infantry

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.

Apr

18

1944

The relief of Kohima begins

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: The mined tennis court and terraces of the District Commissioner's bungalow in Kohima.

At 09.30 hours Corporal Judges and his section consisting of Privates Johnson,Thrussel and myself, as well as Corporal Veal’s section, went onto the road to help evacuate the wounded Indians, BORs, walking and stretcher cases. It was my job to look at the stretcher cases. If they were dead I had to send the Indian stretcher bearers round the back of the feature where they put the bodies in a heap to be buried later.

Apr

14

1944

Surprise as the Norfolks arrive at Kohima

An infantry section on patrol in Burma, 1944.

I thought to myself, “Crumbs! Now what have I done wrong!” I went over to him and he said, “Where the bloody hell have you been?” I said, “Well we ran into a little bit of trouble…” He said, “I know, I’ve had it all, chapter and verse, on the telephone!”

Mar

28

1944

‘Fight to the last man’ as Japanese enter India

View of the Burmese landscape from the Dimapur-Kohima road near Imphal.

In Dimapur I had asked the brigadier commanding the base what his ration strength was. ‘Forty-five thousand, near enough,’ he replied. ‘And how many soldiers can you scrape up out of that lot?’ I inquired. He smiled wryly. ‘I might get five hundred who know how to fire a rifle!’ . But, as at Kohima, everything that could be done to put the sprawling base into a state of defence was being done.

Mar

23

1944

Japanese held at the Battle of Sangshak

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: British 3-inch mortar detachments support the 19th Indian Division's advance along the Mawchi Road, east of Toungoo, Burma. The mortar proved the most effective weapon in jungle warfare.

In the late afternoon, I had to visit company commanders to convey orders for the coming night attack. I went by way of a communication trench and saw five soldiers crouching in it. On the battlefield soldiers feel forlorn and tend to stick together. Just as I told them to disperse, a shell exploded between me and them and all five were killed. I was facing the enemy so my face was injured. I could not see…