February 1944

Feb

18

1944

Operation Jericho: RAF breach Amiens prison walls

Here, Mosquitos of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF clear the target at low level as the first 500-lb bombs to be dropped detonate near the south wall of the prison.

Intention: To break the outer wall in at least two places.
Method: Leading three aircraft to attack eastern wall using main road as lead in. Second section of three aircraft when ten miles from target will break away to the right at sufficient height to allow them to watch leading three aircraft and then attack northern wall on a North-South run, immediately following the explosion of the bombs of the leading section.

Feb

17

1944

The London Irish try to find the ‘Ox and Bucks’

Men of the 2/7th Middlesex Regiment carry out maintenance on a Vickers machine gun at Anzio, 21 February 1944.

As the leading troops emerged from the protection of the wadis they came under savage artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire, and were unable to make further progress. Casualties among officers and non-commissioned officers were heavy, and that led to some disorganisation. Since January there had been an eighty per cent. change in the personnel of the battalion owing to the need to replace losses among officers and men.

Feb

16

1944

Hitler calls for “iron will” and permits no retreats

A 7,5cm Pak anti tank gun position somewhere in Russia.

Hitler had pointed out many times that Nikopol manganese was particularly important in the making of stainless steel. That was why sources of raw materials had to be retained at all com. For that reason the Nikopol area had to be turned into a fortress that could not be taken by the Russians.

Feb

15

1944

7th Ox and Bucks wiped out holding the line at Anzio

A soldier with the 2/7th Middlesex Regiment shares a cup of tea with an American infantryman in the Anzio bridgehead, 10 February 1944.

Inside a wired enclosure nearby, new positions were adopted and after further bitter fighting all during that day and night, the Germans launched yet another heavy attack at dawn. The field telephone rang at Battalion HQ and Captain Closebrooks heard the signaller say; “We’re in our sangers. The Boche is pelting us with grenades!” Subsequently, the sadly significant message was received; “We are turning it in now”.

Feb

14

1944

The gruesome remains left on a jungle battlefield

Soldiers bring ammunition to the front lines at Sanananda.

The bones and skulls and equipment of the Jap dead lie about in great quantities, and even these last traces will not survive much longer. It gave me a strange feeling to probe among and walk over these bones of what had once been fanatical Jap soldiers, bent on the destruction of our boys for some strange reason which they probably never understood

Feb

13

1944

Italians suffer as the battles continue

"Ragged refugees from Cassino fleeing their blasted town on a road leading to Acquafondata, held by Allied troops.” Italy. Near Acquafondata, Italy. 8 February 1944

It is odd how used one can become to uncertainty for the future, to a complete planlessness, even in one’s most private mind. What we shall do and be, and whether we shall, in a few months’ time, have any home or possessions, or indeed our lives, is so clearly dependent on events outside our own control as to be almost restful. For of course everyone else is in the same boat. Refugees from southern Italy bring tragic tales of the results of the ‘scorched earth’ policy, carried out by the Germans in their leisurely retreat.

Feb

12

1944

Troopship Khedive Ismail sunk with 1,296 souls lost

Artists impression of the sinking of the SS Khedive Ismail, copyright unknown.

Survivors and crew went about the ship throwing everything moveable over the side to lighten her. I dumped loads of 4 inch shells from ready use lockers. Both sets of quadruple torpedo tubes were turned outboard by hand and fired to lighten ship. On board Petard, six torpedoes were fired at the Japanese submarine, but they all missed, the seventh was fired by local control and did the trick. It blew the submarine in half; I watched the two halves upend and sink with no survivors.

Feb

11

1944

The weakened 36th Division go on the attack yet again

Cassino under attack, shells from American artillery is seen bursting on besieged Cassino, sending up great clouds of smoke as the town is slowly pulverized to rubble in the fierce fight for its possession.

The Germans seemed to have plenty of ammunition. They delivered harassing mortar, artillery and rocket fire as though they had enough to last forever. They did not hesitate to throw in a serenade of these weapons at any time. They also had an ample supply of small arms and grenades and were not reluctant to use them. The Germans continued their strong aggressive patrolling.

Feb

10

1944

A successful ‘Rodeo’ raid to France

Six stills from camera gun footage shot from a Hawker Typhoon Mark IB of No. 266 Squadron RAF, showing the shooting down in flames of a Messerschmitt Bf 109G which was taking off from an airfield in northern France.

We reformed and set course on 010 degrees. Approaching another ‘drome’ Bretigny, I attacked a large e/a which had landed on its belly, a Do217 I think. The e/a was being worked on by a working party, a vehicle of sorts was standing next to this e/a. My first shells fell a little short but eventually I got strikes on the e/a, scattering the working party left and right and probably killing a few.

Feb

9

1944

Captain Walker RN closes in for third kill of the day

HMS Kite (U87) on anti-submarine patrol with the 2nd Escort Group. HMS Kite joins in the depth charge attack and is dwarfed by the column of water which rises six-times her height. Captain Walker's 2nd Escort Group, consisted of the sloops, HMS Starling (U66), Kite, HMS Wild Goose (U45), HMS Magpie (U82) and HMS Woodpecker (U08), with the escort carriers HMS Activity (D94) and HMS Nairana (D05). In January 1944 it left from Liverpool with orders to protect convoys and intercept U-Boats in the Atlantic just southwest of Ireland. By their return in February 1944 they had managed to sink 6 U-boats.

Walker wrote: ‘I was highly tickled by this hedge-hoggery. Complicated instruments are normally deemed essential to score even occasional hits with this weapon; to get two bull’s eyes first shot with someone else’s Hedgehog 1000 yards away was of course a ghastly fluke.’