‘Black Sabbath’ for the Jews of Salonika

11th July 1942: ‘Black Sabbath’ for the Jews of Salonika

When the Germans invaded Greece in 1941 the city of Salonika had the largest population of Jews in the country, 54,000 people, around two thirds of the Jews living in Greece. They were an old community, having been established in the 15th century when the Jews were expelled from Spain.

The Nazi persecution began immediately with the forcible ‘confiscation’ of all radios, pianos and many other valuable goods which were shipped back to Germany – but the community was not forced into ghettoes immediately.




Australians return to battle at Tel el Eisa

10th July 1942: Australians return to battle at Tel el Eisa

Next morning, the 10th July, we were awakened at about 05.00 hours by the dull thunder of artillery fire from the north. I at once had an inkling that it boded no good. Presently came the alarming news that the enemy had attacked from the Alamein position and overrun the Sabratha Division, which had been holding a line on either side of the coast road.

The enemy was now in hot pursuit westwards after the fleeing Italians and there was a serious danger that they would break through and destroy our supplies. I at once drove north with the kampfstaffel and a combat group of the 15th Panzer Division and directed them on to the battlefield.




U boat U-701 survivors rescued by US Navy airship

9th July 1942: U boat U-701 survivors rescued by US Navy airship

At dawn my strength began to leave me too. I seem to recollect vaguely that I talked nonsense and that KUNERT kept on quieting me. As the sea was still like a pond, I kept up the practice of discarding my life preserver, saying that I would swim to shore. I assumed that with a few strokes I would feel bottom under my feet and would be able to stand up, but every time I tried this I went under. That would bring me to again and I would swim back to the life preserver. This occurrence must have happened many times. Then I lost consciousness.

I awakened as though I had been asleep when I suddenly heard myself called. About 30 meters away sat KUNERT, VAUPEL, and GROTHEER making for me in a white rubber boat. I was taken into the boat as KUNERT was about to open a can of pineapple with a knife. Out of a can already opened GROTHEER gave me tomatoes to eat, and all the while a Zeppelin airship circled about us.

The situation was as follows: The airship had sighted us and thrown the rubber boat into the sea. Shortly thereafter a large rubber sack was also thrown down. In this we found: 1 small first aid kit, 2 loaves of white bread, 1 sack of water. All this happened in the late afternoon.




Shipped out of Tobruk as a PoW

8th July 1942: Shipped out of Tobruk as a PoW

A freighter was tied up in front of us, lifting gently in the light swell that was rolling across the harbour. This was our ferry for the trip across the sea to Italy. We were going back to Europe, but not the way that we would have wished.

At last, we got the signal to embark and as each man reached the gangway he was presented with a packet of Italian cigarettes and a tin of corned beef. This was to last us until we reached Taranto and together with a quantity of rusty water all we had until we landed.

We were packed into the holds of the vessel and given to understand that nobody would be allowed on deck in any circumstances. A number of buckets were then passed down and the Italian interpreter indicated that these were our loo for the trip. Some of the men already had dysentery and after two hours below, the atmosphere could almost be leaned upon.




Disaster strikes Convoy PQ17

7th July 1942: Disaster strikes Convoy PQ17

7.40 p.m.

Torpedoed. Had just relieved second mate for tea, and walked out on bridge, and literally walked into torpedo which exploded immediately below: terrific crash, everything went black, and was drenched by solid wall of water coming from ‘monkey island’ bringing with it all kinds of debris.

Struck heavily on head by something and stunned, my one thought being to get to other side of ship before the second torpedo struck her — great presence of mind, this. Crawled through wheelhouse which was deserted and washing with water, and got on other side just as second torpedo exploded. This time my feet left the deck clear and I landed flat on my back.




One day in the desert war

6th July 1942: One day in the desert war

0650. Woke after peaceful night and instantly remembered that John Gray, Brian Bassett, and Dick Chesterman had been killed yesterday. All good friends and true soldiers. Joe brought a cup of tea. Slept on valise on ground by car.

6th July 1942: One day in the desert war

0700. Tank fire in NE. surprisingly close. Went on to ridge but could see nothing in morning haze. No reports from Battalions. Our guns shooting quietly, harassing fire.

0730. Finished shaving and dressed in clean shirt and shorts. Joe remarked that one didn’t often see Wogs on a battlefield. One has just gone to command truck.

0800. Walked 500 yards across wadi to breakfast. Found Wog was Major Danvers of Indian Cavalry, escaped and walked in from Daba. Fed him and then took him to my car, gave him water to wash and a clean shirt and shorts. Very flea-bitten. McPhail got his story and some information and Good took him on to Division.




British remain confident despite setbacks

5th July 1942: British public remain confident despite setbacks

The most heartening thing to the observer here during the recent black days, which have also been saddened by the fall of Sevastopol and made tense by waiting for the next Egyptian communiqué, has been the behavior of the ordinary people themselves. What they have been through in the last six months has been less noisy, perhaps, but no less wearing to the spirit and nerves than were the bad times of 1940, when the bombs were falling.

In the present ordeal, civilians have had to listen to the monotonous falling of British arms and strongholds abroad while being harassed at home by rising prices, dwindling business, increasing curtailment of liberty and comfort, and anxiety about their menfolk overseas.

It’s good, and to the Axis it should be profoundly discouraging, that the public has refused to become defeatist even under the impact of defeats that in a more excitable country might have resulted in governments and heads being broken.




Message to PQ17 “Convoy to Scatter”

4th July 1942: Message to PQ17 ‘Convoy to Scatter’ – Admiralty Order

By this time we were somewhere to the north of Bear Island, and this put us well within range of the enemy airfields in Norway which was not so very far away as the seagull flies, and as the clouds and fog began to thin out, we began to think that we would be getting many more of these heavy attacks.

Here we were wrong, for suddenly we saw flag hoists going up on all the destroyers and the big ships, and Aldis lamps flashing in all directions. As the outer escort closed in towards us, we sensed that something out of the ordinary was going on. It was. A few minutes later the word was passed around that the convoy was to scatter; apparently the German Navy had dared to come out from their bases in Norway after all. Word had come from the Admiralty in London, and it was to be every ship for themselves as far as the small escorts and merchant ships were concerned.




Falling back to the El Alamein line

3rd July 1942: Falling back to the El Alamein line

We increased speed, and at length found that we were passintg south of the defended box at El Alamein station. With difficulty we managed to persuade the South African who were manning it, that we were not enemy, but only after some of our lorries had been hit, the flames of which acted as beacons, attracting part of an enemy attack which had already been launched against the western face of the box.

At length we broke free and drove on, only to find that we were hopelessly and helplessly embedded in an area of soft sand about ten miles farther on. All day we struggled to extricate ourselves, thankful at last to be behind the forward areas of a line which we believed to be strongly fortified, anxious lest we should become entangled in battle, which we could hear raging just behind us, before we were clear of the meshes of the sand, hopeful that, after so many tribulations, we could now turn and throw the enemy back.




Churchill wins Vote of Confidence in the Commons

2nd July 1942: Churchill wins another Vote of Confidence in the Commons

I have never shared the view that this would be a short war, or that it would end in 1942. It is far more likely to be a long war. There is no reason to suppose that the war will stop when the final result has become obvious. The Battle of Gettysburg proclaimed the ultimate victory of the North, but far more blood was shed after the Battle of Gettysburg than before.

At the same time, in spite of our losses in Asia, in spite of our defeats in Libya, in spite of the increased sinkings off the American coast, I affirm with confidence that the general strength and prospects of the United Nations have greatly improved since the turn of the year, when I last visited the President in the United States.

The outstanding feature is of course the steady resistance of Russia to the invaders of her soil, and the fact that up to now at the beginning of July, more than halfway through the summer, no major offensive has been opened by Hitler upon Russia, unless he calls the present attacks on Kharkov and Kursk a major offensive.