War artist Edward Ardizzone takes Italian surrender

9th August 1943: War artist Edward Ardizzone takes Italian surrender

In the meantime Geoffrey had sent a message by the hotel manager to the Italian commander, an Alpini Colonel, telling him to report at once to us alone with his Adjutant. I was on tenterhooks in case he should call our bluff and know more of the situation than we did, we had learned that he had four hundred men under his command. To my surprise he turned up with the Adjutant. We told him that the town was surrounded and that he must surrender and ordered him to disarm his troops and march them away southward. Over a glass of champagne he meekly and sadly complied.




Troublesome British POWs in Germany

31st July 1943: Troublesome British POWs in Germany

But the General, brimming with self-confidence, said, ‘No, no. The driver will keep watch.’ Like his boss the general, the driver didn’t know much about POWs; he was far too polite, fielding a constant stream of questions from two German-speakers while the rest of the rabble scrambled over the car, in evident awe and admiration. After giving the driver some cigarettes the crowd dispersed, together with the general’s gloves, torch, maps and tool-kit, and a handbook optimistically marked ‘Secret’.




The Germans crack down on ordinary Poles

2nd July 1943: The Germans crack down on ordinary Poles

A large group of women stood on both sides of the street, cursing the Germans and crying. Seeing this I was reminded of the Jews marching prior to their liquidation. Everything looked the same, except for one thing: the big difference was attitude. The Jews marched in complete resignation, guarded only by a few gendarmes. Here these marching men showed hatred toward Germans and were being guarded by hundreds of soldiers carrying machine guns.




Cholera and Japanese savagery on the Railway of Death

26th June 1943: Cholera and Japanese savagery on the Railway of Death

A cholera death in the British camp today along with 3 others. Their state is pitiable but then, Oh Lord! hygiene is a menace to us who live alongside them. No. 2 rock clearing party left today at 0700 hours in darkness and no doubt will not be back until late tonight, poor devils. So the pace increases. Imagine those poor ill, exhausted wretches having to be got up, fed, issued with lunch rice and got away in black darkness after counts, etc. and to drag their way into camp again in the dark some fourteen hours hence.




Cholera strikes the POWs on the Railway of Death

15th June 1943: Cholera strikes the POWs on the Railway of Death

Three thick pieces of bamboo about two and a half feet wide were laid on the ground as the head, middle and bottom of the bed frame; and long pieces, flattened out, were laid on top of them. These were the standard pieces which we supplied by joint labour. Over them we each built the best shelter we could devise, most of us using our groundsheets. We had also to dig ourselves a latrine.




German Police report on the Katyn massacre

10th June 1943: German Police report on the Katyn massacre

Preliminary excavations undertaken in various parts of the wooded area invariably led to the discovery of mass-graves (‘fraternal graves’) in which the bodies of Russians of both sexes were found. Some of these bodies were carefully examined and it was proved that, without exception, death was caused by a shot in the back of the neck. From the documents found, it appeared that they were prisoners from the NKVD jail in Smolensk, the majority being political prisoners.




Japanese-American POW discovered by Japanese

1st June 1943: Japanese-American POW discovered by Japanese

He called me back up to the front of the room and looked me up and down, sucking his teeth and muttering something incredulously about Fujita being a POW. He tried to carry on a conversation with me, about me, and finally decided that I really could not speak the language. He would feel of my skin and then put his arm next to mine and compare them, and like the guard at the wash rack, he said ‘Somma, Somma!




A short spell in the ‘Cooler’

21st May 1943: A short spell in the ‘Cooler’

I hated the solitude — I cannot begin to describe how much — with nothing to read, nothing to look at, nobody to talk to. Even the food was punitive: a thin round of black bread for breakfast, thin ‘soup’ and a few potatoes for lunch, and another piece of bread in the evening. One lunchtime I had a bit of extra protein in the shape of grubs in the soup. Although very hungry, I passed that one up.




The Germans surrender in North Africa

12th May 1943: The Germans surrender in North Africa

At the end the battlefield fell to pieces and lost all pattern and design, and those who had fought hardest on both sides found they had nothing to say, nothing to feel beyond an enveloping sense of gratitude and rest. The anger subsided at the surrender, and for the first time the German and Allied soldiers stood together looking at one another with listless and passionless curiosity.




Nazis announce Katyn massacre of Polish officers

13th April 1943: Nazis announce Katyn Wood massacre of Polish officers

He told me that he had proofs that the Soviet Government had murdered the 15,000 Polish officers and other prisoners in their hands, and that they had been buried in vast graves in the forests, mainly around Katyn. He had a wealth of evidence. I said, “If they are dead nothing you can do will bring them back.”