February 1941

The cold wet misery of the Greek front line

I was never trained to do trauma surgery under such great pressure and in such primitive conditions. I have no time to think of alternatives; sometimes I barely have time to disinfect one trauma before I must deal with another more severe one. In the background as I hear the explosions of the guns and the mines, I think of the parents, wives and children of our men, who are agonizing about them without really knowing how great the dangers are — even the natural dangers of this wild and rugged terrain — and tears come to my eyes.



July 1945

Welcome back to an impoverished Britain

‘Be grateful,’ I was told, ‘it’s far better than the place you’ve been at, by all accounts’. It was put to me straightforwardly and I understood. Unable to procure the longed-for privacy and medical care for lack of pounds, shillings and pence, I was obliged to accept charity.



June 1940

France – the Germans also have losses

German war dead 1940

Poor Vraz. Poor Vraz? No, brother. You are rich, immensely rich. You have given the best, the finest, the noblest for your fatherland. You have ‘Fallen for greater Germany



June 1940

The Lancastria bombed and sunk, thousands dead

HMT Lancastria at sea

Although I had a lifejacket on, I still had my doubts about being in the water as I was a non-swimmer. We were all saturated with oil. I kicked off from the side of the Lancastria on my back. I kept thinking “got to escape the suction of the ship”. The Lancastria continued to roll over to port. Hundreds of men were now clinging to the upturned hull. Some of those standing on the turning hull started to sing “Roll out the Barrel”.



June 1945

Okinawa – mounting U.S. casualties on Kunishi Ridge

Some of our riflemen moved eastward along the ridge, while others moved up the slopes. We still didn’t set up our mortars: it was strictly a riflemen’s fight. We mortarmen stood by to act as stretcher bearers or riflemen. Snipers were all over the ridge and almost impossible to locate. Men began getting shot one right after another, and the stretcher teams kept on the run. We brought the casualties down to the base of the ridge, to a point where tanks could back in out of the view of snipers on the ridge crest.



May 1945

Okinawan civilians try to leave the battlefield

All the men we had nursed were simply lying there. One of us asked, “Soldier, what are you going to do with these people?” “Don’t worry,” he responded, “I’ll make it easy for them.” Later we heard that the medics offered them condensed milk mixed with water as their last nourishment, and then gave them cyanide and told them, “Achieve your glorious end like a japanese soldier.”



March 1945

The last V2, and the end of enemy action on British soil

Another rocket, and worst of the lot, landed at the top of Uppingham Avenue. I remember some time ago cycling down Weston Drive into Uppingham and thinking that if a rocket landed there it would make a right mess. And it had, if only because the damned thing had landed plumb on all three mains — water, gas, electricity. Water and gas had become mixed with the result that far down the hill in Kenton householders were being warned by loud-hailers from police-vans not to make use of any of the services.



March 1945

Hundreds killed as USS Franklin hit by sneak bomber

Aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) attacked during World War II, March 19, 1945.

Countless deeds of heroism and superb seamanship saved the carrier and about two-thirds of the ship’s complement if more than 2,500. The tenacity of the Franklin’s skipper, Captain L. E. Gehres, who refused to abandon the ship and accept the aid of protecting ships and planes, virtually snatched the carrier from Japanese waters to be repaired so that she can fight again.



March 1945

Soviet tank column smashes through civilian refugees

Then, on the other road, from the east, in the opposite direction to the column, Russian tanks drove up, and smashed through the column. We identified them as T-34/85s. The distance was too great, we heard nothing, only saw how the horses reared up, people ran to the sides, watched how the wagons were pushed and crushed by the tanks, how people fell from the wagons under machine-gun fire. This was how the Red Army did things – it was terrible!



February 1945

Wounded – a lucky escape from the Eastern front

The faces of the civilians were grey and tired, and in some of them we could even see resentment, as if it was our fault that their homes had been destroyed and so many of their dear ones burnt to cinders. Smiling wryly, we reminded each other that Hitler himself had promised his soldiers that the gratitude of the Fatherland to them would be ensured forever. But we realized that these had merely been words, and the cold reality was quite different.