Escape From Stalag VIIIB

Closing in on Karlstein

5/6 September 1943

After the less than perfect start to the mission which saw Lodd come off worst when he headbutted a tree during the off-course parachute drop, bad luck seems to continue to dog the party.

After less than an hour of travel through the fields just north of the forest, they come to cross the first road in their path – a small country road connecting the tiny hamlets of Hatye and Hodynye. Immediately after crossing the road, they are alerted to the fact that a half-track is coming down the road towards their position. Bob, in the vanguard position, is easily able to hide behind the bank on the south side of the road, but the others have to dive into the field and hope that the crops will hide them. Unfortunately, with everyone laden down with the contents of the canister, the packs on their backs are spotted in many cases, particularly in Lodd’s case as the Bazooka sticks up from the crops like a periscope.

The Sd. Kfz. 251/1 immediately comes to a halt and the Nazis start to run out of the back while the machine gunner opens fire, catching a confused-looking Padre in its sights and knocking him down. The Padre remembers his training. He had hoped it would take a little longer before he needed to use them, but he utters a prayer and his wounds are bathed in light, instantly healed.

Taffy crawls forward under cover of the crops to close the range while the others start to zero in fire on the Krauts. Terry and Bob are trying to take out the one manning the pintel-mounted MG42 but, with the protection of the armour plate, he’s a tough nut to crack. Lodd, with delight, gets to use his Bazooka for the first time, managing to wipe out three of the Krauts coming around the north side of the half-track. Terry is also on form as he manages to get a clean shot through the window of the Sd. Kfz. killing the driver.

The party members don’t have everything their own way, however, as the MG 42 operator manages to bring down both Piotr and Lodd in a hail of fire.

The remaining Nazis, being led by their Feldwebel are hiding behind the bank to the south. Their Mausers are little match for the party members’ automatic weapons though and, once the Padre has patched up both Piotr and Lodd, they are easily taken care of before they can cause too much damage.

The machine gunners remain a problem though until they are finally taken out. Bob has finally given up the location of his position now and the Feldwebel and one of the troopers are approaching him. Fortunately, with all of the party’s fire now aimed at the pair of them, they are taken down before they are able to do any damage to Bob. All of the Nazis are finally down.

With his own weapons hardly weighing him down, Lodd picks up the two MG42’s from the dead Nazis and adds them to his own personal armory.

The party members stay where they are for a while, listening intently for the sound of more vehicles advancing towards them, but there are none. It was actually quite fortunate for them that they encountered the patrol so far from any of the towns where there is a German garrison.

Once they are fairly certain that there is no alarm, everyone piles into the half-track and Terry gets into the driving seat with Piotr next to him, map in hand, to guide him towards their destination, avoiding as many hamlets and villages as they can along the way.

They proceed slowly and cautiously for the next hour, following roads that are little more than tracks much of the time. Quite often they end up in dead ends and have to double back on their route, but it’s still quicker, and more comfortable, than walking most of the way.

“We’re only about half a mile from our destination now,” Piotr says. “I think it’s time to dump the half-track in the middle of these woods and make the last part of the journey on foot so that the Germans don’t find it and locate us immediately afterwards.”

Terry takes the half-track offroad and into the forest as far as he can. They then spent half an hour hiding the damaged vehicle as best they can before loading all of the equipment on their backs once more and then continuing on foot.

Although it’s only half a mile to the brow of the heavily wooded hill where they decided to rest up and to stash their excess equipment, the sides of the hill are steep and several members of the party are panting by the time they finally get to the summit. In among the trees, it’s pitch black and so there is nothing much to see from here. They head as deep into the woods as they can and find a hidden spot to dump their excess equipment, which they spend a while camouflaging.

It’s about 1.00am by the time they have finished everything. There’s nothing more that can be done during the hours of darkness and so, while the Padre changes the bandages of the injured, the others eat some more of their K-rations and doze a little while they wait for the dawn to arrive.

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NickPendrell

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