The 5th/7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment won their first encounter in Hanover, seeing off a small advanced battalion of East German T-72Ms. Captain Slater, eager to pursue the fleeing Panzers and chase them back to their lines ends up losing them somewhere south of Hanover.
[This battle was played first, followed by the shorter one after, on the same table. We swapped sides, and played on. Narratively, it doesn't make sense for the ANZACs to be swanning about as far south as Hof Corridor, so instead they just... got lost.]
The APCs of the RAR slowed to a halt and pulled in beside a storage shed. Captain Slater hopped out, shaking his head.
"We bloody lost 'em!" He complained, slamming his fist on the side of the vehicle. "How the bloody 'ell did we lose 'em?" He asked of no-one in particular. It was the commanding sergeant of First Platoon, Sergeant Carlisle that replied;
"Reckon cause you got a Kiwi for a droiver, mate!" He laughed from atop his track. A few of the Diggers stepping off the back giving a rowdy response to the 'insult'. The driver of the command track stuck his head through the hatch and called down;
"Ain't your missus a Kiwi, Craig?" He scoffs, leaning on the cover.
"Yeah, she is, but Oi made 'er see the loight of 'er way, yeah?" The cocky Aussie called back, making a lewd gesture, grabbing the front of his trousers much to the amusement of the assembled squaddies.
"Roight! Shut it you lot. Where the bloody 'ell are we? Here... doesn't that warehouse look familiar?" Captain Slater asked, nodding towards the strangely familiar looking building.
"Does... but that one ain't got it's roof blown off." The sergeant replied, noting the lack of visible battle on the road they were on. "But more grapes... red this toime." He added, plucking a few off the vine and popping them into his mouth, before spitting them out with a twisted up expression on his face. "F*ckin' sour!" He exclaimed, the soldiers lazing about on the grass cheering ironically at the revelation.
"Map check, an' cut out the shoite, Carlisle..." Captain Slater snapped, before he stopped in place, head cocked to the side. "I hear engines... coming from behoind... take position an'-..."
"They're Pom lorries, Cap'! Pom lorries an'... strewth! It's the Cav! Where the hell 'ave they been?!" Carlisle noted the small convoy of vehicles coming up the road behind them; a few Bedford Lorries being led by strange APCs with squat turrets. The vehicles pulled in, the last in line being a battery of Abbots bearing the Union Flag on their mudguard.
The lorries unloaded; a platoon of Asian troops taking the field, their commanding officer barking at them in a short, sharp tone, the language unrecognisable to the assembled Aussies.
"स्थितिमा पाउनुहोस्, तपाईं खराबी रगत खानुहुन्छ! यदि तपाईं यसलाई छिटो गरनुहुन्न भने म तपाईंको गधा किक गर्नेछु!"
The man strode up towards Captain Slater, the officers looking a little taken aback, before the man broke into a broad, shining white, smile and snapped off a sharp salute, Slater having the frame of mind to return it, though slightly lazily.
"Ghurka Brigade, Lieutenant Gurin Thapa, reporting, sir." The man informed them, his tone soft and polite, slightly slurred from the translation of his native tongue to English.
"Captain Slater. What are your boys doin' 'ere, Lieutenant?" Slater asked, noting the discipline, and very large knife that the man seemed to have.
"Brigade Command sent us to look for 'Lost Kangaroos'. We have found lost kangaroos." Lt. Thapa replied, still smiling broadly, a little unsettling to the other men.
"Roight, well... seems we need to get home. They've sent a search party out lookin' for us. An' you lot!" Slater called to the men milling around in front of the 'Medium Reconnaissance Vehicles'. "Took your time! We could'a done with you yesterday!" He shouted, waving them over.
"Sorry sir, we got 'eld up in Amsterdam, we-..." The tall sergeant began before he was cut off.
"Too busy chattin' up Katie McDunnugh, ain't that roight, Steve-O?!" Carlisle shouted from the grass behind them. A rude gesture of two raised fingers came the response.
"Well, you're here now. We'll catch a breather an' then get back on the road." Slater informed him, ignoring the chants of; 'We hate you 'cause you're Victorian!' coming from the squaddies relaxing around the shed.
"Well least I got somethin'..." Sgt. Hunter called back, pulling a signed photograph of the reporter out of his helmet, it looked like a swimsuit edition picture.
"Give me strength... Roight, get sorted. Lieutenant Thapa! Get your men to rest and then we'll-..." Slater began, but the slowly growing roar of engines overhead cut him off. "Down! Down! Red Birds!" He yelled. The men getting low, hunkering down beside tracks and buildings as two jets streaked overhead.
"They f*ckin' well know we're 'ere now, sir!" Carlisle called out as the jets carried on into the distance, but lingered around, just out of sight.
"Take positions... we'll be ready if they send someone our way. Go!" Slater commanded, gesturing to the sheds. "Lieutenant Thapa, Sergeant Hunter, Milan Troop: with me. We'll scout the warehouse and see if we can catch them approaching. Armoured Troop! Follow up behind..."
This was going to be a tricky one.
The Gurkhas, Milans and Abbots took up a position, concealed behind the vineyard, the 'Cav' scouting a little further forward of their position. Captain Slater had joined them in this advanced position, leaving his men to cover the shed and road to the West.
"Here they come..." He commented, gesturing through the gap between the hill and the warehouse at some tanks lumbering through a gap in the hedgerows and trundling over the railway lines, the metal squealing under their tracks as it was bent out of shape.
One group seemed to be heading West, directly towards the infantry, whilst the rest followed the lead tank behind the hedges, under the shadow of a pylon.
"Well, let's get going then!" Slater gave the order and waved the men around him onwards; the MRVs taking up a covering position in the shadow of the Warehouse, the Gurkhas making haste towards the building itself, kicking the main doors open before any tanks could draw sight to them. Behind them, the Leopards moved up into position behind the hedgerows bordering the road, into a good defensible position.
Overhead, the roar of engines returned as the Frogfoot flight made their return.
"Down down!" Slate yelled, the Gurkhas taking cover behind walls, under tables and some behind crates. There was a strange silence, before a loud crack and rumble followed; a cluster bomb had dropped just short of the building, catching the MRVs in the blast. "Jeez'... what the...?" Slater began, before a missile streaked out over a forest a mile behind their lines, trailing after the Frogfoots. Slater watched as the pilots tried to dink and dodge, but one wasn't fast enough, the missile blowing a wing off, sending the aircraft spiralling out of the sky. "That was bloody lucky..." He thought, thanking his unseen saviour, before the radio brought his thoughts back to the MRVs.
"Sir! Mike-3 reports a problem with their turret control, they're goin' to have to stick it out" Came the information from the radio.
"Roger that, Mike Troop. Reposition to cover the advance of the Armour." Slater commanded, watching all but one of the MRV's reposition themselves in front of the warehouse.
Slater moved to one of the windows to get a better view of the advancing Panzers. The small group over the hedges seemed to be having issues with the thick shrubbery, a couple getting caught up in the mess.
"Armoured Troop! Open fire, make 'em regret comin' this far West." Slater ordered, a few booming retorts from the Leopards 105mm guns ripping through the lesser armour of the Soviet 'export' model T-72s caught up in the hedges.
From out in the Vineyard came the familiar sound of Milan missiles being fired on targets; the whining noise as they were slung from their tubes, followed by the distant explosion as the shot hit home at something off towards the other Panzers.
The Abbot battery seemed eager to join in the fun too, as their rounds were dropped around the East German artillery lurking at the back, covering the advance.
"Good job! Keep it u-..." Slater began, but a loud explosion nearby cut him off. Outside the window the rear of one of the AS1s was an inferno; the engine compartment taking the brunt of a well placed round from a T-72M. The crew were scrambling from the burning vehicle, Gurkhas giving them a hand to climb in through the windows to safety.
Less fortunate was the other AS1 further down the line, which took a shell to the turret-front, the gun skewing off and the tank almost rocking over from the impact.
"We're pulling out, Cap! Sorry, can't stick around..." Came the slightly panicked transmission from the remaining tank, before it engaged reverse gear and made haste for the safety of the forests to the west.
"Can it get any bloody worse?!" Slater exclaimed, just before a familiar mechanical whining started up. "F*ck..." He groaned, turning to watch as the Shilkas guns tore through the front of one of the MRVs, rounds stripping tracks off another, and the final one stopping dead.
"Mike-Troop, report! Come in, Cav." Slater demanded, no activity from the vehicles worrying him. It seemed to take forever before the call was answered.
"We're still 'ere, Cap. Mike-Two is out of action. Driver took a nasty one to 'is legs. Us an' Mike-Four are still with it... aching to get some revenge!" Came the reply. Sgt Hunter sounded 'pissed' as the engines on the MRVs revved and the remaining two moved out.
All the while madness was occurring outside the warehouse, Slater noted that Lieutenant Thapa had been sitting up on a table watching it all happen, not saying a word. Until finally he hopped off and shouted, gesturing towards the Shilkas that had just peppered the MRVs.
"ती सङ्कलनहरूमा आगो! तिनीहरूलाई जलाउनुहोस्! कालीको लागि!"
Slater watched as every available anti-tank weapon was rested on a window frame and fired, the building filling with the smoke of the trails as the Gurkhas opened fire on the squat tracks.
Their aim was sound, but the weapons didn't have the destructive power necessary. One of Shilkas catching fire, the gun lowering as the electronics sparked offline, the other two slowing, wary of more fire coming from the warehouse.
"Not bad, work on your aim, boys." Slater thought to himself as the gunners dropped behind the window ledges to reload, the remaining Shilka spraying the building with fire in response.
A loud cracking retort outside the opposite window drew Slater's attention over, as the MRVs put a HESH through the thin armour of the T-72s trying in vain to cross the hedge, the few remaining finally pushing forward, taking up a firing position.
Their comrades fared less well, as the Milan teams reloaded and punched through three of the metallic beasts, leaving the company in a flaming mess.
"Aayi Gurkhali!" Slater heard the cry go up as the Gurkhas began to pick up their weapons and stream out the warehouse doors. "What in the...?"
Slater watched in disbelief as the Gurkhas crouched behind the hedge began to unsheathe their long, curved, wicked knives.
"You lot can't be serious..." He thought to himself as he leaned on the window sill to watch, the rest of the battle forgotten. Even the loud cracks from the MRVs cannons were ignored, as were the loud explosions as Shilkas brewed up in response.
The anticipation was palpable... until he saw the lead tank engage reverse gear and start backing away as fast as the engine could move. He could see Lieutenant Thapa stand and give the universal sign for 'REALLY?', waving his arms in dismay as the East Germans quit the field.
Slater couldn't help but feel sorry for the officer, but at the same time glad that they didn't have time to risk such a suicidal charge right down the barrel of the tanks.
"Maybe next time, mate..."
The smoke slowly cleared, the damage assessed and the few casualties on the Aussie side laid away respectfully. Captain Slater rounded them all up.
"That was a close one... never thought we'd run into such a mess. Think it's toime we mounted up an' got back to where we're meant to be, eh?" He proposed, the men giving a slightly muted agreement as they remounted their tracks, weary and eager to get back for a rest and resupply.
"Are you with us now, Lieutenant?" Slater asked as the Gurkhas climbed aboard their trucks.
"Hard to say, sir. Maybe. Maybe not. I hope so. It was good to fight next to you." He gave a salute, before climbing into the cab of the truck, and taking to the road.
"Steve-O... get on the tranny... we need new tanks!