Lt General Bernard Montgomery, GOC 8th Army, standing in front of his personal Grant tank, 5 November 1942.
WAR OFFICE SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION
No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit
The Germans were retreating quickly, and whenever leaving an area, they left behind a barren wasteland. Whenever they had time to manage it, they blew up, destroyed, torched, or mined everything: “Here you go, Ivan, take your prizes!” The detours – and you couldn’t avoid them-were all mined; the roads were also mined, and people occasionally triggered them. Between Gzhatsk and Viaz’ma alone, the Germans blew up fourteen bridges.
It was also assumed that supplies would be dropped regularly, which turned out, after the first two drops, to be a false hope, not because of any shortage of aircraft, just that the enemy’s presence often made it impossible to pick and choose time and place. As a result, for most of the expedition, one day`s rations had to last at the very least for three, and too often much longer.
It was definite policy, moreover, for the anti-tank guns to open at short range, and not to dispel a tank attack by using medium or field artillery at long range. The 5th Field Regiment, for instance, withheld fire until enemy tanks had run up against the forward six-pounders, and then fired on the infantry and the soft-skinned vehicles following the tanks, with the result that the tanks were isolated and received no support from the ground troops.
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