To whet your appetite, the very first few paragraphs of Blitzkrieg Unleashed: The German Invasion of Poland. It's about 75 per cent complete now and should be published mid-late summer next year barring some catastrophe...
WILLI Reibig stood in the turret of his panzer, a radio headset over his Schutzmütze – a padded helmet covered by the distinctive black beret of the Reich’s new armoured force. In the half-light, the outline of his Panzerkampfwagen – literally armoured fighting vehicle, but to Germans and the world, simply ‘panzer’ – Mark III was barely visible. The column drove in darkness, in silence apart from the constant reassuring deep growl of a Maybach engine. The only light came from the tail light of the vehicle in front, bouncing up and down as it rolled through the Silesian lanes. Reibig watched the sun climb in the east. “It promises to be a beautiful day,” he thought. “A good sign for us.”
At 4.45am that Friday, 1 September 1939, the guns of 103rd Artillery Regiment barked “sending their iron greetings” towards the hills around the small town of Krzepice, twenty or so miles northwest of Tschentochau – Czestochowa to the Poles. Overhead the Luftwaffe roared eastwards. Far below, the panzer crews waved and shouted. The barrage ceased. The panzers jerked forward. German customs officers cheered the armour on as it rolled across the Polish frontier. “It’s a strange feeling knowing that we have left Germany and are now on Polish soil,” thought Reibig.
Within an hour the panzers were across a small brook, the Pankovka. Within two they had driven through Krzepice. This was ideal tank country, Willi Reibig observed, and ideal anti-tank country. But there was no sign of the enemy. The panzers kicked up huge clouds of dust as they raced across a potato field. They passed through nondescript settlements of small cottages with straw-covered roofs. They crashed into the Lisswarthe, a small tributary of the Warthe. The waters of the Lisswarthe smacked against the side of the tanks, foaming, spewing through the driver’s slit hatch. The panzers climbed the opposite bank and into Opatow, eight miles inside Polish territory. Onwards went the armour, avoiding the copses which littered the valley of the Lisswarthe. Only now were the first signs of war were apparent: a blown-up railway bridge, a dead Pole. There was the distant thunder of cannon and the rattle of machine-gun fire, barely audible above the throb of the Panzer Mk III’s engine. Reibig glanced at his map. Up ahead was the village of Mokra III – there were three Mokras, barely a mile apart, here in the Lisswarthe valley. The name meant nothing to Willi Reibig.
A few hundred yards east of Mokra ran the railway line to Tschentochau and on to the heart of Silesia. Drawn up behind it were Polish troops with anti-tank guns, anti-tank rifles and small tanks – tankettes – and Armoured Train No.53, Smialy. Smialy – The Bold – was a strange-looking beast, a relic of the Polish-Soviet war with 75mm guns in turrets atop its wagons. Around one hundred panzers and armoured vehicles were bearing down on them. The guns barked once more, but this time Polish guns. Several panzers were knocked out, the rest fell back.
From the high ground west of Opatow, Georg-Hans Reinhardt watched his panzers falter. This was supposed to be the “crowning glory” of his career. “To be a divisional commander on the field of battle is probably the most wonderful, the greatest position of command, where the personal influence and link still exists between the leader and those led,” he enthused. And now, at the first sign of enemy resistance, his men had been repulsed.
With his narrow, inquisitive eyes peering through round pince-nez, the balding Reinhardt looked more professor than warrior. But looks could be deceptive. Georg-Hans Reinhardt – der lange Reinhardt, the tall Reinhardt – was a born warrior. He had marched to the Marne with his infantry regiment a generation before. He had commanded infantry companies, cavalry squadrons, infantry battalions, rifle brigades, and now, since the autumn of 1938, the armour of Würzburg’s 4th Panzer Division. The 52-year-old generalleutnant had faith in his Führer – “a genius,” he gushed to his wife Eva. He convinced himself, like most Germans, that the Polish crisis would be solved “bloodlessly”. But the Führer’s genius had failed him, failed Germany. And so 4th Panzer Division would have to drive on Warsaw, a task Georg-Hans Reinhardt approached “not enthusiastically, not lusting for war, but seriously and dutifully”. In his ten months in command of 4th Panzer, Reinhardt had sought “to instil the spirit of attack” in his men and “banish bunker psychosis”. Evidently, he had failed. He ordered his armour to re-group and attack Mokra again.
Attacking was also on the mind of Major Stanislaw Glinski, commander of 21st Armoured Battalion. Glinski’s tankettes had orders to hold Mokra and drive the panzers back. They would be joined in their attack by a squadron of horsemen from the Wolynian Cavalry Brigade.
WIlli Reibig’s Panzer Mk III bogged down in the marshy, ditch-strewn terrain west of Mokra. He ordered his platoon to continue the attack on the village without him. And then, out of the mist and smoke, an unforgettable sight: Polish cavalry, sabres drawn, lances fixed, thundering towards the advancing panzers. Surely they don’t want to attack us – that would be madness and merely bring about their destruction, Reibig thought to himself. But they were attacking. Five hundred metres away. Then four hundred. Three hundred. Reibig adjusted his sights slightly and aimed at the horses’ bodies. At two hundred metres, his finger pressed the trigger. “The bursts from the machine-gun act like a scythe in a ripe corn field,” the panzer commander wrote. “In a few minutes it’s all over. Only a few succeed in escaping to the protection of the forest.”
I'll post more in due course... and the bibliography when I've finished compiling it.
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man