1942

Dec

11

1942

The Eighth Army advance reaches Agheila

General Montgomery, GOC 8th Army , inspecting a coastal defence gun at Benghazi, 7 December 1942.

They fought very bravely, and the crew of one gun allowed Tom’s tank to get within fifty yards of them before firing. Unfortunately for them, they missed him, only carrying away the ration boxes on one side of the tank, and he overran the gun, actually crushing one of the crew under the tank. In this action, the M.O. was badly wounded, and for a long time was in danger of losing an arm and a leg. But later we heard that he had managed to keep both, although they would never be 100 per cent useful again. His driver was killed outright.

Dec

10

1942

New work – in the Auschwitz gas chambers

The Auschwitz II-Birkenau main guard house and rail entrance.

We were lined up in front of the house. Moll arrived and told us we would work here at burning old and lousy people, that we would be given something something to eat and in the evening we would be taken back to the camp. He added that those who did not accept the work would be beaten and have the dogs set on them. The SS who escorted us were accompanied by dogs. Then he split us into a number of groups. I myself and eleven others were detailed, as we learnt later, to remove the bodies from this cottage.

Dec

9

1942

Embarking on a troopship – destination unknown

The Cameronia made unescorted transatlantic crossings even after the war started, until she was requisioned as a troop ship by the British Admiralty in December 1940.  In December of 1942, she was hit with an aerial torpedo, with the loss of 17 lives, but carried on to port for repairs.  The ship woould later go on to become the largest troopship to take part in the Normandy Landings. After the end of WWII, the ship was laid up, but was broguthout of retirement and converted for use as an Australian emigration ship.

Each messdeck held about 100 men, and each man had a space at a long table each table having about 12 men grouped round it. There was some space around the tables and here all our equipment, blankets and bedding were stored. Hammocks were the order of the day, and they were slung on brackets over the tables and around the walls (or should that be bulkheads).

Dec

8

1942

Hunger in a PoW labour camp in Thailand

Food supply and the maintenance of health were the most critical problems to be faced. After the first fortnight, during which British army rations were issued, prisoners had to make do with the Japanese ration scales, which consisted mainly of rice, and it was only gradually that the cooks devised means of making it palatable. Apart from rice, a little tea, sugar and salt were issued, together with the occasional ration of meat or fish. The Japanese refused to allow Red Cross relief parcels to be distributed, so any supplementing of the meagre rations depended on the ingenuity of the prisoners themselves

There are few images available to illustrate the Japanese POW camps.  Here is a drawing from Changi Prison on Singapore by Des Bettany by kind permission of Keith Bettany. Bettany did not draw the true skeletal figures of the prisoners because he was 'drawing to keep his morale up'. See more of Des Bettany's work at his online exhibition.

I had had this tick fever for 2 days and didn’t go sick for I was sweating on the holiday allowing me to recover but the Nips held a big check roll-call at 10 a.m. and I am afraid, for the first time in my army career I fainted and had to be carried off. Of course their food for the last few days has been bad even for this place and I suppose that had something to do with it also.

Dec

7

1942

Operation Frankton is launched from HMS Tuna

Major 'Blondie' Hasler leads one of the two men canoes during training for Operation Frankton. The other man may be William Sparks.

It was around two in the morning and we were falling behind schedule. The orders had been plain; no man’s jeopardy should put the mission in peril. The Major was having to make swift decisions, and I could see that he was tormented. He could not just leave the two men there to fend for themselves in the freezing water. They would die for sure.

Dec

6

1942

Low level daylight attack on the Philips plant, Holland

Low-level photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken over the Stryp Group main plant 30 minutes after the attack, showing extensive damage to the radio assembly shop and fires still burning at several points. Full production of electrical material at the factory was not reached again until 6 months after the raid. The bombers suffered a loss rate of 15 per cent for the whole force.

It was midday, a lovely sunny day, virtually no cloud, so I set off across the Dutch countryside at high speed. I decided not to follow the given route out which was towards the coast of Holland and out into the North Sea. I decided that that’s where the fighters would be and therefore, I turned north, to the Zeider Zee. The fighters would all be directed to the main formation.

Dec

5

1942

Germans step up persecution of Polish civilians

'Let's do agricultural work in Germany. Report immediately to your Vogt'. A German propaganda poster aimed at the Polish population - very few went voluntarily to Germany.

People here are in a panic. They move from place to place, sleep completely clothed, and wait for the gendannes to come. In Szczebrzeszyn the only topic of discussion is future evacuation. A new announcement was posted in town regarding the sabotage of railroads, The railroad lines were divided into sectors. Each sector was given to a nearby village for security. If any sabotage takes place, the villages in charge of guarding that sector will be punished. In other words, several hostages will be executed.

Dec

4

1942

No.18 Squadron nearly wiped out in V.C. attack

A formation of five Blenheim Mark IVs (Z5893 'W' nearest) of No. 14 Squadron RAF in flight over the Western Desert. A Curtiss Kittyhawk, one of the escorting fighters, can be seen on the far right.

During the war he proved himself to be an outstanding leader and commanding officer, who brought his squadron to a state of the highest efficiency by his personal example. Between the 11th November and 4th December the squadron had completed no less than 106 sorties. This officer’s last exploit was the finest example of the courage and unswerving devotion to duty which he had shown throughout his career.

Dec

3

1942

German resistance stiffens in Tunisia

Douglas A-20C, 42-33229 'A', flys over the target area as bombs explode on enemy armoured units on the slopes of Djebel Bou Kournine, Tunisia, during a raid by 30 Bostons of No. 326 Wing RAF against 10th Panzer Division units which were holding up the advance of the 6th Armoured Division to Tunis.

Finally when the remainder of his party were all killed or wounded, he went forward alone with a pistol and some grenades to attack enemy machine guns at close quarters and from this action did not return. From reports received from wounded men, this officer died of wounds.

Dec

2

1942

Royal Navy’s Force K from Malta on the attack again

The British destroyer HMS NUBIAN returning to Malta after patrolling the coast of Tunis. She had been participating in operations by light naval forces based at Malta to patrol the Sicilian Narrows off the coast of Tunis and cut off the German Afrika Korps's escape route from North Africa.

Our first shot was a star shell which illuminated the whole scene. All our ships directed their fire at the destroyer. We turned our searchlight on her and all the details of a small destroyer became starkly evident. Within three minutes, hot glowing circles appeared on her superstructure and hull from the hits that she was sustaining. Things were happening very fast.