March 1943

Mar

14

1943

Night patrol on the Mareth Line

A Valentine tank carries infantry during an exercise, 12 March 1943.

At 5.30 a.m. there was a stand-to, trying hard to come to terms with an alien scenery of valley, hills and vegetation, the outcrop of rocks in the foothills so perfect for concealing an 88 or a troop carrier. We were on the receiving end of shelling throughout the day, not heavy but enough to get our shovels active and our slit trenches a few inches deeper.

Mar

13

1943

Amon Goeth liquidates the last Jews in Krakow ghetto

The inmates of Plaszow were often forced to watch the execution of other prisoners - people who had been condemned for trivial reasons or none.

We were then marched off, under heavy escort of SS men and Ukrainians, in the direction of the camp. We were beaten with rifle butts all the way. Whoever, had a decent looking suitcase, had it duly taken from them by the Ukrainians. Anyone who was older, or could not keep the pace of the march, was severely beaten. Having arrived at the camp, the next day, I awaited for the arrival of my wife and child, unfortunately without success.

Mar

12

1943

HMS Lightning sunk in E boat attack

The Royal Navy's greyhounds - destroyers at sea in line ahead, with a fine bow wave. Photograph taken from on board the destroyer FAULKNOR

The stricken ship quickly lost way and became a sitting target. In a desperate attempt to save her, the skipper gave orders to go astern to relieve pressure on the forward bulkheads that were still holding. But I could only watch as our attacker slowly circled the dead ship and come round to the starboard side. I heard his engines speed up as he turned to run in towards us.

Mar

11

1943

‘Tip and run’ raiders hit Hastings

Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIa aircraft of the Air Fighting Development Unit based at Duxford, 6 April 1942.

Hearing the noise of low flying aircraft, I assumed it was the usual patrol and opened the front door to look across the valley towards Hastings. Flying towards me along the line of the Ridge, just above rooftop height, there were indeed two aircraft, but I realised instantly that instead of RAF roundels, these planes had black crosses on their sides,…

Mar

10

1943

Fresh Wehrmacht troops encounter the ‘rasputitsa’

Somewhere on the Eastern front 1943.

The wonderful thing is that they were marching in rows of three and were singing! We step out of the heavily shelled huts and bunkers which have been our home and are unable to comprehend such a miracle. We stand there silently in our camouflage, caked with dirt, and we touch our stubbly faces in disbelief. They march along a series of small grave mounds with crosses on top and I get the impression that their voices tremble for a moment.

Mar

9

1943

Exercise Spartan tests D-Day forces in Britain

Canadian Churchill tanks during Exercise 'Spartan', 9 March 1943.

The armoured divisions’ progress, however, was disappointingly slow; there were bad traffic jams and petrol shortages; and for a time there was a complete breakdown in communications between Corps and Army Headquarters. This last was not surprising, since 2nd Canadian Corps Signals was neither fully equipped nor fully trained. It should moreover be remembered that this was the first occasion on which the whole of the 5th Division was actually exercised together as a formation.

Mar

8

1943

Germans fall back on the Eastern Front

A German image of their struggles with the spring thaw in 1942.

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.

Mar

7

1943

The Chindits march into the Burmese jungle

Chindits with their mules carrying supplies make their way through the jungle.

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.

Mar

6

1943

Medenine – a desperate attempt to halt the Eighth Army

Guardsmen of the Scots Guards inspect a knocked-out German PzKpfw IV tank near Medenine, 12 March 1943.

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.

Mar

5

1943

The ‘Battle of the Ruhr’ begins with Essen

Fires burning in Essen on the night 5-6th March 1943.

The subject of morale had been dropped, and I was now required to proceed with the general “ disorganisation” of German industry, giving priority to certain aspects of it such as U-boat building, aircraft production, oil production, transportation and so forth, which gave me a very wide range of choice and allowed me to attack pretty well any German industrial city of 100,000 inhabitants and above.