Hut 27 – 1943
The Eighth Army
The Eighth Army was officially formed on 26th September 1941. It was made up of the remnants of General Wavell’s Army of the Nile (1940) and General Sir Alan Cunningham was made its Commander. In November 1941, the Eighth Army’s first offensive was launched in the western desert.
The largest amphibious force the world had yet known, assembled off the North African coast late on 7th November 1942. More than 500 ships, ranging from cargo vessels to passenger liners, had been pressed into service to carry around 107,000 men and thousands of tonnes of weapons and supplies, and land them on the beaches of Morocco and Algeria.
Kursk, the Counter-attack and the Ukraine
On the Eastern Front, the colossal build-up of Soviet armed might had continued, following the defeat of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. Between the German invasion in mid-1941 and the end of 1943, Russia’s total infantry forces had been increased from 175 divisions to 513 divisions; her armoured and mechanized brigades had risen in number from 78 to 290, and her cavalry forces had been expanded from 30 to 41 divisions.
Having been defeated by the Eighth Army at El Alamein, Field Marshal Rommel retreated during November as fast as he could to Tunisia, in the hope that he would be able to inflict a crushing defeat on the recently arrived American and British forces under General Eisenhower. Because of the agreed plan for Operation Torch, there had been no Allied landings east of Algiers, some 400 miles from Tunis. Rommel knew that and realised that if he could get to Tunis soon enough, the potential was there for inflicting considerable damage on the British 1st Army formation under Lieutenant-General Anderson.
In January 1943, Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt met in the Moroccan city of Casablanca to discuss Allied strategy, as the war in North Africa was drawing to a close. The British wanted to keep up activity in the Mediterranean, nibbling away at the edge of Axis territory. The Americans, however, argued for concentrating everything on the main goal of landing in France as the most direct route to Germany.
Waste Material is War Material!
The Women’s Voluntary Service were just one of the many groups that organised the collection of a whole range of materials that could be recycled and used in the manufacture of military hardware and equipment. Children from the children’s salvage team (the Cog Scheme) helped to sort everything from paper to pig-swill in Britain’s earliest mass recycling scheme.
The Politics of War
By mid 1943, it was clear to the leaders of the three senior Allied powers, that Germany and Japan were losing the war. Each of those leaders, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, therefore, began to speculate on the attitudes of the others to the post-war world. Roosevelt and his advisers began to think once more as an isolationist government, while seeing the potential for world power. Washington held a deep mistrust of the extent to which Britain was committed to an invasion of Europe across the English Channel – the operation known as ‘Overlord’. Twice already, Britain had deferred a major landing in northern Europe. Roosevelt, therefore, wanted Overlord to have an American commander.
While these events had been taking place in Sicily, the politics of the Axis powers had been reaching crisis point in Italy. The King, under pressure to remove Mussolini, sought to remove the entire Fascist party from power.
After the Japanese defeat at Guadalcanal, there was still no sign of defeatism in their approach to the Solomon Islands. They were, quite simply, determined to hold on to them at all costs, and to surrender nothing without a major battle. Fresh Japanese infantry, aircraft and ships were rushed to the Solomons after the debacle of Guadalcanal, and a major air offensive was launched in April 1943 against Allied bases in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea.
Burma – The Chindits
From May 1942, when the British had been driven out of Burma, the war had moved into a stalemate. The frustration of the Allied leaders with the situation was echoed in repeated changes of command at all levels. General Wavell had become Viceroy of India, General Sir Claude Auchinleck Commander-in-Chief in India and Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten had been appointed Allied Supreme Commander, South-East Asia Command, based in Ceylon.
The Dam Busters
AIMS: To destroy the dams and flood the Ruhr Valley, thus damaging and destroying agricultural land and industrial sites. The hydro electric power stations which supplied electricity to the valley would also be destroyed. Dr. Barnes Wallis (who designed the Wellington Bomber) came up with the idea of the ‘Bouncing Bomb’. A bomb which would be dropped onto the water from a plane traveling low across the surface, skipping over or ripping through any anti bombing or torpedo netting, and yet losing enough speed so that it would hit the dam wall without exploding, sink to a pre-determined depth and then explode, thus shattering the dam.