The Panzer

The Panzer II is the common name used for a family of German tanks used in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen II (abbreviated PzKpfw II).

Although the vehicle had originally been designed as a stopgap while larger, more advanced tanks were developed, it nonetheless went on to play an important role in the early years of World War II, during the Polish and French campaigns

The Panzer II was the most numerous tank in the German Panzer divisions at the beginning of the war.[2] It was used in both North Africa against the Western Allies and on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union.

The Panzer II was supplanted by the Panzer III and IV medium tanks by 1940/1941. By the end of 1942, it had been largely removed from front line service and it was used for training and on secondary fronts. 

The turrets of the then-obsolete Panzer Is and Panzer IIs were reused as gun turrets on specially built defensive bunkers, particularly on the Atlantic Wall. Production of the tank itself ceased by January 1944, but its chassis remained in use as the basis of several other armoured vehicles, chiefly self-propelled artillery and tank destroyers such as the Wespe and Marder II respectively.

Normandy Landings

 

The Normandy landings were the landing operations and associated airborne operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II

Codenamed Operation Neptune and often referred to as D-Day, it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. 

The operation began the liberation of German-occupied France (and later western Europe) and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Planning for the operation began in 1943. 

In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. 

The weather on D-Day was far from ideal, and the operation had to be delayed 24 hours; a further postponement would have meant a delay of at least two weeks, as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days each month were deemed suitable. 

Adolf Hitler placed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion.

The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault—the landing of 24,000 AmericanBritish, and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight

Allied infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the coast of France at 06:30. The target 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: UtahOmahaGoldJuno, and Sword. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha. 

The men landed under heavy fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire, making the work of the beach-clearing teams difficult and dangerous. Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, with its high cliffs. 

At Gold, Juno, and Sword, several fortified towns were cleared in house-to-house fighting, and two major gun emplacements at Gold were disabled using specialised tanks.

The Allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day. 

CarentanSt. Lô, and Bayeux remained in German hands, and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until 21 July. Only two of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all five beachheads were not connected until 12 June; however, the operation gained a foothold that the Allies gradually expanded over the coming months. 

German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were documented for at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area now host many visitors each year.

 

Battle Of Britain

The Battle of Britain (German: die Luftschlacht um England, “the Air Battle for England”) was a military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe.

It has been described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces.
The British officially recognise the battle’s duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz, that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941.
German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard the battle as a single campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941, including the Blitz.

The primary objective of the German forces was to compel Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement.
In July 1940, the air and sea blockade began, with the Luftwaffe mainly targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth.

On 1 August, the Luftwaffe was directed to achieve air superiority over the RAF with the aim of incapacitating RAF Fighter Command; 12 days later, it shifted the attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure.

As the battle progressed, the Luftwaffe also targeted factories involved in aircraft production and strategic infrastructure.
Eventually, it employed terror bombing on areas of political significance and on civilians.
The Germans had rapidly overwhelmed France and the Low Countries, leaving Britain to face the threat of invasion by sea.

The German high command knew the difficulties of a seaborne attack and its impracticality while the Royal Navy controlled the English Channel and the North Sea
On 16 July, Adolf Hitler ordered the preparation of Operation Sea Lion as a potential amphibious and airborne assault on Britain, to follow once the Luftwaffe had air superiority over the UK.

In September, RAF Bomber Command night raids disrupted the German preparation of converted barges, and the Luftwaffe’s failure to overwhelm the RAF forced Hitler to postpone, and eventually cancel Operation Sea Lion.

Germany proved unable to sustain daylight raids, but their continued night-bombing operations on Britain – became known as the Blitz.

Historian Stephen Bungay cited Germany’s failure to destroy Britain’s air defences to force an armistice (or even an outright surrender) as the first major German defeat in World War II and a crucial turning point in the conflict.

The Battle of Britain takes its name from the speech given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on 18 June: “What General Weygand called the ‘Battle of France’ is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”  

The Battle of Britain (German: die Luftschlacht um England, “the Air Battle for England”) was a military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe.
I

t has been described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces.
The British officially recognise the battle’s duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz, that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941.

German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard the battle as a single campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941, including the Blitz.
The primary objective of the German forces was to compel Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement.

In July 1940, the air and sea blockade began, with the Luftwaffe mainly targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth. On 1 August, the Luftwaffe was directed to achieve air superiority over the RAF with the aim of incapacitating RAF Fighter Command; 12 days later, it shifted the attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure.

As the battle progressed, the Luftwaffe also targeted factories involved in aircraft production and strategic infrastructure.

Eventually, it employed terror bombing on areas of political significance and on civilians.

The Germans had rapidly overwhelmed France and the Low Countries, leaving

Britain to face the threat of invasion by sea.

The German high command knew the difficulties of a seaborne attack and its impracticality while the Royal Navy controlled the English Channel and the North Sea.

On 16 July, Adolf Hitler ordered the preparation of Operation Sea Lion as a potential amphibious and airborne assault on Britain, to follow once the Luftwaffe had air superiority over the UK.

In September, RAF Bomber Command night raids disrupted the German preparation of converted barges, and the Luftwaffe’s failure to overwhelm the RAF forced Hitler to postpone, and eventually cancel Operation Sea Lion.

Germany proved unable to sustain daylight raids, but their continued night-bombing operations on Britain – became known as the Blitz.

Historian Stephen Bungay cited Germany’s failure to destroy Britain’s air defences to force an armistice (or even an outright surrender) as the first major German defeat in World War II and a crucial turning point in the conflict.

The Battle of Britain takes its name from the speech given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on 18 June: “What General Weygand called the ‘Battle of France’ is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.

Wojtek the soldier bear

n the spring of 1942 the newly formed Anders’ Army left the Soviet Union for Iran, accompanied by thousands of Polish civilians who had been deported to the Soviet Union following the 1939 Soviet invasion of eastern Poland

At a railroad station in Hamadan, Iran, on 8 April 1942, Polish soldiers encountered a young Iranian boy who had found a bear cub whose mother had been shot by hunters. 

One of the civilian refugees in their midst, eighteen-year-old Irena (Inka) Bokiewicz, the great-niece of General Bolesław Wieniawa-Długoszowski, was very taken with the cub. 

She prompted Lieutenant Anatol Tarnowiecki to buy the young bear, which spent the next three months in a Polish refugee camp established near Tehran, principally under Irena’s care. 

In August, the bear was donated to the 2nd Transport Company, which later became the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, and he was named Wojtek by the soldiers. 

The name Wojtek is the nicknamediminutive form, or hypocorism of “Wojciech” (Happy Warrior), an old Slavic name still common in Poland.

 

Wojtek play-wrestling with a Polish soldier

Wojtek initially had problems swallowing and was fed condensed milk from an old vodka bottle. He was subsequently given fruit, marmalade, honey, and syrup, and was often rewarded with beer, which became his favourite drink. 

He later also enjoyed smoking (or eating) cigarettes, as well as drinking coffee in the mornings. He also would sleep with the other soldiers if they were ever cold in the night.[ He enjoyed wrestling with the soldiers and was taught to salute when greeted. 

He became an attraction for soldiers and civilians alike, and soon became an unofficial mascot to all the units stationed nearby. 

With the 22nd Company, he moved to Iraq, and then through Syria, Palestine, and Egypt.

Wojtek copied the other soldiers, drinking beer, smoking and even marching alongside them on his hind legs because he saw them do so. Wojtek had his own caregiver, assigned to look after him. The cub grew up while on campaign, and by the time of the Battle of Monte Cassino he weighed 200 pounds (14 st; 91 kg).

Private Wojtek

 

Wojtek with artillery shell: Emblem of 22nd Artillery Supply Company

From Egypt, the Polish II Corps was reassigned to fight alongside the British Eighth Army in the Italian campaign. Regulations for the British transport ship, which was to carry them to Italy, forbade mascot and pet animals. 

To get around this restriction, Wojtek was officially drafted into the Polish Army as a private and listed among the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company. Henryk Zacharewicz and Dymitr Szawlugo were assigned as his caretakers.

 

A standard 25-pounder ammunition crate, which held four shells

As an enlisted soldier with his own paybook, rank, and serial number, he lived with the other men in tents or in a special wooden crate, which was transported by truck. 

During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped his unit to convey ammunition by carrying 100-pound (45 kg) crates of 25-pound artillery shells, never dropping any of them. 

While this story generated controversy over its accuracy, at least one account exists of a British soldier recalling seeing a bear carrying crates of ammo. 

The bear mimicked the soldiers: when he saw the men lifting crates, he copied them. Wojtek carried boxes that normally required 4 men, which he would stack onto a truck or other ammunition boxes. 

This service at Monte Cassino earned him promotion to the rank of corporal. In recognition of Wojtek’s popularity, a depiction of a bear carrying an artillery shell was adopted as the official emblem of the 22nd Company.[6]


 

Wojtek in Britain after the war

After the end of World War II in 1945, Wojtek was transported to BerwickshireScotland, with the rest of the 22nd Company. 

They were stationed at Winfield Airfield on Sunwick Farm, near the village of Hutton, Scottish Borders. Wojtek soon became popular among local civilians and the press, and the Polish-Scottish Association made him an honorary member.

Following demobilisation on 15 November 1947, Wojtek was given to Edinburgh Zoo, where he spent the rest of his life, often visited by journalists and former Polish soldiers, some of whom tossed cigarettes for him to eat, as he did during his time in the army. 

Media attention contributed to Wojtek’s popularity. He was a frequent guest on BBC television’s Blue Peter programme for children.

Wojtek died in December 1963, at the age of 21. At the time of his death he weighed nearly 35 stone (490 lb; 220 kg), and was over 6 feet (1.8 m) tall.


Great Britain

When the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939 at the start of World War II, the UK controlled to varying degrees numerous crown colonies, protectorates and the Indian Empire.

It also maintained unique political ties to four of the five independent Dominions—Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand[note 1]—as co-members (with the UK) of the then “British Commonwealth”.

In 1939 the British Empire and the Commonwealth together comprised a global power, with direct or de facto political and economic control of 25% of the world’s population, and of 30% of its land mass.

The contribution of the British Empire and Commonwealth in terms of manpower and materiel was critical to the Allied war-effort.

From September 1939 to mid-1942, the UK led Allied efforts in multiple global military theatres.

Commonwealth, Colonial and Imperial Indian forces, totalling close to 15 million serving men and women, fought the German, Italian, Japanese and other Axis armies, air-forces and navies across Europe, Africa, Asia, and in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

Commonwealth forces based in Britain operated across North western Europe in the effort to slow or stop Axis advances. Commonwealth air forces fought the Luftwaffe to a standstill over Britain, and Commonwealth armies fought and destroyed Italian forces in North and East Africa and occupied several overseas colonies of German-occupied European nations.

Following successful engagements against Axis forces, Commonwealth troops invaded and occupied Libya, Italian Somaliland, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Madagascar.

The Commonwealth defeated, held back or slowed the Axis powers for three years while mobilizing its globally-integrated economy, military, and industrial infrastructure to build what became, by 1942, the most extensive military apparatus of the war. 

These efforts came at the cost of 150,000 military deaths, 400,000 wounded, 100,000 prisoners, over 300,000 civilian deaths, and the loss of 70 major warships, 39 submarines, 3,500 aircraft, 1,100 tanks and 65,000 vehicles.

During this period the Commonwealth built an enormous military and industrial capacity.

Britain became the nucleus of the Allied war-effort in Western Europe, and hosted governments-in-exile in London to rally support in occupied Europe for the Allied cause.

Canada delivered almost $4 billion in direct financial aid to the United Kingdom, and Australia and New Zealand began shifting to domestic production to provide material aid to US forces in the Pacific.Following the US entry into the war in December 1941, the Commonwealth and the United States coordinated their military efforts and resources globally.

As the scale of the US military involvement and industrial production increased, the US undertook command in many theatres, relieving Commonwealth forces for duty elsewhere, and expanding the scope and intensity of Allied military efforts.

Co-operation with the Soviet Union also developed.

However, it proved difficult to co-ordinate the defence of far-flung colonies and Commonwealth countries from simultaneous attacks by the Axis powers.

In part this difficulty was exacerbated by disagreements over priorities and objectives, as well as over the deployment and control of joint forces.

The governments of Britain and Australia, in particular, turned to the United States for support.

Although the British Empire and the Commonwealth countries all emerged from the war as victors, and the conquered territories returned to British rule, the costs of the war and the nationalist fervour that it had stoked became a catalyst for the decolonisation which took place in the following decades.