A Village Not Far Enough
An After Action Report of the Battle Fought 5
Using Arty Conliffe's Crossfire Rules
by Peter Hunt
4th Military Hospital
By now Mumsie will have received the telegram telling her that I was wounded
in action so I want you to reassure her that it’s only a scratch and that
I’m in ripping form.
The mission was supposed to be simple. A night time drop with two
companies outside the village of Waanzailoon in Holland. We were to
blow up the supply depot in the centre of the village and break off to the
northwest. Jerry was supposed to have a couple of platoons of old men
and boys in the place, nothing serious.
Well, of course, the drop was a complete balls up. Instead of putting
us over the heath to the west, the “green light” was late and we dropped
over the town itself. My company fell mostly together but Biffo
Burnett’s boys were dropped from a higher altitude and came down all over
the place. I say most of my chaps came down together but yours truly
was blown off to the north and came down with only my HQ stick on the other
side of the main road that skirted the village.
Still I was better off than poor old Biffo. He came down in the back
yard of a house containing a Jerry platoon HQ … gunned down before he could
get his ’chute off I’m afraid he was.
It turned out that Jerry had a whole company in the town, billeted along the
main east-west road with one platoon on the east, (the buggers who got Biffo),
and two to the west – astride our escape route.
Good old Stingo Simpkins of my company got his platoon together quickly and
led them towards the supply dump on the church mount in the middle of the
village. Meanwhile Biffo’s boys to the east had their dander up,
seeing their old man cut down like that. They went for the houses
containing the Jerry platoon hell for leather. Tactically it shouldn’t
have worked but it put the wind up Jerry and they legged it through the back
door – which was covered by one of Biffo’s squads that had dropped on the
church mount above. Biffo was soon revenged.
Stingo’s platoon scaled the side of the mount and went straight for the
church. Unfortunately the church housed Jerry’s company HQ. He
might have been a Hun but I have to hand it to that Jerry Major – he was a
real man. A veteran of the Russian front, he had one of those PPsH
drum fed tommy guns and took out two of Stingo’s squads before they could
get through the door.
At least now we knew where Jerry was and started putting mortar rounds and
everything else we had into the church. Dinko Dimbleby leading the
platoon that had revenged Biffo made its way up the mount and assaulted the
church. The Hun Major had copped a bad mortar shrapnel wound in the
neck and Dinko’s chaps took out the Jerries with no losses. Dinko had
a word with the Jerry Major as he lay dying. Dinko say’s he spoke
perfect English and sounded a bit like that young actor James Mason we saw
at Shaftsbury Avenue last leave apparently. Funny old world, isn’t it?
As Stingo and Dinko’s boys delighted themselves blowing up the supplies I
still had to work out how we were going to break off with Jerry having two
platoons in the houses blocking our retreat route. Pongo Pommeroy’s
platoon of Biffo’s company took one of the houses but couldn’t get across
the road to take out the other. Jerry tried to pull some of his chaps
out of a third house and we pinned them in the open, but with them still
firmly holding two houses we couldn’t get past.
For about half an hour we poured everything at those houses but couldn’t
crack them. Private Grimshaw of Biffo’s company ran all the way around
the village with a despatch for me. He arrived breathless and
dishevelled to discover he had lost the dispatch! Another of Pongo’s
boys, Private Smithers tried to run across the road direct to me but was cut
down by Jerry in the house. It was so frustrating to watch.
Eventually though all that training on Salisbury Plain kicked in, if we
couldn’t take the house we could at least mask it! So both company mortars
started dropping smoke around it so out platoons could move again. The
only side of house that was not smoked was the side facing me, and I have to
get around the village:
“Follow me boys!” I cried.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you Sir”, said Colour Sergeant
Bledsloe as a burst of MG 42 fire pinned us down.
“Come on boys!” I shouted.
“Steady on Sir,” said Bledsloe as another burst pinned us again.
“After me!” I screamed.
“Careful Sir,” advised Bledsloe as longer and more accurate burst
drove us to cover a third time.
“Oh bugger!” I exclaimed as a round went straight through the
fleshy part of my arm.
“Never mind Sir.” Said Bledsloe pulling me back behind the
safety of the wall, “I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.”
As Bledsloe was dressing my wound, and making a remarkably good brew
considering all the circumstances, the platoons in the village were mopping
up the Jerries outside the problematic house. With my arm finally
fixed up Bledsloe led the way behind the roadside wall and we finally got
out of sight of that MG 42 in the house. I circled the village and
linked up with Yoyo Young’s platoon and led them through the smoke into that
troublesome house. Well, little brother, I don’t mind telling you that
the action in the house was “short but desperate”, but Yoyo’s chaps and my
HQ stick all survived. There is some talk of an MC apparently … Mumsie
and Pater will be so proud.
And then we made off and linked up with our Dutch Resistance guides for the
trek back to our lines. As we left we could hear Jerry motorized
reinforcements making for the village, seems we got out not a minute too
Assure Mumsie and Pater that I’m in the best of form and will be out of
hospital soon. There should be some convalescence leave and I’ll be
down to see them. But first I’ll have to go and see poor old Biffo’s
girl. When we were last on leave in Paris Biffo bought the most
wonderful backless green silk dress for her. I know he’d rather think
of her in that than in mourning black, I’ll have to console her.
Your loving big brother,
Click on the image above to see the close ups of the