1941

Aug

23

1941

Night fighter interception over the North Sea

Bristol Beaufighter in flight

As we came out of the turn, the pressure eased, and I could see that we had the other aircraft cold. John’s handling of the Beaufighter had clinched that.Oosing head-on at nearly seven miles a minute on a dark, hazy night with no moon and no horizon, he had started to wheel a heavy and rather unstable aircraft around when only a mile away, and yet he had pulled out of that turn little more than that distance behind.

Aug

22

1941

Reprisals against Russian POWs

Soviet commissars in the Russian army were invariably shot soon after capture - but all Russian prisoners of war faced a terrible existence.

It so happened that we had taken very many prisoners during those fatal days, and so the lives of 4,000 men fell forfeit. They scarcely looked up when our interpreter told them in a cold voice of their fate. They lined up eight at a time at the side ofa large anti-tank ditch. As the first volley crashed, eight men were hurled forward into the depths of the ditch, as if hit by a giant fist. Already the next row was lining up.

Aug

21

1941

Deportation of Foreign Jews from Paris

The German registration programme was conducted with the assistance of the French authorities from the Vichy regime.

They were shipped off to the notorious ‘internment camp’ at Drancy in the French suburbs from where they would soon be shipped off to concentration camps in the East. The general conditions in Drancy were appalling – with disease, overcrowding, malnutrition and lack of medical care contributing to a high death rate even before people were put on the cattle wagons.

Aug

20

1941

Massacre of the children of Byelaya Tserkov

Field Marshal von Reichenau with Hitler in Russia during Barbarossa.

The children were brought along in a tractor. I had nothing to do with this technical procedure. The Ukrainians were standing around trembling. The children were taken down from the tractor. They were lined up along the top of the grave and shot so that they fell into it.

Aug

19

1941

Tobruk patrol caught out in the open

Australian troops return from a patrol outside the Tobruk perimeter, August 1941.

Our shells fell close to them, but on they came, and soon I had to tell the artillery to stop firing as the shells were beginning to land close to our mound. The two Aussie privates were itching to open fire, and I had a difficult time restraining them. Then the enemy party split up into four groups and surrounded the mound.

Aug

18

1941

Surprise attack by the Waffen-SS

A German anti tank rifle on the Russian front during the summer of 1941.

We followed a country lane alongside the Dnepr up to the city and overran a Russian company building a roadblock in the outskirts. Out of sheer fright the Soviets forgot to exchange their shovels for weapons. Modern high-rises rose in front of us. Enemy machine-gun fire ripped up the earth around us. The struggle for Cherson had begun.

Aug

17

1941

Torpedoed and adrift in the Atlantic

Longtaker under her former name Sessa. Photo courtesy of Danish Maritime Museum, Elsinore and Uboat .net

We had a sip of water each day and hard biscuits. When the water ran out we caught rainwater. On the seventeenth day all our water went, and our throats were so parched that we could not eat anything. The sea was moderate most of the time, but it was impossible to go right off to sleep. We should have been washed off. When I got to Reykjavik I had my first night’s sleep for three weeks.

Aug

16

1941

First experiences of a German POW camp

Moosberg would later become a transit camp for United States POWs captured in Europe.

We were not left in peace for long and soon heard the now familiar shout of eraus: eraus: schnell: schnell: which mean get out and fast. We were given our gefangenen number and photographed; then we were deloused and all our hair removed. We knew what it felt and looked like to be convicts, but wondered what we had done to deserve the treatment, and how long it would have to last.

Aug

15

1941

The last execution in the Tower of London

The Tower of London was built shortly after William the Conqueror landed in 1066 and was almost continuous use for the imprisonment  of traitors and important prisoners up until the end of World War II.

Most spies and traitors were hanged at Wandsworth Prison during the war. The decision to execute Jakobs by Firing Squad at the Tower appears to be because he was still suffering from his injuries – he could not stand up. He was blindfolded and placed in a chair for the execution – the officer in charge gave a silent signal to the Firing Squad and he was shot dead.

Aug

14

1941

Food rationing concentrates the mind in Britain

The wartime allowance for one person for one week, the main restrictions were on meat, dairy products and sugar and confectionary. Other items might not be rationed but were in short supply and difficult to get.

Nearly everybody now and then finds himself thinking of some kind of food to which in peacetime he never gave a second thought. Strong men, for instance, who normally wouldn’t touch a piece of candy from one end of the year to the other now brood over the idea of milk chocolate with morbid passion.