April 1941

Apr

28

1941

Last ditch stand at Kalamata

Greek and British prisoners of war are marched off by the Germans, Greece, April 1941.

When order to retreat to cover was given Sergeant Hinton shouted, ‘To Hell with this who will come with me’, and ran to within several yards of the nearest guns. The guns fired, missing him, and he hurled two grenades which completely wiped out the crews. He then came on with bayonet …

Apr

27

1941

Himmler visits Mauthausen

Himmler talking to SS Guards in Mauthausen concentration camp, 27th April 1941

The 12 hour days of hard physical labour on a meagre diet were lethal for many of the inmates. But there were other more direct methods of killing. The Stairs of death involved long lines of prisoners carrying 50kg granite blocks up the stairs. Those who stumbled would fall on the prisoners following them, creating a domino effect that killed or injured dozens.

Apr

26

1941

The last defence line in Greece

German parachute troops relax after the assault on the Corinth Canal.

Then the Germans started dropping the parachutists, and it was quite evident that nothing was going to stop them. Eventually there were left only the Sergeant, Alan Ponsford, and myself (bombardier), and deciding the only course of action was to spike the gun, we threw the breech block as far as we could into a corn field.

Apr

25

1941

Kiel targeted by Bomber Command

A Photographic Reconnaissance Unit composite image of Kiel, April 1941. Locating German capital ships, particularly the latest battleship, the Bismarck, was a high priority.

Kiel was heavily attacked on three nights and over 150 tons of H.E. and 20,000 incendiaries were dropped. On two of these occasions the weather was good, but exact observation was difficult, due to ground haze and to intense antiaircraft and searchlight activity, but many fires were seen to break out, some of them in the vicinity of Krupp’s works.

Apr

24

1941

Life in the Warsaw ghetto

Jews mount a truck in the Warsaw ghetto before being taken off for forced labour, May 1941

Which is why your heart pounds whenever you go outside and why it’s considered an amazing success if you manage to get where you’re going without incident. People are so wound up that the sight of a German truck is enough to set off a panic and send everyone scurrying.

Apr

23

1941

Plymouth hit again

The burnt out bus garage in Plymouth during the 1941 blitz.

It was a stick of bombs – we heard the first one land a little distance away, then the second one dropped nearer, then we heard the third one coming like the roar of an express train and we knew that one was for us. It landed about ten yards away, just behind the large brick wall which divided our garden from the bus depot, burying our shelter in debris.

Apr

22

1941

Plymouth targeted again

The Royal Navy base at Devonport made Plymouth an inevitable target for the Luftwaffe.

The sight of Plymouth burning was one I will never forget. As we sped past Central Park we looked over the whole city which seemed ablaze from end to end. Searchlights moved through the sky lighting up the barrage ballons and occasional aircraft. And still the guns thundered on. In the morning Plymouth was a smoking ruin.

Apr

21

1941

Dawn bombardment of Tripoli

The Commander in Chief Mediterranean Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, widely known as 'ABC', responsible for several famous naval actions including Taranto and Matapan.

Air spotting was rendered difficult by smoke and dust from the air attack, but three or four ships were set on fire or sunk in the naval basin and two or more others hit as well as a destroyer; the harbour facilities and shore establishments were also seriously damaged, some 530 tons of shells having been fired. No naval units were encountered and there was no reply from the shore batteries for 20 minutes.

Apr

20

1941

German break through in Greece

German infantry on the march in Greece, April 1941

The most decisive German effort seems to have been made on the 20th April. Those forces which had already on the day before reached the plain of Thessaly advanced on Lamia, whilst German motorised forces struck across the Pindus Mountains from Grevena and reached the Yannina area. At the same time, the roads of withdrawal of the Imperial and Greek forces were attacked by dive-bombers with fighter escort, whilst similar attacks were made on the harbour of Piraeus.

Apr

19

1941

Noel Coward sings through the blitz

The Fire Brigade was organised by the Local Authorities until August 1941, when the National Fire Service was created.

On the whole, a strange and very amusing evening. People’s behaviour absolutely magnificent. Much better than gallant. Wish the whole of America could really see and understand it. Thankful to God I came back. Would not have missed this experience for anything.