March 2013

Mar

31

1943

A first anti U-boat patrol out over the Bay of Biscay

Allied Aircraft: A Short Sunderland Mk II flying boat of 10 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, used for reconnaissance and anti-U-boat duties

The routine check ofthe aircraft began while the duty hand, still in his underwear, tried to drag on his trousers and rub the sleep out of his eyes.You wandered round watching every body move through the orderly procession of duty; inspecting the bilges and the guns and the ammunition, adjusting the moorings for casting off, unlocking the flying controls, arranging the signal colours, checking the cockpit and the wireless and testing the engine controls, setting up the charts, blacking out the portholes, and clambering up top out onto the wing to examine the mainplane.

Mar

30

1943

Irish Guards suffer heavy losses in hilltop battle

A 25-pdr field gun in action at night during the assault on the Mareth line, 30 March 1943.

The mortars covered the withdrawal of 5 wounded men (Sergeant DEAZLEY, Sergeant MEARS, McCAFFERTY, and two gunners) and then were ordered to withdraw. Major GORDON-WATSON had come up to join them. THey came down the track towards No. 3 Company, but found it under heavy shell fire, turned and tried another way. As they came to the railway bridge they noticed, just in time, a wire stretched across the road to which was suspended a mine.

Mar

29

1943

Australian VC hero beheaded by Japanese

RAAF Boston aircraft as flown by No. 22 Squadron.

Flight Lieutenant Newton maintained control and calmly turned his aircraft away and flew along the shore. He saw it as his duty to keep the aircraft in the air as long as he could so as to take his crew as far away as possible from the enemy’s positions. With great skill, he brought his blazing aircraft down on the water.

Mar

28

1943

A precarious sanctuary for Jews in Poland

Warsaw, Poland, 1943, Jews and German soldiers behind a fence.  The numbers remaining  in the Warsaw ghetto were much now diminished , and the people becoming increasingly desperate.

One day, when only the grandmother and my wife were in the house, sitting as quiet as mice, Henrietta heard a conversation through the wall. The neighbour, Mrs. Kaminska, and a relative of hers were talking. Mrs. Kaminska said she had a feeling that a jewess was hiding next door. The relative said she should inform the Germans at once, and they would soon find out if it were true.

Mar

27

1943

British tanks break through German lines overnight

Valentine tanks carrying infantry of the Black Watch, March 1943.

At times the tanks were crunching over occupied enemy trenches, and we could see terrified parties of Germans and Italians running about with their hands up. But we hadn’t time to bother about prisoners. Our progress was desperately slow. That was my chief worry. If we didn’t succeed in getting through in the dark, the situation in the morning didn’t bear thinking about. We should be surrounded by the enemy and dominated by the hills on either side of the valley.

Mar

26

1943

Maori Victoria Cross in battle for Tebaga Gap

Soldiers of the Māori Battalion training in the Western Desert, Egypt. The Māori infantrymen earned a fearsome reputation for their skill with the bayonet.

Under cover of a most intense mortar barrage the enemy counter-attacked, and 2nd Lieutenant Ngarimu ordered his men to stand to and engage the enemy man or man. This they did with such good effect that the attackers were virtually mown down, 2nd Lieutenant Ngarimu personally killing several. He was twice wounded, once by rifle fire in the shoulder and later by shrapnel in the leg, and though urged by both his company and battalion commanders to go out, he refused to do so, saying that he would stay a little while with his men. He stayed until he met his death the following morning.

Mar

25

1943

Gurkhas ambush Japanese in Burmese jungle

A Gurkha soldier assisting a wounded comrade.  An image by Cecil Beaton from the Arakan Campaign, Burma, January 1943 - May 1945:

God knows he could have had a wife and family back in japan. But he would have killed me remorselessly if he could have fired first, and I felt no sense of guilt. But I looked quickly away, determined not to remember the man’s face, knowing that I could have no control over my dreams, recalling the warning from an old ex-Gurkha colonel who spoke of his experiences in World War I.

Mar

24

1943

Horror of journey to the Railway of Death

Typical labouring scene. Shows Hammer and Tap, Embankment labouring, Timber felling and an excavated cutting.

 Lt Fred "Smudger" Smith (Ransome Smith)

It was baking hot during the day and bitterly cold by night, and by now dysentery had got a grip on many of the lads. As each day in those horrific wagons passed we prayed that it was the end of the line and I said a silent prayer when the guards finally shoved us out of the trucks for the last time at Pan Pong, about forty miles west of Bangkok.

Mar

23

1943

HMS Turbulent fails to return

Forward view from the conning tower of HMS TRIBUNE running on the surface in Scottish waters. A boat of the same class as HMS Turbulent.

In his last year he spent two hundred and fifty-four days at sea, submerged for nearly half the time, and his ship was hunted thirteen times and had two hundred and fifty depth-charges aimed at her. His many and brilliant successes were due to his constant activity and skill, and the daring which never failed him when there was an enemy to be attacked.

Mar

22

1943

Impressions of the well supplied US Army

A US tank crew pose infront of their Lee tank in Tunisia. The high profile of the Lee made it less popular than the Sherman,

Most of the American stuff was first-class, and even as good or better than the German. Their mess tins, water bottles, rubber-soled boots, woollen underclothes, shirts and windbreakers were all superior to the British equivalents and their uniforms in general were made of finer stuff. The Garand rifle and the officers’ carbine were already regarded by many veterans as the best small arms on the front. As for their heavier equipment, it is doubtful if any army ever went to war so well supplied.