ATB Bound Vol. 47
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ATB Bound Vol. 47
The 47th bound volume of After the Battle (issues 185-188) features battle stories from many theatres of war.
Operation ‘Amherst’ was the last airborne undertaking launched by the Allies in the West. In early April 1945, 700 parachutists of the French SAS were dropped into north-eastern Holland in order to facilitate the advance of the Canadian Army. They came down widely dispersed but nonetheless went into battle with vigour, laying ambushes, attacking headquarters and seizing bridges. Many had to hold out for much longer than planned and losses were considerable.
That same month the Americans fought to capture the German city of Hannover. It was an exceptional battle because it was the only large German city where the Kampfkommandant put aside a Hitler order and told his troops to stop fighting.
From the Eastern Front comes the story of the battle for the Polish city of Poznan, or Posen as the Germans called it. In January 1945 the Soviet Red Army laid siege to the city. The Germans decided to defend it as a Festung (fortress) and it took a full month of costly fighting before the Russians finally reduced it.
The Italian front was witness to the battle of Perano, a classic small-unit action. In November 1943, the 19th New Zealand Armoured Regiment undertook an attack on this hilltop village overlooking the Sangro river plain. The unit paid dearly in its baptism of fire, at least 11 of the 14 tanks being knocked out.
Another small-unit action comes from Axis-occupied Greece and tells the story of OSS Operational Group II. Made up of 23 Americans of Greek descent, they spent four months in the mountains of Central Greece during which time they carried out numerous ambush attacks on German troop trains and road convoys.
Wartime Britain is represented in several stories. One is about the Donington Park racing circuit in Leicestershire. In the 1930s the Silver Arrows of Nazi Germany won laurels there, but during the war the park served as one of the British Army’s largest vehicle depots. Another is about the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre in Trent Park at Cockfosters, Middlesex. Set up in 1939, this is where the conversations of captured German generals were secretly listened in to by means of concealed microphones. A bomb disposal tragedy that occurred at Eastbourne on October 26, 1940, comes alive from the original ARP and Police telephone messages logged as the drama unfolded. The crash-landing of a German long-range bomber on Brandon Mountain in Ireland in August 1940 is recounted in detail as this was the very first German aircraft to come down in neutral Eire during the war. And police detective Edward Greeno describes how he solved the murder of a 27-year-old WAAF found dead in a ditch outside RAF Beccles in Essex in November 1944.
From occupied Holland comes the story of a young woman in the Dutch resistance. She and all members of her group were arrested, brutally interrogated, then incarcerated in the Gestapo prison at Scheveningen. All male members, including her fiancé, were executed in a reprisal, leaving her as the only one to survive the war. ATB’s editor Karel Margry is her son.
In occupied Belgium, the central headquarters of the Gestapo was housed at No. 453 Avenue Louise in Brussels. A place of violence and torture, notorious throughout the country, in 1943 a Belgian RAF pilot carried out a daring low-level attack on the building.
The prison in the German town of Hameln, a Gestapo jail during the Nazi era, was taken over by the British in 1945 and used as their central site for hanging war criminals sentenced in the British Zone of Occupation. Official executioner Albert Pierrepoint hanged a total of 202 persons there between 1945-49.
Of the German U-Boats that surrendered after VE-Day, most were sunk in the Atlantic in Operation ‘Deadlight’ but less known is that 30 were saved and distributed evenly over Britain, the US and the Soviet Union – with France and Norway taking a share of the pickings as well.