1942

Jul

23

1942

The ‘Gross Aktion’ begins in the Warsaw Ghetto


23rd July 1942:The ‘Gross Aktion’ begins in the Warsaw Ghetto

Everyone suddenly became eager for work. Everyone is prepared to give up hot meals and a comfortable bed at home to go and live in barracks, if only to stay put. To be deported means to prepare for death, and it is a lingering death which is the hardest kind of all.

The deportees are, to begin with, taken for killing. They are not qualified for work. And as to food, even if a crust of bread were available, would the Nazis give it to them? It has become known that the Nazis flay their corpses, remove the fat, and incinerate the bodies.

This accords with a prestated plan: The strength of the healthy and productive is to be exploited for the needs of the German army; the weak, the crippled, and the aged are to go to eternal rest.

Such a plan could have been invented only by Satan.

Jul

22

1942

A narrow escape in the Desert


22nd July 1942: A narrow escape in the Desert

The Aucklanders and my own H.Q. crew were hard at work, scraping shallow foxholes in the silt of the depression, and the battle looked like pausing until first light. Might as well rest a bit, ready for the day ahead; so I got down on the old bed-roll and “died”, leaving Crowley to dig in the Div. wireless set against possible trouble.

Forty minutes later, Cliff George woke me up, reporting his safe arrival. I told him what the plan would be at first light, and to rest his men until we could see enough to put them at it. The hour was probably about a quarter to five. He disappeared into the dark and I started putting my boots on.

Then hell broke loose. An Auckland carrier came dashing in across the depression, yelling “Stand to! Tanks! Lots of the bastards”. But that was obvious. A deluge of “golden rain” fell on us from the northern edge of the depression about four hundred yards away.

Jul

21

1942

Churchill: “severe, ruthless bombing of Germany” needed


21st July 1942: Churchill: severe, ruthless bombing of Germany needed

We must regard the Bomber offensive against Germany at least as a feature in breaking her war-will, second only to the largest military operations which can be conducted on the Continent until that war-will is broken. Renewed, intense efforts should be made by the Allies to develop during the winter and onwards ever-growing, ever more accurate and ever more far-ranging Bomber attacks on Germany.

Jul

20

1942

British and American military argue over strategy


20th July 1942: British and American military argue over strategy

At 12.30 we went round to 12 Downing Street to meet American Chiefs of Staff with PM! We had originally intended to meet them at 10 am ‘off the record’ for a private talk, but PM very suspicious and had informed me at Chequers that Marshall trying to assume powers of C-in-C of American troops which was (constitutionally) President’s prerogative!

After lunch at 3 pm we met [General] Marshall and [Admiral] King and had long argument with them. Found both of them still hankering after an attack across Channel this year to take pressure off Russia. They failed to realize that such an action could only lead to the loss of some 6 divisions without achieving any results!

Jul

19

1942

Scots Guards take the El Taqa Plateau, El Alamein


19th July 1942: Scots Guards take the El Taqa Plateau, El Alamein

On the third day, 19 July, around noon, we received an order to proceed south to the El Taqa Plateau. One of our carriers was trapped and we had to try to rescue the crew. We reverted to an infantry section and manoeuvred our truck to a sand dune near where they were trapped. I had a wee look over the sand dune to assess the situation before taking the section any further. I observed a plateau about 40 feet high with soft sand nearly up to the top and a little escarpment at the top of 4-5 feet. On the right was a soft sand track leading to the top.

The carrier was halted half way down the track and it looked as if it had been trying to get to the top of the plateau. It had then been hit by a small anti-tank gun and had reversed back down the track. I could see the officer, Lt Hunt, hanging over the left side of the carrier, but no sign of the crew by the vehicle. Up above though, sheltering under the low escarpment, was a sergeant with a section, but they couldn’t move because the enemy was delivering concentrated fire from a Spandau machine gun.

Jul

18

1942

HMS Unbroken navigates a minefield


18th July 1942: HMS Unbroken navigates a minefield in the Mediterranean

The distance of the run was sixty miles – fifteen hours of it at four knots. The thought of QBB 255 gave us all the jitters. The sense of helplessness…. The fact that you cannot hit back but are permanently on the defensive, listening, waiting, magnifying every jolt and movement…. You speak in whispers as though loudness of voice will, in some indeterminable way, add to the hazards, and you are reluctant to make any but the most necessary gestures or movements. It is a nerve-racking business.

Inside the minefield I had the mine-detecting unit – a refinement of the Asdic – switched on in an effort to plot the pattern of the mines and sail between them. A regrettable action. We plotted mines right enough-ahead, to starboard, to port, above, below – everywhere! Cryer’s eyes popped from his head as he reported each new echo, and a few wild expressions and quivering lips were to be seen in the control-room.

Jul

17

1942

Auschwitz – the sudden death of Yankel Meisel


17th July 1942: Auschwitz – the sudden death of Yankel Meisel

In the tenth row outside our Block, the Block Senior found Yankel Meisel without his full quota of tunic buttons.

It took some seconds for the enormity of the crime to sink in. Then he felled him with a blow. An uneasy shuffling whispered through the ranks. I could see the S.S. men exchange taut glances and then I saw the Block Senior, with two of his helpers, hauling Yankel inside the barrack block.

Out of sight, they acted like men who have been shamed and betrayed will act. They beat and kicked the life out of him. They pummelled him swiftly, frantically, trying to blot him out, to sponge him from the scene and from their minds; and Yankel, who had forgotten to sew his buttons on, had not even the good grace to die quickly and quietly.

Jul

16

1942

Hitler arrives at Werwolf – Eastern Front HQ


16th July 1942: Hitler arrives at Wehrwolf – Eastern Front HQ

Hitler gave an approving nod and asked, ‘Who built the camp?’ Thomas answered, ‘Mostly Russians prisoners from the camps.’ Hitler‘s face darkened. He told Thomas, ‘They must all be shot. There is not a moment to lose. They know too much about my HQ.’ Thomas clicked his heels and answered, ‘At your command, my Fuhrer’ He turned on his heels and went.

Jul

15

1942

Two New Zealand V.C.s in one day


15th July 1942: Two New Zealand V.C.s in one day

In spite of being twice wounded, once when crossing open ground swept by enemy fire to inspect his forward sections guarding our mine-fields and again when he completely destroyed an entire truck load of German soldiers with hand grenades, Captain Upham insisted on remaining with his men to take part in the final assault.

During the opening stages of the attack on the ridge Captain Upham’s Company formed part of the reserve battalion, but, when communications with the forward troops broke down and he was instructed to send up an officer to report on the progress of the attack, he went out himself armed with a Spandau gun and, after several sharp encounters with enemy machine gun posts, succeeded in bringing back the required information.

Jul

14

1942

Morale in the base area of Egypt


14th July 1942: Morale in the base area of Egypt

Discipline is cracking in small ways – for instance, men are sometimes sullen and hostile towards their officers; and many times in the past six months I’ve heard senior ranks, such as sergeants and even warrant officers, discussing their grievances with privates, and gunners. In general, the MEF (Army at any rate) is cynical, critical, bitter and irritable – but not resigned. Men are restless and fed up.

The news of small victories, heard on the wireless, is too often greeted with ironical and sneering remarks. The very cause for which we are fighting is in doubt and time and again one hears it said: “We’re not fightin’ for democracy mate. There’s no such thing. Capitalism! That’s what we’re here for!” Or else: “I’m a nobody. Just a working man. What difference will it make to me an’ my family if Germany does win the war? None!”