Sunday, February 17, 2019

Luftwaffe Dispatch Rider with His Motorcycle

Dispatch rider from a Luftwaffe Field Division stands next to his DKW NZ250 krad, and note the early all leather motorcyclist glove. Because the weather is in a hot summer day, he is wearing a standard fliegerbluse uniform for Luftwaffe personnel and not a warm Kradmantel for dispatch rider. A despatch rider (or dispatch) is a military messenger, mounted on horse or motorcycle. Dispatch riders were used by armed forces to deliver urgent orders and messages between headquarters and military units. They had a vital role at a time when telecommunications were limited and insecure. They were also used to deliver carrier pigeons.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Pałac Prezydencki (Presidential Palace) in Warsaw

Pałac Prezydencki (Presidential Palace) in Warsaw, 1940. It is the elegant classicist latest version of a building that has stood on the Krakowskie Przedmieście site since 1643. Over the years, it has been rebuilt and remodeled many times. For its first 175 years, the palace was the private property of several aristocratic families. In 1791 it hosted the authors and advocates of the Constitution of May 3, 1791. It was in 1818 that the palace began its ongoing career as a governmental structure, when it became the seat of the Viceroy of the Polish (Congress) Kingdom under Russian occupation (Namiestnik of the Kingdom of Poland). Following Poland's resurrection after World War I, in 1918, the building was taken over by the newly reconstituted Polish authorities and became the seat of the Council of Ministers. During World War II, it served the country's German occupiers as a Deutsches Haus and survived intact the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. After the war, it resumed its function as seat of the Polish Council of Ministers. This picture depict Warsaw some time after the invasion in 1939, while the buildings in the background are heavily damaged the streets have been cleared and life appears to be continuing as normal. It is part of the photo series that was taken by the German photographer Robert Bothner during the Second World War, and depict Smolensk, Warsaw and Ghent under occupation by Nazi Germany. As time goes on it seems there are more and more sets of original colour photographs turning up, and while the quality on some is not brilliant, they truly help the Second World War come alive. It were scanned from Afgacolor slides. Unfortunately the photographs are undated.

Source :,_Warsaw

Plac Bankowy (Bank Square) in central Warsaw

Plac Bankowy (Bank Square) in central Warsaw. It is one of the city's principal squares. Located downtown, adjacent to the Saxon Garden and Warsaw Arsenal, it is also a principal public-transport hub, with bus and streetcar stops and a Warsaw Metro station. This picture depict Warsaw some time after the invasion in 1939, while the buildings in the background are heavily damaged the streets have been cleared and life appears to be continuing as normal. It is part of the photo series that was taken by the German photographer Robert Bothner during the Second World War, and depict Smolensk, Warsaw and Ghent under occupation by Nazi Germany. As time goes on it seems there are more and more sets of original colour photographs turning up, and while the quality on some is not brilliant, they truly help the Second World War come alive. It were scanned from Afgacolor slides. Unfortunately the photographs are undated.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

German Sentry in the Freezing Russian Winter

German infantry soldier as in winter outfit performing his duty as a sentry in the freezing cold of Russian winter, 1941/42. He is wearing sheepskin coat, warm enough for his demanding job. But this is a unique case which happened very rarely, and the photo was made specifically for the German public, which was extremely surprised why the majority of their soldiers were not ready for winter.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Wehrmacht Funeral on the Eastern Front

After the first major German losses in the Eastern Front in 1941, divisional cemeteries were set up behind the front lines. Here the dead were brought for burial, with the Divisionskommandeur and other officers attending to pay their respects. A total of 2.7 million German soldiers died on the Eastern Front, and 1.4 million German civilians were killed. These numbers are dwarfed by the 11.4 million missing and killed Soviet soldiers, including 3.5 million prisoners of war who died in captivity. Soviet civilian losses were even higher at 15.2 million. One can justifiably describe the German-Soviet war as the bloodiest war in history!

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"The Onslaught: The German Drive to Stalingrad Documented in 150 Unpublished Colour Photographs" by Max Hastings

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Harry Crerar and Tommy Burns in Italy

Two of the Canadian Army’s prominent intellectuals from the inter-war years, from left to right: Lieutenant-Colonel (later General) H.D.G. Crerar and Lieutenant-Colonel (later Lieutenant-General) E.L. M. Burns, pictured here in Italy, 1944. "Tommy" Burns was one of those rare individuals who rose to command a corps in wartime. He had gained valuable combat experience during the First World War, and he had been decorated for gallantry in the field. He had a proven intellect and was constantly looking forward, advocating development and changes, and providing specific doctrine to implement those changes. He was able to debate his recommendations and views with the best military thinkers of the time, and he was able hold his ground while doing so. He was properly schooled in military staff work, having progressed with distinction though various British and Indian staff schools and colleges. His peacetime rise through the ranks and his key staff appointments provided the experience necessary to support a commander’s intent with the necessary orders and instructions. What he lacked was the somewhat intangible training to command at a high level: the necessary command presence to engender the confidence of his superiors and subordinates when he was given a golden opportunity. Burns was also not afforded an opportunity to command a brigade or a division in combat, prior to having command of a corps in battle thrust upon him. He was also in the unfortunate position of being the pawn in a political battle whereby his superior, Lieutenant- General Leese, did not want another corps headquarters, especially one that was a division short in establishment.

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"Corps Commanders: Five British and Canadian Generals at War, 1939-45" by Douglas E. Delaney

Monday, February 11, 2019

Discarded Artillery Shell in Smolensk

A view of the town of Smolensk in Russia. A pile of discarded wicker artillery shell packing cases and ammunition boxes. Based on their three-tone camouflage, the boxes are either pre-war dated or constructed after February 1943. As these were likely used during the invasion, I would lean towards the former. This photograph is part of the series that was taken by the German photographer Robert Bothner during the Second World War, and depict Smolensk, Warsaw and Ghent under occupation by Nazi Germany. As time goes on it seems there are more and more sets of original colour photographs turning up, and while the quality on some is not brilliant, they truly help the Second World War come alive. It were scanned from Afgacolor slides. Unfortunately the photographs are undated, but the Smolensk series look likely to have been taken in 1941, as the damage to the city is still fresh, and there are discarded ammunition boxes in one of the photographs.

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

German Soldier with His Horse in the Winter of 1941/42

German Wehrmacht soldier with his horse on the Eastern Front, winter of 1941/42. The winter of 1941 produced the greatest crisis. Horse losses in Army Group Centre had reached about 1000 per day. The standard German infantry division (1939 pattern) required anything from 4077 to 6033 horses to move. However, German divisions rarely had more than 150 horses in reserve. Moreover, German veterinary hospitals, which could handle from 500 (divisional veterinary company) to 550 (army hospital) horses, were swamped, often having to treat 2-3000 horses at one time. Yet the Wehrmacht survived. Replacements and captured horses were sent to veterinary collecting stations for medical examination. Horses no longer fit for military service but able to work were evacuated and later sold to farmers. Those too weak to be evacuated were slaughtered for meat. Measures like these enabled the army to endure, even though the Germans lost a total of 180,000 horses during the winter of 1941 alone!

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Friday, February 8, 2019

German Soldier with Captured Soviet Rifle

German soldier with captured SVT-40 Soviet rifle. It is well known that the SVT-40 was a prized war trophy amongst the German troops, especially when on the Russian front. The SVT was so popular that the German ordnance and logistic cs manufactured slings and leather goods to support the rifle in the field! They liked them because they were light and - in well trained hands - effective. Plus, the invader grabbed just about anything they could get their hands on (with the glaring exception of French small arms). The Germans were using captured equipment a lot, for they couldn't produce enough to arm all their military and paramilitary units, as well as equipping some of their allies. They used anything, from tanks or artillery to guns to rifles and submachine guns.

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SS-Kriegsberichter Franz Roth

SS-Untersturmführer and SS-Kriegsberichter Franz Seraphicus Roth (5 April 1911 – 17 March 1943) was an Austrian photographer who worked as a free-lance photo reporter at the US-American Associated Press. His military career began before the war, when he - as an Austrian journalist working for a German newspaper - covered the Italian conquest of Abyssinia and the Spanish Civil War. Roth joined the SS soon after the Anschluss, and became an SS-Kriegsberichter (SS war-correspondent). At that time he also worked for the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and as a photo editor for the American news agency Associated Press (The Associated Press photo department entered a formal cooperation with the Nazi regime in the 1930s and worked under the auspices of the German Ministry of Propaganda). Roth joined the Kriegsberichterstatter-Zug of the Leibstandarte SS under SS-Sturmbannführer Kurt Meyer in 1940, and covered the division in Greece (April 1941) and the first year in the Soviet Union (when this photo was taken, summer of 1941), through rebuilding in the west during the second half of 1942, and finally in the fighting around Kharkov in early 1943. He was awarded the Eisernes Kreuz II.Klasse in 1941 and promoted to SS-Untersturmführer in September 1942. Franz Roth died on 17 March 1943, after he was seriously wounded during the Third Battle of Kharkov. He was covering Kurt Meyer's reconaissance battlegroup (Kampfgruppe “Meyer”) at the time. Meyer mentioned Roth’s death in his memoirs ‘Grenadiere’. Roth left more than 120 rolls of film that give historians and history lovers a precious account of the war. The album contains more than 600 photographs from contact sheets kept by the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. Franz Roth was buried at Heldenfriedhof Askold's Grave on the right bank of the Dnieper River in Kiev in Ukraine, and posthumously awarded the Eisernes Kreuz I.Klasse on 25 March 1943. His images can be found in a variety of European World War II propaganda publications and in American newspapers.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Gebirgsjäger Postcard

This is a nice original period 'Gebirgsjäger' (German Mountain Troops) Propaganda Postcard, and it was published by the 'Kunstverlag E.A. Schwerdtfeger & Co. AG.' from Berlin. The postcard measures approximately 15 x 10,5 cm. Gebirgsjägers wore essentially the same core uniform as regular infantry with some exceptions—mountain boots (Bergstiefel), the short-brimmed mountain cap (Bergmütze), and a reversible Windbluse (anorak) are the most visible differences. In addition to the core field gear (canteens, mess kits, etc.), Gebirgsjäger sometimes carried climbing equipment, skis and snow shoes. Weaponry included the K98 Mauser rifle, MP40 submachine gun, MG34 and MG42 machine guns, like their regular army counterparts. A shorter-barrelled K98, called the Gewehr 33/40 was also issued, more suited for carrying into the mountains. The infantry regiments were also supported by anti-tank guns, mortars and howitzers from the division. A typical division numbered about 15,000 men, 1,400 vehicles and up to 6,000 pack animals, ranging from horses of varying breeds to camels. 

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A View of the Town of Kamianiec in Belarus

A view of the town of Kamianiec in Belarus. The round tower in the background is the Bielaya Vieža (Tower of Kamianiec). The white towers in the background belong to the Orthodox church of St. Simyaon. This photograph is part of the series that was taken by the German photographer Robert Bothner during the Second World War, and depict Smolensk, Warsaw and Ghent under occupation by Nazi Germany. As time goes on it seems there are more and more sets of original colour photographs turning up, and while the quality on some is not brilliant, they truly help the Second World War come alive. It were scanned from Afgacolor slides. Unfortunately the photographs are undated, but the Smolensk series look likely to have been taken in 1941, as the damage to the city is still fresh, and there are discarded ammunition boxes in one of the photographs.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Fallschirmjäger Wearing Early Pattern Jump Smock

German Fallschirmjäger (Paratroopers) at Crete with graugrun knochensack, summer of 1941. The Fallschirmjäger, like all paratroopers from all countries in World War II, had special clothing and equipment that the standard Infantry did not have. The knochensack (jump smock or bone sack) was one of these unique pieces of clothing that only the German Paratroopers of WW2 had. This pictures shows the early green pattern of Fallschirmschützenbluse M1940, intended to be worn over the standard uniform and personal equipment when descending by parachute. The generous amount of pockets and zipper openings made it possible for the man to gain access to his equipment, and if worn at the time of the jump, a side-arm, as in German practice personal weapons were carried in drop-containers. Other variations of jump smocks were those earlier ones of the Army Fallschirmjäger-Infanterie-Bataillon (later incorporated into the Luftwaffe), a light green shorter collarless garment distinguished by having two parallel zips from throat to thigh; a green step-in smock similar to this example; a full front-opening smock with no 'legs'; and one that featured a fitted pistol holster made of fabric attached to rear right. Late-war examples also appeared in tan 'water' pattern camouflage material. Physical description for Fallschirmschützenbluse M40: Single-breasted step-in mid-thigh length jump oversmock made of splinter pattern printed gabardine. The smock has a zipper fitted to the front and is concealed with a fly front, has two deep hip pockets and two diagonal pockets to the upper chest with two deep vertical access slits, one at either side of the low hip, closed by zips with black leather tags. All are fly fronted as is the main vertical closure that has six additional pressure studs. Fitted to the right of the lower front fly is an additional short concealed secondary zip with leather tag that permits the wearer to urinate without removing the garment. The cuffs are closed by a metal studs and have short elasticated inner wind resistant shrouds of brown cotton material. There are a pair of metal pressure studs fitted to the outer legs of the garment, allowing the legs to be adjusted to fit the legs tighter when parachuting. There are large open apertures underneath the arms, with below, a series of six air vent holes. Triple vertical holes are seen at either side of the waist for fitting metal belt equipment support hooks. A machine-embroidered Luftwaffe eagle and swastika insignia in white on dark grey is sewn to the right upper chest.

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Sherman Tank of a Canadian Unit in Normandy

A nice color shot of an M4A4 Sherman tank from the 4th Canadian Armoured Division - with some hay on it - in the field near the French village of Vaucelles, Normandy, summer of 1944. The 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division was created during World War II by the conversion of the 4th Canadian Infantry Division at the beginning of 1942 in Canada. The division proceeded overseas in 1942, with its two main convoys reaching the United Kingdom in August and October. The division spent almost two years training in the United Kingdom before crossing to Normandy in July 1944. In the United Kingdom, it participated in war games together with the Polish 1st Armoured Division, and later fought in France, the Low Countries, and Germany, both divisions followed very close paths. The division participated in the later stages of the Battle of Normandy at the Falaise Pocket, the advance from Normandy and spent almost two months engaged at the Breskens Pocket. It wintered in the Netherlands and took part in the final advance across northern Germany.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Assumption Cathedral in Smolensk 1941

These photos depict Smolensk (Russia) some time after the Battle of Smolensk that occurred in July 1941. Preceding the battle, on 28th June the city was heavily bombarded, the effects of which are still clearly visible. The large white building in the photo is Assumption Cathedral, the construction of which was completed in 1772. These photographs is part of the series that was taken by the German photographer Robert Bothner during the Second World War, and depict Smolensk, Warsaw and Ghent under occupation by Nazi Germany. As time goes on it seems there are more and more sets of original colour photographs turning up, and while the quality on some is not brilliant, they truly help the Second World War come alive. It were scanned from Afgacolor slides. Unfortunately the photographs are undated, but the Smolensk series look likely to have been taken in 1941, as the damage to the city is still fresh, and there are discarded ammunition boxes in one of the photographs.

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Brigadier Tom Rutherford in Front of a Sherman Tank

Canadian Brigadier Thomas John "Uncle Tom" Rutherford (16 January 1893), Commander of the 1st Armoured Brigade, stands in front of a M4A4 Sherman tank of the Canadian Army. As a senior brigade commander, Rutherford satisfied his combat cravings by visiting units in the field as often as possible “to test out our training and gain experience for further training by acting as a member of tank crews in action,” he wrote in his memoirs. But his job proved far more involved and varied than that. After nearly two years with the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, he took over the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade. He later returned to the armoured corps and commanded a reinforcement units brigade group. His tasks included giving rehabilitation instruction to men who were being sent home from the war. It was a job Rutherford took particularly seriously. The government’s failure to properly look after its First World War veterans had inspired Rutherford and others to found the Canadian Legion to advocate for veterans and he was determined that it not happen again. A stint as deputy commander of Canadian forces in the Netherlands brought Rutherford’s negotiating skills to the fore, as he helped to arrange for the departure of Canada’s soldiers from that country. “It allowed us to get out without further complications and with the good will of our friends, the people of Holland,” he wrote. Despite his increasing responsibility, Rutherford was never promoted beyond the rank of brigadier. But he didn’t aspire to loftier positions. “I never was ambitious to play on the larger board,” he wrote. “I wanted to lead men, not to move units or formations. Perhaps that was why I lasted so long as I am quite sure that no senior officer ever was jealous of me or got any idea that I was out after his job but only doing my best where I was. I felt very, very fortunate always to be where I was so long as I could please my superiors which I seemed to be able to do.” This was recognized when, in 1945, Rutherford was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Only 481 Canadians have ever been appointed CBE in the chivalric order.

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German Fallschirmjäger during Operation Mercury

A German Fallschirmjäger (Paratrooper) with the rank of Gefreiter (Corporal) in his light olive green jump smock of the early version, armed to the teeth, during Unternehmen Merkur (Operation Mercury), German invasion of the Crete Island in Greece, May 1941. Unternehmen Merkur began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany began an airborne invasion of Crete. Greek and other Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island. After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would defeat the invasion. The next day, through communication failures, Allied tactical hesitation and German offensive operations, Maleme Airfield in western Crete fell, enabling the Germans to land reinforcements and overwhelm the defensive positions on the north of the island. Allied forces withdrew to the south coast. More than half were evacuated by the British Royal Navy and the remainder surrendered or joined the Cretan resistance. The defence of Crete evolved into a costly naval engagement; by the end of the campaign the Royal Navy's eastern Mediterranean strength had been reduced to only two battleships and three cruisers. This picture was first published in a very heavily illustrated book, 'Fliegende Front' (Flying Front), as written by Hauptmann Walter Eberhard Freiherr von Medem, and published by Verlag Die Wehrmacht in Berlin, Germany, in 1942. The book must be regarded as typical propaganda material to show the German population how well the war was progressing. ‘Die Wehmacht’ published a series of other propaganda books during the war. They also released sets of photo postcards from the war.

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Seafort Highlander Officers in Sicily

Lieutenant-Colonel Bert Hoffmeister (left), wearing his Seaforth Highlander balmoral and shoulder flash in Sicily, summer of 1943. Hoffmeister won a Distinguished Service Order for his actions in Sicily. Here he sits with a Major Wood, who wears a Black Watch Canada balmoral and shoulder flash, but oddly wears a 1st Division red patch. The Black Watch were part of Canadian 2nd Division. Perhaps he is temporarily attached? On 25 August 1943 in Sicily, The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada held a “reunion” with three Seaforth units from the United Kingdom – the 2nd, 5th and 6th Battalions, Seaforth Highlanders. Ceremonies opened with the massed pipes and drums of the four battalions marching to the Catania Stadium for the sounding of Retreat. According to the regimental diary it was “a never to be forgotten sight, that kilted phalanx walking through Catania with local populace agape with wonder and admiration.” Afterwards a party ensued at a villa in nearby Misterbianco which housed the officers’ and sergeants’ messes of the 6th Battalion. The C.O. of the Canadian Seaforths (Lt-Col Hoffmeister) toasted the three British battalions with an uplifting speech said “to reach the hearts of all Seaforths present.”

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Fallschirmjäger at Crete 1941

Two German Fallschirmjäger (Paratrooper) at Crete in May 1941. The pictures most likely were not taken on the first day and probably more like a couple days in. As you can see, the man on the left carries a Luger in his right pocket – as a backup I would suppose, as his holster is unopened on his left hip. The younger soldier on the right leaning against the wall has the bandage covering his left elbow under his tunic. His right arm then joins his hand going into the right pocket of his tunic. Again he is sporting a pistol in his left hand lower tunic pocket whilst he carries a small pair of field opticals on his chest. He has also Binoculars and MP40 submachine gun. They were most likely a Squad leader. They are wearing a light olive green jump smock of the early version, with the trousers that were darker than the smock. 

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Fallschirmjäger Rests at Crete

German Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers) rests after the Battle in Crete, 20 May 1941. Certainly a propaganda photo for the homeland, concealing the huge losses of the 'Green Devils'. They are wearing a light olive green jump smock of the early version, with the trousers that were darker than the smock. The Germans used colour-coded parachutes to distinguish the canisters carrying rifles, ammunition, crew-served weapons and other supplies. Heavy equipment like the Leichtgeschütz 40 was dropped with a special triple-parachute harness designed to bear the extra weight. The troopers also carried special strips of cloth which could be unfurled in pre-arranged patterns to signal low-flying fighters to coordinate air support and supply drops. In contrast with most nations' forces, who jumped with personal weapons strapped to their bodies, German procedure was for individual weapons to be dropped in canisters. This was a major flaw that left the paratroopers armed only with their fighting knives, pistols and grenades in the critical few minutes after landing. The poor design of German parachutes compounded the problem: the standard German harness had only a single riser to the canopy, and thus could not be steered. Even the 25% of paratroops armed with submachine guns were at a distinct disadvantage, given the weapon's limited range. Many Fallschirmjäger were shot attempting to reach their weapons canisters. The picture was taken from a very heavily illustrated book, "Fliegende Front" (Flying Front), as written by Hauptmann Walter Eberhard Freiherr von Medem and published by Verlag Die Wehrmacht in Berlin, Germany in 1942.

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King George VI during Award Ceremony for Canadian Soldiers

The King of the Great Britain, George VI (center), with the commander of the 1st Canadian Corps, General-Lieutenant Edson Tommy Burns on the right (partly in the frame), and the commander of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, Major-General Bert Hoffmeister (2nd from right), in Italy on the day of the award ceremony for the Canadian soldiers and officers, who distinguished themselves in combat, 31 July 1944. On 18 July 1944 the 8th Army directed 1st Canadian Corps to begin concentrating in secret near Perugia, in anticipation that they would continue offensive operations by the Army and break through the Gothic Line. The Canadian Corps' role in the attack was to take over the eastern flank of the 10th Corps in the Central Appenines, permitting the 10th and 13th Corps to concentrate for the main assault. In the meantime, the 1st Canadian Division was to reinforce the 13th Corps at Florence. Following a Royal Visit on 31 July 1944, the 1st Division began moving from the Volturno Valley, followed by the remainder of the Corps. Elaborate deception schemes and rigorous security was enforced to hide the move. Unit flashes (as well as the distinctive ribbon of the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal) were stripped from uniforms and identification symbols were removed from vehicles while enemy intelligence was provided false information in hopes of convincing them they Corps was concentrating behind the 2nd Polish Corps.

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Friday, February 1, 2019

Junkers Ju 52 Moving Supplies for the Invasion of Crete

A Junkers Ju 52 3mg4e moving the supplies in preparation for Unternehmen Merkur (Operation Mercury), May 1941. Shortly before dawn on 20 May 20 1941, a flight of 500 transport planes took off from seven airstrips on mainland Greece. As they climbed upward, the tri-motor aircraft emerged from reddish-orange clouds of dust into blue sky. The dust clouds were generated by the propeller wash from hundreds of engines sitting on unpaved runways as the planes prepared for takeoff. Inside each aircraft, a dozen German paratroopers sat hunched on canvas benches sweating profusely inside their heavy uniforms. Each one welcomed the cool air that swept through the cabins once the aircraft were aloft. The planes lumbered in tightly packed formations at low altitude over the pale blue waters of the Aegean Sea toward their objective. Once they crossed the coast of enemy-held Crete, they were greeted by a storm of flak that rocked the planes as if they were trees in the wind. Ignoring the turbulence, the veteran paratroopers stood up, shuffled toward the cargo door, and flung themselves spread eagle toward the ground below. Once the flight crews had delivered their human cargo to its destination, they turned their aircraft back toward the mainland to load the next wave. Operation Mercury, the largest airborne invasion the world had yet seen, was without doubt the finest hour of the Junkers Ju-52 transport, known to its crews as “Tante Ju,” or Auntie Junkers.

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Ernest Alvia "Smokey" Smith VC

Ernest Alvia "Smokey" Smith VC, CM, OBC, CD (3 May 1914 – 3 August 2005) of Seaforth Highlanders of Canada was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the last living Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross. On the night of 21/22 October 1944 at the River Savio, in Northern Italy, Private Smith was in the spearhead of the attack which established a bridgehead over the river. With a PIAT anti-tank launcher he disabled a 44-ton Panther Mark V tank at a range of just 30 feet (10 metres), and while protecting a wounded comrade, he killed four panzergrenadiers and routed six others. When another tank was sent to take out his position, he used another PIAT to damage it enough to retreat. He then carried his wounded comrade, and joined a counter-attack to disperse the Germans still attacking his previous position. The squad destroyed three Panther Tanks, two self-propelled artillery pieces, a half-track, a scout car, and a few German soldiers. During his career, Smith was promoted to corporal nine times, but subsequently demoted back to private nine times prior to his actions at the River Savio. He later achieved the rank of sergeant. This picture was taken in 1945

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General Bert Hoffmeister with his Sherman Tank

Major-General Bertram Meryl "Bert" Hoffmeister (Commander of the 5th Canadian Armored Division) in Italy, May 1944. Hoffmeister wears a distinctive British black beret of armored troops, along with the insignia for Generals. He wears a USA shirt with official shoulder straps, while on the shoulder pads he wears the sleeve with the Major-General stripes edged in red, the distinctive color of the Staff Corps. Collar badge is for General-officer and Field Marshalls. Patch with the purple color of the 5th Armored Division, next to the Canadian badge. Behind him is a M4 Sherman tank, nicknamed "Vancouver". USA-made shirts in the Canadian army and other armies in Italian front are in common use. Major-General Hoffmeister is widely considered to be the best of the Canadian general officers who served during the Second World War. His first medal ribbon is interesting, in that it signifies a tied – record three awards of the Distinguished Service Order for a Canadian soldier with General Jean Victor Allard.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Refueling Petrol to Junkers Ju 52

German Luftwaffe pilot refueling a Junkers Ju 52 transport plane in Russia, January 1943. The aircraft has been camouflaged in white painting. Even the seemingly mundane tasks of an engine over-haul and refueling are fascinating to watch! The picture was first published in 'Signal' magazine, 3/1943 edition.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Maneuvers of British Armored Division

Malton in Yorkshire, 29 September 1942. Maneuvers of the 42nd Armored Division. On the right is General Sir Bernard Paget (Commander of the Territorial Forces), who takes the top of the two pieces with his greenish color and brown pants of the Battledress. On the left is Sir Anthony Eden (Minister of Foreign Affairs), who takes the complete set of two pieces and has inserted the underside of the jacket inside the pants. British soldiers usually wear the two piece suit of work (Two piece denim overalls), as it serves as an instruction suit work, a combat uniform in summer, or can be worn over the Battledress in winter. The colors vary from a very light brown to a whitish greenish hue. The Denim Tank Suit itself is a whole plethora of color that varies from green to yellowish-green. This suit began to deliver from 1944 onwards, so what the officer wear in this picture is the two pieces, except the one on the right that carries the Battledress jacket. Denim Overalls is defined by Jean Bouchery in the book "The British Soldier" volume one.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Panzer 38(t) Racing under the Trees

Panzer 38(t) under the trees in the Eastern Front during Unternehmen Barbarossa, 1941. The German tank commander Otto Carius, who was credited with over 150 'kills', described an action in a 38(t) in 8 July 1941: "It happened like greased lightning. A hit against our tank, a metallic crack, the scream of a comrade, and that was all there was! A large piece of armour plating had been penetrated next to the radio operator's seat. No one had to tell us to get out. Not until I had run my hand across my face while crawling in the ditch next to the road did I discover that they had also got me. Our radio operator had lost his left arm. We cursed the brittle and inelastic Czech steel that gave the Russian 47mm anti-tank gun so little trouble. The pieces of our own armour plating and assembly bolts caused considerably more damage than the shrapnel of the round itself".

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A Motor Column Crossing a River on a Pontoon Bridge

France, 1940: The German convoy crossing a tributary of the Oise at Senlis on a pontoon bridge, in this case a Brücken-Gerät B, some 50m long and capable of supporting as much as 20 tons. While not evident here, anti-aircraft guns were normally emplaced to protect bridge sites. The Bruckengerat B could use two-piece metal pontoons (Halbpontons) or large inflatable boats.

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Book "German Pionier 1939-45: Combat Engineer of the Wehrmacht" by Gordon L. Rottman

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friedrich August von der Heydte

Friedrich August von der Heydte (30 March 1907 - 7 July 1994) was born in Münich to a noble Freiherr, a title he inherited later in life. He joined the German Army after schooling, though he soon returned to school, attending Innsbruck University to study law; he earned his law degree in 1927. Further studies in Vienna (Austria) followed. He returned to Germany in the early 1930s and found himself disagreeing with Nazi philosophies. Nearly running across paths with Gestapo agents, he evaded arrest by rejoining the German Army in 1935. Between 1935 and 1937, he spent some time at The Hague, Netherlands, for further studying. During World War II, von der Heydte famously led a diversionary mission during the Ardennes Offensive. Immediately after the battle began, both real and dummy paratroopers were dropped to falsely enlarge the appearance of the assault and to confuse Allied defenders. The operation successfully forced the Americans put up roadblocks at every road junction and checked every passer by for identification, dramatically slowing the transportation system that was so critical for the Allied war effort: British General Bernard Montgomery was stopped and checked so many times that he later asked Eisenhower for an American identification card to speed up the process!

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

British and American Officers in India 1945

Accra, India, 1945. To the right is a Lieutenant of the USAAF. He wears a U.S. barracks hat and khaki shorts for hot or tropical climate. The forest warrior (Bush Jacket) with the short sleeves - made by a local tailor - is of British origin. The captain on the left is a British officer. He wears a Khaki beret, that seems to have added an additional tassel with the grenade emblem of the Artillery corps. He also wears an Army Captain's gallons with red rim and tailor-made KD shirt with the short sleeves, the last one is in blue color that in theory correspond to the RAF (Royal Air Force). At the bottom he wears a KD sand pants and a regulation green tights.

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