The Italians surrender at Beda Fomm

For all the efforts of the previous day, the Italian column still looked huge and threatening. I watched with apprehension the movements of the mass of vehicles before me. On either side of me, hidden behind the crests of other dunes and ridges, I knew that there were other eyes just as anxious as mine, surveying the scene before them. In the mind of each one of us was the sure knowledge that we were well outnumbered.

Italian M13-40 Tanks in the Libyan Desert, pictured later in 1941

The Australian 6th Division had captured the coastal town of Benghazi on the 6th February and then pursued the retreating Italian army west along the coast road. Meanwhile leading elements of the 7th Armoured Division had moved rapidly across the desert country to intercept the Italians, arriving at the road just thirty minutes before the first retreating Italians appeared, late on the 5th February. British artillery held up this force until the arrival of the British tanks late on the 6th, when there was further fighting. It was a tight situation for the British forces who were at the extreme limits of their very extended supply lines. Once again however the Italians chose to believe their own propaganda which told them that they were facing a massively superior force.

Cyril Joly was an officer in one of the tanks and later wrote a classic account of the action:

From my position on the dune I watched an attack which was launched soon after dawn by about thirty Italian tanks against the position on the road. This was beaten off quickly and with little difficulty.

For a time there was silence on both sides. For all the efforts of the previous day, the Italian column still looked huge and threatening. I watched with apprehension the movements of the mass of vehicles before me. On either side of me, hidden behind the crests of other dunes and ridges, I knew that there were other eyes just as anxious as mine, surveying the scene before them. In the mind of each one of us was the sure knowledge that we were well outnumbered. Each of us knew by what slim margin we still held dominance over the battlefield.

Our threat was but a facade – behind us there were no more reserves of further troops. Even the supplies of the very sinews which could keep us going had almost run out. If we lost now we were faced with capture or a hopeless retreat into the empty distances of the inner desert. It was a sobering thought. I felt that the day, with all its black, wet dullness, was heavy with ominous foreboding. The scene before me was made gloomy enough to match my mood by the black clouds of acrid smoke which shrouded the battlefield like a brooding pall.

Gradually I became aware of a startling change. First one and then another white flag appeared in the host of vehicles. More and more became visible, until the whole coiumn was a forest of waving white banners. Small groups of Italians started to move out hesitantly towards where they knew we lay watching them. Larger groups appeared, some on foot, some in vehicles. Still not able to believe the evidence of his own eyes, the Colonel warned, “. . . Don’t make a move. This may be a trap. Wait and see what happens. Off.”

But it was no trap. Italians of all shapes and sizes, all ranks, all regiments and all services swarmed out to be taken prisoner. I felt that nothing would ever surprise me again after my loader suddenly- shouted: “Look, sir, there’s a couple of bints there coming towards us. Can I go an’ grab ’em, sir? I could do with a bit of home comforts.” We took the two girls captive, installed them in a vehicle of their own and kept them for a few days to do our cooking and washing. I refrained from asking what other duties were required of the women, but noted that they remained contented and cheerful.

See Cyril Joly: Take These Men (Echoes of War)

Wellington bomber captured on Boulogne raid

The enemy attempted to break out and made a persistent attack with over 100 tanks, but these were repulsed with heavy losses, including 60 of the latter. The full number of prisoners has not yet been ascertained, but it is understood that they have surrendered in large numbers, and include an Army Commander, a Corps Commander and many other senior officers.

Wellington bomber captured by Germans
RAF Wellington bomber L7842 was lost on 6 February 1941 while in service with No. 311 Squadron, RAF, on a mission to Boulogne. Wellingtons were famously robust and the Germans were able to restore it for testing.

Meanwhile in the Libyan Desert the final push of Operation Compass brought yet another Italian surrender:

Following a lightning advance our troops succeeded in cutting off the enemy line of retreat which resulted in the capitulation of Benghazi on the 6th February. The enemy attempted to break out and made a persistent attack with over 100 tanks, but these were repulsed with heavy losses, including 60 of the latter. The full number of prisoners has not yet been ascertained, but it is understood that they have surrendered in large numbers, and include an Army Commander, a Corps Commander and many other senior officers. Quantities of war material of all descriptions have also been captured.

From the Military Situation Report for the week as reported to the War Cabinet. See TNA CAB 66/15/4 .

Pilots of No. 3 Squadron RAAF study a map on the tailplane of one of their Gloster Gladiators at their landing ground near Sollum, Egypt, before an operation over Bardia during the closing stages of Operation COMPASS. Left to right: Flying Officers J R Perrin, J McD Davidson (squatting), W S Arthur and P St G Turnbull, Flight Lieutenants G H Steege and A C Rawlinson, Flying Officer V East, (unknown), Squadron Leader I D McLachlan (Commanding Officer) and Flying Officer A H Boyd.

Invasion: Intelligence on German troop concentrations

Reports of invasion in the Spring—according to some sources in February—are being received in increasing numbers from various quarters. Many of them mention details of preparations, such as training of parachutists, manufacture of parachutes and of water and fire proof suits, the issue of British uniforms to German troops, and intensive manufacture of gas.

The invasion threat never went away completely despite the winter months – Polish troops guarding the coast in Scotland. There were so many Poles in Scotland it was known as the Polish invasion.

Germany: Reports of troop concentrations.

Norway.
The number of German troops in Northern Norway, viz., 3-4 divisions, is considered larger than is necessary for mere garrison purposes, but not excessive as a safeguard against a possible Russian move, or against a British landing which the Germans are said to expect. There is no definite indication of any change in the number of German divisions in this area or of any excessive amount of shipping in North Norwegian ports, such as might point to an expedition to Iceland, Ireland, or the North of Scotland.

Invasion.
Reports of invasion in the Spring – according to some sources in February – are being received in increasing numbers from various quarters. Many of them mention details of preparations, such as training of parachutists, manufacture of parachutes and of water and fire proof suits, the issue of British uniforms to German troops, and intensive manufacture of gas.

Two reports suggest that the main attack will come across the Channel, which will be closed at its narrowest point to form a lane of approach.

Belgium.
Reports of German troop concentrations in Belgium have also been received recently, but these are not confirmed.

Italy.
Reports of tJhe presence of German troops are still conflicting, but it now seems probable that there are possibly 2 or 3 divisions, including armoured and motorised units, in Southern Italy and Sicily. Recent unconfirmed reports state that the Germans have taken over control of the port of Genoa and possibly of certain other Italian ports. German control of ports would doubtless be one of the conditions required if Germany intended to attack Malta or if an expedition to Tunisia or Libya were contemplated.

From the weekly Military Situation report, see TNA CAB/66/14/48

London Is Still London: Everyday Life in Wartime London, England, February 1941. Buses, taxis and motorcycles drive past the National Gallery at the top end of Trafalgar Square, whilst pedestrians also go about their daily business.

Goebbels on Churchill

England will one day pay a heavy price for this man. When the great catastrophe breaks over the island kingdom, the British people will have him to thank. He has long been the spokesman for the plutocratic caste that wanted war to destroy Germany. He distinguishes himself from the men behind the scenes only through his obvious cynicism and his unscrupulous contempt for humankind.

German Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels in late January 1941, during a course on propaganda for military leaders.

Josef Goebbels the Nazi Propaganda Minister continued to portray Britain as the main enemy, partly as a smokescreen for the build up of arms for the invasion of Russia. In early February 1941 he published an article about Winston Churchill himself:

England will one day pay a heavy price for this man. When the great catastrophe breaks over the island kingdom, the British people will have him to thank. He has long been the spokesman for the plutocratic caste that wanted war to destroy Germany. He distinguishes himself from the men behind the scenes only through his obvious cynicism and his unscrupulous contempt for humankind.

He wants war for war’s sake. War is an end in itself to him. He wished it, pushed for it, and prepared for it out of a stupid, destructive drive. He is one of those characters of the political underworld who rise through chaos, who announce chaos, who cause chaos. For countless people the war brings vast suffering, for countless children hunger and disease, for countless mothers and women streams of tears. For him, it is no more than a big horse race that he wants to take part in.

He now has what he wanted. England is in the middle of the gravest struggle in its history, from which it will be lucky to emerge with its mere existence.

Read the whole article from Die Zeit ohne Beispiel at the German Propaganda Archive.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, seated on the open bridge of HMS NAPIER, a destroyer. A senior Royal Navy officer, possibly the commander Captain Stephen H T Arliss, stands beside him. January 1941.

The cold wet misery of the Greek front line

I was never trained to do trauma surgery under such great pressure and in such primitive conditions. I have no time to think of alternatives; sometimes I barely have time to disinfect one trauma before I must deal with another more severe one. In the background as I hear the explosions of the guns and the mines, I think of the parents, wives and children of our men, who are agonizing about them without really knowing how great the dangers are — even the natural dangers of this wild and rugged terrain — and tears come to my eyes.

Dr Electris, centre, with his Greek Army nurses and his Albanian hosts in January 1941. At the end of January they moved into a tented camp high in the mountains.
Dr Electris, centre, with his Greek Army nurses and his Albanian hosts in January 1941. At the end of January they moved into a tented camp high in the mountains.

The war was turning into a disaster for Mussolini. His attempted invasion of Egypt had never got very far and the British were now reversing the offensive and pushing his forces back into Italian Libya, capturing huge numbers of prisoners as they did so.

His other major adventure, the invasion of Greece had seen a similar reverse. The Greek Army had proved to be far tougher than he had anticipated. The front line now lay in Italian occupied Albania. High in the mountains the Greeks were still on the offensive despite the difficult terrain.

Dr Theodore Electris, a Greek military reservist, had suddenly found himself mobilised into the Army. He had had to adjust very rapidly to the rigours of the campaign – and then rise to the challenge of dealing with many wounded that were brought to him just behind the front line:

February 4, 1941

It’s been four days since I’ve come to this camp and it has not stopped raining. The rain, especially today, is something I’ve never experienced before. It feels like buckets of water have been falling non-stop for hours on top of my tent.

As far as the mud is concerned, I can find no words to describe it: mud, mire, mortar-hell. The ground has been churned into a doughy muck by the soldiers’ boots and the horses’ hoofs and the machinery and artillery wheels; there isn’t a single untracked spot in sight. At some places you could sink in mud up to your knees.

On this dramatically miserable muddy stage the work and struggle of our poor soldiers is taking place. What effort, what agony and pathos — and how many victims! It will be such a pity if all is wasted.

I have to describe a couple of incidents that took place an hour ago.

Our 13th Infantry Regiment, with the support of our battery unit, had attacked and seized a hill near Bosketto (height near the village of Dodovece). There were many wounded who were being brought to us through the field just across from my tent, where the ground was as I’ve described it.

The stretchers with the wounded were carried by three, and sometimes by two, soldiers instead of the proper four — one for each corner of the stretcher. They struggled to walk through the mud in the pouring rain—slipping, sliding and falling and pushing, with their heads drooping like those in the pictures I have seen of the workers on the Volga River.

Sometimes as they walked they would slip and fall and would try to get up. The wounded would be screaming and grabbing onto the stretcher, if they could, with those parts of their body that were not wounded, so they would not fall into the mud. Sometimes all would fall and try to rise again, lifting the stretcher that was stuck and sucked by the mud.

At one point, I saw two guys trying to carry a stretcher with a wounded man who was screaming loudly. The carrier in the back of the stretcher was crying and his face was sheet white. He could not carry the stretcher because his hands were slipping; he would set the stretcher down and try to pick it up again. The carrier in the front would scream and swear at him and the wounded man would cry, beg and try to hold onto the stretcher to keep from sliding backwards into the muddy hell below.

Suddenly the carrier in the front dropped the stretcher, and both the wounded man and the stretcher splashed into the mud. This particular carrier then staggered towards the carrier in the back, who was crying as he was trying to get up. With his fist, he hit him very hard in the face. In fact he hit him so hard that the poor guy fell backwards in the mud, was knocked out and was not moving.

For a second the guy that did the hitting was scared, thinking that he had killed the other carrier; he bent over and grabbed him by the neck and started shaking him. When he saw that he was moving, he started swearing and cursing him again. The fallen carrier crept up out of the mud, continuously crying and ignoring the other one who was screaming. He started walking away from the whole scene as if in a daze.

Meanwhile the wounded man was lying in the mud and rain, crying. What could the poor carrier have done under all these conditions? It was hard for the horses to walk through the field; how could an overloaded man, with wet slippery hands, be expected to walk through it? These conditions are so undignified, humiliating, inhumane! Perhaps he was the one who sent six other carriers, who soon arrived and lifted the wounded man out of the mud.

Meanwhile, under these wretched conditions of mud and rain, the battle is raging. We are very busy taking care of the wounded, who are arriving nonstop with every imaginable trauma caused by artillery shell fragments, machine gun fire, but mostly mortars. Our poor soldiers patiently take their turns, silently, not protesting the fact that we cannot work any faster; some of them are even trying to help others and we, we the medics, try to do the best we can in primitive conditions, lacking both tools and, I dare to admit, expertise in trauma surgery.

I was never trained to do trauma surgery under such great pressure and in such primitive conditions. I have no time to think of alternatives; sometimes I barely have time to disinfect one trauma before I must deal with another more severe one. In the background as I hear the explosions of the guns and the mines, I think of the parents, wives and children of our men, who are agonizing about them without really knowing how great the dangers are — even the natural dangers of this wild and rugged terrain — and tears come to my eyes.

I feel for every soldier whose family is waiting at home for him, like my family, my sweet wife, my beloved relatives and friends, and I wish with all my body and soul for this war to end. It is an unfair, unjust war that we were dragged into, and it is going to fill the whole world with bitterness and pain. Will our poor nation be a nation of widows, orphans and lame men?

I send money and cards to Chrysoula, Mother and Sofia. Be- cause we have been moving we haven’t received mail yet. Oh, how I need the morale boost and the psychological high that a note from a loved one brings!

See Written on the Knee: A Diary from the Greek-Italian Front of WWII

"The proper way to carry a stretcher"
“The proper way to carry a stretcher”

‘Q-ship’ torpedoed in the Atlantic

It was 2200 hours. We had been hit by a torpedo which had struck the bulkhead separating the engine room and the for’ard hold beneath the bridge. One “greaser” (stoker) was killed by the explosion and the NAAFI canteen manager had a lucky escape. He was blown out of his bunk and his cabin was wrecked. His young assistant was not so lucky and died as a result of his wounds.

HMS Crispin, seen before she was converted into a British Ocean Boarding vessel and later equipped with Anti-Aircraft guns to protect convoys. Image courtesy U Boat Net.

H.M.Armed Boarding Vessel Crispin, a special anti-aircraft ship, was torpedoed and sunk by a U-boat 400 miles to the westward of the Bloody Foreland on the 4th February. H.M. Ships in the vicinity took off the crew and casualties are unlikely to be heavy.

From the Naval Situation report for the week, TNA CAB 66/14/48. Almost every entry in these reports represents an extraordinary experience for the individuals involved, yet in only a minority of cases do we have the full story.

In this case George Woodley, one of the ship’s Royal Navy gun crew, has left a very full account. He describes the life on board HMS Crispin, which was a ‘special anti aircraft ship’, disguised to look like an ordinary merchantman with concealed Oerlikon guns that would be brought into action if the ship came under attack from aircraft. Unofficially such vessels were known a ‘Q-ships’ or ‘Q-boats’. During this early phase of the Battle of the Atlantic the long-range German Condor aircraft were having particular success in bombing ships, such as the Empress of Britain, as well as spotting convoys for U-boat wolf packs.

On the fifth day we left the convoy to rendezvous with another coming from Halifax to the UK. We were then at our most vulnerable, without escort. We were out of range of the Focke-Wulfs and we were making a steady 10 knots in rough seas with gale force winds imminent. I was watch on the first deck for the first watch (8p.m.-midnight), and sheltering from the storm in the passageway by the steering motor room, when suddenly there was a terrific explosion which lifted me off my feet, followed by the smell of burning explosive.

George Woodley, a RN gunner who survived the sinking of HMS Crispin.

It was 2200 hours. We had been hit by a torpedo which had struck the bulkhead separating the engine room and the for’ard hold beneath the bridge. One “greaser” (stoker) was killed by the explosion and the NAAFI canteen manager had a lucky escape. He was blown out of his bunk and his cabin was wrecked. His young assistant was not so lucky and died as a result of his wounds.

The ship stopped and wallowed helplessly, the light went out, and all was silent except for the wind. The water rushed into the engine room and the hold. The ship took on a list to port, and as she rolled, the empty barrels in the hold sounded like thunder in the distance as they moved around. Instead of keeping the ship afloat, the barrels floated out into the Atlantic, so much for the theory of buoyancy! We mustered in the Wardroom, below the bridge, for roll-call. We then prepared to abandon ship. My station was the starboard lifeboat, a sturdy Royal Navy cutter.

This was a 32’ boat with twelve oars which had been disguised with a false stern to look like a Merchant Navy boat. The order to “Abandon Ship” was given. My Divisional Officer came along to say “Goodbye and good luck.” I was told later that the raft was launched, the Divisional Officer jumped into the sea to get to the raft, but he disappeared and was never seen again.

Able Seaman “Jumper” Cross and myself were experienced with cutters and we lowered the boat, which was overloaded with about 50 men, to just above the crest of the swell, which was not easy in the darkness. We then went down the lifelines and met the boat as it rose. The pins holding the safety catches were removed and the boat launched on a wave with a big splash.

We pushed and struggled to get the boat clear of the ship, and when clear we manned the oars, three men to each oar, and pulled for dear life to keep the boat bows to the wind. The waves were breaking and flooding the boat and there was a grave danger of overturning. We had to pull hard on the oars with the Officer Coxswain calling the stroke, and the crew calling out in unison — but they were the cries of desperate men. I was wet, cold, and very frightened. The Officer-in-Charge gave us encouragement when he said, “Every ship in the Atlantic knows that the Crispin is in distress and help is imminent”, but it was a dark moonless night as the gale continued. One moment we would be on the crest of a wave and the next moment 30’ to 50’ down in the trough. We were tired, but continued to row, it kept us warm.

We were 700 mile north-west of Ireland. Just before 0600 hours a destroyer appeared and circled to give us a “lee” and we came alongside. There were many willing hands to help us on board. Our saviour was HMS Harvester, a fairly new destroyer that had been built for the Brazilian Navy and commandeered by the Royal Navy. I well remember the relief I felt as I stepped on board. We were welcome to share their crowded mess deck which was to be our home for the next four days. Regrettably, HMS Harvester was sunk, with a great loss of life, four months later.

They had been sunk by U-107.

George Woodley believed that they were torpedoed on the 2nd, although official records show it as happening on the 3rd with the Crispin finally sinking on the 4th. Read his full account on BBC People’s War. HMS Crispin does not appear on every list of World War II ‘Q-Boats’, even though the Cabinet Naval Situation Report records her as being a ‘special anti-aircraft ship’, and George Woodley’s account makes clear that her armament was concealed. He was apparently mistaken about the loss of HMS Harvester “four months later” – see comments below.

U-boat U-107 returns to the U boat base at Lorient, France later during 1941.

U-Boat Net has details of this patrol by U 107 during which she sank four ships.

Swordfish from Ark Royal attack Sardinia

H.M. Ships Renown, Malaya, Ark Royal and light forces operated off Sardinia on the 2nd February. Owing to unfavourable weather the original plans had to be modified, but at dawn 8 Swordfish made an attack on the Tirso Dam which holds the water for the hydro-electric station. Observation of results was impossible; but it is thought that 3 torpedoes hit the dam.

HMS Ark Royal and one of her Swordfish aircraft, operating in the Mediterranean during 1941.

H.M. Ships Renown, Malaya, Ark Royal and light forces operated off Sardinia on the 2nd February. Owing to unfavourable weather the original plans had to be modified, but at dawn 8 Swordfish made an attack on the Tirso Dam which holds the water for the hydro-electric station. Observation of results was impossible; but it is thought that 3 torpedoes hit the dam. Heavy A.A. fire was experienced and one aircraft failed to return. During this operation the Mediterranean Fleet demonstrated in the Eastern Mediterranean, but no enemy ships were encountered.

From the Naval Situation report for the week.

Harassing the Italians with gunfire

The squadron leader took off his headphones and crawled out on to the back of his turret. Bright blue eyes and white teeth showed through the mask of dust and dusty stubble, topped by a very aged beret, sometime black; equally aged corduroys and jersey; pair of binoculars and a sweat rag round his neck; hands covered in dusty bandages concealing the inevitable desert sores; the complete Seventh Armoured commander.

A 40mm Bofors Gun being used against the defences of Derna, 1 February 1941.
A 40mm Bofors Gun being used against the defences of Derna, 1 February 1941.
Infantry advancing outside the fort at Derna, Libya, 1 February 1941.
Infantry advancing outside the fort at Derna, Libya, 1 February 1941.

The pursuit of the Italians westwards into Libya continued. The main Italian force was falling back along the coast road and had just passed through the port of Derna.

George Clifton was a New Zealand officer out looking for water supplies in the desert. He describes catching up with the leading elements of the 7th Armoured Division who were pushing the Italian army along the coast road. Late in the day he came across a unit of tanks and 25 pounders guns that were just engaging the Italian rear guard:

The hunched-back “quads” trailing their twenty-fivers lurched off the road into a shallow wadi. As we passed, the four guns dropped easily into action, and – crash! An opening round went screaming overhead. Seconds later back came the muffled burst.

Leaving our cars under cover, I walked up to the squadron leader’s cruiser, hull-down on the crest. Behind him a command truck was parked – the gunner by its markings. Another shell screamed over.

Standing close alongside, I could hear a faint voice coming through on the blower, giving a priceless running commentary.

“That nearly rang the bell. Cock the old bitch up another two hundred. Over.”

“O.K. Red. Up two hundred. Over.” “Three M. Thirteens wandering round, not sure what the hell to do. There are blokes with motor-bikes and Emma Gees [machine-guns] farther along the wadi. Oh, good shot! Right in among ’em. Over.”

“O.K. Red. We’ll slam a few in. Watch ’em come. Over.” “The ruddy tanks are still milling round. There’s a Breda truck coming up now. Tell Bill to pull his finger out for the love of Mike.” Crash! Away went a troop salvo, which turned into dull detonations from off in the blue. “Boy, oh boy! That’s good. Up two hundred. Right two hundred. They’re bolting up the side wadi. Over.”

“O.K. Red. Up two. Right two. Bill is giving them five rounds gunfire. Try the motor-bikes next. Over.” Crash! Crash! Crash! Almost continuous shrieking overhead; they were pushing through their twenty rounds in real Horse-Gunner style.

Red came again. “Good stuff. That’s speeded the tanks. Oh, nice shooting. The Breda’s bitched and the crew’s bailing out. Their truck’s burning. Will try the speed-track merchants now. Right four hundred. Over.” And on it went.

The squadron leader took off his headphones and crawled out on to the back of his turret. Bright blue eyes and white teeth showed through the mask of dust and dusty stubble, topped by a very aged beret, sometime black; equally aged corduroys and jersey; pair of binoculars and a sweat rag round his neck; hands covered in dusty bandages concealing the inevitable desert sores; the complete Seventh Armoured commander.

See George Clifton: The Happy Hunted

A 25-pdr field gun and 'Quad' artillery tractor, 22 December 1941.
A 25-pdr field gun and ‘Quad’ artillery tractor, 22 December 1941.

Italian prisoners bombed by Germans

Relays of men spent hours in the bitterly cold surf dragging the Italians to safety; others assisted them into slings and those on the escarpment hauled them to the crest. The wounded had to be brought ashore on Carley floats, so the last stages of their journey were extremely hazardous, but groups of volunteers brought them through the breakers and had everyone ashore by first light.

A Heinkel III bomber in flight, they began operating over North Afrika in early 1941.

The Luftwaffe was now making its presence increasingly felt in the Mediterranean. The new threat to shipping had become readily apparent with the bombing of HMS Illustrious and the the increasing attacks on Malta but they rapidly started making an impact on operations off the coast of Libya and Egypt. These attacks were not always of benefit to the Italians:

On the 31st January two German aircraft bombed and damaged the S.S. Sollum in the neighbourhood of Sidi Barrani. The ship, which was carrying Italian prisoners, drifted ashore and casualties among the prisoners were heavy. H.M. Minesweeper Huntley was bombed and sunk near Marsa Matruh on the same day by two Heinkel 111; one officer and 12 men were killed. The hospital ship Dorsetshire was bombed and damaged on the 1st February off the coast of Egypt.

From the Naval Situation report for the week see TNA CAB 66/14/48.

The New Zealand Official History describes how many of the Italians were rescued by New Zealand troops on the shore:

There was a strong wind with high seas, but men from the ship swam ashore with lines to the foot of the coastal escarpment. They were assisted through the breakers by Sergeant Cookson, who organised the rescue work after hawsers had been attached to some heavy trucks. Relays of men spent hours in the bitterly cold surf dragging the Italians to safety; others assisted them into slings and those on the escarpment hauled them to the crest. The wounded had to be brought ashore on Carley floats, so the last stages of their journey were extremely hazardous, but groups of volunteers brought them through the breakers and had everyone ashore by first light.

Hitler’s ‘New World Order’

I do not want to miss pointing out what I pointed out on 3rd of September [1940] in the German Reichstag, that if Jewry were to plunge the world into war, the role of Jewry would be finished in Europe. They may laugh about it today, as they laughed before about my prophecies. The coming months and years will prove that I prophesied rightly in this case too.

Adolf Hitler making a speech later in 1941

Hitler’s annual speech at the Sports Palace in Berlin was the usual rambling affair. He continued to portray Britain as the principal enemy as he sought to disguise his intentions towards Russia. However the speech is particularly notable because he concluded with one of his most explicit references to the action he intended to take against the Jews. With the benefit of hindsight the threat to ‘finish’ ‘Jewry in Europe’ seems very clear. It was very clear to many in the Nazi Party who wanted to ratchet up the level of violence against the Jews. But for many people around the world what he was really proposing was just too appalling to be credible:

We go into the new year with a fighting force armed as never before in our German history. The number of our divisions on land has been enormously increased. Pay has been increased, the gigantic unique experience of war among the leaders and the file has been put to use. The equipment has been improved-our enemies will see how it has been improved (applause and commotion). In the spring our U-boat war will begin at sea, and they will notice that we have not been sleeping (shouts and cheers). And the Air Force will play its part and the entire armed forces will force the decision by hook or by crook. Our production has increased enormously in all spheres. What others are planning we have achieved.

The German people follows its leadership with determination, confident in its armed forces and ready to bear what fate demands. The year 1941 will be, I am convinced, the historical year of a great European New Order. The program could not be anything else than the opening up of the world for all, the breaking down of individual privileges, the breaking of the tyranny of certain peoples, and better still, of their financial autocrats.

Finally this year will help to assure the basis for understanding between the peoples, and thereby, for their reconciliation. I do not want to miss pointing out what I pointed out on 3rd of September [1940] in the German Reichstag, that if Jewry were to plunge the world into war, the role of Jewry would be finished in Europe. They may laugh about it today, as they laughed before about my prophecies. The coming months and years will prove that I prophesied rightly in this case too. But we can see already how our racial peoples which are today still hostile to us will one day recognize the greater inner enemy, and that they too will then enter with us into a great common front. The front of Aryan mankind against Jewish-International exploitation and destruction of nations.

Read the whole speech at the Jewish Virtual Library.