Mar

29

1945

Two very different Germans consider the future

Two old members of the Volksturm seem relieved to have surrendered to British troops in Bocholt, 28 March 1945.

We go outside to the courtyard entrance and see the advance guard drive by: tanks, armored cars, trucks, and jeeps. For the first time we behold Americans. The soldiers are outstandingly equipped. Their appearance is remarkably good, well-fed. There is no comparison between the Germans’ material and the Americans’. Anyhow, the American army makes an impression of excellent, disciplined troops. I want to hope that this good impression will continue to remain in the future.

Mar

28

1945

US infantry v Panzers in house to house fighting

Churchill tanks of 6th Guards Tank Brigade carrying paratroopers of the 17th US Airborne Division, Germany, 29 March 1945.

There was shelling and there were tanks and self-propelled guns, the rattling cough of machine guns and burp guns, the high staccato of rifles. These provided the orchestration for certain tableaux: dusty glimpses of gray uniforms, green uniforms… the flicker of movement in the window of the house across the street, and your hands swinging the rifle to your shoulder in a single fluid motion … the patient resistance of the trigger under your tightening finger, the sudden punch of recoil… the stone barn and the thorny hedge…

Mar

27

1945

British infantry attack against dug in Fallschirmjäger

Troops of the 6th King's Own Scottish Borderers advance warily along a lane, past the bodies of German soldiers, east of the Rhine, 25 March 1945.

Under these circumstances, an infantryman finds that the ground would be a very pleasant place to be! Eventually, the turret trap opened. The troop leader’s head appeared. “What the bloody,” he started to say. “Shut up and listen!” I snarled. “You’re stuck and can’t move. We can and we’re going to. I’m going to do a shallow right-flanking movement onto the objective so that we won’t mask your fire. You will concentrate everything you’ve got onto the following specific areas.” I indicated them by pointing.

Mar

26

1945

Forward Platoon makes contact as they enter Germany

Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Montgomery, the latter standing in a jeep, talking to Scottish troops near the Rhine, 26 March 1945.

It was a dry day and we advanced quickly to within one hundred yards of the lone house. For no good reason the leading Sherman suddenly moved forward of our leading section and halted beside the house. It had barely stopped when I saw it shudder and a small cloud of dust arose from it. A second later I heard a resounding metallic clang and the whip crack of a high velocity gun. As we rushed forward to surround the house the Sherman’s crew baled out shaken but unharmed.

Mar

25

1945

A brittle German resistance continues to be dangerous

British airborne troops with a 6-pdr anti-tank gun in Hamminkeln, Germany, 25 March 1945.

‘The bullets were going through the grass a foot above our heads. We heard a bren firing, and then a sten, and we heard them shouting: “Give up, you bastards! The Seaforths are here!” That must have been when they charged. There were a few bursts of spandau, and then silence.
‘We knew what that meant. They were our mates, and we were all boiled up. “To hell with this,” I said. “Come on.”

Mar

24

1945

Operation Varsity: Glider attack across the Rhine

Operation VARSITY. Douglas Dakotas of No. 46 Group fly in formation over Wavre, Belgium, heading for the dropping zones east of the River Rhine. Above them, Dakotas towing Airspeed Horsas fly a divergent course towards their objectives.

We were not equipped to deal with German heavy tanks. Indeed, the anti-tank guns that we did possess, six-pounders which could dispose of even a Tiger at close range, were almost certainly still within the Hamilcar gliders used to transport our heavier equipment. The concentration of enemy fire over the landing zones would have made it virtually impossible for such weapons to be removed. Most men were just thankful if they were able to crawl away from their gliders and find some sort of shelter from the incoming German fire.

Mar

23

1945

Operation Plunder: The first wave get across the Rhine

Men of the 15th Scottish Division leave their assault craft after crossing the Rhine and double up the east bank to their assembly point near Xanten.

Our troop leader was first and I was in the second craft manning the gun. We reached the river a few minutes to 9 p.m. and at exactly 9 o’clock the first ‘Buffalo’ entered the water and the rest followed. We manoeuvred into formation and headed for the opposition shore, which was just discernible through the mist. Our hearts were anywhere but in the right place, for we did not know what to expect, but the expected onslaught did not materialise, and we touched down at exactly 9.03 p.m. – three minutes which seemed like three years.

Mar

22

1945

The US Pacific Fleet prepares for Okinawa

Vast array of American warships just offshore of naval base on Mogmog Island in the Ulithi Atoll, part of the Caroline Islands.

At Ulithi we received briefings on the coming battle for Okinawa. This time there was no promise of a short operation. “This is expected to be the costliest amphibious campaign of the war,” a lieutenant said. “We will be hitting an island about 350 miles from the Japs’ home islands, so you can expect them to fight with more determination than ever. We can expect 80 to 85 percent casualties on the beach.”

Mar

21

1945

‘Maximum effort’ to ‘soften up’ the Rhine

Boston Mark III, AL775 ‘RH-D’, of No. 88 Squadron RAF based at Attlebridge, Norfolk, in flight.

The next morning, 21 March, Bocholt was again listed as the target. On the bombing run No. 1 in the box was badly damaged and an air gunner’s leg was almost shot away but the pilot retained control and made an emergency landing at Eindhoven. No. 2 in the box received a direct hit as the bombs fell away and virtually disintegrated, taking down No. 3, an all-Australian crew, from which one parachute was seen to emerge. This belonged to an air gunner who although captured on landing was freed eight days later by advancing British troops.

Mar

20

1945

The Waffen-SS retreat back over the Oder

A dead German following a Soviet artillery barrage on his position near the Oder.

But our fighting strength grew weaker and weaker. More and more men were brought back bloody and torn, never to return, and no reserves came to fill the ranks. Only a thin line of hardened, determined veterans remained. They were hungry, deathly tired, bloody, many with bandaged arms or heads, unshaven, black from soot and smoke, mud and lime-dust, with uniforms torn to pieces.