17 July 2000: South of Łask
While Maks made a trek to the town of Kamiensk to ascertain the situation there, the rest of the party remained at the forest camp. They had a strange encounter.
Somebody with a whistle controlling a pack of dogs harassed the camp. A few members got some shots off and wounded two dogs, who were then all recalled. In the morning a few small items were reported missing. Perhaps somebody used the distraction to pilfer a few items. Could be primitives, living a near savage lifestyle.
Maks returned to camp late. In his evening radio checks, Maks could hear the 5th Division at Kalisz. They were forming for a breakout before dawn.
The 5th Division was leaving the area, and Maks’ crew was too distant to join them.
18 July 2000: Escape From Kalisz
The Warsaw Pact had their own plans, however.
It was a brutal fight. Though outnumbered, the component units of the 5th fought tenaciously to buy time for their brothers.
Notes from Escape From Kalisz
Pol 10th TD: “It began the assault with 2,500 men and 25 tanks, but by noon will be down to 2,000 men and 5 tanks.”
Sov 21st MRD: “The division begins the assault with 8,000 men and 30 tanks. By dawn, it will be down to 3,000 men and 8 tanks…”
The party could hear desperate radio calls from numerous sources throughout the day, but one-by-one, they went silent. By nightfall on 18 July, it was over.
The 5th Division was gone.
Strangers in a Strange Land
Shaken, the party wiped their forest camp, and continued on to Kamiensk. They negotiated to trade items and knowledge for alcohol fuel.
For two days, Kamiensk was a refuge. The situation at Kalisz wasn’t clear. The Soviets were trying to pull their units back together. Code discipline was more lax now, with some broadcasts entirely in the clear, others mix code and clear in the same frustrating broadcast.
It’s clear that Łódź was still the logistics hub of the 4th Shock Army. It seemed that Kamiensk was out-of-the-way for now. But a Pact scouting party could visit at any time. The Americans would need to lay low.
Maks set his men to work to keep their minds busy.
The party has been very helpful in the development of the defense of Kamiensk, advising a larger beaten-down zone around their walls, among other things. The town can spare 200 liters of ethanol, which they offered it to the party out of gratitude.
They also had a precious 50 liters of gasoline, which they’d trade for something useful.
After two days, the deserters reappeared. They were Kazakhs, led by a lieutenant M.K. Sihimov. They’d occupied the town previously. The deserters had been civil, but unwelcome in Kamiensk nonetheless. A source of the friction between them and the citizens became obvious: Language barrier.
Maks was immediately useful in translating between Russian and Polish. Sihimov seemed surprised, and offended at being excluded from the town. But a table and chairs were brought out, and Maks, Sihimov, and Grzesiek started discussions.
Grzesiek doesn’t hate the Kazakhs. They behaved decently during their recent stay, and the few breaches of discipline were dealt with by Sihimov, who seems to be in firm control of his men. Kamiensk could use armed protection. They did handily repulse two raiding parties out of Radomsko.
However, they were consuming food at an unsustainable rate, and with Winter coming, the town needs to be storing food, not consuming its stores. And Grzesiek has his doubts about the Kazakhs. Are they going to flee every time a Soviet patrol appears?
Grzesiek’s big problem is that while the town’s inner core is defensible, the farms around town are vital, but far-flung and vulnerable. In Winter, this will be less of an issue, with the fields fallow.
Sihimov thinks the citizens are ungracious and ungrateful. His men protect, and they should be fed for doing so. His men want to go home, but it’s a long walk across Asia. If they left now, they would likely get caught midtrek by Winter snows and perish. They absolutely do not want to return to the Soviet Army. They intend to leave next Spring, but there’s some debate among the men on that. A minority don’t want to risk the trek; they know the distance involved.
It was clear that Sihimov was ill-informed about the current military situation, and Maks updated him as a goodwill gesture. In return, Sihimov offered to let Maks copy his Soviet radio code book. The codes were not recent issue, but some units may still be using them.
The party gets involved
[My brother and I handled this part by email. This was his response as Maks.]
For their grain needs the farmers throughout the region are almost certainly relying heavily on hard winter wheat. This is a highly productive crop that can be grown in seasons when many other crops can’t. And Poland should be an excellent climate for it. Winter wheat is planted in the autumn and grows vegetatively through fall and winter. Its not harmed by the cold and it actually requires a month or two of freezing or near-freezing weather anyway for vernalization. Then when the weather warms up the spikes develop to produce grain which can be harvested in spring.
They might be growing spring wheat now during current game-time. As you’d guess from the name this variety is typically planted in spring (though in a warm enough climate it could be planted and grown whenever since it has no vernalization requirement). Its not as productive as winter wheat and they might instead opt for something else like potatoes during this warmer growing season. If we’re in July for game time then its quite possible they have a considerable amount of crops of whatever kind ready to harvest now or within the upcoming weeks.
It seems that the villagers are approaching a risky period of their year. They will soon need to harvest a lot of currently growing crops which, until they are gathered, will look like an open gold mine to any hungry outsiders. Then they’ll need to turn around and plant a different crop. And they need to conduct all of this work without interruptions from raiders or hungry armies.
Maks will advise the following:
- These Kazakhs should be actively participating in some portion of the agricultural work whenever they aren’t actively defending the village. They’ll have all winter to be kicking back with little to do.
- They need to derive some system for hiding & protecting a substantial portion of their food. Only modest quantities should be within reach at any time. It should be rationed even if they think they’ll have enough for winter. This should be planned and completed in secret so only a very few people know where/how the food is stashed. Maks suggests they scrounge up some kind of waterproof, pest-proof containers (metal drums?) to create a series of buried or hidden grain caches. Being farmers these guys will know how to properly dry down the grain so that it doesn’t rot in storage.
- They need to get patrols putting eyes and ears out all over the place to spot approaching trouble soon enough to set into action. And they need to be able to distinguish between raiders and legit Soviet military because the response to such dangers will be different. Maks will do his best to explain how to do that.
- They clearly need to start working on their language skills if they’re going to get along through these coming months. Hopefully someone has a Polish-Russian dictionary.
- These schemes might work for this year, but Grzesiek is gonna need to come up with some plan for the long term. If/when these Kazakhs leav its just going to leave the town vulnerable again. They may need to start working on relations with some alternative guard force.
- On the topic of trade for the gasoline would he take 6 frag grenades, 6 smoke grenades and an M136 rocket launcher?