April 2014

Apr

30

April 1944

In the trenches with nightingales and a dead German

a 155mm 'Long Tom' gun fires

The noise seemed to roll in on top of us — an awe-inspiring rumpus of cracks, crashes, thumps and then the muffled thuds of the shells exploding out in the distant German lines. Over five hundred guns are now crowded into the Beachhead, and our artillery fire is so perfectly synchronized that, in the central sectors, every single gun can be brought to bear on one selected target and send ve hundred shells smashing down on it in a matter of seconds. Flare after flare went up from the Germans side of the line to the north.

Apr

29

April 1944

Luftwaffe fighters meet USAAF bomber attack

Evidently my opponents are old hands at the game. I turn and dive and climb and roll and loop and spin. I use the methanol emergency booster, and try to get away in my favourite “corkscrew climb”. In only a few seconds the bastards are right back on my tail. They keep on firing all the time. I do not know how they just miss me, but they do.

Apr

28

April 1944

Disaster as US ‘D-Day rehearsal’ is ambushed

As the day closed, I was in Ike’s office when Beetle phoned on the intercommunication system to say that by E-boat action last night, we had two LSTs sunk and one damaged in the exercise. This happened off Lyme Bay—just where we had been. Casualties are estimated at 300 to 400. Beetle said this reduces our reserve of LSTs for the big show to zero.

Apr

27

April 1944

Fire fighting on a Lancaster bomber’s wing

463 Squadron at Waddington,

Sergeant Jackson was unable to control his descent and landed heavily. He sustained a broken ankle, his right eye was closed through burns and his hands were useless. These injuries, together with the wounds received earlier, reduced him to a pitiable state. At daybreak he crawled to the nearest village, where he was taken prisoner. He bore the intense pain and discomfort of the journey to Dulag Luft with magnificent fortitude. After ten months in hospital he made a good recovery, though his hands require further treatment and are only of limited use.

Apr

26

April 1944

Death of an innocent man in Italy

I drive in to Chianciano, to try and make arrangements for the funeral — and find the streets entirely empty, and on the walls a notice stating that, while the German authorities deplore what had occurred, they consider it to be the fault of the local population, owing to their unco-operativeness and general hostility. In consequence, there will be a curfew at eight-thirty p.m., and the population is warned that any further attempt at sabotage will be followed by the arrest of ten hostages.

Apr

25

April 1944

Delivering harassing shellfire at Cassino

The major got to work soon after breakfast. He was registering Horace on to some new places. His fifth round landed plumb on top of the southern wing of the Monastery. The effect was catastrophic. Stones and debris were cascaded into the air, and dust and rubble poured out of the windows like thick smoke. Both our other O.P.s excitedly came through on the ’phone to give graphic eye-witness accounts of the spectacle.

Apr

24

1944

Jungle firefight as Chindits ambush Japanese

We kept ourselves flat on the ground as the bullets scythed through the thick jungle undergrowth a couple of feet above our heads. The unfortunate mules carrying our wireless sets could not get down far enough. I watched fascinated as bullet holes appeared in rows along their bodies, little spurts of blood in line, before they crashed to the ground.

Apr

23

April 1944

Slow motion nightmare in a Lancaster over Dusseldorf

Here a B-17 Flying Fortress crew of the 96th Bomb Group, US Eighth Air Force, mingle with Lancaster crews of No 622 Squadron

The bombs were actually dropping from the aircraft when there was a tremendous explosion. For a brief period of time everything seemed to happen in ultra-slow motion. The explosion knocked me on my back; I was aware of falling on to the floor of the aircraft, but it seemed an age before I actually made contact. I distinctly remember ‘bouncing’. Probably lots of flying clothing and Mae Wests broke my fall, but under normal circumstances one would not have been aware of ‘bouncing’.

Apr

22

April 1944

Surviving harassing shellfire at Anzio

One small piece of A.P. entered/my hole, via the mosquito net. Several fell just outside. Mess dugout hit, RHQ office tent & about four bivvies. 42 Bty had one man killed. RHQ 3 wounded, incl 2 signalmen & Cpl Thorley, the cook. Sloped [?] about in the mist in the valley collecting stretchers & putting them into ambulance. Meanwhile a U.S. ammo dump nearby had been hit, & was going off continuously until about 0700 hrs, bits of metal whizzing all around. Another raid about 0615, fighter bomber quite low. Our O.P. saw one plane crash, bearing 7 deg about 0615 hrs.

Apr

21

April 1944

Heavy civilian casualties as the Allies bomb Paris

Thus, I woke up at 5am and boarded the first Métro carriage which stopped at Jules Joffrin station. From there I reached, running more or less, the warehouse. Everything was burning. The Porte de La Chapelle was particularly knocked down. All the houses have collapsed on the ground. A bomb exploded over the Métro which is in shambles. From the Porte de La Chapelle to our warehouse [ca. 1 km], everything was flames and devastation. The bombing was very dense.