When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.
CHAPTER 60 ? THE SNIPERS
Monday, 13th August 1945, 1800hrs
Calmly, carefully and quietly, as is the way of the sniper, the two soldiers crept into the chosen firing position.
Panfoliva?s number two today was Babr, a wizened old Siberian Eskimo whose eyes seemed hardly to open no matter what the circumstances, but whose aim was as deadly as anyone in the unit.
Using whispers and sign language Babr sorted out the targets.
Panfilova controlled her breathing, relaxed into her rifle, steadied by the crate against which she leant.
Starshy Serzhant Babr Yarit quietly counted away the last seconds.
The Moisin-Nagant rifle kicked and Lena was rewarded when a red mist appeared where once her target had crouched behind his Vickers machine-gun.
Switching to the second target she was greeted with the surprised face of a young soldier, clearly inexperienced, head extended above cover whilst his older comrades had already disappeared from view.
The bullet took him just under the nose and carried through the eighteen year olds brain before exiting at the base of his skull, expending its remaining energy burrowing into the wall beyond.
The other teams similarly brought down their targets, leaving the Canadian positions temporarily exposed.
Overhead the return of the air force regiment encouraged the ground troops, although the wiser ones noted many less than had flown to the attack some minutes beforehand.
A collective shout, the famous ?Urrah?, went up from the assaulting battalion and the soviet infantry again rushed forward, this time accompanied by three SU-76 self-propelled guns for close support.
Defending Canadian troops commenced firing but the rate of fire was low. Brave men tried to man Vickers and Bren guns but were mainly struck down as the sniper?s continued their work.
The self-propelled guns also wrought destruction, accurately blotting out enemy nests of resistance.
A movement at an unoccupied window drew Panfilova?s attention. She fired a shot at a vague shape and the shape fell forward into view. Rechambering her rifle she noted with satisfaction the obvious rank markings of her latest success. This bullet had killed the Artillery Observation officer for the Canadian batteries supporting this sector, removing the effectiveness of their support, which had already been eroded by a swift and savage working-over by the Shturmoviks.
The Soviet infantry were already beyond the line of bodies that marked their furthest progress in the last attack, and few men had been struck down by comparison.
A few mortar shells burst amongst the attacking wave, enough to kill and maim a handful of men but insufficient to halt the momentum of the charge.
With the absence of the Artillery Officer, slain by a sniper?s bullet, and the OP team, destroyed by an SU-76 shell, the Canadian infantry Captain had called anything he could get to listen on his own radio before yet another HE shell had ended his life.
A second wave of infantry threw themselves forward as two Mosquito Mk VI?s arrived, responding to calls from an RAF controller who had heard the Canadian?s plea for help, one already smoking from its encounter with soviet interceptors.
The wave of Russians drew their attention and they attacked immediately. Each aircraft mounted four 20mm Hispano cannon in the nose and these spewed shells into the second wave, ravaging the ranks and destroying men.
Spotting two of the Soviet assault guns the leader turned and bore down again, this time thumbing off his main strike weapons and all eight 60lb rockets leapt from their racks and bore down upon the soviet armour.
He did not see the success or failure of his strike as his aircraft was knocked out of the sky by a ZSU-37 covering the attack. Its automatic 37mm weapon severed the tail plane and the Mosquito bored straight into the ground, killing its crew and more hapless soviet infantry.
Panfilova grinned at her spotter, both for the destruction of the enemy aircraft and the obvious success of the soviet attack.
Her good-humour turned to concern as she noticed Yarit was wide-eyed, looking down and up, alternating between the two views swiftly, a look of horror spreading over his face.
The remaining SU76 was moving as fast as it could, desperate to avoid the attentions of the surviving Mosquito.
It was heading straight at their place of concealment, its madly rotating tracks sending mud spraying in all directions as the driver hammered his vehicle.
The Mosquito flipped into a shallow dive and eight rockets sped away, smokey trails indicating the likely landing point.
Panfilova and Yarit tried to run but explosive force moves quicker than a human can react.
The first rocket entered the rear compartment of the SU, instantly sending it in all directions as scrap metal, its crew evaporated.
The seventh rocket to land dropped at the rear of the ruined truck in which the two snipers were hiding.
After the battle was over comrades searched long and hard for the pair. Of Yarit there was no trace. The sniper unit?s senior Non-com was finally persuaded to climb a tree and knock down something indescribable hanging in its branches. Lacking head, arms and legs the destroyed body was beyond identification, save for the obvious shapely right breast.
The only female missing was Lena Panfilova, so her grieving comrades swiftly buried the unknown corpse on the assumption that it was their prettiest and youngest killer.