Anzio Beach-head (23 January-2 February) I

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Smoke rises from the German lines during the fight for Anzio, 1944.

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Mark Clark with reporters and troops at Borgo Grappa, May 25, 1944, during the [eventual] linkup of the Cassino and Anzio fronts.

Rome was throbbing with activity on the morning of Sunday 23 January. The peal of bells calling parishioners to mass was lost in the din of shouting German voices and hundreds of vehicle engines. Staff cars, armoured cars, half-tracks, tanks, and trucks all vied for space on the Corso D’Italia heading east, and there was a heady atmosphere in the capital as the Italians witnessed the Germans gripped by surprise. One witness spoke of German-occupied hotel foyers looking like ‘poorly directed mob scenes in provincial operas.’ The news of the landings at Anzio-Nettuno swiftly passed on from various German headquarters to their subordinate commands had also spread quickly amongst Romans after anti-fascist groups had been sent a message by the Allies: ‘Your aunt is ill and about to die.’ It was the code for the Allies having landed close to the capital. Kesselring was so worried that the attack might precipitate a popular uprising that Waffen SS Colonel Eugen Dollmann had been summoned from his boarding house by the Spanish Steps to an emergency meeting at Monte Soratte. Within the hour Dollmann (a liaison officer for General Karl Wolff, the head of the SS in Italy) was standing at Kesselring’s side. Did the Colonel think that the attack would lead to an uprising in the capital? ‘No,’ replied the astute officer, ‘the Romans are not brave enough and will not fight until Alexander’s army is on the city boundary.’ During the day there had been rumours that the Germans were preparing to withdraw from Rome; that the Allies were just a couple of miles away; that the Communists were about to seize power. But there had been no uprising. By the end of the day it was clear that the Allied arrival was not imminent and that the Germans were not leaving. Indeed, a spate of summary roadside executions, and an increase of heavily armed patrols was an obvious challenge to any dissension. The night passed without even the hint of an insurrection, and the following morning Dollmann drove down quiet secondary roads towards Anzio with his dog to see how the battle was progressing. Just outside Campoleone he pulled over by a bedraggled-looking collection of soldiers and spoke to their officer. The Major told him that yesterday morning he had been on convalescent leave in Rome enjoying the sights, and by the evening had been placed in command of 150 soldiers from a VD hospital. Only half possessed rifles, he complained, and several looked like dead men walking. Wherever this unhealthy horde was deployed would be an extremely lean part of the thin field-grey line that was building up around the Allied beachhead. Even so, the Germans used whatever was on offer to create a defensive line for they expected an imminent Allied breakout. As Siegfried Westphal later wrote: ‘an audacious and enterprising formation of enemy troops . . . could have penetrated into the city of Rome itself without having to overcome any serious opposition.’

Far too concerned with defence, neither Rome nor the Alban Hills were troubling Lucas during the first two days of the operation. In some places the Germans had already launched local counter-attacks. The Hermann Goring Panzer Division, for example, lashed out violently against 3rd Division’s 30th Infantry Regiment necessitating the rapid development of defensive positions. The inexperienced replacement Private Norman Mohar was the member of an Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon and had soon found himself in the thick of the action:

The first night I was sent out with booby-traps and mines to lay in ‘No Man’s Land’. ‘NO MAN’S LAND’!! I couldn’t believe that I was only a few hundred feet away from German machine guns. Now and then the Germans would fire flares, which hung for what seemed like hours floating down on a small parachute . . . Sometimes the Jerries would open up with their machine guns at the same time as launching the flares. The German machine gun tracers were only a few feet above the ground.

In well co-ordinated attacks combining German tanks and infantry, General Paul Conrath’s division successfully pushed south of the Mussolini Canal in the darkness, taking most of its bridges. Conrath continued to apply pressure on Truscott’s men throughout 23 January with strong patrols, but the Americans hit back sharply that evening, recovering most of the lost ground. These were tit for tat actions that successfully managed to reacquaint the two formations after their previous encounters in Sicily and at Salerno and were ‘an ominous harbinger of the trial of strength that was shortly to take place.’ On that day there was only a small increase in the size of the beachhead as units consolidated the ground won the previous day. When patrols were pushed out to reconnoitre the ground ahead, however, they invariably reported increased enemy activity. Patrolling was one of the many aspects of soldiering that the 504th US Parachute Infantry Regiment excelled at. Commanded by the blond haired, barrel-chested Colonel Reuben H. Tucker, the 504th were hard men and good soldiers, as Ross Carter declared:

The thing that distinguished us from most other soldiers was our willingness to take chances and risks . . . Each man had supreme faith in his ability to take care of himself whatever the odds. For this reason paratroopers were at times quarrelsome because they could never believe that anybody could beat the hell out of them.

Lieutenant Toland of 2nd Battalion carried out a seven-man patrol on the night of 23 January ‘to look for trouble’. At 2000 hours, dressed in dark clothes with their faces blackened, the men crossed the Mussolini Canal and slipped into No Man’s Land. Deep inside enemy-held territory, a place that they called ‘Jerryland’, they dropped down into a ditch to check a map just as a tank across the road opened fire on the beachhead. Carter wrote of the incident:

The powerful whoosh of the projectile passing overhead set our heads ringing. A hundred yards to the left a truck drove up and unloaded a lot of men who went into the field and began to dig holes about fifty yards from us … a digging German left his group and had the bad luck to pass near the end of our patrol. Casey, tensely coiled like a giant snake, enveloped him, slit his throat with his eleven-inch dagger and silently crouched on the ground.

The patrol made their way back to friendly lines, passing German machine gun teams as they went, their ‘breasts bursting with excitement and thrilling with exultation.’ The experience had left their ‘nerves limp’ and they were so tired that they could ‘do no better than splutter in aimless conversation’, but their information was gratefully received and fitted cleanly into an intelligence picture that spoke of a rapid German response to the landings.

There was no attempt to take Aprilia, Campoleone Station and Cisterna on the second or even the third day despite the evidence that resistance was building. Kesselring later wrote that during this period the defence had been a ‘higgledy-piggledy jumble – units of numerous divisions fighting confusedly side by side’, and so this was the time to seize vital ground. Just a few thousand German troops had arrived on the 23rd, but their number had swollen on 24 January to 40,400. The incoherent force was developing into something capable of giving Lucas a bloody nose. Schlemm had managed to fashion a continuous, though slim, defensive line around the sixteen-mile long, seven-mile deep beachhead. His main line of resistance was centred on Campoleone and Cisterna, but outposts had been pushed five miles further forward for protection. Schlemm’s commanders had developed strong defensive positions utilising all of the advantages that the ground had to offer for tactical advantage. Barns, outbuildings and farmhouses had been fortified and connected by trenches. The armour had been camouflaged and everything was covered by carefully sited artillery. Denis Healey on his third and last day, out of curiosity, decided to drive to the front in his amphibious jeep: ‘But when I got there’, he says, ‘I saw our soldiers in trenches being bombarded and so turned round sharpish and headed back to the beach.’ Healey was convinced by what he had seen that the best opportunity for exploitation had already passed, although back in England The Times headlines proclaimed: ‘LANDING SOUTH OF ROME ESTABLISHED. ALLIED TROOPS SEVERAL MILES INLAND. SERIOUS THREAT TO GERMAN LINES OF COMMUNICATION’. On the following day the newspaper’s claim that the beachhead was ‘being rapidly increased in depth’ was still untrue. The Times seems to have been producing copy based on what it thought should be happening rather than what was actually happening. In reality VI Corps had been caught in an unseemly limbo between attack and defence. Defending the Mussolini Canal on the right (twenty feet wide with thirty feet high banks), was 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, to its left was 3rd Division holding a nine mile front along the west branch of the Mussolini Canal, with Ranger Force taking the American sector along the Lateral Road up to the Via Anziate. 1st Division straddled this important highway and continued the line down the western section of the Lateral Road and then along the mouth of the Moletta River to the sea. In reserve Lucas held the 3rd Brigade of 1st Division, two battalions of 7th US Infantry Regiment and 509th Parachute Battalion. The corps was still awaiting the arrival of a regiment of 45th US Infantry Division and Combat Command A of 1st US Armored Division before the end of the month, and Lucas was not tempted to try anything aggressive until they arrived. Frustration was growing, a feeling that Vaughan-Thomas picked up on as he toured the British front: As D-Day turned into D plus 1, then into D plus 2, a slight unease began to possess the Allied rank and file. The exhilaration of the Great Surprise had worn off. The men could not share the thoughts of the Corps Commander and knew nothing of the factors which had influenced him to consolidate on the Beach-head. They only sensed that for the moment there seemed to be no strong enemy before them.’ Why give the enemy the initiative and waste the initial surprise? Lieutenant William Dugdale of the Grenadier Guards could not understand it:

The only excitement was Lieutenant Michael Hargreaves and his Carrier Platoon who, sent on a recce, drove completely unopposed up the local minor roads to the south west suburbs of Rome. He finally turned round as he thought he could be cut off at a street corner.

Yet Lucas, secreted in his Nettuno headquarters close to the seafront, thought that he was doing rather well bearing in mind Mark Clark’s orders. He noted in his diary on 25 January, the same day that von Mackensen’s Fourteenth Army took over command of the beachhead from Schlemm: ‘I am doing my best, but it seems terribly slow. I must keep my feet on the ground and do nothing foolish.’ Something ‘foolish’ might have been a major offensive thrust to the Alban Hills, but on the 25th the agitated VI Corps commander did allow himself an attempt by 1st British Division to take nearby Aprilia, and 3rd Division to advance several miles towards Cisterna.

Aprilia was desirable to Lucas both as a stepping-stone towards the Alban Hills and a defensive anchor. The evacuated town was a potential fortress that sat on a slight rise beside the Via Anziate, dominating the boggy ground surrounding it. The troops called it the ‘Factory’ for although it was a small model Fascist town of two and three storey buildings, the geometric design and tower that rose out of the Fascist headquarters made it look like an industrial site. The attack on the Factory was to be ‘the first warning to the front line soldier that the Anzio adventure had lost its early bloom’. At dawn British armour began moving up the Via Anziate flanked by a marching Guards Brigade, spearheaded by the Grenadiers, stretching back as far as the eye could see. A smattering of local farmers standing on the frosty verge clapped nervously as the troops passed them, whilst Penney and his brigade commanders watched the spectacle from the Flyover. It was to be the last time in the battle of Anzio that it would be a safe place to do such a thing. The Grenadiers continued up the road for a further two miles, then deployed on their start line—the Embankment of the ‘Disused Railway Bed.’ Here they came under increasingly heavy German fire and Lieutenant Michael Hargreaves, the hero of The Rome Patrol’, was killed by one of the first shots fired that day. Their first task was to take Carroceto and to use it as a base from which to assault the Factory. An attempt to enter the village, however, led to the officer of the lead platoon, Lieutenant The Honourable V.S. de R. Canning, being wounded in the head and all of his section commanders, bar one, becoming casualties. It was not until a couple of Shermans provided covering fire that a second platoon managed to infiltrate the village and clear the buildings in vicious hand-to-hand fighting. The preliminary action had already cost the battalion dearly. As the historian of the Grenadier Guards has written: ‘Carroceto was in our hands. With how much less cost could it have been captured two days before!’ The main attack on the Factory began at 1415 hours. Two companies advanced across the open ground assisted by a barrage of smoke, high explosives and a low sun that was glaring in the faces of the defenders. Nevertheless, one of the company commanders was killed leading his men forward, and the other wounded. Sapper Stanley Fennell watched the attack: ‘I cringed at the sight, because I was sitting in an enormous armoured car, and they were completely soft-skinned, as it were. The shells burst amongst them, and they marched steadily forward in the attack … to see them go forward was awe-inspiring.’ The Grenadiers reached the town and immediately began clearing the buildings. It was an unpleasant task, ‘a deadly game of hide-and-seek, of sudden encounters at close quarters and of unexpected stumblings upon well-armed enemies. Shutters and doors had to be smashed in and grenades flung quickly into rooms where the Germans might be hiding, the Guardsmen ducking hurriedly to avoid the flying fragments. In some houses terrified civilians crouched in shallow cellars praying that the fight would sweep past them.’ Slowly the Germans were overwhelmed and the battalion took 111 prisoners that day. One Nazi officer, whilst being led through Carroceto under armed guard, pointed to a Sherman and said in English ‘if I had that, I would be in Rome by now’.

It rained heavily that night, weather which was to undermine the ability of the Allied forces to support VI Corps during the last week of January, and under its cover the Germans prepared to retake the Factory. At dawn on 26 January the panzer grenadiers opened fire on the Grenadiers with machine guns and five self-propelled guns from some large huts a couple of hundred yards to the north-east of the town. There was no infantry attack and the armour was stopped by anti-tank guns and the supporting artillery, but the huts continued to provide cover for the enemy. A platoon from Captain T.S. Hohler’s company was sent to relieve the Germans of the huts, and it succeeded, but two German tanks almost immediately forced its eight survivors out. The battle continued, however, as the Grenadiers’ historian has written:

There was no choice but to attack again, and there were no other troops available than Holder’s company, who by this time were extremely weak, their headquarters having received a direct hit from a shell while the wounded from the first skirmish were being treated inside. Capt. Hohler returned with his new orders, to find that a Guardsman who had been blinded some time previously in the huts, had had his leg blown off while lying on a stretcher; another had lost both legs; and several others, including the Company Sergeant-Major, were also wounded.

Hohler led another attack across the bare, flat ground during which five of his men were killed. But he managed to occupy the huts. Whilst organising his defences a tank opened fire with its machine gun and a stream of bullets smashed through the wooden walls. There were several casualties, including Hohler whose forearm was shattered. Alone and feeling faint he scrambled over to another hut where he joined another wounded man and a Guardsman whose Bren gun had jammed. Through the fug he heard shouting which indicated that the tank was now moving forward and rising gingerly to his feet saw the beast descending through a hole in a wooden panel. By the time he turned round, the German infantry were rounding up his men. The Bren gunner had been caught with his weapon in pieces and was being led away with a Schmeisser jammed into his ribs. Hohler knew that he would be next unless he acted quickly. ‘Captain Hohler rather carefully laid down’, the Battalion War Diary explains, ‘put his steel helmet over his face, turned up his toes, and lay as one dead. The wounded Guardsman was led off as well, but the ruse worked, and Captain Hohler was not disturbed by any German.’ He eventually reached safety, but the enemy retook the huts. The casualties had been heavy, 130 rank and file alone, but the battalion’s determination to hang on to the Factory was undiminished. The Grenadiers’ attention to detail remained as acute as ever, for even as their Commanding Officer lay wounded barking orders, Lieutenant William Dugdale, the junior officer who had been lambasted for his appearance by Alexander on D-Day, received another ticking off: ‘I found Col. Gordon Lennox lying on a mattress in the Factory compound directing the repulse of the counter-attack’, he recalls. As “Left Out of Battle” I was not in battle order or wearing a steel helmet. Col. Gordon Lennox beckoned me over and enquired why I was not properly dressed.’ Within minutes Dugdale was properly dressed and found himself in the front line under a German bombardment. Throughout the remainder of the day the Germans put the Brigade under such heavy artillery fire that it was largely responsible for the 119 casualties Irish Guards lodged at Carroceto. There were some enemy infantry attacks that caused the Grenadiers difficulties on their open right flank, but an advance by Ranger Force and 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion clinically eliminated the problem. The battle had been bloody, but Penney had secured a valuable objective.

The first battles of Carroceto and the Factory became a benchmark for the grisly tussles that were to take place in the Anzio beachhead. Father Brookes, the Irish Guards’ padre, who had served on the Western Front during the First World War, said that 26 January compared unfavourably to any of his wartime experiences. Brookes spent the day at the British Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) that had been established at a Yellow Bungalow close to the Via Anziate between the Flyover and Anzio. It was overwhelmed with wounded and as shells were falling all around, some had to be administered in the relative safety of a drainage ditch. The author of the Irish Guards history, D.J.L. Fitzgerald, a captain at Anzio, later wrote:

The patience and gratitude shown by the wounded men is one of the few things which it is worth being in battle to see. Not only on this occasion, but at all times, the silent courage of maimed, battered, bleeding Irish Guardsmen lying in the open or, if they were lucky, in some muddy ditch, was a living monument to the strength of the human will in the depths of human misery. A man drained of blood gets very cold, there is not much a man with a shattered thigh can do for himself; a man whose chest has been torn to ribbons by shell splinters would like to be moved out of the barrage. But they did not say anything, they didn’t ask for anything; they smiled painfully when the orderlies put a blanket over them or gave them a drink of water and a cigarette, and just shut their eyes for a moment when a shell exploded particularly close.

It was on that day that the field adjacent to the Casualty Clearing Station began to spawn wooden crosses.

Just as the Guards Brigade was blooded at the Factory, 3rd Division was carrying out its attack towards Cisterna. Standing on Route 7 and boasting a road that led to Valmontone on Route 6, the town guarded the supply routes to Tenth Army and so had been incorporated into the German main defences. The battle to move 3rd Division to within striking distance of Cisterna lasted for nearly four days and advanced front line by up to three miles, but ultimately left Truscott’s division another three miles short of the town. During the fighting, one of the most remarkable feats of heroism to be witnessed in the beachhead occurred. The unlikely hero was T/5 Eric G. Gibson, a cook from the US 30th Regiment who often volunteered for combat duties. On 28 January Gibson was part of a squad attack in which he had asked to be lead scout. Leading the men through an irrigation ditch, he almost immediately contacted the enemy:

The squad had proceeded only a few steps when a blast of machinepistol fire opened up from a clump of brush along the ditch bank. Gibson did not even take cover, but ran twenty yards up the ditch, firing his tommy gun from the hip as he went. He poked the gun muzzle into the brush and finished the Germans hidden there. Under a heavy artillery concentration the squad again moved out. Knocked flat under the concussion of one close shell, Gibson had no sooner risen than he was fired upon by a machine pistol and rifle. Again he charged down the ditch, to fire his submachine gun into another pile of brush.

With that threat dealt with Gibson then tackled two machine guns that had opened fire on the squad. He crawled toward the strong point as shells exploded all around him and got to within thirty-five yards before hurling two grenades into the position. Before the second grenade had exploded Gibson leapt up and charged, killing two Germans and capturing another. Quite unperturbed he returned to the ditch and continued in the lead. Within moments he rounded a corner and squad following heard a machine pistol fire followed by Gibson’s tommy gun. Rushing to the scene they found Gibson’s dead body lying beside the two Germans that he had killed. Eric Gibson was awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor. The 3rd Division, meanwhile, would have to try again to seize Cisterna. Truscott, who on 24 January had himself been wounded by a shell splinter in his foot, recommended a more concentrated attack on the town as ‘more power was needed’.

Alexander and Clark were also keen to see a more concentrated effort. When they had visited the beachhead on 25 January, they had been satisfied that Lucas was at least beginning to move forward. Both men wanted to see the main German defences broken. Alexander had become increasingly uneasy at Lucas’s lack of movement, and even Mark Clark had been surprised that the VI Corps commander had not put together an early offensive to take Campoleone and Cisterna. Lucas had not stuck his head out too far. He had not stuck it out at all. To calm Lucas’s fears that a major offensive would leave him without a reserve, Clark informed him that the remainder of 45th Division and 1st Armored Division would be sent to the beachhead, along with 168th Brigade of 56th British Infantry Division and First Special Service Force. Lucas was confused and seemed either unwilling or unable to ask Clark the obvious question. Why was the Fifth Army commander pressurising VI Corps into a major offensive? The pressure was not appreciated and that night Lucas confided to his diary: ‘This is the most important thing I have ever tried to do and I will not be stampeded.’ He wanted to continue with his cautious, methodical advance just as originally instructed, rather than launch an impulsively premature strike before the German counter-attack. But if Lucas was under pressure from Alexander and Clark, it should be noted that Alexander was in turn under severe pressure from Churchill. On 26 January the Prime Minister cabled Fifteenth Army Headquarters: ‘I am thinking of your great battle night and day’, and so he was. He had already demanded to be informed why there had been no breakout at Anzio and was told that it was ‘not due to lack of urging from above’. As usual, Brooke was feeling the full force of the Prime Minister’s displeasure, noting in his diary on 28 January: ‘Churchill was full of doubts as to whether Lucas was handling this landing efficiently. I had some job quietening him down again.’ The Prime Minister’s mood was at least partly fuelled by a cable received that same day from Alexander saying that he was also unhappy at Lucas’s efforts. Clark, meanwhile, had been despatched to the beachhead in an attempt ‘to urge General Lucas to initiate aggressive action at once’.

Mark Clark was in a foul mood during the journey to Anzio, and was only to get worse. Initially he had been irritated by reports that the attacks by 1st and 3rd Divisions had proved so ‘challenging’, but by the time that he was nearly killed by an American minesweeper opening fire on his motor-launch, he was furious. One of the shells had hit Clark’s stool and although he was not wounded, there had been casualties amongst the crew. The subsequent meeting with Lucas was frosty, but he thawed a little when presented with the plan for a major attack that was to take place that night, 28-29 January. He was told that 1st Division were to take Campoleone Station, whilst 3rd Division was to seize Cisterna. The meeting broke up amicably, but Lucas still felt compelled to write that night:

Apparently some of the higher levels think I have not advanced with maximum speed. I think more has been accomplished than anyone had a right to expect. This venture was always a desperate one and I could never see much chance for it to succeed, if success means driving the Germans north of Rome. The one factor that has allowed us to get established ashore has been the port of Anzio. Without it our situation by this time would have been desperate with little chance of a build-up to adequate strength. As it is, we are doing well and, in addition to our troops, unloaded over 4,000 tons of supplies yesterday. Had I been able to rush to the high ground around Albano . . . immediately upon landing, nothing would have been accomplished except to weaken my force by that amount because the troops sent, being completely beyond supporting distance, would have been completely destroyed. The only thing to do was what I did. Get a proper beachhead and prepare to hold it. Keep the enemy off balance by a constant advance against him by small units, not committing anything as large as a division until the Corps was ashore and everything was set. Then make a co-ordinated attack to defeat the enemy and seize the objective. Follow this by exploitation. This is what I have been doing, but I had to have troops in to do it with.

Lucas’s preoccupation with resources can clearly be seen in this diary entry, and he certainly could not be criticised for lack of attention to the resupply of the beachhead. It was a sophisticated operation in which a convoy of six LSTs departed from Naples every day on the 100-mile trip to Anzio. Each vessel contained 50 trucks loaded to capacity usually with 60 per cent ammunition, 20 per cent fuel, and 20 per cent rations. These vessels were supplemented each week by 15 LCTs and every ten days by four Liberty ships, loaded with over 9,000 tons of cargo. There had been some poor weather in which ‘Liberty ships lay tossing and the LCTs rolled and pitched continuously’, but it was the Luftwaffe attacks that caused more concern. As the harbour was critical to the Allies, it was an obvious German target. Between 23 January and 3 February whilst Kesselring gathered his ground forces, he massed a substantial bomber force: 140 long range bombers had been moved to Italy from north-west Germany, France and Greece, and the anti-shipping force in the south of France was reinforced by an additional 60 aircraft. Torpedoes, bombs and radio-controlled glider bombs (a general purpose bomb which was rocket-powered and radio-controlled) were all dropped in and around the harbour. The first major raid came on 23 January when the medium bombers launched glider bombs against a Landing Ship Tank. On this occasion their weapons failed to respond to the radio controls, but the anti-aircraft guns, barrage balloons and smoke screens failed to deter future attempts. Allied fighter patrols ruled the skies during the day, and so most German bomber raids were launched after darkness. Lucas wrote on 26 January: ‘8.45 p.m. The biggest yet. The Hun’s determined to ruin me and knows that if I lose Anzio harbor I am in a hell of a fix. I went to look at the mess. Trucks are burning and the town is in a shambles, but ships are being unloaded. Casualties have been heavy I am afraid.’ Ross Carter watched the show with grim fascination from the Mussolini Canal: ‘All night the enemy dropped long-burning parachute flares over the harbour’, he wrote. ‘Night after night we watched the awesomely spectacular fireworks and shivered at the sight of burning planes falling to the earth or into the sea.’ The navies soon got the measure of the bombers, however. Commander Roger Hill on HMS Grenville recalls:

With the glider bombs I found that if I started to turn, the bomb would start to follow me, but the bomb had a bigger turning circle than I did and they all missed us. I could see them sort of turning somersaults and landing in the sea and I had people on the Bridge who were spotting the next one that was roaming and when that was finished they left a plane over the top who was obviously taking photographs, so we made a very rude signal to them.

Before long the Task Force 81 destroyers had the means to detect and jam the Luftwaffe’s radio beams. The German pilot prowled the harbour looking for a likely target and then, staying high and clear of the heavy flak that poured from the anti-aircraft guns, released his bomb. From that point on this was a battle of wits between the pilot with his joy-stick trying to guide the bomb onto its target, and the jamming team. Often the navy managed to bring the missiles down into the sea – but not always. Before the end of the month the Germans had sunk the cruiser Spartan – ‘Spartan lies on her side, the bilge just showing . . . For miles the sea is full of blackened, bloated corpses’, the destroyers Janus – sunk in 20 minutes with the loss of its commander and 150 men – Jervis and Plunkett, the minesweeper Prevail, the hospital ship St David, and the troop transporter Samuel Huntington containing 7,181 tons of equipment and materials. But although these losses were disquieting, VI Corps had successfully taken delivery of 68,886 men, 508 artillery pieces and 237 tanks by 29 January, and Lucas was justifiably pleased with this effort.

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