Escape From Stalag VIIIB

Firing On the Firing Squad

6 September 1943

Once the sun is up a little after 0700, Piotr shins up a tree with the Padre’s binoculars to see what he can see from the top of the hill. He isn’t able to see a great deal however, apart from Karlstein Castle itself among the hills to the north. Although there are probably Nazis down there in the villages, he can’t see them and there does not seem to be any general panic going on.

Over breakfast, Piotr shows everyone the map:

“So we’re going to head due west to Krupna now,” he says. “Fortunately it’s woodland all of the way so we should be able to get there without being seen, unless we are really unlucky. Again.”

This time, however, luck is on their side, helped by the fact that visibility is so poor in the thick of the forests, as opposed to the flat open fields to the south. After two hours of cautious advancing, they have covered the mile of distance and can see the buildings of the hamlet of Krupna through the trees which are now thinning out.

They stop to decide how they are going to play it when they enter the village. After all, Lodd’s Bazooka and MG42 would be sure to raise some eyebrows.

Before they have made a plan, however, a volley of shots are heard from the centre of the hamlet – around six shots.

Instantly the party members come to the same conclusion – it’s a firing squad.

Quickly they advance towards the sound of gunfire. As the hamlet is at a higher elevation, they don’t see exactly what is going on until they have made their way through the garden of one of the houses and peer over a four-foot tall wall.

As they suspected, the gunfire came from a firing squad. They see six troopers lined up with their backs towards the party members. In front of them are five civilians, one of whom is now dead. The other four are tied and bound on their knees, blindfolded. In front of them, a Gestapo Officer in a black leather trench coat is interrogating them, accompanied by the troop’s Leutnant and Feldwebel. Next to the scene are the Nazis’ vehicles – an Sd. Kfz. 251/1 with two machine gunners with a Kubelwagen in front of it.

The party members are in an excellent position, covered by the wall with the Nazis totally unaware of their presence as they have their backs to them.

Lodd starts off the proceedings as he launches a Bazooka round into the side of the half-track, ripping a huge hole in the side of the vehicle and throwing the machine gunners to the ground. Taffy fires on the firing squad with his M3 Greasegun on full auto. The results are devastating as three of the troopers fall to the ground. Bob, located on the northern flank, quickly drops the Feldwebel and then manages to take down the Gestapo officer too.

Terry manages to take out one of the machinegunners, but the other manages to hit Lodd. The Leutnant runs for cover hiding behind the Kubelwagen as Bob and Taffy manage to take care of the last of the troopers. The drivers of the two vehicles advance around the side of the vehicles, with one of them managing to shoot Piotr with his Luger. The Padre sees to both Lodd and Piotr, quickly getting them back in action once again. Finally the second machine gunner gets taken out and, despite the Leutnant managing to hit Piotr and Lodd once again, the others soon manage to finish him off.

As The Padre sees to the wounded, the other members of the party hop over the wall and head towards the four captives, cutting them loose. Three of them are male, and the other are female.

“Kdo jste?” they all ask as they are unbound.

“Friends,” Taffy says as he continues to free them.

“You are English?”

“No, I’m Welsh,” Taffy says with a hint of irritation. “Who are you?”

“We are UVOD – resistance fighters,” the captive says.

“We need to leave here, now,” another says as soon as he is free. “There are troops at Karlstein station. They will probably have heard the explosions and will soon be here. We have a safehouse in Belec – all of the others are on the other side of the river.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” says Bob. “We need to pick up the rest of our gear on the way though. It’s stashed on the top of the hill, just under a mile east of here.”

“Then let’s go, and go now,” the resistance members says.

The resistance members take their pick from the dropped weapons, with two of them each taking an MG42 and a Luger, while the other two both take MP40’s, plus the ammo.

Once they are all armed, they head off. Piotr, now healed thanks to The Padre’s healing powers, leads them back the way that they came, keeping to the treeline as they cautiously return to their spot at the top of the hill. As they advance back to the day’s starting position, they hear the sounds of half-tracks racing around the narrow lanes of the area. Once they are across the main road from Karlstein to the south and are back in the thick woods, however, they are well away from the roads and out of danger from being seen.

An hour later and they are back at their stash. They pause for a while to catch their breaths and distribute the gear among themselves and the resistance fighters – much easier to carry now that the load is split between ten rather than six and then they are on the move again, wanting to put as much distance between themselves and Krupna as possible.

Keeping to the treeline, they follow the meandering course of the Berounka River south for the best part of a mile, once again keeping well out of sight of the roads. The resistance fighters obviously know the terrain like the back of their hands as they are able to get to the outskirts of the village without leaving the cover of the woodland.

Two of the resistance members leave their weapons and tell the others to wait while they scout out the approach to the safehouse. Ten minutes later and one of them comes back into view, beckoning for the others to come to join them.

Fortunately the small village of Belec, or Bleichen as it is known in German, is sparsely populated with just a few houses all set on large plots between them and the safehouse close to the centre of the village.

“Move quickly and try and keep to cover,” one of the resistance members says. “Carrying all this weaponry around makes it obvious what we are and any collaborator would know that they could earn a good reward by reporting us.”

Although it is only 250 yards from the trees to the safehouse, the journey seems to take forever and it is with great relief that they finally run into the building with the doors being bolted behind them, having not run into any of the villagers along the way.

The resistance members all spend a while peering through the single-storey house’s few windows for quite a while, looking for any suspicious activity before they finally relax a little and come to sit with the party members.

“Dobry,” one of them says. “Now we can talk.”



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