infantry

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!’

Jun

1

1944

Anzio battlefield after the breakout

Men of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry eat a meal before going into action at Anzio.

We found a lot of our own boys, killed earlier on, lying where they had fallen, unburied, in corn that is waist-high. The odd German grave with ‘UNBEK. SOLDAT’ on the cross. A ruined house, smashed to rubble, with a child’s pram, painted white, spick and span in the middle of it. A dug-out that had been scooped out under a knocked out tank. All most entertaining and instructive.

May

22

1944

Chindit jungle strongpoint faces third Japanese attack

Chindits at rest in their jungle bivouac.

With a heavy heart I sent a Most Immediate signal to Joe asking for permission to abandon the block at my discretion. The direction of the new Japanese attack would prevent night supply drops on the airfield, and, with the A.A. guns, only night drops were now possible. Night drops on the block, or on the jungle to the west, could never keep us supplied with ammunition in heavy battle. It would take too many men, too long, to find and bring in the boxes.

May

18

1944

Polish troops capture Monte Cassino

A low aerial view of the Monastery showing its complete destruction

But when the infantry probed the outskirts they found little opposition, and many Germans gave themselves up. There was some sniping and some machine gunning, but this was soon overcome, and in due course the place was mopped up. Some casualties were caused by time bombs left by the Hun. Later we learnt that the Polish flag was flying over the Monastery. It was very fitting that this should be so, for the Poles have suffered dearly.

May

15

1944

Back into the front line after 40% casualties

View of the Garrison Hill battlefield with the British and Japanese positions shown. Garrison Hill was the key to the British defences at Kohima.

The desolation was augmented by millions of flies as they tried to do justice to the feast that ‘civilised’ man had delivered to them, moving from corpses to latrines, then to our food and pricking and sucking the naked parts of our bodies, such as hands and faces, which might then absorb some disease.

May

14

1944

Attack continues after 100 casualties in 2 minutes

German prisoners being searched during the attack across the River Gari on the Gustav Line, 13 May 1944.

Captain Wakeford, keeping his Company under perfect control, crossed the start line and although wounded in the face and in both arms, led his men up the hill. Half way up the hill his Company came under heavy spandau fire; in spite of his wounds, he organized and led a force to deal with this opposition so that his Company could get on.

May

11

1944

The last battle for Monte Cassino begins

Third Phase 11 - 18 May 1944: Allied 4.2 inch mortars in action at the start of the final offensive on Cassino.

Large mortar bombs started to explode all around us followed, almost immediately, by heavy artillery fire. The enemy infantry opened up with his machine guns and tracer bullets whipped and whanged their way a few feet over our heads. I prepared to return the fire but found that, as our troops were now in my line of fire, I was unable to do so. I could see them reasonably clearly moving forward just across the river and all we could do was to watch as the machine gun bullets arched and swathed across the crossing point.

May

5

1944

A night on the beach in New Guinea

The US landings at Tanahmera Bay on 21 April.

Twice more during the night there were alerts. The warning gun was only 1/2 mile away, so it practically blew us out of bed. During that night I spent the most miserable four hours ever. The spatter of rain in my face woke me. Soon it was torrential and seeped into bed. When I was finally soaked and lying in a half-inch of water, I got up, threw my poncho over me, and leaned against the bank. It rained like the devil.

May

2

1944

Hand to hand fighting with the ‘Ivans’

A small rocket launched in the woods.

As soon as we meet Ivan, we charge. Machineguns to fire from the hip. We will take no notice of what happens to the left or right. We go on storming through the wood until we meet our own people. If I should drop out, Zech will take command, and if he falls, Brugmann. In that case, I shall be left lying. This applies to everyone. We can’t worry about the dead or wounded.

Apr

24

1944

Jungle firefight as Chindits ambush Japanese

Chindits making tea at their jungle bivouac.

We kept ourselves flat on the ground as the bullets scythed through the thick jungle undergrowth a couple of feet above our heads. The unfortunate mules carrying our wireless sets could not get down far enough. I watched fascinated as bullet holes appeared in rows along their bodies, little spurts of blood in line, before they crashed to the ground.