The general restoration of Europe’s monarchies that followed Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo was confirmed by the Congress of Vienna (1815), and the exiled king of Sardinia was not forgotten. He recovered his lost lands, returned to Turin, and promptly attempted the restoration of the status quo ante. Yet post-Napoleonic Europe was very different from pre-revolutionary Europe. Many of the ideas spawned and exported by the French Revolution continued to circulate, posing a near-ubiquitous challenge to the natural conservatism of the restored monarchs. The ideas of ‘the nation’, endowed with a life of its own, and of the inborn right of its inhabitants to liberty, equality and social fraternity, were particularly strong, beginning to undermine the post-Napoleonic order as soon as it was established. Three parts of Europe where ‘the nation’ felt most excluded from politics were specially susceptible; and popular demands grew for the creation of nation-states on the French model. Poland, which had been carved up by three neighbouring empires, was to strive in vain throughout the nineteenth century to win back its independence; but Germany and Italy were to succeed where Poland failed. Germany was divided by the intense rivalry of Protestant Prussia and Catholic Austria; advocates of the German national movement, the Vormärz (‘pre-March’), could at first see no easy way to do so. Italy’s divisions were still more marked. The north was dominated by the Austrian Empire, which held onto both Venice and Milan; the centre was run by a gaggle of reactionary monarchs, including the Roman pontiff in his Papal States; and the south remained in the grip of the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In face of the restored hereditary rulers, the advocates of the Italian national movement, the Risorgimento or ‘Resurgence’, did not possess a common strategy.

For Italian nationalism encompassed several competing interests. One wing placed the emphasis on cultural objectives, notably on education, the promotion of a single, standardized Italian language, and the promotion of national consciousness. The central figure in this was the Milanese writer, Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873), author of the first novel written in standard Italian, I promessi sposi (The Betrothed, 1827). Another wing was dedicated to political radicalism. Here the central role was played by the secret and revolutionary Society of the Coalburners, the Carbonari, whose activities were formally banned; one of its members, a Sicilian soldier called Guglielmo Pepe (1783– 1855), launched the first of many abortive risings in Calabria in 1820. There was even a tradition of support for the Risorgimento by ruling monarchs; Napoleon’s stepson and viceroy in Italy, Eugène de Beauharnais, had set the example, which was followed by the emperor’s brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, when King of Naples. It seemed to create the perceived need for a political patron of established authority, who could curb the hotheads while giving heart to the moderates and negotiating with the powers.


The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was widely regarded, in Italy as in the rest of Europe, as a place of sloth and squalor, of grandeur and poverty, a place where landless labourers kept themselves just alive by scratching the parched soil of distant noblemen, where street urchins in the city picked the pockets of wealthy tourists and bands of brigands roamed with impunity in the hills outside, a land exploited and oppressed by an indolent monarchy, a frivolous aristocracy and a swarm of grasping clergy.

This picture was inherited and preserved by generations of historians until recently the stereotype was re-examined. Then it transpired that the kingdom was not just a land of latifondi, of vast desiccated estates in the interior that contained little except scrub for goats and some thin soil for wheat. Naples may not have had the irrigation or the natural advantages of Lombardy, but it was not an entirely backward place; wheat yields there were higher than in the Papal States. As for the latifondisti, it emerged that they were not all absentee landlords frittering away the produce of their workers by living in luxury in the capital. The latifondo was part feudal and part capitalist, part social structure and part business enterprise. Owners used their lands to feed themselves and the people who lived there, but they often grew food for foreign markets as well. The exported produce of the Barracco family, latifondisti from Calabria, included liquorice, olive oil, fine wool and cacciacavallo cheese.

The state of industry in Naples has been similarly disparaged: travel accounts of the period leave the impression that the inhabitants had never heard of the spinning jenny or the steam engine. Yet a modernized textile industry, aided by a sensible tariff policy, existed in the Apennine foothills in the early nineteenth century; not much later, an engineering industry was established around the capital. Naples in fact enjoyed a number of industrial ‘firsts’. It possessed the largest shipyards in Italy, it launched the first peninsular steamboat (1818) and it enjoyed the largest merchant marine in the Mediterranean; it also built the first iron suspension bridge in Italy, constructed the first Italian railway and was among the first Italian cities to use gas for street lighting. Admittedly, not all these achievements were as impressive as they sound. Naples may have built the first railway, but it was a short one, and its construction did not lead to a rapid expansion of the network. Most of the other states soon caught up and overtook it: by 1860, when the whole of southern Italy had only 125 miles of track, Lombardy had 360 and Piedmont, after a slow start, possessed over 500.

A glance at its economic statistics reveals how separate Naples as a trading partner was from the rest of Italy. In 1855 85 per cent of its exports were sent to Britain, France and Austria, while only 3 per cent crossed the border into the Papal States; Neapolitan trade with Britain was three times greater than that with all the other Italian states added together. Feelings of separateness were not confined to commerce; Naples possessed its own remarkable legal system, widely regarded as superior to any other in the peninsula. Outsiders noticed that the place was different, a distinct, cosmopolitan entity, a kingdom (with or without Sicily) with an ancient history and borders which, almost uniquely in Italy, were not subjected to rearrangement after every war. Moreover, Naples itself was still by far the largest city in Italy – indeed the third-largest in Europe after London and Paris – and had been a capital since Charles of Anjou had established himself there 600 years earlier. It was the only Italian city, thought Stendhal, that had ‘the true makings of a capital’; the rest were ‘glorified provincial towns like Lyon’. Before 1860 hardly anyone contemplated the idea that the kingdom might be destroyed and its territory annexed by an all-Italian state; and little in the subsequent history of that state indicates that the Neapolitans would have been unhappier if they had been left to govern themselves.

In their propaganda Italian patriots of the nineteenth century identified the Neapolitan Bourbons as the chief home-grown tyrants and Austrian Habsburgs as their foreign equivalents. Yet even they were unable to convince themselves that the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was an oppressive state. It was governed by Ferdinand III, son of the great Peter Leopold and brother of the Austrian emperor whose armies had lost four wars against Napoleon and whose daughter had been sacrificed to the French emperor’s desire to beget an heir. Ferdinand’s return to Florence in 1814 did not lead to a persecution of bonapartists or to the abolition of reforms. As in the eighteenth century, Tuscany was a tolerant and civilized place that preferred Jews to Jesuits and welcomed exiles from Piedmont and from other states. Tariffs were low, censorship was feeble, and the armed forces were almost non-existent, though in an emergency the state could call for Austrian troops. Ferdinand was succeeded in 1824 by his son Leopold II, another benevolent ruler until the revolutions of 1848 converted him – along with Pope Pius IX and the King of Naples – to conservatism. In the early part of his reign he reduced taxes, carried out liberal reforms, encouraged science and returned to that perennially elusive project of Tuscan rulers, the draining of the Maremma marshlands on the Tyrrhenian coast.



The standoff at Checkpoint Charlie Soviet tanks facing American tanks, 1961 (1)

U.S. tanks facing Soviet Union tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, 1961.

As assessments of the balance of power were being traded at one level and private correspondence at a higher one, a minor crisis erupted in the middle of Berlin. On 19 September 1961 General Clay had reappeared in Berlin, now as a special adviser to Kennedy, but clearly expecting to call the shots. He was a tough hard-liner, popular with the Berliners as one committed to their cause. His relations with all the other American generals in Europe with responsibility for Berlin, from Norstad down, were poor, and those with the State Department were no better. Clay did admire Acheson, and Kennedy may have wanted to use him in the same way, to demonstrate the participation of all shades of opinion, but like all his personal appointments that cut across formal bureaucratic and military lines of command, it sowed confusion and complicated policy making.

Clay also had a different attitude to risk taking than Kennedy. He outlined his theory to Rusk:

Harassments not in direct conflict with our basic rights do not worry me although I think they should be checked as they occur to the extent possible without show of force. To show force when we do not intend to use it is one thing we must avoid. However, I cannot accept the escalation theory that any reaction on our part leads to further actions and possible war. The complete acceptance of this policy would lead to the continuing erosion of an already eroded position.

On his return to Berlin Clay decided to prepare for a big confrontation by ordering the U.S. military commandant, General Watson, to get his engineers to build a replica section of the wall in a secluded part of West Berlin in order to experiment on various ways to break it down. When the Commander in Chief (CINC) Europe, General Bruce Clarke, heard of this, he demanded that the experiment be stopped and the replica dismantled, but not before it had been photographed by Soviet intelligence. The news reached Moscow on 20 October. It was in this context that the communists viewed Clay’s moves. Washington was ignorant of this episode.

Clay wanted to probe the limits of communist tolerance, just as Ulbricht wanted to do with the West. Khrushchev was blustering to obscure what was in effect a retreat, but the East German leader was still bent on eroding the Western position in Berlin. This was a gradual campaign, independent of Soviet direction, and the target of its next stage was the rights of allied civilian personnel to move in and out of East Berlin.

On 22 October the State Department’s Allen Lightner was stopped going to the opera in East Berlin with his wife. He refused to show identification. To assert his rights, Lightner returned, this time accompanied by military police, and went into East Berlin. Ulbricht then issued a decree stating that allied civilians would have to identify themselves. Though the British and French had already allowed their officials to show passports to East German guards, the Americans continued as before, with an armed patrol. On 25 October, as the latest American probe was following its customary procedure, Clay asked General Watson to place U.S. tanks on alert near the sector boundary at Checkpoint Charlie. This appeared in Moscow as potential confirmation of Clay’s intentions to move against the wall. Coupled with Gilpatric’s speech, this all began to look sinister in Moscow. Had easing the deadline emboldened Kennedy?

Civilians showing identification was not an issue upon which many others than Clay wanted to make a stand, yet he was allowed to continue. On 27 October American tanks once again drew up to back a patrol, but this time Marshal Ivan Konev, like Clay taken out of retirement to add weight to the Soviet military command, decided to respond by pushing his own tanks up to face the Americans. The East Germans announced that the checkpoint would be closed until the American tanks were removed. Clay responded by moving some tanks directly onto the demarcation line, to be followed by Soviet tanks moving to a hundred yards from the Americans. So on 28 October at Checkpoint Charlie, the new flash point of the cold war, American and Russian tanks pointed their guns at each other.

Kennedy rang Clay to compliment him on his nerve. The general responded that he had not lost his but he was worried about those in Washington. “I don’t know about those of my associates,” replied the president, “but mine are all right.” This was highly unlikely. This was the sort of situation Kennedy dreaded: a contrived incident over a secondary issue that could lead to a tank battle in the middle of Berlin with who knew what consequences to follow. It is likely that Clay was told that an opportunity to withdraw would soon come. The previous day Robert had got in touch with Bolshakov to pass on the message to Khrushchev that American tanks would withdraw if Soviet tanks did so, and that it would be possible for the two leaders to have a productive exchange of opinions. Soon Russian tanks were pulled back a bit, and American tanks followed suit. The communists did not, however, back down on their demand for identification.

Clay’s view was that the Soviet Union was not going to let the East Germans lead them to war barely fifteen years after the last one, and so he was looking for ways to limit the ability of the East Germans to operate unilaterally. The issue of who was in charge in Berlin was a sensitive one for the Russians, and in this incident they attempted to hide their role by obscuring unit markings on tanks and dressing the crews in overalls rather than uniforms. Reporters still noted that officers directing the tanks were wearing Soviet uniforms. In this way the exercise proved a point and may have sown distrust between the East Germans and the Russians. For their part the Russians may have felt that they had thwarted an American escalation of the crisis. Both leaders had noted the utility of “back-door diplomacy.”

The episode was an “exercise in military theatricality.” Ausland reports that American officials in Berlin believed that the conflict would have been contained but notes that “Kennedy and Khrushchev proceeded thereafter with even more caution regarding Berlin.” A lasting legacy of the dramatic images of confrontation left over from this episode was that Checkpoint Charlie became the starting point for war-gamers, novelists, and documentary makers when they were trying to work out how to start a third world war.

Focke-Wulf 190 A-6/R11 – all weather and night fighter



Fw 190A-6/R11 – all weather and night fighter, with exhaust glare shields, landing light, autopilot device PKS 12 and heated windscreen windows.

Some planes mounted a FuG 217 Neptun J-2 radar. Generally, these planes used droppable fuel tanks mounted on the ETC 501 bomb rack.

The Fw190A-6 was essentially a Fw190A-5 airframe with greater strength added to the wing structure to accommodate the escalation in weight resulting from constant upgrading. Wing armament was improved by replacing the A-5’s drum fed 20mm outboard cannons with heavier belt fed 20 mm cannons with longer barrels. The wing root cannons and fuselage mounted machine guns remained unchanged.

The majority of A-6s were deployed in the West in Defence of the Reich missions against Allied bomber formations, with some finding their way to Nachtjäger (night fighter) units defending against nocturnal RAF bomber attacks. Some A-6 nachtjägers were equipped with FuG 217 Neptun radar (the R11 Rüstsätze, or field conversion) to help pilots locate bombers in the dark. During 1944 the single-engined night fighters were gradually replaced by twin-engine radar equipped aircraft like the Ju.88G and Bf110G.


Dirty Weather Fighter

FW 190 A-8/R2    Bomber-destroyer with two outboard MK 108 30 mm cannon

FW 190 A-8/R11  Dirty weather fighter with BMW 801 TU/TS ‘Dirty weather’ fighter with special radio and automatic pilot.

FW 190 A-8/R12  Combination of R2 and R11 with BMW 801 D-2

FW 190 A-9/R2    Bomber-destroyer with two outboard MK 108 30 mm cannon

FW 190 A-9/R11  Dirty weather fighter & BMW 801 TS ‘Dirty weather’ fighter with special radio and automatic pilot.

FW 190 A-9/R12  Combination of R2 and R11

FW 190 D-9/R11  Dirty weather fighter with FuG 125 VHF radio beacon receiver

FW 190 D-12/R11  Dirty weather fighter

FW 190 D-13/R11  Dirty weather fighter

R2: Addition of an MK 108 cannon pod mount under each wing (as fitted to the FW 190A-6 and A-8)

R2: Outboard wing mounted MK 108 cannon (as fitted to the FW 190A-7, A-8 and A-9)

R2: Addition of wing mounted MK 108 cannons and a fuselage center line mounted WGr (Werfer-Granate) 21 rocket (as fitted to the FW 190A-8)

R11: Addition of FuG 125 VHF radio beacon receiver, PKS 12 autopilot, and window heaters (as fitted to the FW 190A-8 and A-9) and D-series airframes (also used for the Ta 152).

R12: Addition of FuG 125 VHF radio beacon receiver, PKS 12 autopilot, window heaters and wing mounted MK 108 cannons (as fitted to the FW 190A-8)

FuG 125 – which is known as “Hermione” device was a VHF radio beacon receiver, the frequency range from 30 to 33.3 MHz was, the device weighed about 10 kg and had a range of 200 km

The PKS 12 was probably the world’s first operational autopilot for single-seater fighter aircraft and was envisaged to be used in all-weather interceptors. It was used operationally in versions of the Bf 109, Fw 190 and Ta 152 fighters (and probably tested on some other types as well).

Burma Air War 1943 Part I




With the withdrawal of many JAAF units in 1943 to bases beyond the reach of the medium bombers available, in May AOC-in-C Sir Richard Peirse switched attention to ‘Lines of Communication’ targets such as roads, railways, the military transit camps at Prome and Taungup, and Rangoon. For these targets the twin-engine Beaufighter and the single engine two-seat Vengeance dive-bomber proved highly successful. Like so many aircraft the Vultee Vengeance did not initially take to the dank humidity of Burma/India and hard work was needed by maintenance units and ground crew to sort out the problems. In time, however, fitted with British 0.303 (7.7mm) machine guns in the rear cockpit to replace the original unreliable American weapons, the Vengeance proved itself an extremely effective aircraft in the hands of RAF and IAF squadrons. In fact so successful was the Vengeance and so urgent the requirement for dive-bombers and ground-attack aircraft that a number of pilots were put straight onto operations without the formality of undergoing a conversion course. They trained themselves in action. Beaufighters also excelled in the ground-attack role, strafing roads and railways, and setting fire to the oil installations at Yenangyaung. During the Allied exodus from Burma five sizeable river steamers, each able to transport large bodies of troops or tow hundreds of tons of supplies in barges, were left along the Irrawaddy. Beaufighters now accounted for four of these boats, leaving their hulks burning on river sandbars. After two or three months of monsoon storms roads became flooded and impassable and large tracts of the country reduced to waterlogged swamp. At this time the Japanese were obliged to switch to water transport, providing tempting targets for Beaufighters and Hurricanes, which duly took the opportunity to destroy 182 motorized river craft and sampans, and around 2,000 smaller craft in the Arakan and on the Irrawaddy. To put this loss into perspective a sampan carried three days’ supplies for seventy soldiers, and the building of just one such craft took twenty men a month.

Despite being pretty well obsolete and marked down for early replacement the Blenheims continued in operation for the time being, and far from cursing their temperamental charges the ground and air crew redoubled their efforts to keep their aircraft in the air. The squadrons themselves became famous for their good-humoured camaraderie and were sought after as postings regardless of the venerable age of their aircraft.

Night bombing raids by Wellingtons and Liberators were made more hazardous as a result of the navigational aids fitted to the aircraft being far below European standards, navigators often having to calculate their course by the stars, which were not always visible. The Allied commanders’ decision, in contrast to their opponents, to continue air operations where possible during the monsoon imposed yet more difficulties. Aircraft crashed in the mountains or were lost in the jungle, and of the 111 crewmen from the twenty-seven aircraft that came down in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, only sixty-nine were rescued. Burma propped up the bottom of the list of priorities for Air-Sea Rescue crews and equipment as for everything else. The effort had its beneficial effects, however, for Japanese aircraft were kept back in Siam and Allied army bases and airfields were free from attack as a result. USAAF Liberator attacks on shipping and attacks by both the RAF and USAAF on Rangoon made use of the port a very hazardous undertaking.

In June 1943 General Sir Claude Auchinleck, an old hand in the subcontinent having had a successful army career there pre-war, replaced Wavell as C-in-C India. The post was by this time mostly administrative but Auchinleck showed considerable energy in ensuring the adequate training of troops, and mobilizing India’s resources.

Signals and communications proved to be almost as much of a problem for the Allied air forces during the 1943 monsoon as hitherto. The exceptionally long distances involved, the wide dispersal of squadrons and the usual shortages of suitable equipment meant that landlines were largely impractical. One squadron kept in contact with its Wing HQ entirely by W/T, with all the disadvantages and time delays that system’s dependency on Morse code inevitably brought with it. Typex machines were one method of speeding up the W/T process but between June and November 1943 only seventy-eight units were received for the entire command, consequently the tried and tested – and painfully slow – method of referral to book cipher was the order of the day.

Landlines and communications were the responsibility of four Indian Air Formation signals units and all were heavily committed, one in Ceylon, two in the Bengal area, with the final unit left to cover the whole of the remainder of India. By November two additional units were raised and trained, one more for Bengal and one for southern India, but a shortage of trained Indian operators prevented their full implementation.

Coordination of the signals effort along the crucial Bengal front was an imperative and to achieve this plus bring closer and more effective supervision of maintenance and administration of the system, three Signals Wings, Nos 180, 181 and 182 were formed to operate from Calcutta, Imphal and Chittagong respectively, their principal duties being the administrative and technical control of all early warning equipment, permanent W/T and D/F stations. An immediate improvement was noticed, the Imphal area doubling its efficiency while on 20 October an air raid on Chittagong was detected at the previously unheard of range of 115 miles.

A network of some seventy Air Ministry Experimental Stations equipped with radar stretched from the Assam–Burma border south to Akyab, and continued on to cover Calcutta and coastal areas that might be subject to attack. Forward of the stations in Eastern Bengal were the Wireless Observer Units, with posts across the Manipur Road and southward through the Chin Hills as far as the Arakan Hill tracts. These units were in the process of replacement by Indian Mobile Wireless Observer Companies manned by personnel employed on Observer Corps duties in and around Calcutta, Vizagapatnam and Madras. Reports flowed through a number of filter rooms:

Imphal, Chittagong and Calcutta covering Bengal.

Vizagapatnam, Madras and Trincomalee covering the Eastern seaboard.

Cochin and Bombay covering the Western seaboard.

Ground-to-air communication improved but was still greatly hampered by shortage of equipment. Thirteen Direction Finding stations were established on the trans-India reinforcement route, while a number of fighter stations were equipped with Very High Frequency Radio Transmitters. Shortages were apparent, however, in the supply of aircraft Ground Control Interception equipment necessary for operations rooms to direct fighters on to hostile formations. With approximately half the required units available care had to be taken that for each section of two fighters one should be fitted with the necessary apparatus.

With the impending arrival of modern bombers to swell the command, experience with the operation and maintenance of their specialized communications equipment in the difficult climatic conditions to be encountered was needed. To this end No. 1577 Flight was formed and equipped with the Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax but the inevitable shortages of equipment meant that development of advanced radio aids to navigation, submarine detection and precision bombing remained in the overloaded ‘pending’ tray.

A number of circumstances led to a reduction in usage of the venerable Blenheims, which were in any event in short supply. Vultee Vengeance squadrons, training since the beginning of the year, began to achieve operational status in addition to which a substantial reserve of Hurricanes accelerated the switch in roles from the Hurricane as fighter to the ‘Hurribomber’ fighter/light bomber, a move made more practical toward the end of the monsoon when Spitfires at long last began to appear in India in some numbers. As a result Blenheim Squadron Nos 11, 34, 42, 60 and 113 RAF converted to Hurricane Mk IIC fighter/bombers, while Nos 607, 136 and 615 Squadrons RAF converted from Hurricanes to Spitfire Mk VCs, which entered service in Europe at the end of 1941. Wilfred Goold recalls the inevitable ups and downs when 607 took delivery of their new aircraft:

On September 25 a bunch of us flew to Karachi in a Short Empire flying boat, it took 11 hours and 55 minutes. Having assembled our new ’planes we then flew back to Alipore without any hitches, only to find on arrival that we couldn’t fly the Spits as some clown in Area Headquarters had consigned all the spares back to the Middle East because he ‘knew we didn’t have Spitfires in this area’! In October the Squadron flew to an Air Fighting Training Unit at Armarda Road to get used to the Spitfire in combat roles. Armarda Road was a place where only the best was accepted. It was staffed by experienced operational pilots; the Chief Instructor was Frank (Chota) Carey, DSO, DFC Bar, DFM, Bar and so on.

We spent about 14 days doing all sorts of attacks, and we felt very comfortable with our new ’planes.

Flight Lieutenant Goold here mentions the refresher courses in gunnery and tactics at Armarda Road headed by Group Captain Frank Carey, a highly experienced pilot deservedly credited with much of the exceptional improvement in the standard of RAF and IAF fighter pilots in the Burma campaign. Group Captain Carey and his team were constantly engaged in a battle of wits to counter changes in the tactics of the enemy and improve those of the Allies.

A fully equipped and operational Beaufighter Mk VI Squadron, No. 89 RAF, arrived from the Middle East and celebrated by shooting down a JAAF reconnaissance aircraft within days. Newly formed within India Command, No. 211 Squadron RAF was also equipped with Beaufighters. Lack of available aircraft meant that only one heavy bomber squadron, No. 355 RAF equipped with Liberators, was formed within the command between June and November.

Hurricane Mk IIBs found a vital new niche as Fighter Reconnaissance aircraft, Nos 135 and 261 Squadrons RAF taking on this role plus No. 5 Squadron, which had been equipped with Hurricane Mk IID ‘tank busters’ but re-equipped due to a lack of suitable targets in the India/Burma theatre.

In March 1942 India was able to offer sixteen all-weather airfields of which only four were considered operational in all respects by the standards of the day, plus twenty fair-weather strips. By November 1943 the total had risen to 285 airfields plus fifteen under construction. Of these an impressive 140 were complete in all respects, 64 had one all-weather runway prepared, and a further 71 could provide fair-weather strips plus dispersals and domestic/technical accommodation in varying stages of readiness. A number of airfields were constructed on behalf of the USAAF airlift to China and by November 1943 thirty-four all-weather airfields plus eleven fair-weather strips had been handed over, in addition to which facilities were offered at a number of RAF airfields. The airfield construction programme was a mammoth undertaking costing some £50 million and brought to light a number of difficulties, notably a shortage of heavy construction equipment, engineers and supervisors. Work sub-contracted to civilian construction companies was not always up to standard and everywhere delays were experienced due to poor communications or inadequate control. Despite the problems by the end of the 1943 monsoon the Allied Air Forces in India were in a position to continue their rapid expansion in the knowledge that suitable bases existed from which to operate.

On the far side of the hill the JAAF also busily repaired and constructed airfields. As the Allies retreated through Burma destruction of the country’s industry and infrastructure, including airfields, had taken place to the extent that on the final withdrawal of the Allied armies the JAAF estimated that only fifteen to eighteen airfields were in operable condition. By August 1943 that total had risen to 100.

During 1942 the Imperial Japanese Army and the JAAF in Burma received the bulk of its supplies by sea more or less without hindrance, but by 1943 Allied attacks on sea lanes had grown in intensity until the JAAF estimated that less than one third of the resupply required actually arrived, leading to an inevitable diminution of strike power. Japanese transportation within Burma was chiefly by rail, but again Allied air raids were greatly disrupting the service and necessitating a switch to road and air, 4th Motor Transport Company designated to the former and 11th Air Transport Unit designated to the latter by 5th Hikoshidan.

A welcome but temporary reverse of the draining away of units from 5th Hikoshidan occurred towards the end of the year, reinforcements arriving in the shape of the 33rd and 204th Fighter Hikosentai.

At the Quebec Conference the formation of South East Asia Command was agreed, bearing overall responsibility for military operations in the Burma/India/China theatre with at its head Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. Mountbatten was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria and on entering the Royal Navy saw action during the First World War aboard Admiral David Beatty’s flagship, the battlecruiser Lion. By 1937 he was promoted Captain and in June 1939 was given command of the destroyer Kelly, becoming Captain (D) of the 5th Destroyer Flotilla in September that same year. Mountbatten’s career at sea was undoubtedly spectacular – in short order the Kelly had nearly capsized, been in collision with another destroyer, was mined once and torpedoed twice. Finally she capsized off Crete under full helm at 34 knots while under attack by German aircraft. Anxious for senior officers with undimmed offensive spirit, in April 1942 Churchill made Mountbatten Chief of Combined Operations with the rank of Vice Admiral, and a de facto member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. At forty-three years of age Mountbatten was young for a position as important as Supreme Commander SEAC but he cut a dashing figure that appealed to both Churchill and to the Americans – an important consideration as he would have US forces under his command. The device chosen by Mountbatten to represent the new command was the phoenix, a fabulous bird of Arabian mythology that rose from the ashes of its own funeral pyre with renewed youth. The symbolism was self-evident and the device doubly appropriate as the coming campaigns could only be carried forward on the wings of the air forces.

Another vitally important Allied appointment took place in October 1943 with the appointment of General Slim to command of the newly formed Fourteenth Army, effectively giving him control of all Allied ground forces in the theatre, his task the re-conquest of Burma.

For the air forces Mountbatten’s plans were to be bold and controversial, the new C-in-C proposing nothing less than the full integration of all RAF, USAAF and IAF units under a single unified command, with Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Peirse as Allied Air C-in-C. General Stilwell, until that time in overall command of US Air Forces – and a well known Anglophobe – became Mountbatten’s Deputy Supreme Commander while retaining his autonomous role in China. Once again the often stated US position – that they were only in India to supply the Chinese, not help the British reinstate Burma into their Empire – raised its head. Given the long-term US antipathy towards ‘empires’ in the military sense this was scarcely a surprising, or unreasonable, attitude for them to take, but it did place significant obstacles in the path of the unified air command that would provide the best means of beating the Japanese.

As thunderclouds from the argument replaced the waning monsoon, lengthy discussions between Peirse and Stratemeyer to try to resolve the problem came to nought, the American refusing to be budged from the position that he and Stilwell had adopted that there should be two parallel commands, not a single unified command. Mountbatten took up his position as C-in-C on 16 November and on 12 December issued the directive integrating the theatre air forces. Finding himself faced with threats from both Stratemeyer and Stilwell to go over his head to Washington, Mountbatten states that he ‘read the Riot Act to both’, as a consequence of which the American generals agreed to carry out the directive but asked that their objections be passed to Washington, which Mountbatten did together with his reasons for refuting them. The new C-in-C SEAC believed himself to be on pretty firm ground as he had already sounded out General Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff, and General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold, Commanding General of the USAAF. The American stance concerning Burma notwithstanding, the two senior US officers appreciated the necessity for the command structure to be as streamlined and uncomplicated as possible, and gave their unofficial backing. Official confirmation came on 4 January with Mountbatten’s receipt of a letter from General Marshall confirming the approval of the US Joint Chiefs for the unified command, while retaining the right to transfer units from the Tenth and Fourteenth Air Forces should it become necessary. Given the lead by his superiors General Stratemeyer grasped the new realism, issuing a General Order which included the phrase ‘we must merge into one unified force, in thought and deed neither English nor American, with the faults of neither and the virtues of both.’

Burma Air War 1943 Part II



Mountbatten had been obliged to assert his authority at the outset of his command and did so, the integration of the Allied air forces proceeding as outlined below:

Air Command South East Asia

Allied Air Commander-in-Chief, Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Peirse RAF.

Eastern Air Command (EAC)

AOC and second in command to Peirse, Major General G.E. Stratemeyer USAAF, his position in respect of the Allied air forces corresponding to that of General Slim’s for ground forces. EAC was organized into the following groupings:

  1. The Third Tactical Air Force commanded by Air Marshal Baldwin and subdivided into:

(a) The American North Sector Force with responsibility for supporting Stilwell’s Chinese and protecting the air ferry route over the Hump to China.

(b) 221 Group RAF under Air Vice-Marshal Vincent, with headquarters at Imphal and responsible for the support of IV Corps along the main central front.

(c) 224 Group RAF under Air Commodore G.E. Wilson with headquarters at Chittagong and supporting XV Corps along the Arakan front.

  1. The Strategic Air Force, Brigadier General Davidson USAAF.
  2. Troop Carrier Command, Brigadier General W.D. Old USAAF.

Stratemeyer established his HQ in a huge jute mill near Barrackpore, while Baldwin’s Third TAF and Brigadier General Old’s joint US-British Troop Carrier Command HQs were set up alongside General Slim’s Fourteenth Army HQ at Comilla. To a considerable extent the three headquarters operated as a joint command centre, pooling intelligence, planners working together and perhaps most significantly, the three commanders and their principal staff officers living in the same mess. Slim reports that integration reached the stage where Americans adopted the tea-sipping habit and the British learned to make drinkable coffee!

By November 1943 approximately two thirds of theatre combat aircraft were British, the remainder American although the US proportion was increasing, notably in the area of transports. The USAAF had begun the supply of Chinese-American forces in north-east Burma with the 1st and 2nd Troop Carrier Squadrons, which in January 1944 were joined by two additional units, 27th and 315th Troop Carrier. During the winter of 1943/44 the RAF too built up its tally of transport units, Nos 31 and 194 also being reinforced by two additional squadrons:

No. 62, previously operating Hudson Mk VI aircraft on bombing and general reconnaissance duties, converted to Dakotas in early January 1944.

No. 117, a veteran transport outfit, arrived from the Middle East, initially operating DC2s but converting to Dakotas in July 1944.

194 Squadron, operating the Hudson Mk VI on internal trans-India operations since its formation, converted to Dakotas in February in order to take its place alongside ‘parent’ squadron No. 31, its previous duties being taken up by 353 Squadron.

An essential part of Mountbatten’s approach was to be seen and heard by the men who would have to do the fighting. To achieve this he embarked on a tour of the military units of all nationalities, and Wilfred Goold describes one such visit by the Supreme Commander to 607 Squadron:

On December 16 Lord Louis Mountbatten arrived on our strip and I was one of four to escort his Mosquito over the forward areas. He gathered everyone around him and told us of his plans and then told us what he expected of us. There was no doubt this time; there was no turning back.

The informal ‘gathering everyone around’ appears to have been an essential part of Mountbatten’s attempt to make sure that everyone felt included, from the C-in-C to the cooks and admin clerks, they were all in this together and they all had their essential part to play.

While command changes took place the air war continued. Operating from bases in Assam the 311th Fighter Bomber Group USAAF attacked targets in Northern Burma. On 25 November Major Yohei Hinoki of the 64th Hikosentai intercepted a raid and led the 3rd Chutai in an attack with their Ki-43 Oscars. In the ensuing dogfight Hinoki shot down the first North American P51 Mustang of the Burma campaign, the aircraft piloted by Colonel Milton, Commanding Officer of the 311th, who became a POW. Two days later Hinoki’s 3rd Chutai intercepted an estimated fifty B24 Liberators plus thirty fighters, Hinoki claiming a P51, a P38 Lightning and a B24, but falling victim to another P51. Badly wounded, Hinoki managed to return to base but his right leg required amputation and he was repatriated to Japan to take up training duties.

Spitfire Mk Vs at last began to appear in an operational role and much was expected of them. Up to this time the twin-engine Mitsubishi Ki-46 Dinah reconnaissance aircraft employed by the JAAF had flown with impunity over Allied territory, its service ceiling and maximum speed too much for Hurricanes and other Allied fighters. However, in November 1943 Spitfires from 615 Squadron RAF based at Chittagong shot down four Dinahs from the 81st Hikosentai in quick succession and the news spread rapidly through the entire Allied command, providing a tremendous boost for morale as it did so.

The unexpected loss of their reconnaissance aircraft was a blow to 5th Hikoshidan but also gave them some indication of the power and performance of the new Allied fighter. Despite losses in aircraft and experienced pilots 81st Hikosentai continued missions in the Calcutta area and reported a large concentration of some sixty merchant vessels in the harbour – a target too good to miss. Wary of the Spitfires the JAAF attack formations planned a route well to the south of the Chittagong airfields at which they were based, while 8th and 34th Hikosentai (20 and 15 light bombers respectively) accompanied by 50th and 33rd Hikosentai (27 and 20 fighters respectively), plus 5 Dinahs of the 81st Hikosentai, carried out raids in the Chittagong, Silchar and Feni areas to keep the new fighters busy and off balance.

607 Squadron was based at Ramu at this time, a dirt airstrip south of Chittagong, and Wilfred Goold remembers a pattern of almost daily ‘scrambles’ to combat these raids:

The tactics we were using were similar to those used by the Luftwaffe against our Hurricanes i.e. height advantage, then diving in, attacking and regaining height. The Japs used what we called a ‘Beehive’ [aircraft flying in circles] from a basic height up to about 25,000 feet. They were very colourful, highly polished, except for about a dozen, who, we learned, were the ‘aces’, they flew in drab coloured Oscars.

Our radar was very good so we were always in the top position, but they were so manoeuvrable that zip, and they were gone.

With additional raids having being staged in the Imphal area for weeks beforehand to draw off Allied fighters, the primary attack on Calcutta took place on 5 December and involved units of both the JAAF and JNAF, operating in two waves from Burmese airfields at Magwe and Allanmyo:


7th Hikodan, comprising:

12th Hikosentai (9 heavy bombers)

98th Hikosentai (9 heavy bombers)

50th Hikosentai (27 fighters)

64th Hikosentai (27 fighters)

33rd Hikosentai (20 fighters)

204th Hikosentai (20 fighters)

81st Hikosentai (2 Dinahs to drop quantities of streamers just prior to the raid to confuse Allied radar).


28th Hikotai (Flying Unit) comprising 9 medium bombers and 30 Zero fighters.

The plan to evade the Spitfires worked and although the raid was picked up by Chittagong radar, of the sixty-five Spitfires and Hurricanes scrambled to intercept only one Spitfire made contact, shot down a bomber and force-landed on a sandbank out of fuel. At Calcutta itself the defending Hurricane Squadrons, Nos 67 and 146 RAF, were overwhelmed by the raid’s fighter defence and lost eight aircraft – the JAAF believed that they were only attacked by about ten aircraft in total. When the second wave of the attack swept in the Hurricanes were caught on the ground refuelling and only a few night fighters were able to get airborne. Two Spitfire squadrons from Chittagong attempted to intercept the raiders as they returned, but were again unable to make contact.

The raid had been carefully planned and executed and was an undoubted tactical success for 5th Hikoshidan, who were jubilant at having got off so lightly. Nevertheless, to gain the range for the long southward leg to avoid Chittagong the bomb loads had been necessarily small, consequently the damage inflicted, while unwelcome, was not devastating. Three merchant ships and a naval vessel were damaged, fifteen barges set afire, and a number of dockyard buildings destroyed. By far the most damaging aspect of the raid was the 500 civilian casualties caused, followed as it was by an immediate exodus of the local population from the docks area.

Encouraged by their success the JAAF planned further raids on Calcutta but first, having attacked the port at the far south of the Allied positions, they switched their attention to the far north – the trans-Himalayas ‘Hump’ route to China. As part of the Calcutta attack plan fifty fighters and eighty light bombers from 4th Hikodan attacked Tinsukia airfield on 8 November to disrupt the China supply route and keep Allied attention away from Calcutta. Following the raid on Calcutta 4th Hikodan commenced a series of raids on ‘Hump’ airfields inside China with Tinsukia again being the target on 11 and 12 December, followed by Yungning in succeeding days. On 18 and 22 December Kunming received the attention of seventy fighters and bombers of 7th Hikodan plus around ten heavy bombers specially brought in for this attack on the principal ‘Hump’ airfield in China. JAAF fighters also attacked transports in flight over northern Burma and for a time as many as three per day were being destroyed, but the supply route remained in operation.

Without sufficient resources to attack all its potential targets in strength simultaneously the JAAF once again turned its attention to the south, this time to the bustling port of Chittagong – and the Spitfires they had thus far gone to considerable lengths to avoid. On Christmas Day 1943, 7th Hikodan attacked the port with an estimated twenty bombers and thirty fighters. As an illustration of the way in which Allied air strength had grown over the past year the defences were able to put up eighty Spitfires and Hurricanes, but the result fell far short of expectations. If the availability of aircraft was now not as pressing a problem, the shortage of radar and ground-to-air communications equipment with which to vector fighters on to attacking aircraft effectively – plus trained operators – most definitely was. The uncoordinated mêlée of Allied fighters posed much less of a threat to the disciplined JAAF formation than it should have done if properly controlled, and a tally of three bombers and two fighters shot down was disappointing.

One Spitfire pilot, John Rudling, developed a highly unusual method of attack. With his squadron newly equipped with Spitfires, Rudling was returning to base following what up to that point had been a fruitless sortie. Noticing enemy bombers in the distance, and despite his fuel being down to ten gallons, Rudling headed toward them and swooped in to the attack. Opening fire on a bomber, Rudling

observed strikes on the enemy’s wings when I suddenly realised I was going to collide. I broke sharply away above, feeling my aircraft hit the rudder of the bomber. I then proceeded down, thinking I had damaged my aircraft for any further attack, but it was all right, so I pulled up under another vic [‘V’ formation] of bombers, firing from underneath at the leader.

A Japanese fighter attacked the lone Spitfire and hit the aircraft with five shells, damaging the oil tanks. Rudling watched the bomber with which he had collided spiral down into the sea then force-landed himself without flaps or brakes. The RAF pilot became so attached to the collision method for downing bombers when his ammunition had expired that he tried it on succeeding occasions, and it was not until his third attempt that he was himself, perhaps unsurprisingly, killed.

So far the Spitfires had shown promise but had not really been able to get to grips with their opponent, however that was about to change. On 31 December 1943 a substantial JAAF force comprising fourteen Ki-21 Sally light bombers and fifteen Ki-43 Oscar fighters, attacked a Royal Navy force that had been bombarding Japanese forces along the Arakan coast. Scrambling from an airfield in the vicinity of Chittagong, twelve Spitfires of 136 Squadron RAF intercepted and broke through the fighter cover to find the bombers flying in perfectly disciplined ‘V’ formation – a formation resolutely maintained by the Japanese as the RAF fighters shot them down, one by one. Having completely destroyed the bomber force the Spitfires set about the Japanese fighters and in a series of dogfights destroyed the majority of the typically brightly coloured Oscars, those that did survive limping home badly the worse for the encounter. One Spitfire was lost, the pilot having a lucky escape as he descended by parachute. An Oscar swept by and machine-gunned the helpless airman, but the Japanese pilot misjudged his approach and crashed into the ground. This was the first substantial victory that the RAF, and certainly the new Air Command South East Asia, had been able to achieve over the JAAF and was without doubt a turning point in the air war.

On 15 January the JAAF tried again, this time the intended target being Chittagong itself, however the plan was for three fighter sweeps of between twelve and fifteen aircraft apiece to attack the Arakan battle area to draw off defending fighters and leave the port open to the bombers. As early morning mist lifted the first attack materialized and the Spitfires were scrambled. The Japanese pilots might well have been smarting from a loss of ‘face’ stemming from their defeat at the turn of the year, as they appear to have adopted do-or-die tactics in their efforts to come to terms with their opponents; but fanatical courage was not enough. Sixteen Oscars were destroyed at a cost of two Spitfires. On 20 January the JAAF tried again, 35 Oscars engaging 24 Spitfires and losing 7 of their number for 2 RAF aircraft.

With these battles the RAF wrested air superiority from the JAAF for the first time in the south, but the Japanese did not let it rest there and introduced the Ki-44 Tojo in greater numbers to counter the Spitfire Mk Vs, coupled with new tactics. JAAF fighters would usually be painted in the ostentatious colour schemes of their particular Hikosentai but now a few appeared with either their aluminium skins highly burnished to a mirror-like finish, or alternatively painted jet black, both colour schemes designed to be observed with ease from a distance. A few of these decoys would fly well below more numerous camouflaged aircraft in the hope of trapping Spitfire pilots, who soon learned to be wary of such glittering prizes. Fortunately for the Allies the much improved Spitfire Mk VIII made its appearance and with its true air speed of 419mph in Burmese conditions, plus a service ceiling of 41,000 feet and faster rate of climb than the Spitfire Mk V, the JAAF was checkmated again. To the north, however, the issue of air superiority was still very much in the balance and it was to this sector that the scene of action once again moved, with 5th Hikoshidan using its entire fighter strength to attack transport aircraft on the Hump route in the skies above Sumprabum in northern Burma.

Early Warfare in Mesopotamia




By 4000 BCE most researchers believe Sumerian polities had fully formed warfare replete with military systems including fortifications, logistics, armies, special weapons and armor production, and specialized military units such as infantry and heavy chariots with command and control by specialized leadership.

In the Early Dynastic (ED) period (2900-2350 BCE) armed conflict arose generally from competition between settled states for land and water or by nomad raiders. Expeditions abroad to obtain commodities not available locally might also need armed protection or aggressive “sales tactics”-hence, for example, the fortifications around the Uruk-period settlement at Habuba Kabira and the military threats uttered by Enmerkar of Uruk against the distant state of Aratta. Unequivocal evidence of armed conflict in Mesopotamia comes in the late fourth millennium BCE, with artwork on seals depicting fights between men armed with spears and bows, and bound prisoners. During the earlier third millennium (ED period) cities, often housing the bulk of their state’s population, began erecting walls for defense as well as for territorial demarcation and prestige. Excavation has confirmed the slightly later literary descriptions of Uruk’s city walls: a circuit 5.9 miles (9.5 kilometers) long and 13-16 feet (4-5 meters) thick built of typical ED plano-convex bricks enclosed an area of 2.12 square miles (550 hectares). At least two city gates with rectangular towers have been traced, and the wall may have had as many as 900 semicircular towers. Similar towers have been found in the strong walls around Tell Agrab on the Diyala.

The epic tale of conflict between Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and his one-time benefactor and overlord, Agga, king of Kish, climaxes when Agga’s forces besiege Uruk and Gilgamesh defeats and captures Agga, possibly after a pitched battle. Sieges in the ED period were often decided by force of arms in attacks and sallies rather than by attrition during long investments. However, attempts might be made to break into a fortified settlement using scaling ladders, and defenses began to be enhanced with a glacis.

The walls of captured cities were broken down, partly to humiliate their citizens. Booty and prisoners were taken, and much of the city might be sacked. Some of the spoils of war went by custom to the king and some to the god of the victorious city in his temple. Stone bowls found in the Ekur temple in Nippur bear inscriptions showing they were booty from King Rimush’s Elamite wars. Such inscriptions were an important part of the offering, demonstrating to both the god and the people that the king had fulfilled the god’s intention in prosecuting war and benefiting his people. Inscriptions quickly grew in length and substance from their terse early-third-millennium beginnings, and by the first millennium, royal inscriptions gave a long and detailed, although often exaggerated and inaccurate, account of the campaign, serving both as justification to the god and propaganda to the people. The form, style, phraseology, and content of inscriptions were dictated by tradition.

In conflicts between Sumerian city-states the victor usually respected the integrity of a defeated city’s temples: outrage at King Lugalzagesi’s failure to do so is forcefully expressed in the inscriptions of his enemy, Uru-inim-gina of Lagash. In contrast, attacks by outsiders- nomads of the Syrian Desert and Zagros Mountains, such as the Amorites and Guti, and foreign states, particularly Elam-were ruthless and spared nothing and no one. Sumerian distress at the devastation wreaked by their attacks- the noble buildings destroyed or infested by the enemy, the Felds laid waste, the people slain or taken into captivity-is poured out in a series of lamentations describing the sack of great cities like Akkad, Ur, and Nippur.

ED art vividly captures the citizen armies of the period. “The Standard of Ur” and “The Stele of Vultures” depict foot soldiers armed with spears or pole-mounted axes, their heads protected by leather or felt helmets. A force of heavy infantry carrying large rectangular shields marches in a solid and impenetrable phalanx bristling with couched spears, behind a king armed with a dagger. Maces and throwing sticks were also used as weapons at this time. The leaders ride in ponderous war-carts with four solid wheels, drawn by donkeys or mules. These were used mainly for transport to the battlefield and in pursuit of retreating enemy forces, and as a vantage point from which the leader could see and be seen, to direct his forces and impress friend and foe. The dead of the opposing army lie beneath the wheels of the carts or are heaped up in a communal burial mound, while the living are marched off into slavery, their hands tied behind them, or are held in a net by the god whose approval of the victors’ just cause had precipitated the con? ict and ensured its successful outcome. Later wars by larger states enjoyed the support of the war goddess Ishtar (Inanna), Nergal (Erra), god of strife, and the storm god Adad (Ishkur). Defeat, and even more terribly, the loss of the king in battle, betokened the withdrawal of divine favor.

Troops also included archers and soldiers armed with slings and ovoid stones, probably mainly recruited among the hunters and fishermen of the south. An inscribed object from the ED period at the site of Mari shows a bowman shooting from behind a wicker screen held by a spearman: this combination of archer and shield-bearer continued down the ages in Mesopotamian armies. The later-third-millennium development of the composite bow revolutionized warfare. Constructed as a sandwich of three contrasting materials, wood glued between a horn inner layer (to resist compression) and a sinew outer layer (for elasticity), it had a far greater penetration and range (around 575 feet or 175 meters) than the conventional bow. The composite bow benefited both attackers and defenders, enabling a wider area to be covered from the walls and troops on the ground to shoot defenders with more success.


This text is best known from manuscripts dated almost 700 years after the end of the Early Dynastic period. The author assumes that there was only one legitimate divinely appointed ruler for any one period of time and that political hegemony was restricted to a limited number of city states. “After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug. In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alalgar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridug fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira. . .. Then the flood swept over. After the flood had swept over, and the kingship had descended from heaven, the kingship was in Kish. In Kish, Gushur became king; he ruled for 1200 years. . .. Then Kish was defeated and the kingship was taken to E-ana. In E-ana, Mesh-kiag-gasher, the son of Utu, became lord and king; he ruled for 324 years. Mesh-ki-aj-gasher entered the sea and disappeared. Enmerkar, the son of Mesh-ki-ag-gasher, the king of Uruk, became king; he ruled for 420 years. 745 are the years of the dynasty of Mesh-ki-ag-gasher . . .; he ruled for 5 + x years. Lugalbanda, the shepherd, ruled for 1200 years. Dumuzid, the fsherman whose city was Kuara, ruled for 100 years. He captured Enme-barage-si single-handed. Gilgamesh, whose father was a phantom (?), the lord of Kulaba, ruled for 126 years. Ur-Nungal, the son of Gilgamesh, ruled for 30 years. Udul-kalama, the son of UrNungal, ruled for 15 years. La-ba’shum ruled for 9 years. En-nun-tarah-ana ruled for 8 years. Mesh-he, the smith, ruled for 36 years. Til-kug (?) . . . ruled for 6 years. Lugal-kitun (?) ruled for 36 (or 420) years. 12 kings; they ruled for 2310 years. Then Uruk was defeated and the kingship was taken to Ur.”

Bibliography Anglim, Simon, et al. Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World. 3000 BC-AD 500. Equipment, Combat Skills and Tactics. London: Greenhill Books, 2002. Chapman, Rupert. “Weapons and Warfare.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, vol. 5, edited by Eric M. Meyers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Dalley, Stephanie. “Ancient Mesopotamian Military Organization.” In Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, edited by Jack M. Sasson. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000. Nissen, Hans J. “The City Wall of Uruk.” In Man, Settlement and Urbanism. edited by Peter Ucko, Ruth Tringham, and Geoffrey W. Dimbleby. London: Duckworth, 1972.

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


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


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.