At the Battery

At the Battery

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  • Nov, 18 , 22

“It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, when two small planes approached, probably Mosquitos. Alarm was never sounded for them; they usually flew too high to reach and they were not armed, reconnaissance being their business. Furthermore they had a plywood fuselage so they did not show up on radar. However, this time the battery was on stand-by, bomber formations were reported in the west, heading east. The Mosquitos had disappeared when shouts could be heard from the CP and Hoffmann repeated: “Smoke markers over the battery, stand by to take cover!” Now they were in for it, four dark red columns above each corner of the battery, more or less. The Russians crossed themselves (one always thought of them as atheists?). But to everybody’s relief, the markers drifted off east quite smartly. This was what Schirrmeyer told them: the winds in different layers are unpredictable. The bombers arrived, not a large formation, perhaps thirty or forty, the bomb-aimers dropped their load dutifully between the markers, but the whole lot fell on to woodland. No firing order was given, as the chief probably thought it best to give the impression the battery had ceased to exist. So far so good.

“Low-flying aircraft in 9!” The guns turned into that direction but then the barrels were lowered as much as possible to make them inconspicuous, which was a lot of wishful thinking! The wail of the siren followed and the crews piled into the bunkers. The fighter-bombers could not be confronted with the heavy guns, as they were too clumsy and slow-moving. Only the poor pom-pom chaps had to face the music and they started firing almost immediately. A new technique had been worked out for them: they aimed the guns in the general direction of the attack in such a way that their fire crossed about 500 meters from the battery, forming a primitive screen. If possible, meaning if they had the time, the elevation was adjusted according to the height of the approach but the side-setting never changed. One of the four planes actually hit the screen and disintegrated, but three got through.

The ground shook four times, followed by a single huge explosion. Stones and bits of wood clattered on the gun and a boot fell into the entrance of the Berta bunker; disturbingly it had a foot in it which did not bode well.”

 

Above is an excerpt from Vampir: From Teenage Flak Auxiliary to Night-Fighting Machine Gunner in WWII by Rolf Fischer. The book is split roughly in two halves, with the first section covering the author’s time serving at a local AA battery (starting at age 15), and the latter documenting Rolf’s time at the front after being called up at age 17. As indicated by the above, Rolf and his schoolmates experience quite a bit of combat, even at the flak battery. Fischer lived primarily in England and Australia after the war and authored this manuscript in English; the manuscript has not been previously published in English or any other language. Vampir just arrived in the warehouse and is available now!

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