Friday, April 20, 2012

Chapter 8: Over the River and Through the Woods

BBC Broadcast, 2nd of September 1939,

Just one day after launching an attack on Poland, Germany has sent its forces against the Kingdom of Ruritania. Graustark and Sylvania have also joined in the attack which comes without any declaration of war.

Just before dawn today, Axis tanks, infantry, and cavalry penetrated Ruritaninan territory on several fronts with three large armies. They have been making swift progress against Ruritanian defenses which are heavily outnumbered in artillery, infantry, and air power.

The cities of Hentzau and Zenda were attacked with incendiary bombs. Air raids on Strelzau began at 0600 local time. Civilian casualties in all three cities are reported to be heavy.

Communications to Tarlheim have been broken but earlier reports said unmanned German rocket bomb were striking the city at the rate of 50 every hour.

Interview with Roxy Smothers, 1973:

I am still not entirely sure how we made it out of Ktorevitsa. I suppose the Germans got a bit of a bloody nose and were surprised by the stiff resistance put up by the Ruritanians. As it turned out, that’s the way it was across the whole country. But of course, courage can only do so much against high technology and beastliness.

So we hit the road while it was still open, but certainly not in the most elegant way. I mean really, a broken down taxi, a huge tank, and a hovercraft. None of it compatible in terms of speed or maintenance. The hovercraft was the worst since Tura started off in the driver’s seat. Even though we wobbled and hovered, occasionally scraping the ground, the big ham thought he was Orville Wright reborn. Maybe Amelia Earhart would have been closer to the mark. Either way, he refused to give up the controls until I had enough following too close a pass by a dairy barn. I knew I kept that blackjack in my purse for a reason. Once Chicolini replaced him, we had a much better flight.

Originally we headed towards Zenda, figuring that the big city would offer refuge but we soon discovered that fast moving Nazi columns were all over the place, blocking a safe passage to the city.

We decided our best bet was to head for the capital and maybe even outrun the Kraut armored columns. We tried to keep as low a profile as a monster tank and flying widget could, keeping to back roads and skirting forests and the like.

Fortunately, Waggsie had purloined so many code books from his various marks, that we were quite able to track where the Nazi rats were as we fled. We also found an abundance of German uniforms in the vehicles. We were able to dress up several of the militia men as Germans with von Schnitzel and Tura, who could speak fluent German, as SS officers. We were even able to fit Fat Shmengy into one of the bulkier She-wolf outfits, that dame must have been a real doozy.

Despite the disguises we still tried to avoid the Nazis. I mean really, relying on Von Schnitzel and Tura acting skills were something we wanted to keep as a last resort.

The other big problem we had was with the big tank, although intimidating and heavily armored, it was slow and consumed a huge amount of gasoline, as did the hovercraft but that at least had the virtue of speed. The tank was also running low on ammunition for its big guns and was very difficult moving over the primitive roads. While it could get across most streams, it would be a problem when we reached some of the bigger rivers.

I recommended we abandon the lumbering thing but you know how men are, they love their toys and refused to part with it. Fortunately, Zoya knew of a big bridge on the main road to Strelzov so we headed in a generally northeastern direction.

We could see German planes filling the sky but they seemed more intent on delivering mayhem to major cities than in chasing down a group of glorified car thieves. Off in the distance we could occasionally see some Ruritanian infantry or cavalry unit desperately retreating from the onrushing hordes. We avoided these units as well, not wanting to risk being fired upon by our friends.

As a result of this, by the end of the day, we had only gone about thirty of forty miles. Given the confused state of the front lines, we decided that we would camp for the night and settled down in a woods near the main road to Strelzov.

The word “camping” brings up images of a night spent singing around the camp fire, but this was hardly the case. We lit no fire so had to eat the purloined German rations. Now while the Germans were first class invaders they were not noted for their culinary achievements so, unless you think cold schupnudel a treat, I can assure you it was a dismal night.

We could see a red glow to the northwest in the direction of Zenda. I wondered aloud if this was the forest fire we had set.

Hummingbird was quick to disabuse me of this notion, “No, it’s too big for that. That’s what a city looks like when it’s on fire. Zenda is dying and the Grim Reaper stalks its streets. It reminds of a time in China, when I was in the city of Wu Hu as it was attacked by the warlord…”

Oh spare me, I thought and I wandered over to where Waggsie sat perusing that stupid old notebook and taking no notice of me.

I thought I was through him for a loop by asking a completely unfeminine nonsequitir.

“Waggsie, darling, I noticed how really stunning your ability at driving the tank is. However did a college professor learn to drive such a thing?

If I hoped to surprise him, I was disappointed since he answered quite nonchalantly, “Oh, quite a few years ago, I enlisted in the Royal Tank Corps.”
He had turned the tables on me, for I was thoroughly surprised by this revelation, “You were an officer in the Tank Corps?”

“Hardly an officer, my dear. This was ages before I was a professor. No, as a lad I was given the choice of enlisting or going to prison. It did prove to be one of the most educational years of my life.”

“You were only in for a year? That seems a short time, were you invalided out or something?”

“Oh, heavens no, my dear Roxy. I deserted.”

Broadcast of Radio Strelzov, September 3, 1939

Ladies and Gentlemen, and now, an address by His Royal Majesty, the King:

“My dear bewoved peopwe, today, we have been assauwted by the wowest, wowst weasewy wuffians that have evew

“Wise up, my peopwe, wise up and stwike at them, stwike them when they appwoach, swike them when they advance, swike them when they tawwy, swike them when they fawtew. Untiw these bawbawians awe dwiven fwom the sacwed wand of Wuwitania.

“Thewe, that shouwd get the ignowant peasant bastawds fiwed up.”

“Your Majesty, the microphone is still on.”

“I know. Whewe’s my shewwy?”

Excerpt from The Sun’s Also Shiny, The Great American Novel, by Ernest Hummingbird:

The morning mist rose seeking to cover the wounded earth in white pall. The Writer rose from his sleep and noted how like a sepulcher the quiet woods seemed.

That quiet was suddenly shattered by a unearthly shrieking. A German plane flew low overhead, going by at a speed that was unbelievable, even to the Writer who had almost broken the World Land Speed Record in 1936 but didn’t because of wind resistance from his magnificent beard.

He turned that magnificent beard skyward now, following it with his magnificent brain.

The Writer knew what the plane was. He had seen such planes when Guernica was destroyed. It was one of the Nazi superweapons, a jetplane that ran by turbines rather than normal engines.

It came in low. It’s cannon firing a stream of death into the woods. The tanks seemed to attract its attention. Good, the Writer thought.

The Writer traversed the turret and brought the big gun to bear. It would be a million to one shot to hit the fast jetplane with the slow moving gun. Of course, the Writer managed it. The shot was perfect.

The jet exploded into a great fire ball of death. Tiny pieces of the jet cascaded down like a snow of Death onto the field.

As the militia men cheered, the Writer called for them to stop. There would be plenty of time to admire his skill later. His skill and his magnificent beard.

But now, he had noticed that the fight had drawn unwanted attention. Two light tanks and an armored car, part of the vast array of fascists that were looking for him personally, because he was a dangerous man, rolled over the nearby hills.

He turned the turret and fired, another perfect shot. One of the tanks exploded. Before he could fire again, he heard cheering. This time, it was not the militiamen. It came from a woods across the valley.

Soon there was the rhythmic pounding of horses’ hooves and more shouts. A group of horsemen burst from the woods and charged towards the rear of the remaining fascist vehicles. The horsemen had big grenades on the end of their lances. They hit the vehicles before the turrets could swing around. The remaining tank exploded and the armored car was disabled by explosives delivered to the undercarriage.

The Writer knew it would happen like that. It had been perfect.

BBC Broadcast, 3rd of September, 1939

Britain is at war with Germany.

At 9.00am Britain sent an ultimatum to Germany saying that unless German troops were withdrawn immediately from Poland and Ruritania, the two countries would be at war. No reply came before the ultimatum expired at 11.00 am, and so Britain is now at war with Germany.

France sent a similar ultimatum, which expired at 5.00pm this evening. A quarter of an hour after Britain's ultimatum had expired, the Prime minister broadcast to the nation.

Diary of Zoya Bupkis

September 5, 1939

Dear Diaryushka,

It looks like I am a Heroine of the Nation again. Who would have thought that a simple country girl like me would be the Heroine of the Nation twice in one week?

This is how it happened. After Colonel Shvartbloi’s cavalry regiment showed up and finished off the German’s tanks and all, we decided that there wasn’t anymore fuel for the hovercraft. So we blew it up with grenades. Except for the part that the Fat Shmengy leaned against, since that was very flat already.

We then set off again and marched the whole day. By march, I don’t mean everyone walked. Mostly we road on the big tank. I rode in the taxicab with Mr. Chicolini and Hozzenka which was very fine since it was a nice cab, even with all the bullet holes in it. Roxy rode on Colonel Shvartbloi’s horse; she had known him when she was still married to Bronislaw. Roxy snuggled up to Colonel Shvartbloi a lot during that ride. He was very fit as cavalrymen are supposed to be and I suppose you could call him handsome but he was old. I would say he was probably at least thirty-five!

Without the hovercraft, we were harder for the German planes to spot. But we still had the big tank that we filled with petrol from the armored car. We also had all the horses although Mr. Hummingbird said we should travel somewhat apart from them so not to draw German attention. Mr. Hummingbird seemed very disappointed when Roxy chose to ride with Colonel Shvartbloi instead of riding in the tank and watching the wind blowing his beard around.

In the afternoon, we heard on the wireless that the British and French had declared war on the Germans and we were very happy, except the Professor said it was unlikely that our new allies could do anything to help, even if they wanted to, for a long time.

That night we were approaching the big bridge at Shlmielovitsa. We could hear shooting going on near it even though we hadn’t seen Germans for a while. On the wireless we heard that there were zeppelin troopers and sky-falling soldiers who had landed to capture the bridge but they only captured one end. Ruritanian soldiers were defended the other end. The Germans were surprised and quite cross, they had not expected there to be any soldiers here. Yaay for our side! They also seemed to think someone important was there.

Then we realized that they were between us and our soldiers so we would have to fight our way through if we wanted to take the big tank back with us, which would have been some big deal.

So we all got together and decided that Mr. Tura and Mr. Von Schnitzel would pretend to be Germans and convince the zeppelin troopers and falling from the sky soldiers to attack. Then our friends would attack the Germans from behind with the big tank. The cavalry and any of my troupe who couldn’t speak German would got down river about a mile to a crossing and help our soldiers on the other side of the river.

So that’s what we did. My boys and I had to walk the whole way since Colonel Shvartbloi said it wouldn’t be good to overload the horses even though lots of the cavalry had my picture in the swimsuit and offered me a ride and Roxy got to ride on the Colonel’s horse and I know for a fact that Roxy weighs more than me, much more.

We got across the river without too much problem, some of the horses stood in a line all the way across to make sure we made it. I slipped a couple of times and I swear it felt like someone had thrown rocks at my head but Roxy said it was hail. It was a warm night so the cool water felt kind of nice, except for when I got knocked over by the log. When I got up, I noticed that Roxy and the Colonel were giggling over some private joke but they wouldn’t tell me what it was.

We met up with our boys who were defending the river and they said their boss had been told that that we were coming. So they had the cavalry line up behind the river bank while my troupe and I got in line with some soldiers who were defending a part of the river a little bit away from the bridge. They said that our friends had told them that a German attack would come at this spot.

In the meantime, Mr. von Schnitzel and Mr. Tura and the big tank drove up to the Germans and told them they were there to help.

The Germans were in two big brick buildings on the west side of the river. There were a lot of them and they had a small armored car and some mortars that they brought with them in their zeppelins and aeroplanes.

At first the Germans were happy to see them but their commander, a very cross man named Pupil got even more cross because Mr. von Schnitzel began demanding ammunition and fuel and all sorts of things.

Still, things were going swell for our side until the German soldier girl, Mitzi, showed up. She was an officer just like me but she suddenly saw Mr. Hummingbird and admired his beard so much that she wanted to get closer and talk to him. That would have been bad because Mr. Hummingbird had a thick American accent and pronounced all his letters differently.

Fortunately, Mr. von Schnitzel and Mr. Tura prevented her getting too close by asking about the plan to attack.

This was all to keep the Germans busy because Hozzenka and her brigands snuck into one house and shot all the Germans there with some sort of quiet gun that Hozzenka had. In the meantime, Fat Shmengy went into the other house and killed all the Germans there. I think he sat on most of them. He was supposed to use his anti-tank rifle as a sniper gun and shoot the Germen leader when the attack began.

This all happened right before the attack. The attack was going to go good for our side since Mr. von Schnitzel and Mr. Tura were in black uniforms with the funny “Ss” on them and they planned the attack. They told the Germans about a place in the river where they could cross which was where me and my troupe were waiting for them. This was where Mitzi would go. They also told the Germans to launch an attack right across the bridge, the armored car leading and the big tank would follow. Then the walking troops could attack across the bridge and they would win. Ha! What a surprise was waiting for them! Ha!

They were all set to go and attack and probably be slaughtered when we all heard a motor above us.

The German Pupil was very happy and said it was air support he requested. It was a small zeppelin with only a couple of men in it but it had a very big gun that shot very quickly.

The little zeppelin with the big gun flew over the river and began firing at Colonel Shvartbloi’s horsemen and knocked a lot of them down.

That was when Mr. Tura got this idea. He shouted that they should start the attack now that the zeppelin had arrived. He would signal the start by throwing his grenade. He pulled the pin and clamped his one hand over his eyes. You see, Mr. Tura was very good at shooting and throwing grenades so long as he wasn’t looking. It was because he hated the sight of blood I think. He tossed the grenade and instead of going across the river, it flew up at latched onto the side of the zeppelin. When the grenade went off, a small fire started and the zeppelin quickly flew away, trying to blow the fire out.

In the meantime, the armored car began crossing the bridge. It suddenly stopped right in the middle because the Professor had taken most of the gasoline out of it. Then he drove the big tank up behind it and pushed it right off the side of the bridge. Yaay again for our side!

Balleting to Victory

About this time, Mitzi and her soldiers began crossing the river. Our soldiers began to shoot and killed a lot of them. Then I yelled for my troupe to charge. We advanced, using a grand battement à la seconde. We attacked with a series of brise, knocking the remaining Germans down into the water. Then Mitzi was in front of me and tried to shoot me. Fortunately, her gun was full of water and it didn’t fire. Since she had tried to be so mean, I came at her with a quick Pas de bourrée followed by a battement frappé to her head. She fell down. All our soldiers who lined the river bank, stood up applauding and yelling “Bravo! Bravo! Encore!”

Inside the yard of the one brick building from which the German Pupil, and Mr. von Schnitzel and Mr. Tura were watching the attack, the German began shouting at Mr. von Schnitzel, accusing him of incompetency and cowardice and worse. He said he would report him to his superior, see him broken. It was nothing less than treason!

Mr. von Schnitzel stood quietly during all this and then said, “One more thing, Pupil. I am also Jewish.” Then he ducked and Fat Shmengy shot Pupil right in the head. There wasn’t much left of his head after that.

In the meantime, the big tank stopped on the middle of the bridge and Mr. Hummingbird turned the turret around. He shot the big gun at the mortars. Then Colonel Shvartbloi’s cavalry came charging across the river and right into the zeppelin troops who were crossing the bridge. Most of the Germans were killed or ran away.

There was much cheering and slapping of backs. Mitzi asked if she could be guarded by Mr. Hummingbird or at least some hair from his beard. He smiled at her and blew her a kiss. She fainted.

Then an officer came up and said that we needed to go see the boss. He said it was Prince Bronislav.

1 comment:

Don M said...

A truly outstanding AAR and first class photos! Well done!