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Posted on May 27, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

Fiction: Moving Out

By Roach

Nevertheless, we got ourselves into gear and Grossklaggs shepherded us through some scrub woods, and formed us up on its edge. This was the nearest point with any cover towards the next hedgerow. And of course, as luck would have it, we seemed to have encountered the biggest field we’d ever seen in the Normandy bocage – about a hundred and fifty yards of very open grass, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe it was shorter than that but it seemed much longer. It was a walk in the sun alright.

In the absence of Gallegos who seemed to have tarried at Platoon HQ or somewhere that wasn’t here, Grossklaggs split the squad into the fire team and the assault team, taking the former himself and giving the latter to me. The fire team he took to the left and directed me to the right. We formed into a nervous skirmish line and Grossklaggs gave the word.


We had advanced perhaps 30 yards into the open before the kraut machine gun opened up on us. We hit the dirt and I began putting out rounds indiscriminately at the hedgerow; I was just helping home the bolt on the third clip when I actually spotted the MG position or at least the muzzle flash as it fired. It was to the right hand side of the position of our advancing skirmish line, which is to say, it was right in front of me!

I began to return fire once again, this time hopefully aiming at a target, when the hedgerow began to explode in front of my eyes. Mortar fire was hitting the hedgerow with uncanny accuracy which ought to have made it courtesy of the enemy whose skills with the mortar were seemingly unmatched, but I knew that the incoming was coming from our own boys. How the hell they were managing to fire so accurately I don’t know but I was awfully glad that they were!

Above the sounds of the battle I realised that Grossklaggs was yelling at me to get the assault team moving so, having acknowledged him with a quick thumbs up, I got people moving while Grossklaggs was giving covering fire with the BAR.

And boy did we move! I hit the dirt hard three or four times, while each time men leapfrogged me, the repeated manoeuvre carrying us quickly towards the hedgerow in front of us and the MG position which I had now lost track of, mainly because it had gone silent. The mortar barrage had gone silent too but it looked to have done its job to perfection.

We finally crashed down behind the hedgerow, staying prone, glad to have made it but worried about the retaliatory mortar strike that the krauts would invariably launch just as they always did against any position that they had just relinquished. It was then, as I lay there panting, worrying and generally trying to force air back into my lungs that I began to reach the conclusion that I was getting too old for this man’s army.

The anticipated counter mortar strike failed to materialise and during this interval, Vest located the MG position. There was some discarded equipment with traces of blood on it, and the gun itself was damaged which seemed to indicate that our mortar guys had actually got themselves a lucky direct, or very nearly direct hit. No doubt, at that point, the krauts had wasted no time in bugging out. Well, that was fine by me! Vest also found a body that was almost entirely buried and next to it a letter (also bloodstained – and obviously not buried!), which I believe that Grossklaggs translated later. It was a letter home to mother apparently. Or was it a girlfriend? What the heck, it was a dame of some sort.

I kind of felt sorry for the kraut but then again, not that sorry. Better him than me.

After a couple of more minutes, the krauts must have got themselves back in some order as we began to take some light fire from a copse in front of us. There was a gap of no more than fifty yards between the copse and us and no defiled method of approach. The words of the order that Grossklaggs had relayed to us earlier came back to me: Advance until halted. Well, we had definitely been halted.

Or so I thought; it’s a law of nature that someone always rains on your parade.

I was only a little concerned when Grossklaggs worked his way over to me and said we were going to scout the copse. But I became deeply concerned when it dawned on me that he wasn’t actually joking. We had a ‘discussion’ about the merits of the concept that he was proposing but he only really backed down when the volume of fire coming in our direction from the copse increased significantly. When, at this point, I used my best hang-dog face to convince him of my unhappiness about the situation, he finally relented and instead he deployed us along a short length of the hedgerow.

It was maybe ten minutes later when the instantly recognisable figure of Gallegos was spotted along the edge of the scrub wood. Grossklaggs waved him forward and directed the rest of his fire team to give covering fire. Following a determined rush that would have done justice to any football running-back, his wildly diving frame crashed to the earth between myself and Grossklaggs.

Evs-HH-New_28.jpg Evs-HH-New_34.jpg
Taking careful aim at something… Looking for a target while making a better one

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Giving covering fire… Hedgerow secured – hopefully…

[continued on next page]

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