Nov

18

1944

R+R in Holland – bully beef sandwiches and chocolate

Churchill tanks of 34th Tank Brigade cross a temporary bridge in Roosendaal, 30 October 1944.

We are being well looked after — waited on hand and foot. Fires, tidying up, etc. all done by civvies. Unfortunately, none of the people in the house speak English, but we manage to converse somehow. It is really amazing how much ‘conversation’ is carried on by means of a few words, signs and pantomime. Attended 15 Troop’s party this evening. The troop is billeted in a separate café with quite a good dance floor. Each member’ of the troop invited a lady friend, making about 30 of us in all. The major and SSM were also invited. Unfortunately, we only had a portable gramophone for a ‘dance band’ — it was more or less useless, but the dancers managed somehow.

Nov

17

1944

Just another day for 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron

Squadron OA-10A "Cat" SerNo 44-33876 and crew on their way to affect a rescue (Courtesy Mary Wientjes)

Survivor, Ensign John Drex, USNR, stated that while on a strafing mission over an airfield on Negros the oil line on his engine was damaged by enemy fire when he attacked a Jap bomber which fell into the sea in flames. He saw three zeros coming toward him, so he turned into them, and shot the first one down, but the other two got on his tail and he dove for the deck, finally crash landing in a rice paddy on Negros near Kamalishas.

Nov

16

1944

Heavy bombers support US Army’s attack into Germany

Boeing B-17F radar bombing through clouds over Bremen, Germany, on Nov. 13, 1943.

Each task force had one flail tank. As the flail tanks crested the hill, they passed through our infantry line directly into the minefields. Although the tanks had to contend not only with mines but with an extremely soggy field, they made an initial good showing. The flying chains detonated several mines, and the explosions created additional craters. But finally, due to the combination of the muddy fields and the fact that the horsepower needed to turn the flail took too much power away from the tracks, both flail tanks became mired in the mud.

Nov

15

1944

The cold hard wet slog continues across Holland

Infantry and carriers of the 15th (Scottish) Division

Another time a heavy German gun pinpointed us, and began to drop enormous shells around Company Headquarters, ranging us carefully. Craters were steadily torn up, slowly creeping closer, until they were straddling us. Our croft was not strong. At length we fled, and in the nick of time, tumbling from the cellar with no dignity at all, map-cases flapping, wireless headphones flying; the lot of us. The next two shells were direct hits. The croft caved in on itself and the cellar ceiling gaped at a smudgy November sky. The big gun stopped…

Nov

14

1944

Rum and Mules over the mountains of Italy

A 75mm howitzer of 461 Battery, 85th Mountain Regiment, Royal Artillery, on the Monte Di Rontana, 2 February 1945. The guns were firing at German positions in Isola. A mule train with Basuto muleteers bringing up ammunition can be seen in the background.

Mules were lying everywhere, their kicking had shot the loads off all over the place, and one mule, I remember, had fallen into a disused slit-trench with only its saddle supporting it on either side of the hole. We started to sort all this mess out, first collecting our own men and leading them on to firmer ground, and then by grabbing any Italian we saw and forcing him to follow. Finally, after what seemed an age we got under way again, and I still had the rum!

Nov

13

1944

A US Army patrol sets out to get prisoners

An American patrol in the Hurtgen Forest in late 1944.

As the squad leader, I was next, a buck or staff sergeant, carrying an M1 rifle, bandoliers, grenades, and a knife. At this period during World War II, there was little chance that today’s infantry squad leader had come off the boat with the same grade. A squad leader directed and led eleven men. He was combat experienced and had come up through the ranks, by attrition.

Nov

12

1944

Operation Catechism – the Tirpitz is finally sunk

Low-level oblique photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken from De Havilland Mosquito PR Mark XVI, NS637, of No. 544 Squadron RAF, showing the capsized German battleship TIRPITZ, lying in in Tromso fjord, attended by salvage vessels.

Dodd F L (Sqn Ldr), and Hill A (Plt Off): No. 544 Squadron RAF

Just then Flying Officer Eric Giersch the rear gunner called out, ‘I think she is turning over.’ I turned back to port to have a look and sure enough she was, so back we went again. This time we flew in at 50 feet and watched with baited breath as Tirpitz heeled over to port, ever so slowly and gracefully.

Nov

11

1944

Hitler faces the collapse of German industry

Verical photographic-reconnaissance aerial showing a damaged section of the Dortmund-Ems canal near Ladbergen, north of Munster, Germany, following a raid by aircraft of No. 5 Group, Bomber Command, on the night of 23/24 September 1944. Breaches have been made in the banks of two parallel branches of the canal, causing a six-mile stretch to be drained. Most of the damage was caused by two direct hits by 12,000-lb 'Tallboy' deep penetration bombs dropped by No. 617 Squadron RAF.

An extensive search showed that high production of armaments could in fact be continued, but only for a few months more. Hitler accepted a last “emergency or supplementary program,” as we called it, with a calm that seemed truly uncanny. He did not waste a word on the obvious implications, although there could be no doubt what these were.

Nov

10

1944

USS Mount Hood and crew lost in massive explosion

USS Mount Hood (AE-11), smoke cloud expanding, just after she exploded in Seeadler Harbor, Manus, Admiralty Islands, 10 November 1944. Photographed by a photographer of the 57th Construction Battalion, who had set up his camera to take pictures of the Battalion's camp.

I was coming up the ladder from below decks when a tremendous blast threw me against the bulkhead and partially down the ladder… my first thought was that we had been hit by a torpedo. Got topside in a matter of 2 or 3 seconds, just in time to see the initial smoke and flame of the Hood’s explosion. I was mesmerized by what I saw next… the column of smoke rose straight up, and “mushroomed” at the top… a complete preview of how the A-bomb looked a year later. Within one or two minutes a terrific wave rocked the ship.

Nov

9

1944

An improvised method of clearing the German ‘Schu’ mine

A mine-detecting part of 3rd Division at work, 25 November 1944. The leading man is wearing special protective clothing and 'skis' to spread his weight on the ground.

During this battle we had to deal with a quarter of a million mines, the worst of these was the Schu mine which was made of wood and could not be detected. These mines were causing a continuous stream of casualties with horrific injuries. The accepted way to find these mines was to crawl along on hands and knees prodding the ground in front with bayonets. Under heavy fire, an unpleasant task, coupled with the loss of those of us, who unfortunately, prodded them in the wrong place and paid with our lives.