October 1940

Training for the Grenadier Guards

Churchill inspects parade of Grenadier Guards

From the moment a recruit arrived at the Caterham barrack gate and was marched off by a picquet sentry to join his squad, feet moving so fast that he seemed to be flying, there was not a moment to relax: through the first haircut (a shaven head)to the first and subsequent drill parades; through the sound of reveille blown by bugle at six o’clock, with all recruits tumbled out and standing at attention by beds one minute later; through the occasions when it was decided (on principle) that we had been ‘idle’ and needed sharpening up – HALT! Stand at ease! ‘GAS’! (old-style respirators on – most uncomfortable from a respiratory point of view) – Squad shun! Squad will fix bayonets – FIX! (this was the old, long sword- bayonet, with a tricky fitment to the rifle for the inexperienced or maladroit) – BAYONETS! Slope Arms! Quick March! Left – right – (what seemed thirty miles an hour) – Break into double time, Double MARCH! Mark TIME! Lift Knees, Up, Up, Up!



November 1944

Germany scrapes together manpower for the front

In just six weeks, the recruits would have to learn the tips that might help them survive at least their first day fighting the Russians. Field training and weapons practice were the chief activities. At night, and in the thick mists that settled over the wintery countryside, they practised map reading and navigation. Life was hard for the recruits who until then had enjoyed all the comforts of a home life such as they were in these difficult times. Still, their living conditions were no worse than those I experienced during two cruel winters on the Ostfront.



November 1943

U.S. Army Infantry – training for a gas attack in Texas

We’ll learn to use the Garand rifle, a Browning Automatic Rifle, a 50-caliber machine gun, mortars, and to thrown grenades. The camp covers, in all, 16,000 acres, and is made up mostly of sand, rock, and scrub oak. The camp area proper has thousands of men – the number I’ve forgotten. It’s a sad, hard life. But don’t worry. I’m getting along all right. The war won’t last forever.



April 1943

U.S. troops on the lessons from combat in Tunisia

I got my men used to the German flares by getting all I could, including those I could borrow from the British, and we fired them all night at Jerry. Now we take flares with us and fire them at Jerry at night. We do this on all the nights that we don’t use them for signals, then we use them only for signals. But my men now pay no attention to the enemy flares.



April 1943

General Morgan is asked to draw up some plans

The object is to defeat German fighting forces in Northwest Europe; The CCS have decided to appoint a Supreme Allied Commander (SAC) in the future; They have decided to appoint you Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC) pending SAC’s appointment; You will prepare plans in the following order of priority:



March 1943

Exercise Spartan tests D-Day forces in Britain

The armoured divisions’ progress, however, was disappointingly slow; there were bad traffic jams and petrol shortages; and for a time there was a complete breakdown in communications between Corps and Army Headquarters. This last was not surprising, since 2nd Canadian Corps Signals was neither fully equipped nor fully trained. It should moreover be remembered that this was the first occasion on which the whole of the 5th Division was actually exercised together as a formation.



February 1943

A Soviet officer cadet endures training in Siberia

We fell down on this soft soil and rested for fifteen minutes. But within this short time, the soil began to freeze, and we had to take up our pick-axes again. We repeated this operation several times before the depth of the dugout reached about 2 metres. Then we sawed logs, planned the location of the observation post, built a roof for it and placed a field artillery periscope inside. At dawn we covered the roof with soil, fir branches, and snow. Exhausted but satisfied with the work we had done, we dropped to the floor of the post and fell asleep.



December 1942

Battle training in the far north of Britain

As the smoke cleared the brigadier drew himself up to his full height. He rocked backwards and forwards for a few moments ‘Urrgumph,’ he said, and again ‘Urrgumph Good show, Forman. Good – urrgumph – show.’ As he hobbled to his staff car, his GSO II drew me aside. ‘Don’t … do … that … again,’ he said.



November 1942

Battle school in Britain

Then they fought their way inland across streams and through hedgerows and farmyards. I can hardly say I enjoyed that day. Once I went down to my thighs in icy mud. Once I was covered with muck from a nearby grenade-burst. When the troops wanted to go through a ten-foot hawthorn hedge they did not hunt for gaps, they walked straight through the thorns. All day until dusk they were at it without food, without rest. They ran and shot and climbed walls with their full equipment until they were tired into speechlessness.