December 2012

Dec

21

December 1942

Struggle to survive on the Railway of Death

At first he did not question that they were diphtheria cases; but he said that he had no antitoxin and that as Thailand was so backward he could not get any. This is obviously nonsense – there is a famous Pasteur Institute in Bangkok not far away. But Nobusawa was clearly not going to bother himself about it.

Dec

20

December 1942

Battle training in the far north of Britain

As the smoke cleared the brigadier drew himself up to his full height. He rocked backwards and forwards for a few moments ‘Urrgumph,’ he said, and again ‘Urrgumph Good show, Forman. Good – urrgumph – show.’ As he hobbled to his staff car, his GSO II drew me aside. ‘Don’t … do … that … again,’ he said.

Dec

19

December 1942

Soviet Army successes give Russians confidence

Russia’s mind was focused on Stalingrad. When the offensive got into its stride, a deep feeling of gratitude and relief swept the country. This expressed itself in all kinds of ways: in extra hours worked in factories “for Stalingrad,” and also in that curious movement the origin of which is obscure, and which took the form of large money gifts to the Defence Fund.

Dec

18

December 1942

Paulus refuses to make a breakout from Stalingrad

While the army commander was probably a better-trained tactician and a clearer thinker, it looked as if his Chief-of-Staff was the stronger personality of the two! And so the upshot of the talks was that General Paulus himself ended by pronouncing the break-out a sheer impossibility and pointing out that the surrender of Stalingrad was forbidden ‘by order of the Fuhrer’!

Dec

17

December 1942

United Nations Declaration on ‘German Barbarities’

From all the occupied countries Jews are being transported, in conditions of appalling horror and brutality, to Eastern Europe. In Poland, which has been made the principal Nazi slaughterhouse, the ghettoes established by the German invaders are being systematically emptied of all Jews except a few highly skilled workers required for war industries. None of those taken away are ever heard of again. The able-bodied are slowly worked to death in labour camps.

Dec

16

December 1942

New Russian tactics delay ‘Winter Storm’

Over and over again it became necessary for the tanks to wait or even turn back and assist, as the panzergrenadiers had to deploy to locate and identify an invisible enemy in combat on foot. The various enemy nests proved so well hidden in the steppe grass (which was brown like Red Army uniforms) that the only way to find them was actually to stumble across them. Usually some unlucky German soldier had been killed by a bullet before a nest was identified.

Dec

15

December 1942

Freezing on the Russian steppe hoping for a ‘Heimatschuss’

I know what he means. He is trying to tell me that unfortunately it does not qualify me for a Heimatschuss [literally a ‘Home Shot’ – a wound bad enough to get you sent home] I feel the disappointment – a hope has been dashed. And then I think how quickly human feelings and attitudes can change. It is only a matter of weeks since I was dreaming of glory and heroism and was so full of élan that I was almost bursting.

Dec

14

December 1942

Operation Winter Storm pushes on towards Stalingrad

Suddenly, there is movement there! Three – no, four,five, six Russian tanks, probably T-34s, slowly advance on our position echeloned to the rear. I sound the alarm for the two self-propelled guns. The crews huddle behind the thinly armored gunshield, the barrels turn toward the enemy. Apart from this, there is no movement on our side. Over there the slowly advancing tanks are followed by several waves of Russian infantry that can be clearly made out against the snow cover with their thick brown greatcoats and well-known hats.

Dec

13

December 1942

Conditions deteriorate inside the Stalingrad cauldron

he shelling gradually flattened our positions, which had to be improved. Where could we get building timber? For us and many others, the wooden houses in the suburbs were the only supply of wood, and only daily hunts, which also brought in many other useful things, gave relief; a packet of long nails, wire, and white flare rounds, which I traded for my cigarettes, ensured friendly faces in the position at evening.

Dec

12

December 1942

Operation Frankton survivors reach their target

We were lucky. We could have arrived to discover that the harbour was empty; there had been no way to knowing how many ships we would find until this moment, and we were satisfied. We chose four targets. We turned back towards the cargo ship and pulled up alongside. Her hull shrouded us in darkness. We could hear the crew singing. I wondered what they’d be singing in a few hours’ time. It proved an easy target. I attached my magnet-holder to the hull to prevent the tide from carrying us away.