retreat

May

26

1940

Calais surrenders to Germans

British dead immediately after the battle in Calais.

Things livened up towards midday. French seem to have gone on right. Am told Worcesters have taken their place but continually failed to get in touch with them. Enemy through on our right, 1 sec of Worcesters back on our rt hand platoon Enemy in view out of wood, but withdrew under French M.G. fire. Very pleasant Fr officer in charge of M.G.s but he is rather worried about the situation, so am I.

Apr

24

1945

Germans v Nazis as the US Army approaches

12th AD soldier with German prisoners of war, April 1945.

I have just been outside. A clear, starry sky. What extra-ordinary people the Germans are, to go on killing one another up to the very last minute and to destroy their country with their own hands.

We were told that the SS man had accused the mayor of cowardice because he had hoisted a white flag. He told him to get up against a wall and was going to shoot him, but then he changed his mind and took him, the Ortsgruppenleiter, the policeman and the parson off to another village. When they got there somebody suddenly shouted, ‘Here come the tanks!’ and they let all four of them go. They came back white as sheets.

Mar

20

1945

The Waffen-SS retreat back over the Oder

A dead German following a Soviet artillery barrage on his position near the Oder.

But our fighting strength grew weaker and weaker. More and more men were brought back bloody and torn, never to return, and no reserves came to fill the ranks. Only a thin line of hardened, determined veterans remained. They were hungry, deathly tired, bloody, many with bandaged arms or heads, unshaven, black from soot and smoke, mud and lime-dust, with uniforms torn to pieces.

Mar

18

1945

Hitler wants apocalyptic destruction of Germany

Berliners, and many other Germans, would face a bleak existence at the end of the war. Had Hitler had his way it would have been many times worse.

There is no need to consider the basic requirements that a people needs in order to continue to live a primitive life. On the contrary, it is better ourselves to destroy such things, for this nation will have proved itself the weaker and the future will belong exclusively to the stronger Eastern nation. Those who remain alive after the battles are over are in any case only inferior persons, since the best have fallen.

Mar

10

1945

A lucky escape from the burning port of Danzig

The 'Fluchtlingstreck' - flight of the refugees  East Prussia.- refugees on horse cart on the way through a village in 1945.

Near me lay a very young woman whose head was shorn almost to the skin and whose face was all covered with ugly sores. She looked terrible. Once when she got up I saw that she walked with a cane. The East Prussian told us that she had been a woman auxiliary; the Russians had caught her in Roumania in the autumn of 1944 and had taken her to a labour camp. She had escaped somehow and trekked up here. He said she was only eighteen or nineteen. I tried not to, but I couldn’t help looking at her. A few hours later we couldn’t stand the barracks any more and ran away. We preferred the cold.

Mar

7

1945

Capturing the bridge at Remagen

The Ludendorff Bridge from the north-eastern shore after the attempted demolition. The 300-kilogram (660 lb) weak, industrial-grade demolition charge only succeeded in destroying part of the eastern pedestrian catwalk and a section of main truss (shown above) on the northern side of the bridge.

German soldiers and civilians, gathering from miles around, were sitting in ‘grandstand’ seats at every vantage point on the east bank, waiting for the spectacular event to come off, when Burrows’ patrol ran onto the bridge – ten minutes before the hour fixed for its destruction. The German lieutenant signaled the plunger down. Two small explosions occurred, but the bridge only shuddered and remained standing. Several of the fuses had been faulty.

Jan

14

1945

Joy as Germans begin to fall back again in Poland

Soviets soldiers advance on a village - the officer in the foreground is armed with captured German submachine gun MP-40.

Impression? Who knows how it feels to be condemned to death and placed in front of the firing squad when suddenly a messenger comes racing up at the last moment carrying a pardon? Truly the Germans words were like a pardon for those of us who had been condemned to die. Now I no longer cared about him. I understood what the wagons loaded with suitcases meant: They were running away, they had been beaten. For us this meant the first spark of freedom.

Jul

13

1944

Starving Wehrmacht flees west across the steppe

Abandoned vehicles of the german 9th army at a road near Titowka/Bobruisk (Belarus).

Men died for very little — for the possibility of a day’s food. When everything had been eaten, down to the last sprout in the meagre gardens, twelve thousand soldiers stared at the village, which had been abandoned by its terrified inhabitants. Living corpses wandered here and there, staring at the tragic shreds of existence which remained to them.

Jul

4

1944

The pitiful Japanese retreat from Imphal

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: The remains of Japanese dead, equipment and caved-in bunkers on 'Scraggy Hill' which was captured by 10th Gurkha rifles in fierce fighting in the Shenam area.

Icy rain fell mercilessly on us and we lived day and night drenched to the skin and pierced with cold. I remember how we longed for a place, any place at all, where we could take shelter and rest. Once we found a tent in the jungle; inside it were the bodies of six nurses. We had never imagined there would be female victims, especially so far over the Arakan Mountains. Why, we asked one another, had the army not taken the nurses to a place of safety?