Updated: May 29, 2020
2018 saw two events at the Hazelton strip mine in Spring and Fall. Its tough to slot an event into the calendar to match up with re-enactor attendance and recovery (we need some time off from living in 1944).
In this episode the usual suspects formed camp and fell-in for another push on that road battle. This time we had a couple of secret weapons up our sleeve: A BATF compliant 2" mortar (acts like a small black powder cannon) and Dave, whom had been practicing driving in a Daimler Dingo - (while we still had it). Our unit radio designation was "Bruce" for Robert DeBruce - and we set about to "try, try and try again"
The Daimler DIngo is an early war development for a 2 seat reconnaissance and command car, the frontal plates are able to resists machine gun fire and it has 4 forwards gears and 4 rearwards gears by virtue of a hydromatic gearbox which takes some specialist training to start and shift.
We were asked to form up again and push on a set point and report in by radio. After a short stop for the US contingent to catch up we had an agonizing choice - press on down the road and take ground before being pretend shot at again, or dash across the bridge into the open valley to escape the German grip that was closing. At this point the Dingo shot out in a bid for the valley and the Humber into the jaws of the German positions along the road - we did make it quite far this time - until we came face to face with a Stug - which promptly shot at us. Other than being a deeper "brown" feeling, we were soon ready to go again and we re positioned ourselves into the US center and deployed the Humber Bren turret in over-watch as we handled the 2" mortar and asked for "fall of fire" reports.
We had about 100 rounds of plastic mortar projectiles with us and found it could reach around 200 yards. Each device has a small launch charge lit with a slow match and a second slow match from it for the small detonation charge - which was surrounded by kitty litter to give a plume of dust to show the hit location. Pretty soon the trees were alive with the sound of the American perimeter being probed by German infantry. We sent most of our mortar efforts out in a series of shoots to counter major attack directions. Having a mortar at their back bolstered the US morale and we became quite a popular display. The Germans did not think we were so popular though - but we encouraged them to keep their helmets on and mouths closed for the rain of kitty litter.
Across the valley, the Dingo had been equally entertaining - attempting both very rocky and very muddy terrain and practicing lots of recovery techniques. The driver lightened the load by losing most of his gear - which we went out on foot later to recover.
Both vehicles regrouped across the valley and having checked the time we radioed into our command structure to indicate we were "taking a tea break - wot-wot?". Dave then demonstrated various ways to sit on a Dingo and eat spam.
Those sneaky Germans took the opportunity to move a halftrack up to our rear and deploy infantry to try and flush us. We answered with the mortar... we last saw the infantry heading for some medium sized trees... we used those as a point of aim.. after the thud of the launch charge, we strained our eyes to spot the plastic can heading up, out and towards the line of the trees.. then a distant "poof" and grey cloud of kitty frag...then the sound of a tree "screaming"! We sent a couple more rounds to silence it...
Our command asked us nicely by radio to drive all the way around the area of deployment to try and find the German rear. It was a long arduous drive through beautiful country, over small bridges, around a small pond and into the shady cover of a forest. It was going well until one of the trees shot at us.. turns out it was a disguised anti-tank gun. Considering we had ceased to be, in tactical terms, we added to the reality by laying on the ground pretending to burn and not transmitting on the radio again. On the way back Dave got the Dingo well and truly stuck - 6 men with shovels couldn't move it, a jeep and rope couldn't move it. In the end a US halftrack got it out with a chain. Another fun day from 1944. Now for the obligatory disclaimers: The mortar pyro rounds comply to all laws and regulations and are not commercially available or to be shared as a recipe to anyone -ever. Dave will drive your Dingo hard and stand on it relentlessly spilling drink, food and spent cases everywhere - then practice getting it stuck, until it is unmovable while losing half of the gear - you have been warned!