July 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.




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!




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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!”




Horror of the ‘liquidation’ of the Rovno ghetto

13th July 1942: Horror of the ‘liquidation’ of the Rovno ghetto

In the street women cried out for their children and children for their parents. That did not prevent the SS from driving the people along the road, at running pace, and hitting them, until they reached a waiting freight train. Car after car was filled, and the screaming of women and children and the cracking of whips and rifle shots resounded unceasingly.




Russian resistance stiffens on the Eastern front

12th July 1942: Russian resistance stiffens on the Eastern front

There was a sudden yell. Franzl looked wildly at me. ‘Know anything about tanks? he asked We leapt up and stared over towards the Russian lines. A curse on them! There they were, moving towards us, tanks, on a wide front, a whole phalanx of monsters of steel, T34s, and our terror paralysed us… My God! groaned Franzl ‘There must be forty of them. Now we can write our wills’ !