DAY OF THE JACKBOOT, 10 May 1940

Briefing: Jean Offenberg was born in Brussels in 1916 when it was under German occupation. Less than a quarter-century later, he was a 2nd Lieutenant pilot with 2 Group, 4eme Escadrille, 2nd Regiment d'Aeronautique, flying Fiat biplanes, trying to prevent history repeating itself. After moving at dawn with his unit from their permanent base at Nivelles to an emergency strip, Offenberg was permitted to go on a patrol with two wingmen. They spotted a Do17, and as one of his wingmen, Sgt Maes, dove on it without awaiting orders, Offenberg and Sgt Jottard spotted a formation of Messerschmitts on patrol. Two of the German machines split from their fellows, and dove on the Fiats.

Map: Blue Sky
Aircraft: Allied:Three Fiat CR42
Axis:One Do17Z-2
Two Bf109E-4

Set Up: Place the Do17 in hex 2935, facing W, altitude 8.0, speed 4.0, banked level. The 109s set up in hexes 3740 and 3941, facing W, altitude 12.0, speed 6.0, banked left. The Fiats start in 2140 and 2040, facing W, altitude 10.0, speed 4.0, banked level, and 2238, facing NNW, altitude 9.8, speed 4.0, banked inverted left and shallow diving.

Game Length: 20 Turns

Rules of Engagement:
1. Pilot Quality: All pilots are Regulars.
2. No Radios: The Falcos were not equipped with radios, and were thus unable to warn each other of enemy aircraft in their blind spots. To reflect this, for each enemy aircraft in its blind area, the Falcos get a -2 to their initiative die roll.
3. Victory Pionts: In addition to VPs for damage, the Belgian player receives VPs equal to the final odds table on which he takes a valid shot (i.e. where there a possiblity of inflicting at least 1 point of damage). For example, a shot at 2:1 is worth 2 VP.

Variants:
1. Offenberg's account refers to the enemy fighters as "Messerschmitts" without being specific. It is assumed they are 109's but they might be 110s, which had the greater reputation at this time and so might have been referred to by their manufacturer's name alone (in the same way FW190s are often just "Focke Wulfs"). Replace the 109s with 110C-4s.


Debriefing: Offenberg could recall little of his first combat afterwards. He dove between the fighters and fired at the Dornier, damaging it but jamming one of his guns in the process. Then he was suddenly alone in the sky. Circling, he spotted another lone Do17 below and gave chase, but was unable to overhaul it and finally broke off the pursuit. Heading home, he spotted a third Dornier lower down. This time he traded his altitude for speed more effectively and with his single gun, set its port engine on fire, bringing it down. German records show only four losses attributed to Belgian fighters throughout the Blitzkreig. One of the three lost on the 10th, a Do17 of 5/KG77, may well be Offenberg's victim.

That afternoon the Germans found the new base of the 3eme and 4eme Escadrilles and strafed and bombed it, obliterating the 4eme and leaving the 3eme with just eight planes. The next day they began a retreat, flying from airfield to airfield, first within Belgium, then into France. The squadron saw only one more combat, on the 15th, in which one pilot found himself behind a Bf109 and shot it down. By the end of this combat, the Belgian Air Force's front-line fighter strength had been reduced to five CR42s.

The Belgians' retreat did not finish until France surrendered. Offenberg and his faithful friend Sgt Jottard wanted to escape to North Africa but were forbidden by their commander, and were warned that to do so without orders would be desertion. Further, according to the armistice terms, the French were meant to stop any of their former allies leaving French soil. Nevertheless, the two airmen "borrowed" a pair of Simouns and, without maps, made their way to Corsica and then to North Africa. There they joined up with a Belgian flying school, which had been moved there when hostilities broke out. Forced to abandon their Simouns, Offenberg and Jottard made it to Casablanca by train with a group of trainee pilots, in spite of the obstructions of their own officers and the French. As deserters, their own consulate could not help them, but a group of Poles had managed to arrange permission to depart from the local authorities and smuggled the Belgians on board their ship. In this way Offenberg, Jottard and twelve other "deserters" finally arrived in England on 15 July.

Two weeks later both Offenberg and Jottard became Pilot Officers in the RAF, and were posted to 145 Squadron at Drem within a month. In October they moved to Tangmere and flew at the end of the Battle of Britain. Jottard was shot down and killed on 27 October 1940. Offenberg flew fighter sweeps with 145 until June 1941, when he joined 609 squadron, which was being set up as a predominantly Belgian squadron, but with a British commander. He became a flight commander and one occasion deputised for the absent squadron leader. Flight Lieutenant Jean Offenberg, DFC, CdG, an ace with seven confirmed victories, was killed in a flying accident on 22 January 1942.


Designer's Notes: The source is Lonely Warrior, a book based on Offenberg's diaries. His first entry was made on the evening of May 10, and includes a brief description of the above battle, his first combat, although I have had to interpret some details - including the types of fighters encountered.


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Version History:
1.0 Initial Version