infantry

May

25

1940

Norfolks fight on as bombing fails to halt Germans

Pontoon bridge over La Bassee Canal. German PzKpfw 38(t) crossing. probably on 27th May, from Rommel's personal collection, later captured by the British.

‘Great enemy air activity today. Had orders to move back to Festubert. Sent Cameron on billeting, then arrived self with 1 Pl. Got settled in and was going to look for Camerons in War Cemetery when we were called back to Estaires. Lot of enemy air bombing along roads. Then had orders to move back to Violaines. Later in afternoon Coy Comdrs went on to meet Queens Regt, who we were to relieve in L.B. and recce area there. The usual defences of a canal in a town. Mortar shelling. ‘

May

22

1940

The Holocaust progresses while war rages

Roma and Sinti are deported from the German city of Asberg, 22nd May 1940. They were sent to forced labour camps in Poland where the majority died. The remainder were later sent to death camps. There are apparently no records of any survivors.

Men, women and children of the Roma and Sinti peoples are deported from the German city of Asberg, 22nd May 1940. They were sent to forced labour camps in Poland where the majority died from starvation and maltreatment.

May

16

1940

The German advance continues

German built pontoon bridges allowed their advance to continue even where bridges had been blown up - a Panzer crosses the Maas on the 16th May.

Slept for a few hours in grounds and then took up position and started digging. Very tiring recce, in afternoon, of new position, maps inaccurate, this was cancelled by order to withdraw same night. Went up with Coy Comdrs and C.O. to recce position along main road on race course. Got company in about 11 p.m.

May

15

1940

The BEF start to withdraw

Bomb craters on aerial picture of Arreux

“Took Hughes up as runner. His and my first experience of shelling. Did not care much for the position. Kerr, on the right, was isolated, forward up the road, with Fleming behind him about 1/2 a mile and 10 Pl on the left. The previous Company had obviously left in a great hurry, not having time to collect all their kit.”

May

12

1940

British troops take up positions in Belgium

A low level attack on a German Convoy by British light bombers, Fairey Battles: 12th May 1940 S.W. of Luzenburg

We entrained about 5.15 a.m. in the morning and were given coffee by the family and had breakfast from the Company Cookhouse. The road was crowded with transport and proceeded at snail’s pace most of the way. Fortunately no enemy bombing although the effects of yesterday’s efforts could frequently be seen.

May

9

1945

In the Far East the battle against Japan goes on

A few yards behind the front lines on Okinawa, fighting men of the US Armys 77th Infantry division listen to radio reports of Germanys surrender on May 8, 1945. Their battle hardened faces indicate the impassiveness with which they received the news of the victory on a far distant front. One minute after this photo was taken, they returned to their combat post, officially however, American forces on Okinawa celebrated the end of the war in Europe by training every ship and shore battery on a Japanese target and firing one shell simultaneously and precisely at midnight.

When Slim stood under the trees at Meiktila and told us: “Rangoon is where the big boats sail from”, the idea that we might one day get on one of those boats and sail halfway round the world to home might seem unreal, but it was a reminder that we were unique (and I don’t give a dam who knows it). We were Fourteenth Army, the final echo of Kipling’s world, the very last British soldiers in the old imperial tradition.

May

5

1945

US 71st Division still in combat as it pushes east

These men are scouting out the enemy for the 13th Armored Division, Third U.S. Army. 2 May 1945

Under Captain Neal’s direction, our entire company piled off of our eight or nine trucks as fast as we could and took cover in the culvert on the left side of the road. Bailey’s squad and my squad were told to leave our mortars on the truck, and were sent up the ditch to the front of the stalled convoy. We were accompanied by one of the company’s machine-gun squads. A gruesome, never-to-be-forgotten sight sickened me as we ran past the jeep that had been in the lead. It had received a direct hit from an 88, and slumped behind its steering wheel was what was left of the driver — just his bloody, headless torso.

Apr

14

1945

Italy: US 5th Army advance towards the Po valley

The 10 Division advancing in Italy in April 1945.

Our company sneaked around the side of a hill and began shooting at some farmhouses below us. We had been receiving sniper fire from the buildings. Three or four of our men on the forward slope were shot. My platoon leader was hit in both shoulders and a leg, and his runner was mortally wounded. Jim Keck, who teamed up with me in the squad, was struck in the left hip. The bullet deflected off the hip bone, ran up his side, and exited just below the armpit. Another soldier dashed toward one of the houses. He threw two grenades – killing one of the snipers—before being shot through the head.

Apr

10

1945

British confront looting and fraternisation in Germany

Men of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders during the advance in Germany, 29 April 1945. Pte Fred Greener pushes a bicycle loaded with mortar bombs.

The Brigade Major told me that while the Commander was pinned down as it were, on the throne that morning, a Jock of his passed his field of vision with a side of bacon, followed shortly after by another with a wireless set, followed a few minutes later by a third with a goose under his arm. Whereupon he rose in his wrath, sent for his Brigade Major and issued several fresh edicts, the effect of which was that there would probably be no looting at Brigade, for at least a week.

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.