The Second World War / World War Two

Ringo

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I can very likely help with this.
I will PM you later when I get a break.

By pure chance last night I was helping a friend of a friend find out about his great-grandfather who was also a Royal Engineer in France 1940.
That would be amazing, Yith. Thanks.
 

Yithian

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'Little-Known Facts' of the Second World War

A few dubious, a number arguable, some fascinating:
  • The first German serviceman killed in the war was killed by the Japanese (China, 1937).
  • The first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940).
  • The first British servicemen killed in the war were Londoner George Brocking, and Ken Day from Essex, both non-active members of Mosley’s British Union because of RAF service regulations but associated freely with Suffolk members. Both died on September 4th 1939 – the second day of the war.
  • 80% of Soviet males born in 1923 didn't survive World War 2.
  • The highest ranking American killed was Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair, killed by the US Army Air Corps.
  • Between 1939 and 1945 the Allies dropped 3.4 million tons of bombs, An average of about 27,700 tons of bombs each month.
  • Adolf Hitler’s nephew, William Hitler, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. (Born to Adolf's brother, Alois Hitler, Jr. and his first wife, Bridget Dowling, in Liverpool, Lancashire (now in Merseyside), William Hitler later moved to Germany, but subsequently emigrated to the United States where he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II; Reference: William Patrick Stuart-Houston - Wikipedia)
  • 12,000 heavy bombers were shot down in World War 2.
  • 2/3 of Allied bomber crews were lost for each plane destroyed.
  • 3 or 4 ground men were wounded for each killed.
  • 6 bomber crewmen were killed for each one wounded.
  • Over 100,000 Allied bomber crewmen were killed over Europe.
  • There were 433 Medals of Honor awarded during World War 2, 219 of them were given after the recipient's death
  • From 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945 in Europe the Allies had 200,000 dead and 550,000 wounded
  • Total casualties for World War II are estimated between 50 and 70 million people. 80% of those came from just four countries: Russia, China, Germany, and Poland.
  • More than 16,000,000 American troops served in World War II. Of these, 405,000 were killed during the war. More than half of these died by accidents (shot by own troops), while a lot of them committed suicide. (That’s almost half of all Americans who have ever died during wartime, and more than a hundred times more than died during the American Revolution, according to the latest estimates from the Dmdc and the VA).
  • On average, 6,600 American servicemen died per month during WWII, about 220 a day. By the end of the war, over 40,000 airmen were killed in combat theatres and another 18,000 wounded. Some 12,000 missing men were declared dead, including a number “liberated” by the Soviets but never returned. More than 41,000 were captured, half of the 5,400 held by the Japanese died in captivity, compared with one-tenth in German hands. Total combat casualties were pegged at 121,867.
  • Approximately 600,000 Jews served in the United States armed forces during WWII. More than 35,000 were killed, wounded, captured, or missing. Approximately 8,000 died in combat. However, only two Jewish soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor in WWII.
  • Many Jews were subject to gruesome medical experiments. For example, doctors would bombard the testicles of men and the ovaries of women with X-rays to see the impact of different doses on sterility. Nazi doctors would break bones repeatedly to see how many times it could be done before a bone could not heal. They hit people’s heads with hammers to see what their skulls could withstand. Experiments were conducted to determine the effects of atmospheric pressure on the body. Prisoners were injected with different drugs and diseases, and limbs were amputated and muscles cut for transplantation experiments. Today reference to or use of the Nazi research is considered unethical.
  • Dr. Josef Mengele (the “Angel of Death”) used about 3,000 twins, mostly Romany and Jewish children, for his painful genetic experiments. Only about 200 survived. His experiments included taking one twin’s eyeball and attaching it on the back of the other twin’s head or changing the eye color of children by injecting dye. In one instance, two Romany twins were sewn together in an attempt to create conjoined twins.
  • In addition to Jews and gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses were also persecuted and murdered in German concentration camps.
  • The decision to implement the “Final Solution” or Die Endlosung was made at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin on January 20, 1942. Heinrich Himmler was its chief architect. The earliest use of the phrase “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem” was actually used in an 1899 memo to Russian Tzar Nicholas about Zionism.
  • The youngest US serviceman was 12 year old Calvin Graham, USN. He was wounded in combat and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. (His benefits were later restored by act of Congress).
  • Uncle Sam sent many of his sons to war with absolute minimums of training. Some fighter pilots entered combat in 1942 with less than one hour in their assigned aircraft. The 357th Fighter Group (often known as The Yoxford Boys) went to England in late 1943 having trained on P-39s. The group never saw a Mustang until shortly before its first combat mission.
  • At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top US Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced "sink us"), the shoulder patch of the US Army's 45th Infantry division was the swastika, and Hitler's private train was named "Amerika". All three were soon changed for PR purposes.
  • Germany lost 110 Division Commanders in combat.
  • 40,000 men served on U-Boats during World War 2; 30,000 never returned.
  • Japan employed multiple types of suicide attacks during the war, including suicide submarines called Kaiten (“the turn toward heaven”). Approximately 100 of these were used, the most famous of which was used in the sinking of the USS Underhill.
  • More US servicemen died in the Air Corps that the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, your chance of being killed was 71%. Not that bombers were helpless. A B-17 carried 4 tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo. The US 8th Air Force shot down 6,098 fighter planes, 1 for every 12,700 shots fired.
  • U.S. Army Air Forces lost 14,903 pilots and crew…in the United States. These men died as a result of more than 50,000 accidents during the course of the war. Another 1,000 planes disappeared en route from the U.S. to foreign countries.
  • In his 1941 Navy Day address, Roosevelt claimed to possess a secret Nazi map which demonstrated Hitler’s intention to conquer Central and South America, dividing it into five vassal states under German domination and placing the US in direct danger. (This can go in either directions. The US needed to enter the war or needed a reason to enter the war. Allegedly President Franklin D. Roosevelt had advance knowledge about the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor, and deliberately “let it happen” so that Congress would declare war against Japan and Germany.)
  • The WWII was primarily between the European Axis powers and the coalition of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, with campaigns including the North Africa and East Africa campaigns, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz bombing campaign, the Balkan Campaign as well as the long-running Battle of the Atlantic. In June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history, which trapped the major part of the Axis' military forces into a war of attrition.
  • On 19 July, Hitler publicly offered to end the war, saying he had no desire to destroy the British Empire.
  • The Battle of Britain began in early July with Luftwaffe attacks on shipping and harbours. The main German air superiority campaign started in August but failed to defeat RAF Fighter Command, and a proposed invasion was postponed indefinitely on 17 September. The German strategic bombing offensive intensified as night attacks on London and other cities in the Blitz, but largely failed to disrupt the British war effort.
  • The British rated the fighting ability of both the Germans and the Japanese very highly, with the Italians and the other Axis nation lagging very far behind. The Germans had an equally ambivalent view of the British - in 1940 they had nothing but contempt for the Territorials they encountered in France... But had praise and admiration for the Guards' regiments and other regulars they met, for their discipline, honour and fighting ability in the field. However, German and Japanese opinion on the fighting capabilities of the British was far higher and reached further praise and admiration over the years. (generally much higher than it was in 1940).
  • Japan occupied U.S. territory for more than a year, invading and holding two islands in the Aleutian Island chain, which is part of Alaska. Nearly 1,500 American troops were killed in 13 months of fighting to retake the islands.
https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-little-known-facts-from-World-War-II-that-fascinate-you
 

Yithian

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Continued:
  • Germany's power grid was much more vulnerable than realized. One estimate is that if just 1% of the bombs dropped on German industry had instead been dropped on power plants, German industry would have collapsed.
  • Generally speaking, there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot. You were either an ace or a target. For instance, Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes. He died while a passenger on a cargo plane.
  • It was a common practice on fighter planes to load every 5th found with a tracer round to aid in aiming. That was a mistake. The tracers had different ballistics so (at long range) if your tracers were hitting the target, 80% of your rounds were missing. Worse yet, the tracers instantly told your enemy he was under fire and from which direction. Worst of all was the practice of loading a string of tracers at the end of the belt to tell you that you were out of ammo. That was definitely not something you wanted to tell the enemy. Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down.
  • Russian women served in front line combat roles. Soviet-era Communism tended to embrace the equality of the sexes, and perhaps nowhere was this more apparent than in the Russian attitude toward female soldiers. Nearly one million Soviet women took up arms and served on the front lines of World War II as anti-aircraft gunners, snipers, partisan guerillas and even fighter pilots. More than simply providing the Red Army with an unanticipated boost in numbers, female troops eventually earned a reputation as some of the fiercest fighters on the Eastern Front. Among others, ace pilots Lydia Litvyak and Yekaterina Budanova each downed around a dozen German planes, and sharpshooter Lyudmila Pavlichenko singlehandedly killed more than 300 enemy soldiers. Anxious to prove their worth in combat, women regularly signed up for some of the most hazardous combat positions. For example, one of the most feared Soviet units was an all-female regiment of dive-bombers known as the “Night Witches,” who flew sluggish biplanes on nighttime bombing raids behind German lines.
  • In World War II, British soldiers got a ration of three sheets of toilet paper a day. Americans got 22.
  • When allied armies reached the Rhine, the first thing men did was pee in it. This was pretty universal from the lowest private to Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) and Gen. Patton (who had himself photographed in the act).
  • German Me-264 bombers were capable of bombing New York City, but it wasn't worth the effort.
  • A number of air crewmen died of farts. (ascending to 20,000 ft. in an un-pressurized aircraft causes intestinal gas to expand 300%!)
  • Germany lost 40-45% of their aircraft during World War 2 to accidents
  • The Russians destroyed over 500 German aircraft by ramming them in midair (they also sometimes cleared minefields by marching over them). "It takes a brave man not to be a hero in the Red Army". - Joseph Stalin
  • The average German officer slot had to be refilled 9.2 times.
  • Finnish snipers were some of the deadliest in the world. During the Winter War (November 1939 – March 1940), the Soviet Union invaded Finland hoping to gain Finnish territory and create a buffer zone for Leningrad. Because of the inexperience of Soviet troops and the incredible effectiveness of Finnish snipers, the USSR lost 40 men to every Finn that was killed.
  • The US Army had more ships that the US Navy.
  • The German Air Force had 22 infantry divisions, 2 armored divisions, and 11 paratroop divisions. None of them were capable of airborne operations. The German Army had paratroops who WERE capable of airborne operations.
  • When the US Army landed in North Africa, among the equipment brought ashore were 3 complete Coca Cola bottling plants.
  • To avoid using the German sounding name ‘hamburger’ during World War II, Americans used the name ‘Liberty Steak.’
  • 84 German Generals were executed by Hitler.
  • Among the first "Germans" captured at Normandy were several Koreans. They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until they were captured by the US Army.
  • The Siege of Stalingrad resulted in more Russian deaths (military and civilian) than the US and Britain sustained (combined) in all of World War II.
  • Adolph Hitler and Henry Ford each kept a framed picture of the other on his desk. Also, during World War II, the largest Japanese spy ring was actually located in Mexico.
  • Adolf Hitler was indeed a vegetarian. But never a smoker.
  • The Graf Spee never sank, The scuttling attempt failed and the ship was bought by the British. On board was Germany's newest radar system.
  • One of Japan's methods of destroying tanks was to bury a very large artillery shell with only the nose exposed. When a tank came near the enough a soldier would whack the shell with a hammer. "Lack of weapons is no excuse for defeat." — Lt. Gen. Mataguchi;
  • The German technology advancements during World War II was remarkable. (See: German technology during WWI and II)
  • Following a massive naval bombardment, 35,000 US and Canadian troops stormed ashore at Kiska. 21 troops were killed in the fire-fight. It would have been worse if there had been Japanese on the island.
  • The MISS ME was an unarmed Piper Cub. While spotting for US artillery her pilot saw a similar German plane doing the same thing. He dove on the German plane and he and his co-pilot fired their pistols damaging the German plane enough that it had to make a forced landing. Whereupon they landed and took the Germans prisoner. It is unknown where they put them since the MISS ME only had two seats.
  • Most members of the Waffen SS were not German.
  • Air attacks caused 1/3 of German Generals' deaths
  • By D-Day, the Germans had 1.5 million railway workers operating 988,000 freight cars and used 29,000 per day
  • The only nation that Germany declared war on was the USA.
  • On the morning of 6 August 1945 an American B-29 bomber, the 'Enola Gay', dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb was dropped by parachute and exploded 580 m (1,900ft) above the ground. Between 60,000 and 80,000 people were killed instantly. The heat from the bomb was so intense that some people simply vanished in the explosion. Many more died of the long-term effects of radiation sickness. The final death toll was calculated at 135,000. As well as residents of Hiroshima, the victims included Koreans who had been forced to come to Japan as labourers, and American prisoners-of-war who were imprisoned in Hiroshima. The blast destroyed more than ten square kilometres (six square miles) of the city. And the intense heat of the explosion then created many fires, which consumed Hiroshima and lasted for three days, trapping and killing many of the survivors of the initial blast. Thousands of people were made homeless and fled the devastated city.
  • Had it been necessary for a third atom bomb, the city targeted would have been Tokyo.
  • During the Japanese attack on Hong Kong, British officers objected to Canadian infantrymen taking up positions in the officer's mess. No enlisted men allowed!
  • The first bomb dropped on Berlin by the Allies killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
  • From the Fall of 1944, until early 1945, the Japanese began launching over 9000 “Fire Balloons” from the island of Honshu. These balloons were made of Japanese paper (washi), filled with hydrogen and explosives. They were meant to go with the Jet Stream and fly to North America where they would detonate. The plan was very ineffective and only about 1000 made it the North America. However, 6 Americans were killed in 1945 in a single explosion. (See: Wikipedia)
  • By D-Day, 35% of all German soldiers had been wounded at least once, 11% twice, 6% three times, 2% four times and 2% more than 4 times.
  • More than 300,000 Russian soldiers died during the German siege of the city of Leningrad. That means in just one city, Russia lost 75% of the number of troops lost for the U.S. during the entire war.
  • Nuclear physicist Niels Bohr was rescued in the nick of time from German occupied Denmark. While Danish resistance fighters provided covering fire he ran out the back door of his home stopping momentarily to grab a beer bottle full of precious "heavy water". He finally reached England still clutching the bottle, which contained beer. Perhaps some German drank the heavy water...
  • Germany lost 136 Generals, which averages out to be 1 dead General every 2 weeks
  • While the western Allies released their final World War II prisoners in 1948, many German POWs in the U.S.S.R. were kept under lock and key for several more years. Most were used as slave labor in copper or coal mines, and anywhere between 400,000 and one million eventually died while in Russian custody. Some 20,000 former soldiers were still in Soviet hands at the time of Stalin’s death in 1953, and the last 10,000 didn’t get their freedom until 1955 and 1956—a full decade after the war had ended.
  • After the fall of Berlin, Germany was in ruins. Occupied by millions of foreign troops, none of whom had complete control over any given entity, Germany quickly descended into anarchic lawlessness. It is believed that the Soviet Army alone was responsible for the rape of up to two million women and children, as well as the subsequent death of 240,000.
  • It wasn’t just the Soviets who were accused of this crime, however: it is believed that the US was responsible for over 11,000 rapes, while the French have been accused of over 1,500. This is clearly not on the same scale as the Soviets – but it doesn’t make it any less terrible.
  • Housing the London Cage, Kensington Palace Gardens in London witnessed its fair share of war crimes during the Second World War. The Cage was essentially a set of cells and rooms used to hold and interrogate captured members of the Schutzstaffel and Gestapo. Everything from starvation and sleep deprivation to brutal beatings was practiced within its walls. to extract information and, in some cases, confessions. Though undeniably a war crime, no participants were ever prosecuted. The British government, for the most part, turned a blind eye to the abuse – despite multiple complaints from various parties – arguing that it was justifiable given the situation.
  • Although the US leads the list of “war crimes.” Some say the crimes during the WW2 was due to rage. For instance, when American soldiers approached Dachau concentration camp, they bore witness to thousands of highly decomposed bodies sitting in open top freight carriages. Because of this, it can hardly come as a surprise when American soldiers summarily executed captured – and unarmed – SS guards, purely out of rage. Prisoners, too, were said to have beaten as many as 50 guards to death in retaliation for their treatment. (Source; I; II; III)
  • Although it is called “World War II”, many people do not include any South American countries on the list of combatants. The country of Brazil, “During the eight months of the Italian campaign, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force managed to take 20,573 Axis prisoners, including two generals, 892 officers and 19,679 other ranks. During the War, Brazil lost 948 of its own men killed in action across all three services.” Many other South American countries contributed in raw supplies and, in some cases, soldiers joined the Free French Forces. (Total list of countries in WWII)
https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-little-known-facts-from-World-War-II-that-fascinate-you
 

Naughty_Felid

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'Little-Known Facts' of the Second World War

A few dubious, a number arguable, some fascinating:

  • More than 16,000,000 American troops served in World War II. Of these, 405,000 were killed during the war. More than half of these died by accidents (shot by own troops), while a lot of them committed suicide. (That’s almost half of all Americans who have ever died during wartime, and more than a hundred times more than died during the American Revolution, according to the latest estimates from the Dmdc and the VA).

https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-little-known-facts-from-World-War-II-that-fascinate-you

Just looked this up,(suicide), and the numbers seem to be 10 per 100,000

https://msrc.fsu.edu/news/msrcs-dav...-modern-soldiers-are-more-susceptible-suicide

Also figures suggest that it was more like 21% of casualties died from FF.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendly_fire#cite_note-7
 

Yithian

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A large proportion of the flight crews were men from the Commonwealth/Empire who returned to fight and in many cases die for the home country--there are no words to express what we owe them. It brings literal tears to my eyes to contemplate the ordeal they put themselves through.


Picture quality questionable, but it's the voices that mean the most. I've tears in my eyes, hearing a WAAF explain how she was engaged for one day before her fiancé was killed.
 
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dreeness .

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Wikipedia said:
Malaria was the most significant health hazard encountered by U.S. troops in the South Pacific during World War II, where about 500,000 men were infected.[175] According to Joseph Patrick Byrne, "Sixty thousand American soldiers died of malaria during the African and South Pacific campaigns."[176]
 
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Interesting book written about his Italian exploits: http://www.hannbooks.com/index.php/sas-operation-galia

Ex-SAS hero James Riccomini's lot fetches £9,800
Image copyrightC&T AUCTIONS
Image captionLt James Riccomini joined the SAS after escaping from Italy via Switzerland
The medals of a soldier who fought with the SAS behind enemy lines in Italy have been sold.

Lt James Riccomini escaped German captivity in Italy and joined partisan fighters.

The former Nottingham schoolboy was made an MBE and awarded the Military Cross for action with the SAS before being killed in a raid in 1945.

His awards, along with items including his insignia and fake Italian identity pass, have fetched £9,800 at auction.

Image copyrightC&T AUCTIONS
Image captionLt James Riccomini spent months fighting with Italian partisans
Rob Hann, whose father fought alongside the war hero, has written a book called SAS Operation Galia.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-41502694
 

maximus otter

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On a recent visit to the isle of lewis, i decided to walk to arnish point lighthouse, and was delighted to discover some ww2 bunkers...
I used to work with a bloke who'd been born and raised in the Orkneys. Tiring of (seriously) provincial life in this backwater, he decided to join the RAF with its promise that he'd see the world.

They posted him to the Outer Hebrides.

maximus otter
 
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On an initial quick flick through the page I thought one of titch's pictures from Lewis might have shown a sound mirror.

On having a proper look it's clearly not, although they did build quite small versions. Having been reminded - I'm going to serve up some props to my grandad for helping build il Widna, when he was stationed on Malta with the Royal Engineers.

Allegedly the only one outside the British Isles. Finished in '34 or '35 and already obsolete by WW2, I think - but I'm pretty sure they were commissioned with the increasingly likely prospect of that conflict in mind.

Widna.jpg

 
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Naughty_Felid

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The defense of the Polish Post Office in Gdańsk

https://forum.warthunder.com/index....-defense-of-the-polish-post-office-in-gdańsk/


After the end of the World War I on the 11th of November 1918, the Polish state was finally resurrected after nearly 123 years of patritions between Prussia, Russia and Austro-Hungary. The geopolitical situation was drastically changing – the German Empire was defeated, the Tzar was abolished by the communist revolutionaries that proclaimed the creation of the Soviet Union, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed. In the middle of all those changes stood the Poles, finally able to govern themselves in a soverign state.



The 104th Paragraph of the Treaty of Versallies proclaimed the creation of the Free City of Danzig, that was to be detached from the German Reich and be governed under protection of the League of Nations. At the same time, Poland signed a customs treaty with the city, and was given the right to develop their own port infrastructure. Aslo, the Polish Post Office was created as a exterritorial set of buildings belonging to Poland. These comprised of:



  • Post Office Gdańsk 1 on the Jan Heweliusz Plaza near the Old Town
  • Post Office Gdańsk 2 located in the Main Train Station
  • Post Office Gdańsk 3 in the Port
Since 1930, the Gdańsk 1 office became the main office of the Polish Post in the Free City. It also housed a telephone exchange that allowed contact with Poland. Also, since 1926, a Polish military outpost was established on the Westerplatte Peninsula. Both these enclaves in the city would later become scenes for firece battles between the German war machine and the Polish Army.



After the Nazi Party established itself as a gorverning party in Germany and Adolf Hitler became the Reichskanzler, the Germans in the Free City could also feel it. In 1933, the Nazi party managed to take over the government of the city, suppressing the opposition. The Jews and Poles were being discriminated and the tensions rose. Finally, in 1939, Hitler, via the Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop, delivered an ultimatum to the Polish government. In it, he demanded the right to construct an exteritorial highway and a railway line that would connect the IIIrd Reich with East Prussia. If it was construted, it would basically cut off mainland Poland from Pomerania, which could have resulted in the annexation of Gdańsk. Fearing the worst, the Poles declined.



Even before that, the Poles took measures to prepare the postal workers for the worst. A secret self-defense cell was created, led by Alfons Flisykowski, which conducted secret training in case of an attack. In April 1939, the General Staff of the Polish Army sent 2nd Lieutenant Konrad Guderski to Gdańsk, so that he could assume command and prepare the defense. Overall, just before the outbreak of the new war, there were 55 postal workers in the main building.



At 4:45 hours on the 1st of September 1939, battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish outpost at Westerplatte. The German invasion of Poland has begun. The postal workers already knew, that something was wrong even before the shelling started – at 4:00 hours, telephone and electric lines were cut. The Poles, however, were not going to simply surrender. They were ready to fight. The armament, that the Poles could use consisted of one "Ur" antitank rifle, three Browning wz. 28 machine guns (licensed copies of the Browning Automatic Rifle), 40 pistols, three rifles and a handful of hand grenades...
 
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My uncle was actually my aunt’s second husband – they were married in the late 50’s. He was a big lump of a man with a bigger smile, constantly bryclreemed hair and a broad Black Country accent (which, as a kid, I found hysterically funny). I have many memories of him, but in most of them he tends to be sitting in his favourite chair, at what looks like a slightly awkward angle, and shouting at their budgerigar. Now I think about it, I can’t actually remember ever seeing him move.

After he died my aunt told me a story.

When The Longest Day was released he’d been very insistent that they both go to see it. She had found this odd, as he never went to the cinema and found sitting for long periods in theatre type seating excruciatingly painful.

But, anyway – they went.

After about half an hour she became aware that his cheeks were wet with tears and that he was noiselessly sobbing. She asked him in a whisper if he wanted to leave, but he didn’t respond, or avert his gaze from the screen, so she grabbed his hand and held it for the remainder of the film.

Afterwards all he would tell her was something along the lines that he ‘wanted to make sure they did justice to the boys’; she always suspected that the ‘boys’ he was referring to were probably dead, and he never spoke of it again.

It was only years after this event that she learned, from relations of his, that he was a D-Day veteran (and I mean D-Day - not plus 1, or 2 etc). He’d made it off the beach only to be hit by a mortar round and left for dead in a ditch for several days, with half his backside missing.

My dad never spoke of his actual experiences beyond a few not really military stories (don’t bother with the maths - he was twenty years older than my mum): alone in a barracks bath house in central London when it was hit by a bomb; running across Hyde Park during another air raid he could just see out of the corner of his eye in the pitch black something that looked disconcertingly like a ghost keeping pace with him - turned out to be a handkerchief stuck in his collar; sharing a shop doorway and a roll-up with a similarly caught out Ralph Richardson during yet another air raid. However, he always claimed the most dangerous thing he experienced was a Blackpool lodging house he’d been billeted at which was so cold that his boots had frozen stuck to the floor.

I’m not so sure - but he chose not to tell us anymore, and aside from a few photographs his wartime died with him a couple of years ago. He volunteered at the outbreak of war at the age of 19. My grandfather was furious – as the only son of a farmer still at home he could have claimed a protected occupation. Frustrated by a lack of action he transferred from the RAF to the army. His antecedents contain a fair few rogues, and a lot of soldiers and scrappers, but my dad was the gentlest of gentlemen, and I find his search for action admirable – because it was clearly duty that drove him, not a bred in the bone hunger for action. I wish I knew more.

Some people's lives seem like novels that no-one ever wrote.
 
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