artillery

Jan

19

1941

British forces enter Italian Eritrea

Indian troops cross the Atbara river with their motor transport on a pontoon raft as they move into Italian occupied Eritrea.

On the 19th January the first of the 4.5 Batteries went into action and did some very accurate shooting, so vindicating or justifying our ‘fudging and improvisation’. On the same day Italian Savoyas strafed us and we managed to bring one down with rifle fire and one LMG. A newly arrived Hurricane, probably the only one in East Africa, brought down another. Although all a little bit “gung ho”, the South Africans were all a very good crowd but so different from the Army types I had been used to. Discipline was there one assumed, but it wasn’t too obvious.

Jan

15

1941

British forces maintain pressure on Tobruk

The siege of Tobruk continued. A battery of the famous British '25 pounder' artillery guns.

The garrison of Tobruk, believed to comprise one Italian division and certain ancillary troops, including 6,000 frontier guards, is still invested by our forces. There is also reason to believe that it has been reinforced by the two Blackshirt generals who retired from Bardia. If Tobruk falls, it is difficult to forecast where the Italians will make their next stand.

Dec

11

1940

British capture Sidi Barrani from Italians

Sidi Barrani

08.30 direct shell burst on gun-fell flat on my side & passed out for half a minute – came to and saw my left arm jerking up and down – thought at first it had been blown off – heard someone say ‘Gawd-the Captain’s been killed’ – so managed to sit up and say ‘no, you bugger, fire the gun’

Jun

30

1940

British coastal defences prepare for invasion

The crew of a coastal gun emplacement 'somewhere in England' prepare for action.

All forward companies have completed very good defensive positions. In the interior there is plenty of room and the men are very comfortable when they have to sleep at their posts. On the exterior there is a diversity of camouflage varying from rubbish heaps to innocent looking fishing huts. Along the beach both at Dunwich and Southwold, also Walberswick, there is an imposing array of concrete anti-tank obstacles, which in some places pass right in front of the section post.

May

20

1940

The BEF are encircled, 7th Royal Sussex are decimated

German artillery on the western front, May 1940

Lots of rumours of tanks again. On arrival back forced another perimeter of village and blocked all roads. Sudden move again this evening. Marched to Ere about seven miles, Waited there several hours, supposed to be taking over line from another unit… All slept on the side of road. Finally received orders to return Taintignies. While waiting at the roadside to Ere about 10.30 p.m. Pte Hutchinson had his arm run over and broken by a truck.

May

19

1940

British withdrawal accelerates as Churchill speaks

German tanks, 1940

Apparently insufficient transport for everybody. Transport took some on, part of the way, then came back and lifted others, and so on. We marched until about 10 a.m. Everybody extraordinarily tired. Road crowded – at least 2 waits moving back on our road. Our Tpt not too well organized, drivers did not know their destination nor did I.

Apr

18

1945

Red Army begins its assault on the outskirts of Berlin

Soviet tank T-34-85 in a pine forest south of Berlin.

One accidental pull on a trigger could have startled every one of our machine guns into unleashing a hail of bullets at the tanks, which were easily within range. ‘Hold fire,’ I said through gritted teeth. ‘Let the officers decide.’ After a short but heated discussion, the officers let the tanks pass without firing a single shot but I dared not speculate the fate that might await the terrified hostages. We all knew of, and believed, the reports of Russian tanks deliberately squashing columns of refuges under their tracks as they fled East Prussia.

Apr

9

1945

Allies launch the last big offensive in Italy

Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tank supporting infantry of 2nd New Zealand Division during the assault across the River Senio, 9 April 1945.

All four companies then lay low in their assembly areas, to be clear of the artillery bombardment. Fifteen minutes later, all hell broke loose. For four hours, the Germans were bombarded by artillery and mortars and bombed and strafed at intervals by hundreds of Allied aircraft. Thousands of fragmentation bombs hit enemy artillery dugouts and reserve areas. Sunset that day illuminated a hellish pall of smoke and dust across the German lines. The noise was thunderous. For the beleaguered Jerries it must have seemed like the end of the world.

Jan

11

1945

A war artist in the mountains of Italy

A Soldier Shaving in the Snow, Tuscany 1945

Shells drop nearby in the evening and an officer is wounded. Luckily not too seriously, but when he was brought into the Mess and laid on the sofa he was grey, speechless and sweating with shock. Touching concern of his batman. Later the M.O. arrives with ambulance and after a first aid dressing to leg and back he is taken away. Sit next to the Brigadier at dinner, which was really wonderful, the best I have had in Italy, the Brigade H.Q. having discovered a wonderful woman cook. Sleep well and am warm for the first time for four nights.

Jan

5

1945

The Red Army prepares for the final offensive

Soviet T-34 tank with troops cross the highway Zhitomir-Berdichev, past a burning tank Pz.Kpfw. VI "Tiger". 1st Ukrainian Front, 5th January 1945

When the Germans had retreated, they had left behind piles of these rockets — it seemed, as many as had been delivered to the position. Our soldiers had found them and thought to give them a try. They would take a rocket, lay it on the breastwork of the trench, and then fire at this percussion cap at the base of the rocket with their avtomat [automatic rifle]. The rocket would explode, and the shell would fly off in the general direction of the German lines.