September 2013

Sep

30

1943

A PoW escape goes wrong in Italy

Paul Bullard was a young artist learning his trade at the Royal College of Art when the Second World War broke out. His studies were interrupted by his service in the Royal Artillery, during which he was taken prisoner by Axis forces and held at Campo Concentramento PG 53 at Sforzacosta in Italy. It is this camp that provides the setting of this painting, which highlights the stoicism of the prisoners in coping with the boredom of captivity.

We both knew that, if we were not to spend the rest of the war in Germany, we must make a break in the course of the journey on which we were now embarking. Under my battle-dress I was wearing civilian clothes, which I had obtained from a friendly Italian guard in exchange for cigarettes and a packet of tea. Michael carried a crowbar secured inside his trouser leg. I tapped his thigh and it emitted a reassuring twang.

Sep

29

1943

Wounded and lost somewhere over the Eastern front

A captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190A in replicated Luftwaffe insignia, circa 1942-1943.

I had to keep my nerve and try to find an airfield. It was my luck, as mentioned, that no enemy fighters were in the area, so I had to be over our own territory. After flying for 25-30 minutes I flew over a small brook running from right to left, so deduced it was owing from north to south. I turned right and flew along the bed of the stream — somewhere along it there had to be a settlement or airfield. I reckoned I was flying at about 1,000 metres, my wounds had stopped bleeding, everything was sticky, and the engine just ran and ran.

Sep

28

1943

Escape from unspeakable horror of Camp Syret

Jews in Kiev on the way to Babi Yar pass bodies of those already shot, September 1941.

At last the Germans understood what was happening and all the guards got to their feet. They started pursuing us on cars, motorcycles and with dogs. The ravine was lit with flares. The shooting remained in front of us. The pursuers did not know where to aim their shooting since all the prisoners scattered in different directions. Some of them ran off with a chain still clamped to one leg, since they had no time to unchain it.

Sep

27

1943

Luftwaffe surprised by USAAF fighters over Germany

P-38F-1-LO over California during factory test flights (U.S. Air Force)

I order all our rockets to be discharged when we are in formation at a range of 2,000 feet. The next moment a simply fantastic scene unfolds before my eyes. My own two rockets both register a perfect bull’s-eye on a Fortress. Thereupon I am confronted with an enormous solid ball of fire. The bomber has blown up in mid-air with its entire load of bombs. The blazing, smoking fragments come fluttering down.

Sep

26

1943

Operation Jaywick attacks Japanese ships in Singapore

The Krait, the vessel which carried the men of Z Special Unit on Operation Jaywick, the successful raid on Singapore Harbour on the night of 1943-09-26.

Then it was Davidson, playboy as he is, tried to sneak onboard undetected. He was a bit lucky he didn’t get a burst from a Bren gun. The blokes were pretty trigger-happy. Davo slipped over the stern and closely followed by Falls. Naturally we were more than delighted to see them. But boy, they were really beat cos they’d paddled 60 miles from Subar down to Pompong. It was pretty stressy stuff. They were pretty beat.

Sep

25

1943

Sergeant Major Wright wins VC on Hill 207

A 3-inch mortar of the 5th Hampshire Regiment in action at Salerno, 15 September 1943.

As No. 1 Company broke cover, and emerged into the more open ground around the farm, the Germans opened up with every weapon they had. We followed. The row grew more intense. There must have been a dozen Spandaus firing at once, now: ‘a team of giants ripping up a tarpaulin’ had become standard verbiage. It was impossible to distinguish individual shots.

Sep

24

1943

Salerno – the Coldstream Guards launch a night attack

Men of the 2/6th Queens's Regiment advance past a pair of burning German PzKpfw IV tank in the Salerno area, Italy, 22 September 1943.

Our own hill rocked under a stunning double punch from heavy guns, and we heard the German shells mingling their whines with ours in the air above us. I was caught in the open by one such burst. As the hill shook, I fell into my slit-trench and tried to burrow deeper into the ground while the shell—fragments above me buzzed in strange circles, like malicious insects. One seemed literally to circle above me as if waiting for its chance to strike.

Sep

23

1943

Another tragic night for Convoys ONS 202 and 18

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Express underway. She was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Gatineau in 1943.

There was a splash and I could hear voices. I looked and there was a freighter [SS Waleha] which had dropped one of its floats, I tried to swim to it but I was too weak, so I hollered at them and they said they were coming. It was good news, I saw a light but it seemed far off, then I heard the sound of a motor boat. I could hear voices but couldn’t see a thing except the light. Then I felt something hit my face and heard somebody say grab the rope. Then I saw the motor boat when it was nearly on top of me.

Sep

22

1943

X craft – midget submarine – attack on the Tirpitz

X-Craft 25 underway in Loch Striven, near Rothesay with Lieut J E Smart, RNVR, the Commanding Officer on deck by the conning tower.

We actually hit the target’s side obliquely at twenty feet and slid underneath, swinging our fore-and-aft line to the line of her keel. The first charge was let go – as I estimated, under the Tirpitz’s bridge – and X7 was taken about 200 feet astern to drop the other charge under the after turrets. The time was 0720. It was just as we were letting go the second charge that we heard the first signs of enemy counter-attack – but, oddly enough, we were wrong in assuming they were meant for us.

Sep

21

1943

Wehrmacht massacres Italian soldiers on Cephalonia

Italian soldiers taken prisoner by the Germans in Corfu, September 1943.

My companions were loaded onto trucks and taken somewhere: I won’t see them anymore. My friend, the second lieutenant Giampietro Matteri – from Dongo (Como), twenty-two years old – is killed on September 24. The same destiny for another friend, the second lieutenant Pillepich, from Trieste: I still remember the terror in his eyes when, together with eleven companions, he was dragged from the group. Few minutes later we heard the shots of machine guns, followed by cries of pain, yells, invocations. And then other shots. The finishing strokes.