May 1943

May

21

May 1943

A short spell in the ‘Cooler’

I hated the solitude — I cannot begin to describe how much — with nothing to read, nothing to look at, nobody to talk to. Even the food was punitive: a thin round of black bread for breakfast, thin ‘soup’ and a few potatoes for lunch, and another piece of bread in the evening. One lunchtime I had a bit of extra protein in the shape of grubs in the soup. Although very hungry, I passed that one up.

May

20

May 1943

Eisenhower takes salute in Tunis victory parade

The Americans and French also looked grand, the French particularly so in their many different uniforms – the Foreign Legion; Chasseurs d’Afrique ; Tirailleurs; Zouaves; the Goums in their long, camel-hair robes and slapping sandals. The parade had been timed to last an hour and a half. Actually it took twice as long as the French had crowded in many more units than their proper allowance. They naturally wished to impress the Tunisian inhabitants, particularly the Arabs.

May

19

May 1943

Japanese troops get ‘confused’ on Attu

As he came closer we saw that he was all gassed up, practically drunk, and he was carrying a bag of dried fish and rice balls right up to our front door. This little character kept coming until he was ten feet from us. Then he stopped. He stared at us, sort of dazed, like he had suddenly remembered he forgot to turn the water heater off, and he began backing up. We raised up out of the hole without rifles, and in good English he said, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!”

May

18

May 1943

SS inspectors assess the efficiency of Auschwitz

Everything proceeds in a perfectly orderly fashion. Then they pass through a small corridor and enter a large cellar room which resembles a shower bath. In this room are three large pillars, into which certain materials can be lowered from outside the cellar room. When three- to four-hundred people have been herded into this room, the doors are shut, and containers filled with the substances are dropped down into the pillars.

May

17

May 1943

Speer assesses the damage done by the Dambusters

At the largest of the reservoirs, the Sorpe Valley reservoir, they did achieve a direct hit on the center of the dam. I inspected it that same day. Fortunately the bomb hole was slightly higher than the water level. Just a few inches 1ower — and a small brook would have been transformed into a raging river which would have swept away the stone and earthen dam.‘

May

16

May 1943

No. 617 Squadron become ‘Dambusters’

I thought to myself; ‘In another minute we shall all be dead – so what? I thought again, ‘This is terrible – this feeling of fear – if it is fear.’ By now we were a few hundred yards away, and I said quickly to Pulford, under my breath, ‘Better leave the throttles open now and stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit.’ As I glanced at him I thought he looked a little glum on hearing this.

May

15

May 1943

The score reaches 1000 at Biggin Hill

Hardly had I begun to turn to starboard when a nice little job slid under my starboard wing. I turned on my back without even trying to identify it. I went at terric speed, giving the plane all it had. As I dived after my National Socialist, for I could see his black crosses shining now, I gave rapid orders over the radio so that my faithful troops would cover my attack.

May

14

May 1943

Australian Hospital Ship Centaur torpedoed

In that instant the ship was in flames … we ran into Colonel Manson, our commanding officer, in full dress even to his cap and ‘Mae West’ life-jacket, who kindly said ‘That’s right girlies, jump for it now.’ The first words I spoke was to say ‘Will I have time to go back for my great-coat?’ as we were only in our pyjamas. He said ‘No’ and with that climbed the deck and jumped and I followed …

May

13

May 1943

U-230 survives sustained depth charge attack

Over 200 canisters had detonated above and around us by 01.00. Several times we had used a ruse in an effort to escape. Through an outboard valve, we repeatedly expelled a great mass of air bubbles. These screens of air oated away on the current, reecting the Asdic impulses like a large solid body. But our attackers were fooled into chasing the decoys only twice, and both times they left at least one vessel behind, directly over our heads. Unable to sneak away, we gave up the game and concentrated on conserving our power, our compressed air, and our dwindling supply of oxygen.

May

12

May 1943

The Germans surrender in North Africa

At the end the battlefield fell to pieces and lost all pattern and design, and those who had fought hardest on both sides found they had nothing to say, nothing to feel beyond an enveloping sense of gratitude and rest. The anger subsided at the surrender, and for the first time the German and Allied soldiers stood together looking at one another with listless and passionless curiosity.