March 2014

Mar

31

March 1944

Heavy losses as RAF Bomber Command targets Nuremberg

Pilot Officer Barton faced a situation of dire peril. His aircraft was damaged, his navigational team had gone and he could not communicate with the remainder of the crew. If he continued his mission, he would be at the mercy of hostile fighters when silhouetted against the fires in the target area, and if he survived he would have to make a 4 1/2 hours journey home on three engines across heavily-defended territory.

Mar

30

March 1944

The miserable experience of a D-Day rehearsal

In the morning we got away, and although it was still choppy we completed our sea mileage (the equivalent I suppose of Newhaven to Normandy) and at 1615 hours we approached the coast. There had been some kind of real bombardment earlier and this had set fire to some pine woods and marram grass on the sandhills. By the time we landed there were squads of Land Army girls beating out the fires, which tended to spoil the realism.

Mar

29

March 1944

Destroyer HMS Laforey sunk as she closes for the kill

After what appeared to be an eternity, I spotted the darker shape of an approaching vessel. Suddenly there were cries of, “ Swim you German bastards, swim!” Our would be rescuers, were convinced that we were German survivors from the U-boat, which Tumult and Blencathra had eventually sunk. They were unaware of the fact that Laforey had gone too.

Mar

28

March 1944

‘Fight to the last man’ as Japanese enter India

In Dimapur I had asked the brigadier commanding the base what his ration strength was. ‘Forty-five thousand, near enough,’ he replied. ‘And how many soldiers can you scrape up out of that lot?’ I inquired. He smiled wryly. ‘I might get five hundred who know how to fire a rifle!’ . But, as at Kohima, everything that could be done to put the sprawling base into a state of defence was being done.

Mar

27

March 1944

The ‘Kinder Aktion’ in the Kovno ghetto

But those figures did not add up. From the available to them data Germans knew that a large number of old people and children had not been found yet. The next day round-ups had resumed. Every suspicious place was carefully searched, hand grenades were thrown into basements and lofts. All newly discovered people were put into lorries and sent to the 9th Fort.

Mar

26

March 1944

OSS troops executed at dawn on Dostler’s orders

During the night from Saturday 25th to Sunday, 26th March, two attempts were made by officers of the 135th Fortress Brigade and by the Naval Officers to bring about a change in the decision by telephoning to the accused Dostler. All these attempts having been unsuccessful, the 15 Americans were executed on the 26th March, early in the morning. They were neither tried, nor given any hearing.

Mar

25

March 1944

A burning plane 18,000′ over Germany and no parachute

I leaned back, pushed open the turret doors, and reached into the fuselage to grab my parachute from its rack. The whole length of the fuselage was blazing. The flames reached right down to the door of my turret. And there, in a fierce little fire of its own, my parachute was blazing, too. For a brief moment I stared while it dissolved before my eyes.

Mar

24

March 1944

The ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft III

The entrance to 'Harry',

There were about 200 of us spread evenly in the rooms throughout the hut. I can’t honestly remember if we had been allocated rooms according to our escape numbers, but that was probably the case. Everyone was nervous, checking constantly papers, escape rations, appearance — all the small details your life might depend upon later.

Mar

23

March 1944

Japanese held at the Battle of Sangshak

In the late afternoon, I had to visit company commanders to convey orders for the coming night attack. I went by way of a communication trench and saw five soldiers crouching in it. On the battlefield soldiers feel forlorn and tend to stick together. Just as I told them to disperse, a shell exploded between me and them and all five were killed. I was facing the enemy so my face was injured. I could not see…

Mar

22

March 1944

Relieving the Gurkhas in front of the Monastery

As we worked our way up the terraced, shell-torn slope towards the ruin of a building that looked like the headquarters we were seeking, the smell of death – the old familiar smell – became increasingly powerful. The most immediate cause turned out to be a mule, in an advanced stage of decomposition, and black with feasting flies. (Wags later used the mule as a signpost for visitors. They used to say ‘bear hard right when the mule begins to smell really strongly’.)