artillery

Apr

8

1943

Gunner Milligan survives a German artillery ‘stonk’

8th April 1943: Gunner Milligan survives a German artillery ‘stonk’

Behind him a stiff, bitter-faced Afrika Korp Oberlieutenant marched with all the military dignity he could muster, none of his men looked like the master-race. As they passed, our lads stood up in their fox-holes farting, and giving Nazi salutes; recalling the ritual of ancient conquerors riding on a palanquin and parading their prisoners of war behind them. Here there were shouts of ‘you square-head bastards’ and ‘I bet we could beat you at fucking football as well.’

Mar

21

1943

The Tunisian ‘Left Hook’ goes in

21st March 1943: The Tunisian ‘Left Hook’ goes in

We would cut them up for dog`s meat, All around, our anti-aircraft guns and automatic fire opened up. One plane crashed immediately. I had time to watch only one other lumbering towards us on fire. A parachute blossomed, then another appeared but tangled on opening. As the poor devil, apparently on fire, hurtled earthwards and thumped into the ground to burst near us, we all cheered, and cheered again as the bomber with the rest of the crew inside also hit the ground, exploded into flame and in a single ‘whoosh’ incinerated the crew.

Mar

16

1943

Under shellfire during attack on the Mareth Line

16th March 1943:Under shellfire during attack on the Mareth Line

I don`t know what time it was when we crossed the Wadi Zeuss and got into the gap in the enemy minefield. Time lost its ordinary values, even tho’ I did check it frequently on the luminous face of my watch. The minefield gap lay just the other side of a marsh and was a thin lane marked by white tapes and lighted by tiny lights which seemed to shine like beacons.

Feb

26

1943

155th Battery R.A. hold German attack at Sidi Nsir

26th February 1943: 155th Battery RA and Hampshires hold 10th Panzer at Sidi Nsir

Lieutenant Taylor and Sergeant Henderson (both of F Troop) in particular stood out by reason of their undaunted offensive spirit and the inspiring example they set. Sergeant Henderson was the No 1 of No 1 gun, specially placed on the top of the slope to deal with enemy tanks trying to use the Mateur-Sidi Nsir road. Taylor was the only officer on F Troop position, and he fought there until he was killed.

Jan

19

1943

Welcome to the British Army in North Africa

19th January 1943: Welcome to the British Army in North Africa

It was a vast concrete arena. We queued for an hour. When that had passed we queued for blankets. Next, find somewhere to sleep, like a football stadium in North Africa. We dossed down on the terraces. After ship`s hammocks it was murder. If only, if only I had a grand piano. I could have slept in that.

Jan

16

1943

Royal Artillery open up for another attack

16th January 1943: Royal Artillery open up for another attack

The Jocks (ours are Gordons and Black Watch) are I suppose forming up, and somewhere a few thousand yards ahead, Germans and Italians know something is in the wind but not that an hour from now a curtain of steel and an armoured wall will move in to destroy them. The enemy guns are nervously banging away all the time. We are completely silent.

Dec

24

1942

A grim ‘Heilig Abend’ in Stalingrad

24th December 1942: A grim ‘Heilige Abend’ in Stalingrad

A little later, the crackly loudspeaker transmitted a Christmas message from the Forces’ radio station in Germany. It was being broadcast everywhere from the North Pole to Africa. At that time an enormous part ofthe world belonged to us.
When Stalingrad was called we began to tremble though we were indoors in the warm that evening.

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.