Jan

4

1942

Russian counter-attack finds the Germans

Germans, frozen to death, lie on the roads of our advance. Their bodies are absolutely intact. We didn’t kill them, it was the cold. Practical jokers put the frozen Germans on their feet, or on their hands and knees, making intricate, fanciful sculpture groups. Frozen Germans stand with their fists raised, or with their fingers spread wide. Some of them look as if they are running, their heads pulled into the shoulders.

Jan

3

1942

Overcoming bayonet wounds to win the VC

This was only the beginning of an extraordinary night for Cumming. Taken back to battalion HQ, where a field dressing was put on his bayonet wounds, he began to inspire his men like a man possessed, though at times he was obviously in some pain. When the japanese renewed their attack on the HQ position and its defenders started to run low on ammunition, Cumming remembered there were five boxes of .303 in his Bren gun carrier and, accompanied by his driver, Sepoy Albel Singh, went and collected them.

Jan

2

1942

A U-boat commander hunts for his first kill

Slowly the outline of a tanker revealed itself still too far away to get in a shot. Behind me the sky was black and overcast, but the air was cold and clear, and by chance the moon came out of the clouds. I turned at maximum speed towards the tanker, offering her a slim silhouette – and then I had her about 400 metres in front of me.

Jan

1

1942

New Year celebrations in the Desert

Last night, Old Year’s Eve, there was an outburst of firing. It began at the stroke of midnight with a few isolated Very lights. Then a burst of tracers went up in a few minutes like a kind of fever men were firing weapons all over the brigade. Wherever you looked grinning men were sending up this incredible fireworks display. No one protested.

Dec

31

December 1941

No pity for the Germans suffering in the cold

We watch as military ambulances and trains go west, loaded with wounded and frostbitten soldiers. Most frostbite occurs on hands, feet, ears, noses, and genitals. You can judge the desperation of the German military situation by the fact that Hitler has taken direct responsibility for all military action in Russia.

Dec

30

December 1941

Churchill’s ‘Chicken speech’ to the Canadian Parliament

t was their duty and it was also their interest to go to North Africa, where they would have been at the head of the French Empire. In Africa, with our aid, they would have had overwhelming sea power. They would have had the recognition of the United States, and the use of all the gold they had lodged beyond the seas. If they had done this Italy might have been driven out of the war before the end of 1940, and France would have held her place as a nation in the counsels of the Allies and at the conference table of the victors.

Dec

29

December 1941

A grim journey to the Russian front

A transport train carrying wounded men stops nearby. It’s a wretched sight which makes it clear to us how bitterly this war is being fought. It consists of ordinary goods wagons with straw in them for the wounded to lie on. Filthy and louse-ridden, with inadequate dressings and hardly any medical orderlies, no heating – that’s how the boys are brought home.

Dec

28

December 1941

Brief respite from a global war

We first slipped into the dining room for a cup of tea – ah! sublime luxuries of town! – and chain smoked many excellent cigarettes. Sometimes we’ve thought “Wog” Woodbines a luxury, but now we had lots of Players, Gold Flake and Craven “A”, with no danger of the supply becoming exhausted.

Dec

27

December 1941

Commando raid on Vaasgo, Norway

About a hundred yards from our landing place, I fired ten red Very light signals. This told the ships to stop firing and the aircraft to come in with their smoke bombs. As I leaped from the leading landing craft three Hampden bombers passed over me at zero feet with a roar. As they did so they loosed their bombs, which seemed to flash and then mushroom like miniature atom explosions. Some of the phosphorus came back in a great flaming sheet.

Dec

26

December 1941

The death toll mounts in a cold starving Leningrad

Each day, eight to ten bodies are brought there on sleighs. And they just lie on the snow. Fewer and fewer collins are available, and less and less material to make them. So the bodies are Wrapped in sheets, in blankets, in tablecloths, sometimes even in curtains. Once I saw a small bundle Wrapped in paper and tied with string. It was very small, the body of a child.