infantry

Aug

17

1944

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

Aug

15

1944

The Gordon Highlanders push forward in Normandy

Men of the 5/7th Gordon Highlanders occupy a defensive position in a hedge, 17 June 1944.

I took some of my party down a lane running along a ridge leading out of the village. Suddenly there was the usual whistle in crescendo which signalled a covey of shells on the way. With one accord we all lay flat and heard them landing all round us. Then there was a particularly loud crack as a shell burst twelve feet away — I paced out the distance later.

Aug

9

1944

Canadian infantry attack into the bocage

Priest infantry carriers move up to the front, 9 August 1944.

We covered about a mile and a bit and stopped around eight hundred yards from the woods. We knew they were in there — you could see the activity, although the targets were well hidden by the heavy trees and bush. Each company, left of the road and right of the road, had a real challenge. Both areas were divided into fields, marked by typical hedgerows of stone and dirt two to three feet high, with growth on top of that of another seven feet or so.

Jul

30

1944

Operation Bluecoat – the final push in Normandy begins

Cromwell tanks of 7th Armoured Division silhouetted against the morning sky, as they move up at the start of Operation 'Bluecoat', the British offensive south-east of Caumont, 30 July 1944.

I wondered what the pilot thinks of the infantryman. Several bomber pilots have told me subsequently that their most interesting missions were in direct support of land fighting and usually on those occasions they came away with light losses. One pilot has told me that from the sky the explosion of bombs looks the least terrible part of a battle. ‘Your artillery,’ he said, ‘looks as if it is creating great havoc. It gives a continuous line of flashes and it looks to us as if nothing could live down below.’

Jul

16

1944

The bloody battle for Hill 112

A Sherman tank advances during operations in the Odon valley, west of Caen, 16 July 1944.

If single German infantrymen can pop in and out of ditches within fifty yards of our tank, single German infantrymen may be crawling through the hedges alongside us or through the long grass behind us. And some of those infantrymen carry the notorious Panzerfaust, a simple, throwaway bomb-projector, known to us as a Bazooka and looking something like an outsize bassoon, an innocuous-looking instrument but one which, at fifty yards range, can blow our turret to smithereens.

Jul

11

1944

A desperate Japanese breakout on New Guinea

Bill Garbo with his dog Teddy on New Guinea in 1944.

The dense jungle terrain greatly restricted vision and movement, and he endeavored to penetrate down the trail toward an open clearing of Kunai grass. As he advanced, he detected the enemy, supported by at least 6 light and 2 heavy machineguns, attempting an enveloping movement around both flanks. His commanding officer sent a second platoon to move up on the left flank of the position, but the enemy closed in rapidly, placing our force in imminent danger of being isolated and annihilated.

Jul

8

1944

Charnwood: British launch another attack on Caen

Sherman tanks of 33rd Armoured Brigade, supporting 3rd Infantry Division, moving forward near Lebisey Wood for Operation CHARNWOOD, the assault on Caen, 8 July 1944.

It was some time in the afternoon that we emerged from the Wood, and pressed on over the open ground to a small hill marked on the map as Point 64. As we advanced to the hill we came under intense ground and air-burst shelling. There was no cover to escape the deadly effects of the air-bursts, and as I was urging my platoon forward toward CAEN now only a mile or two away, I felt a dull thud in my left arm just below the elbow. I looked down and saw blood oozing through battle-dress tunic. There was a knocked-out tank on the side of the road, so I crawled underneath it to assess the damage to my arm.

Jul

1

1944

Normandy – Canadian night patrol to snatch a prisoner

The crew of a Sherman tank named 'Akilla' of 1st Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, 8th Armoured Brigade, after having destroyed five German tanks in a day, Rauray, 30 June 1944. Left to right: Sgt J Dring; Tpr Hodkin, Tpr A Denton; Tpr E Bennett; L/Cpl S Gould.

So the actual practice requires that number two moves silently and quickly, knife in hand, on the soldier leaving the trench. The slightest sound will mean death to the patrol. A knife to the man’s kidney instantly paralyzes his vocal cords; number two’s other hand will catch soundlessly the falling rifle. Then a quick slash across the throat. Number three man, in the same moment, is in the trench guaranteeing a prisoner who will live by the quick use of the garrotte. The enemy soldier loses consciousness with- out a gasp. Then a fireman’s lift and back to the start point. Prisoner delivered; objective achieved

Jun

26

1944

‘Epsom’ – Scottish troops v 12th SS Panzer ‘Hitlerjugend’

Troops of 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers, 15th (Scottish) Division, fire from their positions in a sunken lane during Operation 'Epsom', 26 June 1944.

We stared after them: trying to comprehend the actuality of our enemies. A Regimental Provost corporal, taking charge of one, flicked him contemptuously across the shoulders with his driving-gauntlets, rearwards. And morale soared. Prisoners already! Things must be going well. The sight did a world of good to the younger ones among us, upon whom the strain of composure had been beginning to tell.

Jun

21

1944

Mortar Platoon in the the front line in Normandy

Men of the 5/7th Gordon Highlanders occupy a defensive position in a hedgerow, Normandy, 17 June 1944.

1015 Polish boots (yes, I swear that’s correct), pick up Sten gun, and report with map to command- ing officer for conference. Nine times out of ten the Germans would mortar the area while the conference was taking place. We would all rush for the few available slit trenches. Howie would usually lose the race and be the last man under cover. While everybody else grabbed steel helmets Frank Waters, seemingly carefree, would content himself with placing a thin wooden mapboard over his head muttering: ‘Bastards!’