artillery

Dec

1

1942

The Red Army noose tightens around Stalingrad

1st December 1942: The Red Army noose tightens around Stalingrad

Our mortarmen saw to it that the enemy did not sleep at night. By day, we would zero in on a ravine, where various Nazi service units were concentrated, and make a detailed plan of their positions. Then, as soon as darkness fell, we would begin firing at regular five-minute intervals. This was called ‘wearing out the enemy.’ The Germans were shelled all night long, but we managed to get some sleep at least: each crew worked for an hour, firing some 100 bombs, before scurrying back to burrows, kept warm by sleeping comrades.

Nov

23

1942

Navajo code talkers join the Guadalcanal battlefield

23 November 1942: Navajo code talkers join the Guadalcanal battlefield

There was no room for error in a maneuver like that. The old Shackle communications system took so long to encode and decode, and it was so frequently inaccurate, that using it for the transmission of on-the-fly target coordinates was a perilous proposition. Frequently, in the midst of battle, instead of using the Shackle code, the Marines had transmitted in English. They knew the transmissions were probably being monitored by the japanese, so they salted the messages liberally with profanity, hoping to confuse the enemy.

Nov

2

1942

El Alamein – the Eighth Army launches ‘Supercharge’

2nd November 1942: El Alamein – The British launch ‘Supercharge’…

A couple of Messerschmitw had dropped a few bombs behind us and about a dozen Sherman tanks, rolling on chattering tracks had just made their noisy and dusty way through our guns to support the attack. There was a certain roused air of confidence as it was predicted that this could be the day of the break out from the bridgehead. A few shells in the ritual of the dawn chorus were coming our way canvassing for death, but nothing much to worry about.

Oct

27

1942

Rifle Brigade fight off the tank attack on Kidney Ridge

27th October 1942: Rifle Brigade fight off the tank attack on Kidney Ridge

The whole area of the bridgehead was jam-packed with lorries, tanks and guns. It resembled a badly organised lorry and ordnance park. The congestion was horrendous. Our two troops of guns were only twenty yards apart and there must have been fifty guns within an area the size of a twenty acre field. It was any man’s country and it seemed as if every gun in the desert was in the bridgehead.

Oct

24

1942

El Alamein – the infantry go forward

24th October 1942: El Alamein – the infantry go forward …

One of the paratroopers decided to make a break, and with head down, he dashed to my left front. I shouted to him to halt, but he still continued. My Bren gun was set on single shot, and I fired from the hip well ahead of him. I was amazed to see him drop like a log, hit in the head by a single bullet. This action appeared to put paid to any further attempts at escaping.

Oct

23

1942

The British Guns open up at El Alamein

23rd October 1942: The British Guns open up at El Alamein

At the gun positions final checks had been made. Some of the men took off their coats, others took off their shirts for they knew before the night was over they would be wet with sweat as they were to be part of a large battery of 882 field guns which were to lay down a barrage of shells, the like of which hadn’t been seen since WWI and those guns still firing as daylight came, would have fired more than 600 rounds each.

Jul

19

1942

Scots Guards take the El Taqa Plateau, El Alamein


19th July 1942: Scots Guards take the El Taqa Plateau, El Alamein

On the third day, 19 July, around noon, we received an order to proceed south to the El Taqa Plateau. One of our carriers was trapped and we had to try to rescue the crew. We reverted to an infantry section and manoeuvred our truck to a sand dune near where they were trapped. I had a wee look over the sand dune to assess the situation before taking the section any further. I observed a plateau about 40 feet high with soft sand nearly up to the top and a little escarpment at the top of 4-5 feet. On the right was a soft sand track leading to the top.

The carrier was halted half way down the track and it looked as if it had been trying to get to the top of the plateau. It had then been hit by a small anti-tank gun and had reversed back down the track. I could see the officer, Lt Hunt, hanging over the left side of the carrier, but no sign of the crew by the vehicle. Up above though, sheltering under the low escarpment, was a sergeant with a section, but they couldn’t move because the enemy was delivering concentrated fire from a Spandau machine gun.

Jun

18

1942

The British retreat in the Desert continues

Old King Cole was hollow cheeked and was beginning to look drudged with weariness. His moustache was droopy and his eyes were red. He had two septic places on his face and, every now and then his right eye twitched uncontrollably. He was unshaven and gaunt. From his dusty boots to his battered hat he was taking on the colour of the desert.

Nov

18

1941

Operation Crusader aims to relieve Tobruk

‘FIRE’ and another shell hurtles into the enemy front line. We have just fifteen seconds to get each shell loaded, the gun correctly aligned and the firing lever pulled. The range is four thousand, five hundred yards. Fifty yards are added to the range, the Gunlayer makes the correction to the elevation and Number One checks ‘FIRE’ and another shell screams away into the darkness.

Sep

6

1941

Red Army assault on the German lines

Our observation post is quickly altered into a defensive position. The camouflage tarp is removed and a step is dug into the wall in order to bring the machine gun into place. Hand grenades are lined up, ready to be used. The bayonet is attached to the rifle to prepare for one- on-one battle. The Reds have managed to break through to the right of our position. Quite a few are torn apart by the mines, but the Red devils don’t mind a few hundred casualties.