January 1945

Jan

21

1945

One man’s lucky escape as kamikazes hit Ticonderoga

I remember they used our compartment as part of Sick Bay that night so we slept wherever we could. The next day the hospital ship took the wounded and we had burials at sea all afternoon. I have never had any doubt that I was saved by divine intervention. If I had been where I was supposed to be, I would surely have been killed. If we started two minutes later we would have been caught on the hangar deck where all the casualties of the first plne were. If we had gone sooner we might have been back to my plaane and I would have been killed then.

Jan

20

1945

Another day, another infantry attack

Hughes was a smallish man and I managed to lift him to pass him over to the stretcher bearers but had to do so via the icy cold water which was about three feet deep. Hughes was groaning and was weakly muttering something incoherent in between his groans but was being comforted in a rather rough sort of way during the handover to the stretcher bearers who were saying something like “come on Hughsie, stop your moaning and don’t be such a cissie, we’ll soon put you right.” He died some minutes later.

Jan

19

1945

Burma – the Fourteenth Army get across the Irrawaddy

The Japanese again started forming up for another attack. In spite of his severe wounds and considerable loss of blood, and very heavy Japanese supporting fire, Lance Naik Sher Shah again left his section post and crawled forward, firing into their midst at point blank range. He continued firing until for the third time the Japanese attack was broken up and until he was shot through the head, from which he subsequently died. Twenty-three dead and four wounded Japanese, including an officer, were found in daylight immediately in front of his position.

Jan

18

1945

Youngest Victoria Cross in the war is posthumous

As the result of a thaw the armour was unable to cross the stream and the infantry had to continue the assault without the support of the tanks. Fusilier Donnini’s platoon was ordered to attack a small village. As they left their trenches the platoon came under concentrated machine gun and rifle fire from the houses and Fusilier Donnini was hit by a bullet in the head. After a few minutes he recovered consciousness, charged down thirty yards of open road and threw a grenade into the nearest window.

Jan

17

1945

Cut off in Butzdorf, surrounded by Germans

Men keep toppling over my shoulders. I struggle up for air. A wild-eyed kid holds up his hand. “Look, my thumb’s blown off!” The ragged stump is maroon like our basement floor at home. We’re all bunched up on a stairway. Guys are lying on the floor and propped in corners. I look around . . . what is going on? I see the drawn, bearded faces, torn clothes, staring eyes, yards of dirty bandages. Men are muttering, babbling. No, I decide, it isn’t possible. The shell—shocked stand up and look at us. “Can’t you see I’m bleeding?” they whimper. No one answers…

Jan

16

1945

Norwegian Resistance sinks troopship with timed mines

Eleven limpet mines were care fully loaded in to the dingy along with two Sten guns, ammunition and grenades in case they had to fight their way out of any trouble. The two men removed their boiler suits and stepped into the dingy in preparation to pushing off. However, a German patrol boat pulled up alongside the wharf and began a searching amongst the timbers. Manus and Nielsen laid low in their boat daring not to breathe, but the Germans were not the most observant and soon left. After a suitable period waiting for the all clear the intrepid duo pushed off.

Jan

15

1945

The beginning of the POWs 1000 mile march west

We marched nearly all of the first night, eventually stopping at a barn, where we lit fires and melted snow in our dixies, adding milk (klim) to provide a hot drink (no rations were provided by the Germans). The next day we marched on again, with the sound of Russian artillery in the background. As the packs on our backs were too heavy, most of us used makeshift sledges to pull our possessions along. As the days went by we got weaker; the built-up stock of food reserves had gone, we were plagued with lice and dysentery, and frostbitten limbs turned gangrenous. We were sometimes bundled into barns at night, but on at least one occasion we spent the night in an open field with no food at all.

Jan

14

1945

Joy as Germans begin to fall back again in Poland

Impression? Who knows how it feels to be condemned to death and placed in front of the firing squad when suddenly a messenger comes racing up at the last moment carrying a pardon? Truly the Germans words were like a pardon for those of us who had been condemned to die. Now I no longer cared about him. I understood what the wagons loaded with suitcases meant: They were running away, they had been beaten. For us this meant the first spark of freedom.

Jan

13

1945

Battle of the Bulge – Germans attempt to escape

Corporal Wachter’s head was smashed and there were lots of holes in his coat. The man had a foreboding about his fate On the night before, he had said: ‘I will not see my family again, nor my Saxon home.’ ‘Why should you not survive the war? We all still have this hope at least,’ Paul interposed. ‘No, I can feel it.’ ‘It will turn out all right,’ said another soldier. ‘No, not for me,’ was his point of view. He survived this discussion by a few hours.

Jan

12

1945

Battle of the Bulge: Infantry attack on coldest night

An attack was mounted, but the odds were uneven – it was ‘A’ Company against enemy armour – and the attack was unsuccessful. Later that night a further attack on the farm was made, but it was found abandoned by the enemy. We heard the enemy tanks pulling out. The temperature had dropped well below zero, in fact it was one of the coldest nights during the coldest winter for 40 years. We did not wear our great coats in the attack, but had only our oil-skin gas capes, which kept us dry but not warm. Additionally we had had no rest for over 20 hours, and our exhaustion made us feel colder.