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Battles of WWII


World War II was host to a plethora of battles, campaigns and operations, not only on the traditional Western and Eastern Fronts, but also at sea in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the air such as the Dambusters’ Operation Chastise. The fighting saw desert warfare during the North African campaign, Arctic conditions in the decimation of Convoy PQ 17 by German U-boats and jungle terrain in Malaya. From the initial invasion of Poland through the Battle of Pearl Harbor in 1941 to Operation Overlord and the Normandy landings in 1944, World War II saw a diversity in terrain, tactics and technology that had been previously unheard of.

The Second World War is famed for the rapid development of destructive technology: increasingly powerful bombers and fighters, the V1 flying bomb and the V2 rocket, and the infamous, devastating atomic bomb used in the first and only nuclear attack the world has seen.

‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ – Winston S. Churchill speech to House of Commons, Battle of Britain, 1940

‘On the beach was a destroyer, bombed and burned. At the water's edge were ambulances, abandoned when their last load had been discharged. There was always the red background, the red of Dunkirk burning. There was no water to check the fires and there were no men to be spared to fight them. Red, too, were the shell bursts, the flash of guns, the fountains of tracer bullets.’ – Arthur D. Divine, Operation Dynamo, 1940

‘As we advanced over the top, shells were bursting everywhere … There were some deafening explosions as shells landed right amongst our platoon. I was blown over, and so were some others. I felt myself and was surprised to find that I was all right. I could not see a thing … I shouted “Advance!”.’ – Lieutenant Philip Brownless, Essex Regiment, Tobruk, 1941

‘The shells howled overhead and exploded, the ground rocked and the detonations shook me into confusion. I felt a shiver going up my spine … No one knew what was up. We could only hope and wait in our miserable foxholes, out of contact with our battalion headquarters.’ – Captain Ralf Klinger, 21st Panzer Division, El Alamein, 1942

‘Load, unlock, shoot! A hit! We pursue. The first T-34 is burning. Our neighbour has destroyed the second. About forty enemy tanks appear on the horizon. They advance past the blazing wrecks of the first two, then stop, shoot, then move forward again, this time firing on the move, one shell after another … The battle has lasted for hours.’ – 1st Tank Army, Kursk, 1943

‘Starting from the rooftops, buildings collapsed like doll’s houses. I did not see how anyone could live through this inferno. I felt truly sorry for the British.’ – Private Horst Weber, Arnhem, 1944

‘When you run over unconscious men, or men lying on their bellies, it’s tough to keep your balance. There is no room. You go into the water, but the water is washing bodies in and out. Everywhere there are body pieces … Intestines, intestines, intestines. That’s what Omaha beach was.’ – US veteran, D-Day, 1944

‘In regard to our situation, it is getting pretty sticky around here.’ – 101st Aircorne Division message, Battle of the Bulge, 1944–45

‘Features of this actions were the skill, determination, and aggressiveness displayed by our own troops; the unprecedented tenacity and defensive resourcefulness displayed by the enemy … and finally, the excellent coordination of all supporting units with infantry maneuvers.’ – Colonel Kenyon, Iwo Jima, 1945

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