1943

Dec

21

1943

Speer visits the Finnish frontline

The 'Batterie Todt'  on the Channel coast,  one of the larger installations along the 'Atlantic Wall'.

Immediately afterward a lance corporal right beside me collapsed without a sound. A Soviet sharpshooter had hit him in the head through the observation slit. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had been confronted with the reality of the war. I had been acquainted with our infantry howitzers only as technical items to be demonstrated on a shooting range; now I suddenly saw how this instrument, which I had regarded purely theoretically, was used to destroy human beings.

Dec

20

1943

Damaged B-17 spared by German Me-109 pilot

B-17s in formation en route to Germany.

The German pilot nodded but Pinky and I were in a state of shock and did not return the greeting. Although the German pilot appeared relaxed, I was most uncomfortable and felt that at any time he would unleash some type of new German weapon to destroy us and our aircraft. Somehow, all of the briefings and combat training sessions had omitted to inform us as to the proper protocol or reaction when a German ghter pilot wanted to fly close formation with us.

Dec

19

1943

Eastern Front – Panzergrenadier counter-attack

Panzer IV  advancing with infantry, southern Russia, December 1943.

Some of them start to jump out of the trenches and run towards their rear without their ries. Two of them are still standing behind a heavy machine gun and firing. Still at full pelt, I empty my magazine at the pair of them and hit them. Then I slip on the ice on the rim of the trench and dive headlong into it.

Dec

18

1943

The 82nd Airborne in the Italian Hills

American artillery observers keep their field glasses glued on enemy fortifications being pounded by artillery shelling in valley near  San Pietro, Italy. 19 December 1943. (Signal Corps Photo)

An S mine, when activated, would bounce up about head high, explode, and send pellets about the size of marbles scattering in all directions. Several pellets had penetrated Scannell’s helmet, killing him instantly. I remember the date, 18 December 1943, and the place where he died, Hill 610, which we called the “pimple” because of its shape.

Dec

17

1943

Black night for Bomber Command

FIDO (Fog Investigation Dispersal Operations) petrol burners are ignited on either side of the main runway at Graveley, Huntingdonshire, as an Avro Lancaster of No. 35 Squadron RAF takes off in deteriorating weather.

There were only three airfields with this system in December 1943 and it was of limited assistance in very heavy fog.

On returning to base aircraft encountered bad visibility over England and the Squadron had a disastrous night in aircraft losses and 28 aircrew being killed. The following is a brief summary of the return. 8 aircraft landed safely at Bourn and 3 at Graveley. One aircraft landed at Wyton.

Dec

16

1943

US Destroyers sink U-boat U-73

The USS Woolsey after her completion in 1942.

The destroyer dropped a pattern of depth-charges which exploded below the U-Boat, inflicting considerable damage. There was water entry forward between the bow torpedo tubes. A sea inlet valve of the Diesel cooling system was fractured causing water to flow into the motor room. “U 73″ lost trim and sank to a depth that was variously estimated to have been between 160 and 230 m. (524.8 and 754.6 ft.).

Dec

15

1943

Lord Mountbatten arrives as ‘SACSEA’

The Arakan Campaign January 1943 - May 1945: A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle.

Wingate pointed out to me that it was equally true to say that the Japanese had never captured a British strongpoint in the jungle. When I replied: ‘Well that’s encouraging anyway’, he said: ‘Not at all, the only reason they have not captured any strongpoints is that the British have never succeeded in building any strongpoints!’

Dec

14

1943

French Canadian V.C. in determined infantry attack

Major Paul Triquet, V.C., Royal 22e Régiment, Quebec City, Québec, Canada, 12 April 1944

Captain Triquet, ignoring the heavy fire, was everywhere encouraging his men and directing the defence and by using whatever weapons were to hand personally accounted for several of the enemy. This and subsequent attacks were beaten off with heavy losses, and Captain Triquet and his small force held out against overwhelming odds until the remainder of the battalion took Casa Berardi and relieved them the next day.

Dec

13

1943

A place to sleep on the Italian front line

Monte Camino November - December 1943: 25 pounder guns of 146 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in action on the night of the start of the second assault on Monte Camino.

It is amazing what the human frame can stand when necessity demands, and what circumstances one can sleep through. About fifty yards down the slope behind us we looked straight into the muzzles of our guns. That first evening at twilight as we crawled into bed they opened fire. Even if you have stood to the side, or behind, an artillery piece when it is fired you will not have experienced anything like the ear—splitting blast which reaches you directly in front. As I said, we were virtually looking down the muzzles.

Dec

12

1943

The infantryman’s nightmare – the ‘S’ mine

Monte Camino November - December 1943: A machine gun of the Cheshire Regiment in action in the mist and rain on the summit of Monte Camino.

These things could be fired by pressure switches or pull igniters,but were usually fitted with trip wires connected to pull igniters. By using a ‘Y’ shaped double-ended igniter they could be linked in series, so that one going off would often bring several jumping after it. ‘S’ mines were an infantry man’s constant nightmare: some of my earliest recollections as a raw rookie were of hearing old soldiers talk of them in tones of hate and horror.