artillery

Dec

21

1943

Speer visits the Finnish frontline

The 'Batterie Todt'  on the Channel coast,  one of the larger installations along the 'Atlantic Wall'.

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

Soviet troops in trench somewhere in Russia.

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

November - December 1943: Two artillerymen (Sergeant J Hamilton and Gunner H Tennant) wringing water out of a blanket at their flooded bivouac on Monte Camino.

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

A Bren gun team from the 2nd Cameronians, 5th Division, take up a position high up in the mountains, 21 November 1943.

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

British artillery firing at night. A 25 pounder gun fires a round during the night barrage which enabled Allied tanks to cross the Sangro River.

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

Reconnaissance platoon commander Lieutenant P. Burdovitsyn and observer Vahir Saidov monitor the movements of the enemy using trench periscope.

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

Artillery observers of the Fifth Army look over the German-held Italian town of San Vittore, on November 1, 1943, before an artillery barrage to dislodge the Germans.

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.”

Nov

1

1943

Moving forward to the front line in Italy

Artillery tractors, trucks and jeeps seen on a road near the river Trigno, 8 November 1943.

Our convoy, all equipped with skid chains, was held up several times while vehicles were pulled out of ditches and off embankments. At the spot mentioned by Squithy our driver kept insanely hugging the edge of the cliff, and I and Spiers, peering anxiously out of the back, suddenly saw a void under our right-hand wheel as the truck leaped a culvert.

Oct

22

1943

Spike Milligan returns to the front line

Gunners pick up shells in a flooded 5.5-inch gun position on the Volturno front, October 1943.

0430: the Artillery opened up and fired non-stop until 0624, then a silence. From the distant hill we hear the dreadful sound of Spandaus and Schmeisers that are spraying the early morning with bullets, and I can’t but wonder at the courage of these lads in the Guards Brigade forward into it. What a terrible, unexplainable lunacy. There must have been a lot of casualties as there was talk of us having to send gravedigging parties.

Oct

11

1943

Butchery of trench warfare on the Eastern front

German artillery observers in a trench in Russia, 1943

Flamethrowers failed. Nothing could save us from the enemy numbers. One company withdrew from the trench, and two of our guns were lost. The Russians drove their wedge farther into our hinterland. Our reserves were being bled dry, even before any counterattack could be mounted. There was no help to come. We wrote farewell letters and waited to die.