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.




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.




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.




Patton’s Third Army resumes the attack – towards Metz

Eisenhower and Patton confer together in October 1944.

I woke up at 0300 on the morning of November 8, 1944, and it was raining very hard. I tried to go to sleep, but finding it impossible, got up and started to read Rommel’s book, Infantry Attacks. By chance I turned to a chapter describing a fight in the rain in September, 1914. This was very reassuring because I felt that if the Germans could do it I could, so went to sleep and was awakened at 0515 by the artillery preparation.




Holland: Death in a minefield on the front line

A sniper demonstrates the superior 'Hawkins' prone firing position (right) next to another in the standard position, at the 21st Army Group sniping school near Eindhoven, 15 October 1944.

Unfortunately, the changed route apparently had not been reconnoitred and the inevitable happened — the carrier was blown up on a mine. Driver Smith was killed instantly, his left leg torn off at the thigh. Patrick was injured, sustaining a severe head wound (he told me years later that he still has a piece of metal in his head).




A miserable day on the Le Havre front line

A camouflaged 155mm gun of 53 Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery firing during the barrage of Caen.

At 0630 we set off for the O.P. still in the pelting rain, and eventually after scrounging a little breakfast from the infantry manned it about 0830 with an infantry platoon as local protection. Prior to this I went up with the B.C. before daylight proper. By then I was of course quite drenched. We had to leave the carrier about 1/2 a mile back and carry phones, remote control etc. up to the O.P. ourselves.




A shattered city – ‘Festung St Malo’ – surrenders

Soldiers of the 83rd Division probe the outskirts of St Malo on the 9th August.

Then a curious thing happened. An elderly German, a naval cook, broke ranks and ran up and embraced a young American soldier. The German was lucky not to be shot and the guards lowered their guns just in time. But no one interfered when the U.S. soldier put his arms round the German. They were father and son. The German spoke good American slang and was allowed to stay out of the ranks and act as interpreter. He had been 14 years in American, he said, and went back to Germany just before the outbreak of war




Attempt to resupply Hill 314 by air and shell

A US 105mm M3 Howitzer in action in Normandy 1944.

In the meantime, the S-3 of the 230th Field Artillery Battalion had an idea to relieve the situation. Ten rounds of M-84 (base ejection HC smoke)) ammunition were opened, and the smoke canisters and base ejection charge removed. The rounds were then filled with medical supplies, bandages, dressings, sulfanilamide and morphine syrettes.




US artillery holds German counter-attack at Mortain

A battery of 105mm guns from the US 84th Field Artillery Bn firing from positions on the edge of a Normandy field.

At approximately 1000 hours, the enemy dumped everything in the book in the line of artillery and mortar fire on our positions, and K and E Companies received a bombing and a strafing attack. The enemy infantry, with some armor, followed the artillery preparation closely. Our own artillery was called on and was very effective in breaking up the attack.




Normandy – a close encounter with Panzers

Sexton self-propelled gun moving up towards Escoville during Operation 'Goodwood', 18 July 1944.

We decided that the Sexton belonged to the Leicester Yeomanry of the Guards Armoured Division, who were known to be somewhere out on our left flank. For reasons that have always escaped both of us, Lieutenant John Alford and myself either volunteered, or were ordered, to investigate this situation, with a view to rendering some assistance to the wounded.