Apr

27

1945

Italian partisans triumph – and capture Mussolini

The body of Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacchi and colleagues were driven to Milan where they were exhibited in a piazza on 29th April. An unruly mob stamped and spat on the bodies before they were hoisted up for all to see.

The medal of the Iron Cross, its ribbon stained crimson brown above its red, black and white, lay amongst the papers. The Hauptmann’s book was full of photographs of Storm Troops and of soldiers, of sisters in white blouses and dark skirts, of a heavy-built father with close-cropped hair, of other young officers with the same relentless faces.

This was the type Hitler had loosed on Europe, brave, desperate, efficient. And now he had come to his end in an Italian field, shot down by an Italian farmer’s boy with a Sten gun, shot in the back, I learned later, as he crouched in hiding.

Apr

27

1940

Captain R.T. Partridge encounters the enemy up close

The Blackburn Skua: the Fleet Air Arm fighter that operated from HMS Ark Royal

Whilst following the HEINKEL down after the attack. Captain Partridge realised that his engine was failing and that he would he forced to land immediately. Selecting a frozen lake which appeared to have a road running beside it, he landed his machine successfully with the undercarriage up. A bent airscrew was the only damage and the machine came to rest alongside the road in about four feet of snow.

Apr

26

1945

Nazis continue to believe in Hitler and victory

Old men of the Volkssturmm prepare to meet the Red Army.

Think of the millions of dead in far-flung theatres of war, who with glassy eyes and bloodless lips managed to stammer as their last word – full of inner peace and in deep idealism – the Fuhrer’s name or that of our everlasting fatherland; think of their dear ones, who made this incredible sacrifice for that man and this country. Think of our towns in ruins, of the many living war casualties, of the things we did without, the sorrows, the problems of nearly six years; think of these things and you cannot do otherwise but close your ears to the seductive words of our enemies.

Apr

26

1940

British suffer further setbacks in central Norway

An experimental German Panzer with three turrets, used in Norway

British forces in central Norway found themselves under increasing pressure. Complete German air superiority meant that they could bomb and strafe at will, supporting not just their front line forces but interrupting the British lines of communication and supply bases.

Apr

25

1945

The Royal Scots Fusiliers enter Bremen

A Sherman tank and infantry advance into a heavily-bombed area of Bremen, 26 April 1945.

Bremen is a fine testimonial of the accuracy of the RAF. Those areas that have been military targets are well and truly flattened in to bricks and rubble. After the barrage we sent over it was quite impossible to decide, as leading troops, which was the street and which the buildings. Everything was burning merrily that could burn and what couldn’t was just another dump of rubble and mortar. It was equally easy to walk over what was once a factory in error for what one thought might be a main street or what one thought might be a square. And yet in purely residential quarters most of the windows were not even cracked let alone the houses damaged.

Apr

25

1940

S class submarines return to base

Seal-crewmember

Of the 12 ‘S’ class submarines in service in 1939, only 3 were to survive the war, HMS Sealion, HMS Seawolf, and HMS Sturgeon. As the losses accumulated the S class became the subject of a defiantly morbid verse in submariners circles, based on a popular nursery rhyme:

Apr

24

1945

Germans v Nazis as the US Army approaches

12th AD soldier with German prisoners of war, April 1945.

I have just been outside. A clear, starry sky. What extra-ordinary people the Germans are, to go on killing one another up to the very last minute and to destroy their country with their own hands.

We were told that the SS man had accused the mayor of cowardice because he had hoisted a white flag. He told him to get up against a wall and was going to shoot him, but then he changed his mind and took him, the Ortsgruppenleiter, the policeman and the parson off to another village. When they got there somebody suddenly shouted, ‘Here come the tanks!’ and they let all four of them go. They came back white as sheets.

Apr

24

1940

263 Squadron land at Lake Lesjaskog

Glster Gladiator landed on surface of snow covered frozen lake

A runway measuring about 800 by 75 yards had been prepared with local labour, which had also swept the snow from a track between the main road and the lake edge. Unfortunately, only one inadequate route had been swept from the edge to the runway; this was half a mile long and a foot deep in snow, and the stores had to be conveyed over it on three horse-drawn sledges, intermittently available. The village of Lesjaskog was two miles away, so that even the provision of forage for the horses involved difficulties.

Apr

23

1945

Seventeen year olds hold defences in burning Berlin

T-34-85 tanks of the 7th Guards Tank Corps in the suburbs of Berlin. In the foreground is the burning skeleton of a German car.

The roaring resumes and we throw ourselves down, pressing tight against the brick wall and wait, wait as we have already done so often. Then come the bangs and splintering as the bombs strike the stone colossus next to us. Splinters and masonry shower down around us, falling on our steel helmets and our bodies. The explosions in the street go on and on. The lights in the stairwell of the building across the street suddenly come on. We shout, and it goes dark again, except for the fires burning everywhere, lighting up the street.

Apr

22

1945

Allied breakout and pursuit by tanks in Italy

The 'Tankman'. Sergeant A G Williams of 17/21 Lancers in the turret of his Sherman tank at the main Headquarters of the Eighth Army in the San Angelo area of Italy, April 1944. Sergeant Williams from Woodford Bridge, Essex left England in November 1943, landed in North Africa, and from there was sent to Italy.

Now there was not time to think, for the Germans, having recovered somewhat, began to shell and mortar the place. A bunch of German prisoners who were making their way to a hastily prepared P.O.W. compound, hands above their heads, suddenly disappeared in a wave of smoke and dust as their own shells crashed down among them. When the air cleared, few got up: those who did, moved more swiftly still, their faces a mask of petrified fear. This was war also. There was no doubt about it, this sudden swoop by a British crack cavalry regiment had taken the enemy completely by surprise!