[Sticky] US after action report
After action report for events March 2.
It was never going to be a quiet day.
A tranche of 21 new recruits were due in on the morning of the March 2, some of whom had never lifted a rifle before, let alone pointed them at an enemy. They were going to be a handful whichever way you looked at it but with 120 already in camp I'd hoped they would get into the routine pretty quickly.
The biggest headache was going to be the visit of the PremiÃ¨re of England Winston Churchill - like we weren't busy enough already. Luckily this was to be a low key affair as the president was in the area anyways, partly on business, partly for pleasure. I was told he was keen to get some painting done but I have no idea why - the landscape is flat and featureless with a constant biting cross-wind.
We started the men on a rigorous assault course to get their body temperature up as the British climate seemed a shock to some of the recruits. This for the most part found the men wanting - badly coordinated and very unfit, give 'em six weeks though and they will be fine. An indoor rifle range gave them familiarisation with the M1A1 Thompson sub-machine gun and the M1 Garand rifle and a grenade range found even basic ball skills wanting - luckily the new MK5 fragmentation pea grenades especially designed for training gave a reasonably safe environment.
When Mr Churchill arrived on site, lightly guarded by two British officers, we mustered a small parade for his inspection and his remarks were favourable. He was interested in the concept of cotton uniforms compared to the British wool. There followed demonstrations of rifle practice - Mr Churchill's eyes lit up when he handled the Thompson but remarked how much the militarised version had changed from the original he was used to. The Quin twins gave him a demonstration of grenade throwing and Mr Churchill was persuaded to have a go himself.
During all this two men on camp perimeter patrol reported back that they had seen German troops in the woods. Thinking they had not recovered from the events the night before I dispatched a small squad to see if there was anything in this preposterous story.
Meanwhile a group of soldiers was seen marching up the road from the south. The gate guards were put on alert and I went out with support to meet their captain who claimed they were Polish troops on exercise in the area, which was news to me. They were put under guard while I went back to telephone British Area Headquarters to verify their claim. I couldn't get any sense from them at all - turns out most of HQ was either on leave or at church. They certainly seem to be laid back in this neck of the woods.
I returned to the Polish troops and decided to let them through the camp although they had to leave their weapons outside the camp. They were escorted through although I did notice they seemed to be overly curious as to the layout of the camp and the activities so I asked the British to move Churchill into the cover of the buildings as a precaution. A couple of the Poles seemed to lose their way through the camp - one was challenged and suffered a flesh wound from a single disabling shot. Once patched up he rejoined his group. They passed through the northern gates with no further trouble.
A short while latter I heard an explosion in the woods followed by a further explosion on the southern roadway. The returning perimeter patrol reported back to me with definite sightings of Germans in the wood so the alarm was sounded and the camp put on high alert with instructions to hold fire until fired upon and take action against those that failed to respond to a challenge. One wounded Polish soldier was brought into the camp supported by two others - the claim was he has stepped on a mine. There are no mine fields in this area so after medical treatment I ordered his removal from camp - and I irritated Mr Churchill (as he was very keen to speak to the Polish troops who he holds in very high regard) as I asked the British guards to keep him at a distance.
And then it all kicked off. There was a lot of activity beyond the southern gates and our guard post came under sustained fire. Troops were mustered to take up defensive positions. This camp not only was a vital piece of the jigsaw in the build up to re-taking Europe it also contained the President of England. Then the call went up from the northern end of camp as they came under attack. I bolstered position where I could but flanking manoeuvres made defence hard. It was all coming together now - those Polish weren't on exercise at all, they were German troops dropping by parachute in disguise. Could they be after Churchill? That would certainly be an explanation - but how could they have know he was to be here? It had to have been an inside job - someone, somewhere in this community is a spy and has been passing information.
In amongst all this action Churchill was getting agitated. I explained again and again that he was safe and secure within the camp confines. He was having none of it. He ordered his officers to drive him out of camp. I saw that his vehicle was full of small arms so reckoned it was his call and left the British to their own devices. It wasn't 50 yards beyond the gate before a grenade came hurling towards them so they swiftly reversed back into the camp and tried to exit through the woods to the North â€“ again beating a hasty retreat. I saw them leaving by the North Road and seemed to get through safely.
Meanwhile our defences were holding out â€“ the southern gate taking the most action with the m/g post being over-run three times and enemy got into and around the southernmost buildings before being repulsed. While drop cylinders had been seen in the area clearly their ammunition levels were nowhere near ours, for our ammo store was well stocked.
Then it all went quiet. Clearly the Germans had decided that the camp wasn't breachable so had moved off. But where? I instructed the men to stand to and grab something to eat and drink â€“ it was going to be a hard day....
With the alert now spreading through British Defence chains word now comes back that intelligence has been received from inhabitants of the nearby village of Studley Constable. German troops were moving in on the village â€“ all the more alarming as that was one of Churchill's destinations on his itinerary.
A plan was put together to move in force from the south towards a wooded area, then move through in cover up to the village. We were dropped in a truck convoy at the bottom of a tree lined trackway leading to the wood. As we moved up in formation observers could see activity in the village on the horizon to our left. I led the squad further toward the wood when I spotted some movement on the edge of the tree line. I heard the thump of a mortar so called to take cover as five shells landed, each closer than the other â€“ they had us zeroed-in. The last shell caught me with some shrapnel to the upper arm so while I was being treated Captain Badham took the squad forward. The mortar crew that hit us could be seen running back deep into the woods so the Captain split the men into two squads â€“ one moving rapidly to the right, the other more slowly to the left. Having spotted the German mortar crew the right flank swung round and put in an attack and the left flank moved up rapidly and took the Germans out from their rear whilst they were occupied.
Having cleared the area we moved forward rapidly through the wood unchallenged until we reached the wood edge where German troops could be seen in defensive positions. At this point the two British officers drove up and informed me that Churchill had been captured. Bad news indeed and although it was his own actions that led to his capture I was nonetheless duty bound to recover him. Clearly he was in the village somewhere.
We cleared the edge of the wood first, then occupied the northern outreaches of the village â€“ we were now pinned down by entrenched Germans. It was pointed out to me that a truck was standing nearby and that the Germans could make their escape using it. Although we were only carrying small arms we had the presence of mind to bring an ancient field gun used for training purposes and loosed off the only shell we had towards the truck. A lucky shot hit the fuel tank and put it out of use.
In that instant the advance call went up and we pushed forward with all speed sweeping satellite defenders away. Some of us pushed across towards the village from the West, others piled into Studley from the North, methodically clearing each building as we went.
I caught up with the men halfway through the village only to be told that we had recovered Churchill and was safe at the North of the village.
Falling short of ammunition we regrouped yet I despaired as Churchill disappeared again with his bodyguards in a cloud of dust. I feared the inevitable. Sure enough having occupied Studley and as we battled on the southern edge I saw in the distance a vehicle heading straight towards the retreating Germans. I'm sure he put up a fight but there was nothing we could do â€“ far too many Germans between us and them.
As they put in a fighting retreat I felt sure it was all over â€“ they must surely be falling back to their rendezvous, no doubt some boat waiting for them in this quiet and remote part of the English countryside.
While it made an interesting day, rather different from the normal hum-drum of training new recruits, the top and bottom of it was I allowed the Germans to kidnap the British Prime Minister from right under my nose.
It was with great relief that I subsequently heard than the whole episode had been an elaborate plot to conceal the whereabouts of the real Winston Churchill whose was actually attending a conference abroad. I pity not only the poor devil who acted as Churchill's decoy but also the German commander who presented him to his high command. A swift conclusion would follow I fancy.
While sweeping the village we discovered the radio set used by the spy and led to the cornering of Joanna Grey, a well trusted pillar of local society. At least she had the decency to end it herself.
It turns out by luck the Germans failed to rendezvous with her when they initially dropped otherwise her plans were to have led them straight to Churchill's location as she had free access to all areas. We wouldn't have suspected a thing â€“ it's still hard to believe. It turns out that not only was she a fluent German speaker but also had personal motivations to be anti-British, despite all outward appearances.
Still, alls well that ends well. At lest my new raw recruits have had some live training before they head south to prepare for the big push....
Major Chomley-Warner, 2nd Inf.
Reports from intercepts at Bletchley Park .
U443 was docked at Brest on the night of 4th March . Unknown numbers of German FJ were disembarked, desination unknown .
No mention of this raid has been made by Goebbels, either in the German Press on on the wireless.
Reports from local Resistance workers ,suggest Heinrich Himmler has apparently had the two commanding officers arrested and executed for crimes unrecorded . It is unlikely they ever left the port of Brest .
Three days later , there has been no mention of the 531st Special FJ Company , other than a brief transit order sugesting they may have been sent to the notorious Bryansk region of Central Russia . It can be concluded that their life expectancy will be short .
No further intel at this stage .