The miserable experience of a D-Day rehearsal

Troops coming ashore from a landing craft under a smoke screen during Combined Operations training at Inveraray, Scotland, 9 October 1941.

In the morning we got away, and although it was still choppy we completed our sea mileage (the equivalent I suppose of Newhaven to Normandy) and at 1615 hours we approached the coast. There had been some kind of real bombardment earlier and this had set fire to some pine woods and marram grass on the sandhills. By the time we landed there were squads of Land Army girls beating out the fires, which tended to spoil the realism.


Destroyer HMS Laforey sunk as she closes for the kill

The destroyer HMS Laforey, a veteran of the war in the Mediterranean.

After what appeared to be an eternity, I spotted the darker shape of an approaching vessel. Suddenly there were cries of, “ Swim you German bastards, swim!” Our would be rescuers, were convinced that we were German survivors from the U-boat, which Tumult and Blencathra had eventually sunk. They were unaware of the fact that Laforey had gone too.


‘Fight to the last man’ as Japanese enter India

View of the Burmese landscape from the Dimapur-Kohima road near Imphal.

In Dimapur I had asked the brigadier commanding the base what his ration strength was. ‘Forty-five thousand, near enough,’ he replied. ‘And how many soldiers can you scrape up out of that lot?’ I inquired. He smiled wryly. ‘I might get five hundred who know how to fire a rifle!’ . But, as at Kohima, everything that could be done to put the sprawling base into a state of defence was being done.


A burning plane 18,000′ over Germany and no parachute

Flight -Sergeant J Morgan, the rear gunner of an Avro Lancaster of No. 630 Squadron RAF at East Kirkby, Lincolnshire, checks his guns in the Nash & Thompson FN20 tail turret before taking off on a night raid on the marshalling yards at Juvisy-sur-Orge, France.

I leaned back, pushed open the turret doors, and reached into the fuselage to grab my parachute from its rack. The whole length of the fuselage was blazing. The flames reached right down to the door of my turret. And there, in a fierce little fire of its own, my parachute was blazing, too. For a brief moment I stared while it dissolved before my eyes.


The ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft III

The entrance to 'Harry',

There were about 200 of us spread evenly in the rooms throughout the hut. I can’t honestly remember if we had been allocated rooms according to our escape numbers, but that was probably the case. Everyone was nervous, checking constantly papers, escape rations, appearance — all the small details your life might depend upon later.


Japanese held at the Battle of Sangshak

The Battle of Imphal-Kohima March - July 1944: British 3-inch mortar detachments support the 19th Indian Division's advance along the Mawchi Road, east of Toungoo, Burma. The mortar proved the most effective weapon in jungle warfare.

In the late afternoon, I had to visit company commanders to convey orders for the coming night attack. I went by way of a communication trench and saw five soldiers crouching in it. On the battlefield soldiers feel forlorn and tend to stick together. Just as I told them to disperse, a shell exploded between me and them and all five were killed. I was facing the enemy so my face was injured. I could not see…