artillery

Jan

18

1944

Disaster as shell hits Royal Artillery battery


18 January 1944: Disaster as shell hits Royal Artillery battery

I helped beat the flames out. His face and hands were badly burnt, I helped him up the ladder to the command post and I blurted out to those within, “there’s been a direct hit on the guns.” I realised then I was late with the news, wounded gunners were already being attended to. Everybody looked very tense, behind me flames were leaping twenty feet in the air,

Jan

17

1944

Canadian infantry assault behind artillery barrage


17 January 1944: Canadian infantry assault behind artillery barrage

This time, we were directly under the flight paths of the shells at the point in the trajectory where they were on their downward journey. It was ten minutes of listening with awe and fearful doubts as they whirred over our heads and plunged into the target area with a drumbeat roll. And then we were on our way for what we thought would be the decisive thrust that would end the agony our regiment was going through.

Dec

30

1943

Monte Cassino appears in view


30th December 1943: Monte Cassino appears in view

That night we were introduced to our mules, one per post. What staunch friends these gallant hybrids have turned out to be, never flinching come what may, and never hesitating in any weather. ‘Heads, he bites you; tails, he kicks you!’ was a libel invented by field artillery drivers. In the same class of faithfulness we must put the muleteers, too. They all came from North Italy and were of the best type. If they were afraid of anything on this earth, they never mentioned it to anybody.

Dec

21

1943

Speer visits the Finnish frontline


21st December 1943: Speer visits the Finnish frontline

Immediately afterward a lance corporal right beside me collapsed without a sound. A Soviet sharpshooter had hit him in the head through the observation slit. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had been confronted with the reality of the war. I had been acquainted with our infantry howitzers only as technical items to be demonstrated on a shooting range; now I suddenly saw how this instrument, which I had regarded purely theoretically, was used to destroy human beings.

Dec

1

1943

Soviet trench warfare on the Eastern front


1st December 1943: Soviet trench warfare on the Eastern front

Dugouts were normally 4 meters square and 1.3 meters high, though in swampy terrain they could be as low as a half-meter. Boots were removed and left in a depression by the entrance, and hay or straw covered by capes served as the bedding on the floor. Rucksacks served as our pillows. There was enough room for six or seven men to lay down side by side, covered by their overcoats. Or they could sit in a crouch with their heads against the ceiling.

Nov

28

1943

New Zealand gunners in attack across Sangro


28th November 1943: New Zealand gunners in attack across Sangro

This was New Zealand at war! Give them hell, the bastards! Give them hell! One sometimes felt like that when all revved up. We were a small but intensely proud nation and we knew the country was right behind us; every man, woman, child and dog. We were its spearhead, and although we moaned, cursed and got drunk occasionally, we wore its shoulder tabs with honour, a little like our All Black rugby teams, proud to be its representatives.

Nov

27

1943

War artist Edward Ardizzone, alone on the battlefield


27th November 1943: War artist Edward Ardizzone, alone on the battlefield

At the beginning I met a Bren gun carrier and anti-tank gun and two M.P.s who asked me to take a message to the other side that their telephones were dead and the track was being badly torn up. After this a solitary walk over the wire and matting across ploughed fields and by patches of young bamboo. Within a quarter of a mile of the river the whole area came under considerable mortar and shellfire.

Nov

10

1943

With the U.S. Artillery in the hills of Italy


10th November 1943: With the U.S. Artillery in the hills of Italy

Those lovely valleys and mountains were filled throughout the day and night with the roar of heavy shooting. Sometimes there were uncanny silent spells of an hour or more. Then it would start up again across the country with violent fury. On my first night at the front I slept only fitfully – never very wide awake, never deeply asleep. All night long the valley beside us and the mountains and the valleys over the hill were dotted and punctured with the great blasts of the guns.

Nov

7

1943

Soviet command post saved by the artillery


7th November 1943: Soviet command post saved by the artillery

However, having drawn up to the command post, they poured shell after shell into it. We hid in the bunker, relying upon its strong cover. However,“The Hut,” as Gruzdev had named the bunker with some irony, couldn’t take the punishment and collapsed. The fatal blow tossed us in every direction and crushed us under the ruins – a few men fatally, a few more were badly hurt, and others received a concussion.

Nov

4

1943

Italy – U.S. infantry advances behind artillery barrage


4th November 1943: Italy – U.S. infantry advances behind artillery barrage

A column of Germans was climbing the hill toward the town. Obviously they were going to reinforce the town’s defenders. “Get some fire on them fast,” the colonel ordered. Within three minutes mortars and high explosive 37—millimeter shells began bursting along the slope. Then the Germans came running down the hillside in wild disorder. Shell bursts followed them. “Those gunners,” said the colonel, “get the gilded bird cage with the stuffed canary as first prize.”