to do when we get there?” Piotr asks, even more suspiciously.

“Commander Ian Fleming will meet you and fill you in on the details,” he says. “You must have made a really good impression on it from the Mussolini snatch. He requested you guys in particular for his latest little job.”

Shoulders shrug in resignation all round.

“Have all your kit ready for you to leave at 1930 hours. If you need any Kraut ammo for your weapons, request them from the QM. Full load-out. You may be gone for quite a while.”

“Thank you, gentlemen. That will be all. Gloria will see you out.”

And with that, he picks up another dossier and starts to read.

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Reached the Beach
October 6, 1943

11:00 am, a kilometer off the beach in a small boat

“What I wouldn’t give to see the look on Jerry’s face when he figures out we demolished his fancy new shore battery…” laughed Bruce as the salt spray from the waves broke over the heaving bow, and momentarily drenched them all.

“Won’t be long before survivors get radio working and tell him…” rumbled Lodd.

“I keep tellin’ you, buddy, ‘Jerry’ is slang for the Germans, not a real guy…” said Terry patiently to Lodd.

The big Slav grunted in response.

“Well, I’ve got snaps of the inner workings of the battery, as well as a few of those ’ Maschinenmensch’ that we had to fight in the bunker." said Taffy, “Should make HQ happy…”

“Those things gave me the creeps.” muttered Terry.

“Well, they’re all dead…” Taffy went on.

“That we know of…” interrupted the Yank.

“…and, we accomplished the mission.”

“Maybe we’ll get a promotion.” Bob added hopefully, “I’m one of the best shots in the Army, and I’m tired of being a Corporal.”

“Best shot in the Canadian Army, you mean.” snickered Terry, “That’s like being the hundredth best shot in the good ’ol USA Army, ya know, bud?”

“None of you have what it takes to be a noncommissioned Officer anyway, so shut it.” snapped Taffy.

“What makes you so special, Sarge?” asked Terry mockingly.

“Well, for starters, to be a good NCO, you have to give up your sense of humor.” answered the British Sapper.

The two men, American Boxer and Welsh Demo Man, stared at each other a moment.

Then both broke out laughing.

“Well done, lads, well done..” said Piotr, as he turned to look across the Channel, towards England, and their next mission…

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So Loud Lodd
October 6, 1943

Normandy, 3:35 AM, a few kilometers from the beach near Battery AR-35

“…got some blue sky action, king for a day…” Terry sang softly to himself as he passed a roll of bandages to Bruce.

Taffy groaned, still only partly aware of his surroundings, as he lay on his back in the muddy road that snaked through the marshy dunes of the Normandy coast.

“What’s that, mate?” the padre asked.

“Nuthin’ Bruce. Will he live?”

“I’ve done as much as I can with modern medical methods. Time to call on the Almighty.” And, with that, the Aussie Chaplain muttered a short prayer.

Terry hated this part.

Bruce abruptly stopped praying, his head tilting up towards the night sky until the angle looked like it would snap his neck. He stayed like that for a second or two, then his head came back down, until it seemed he was looking directly at Terry.

“Deus , dona mihi, misero peccatori hac vita , etiam si sit Walensium…” droned the Priest, his staring eyes completely white, his skin glowing softly, as he ran his hands over Taffy’s wounds.

Terry shivered and crossed himself. Then he almost broke out laughing as he realized who he was calling on to protect him from whom. He crossed himself again anyway.

Suddenly Bruce exhaled mightily, his eyes resuming their normal color. Seeing the worried look on Terry’s face, he mumbled, “Don’t worry Mate, he’ll be right as rain in ten minutes. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got to close my eyes a few tics…”

As the Padre moved off to rest a moment, the other members of the team crowded round the still groggy but slowly recovering Welshman.

“We thought you were going to die.” said Pyotr, himself recently saved from capture at the hands of a Wehrmacht patrol after he’d landed far off the mark when they parachuted into the drop zone near Nimes.

“I thought you were surrendering, the way you went to your knees in front of that German trooper and stayed there for a few seconds.” laughed Bob, uncharacteristically jovial, “Then you toppled face forward into the mud and I knew you were gone to blood loss, eh?”

“Kept the damn Nazi occupied for a few seconds while he tried to figure out what to do, so you immobilized one even when you were out of action yourself, Seargent.” said Pyotr.

“While you sleep, you miss my machinegun, Taffy.” came a rumble from Lodd, “I use it like you tell me. I shoot many bullets at German swine.”

“About that,” interjected Taffy, now mostly awake, mostly, “I was in the fight long enough to scream at you to stop firing indiscriminately into the darkness in front of you. Bloody oaf, I was in front of you in the darkness!”

Holding up his hands in supplication, the Beast of Belgrade chuckled, “Could not hear you shouting at me over noise of machinegun. Maybe another reason not to fire so many bullets all at once…?”

Taffy groaned, secretly wishing he was still unconscious…

“Let’s get going, Taffy, if you feel up to it?” asked Pyotr. “We still have to infiltrate and destroy the AR-35 Battery before dawn…”

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Yum, Lamb Pie...
October 4, 1943

O.S.I. HQ, England

“Sargent, I know you and the boys have only been back from Kvalen Island for a few days,” Major Hendry began.

“A ‘few’ days? Sir, if I may, it’s barely been two days since we returned. That giant oaf Lodd’s only just gotten over being seasick. We haven’t even gotten a proper leave yet.” replied Taffy, before the officer could finish.

“Nevertheless Sargent, we’ve received intel from our contacts in the French underground that the Germans are almost ready to activate a new type of shore battery on the Normandy coast. Admiral Barrington has decided we need an immediate recon mission to determine how it works, and, if possible, to render it inoperable.”

“Render it bloody inoperable?” snapped Taffy, before he could catch himself, “Pardon, sir, but won’t they just build another?”

“They might, but Goering was very much against this project, and the other German high muckety mucks only got Hitler to ok it on the premise that it showed immediate results. As this is both an experimental unit designed to further test the science involved, and a functional prototype that could bolster the Normandy defenses in case we decide to land there in the coming year, knocking it out would serve a dual purpose…and might cause Hitler to focus his attention on another project at the same time, throwing away the time and research they’ve sunk into this one…”

“But sir, why us? Certainly there must be another team more rested than we are?”

“No, Roland and his Special Air Service group are on assignment in Italy. Vigo and the lads are doing something for us in Russia, and, to top it all off, Nimitz has requested OSI assistance in the Solomon Islands. Apparently the Japs are in league with a particularly powerful local witch doctor and the Marines are requesting help locating the source of his juju, so they can put him down. So OSI Europe had to detail three teams to OSI Pacific for the immediate future. Long and the short of it is: tag, you’re it.”

“Well then, Sir, when do we leave?” said Taffy, buckling down to duty in that most English way.

“Tomorrow night.”

“Bloody hell. Tomorrow night? I’ve got supper at me mum’s…” stopping himself once again, Taffy went on, “Mission details, Sir?”

Unrolling a tactical map on the briefing table, Hendry pointed to various spots as he droned on, but it was all Taffy could do to keep from thinking of his mum’s Lamb pies he’d be missing on the morrow…

“…dropping you in at night, in bad weather, to provide cover…increased underground sabotage activity in the area scheduled to coincide with the mission, to provide a distraction…resistance members will liaise with you, to provide direction…”

…Taffy’s mouth watered…

“…Admiral is allowing you to choose your option for dress and weapons: SS Men with false papers, local farmers with false papers, or straight in, as Commandos…extraction point will be down the beach a few klicks from the battery…any questions?”

…with a seasoned soldier’s ability to process a tactical briefing and simultaneously imagine eating hot food, Taffy snapped to attention. “None, Sir. Shall I brief the men?”

“Just one more thing, Sargent.”

“Sir?”

“When I heard your group drew this mission, after such a short R & R, I took the leave of ringing up your mum to apologize on behalf of HQ. Her response was, ‘My boy fights for his country, when his country needs him.’ Then she sent enough meat pies to feed the whole group before the plane ride over tomorrow night. " Hendry said. “I’ll have the boys in the commissary get ’em ready when you leave. Nothing like good home cooked food to get a man ready for a dangerous mission, right Sargent?”

Without waiting for a reply, the US Army Major rolled up his map, nodded, and left the room.

For the first time during that day, maybe even that whole week, hell, maybe since the bloody war began, Taffy smiled a genuine smile…

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All Ashore That's Going Ashore...
September 28, 1943

Barents Sea

4:00 AM, Local Time

“UGhhhGGHA” The splattering noise of vomit was enough to tell the rest of the crew of the little submarine that Lodd had thrown up on the back of the soldier in front of him.

Everyone knew it was coming…Lodd’s glassy eyes, pale clammy face and groans of gastric upset all hailed the advent of claustrophobia induced sea-sickness. Unfortunately ‘mini’ was the most descriptive term of the small insertion submarine that was to land the team on to the shores of Kvalen Island. In the tight quarters, once a soldier sat down and strapped in movement was very restricted.

YOU BASTARD!!!” Screamed Taffy from the front seat, as the Slav’s previous, half digested meal leaked under the Welshman’s thin tee-shirt back.

“I will bloody kill you!!” Sergeant Williams tried to turn around in his seat to deliver the hulking Lodd a death blow with his combat knife, but was unable to do so due to the cramped space.

He then unsuccessfully tried to avoid Lodd’s next load of wet guts.

“Bloody wanker!”

“Don’t be so hard on him Taffy,” said Tanker First Class Mallory in his signature harsh Brooklyn accent “We was at the Captain’s Mess table on the Hermes last night clinkin’ glasses and suckin’ down the borsht for his masticating pleasure: he must ‘a got his self three sheets to an ill wind and the Barents Sea is now doin’ a tap dance on the big lugs gastronomy system.”

“M’ sorry, Taf—-UGhhhGGHA” says Lodd.

Neither Lodd nor Taffy felt any better about the situation even after the team swam the short distance to Kvalen Islands shore through the ice encrusted surf.

In the dim light of the moon the commandos stripped out of their swimming gear, dressed in Nazi uniforms, and equipped themselves with Wehrmacht weaponry.

Suddenly the hair on the back of Grumpy Bob’s neck rose and he had his rifle out and aimed at a spot in the darkness. He waited, the barrel of his Gewehr ’43 steady as a rock.

Eventually a German Kriegsmarine Officer stepped out from behind a tree, his hands in the air.

“I am Anders Trygstad, I am your contact here.” His English had a thick Norwegian accent.

Looking at Bob he said, “Don’t shoot.”

Pyotr said, " You are our O.S.S. Liaison?"

Trygstad replied in flawless German, “Yes. I look forward to working with your team. Your reputation precedes you. Tell me Herr Count, how was it to work with the ace fighter pilot Franco Bordoni-Bisleri?”

“He’s dead.”

“Oh…well I heard you worked with one of my good acquaintances, Father Andrezej Cerny on the Karlstien Castle mission, how is he doing?”

“He’s dead, too”

“Dear me…should I even ask about a lady friend of mine, Lorelei Holdst…”

“Oh yeah…tall blonde girl. World class fencer before the war broke out. Yes I know her.”

“Good.” says Trygstad with a sigh “How is she doing?”

“She’s dead. Now lets get a move on.”

4:30 PM, Local Time

“Enemy patrols: eliminated.”

“Submarine Base: disabled.”

“S.S. Paranormal activities: investigated, and stopped.”

“Radar Station: destroyed.”

“Good work, chaps.” Said Taffy, as he finished checking off the mission goals with grease pencil on the plastic sheet he was using to take notes for the eventual debriefing at HQ when they returned to England.

Standing close to the shore, suited up once again in his swim gear, Terry quipped, “Now alls thats left is for us to convince Lodd to get back into the mini sub…”

Putting away the note sheet, Taffy smiled, “I don’t care if he gets on or stays here, but I call the back seat.”

“Sorry.” muttered Lodd, then he added, “Is too bad about Anders. He was good man.”

“He’s dead. Now let’s get a move on.” said Pyotr, as the small group began wading into the surf…

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One by Bloody One...
September 24, 1943

England

“Pyotr, we need to talk.” said Admiral Barrington as the Kvalen Island mission briefing broke up.

“Is it something the whole team needs to hear?” responded the Pole in his flawless English, glancing towards his comrades in arms, as they began to file out of the meeting room.

“No. They know about the need to investigate the S.S. presence on the island, but you alone will understand the importance of this information.” pausing, “Perhaps he would as well,” the senior officer added, looking at the broad back of Lodd as the giant Slav exited, probably in search of Vodka. “But then he wouldn’t process the information in the same way as you or I, would he?”

“Better to keep this between us, my friend, as your Baltoslavic heritage allows you to understand what I am about to tell you better than the North Americans, or even Taffy.”

“Yes?” asked Pyotr.

“We have information that the S.S. activities on Kvalen Island involve a Finnish priest named Kustaa. His history, as nearly as we can tell, relates to Runic Summoning magic.” Barrington drew a deep breath, “Pyotr, we think the S.S. are working with him to raise one or more Norse gods.”

Letting that sink in, the Admiral went on, “Tell Bob, if he gets Kustaa in his sights, to aim right between the eyes.”

The Polish officer nodded.

“And tell him to hit this time.” Barrington finished, dismissing Kowalcyzk with a stern look.

Pyotr saluted crisply and left.

Back at their quarters, Pyotr and the others went over the briefing materiel they’d been given.

“We’re to be dropped off at the Northwestern tip of the island, where patrols are least likely to spot us.” said Taffy, “Then we’re to make our way to the Southern part, where the U-Boat base is, and destroy that. We’ll be given cover identities as German Abwehr, and we’re to rendezvous with our O.S.S. liaison, an Norwegian named Anders Trygstad, who is undercover as a Kriegsmarine officer. After we hit the base, we’re to investigate an S.S. camp at the Southern end of Kvalen, then destroy the Radar installation in the center of the island before making our way back to the original insertion point to await extraction.”

“In keeping with our cover identities, we’ll be issued German weapons, uniforms, and I.D. papers. Pyotr will be Major Wilhelm Stransky, I’ll be Leutnant Karl Heffernan, the rest of you will be our escort, and Lodd, you’ll be mute.” Taffy finisihed.

“What about opposition, Sarge? How many mooks are we facin’?” aked Terry.

“Fifty to one hundred veteran Wehrmacht infantry, a few armoured cars, some ack ack batteries, and a couple hundred sailors from the U-Boats.” Bob said before Taffy could respond, reading from the briefing notes.

“The Kriegsmariners shouldn’t be a problem, but that’s a lot of infantry, mates.” added Bruce.

“Is not too many. After I am done, only leaves one or two for each of you.” laughed Lodd in his broken English.

“Provided you use your Machine Gun as an automatic weapon, rather than as a sniper rifle, or worse yet, a club.” snapped Taffy. “Otherwise we’ll be at this mission for the rest of the bloody war, while you kill every German one by bloody one…”

“Is so, yes?” chuckled Lodd.

“If that’s all, let’s head for the Submarine. _Hermes_’ captain wants to put out to sea as soon as possible.” said Pyotr.

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Lodd Wakes Up
21st September 1943

Another air pocket jolted the Ju88, rousing Lodd from his well earned slumber. The fat Italian they had kidnapped was piloting the craft, being watched alternately by Terry and Taffy. The jolt caused a sharp pain in his wounded shoulder, and he grunted.

The drive to L’Aquila airfield had been without incident, and before the bemused airfield crew had known what was happening, Terry was driving through two lines of parked aircraft towards a pair of Ju88s that were being prepped, clipping a few wings as he did so. Lodd and the others had disembarked near the fighters, and had wreaked what havoc they could.

As the Garrison had struggled to life it had been just too late, and Terry had overseen Il Duce while the plane was readied. Lodd dimly remembered Taffy shouting at him.

“It’s not a fucking sniper rifle its an LMG!”" he yelled, grabbing hold of the MG 42. “Give it here and get back to the plane with the others.” Taffy grunted with satisfaction as he took a line of four germans down like ninepins.

Lodd shook his head, his animal brain dimly remembering his Russian officer’s admonition not to waste precious bullets. He lumbered back to the plane, ignoring the pain from his wound.

As the Ju88 had started to taxi the padre had shouted to Taffy, who sprinted for the door and was hauled aboard. With fires raging on the airfield behind them, they staggered into the air.

Lodd considered the import of their mission.

“Lodd sleep now. Lodd eat much food when we get home”. He started to snore.

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Battle for Gran Sasso Base Station
21 September 1943

The party members manage to get into the cablecar before any of the remaining gliders in the air manage to land. Taffy (the boffin) takes a look at the controls and manages to get the cablecar in dock to move. He then has to make a quick dash to get into it before it sets off, Fortunately Terry and Lodd are waiting to grab him and drag him onboard before he tumbles down the mountainside.

It is a clear day and so they can see the base station and the small hamlet surrounding it. They can’t see what may be waiting for them there, however. They realize that the slow-moving cablecar is going to take a while to get down there – leaving the Padre with ample time to patch up the injured before the cablecar arrives.

After ten minutes of journey time, they can now get a better view of the cablecar station that they are slowly heading towards. As feared, there are Fallschirmjager waiting for them. Fortunately, however, they do not seem to have been forewarned that Skorzeny’s mission has gone wrong, as they appear to be relaxed and simply watching the car descend. They can make out around four troopers on the platforms waiting for them, and three Fiat trucks in the parking lot next to it – one of which is occupied by a squad of paratroopers.

The party members discuss their tactics. Lodd loads a round into his bazooka and waits until the cablecar is close to the base station. Once he is sure that he has the truck well and truly fixed in his sights, he squeezes the trigger.

KABOOM!’

The Fiat truck goes up taking much of the squad inside with it, leaving just three of the troopers to rush from the back of it. Simultaneously, Terry, Taffy and Bob manage to take out a couple more of the troopers on the platform while Piotr continues to keep a careful watch on Mussolini. Mussolini still seems to be in a state of shock, however – or is still trying to figure out whether he is being ‘rescued’ or ‘kidnapped’.

The cablecar has docked now. Bob and Piotr manage to pick off some of the troopers that are in sight – their automatic rifles much better weapons for this task than the MP40’s of the Fallschirmjager. They understand, however, that they need to get out of the cablecar as quickly as possible and so Taffy bravely leads the way, with Terry hot on his heels.

Unfortunately for Taffy, he finds a lot of Nazis waiting for him around the corner of the base station and gets shot up pretty badly, a situation not helped by the arrival onto the scene of a Zündapp KS 750 motorcycle and sidecar, which brings an MG42 bearing down upon them. Fortunately, Bruce is not far away and helps to patch him up, while Terry, Lodd and Bob take care of the crew of the motorcycle.

As the party members struggle against superior numbers with a distinct lack of cover, Bruce reveals that the Lord has seen fit to bestow him with a new gift. Having seen the effect of Terry’s smoke grenades in obscuring the party’s movements, he utters a prayer and is rewarded with the appearance of a globe of darkness between the party and the Fallschirmjager, allowing them to advance towards the cover of the vehicles.

From their new positions in cover and with the range advantage that their weapons have over the MP40’s of the paratroopers, the party members seem to be gaining the initiative as trooper after trooper bites the dust.

However, shots ring out to the west of their position from bushes and they realize that there are more of the Fallschirmjager out there who are keeping to cover. Before Terry is able to counterattack, he is taken down by a burst of MP40 fire and it’s all that he can do to crawl into cover. Bob is close by and manages to take down several of the force attacking from this direction.

Lodd is now using his own MG42 and helping Piotr and Mussolini get into one of the still-running Fiat trucks. Piotr takes a bullet in the process and is shaken for a while. Mussolini is obviously considering his options with his minder temporarily out of action but, between the actions of Terry and Lodd, together with another couple of well-aimed shots from Bruce’s Colt that hits his targets right between the eyes, the situation is soon under control once again and Piotr and Mussolini are soon bundled into the truck.

There are just a handful of Fallschirmjager remaining to the south now, using the small security building at the entrance of the base station and surrounding bushes as cover. Although badly injured, Terry keeps firing away – managing (with the help of Bob) to finish off the troopers to the west and another one to the south. Taffy and Lodd manage to clear the rest.

They get a glimpse of Major Harald Mors, and Taffy manages to injure him with a burst from his Grease Gun. The Major manages to limp away from the action though, finding cover and running from the action like an Italian. The party members think of going after him, but decide instead that the most prudent course of action would be to make a swift getaway while the going is good.

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Saving Il Duce Mussolini
21 September 1943

The stream of Italians pouring down the stairs seems to have dried up to just a trickle and so the party members decide that it is time to go on the offensive as otherwise they are never going to succeed in their mission to grab Il Duce. Piotr, Lodd and Terry all start to make their way cautiously up the stairs, with Bruce following behind them at a safe distance.

Taffy and Bob, meanwhile, are more concerned with what has happened to Skorzeny as he doesn’t seem to be coming out of the room where he has holed up for a while. Taffy decides to go looking for him and carefully heads through the doorway into the room where the SS-Officer was hiding. Upon opening the door, however, he finds that the bird has flown – outside presumably considering the fact that the window onto the balcony is open.

Taffy shouts to Bob for assistance and the sniper comes out onto the balcony. He runs along it and leans around the corner, where he sees Skorzeny trying to come around the opposite side of the building. Bob fires off a quick shot at him, catching him in the shoulder. This hastens Otto’s determination to get around the other side of the building. Bob shouts back to Taffy who quickly runs to the opposite side of the hotel. Skorzeny emerges right next to where the Welshman is laying in wait for him. Taffy gives the SS-Officer a full blast from his Grease Gun, leaving Skorzeny little more than a bloody pulp beneath the window.

Meanwhile, as Piotr, Lodd and Terry all reach the top of the stairs, they are met with withering fire from Italians hiding in the doorways of the hotel rooms on the second floor. Receiving some minor wounds in the process, they all dive for cover in order to make it a more fair fight. As is their wont, many of the Italians immediately give up and cower in their rooms, but a significant number of them continue to fight back and the corridor and doorways of the hotel start to get ripped to shreds by all of the lead flying around. Little by little, however, the party members are managing to whittle down the remaining Italian defenders, despite them using their cover very effectively, while taking only minor damage in the process.

Having dispensed with Skorzeny, Taffy and Bob realize that there is little for them left to do on ground level now and so begin to make their way up to join the others with their firefight on the upper floor. Unfortunately, before they get there, another squad of Fallschirmjager bursts through the main door. A well-aimed grenade from Taffy manages to take out several of them, but Taffy and Bob are still under heavy fire from the survivors with their MP-40s, with Taffy in particular taking some heavy damage. Bruce lends a hand from the staircase. As is so often the case, he doesn’t use his Colt that often but, when he does, he makes every shot count. He does get injured in the process, however.

Between the three of them, they eventually manage to finish off the Nazis.

It’s too late for them to be of much assistance to those on the upper level as the battle up there is already won, although Piotr, Lodd and Terry are all pretty badly shot up in the process.

There are a lot of rooms in the hotel. To check out every single one of them would take a while and could lead to a lot of shooting back at them from panicked Wops.

“The two outside that room over there seemed to put up a particularly strong fight (for Italians anyway),” says Terry.

Lodd decides to be the one to check the room out.

Terry was right. Standing in the middle of the room, looking half confused/half arrogant, is the familiar shaven-headed figure that they immediately recognize as Il Duce.

“Chi cazzo sei?” Mussolini asks.

“You’re coming with us,” Lodd says, towering over the dictator who always looked taller than his 5’ 7" on the newsreels.

Lodd grabs Il Duce, putting him in an armlock and proceeds to frog-march him down the corridor while Piotr and Terry cover all of the doorways. Mussolini continues to babble away in Italian, but puts up no resistance, presumably trying to work out whether he is now better or worse off than he was when he was a prisoner of the Carabinieri.

They bring him down the stairs. Taffy is watching from the main doors.

“Another glider has just landed,” he says. “The fighting’s not over yet.”

By the time that all of the party members are back in the foyer of the hotel, the next squad of Fallschirmjagers are out of their glider and making use of the cover provided by the rocky terrain to make their way towards the hotel. Lodd passes Mussolini over to the quite badly beaten up Piotr for safekeeping, checks on his bazooka and MG42 and join the others as they start to exit the hotel.

Thanks to Lodd’s bazooka and some on target shooting from the others in the party, they manage to dispense with the final squad of German paratroopers without too much damage – their automatic rifles being a lot better at this range than the Fallschirmjagers’ MP40’s.

Finally the way to the cable car station is clear. They can all see that the black dots of more gliders in the sky are getting larger all of the time. They know that they are going to act quickly if they are going to get to the cable car station before more Fallschirmjagers arrive. Certainly there is no time to retrieve the contents of the canister that was dropped along with them as this fell far away from the dropzone on the opposite side of the Hotel Imperatore. Realizing that he is low on ammo for his M3 now, Taffy scavenges an MP40 and several clips from a couple of the dead paratroopers.

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Entering Hotel Campo Imperatore
21 September 1943

As they were warned en route, parachutes don’t work as well at such high altitudes as the Gran Sasso plain and the party members realize that they are falling a lot faster than they did on previous drops. Their training back in England was good though and the majority of them fall precisely where they wanted to – just behind a rocky slope around 100 feet to the south-east of the building. The only exceptions are Terry who comes down a distance to the south and Franco – who is more used to watching British pilots using their parachutes than using one himself – who falls quite far to the north east – dangerously close to the sharp drop off the plain. The canister containing the extra equipment also falls a little further away than they would have liked.

As they all discard their parachutes, they notice that there are eight Italian guards watching them. They all appear to be jabbering to one another excitedly, seemingly in a state of confusion. With Franco being too far away to try and negotiate with them, the party member decide just to shoot them. As soon as the first shots are fired and the first few are injured, the majority of them decide to turn tail and run away as fast as possible.

The sound of shooting alerts more of the guards who start to come around the sides of the building. Shooting at the confused Italians as they arrive on the scene is like shooting fish in a barrel. Those who aren’t mown down usually just run away and very few of them are brave enough to take any pot shots at the party members – and those that do don’t come anywhere close to hitting anything.

With Terry and Franco now just about having caught up with the others, the party members realize that they need to advance on the hotel if they are to continue with their mission. Bob leads the way, with the others following behind him. They see that the balcony is raised ten feet off the ground – tough to get up. Lodd acts as a human ladder in order to give the others a boost up – just like they learned in their basic training.

Bob is the first one up and sees that he is next to the hotel’s restaurant – where a large number of guards were enjoying a typically Italian five hour lunch. They have obviously heard the sounds of shooting outside, but it is only when they see Bob on the balcony that they decide what they are going to do. Most of them, typically, decide that they will simply run away. But a fair few of them decide to fight and, there are still enough of them to cause Bob some problems as he gets hit.

Fortunately help is on its way. Unfortunately that help is Piotr.

Piotr lobs a grenade at the group right in front of him all clustering close to the window. Unfortunately his aim is short and, although it takes out a fair few Italians, the blast peppers him with shards of broken glass. Piotr is hurting already.

As other party members start to clamber up onto the balcony to help Bob and Piotr, they are alerted by the sound of a loud sickening crunch to the south of them. They see, to their horror, that a glider with German markings has landed in almost exactly the same spot that they parachuted onto just moments earlier.

Thinking quickly, Terry lobs a smoke grenade just behind them so as to obscure their position from the Nazis who are starting to emerge from the glider. The remainder of the party members manage to clamber up onto the balcony. The party members are starting to clear out the restaurant of its occupants now, although they continue to stream into the hallway from other rooms and down the stairs from the floors above.

The party members are all up onto the balcony after Terry gives Lodd a helping hand up. They manage to get up just in time, however, as the Nazis from the glider have now managed to run through the smoke and are assembling at the base of the balcony. Lodd takes his bazooka and aims at the centre of the group. Although his aim is slightly off, it’s still like shooting fish in a barrel and he takes down several of them before he rushes into the hotel to join his companions.

The unfair fight against the Italians continues as the party members mow them down as soon as they show themselves. The majority of those who aren’t slaughtered immediately simply run for the main door. Franco manages to convince three of them to join in with the party members. Unfortunately none of them last too long, however, as the remaining SS members are now starting to get up on the balcony. The Italians with their clumsy Carcano M1891 rifles are no match for the SS stormtroopers and their MP40’s and all are quickly cut down. The party members fare a lot better against the advancing Germans, taking them down before they are able to get through the windows. All except for their leader – SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny. Although he gets hit as he enters the room, he does not drop. Seeing how badly outnumbered he is by the party members while the rest of his squad struggle to get up onto the balcony, he quickly takes refuge in one of the adjoining rooms.

Franco tries to take out some of the braver Italians who are using doorways as cover. Although he manages this, he leaves himself exposed in the corridor in the process. Skorzeny unleashes a full auto attack on the unlucky Italian which practically cuts him in two, before the Austrian ducks back inside the doorway.

Taffy ducks into the large conference room on the opposite side of the hallways from where Skorzeny is hiding, laying in wait for him. Bob holds back, managing to pick off the remaining SS troopers as they manage to make it up onto the balcony. The remainder of the party are clustered in the centre of the ground floor which in happier times was the reception desk of the hotel. Now it is the home to a Breda Modello 37 Heavy Machine Gun which they had swung around ready to deal with the Nazis coming onto the balcony. Between them, Bob and Terry seem to have taken care of all of them, including the Italian General that they had brought with them in an attempt to get the Italian carabinieri onto their side.

Instead, more Germans arrive through the front door as a squad of Fallschirmjäger rush through the door. In the process, they are bunched up nicely ready for Piotr to toss a grenade into their midst. Although falling a little short, he still manages to take out half of the squad. The others scatter looking for cover, but Lodd’s MG42 sees to several of them, while Piotr, Terry and Bruce take out the remainder.

Italians are continuing to pour down the stairs. In most cases, they are mown down before they know what has hit them or else bolt for the door as quickly as they can. Sooner or later though, one of the Italians is going to get brave and lucky. Unfortunately, Piotr is the one on the receiving end of a direct hit from the Carcano, which knocks him back. Fortunately, The Padre is next to him and manages to patch him up so the Pole doesn’t go the same way as Franco did.

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