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Axis POWs in Cairo, 1941

Axis POWs in Cairo, 1941

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Axis POWs in Cairo, 1941

Here we see a column of Axis POWs marching through Cairo, after being captured during Operation Crusader. Their route takes them through the historical heart of the city. On the right is part of the 14th century mosque of Sultan Hassan. In front are the walls of Saladin's Citadel. In the background is the Mohammad Ali Mosque, built between 1830 and 1848.

Axis Alliance in World War II

The three principal partners in the Axis alliance were Germany, Italy, and Japan. These three countries recognized German domination over most of continental Europe Italian domination over the Mediterranean Sea and Japanese domination over East Asia and the Pacific.

Key Facts

The Axis was opposed by the Allied Powers, led by Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.

Five other nations joined the Axis after the start of World War II.

The decline and fall of the Axis alliance began in 1943.

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Greek government 1940-1941

Post by vitos » 08 Mar 2004, 19:45

Post by Gyenes » 09 Mar 2004, 00:07


Post by Globalization41 » 14 Mar 2004, 23:37

Athens, The New York Times, Associated
Saturday, April 19, 1941: [Late Friday,
April 18, U.S. time]
Alexander Korizis,
Premier of Greece in the darkest hour of her
modern history, died suddenly Friday after
only 80 days as leader of this fighting nation.
He was 56-years old. . The government
made only the bare announcement of his
"sudden death" and said his funeral would be
held Saturday at 1 P.M. The cause of death
was not disclosed. . King George named
Kostas Kotzias, former military governor of
Athens, to form a new government, the Athens
News agency announced.

Athens, The New York Times, United Press,
Saturday, April 19, 1941: [Late Friday, April
18, U.S. time]
The Battle of Greece, an
official Greek spokesman said early Saturday,
was raging with "increasing intensity" along
the new Allied front as German tanks, infantry,
and massed dive-bombers smashed first at one
section of the line and then at another in an
effort to crash through. . Latest dispatches
from the front told of a battle of terrible
savagery raging across mountains and valleys
with British, Australian, New Zealand, and
Greek troops standing stubbornly against the
rush of steel and fire and numerically superior

Cairo, Egypt, Wireless to The New York
Friday, April 18: In the North African
desert British patrols again inflicted heavy
losses on the apparently overextended Axis
forces, British headquarters announced today.
Many Germans and Italians were killed or
wounded in hand-to-hand fighting [Thursday]
around Tobruk [Libya] and Solum [Egypt], and
many Axis vehicles were destroyed. [The
British claimed 872 enemy captured in two
. The Royal Air Force continued to
bomb and strafe truck concentrations, troops,
landing grounds, and stores in Libya. . After
having pushed through miles of blocked,
blasted, or mined roads, South African troops
in Ethiopia finally were able to make contact
with Italian forces 14 miles south of the
important communications center of Dessye.
Whether the Italians would attempt to hold out
their was uncertain.

London, Special Cable to The New York
Friday, April 18, 1941: Yugoslavia
was crossed off Britain's list of effective allies
today, as many another little nation has been
crossed off since the war began. The nation
that heroic King Peter swung from the Axis
alliance to fighting position as a British ally
today went on the British blacklist. The Board
of Trade and Ministry of Economic Warfare
announced that Yugoslavia was regarded as
enemy-occupied territory and that accordingly
it was a punishable offense for any one to have
commercial, financial, or other dealings with
or for benefit of any person in the territory.
. As from today, said the statement,
Yugoslavia will be regarded as an enemy
destination for contraband purposes . All goods
of Yugoslav origin or ownership are liable to
seizure by Britain.

Washington, Special to The New York Times,
Friday, April 18, 1941: Regulations for the
administration of civilian work camps for
conscientious objectors, the first of which will
be opened about May 15, were issued today by
Brig. Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, deputy director
of Selective Service. . The first camp, in the
Patapsco State Forest, near Baltimore, will be
operated in conjunction with the National Park
Service and the Maryland Park Commission.
. The work program at each camp will be
carried on under the director of a project
superintendent, provided by the technical
agency of the government department charged
with the responsibility for it. The hours of
work on projects at any camp will be
determined by the [technical] agency, and
assignees will be subject to emergency calls on
any day or night at any hour for the purpose of
fighting forest fires or any other emergency
affecting life or property. No limitation is set
on the number of hours that an assignee may
be asked to work in any given day or week.
. The National Service Board, a voluntary
association of religious organizations, is
responsible through the camp director for the
administration of each camp. . Each camp
will have a resident physician. No uniforms
are prescribed for the objectors. Mess at the
camps must conform to the standard for food
supplied to the Army and Navy. The camp
director may grant furloughs up to a limit of 30
days in any one year. . Conscientious
objectors at these camps will receive no pay
for their services and they or their religious
groups will pay their own expenses, estimated
at $35 per man per month.

The International Situation, The New York
Through Friday, April 18, 1941: The
Allies fell back stubbornly to a new defense
line in Greece as German pressure along the
entire front continued. The British were said
to be holding firm around Mount Olympus at
the eastern end of the front, while in the
center, near Grevena, Allied forces were
reported to have thrown back the farthest Nazi
penetrations and temporarily relieved the threat
to the railhead at Kalabaka. Large Greek
forces were abandoning gains in Albania and
hurrying south to rejoin the main Greek forces
before swift Reich drives from Yugoslavia
could cut them off. . Beleaguered Greece
suffered a new blow -- the death of Premier
Korizis, three months after that of Premier
General Metazas, under whose guidance Greek
forces threw back the attempted Italian
invasion. It has been announced that Kostas
Kotzias, former Military Governor of Athens,
had been named new Premier. . The advance
Axis forces in Libya are "exhausted" and have
stopped at the Egyptian border, British quarters
in Cairo reported. With the fleet bombarding
roads and troop and supply concentrations from
the sea, and the combined Royal and Australian
air forces blasting Axis troops from the skies,
British circles said, German-Italian divisions
have been badly disrupted. At Tobruk, it was
said, five Axis officers and 72 men had been
added to the many prisoners taken in the past
five days. Continued British progress in East
Africa also was reported.

In Washington President Roosevelt explained
his failure thus far to state his stand on
convoys as due to his belief that the American
public is not yet sufficiently aware of the
danger to this country, but he added it was
growing more aware daily. . Senate Leader
Barkley announced, on the authorization of
Secretary Knox and Admiral Stark, despite
rumors to the contrary, no United States naval
vessels had been used for convoy duty and no
orders for convoying had been given. . On
Thursday night and early Friday, London
stated, Berlin underwent the heaviest air raid in
its history, dealt by powerful new British
Short-Sterling four-motored bombers
unleashing a new-type high explosive. The Air
Ministry said "very substantial" damage had
been done, but that eight R.A.F. craft had
failed to return. . Berlin military
headquarters asserted that violent German
attacks on the central Allied front in Greece
had pierced the junction of British-Greek lines
and had carried advance forces through British
positions in the Thessalian Mountains until they
were near Kalabaka. Approximately 17,000
prisoners have been captured, Berlin said. The
German drive, assisted by the arrival of troops
from Yugoslavia, was reported picking up
momentum hourly.

As Greek troops have retreated back into
Greece from Albania, Italian forces have
followed closely and now hold the entire
Albanian-Greek frontier from Perat to Lake
Presba, Italian military headquarters
announced. Fascist forces have also converged
at Ragusa on the Yugoslav Adriatic coast and
now control the entire Dalmatian shore, it was

Berlin, Telephone to The New York Times,
By C. Brooks Peters, Friday, April 18, 1941:
Operating in the Greek theatre of war under
the direct command of their supreme leader,
Adolf Hitler, the German forces were believed
here tonight to have forced an important break
in the enemy's line of defense and to have
pushed their wedge between the main bodies of
the Greek and British forces. . German units
were reported to have broken through the
British defenses in the Thessalian Mountains,
and it was said the capture of Kalabaka was
imminent. They appeared to threaten directly
the strategically important Trikkala, a major
point in the line of communications between
Yanina and Larissa. If they advance eastward
in a pincer movement they would expose the
first-line British forces in the Mount Olympus
sector to encirclement. . Once the German
forces had taken Kalabaka, they would be able
to operate on relatively flat terrain and to
employ to the best advantage their motorized
and tank units, the rapidity of whose
movements was unquestionably retarded by
mountain topography. The possibility would
then exist of advancing westward from
Trikkala and trapping part of the Greek forces
between the Albanian frontier and the Ionian
Sea. . The High Command communique
declared merely that the battles in North
Greece were continuing to develop successfully
in spite of most difficult terrain and most
inclement weather, as well as destruction of
numerous roadways. . It was thought,
however, that the German advance was
beginning to gather momentum again following
the first contact with the entrenched defenders
several days ago. . More than 17,000
prisoners have been captured, it was officially
stated, and numerous cannon, 25 of which are
of the heavy caliber, taken. In addition, the
German command said, twelve British armored
reconnaissance automobiles have been
destroyed. . With the capitulation of
Yugoslavia the Germans can now throw the
bulk of their forces that have been operating in
that theatre into the Greek conflict, while at the
same time employing the transportation
facilities of that land for supplies. The German
military potential for the fighting in Greece is
thought to be much superior to any force that
the British and Greeks can muster and supply.
. Should the Germans successfully conclude
their Greek campaign, it is said, the Greek
prisoners taken will immediately thereafter be
released as a special gesture on the part of
Herr Hitler. It is emphasized in this
connection that in his proclamation issued the
day the Balkan campaign began Herr Hitler
explicitly asserted that the Reich was not
fighting in Greece against the Greek people but
against Britain. . Informed quarters here
declared that the conclusion of the Greek
campaign would not mean the initiation of a
pause in military activity, such as followed the
campaigns in Poland, Norway, and France.
The fighting in Greece, it was said, represents
only part of the campaign for the domination of
the Mediterranean. It may not, authoritative
quarters asserted, be considered as separate
from the action in North Africa, just as the
battle in the major theatre of war, the British
Isles, may be expected to continue unabated
until a final decision is reached.

London, The New York Times, United Press,
Fri., April 18, 1941: The weekly Economist,
analyzing Great Britain's new income taxes,
said today that under the new schedules none
of Britain's multi-millionaires would be able to
spend more than $28,000 annually.

Germans Hammering British-Greek Lines in Unending Waves

Post by Globalization41 » 21 Mar 2004, 09:34

London, United Press, The New York Times,
Saturday, April 19, 1941: The British and
Greeks started to withdraw to new defense
lines, believed to be 30 miles south of the
[previous] line based on Mount Olympus.
There has been no conformation here, as yet,
of the German claims that Olympus and Larissa
have been captured. . It was said the Allied
troops are falling back slowly, inflicting severe
losses on the Germans as they retire. The
British emphasized that the front was still
intact, although increasingly serious views are
entertained as to the ultimate outcome.

Athens, United Press, The New York Times,
Saturday, April 19, 1941: Greek and British
spokesmen reported tonight that the Allied
defenders of Greece were unshaken by fierce
German attacks. . Greek morale was buoyed
up by word of successful Greek counterattacks
in the Grevena sector, at the center of the
front. . The movement of Allied troops into
new, shorter defense lines was said to be
proceeding according to plan, with a
continuous front facing the Germans and troops
in contact at all points.

Cairo, Egypt, Special Cable to The New York
Saturday, April 19, 1941: The force of
the attack on the Greco-British front increased
greatly today, according to informed sources
here. The British front was nowhere
penetrated while British machine gun and
artillery fire is taking a huge toll of the

Athens, Associated Press, The New York
Sunday, April 20, 1941: [Late
Saturday, U.S. time]
The Greek High
Command announced early today that the
Germans hammering in unending waves at the
British-Greek lines have "made a push toward
the south." . This was the first indication
here in 24 hours that the Germans had gained
ground, both British and Greek reports up to
mid-afternoon yesterday saying the Allies were
holding fast against Nazi assaults. Just where
the German thrust was made or how far was
not disclosed. . The Nazis are bringing up
heavy guns, a military informant said, to
supplement the constant hammering of their
Stukas [infantry supporting aircraft], coming
over 20 to 30 at a time. . The Germans were
said to be using infantry by the tens of
thousands for the first time in the Balkan
campaign. . On the left of the Olympus line
the Greeks were said to have been turning back
one thrust after another by Germans in the
important Kalabaka sector. . On the
Albanian front, the Greek High Command said,
Greeks falling back before the Italians had
inflicted heavy casualties on the Fascists in
rear-guard actions.

The International Situation, The New York
Saturday, April 19, 1941: The German
High Command claimed Saturday that the
swastika now flew over the crest of Mount
Olympus in Greece. German armored
divisions forced the passes to the west of the
peak, the High Command said, and reached the
important junction of Larissa. Informed Berlin
circles predicted the fall of Greece was near
and said that the Nazi air force was constantly
disrupting traffic to the south of the Allied
lines in the hope of hampering any retreat. .
The Allies, it became evident, were being
slowly forced back before the crushing
numerical superiority of German divisions.
London did not specify a withdrawal from
Mount Olympus, but British quarters said that
their forces and the Greeks were withdrawing
to a new defense line some 30 miles to the
south, and the Greek High Command
acknowledged that the German troops were
advancing southward. . Indicating that a full
program of military action was in prospect,
Reichsfuehrer Hitler said in a proclamation on
the eve of his 52nd birthday that "a heavy year
of combat stands before us." Then he asked
the German people to contribute more heavily
than ever before to the care of wounded
soldiers. . Athens announced that King
George II had assumed personal command of
the Greek State following the death of Premier
Korizis which, it was officially announced, had
been a suicide induced by the Premier's
extreme mental depression over the growing
threat to Greek independence. .
Apprehension over the Allied position in
Greece was also felt by the British Government
and was indicated by editorials in the London
press emphasizing the superiority of the
Germans in numbers and suggesting that
eventually the British forces would have to
withdraw from the Greek peninsula. The
British position in Africa however, it was
pointed out, has materially improved. . The
Russian Government once again chilled Allied
hopes that friction might develop between the
U.S.S.R. and the Axis. Speaking through the
controlled press, the Soviet said that the recent
accord with Japan had not been aimed at
Germany and that it was, instead, a
bewildering blow at Anglo-American interests
seeking strife between Russia and the Axis
powers. It was revealed, nevertheless, that
Russia had declined to become an Axis partner
last November. . London suffered another
sharp German air raid Saturday night, but its
intensity was less than that of Wednesday
night, reports from the British capital
indicated. Nazi raiders flew low in clouds,
their hardest bombing being relatively brief.
. The arrival of a strong British force at the
port of Basra, Iraq, was announced by London.
This was taken as an indication that the British
Government was moving fast to forestall Axis
activity in Iraq, following an allegedly pro-
Axis coup there. The new government is
cooperating with British forces. . A meeting
between President Roosevelt and Canada's
Prime Minister Mackenzie King will take place
Sunday in the quiet of the Hudson Valley it
was announced. Although no indication was
given of the subjects to be discussed, it was
pointed out that the shipment of U.S. arms to
Canadian ports, the use of newly acquired
bases in Greenland, and financial aid are
matters now pending between the two

Berlin, United Press, The New York Times,
Saturday, April 19, 1941: It was insisted here
today that German forces were making
sweeping advances all along the Greek front
from positions just southeast of Albania to the
Aegean Sea. But it was stated with equal
emphasis that there had been no breakthrough
of Allied defenses and that rear-guard actions
were occurring at all points of Nazi advance.
. The High Command noted that the advances
were being made in fighting with the British
rear guard. There was some reserve in
predicting when German force of arms might
bring the Greek campaign to an end.
However, there was widespread hope that this
might be achieved as speedily as other German
military operations. . Military quarters here
are inclined to the belief that the third defense
line of the Allied forces probably was located
on the Othrys Ridge, a little more that 100
miles from Athens, by highway. . A Nazi
threat to the Allied defenses was building up
rapidly in the western sector south of the
Albanian frontier along the highway that leads
from Yanina to Arta. Heavy bombardment of
long Greek columns hastily pulled out of
Albania was said to be in progress along this
route. . German informants here believe that
Arta probably would be the western hinge of
the new defense line. Arta is about 80 miles
west of Lamia, slightly to the north. The
sector east of Arta is protected by the southern
extension of the Pindus mountain range, a
north-south chain that roughly parallels the
Yanina-Arta highway. There is only a narrow
gap between the south end of Pindus
Mountains and the western end of the Othrys
chain. This gap comes down from Kalabaka
and Trikkala which have been heavily attacked
by the Germans. . The High Command said
today that Nazi troops were pushing ahead just
northeast of the head of the Pindus range,
apparently moving up behind the heavy
bombardment of retiring Greek troops on the
Yanina-Arta highway. . The German thrust
also was said to be moving ahead past Larissa,
but there is no indication of the depth of
advance. There was no detailed report on
action in the Kalabaka-Trikkala area, but it was
presumed that allied retirement was in progress
there, since this has become a dangerously
exposed salient due to the thrust in the Larissa
region. . . Cairo, Egypt, Special Cable to
The New York Times,
Sat., April 19, 1941:
German radio reports of violent demonstrations
by Egyptian Nationalists here appear to be
founded on wishful thinking. No such anti-
British manifestations have been seen, and it is
noted that many Egyptians are growing more
suspicious and fearful of Germany now that
German troops are at the Egyptian border.

Berlin, By Telephone to The New York
By C. Brooks Peters, Sat., April 19:
After overcoming in some four days of fighting
the tactical advantages afforded to a defending
army by the mountainous topography of
Northern Greece, the German forces operating
in this Mediterranean theatre are said here
again to have got their advance into high gear.
. Statements made in Berlin tonight declare
that the British and Greeks are in a rapid
retreat along a wide front before the pursuing
onslaught of the German motorized units but
suggest in addition that a Greek capitulation --
similar to that of the Belgians in Flanders last
Spring -- may not be excluded as a possibility.
. The Allied front is said to have been broken
at strategically vital points, extending from the
mountainous terrain northeast of the Pindus
Mountains to the Aegean Sea. It is officially
reported, moreover, that the German war flag
is flying from the pinnacle of Mount Olympus,
having been hoisted there by German Alpine
troops. . The communique of the German
High Command is nonetheless reticent about
the speed with which the German forces are
advancing. It would not be surprising,
however, if over the weekend, perhaps
tomorrow, on Adolf Hitler's birthday, a more
comprehensive exposition of German successes
in Greece were to be released by the Army
Command. . The German forces are reported
by the German High Command to have
attacked Mount Olympus from both sides. The
"rear guard of the British main forces" was
thrown back, the German communique adds,
the southern pass through the mountains
forced, and the important communications
junction of Larissa, on the Plain of Thessaly,
captured. It is admitted here that the British
resistance in North Greece has been stubborn.
It required "hard fighting," the D.N.B., the
official news agency declares, to throw the
Allies out of the strongly armed and protected
mountain passes. When the British had to
retire from the mountain passes and along the
serpentine paths, which were covered by
artillery, D.N.B. adds, they endeavored,
nevertheless, vainly to halt the German
advance by blowing up bridges and paths. .
The German Air Force, and particularly dive
bombers, it is asserted, in spite of bad weather,
officially is reported to have assisted the
operations of the ground forces by bombing
retreating Allied columns in the Larissa sector
and attacking the road connecting Yanina and
Arta, along which strong Allied units were
retreating southward. . German bombers, the
General Headquarters communique declares,
attacked and destroyed several Allied transports
in the harbor of Chalcis and in the Gulf of
Corinth. Altogether, the communique adds,
29,000 tons of enemy shipping were destroyed
there and a number of other merchantmen hit.
Five Allied airplanes are said further to have
been set afire while still on the ground on
Greek airfields. The official news agency
declares that German bombers attacked vessels
in the Bay of Volo and destroyed a ship of
6,000 tons with a direct hit amidships.

Cairo, Egypt, Special Cable to The New York
Saturday, April 19, 1941: [In a
skirmish near the Egyptian-Libyan border]
company of Hussars [elite British imperial
was unofficially reported to have wired
this message to headquarters: "We have
captured or killed every German we have seen.
Please send us more."

Tokyo, Wireless to The New York Times, By
Otto D. Tolischus, Saturday, April 19, 1941:
In preparation for the "positive foreign policy"
that is expected to be inaugurated following the
return of Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka
on Tuesday, Premier Prince Fumimaro Konoye
and his economic ministers emphasized anew
today the urgent need for the construction of a
"high degree defense state" to expand the
production of war materials. . From their
pronouncements it appears the "high degree
defense state" proposes, in the words of the
Commerce and Industry Minister, Vice
Admiral Tijer Toyoda, "to mobilize capital,
material, labor, electric power, and all
production power" on the principle of priority
for war-time industries. . This priority is to
be enforced by the expansion of government
control, but the control is to be wielded on a
practical basis through the important industries
themselves on the basis of self-discipline and
the "leader principle." . In a message to the
council of the important industrial
organizations, which met today to expand its
structure, Prince Konoye appealed for
"wholehearted cooperation with government."
His message was backed by the War Minister,
Lieut. Gen. Eiki Tojo, and Navy Minister,
Admiral Koshiro Oikawa, who emphasized that
"the current situation both at home and abroad
urgently demands a highly organized defense
system, which again depends in great measure
on speedy expansion of the nation's productive
capacity." . To impress officials with the
gravity of the matter, Admiral Toyoda
announced that he had invited the chiefs of the
military and naval affairs bureaus to come to
his Ministry to give its members an
unvarnished picture of the actual situation.
Officials of the Commerce and Industry
Ministry did not always see eye to eye with
their former chief, Ichizo Kobayashi whom
Admiral Toyoda replaced. . At the same
time Admiral Toyoda announced that while the
government would try to make the best
possible use of small and medium sized
industries he said, "I am afraid it will become
impossible to maintain them in their present
disorganized condition and that it will be
necessary for them to be readjusted and unified
on a rational basis as fast as possible." .
Admiral Toyoda further said that while "the
maintenance of a low price policy is absolutely
necessary for the conduct of war-time economy
and stabilization of living conditions,
nevertheless the increased production of basic
materials is one of the most urgent necessities
of the moment." He hinted this increased
production must be attained by appropriate
price adjustments. . Masatsuna Ogura,
Minister without Portfolio, in addressing the
Control Council, stressed that his ambition was
to give a practical basis for the government's
control measures. He assured the industrialists
that "if powerful industrial organizations are
established with the closest cooperation
between the people and the government, and if
they can be relied on for effective control of
production and distribution, details of the
control can be left to them and the government
will merely exercise supervision of the output."
. . The New York Times, April 19: A
bankers' committee to assist in raising money
for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund of
the United States of America, 515 Madison
Ave., has been formed, it was [reported Sat.].

Bucharest, Rumania, By Telephone to The
New York Times,
Saturday, April 19, 1941:
Civil servants henceforth will not be permitted
to marry foreigners. Anyone who do so will
be put on the retired list immediately. Any
who marry Jews will be summarily dismissed.

Cairo, Egypt, Special to The New York
Saturday, April 19, 1941: The land
fighting in North Africa was confined to patrol
actions, with British detachments in Tobruk
and Solum areas harassing Axis forces, British
headquarters announced today. . Near
Solum, in Egypt near the Libyan border, a
British mobil column attacked an Axis convoy
and destroyed several trucks and an armored
car. . Axis mechanized units and troop units
in Eastern Libya were attacked unceasingly by
British fliers. Several ammunition trucks and
other vehicles were destroyed.

WW2 Brief history

World War II, or the Second World War (often abbreviated as WWII or WW2), was a global conflict that was underway by 1939 and ended in 1945. It involved most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilised. In a state of "total war", the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by significant events involving the mass death of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it is the deadliest conflict in human history, resulting in 50 million to over 70 million fatalities.

Although Japan was already at war with China in 1937, the world war is generally said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany, and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and most of the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Germany set out to establish a large empire in Europe. From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or subdued much of continental Europe amid Nazi-Soviet agreements, the nominally neutral Soviet Union fully or partially occupied and annexed territories of its six European neighbours, including Poland. Britain and the Commonwealth remained the only major force continuing the fight against the Axis in North Africa and in extensive naval warfare. In June 1941, the European Axis launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, giving a start to the largest land theatre of war in history, which, from that moment on, tied down the major part of the Axis military power. In December 1941, Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia, attacked the United States and European possessions in the Pacific Ocean, quickly conquering much of the region.

Italian POWS

Che i tedeschi censurassero le corrispondenze dei prigionieri di guerra italiani nei campi degli Alleati non e' nulla di sorprendente, specialmente se si tiene conto del fatto che Berlino non si fidava per nulla del suo maggiore alleato, La censura tedesca era gia' al lavoro sulle corrispondenze dei prigionieri italiani prima dellƎ Settembre 1943, fin dal 1941 per essere esatti e forse anche prima. Gli Stati Uniti erano convinti che le corrispondenze dei prigionieri erano uno dei veicoli piu' efficaci come propaganda di guerra che aveva conseguenze emotive e psicologiche profonde, specialmente in un paese come l'Italia. Indubbiamente i tedeschi vedevano il tutto in un'ottica assai simile. Chiunque abbia avuto familiarita' con le reazioni e sentimenti degli italiani per qualunque cosa che avesse un impatto diretto o indiretto sul focolare domestico e sui membri della famiglia puo' facilmente immaginare gli effetti suscitati da una lettera o cartolina giunta tra limitazioni, peripezie e censure multiple da un membro della famiglia internato come prigioniero di guerra in terre lontane. Ben cosciente di questi aspetti, la Germania esercito' incessantemente pressioni sugli Stati Uniti che perseguivano sistematicamente un trattamento equanime e umano per i loro soldati internati nei campi tedeschi. Una situazione analoga si era creata nei rapporti tra la Germania e la Gran Bretagna. Tra le conseguenze di questi negoziati, tra l'estate del 1943 e i primi mesi del 1944, si venne a creare una situazione dove la Germania faceva da tramite nell'inoltro di molte corrispondenze dei prigionieri italiani negli USA e altri paesi. La censura effettuata dai tedeschi su tali missive fu sistematica e implacabile.
La ricerca offerta qui ai lettori e studiosi offre uno spaccato, seppure incompleto per motivi intrinsechi alla materia e facilmente intuibili, su un aspetto generato da una conflagrazione globale. All'epoca, la posta dei prigionieri e dei soldati al fronte era per i membri della famiglia la cosa piu' importante che esistesse. Per questi e molti altri motivi lo studio della storia postale delle corrispondenze dei prigionieri di guerra e' un elemento notevole da inserirsi in primo piano quando si parla di una guerra mondiale. Questo articolo e' apparso su "CronacaFilatelica" n. 249, Milano, Marzo 1999.


German invasion of Turkey (World of Sultans)

The German invasion of the Ottoman Empire (Turkish: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu'nun Alman istilası) took place between 1941 and 1944.

Contrary to the popular belief that the Ottoman Empire would join the Axis, Adolf Hitler saw the Ottomans and the Turks as an inferior race, and a threat to his conquest of Europe. Hitler often mocked Sultan Abdülmejid II behind his back.

Stategically, Hitler wanted to conquer Turkey, and use it to launch an invasion of the Russian Empire's southern regions, namely the Grand Duchy of Georgia and Grand Duchy of Armenia. The Ottomans themselves, were planning to invade the southern Russian Empire, but Hitler's invasion had initially ended their plans. As a matter of fact, Russian military intelligence had expected the Ottomans and Germans to collaborate in a joint-invasion of the Russian Empire.

During a conversation with Joseph Goebbels, Hitler said, "Abdulmejid and the Turks simply have not learned their lesson. Even the Russians put them in their place. If the Russians could do it, we should have absolutely no problem."

Despite having a much-larger force, both in terms of manpower and tanks, the Ottomans were still unable to fend off the German invasion, which shocked many people. 

After quickly conquering Greece, Hitler moved his forces to onto Ottoman-held Romanian territory, and then Ottoman-held Bulgaria, overrunning the defenses. In Romania and Bulgaria, the inhabitants saw the Germans as liberators, which only helped the German conquest excel at a rapid pace. The Germans set up collaborator militias and armies in Bulgaria to hunt down the Ottomans, resulting in the capture of some 434,524 Ottoman troops. 

An Ottoman machine gun grew in Craiova, Ottoman Romania, 1942

After Greece, Romania and Bulgaria were under complete Axis control, Hitler launched his invasion of Ottoman Turkey via those three countries. The Germans and Axis were initially successful in fighting the Ottomans, capturing some 1,003,035 Ottoman troops. 

The Imperial Ottoman Forces severely discriminated non-Turks serving in the force, by sending mostly non-Turkish soldiers of their conquered European territories to the frontlines, and suicidal charges against the enemies, while they kept the ethnic Turks at relatively safe positions. As the Ottoman forces retreated, they randomly shot at innocent civilians. Military historians and researchers claim at least 3,000,402 Europeans living in Ottoman-controlled Romania and Bulgaria were massacred by the retreating Ottoman forces. In addition, non-Turkish military officers of the Ottoman forces were scapegoated and received the brunt of blame from their Turkish counterparts, and as a result of Abdulmejid II's latter anti-retreating decree (read below), were hunted down and executed by IK forces. This resulted in the executions of Ivan Zhelyazkov, the commander of the Bulgarian Front and Ioan Sala, commander of the Romanian Front.

Italian naval forces crossed the Adriatic Sea, crushing the naval Ottoman Albanian forces, capturing some 23,483 Ottoman Albanian troops. Afterwards, the Italians would attack Ottoman Albania. The Italians were less successful than the Germans, therefore Hitler ordered a blitzkrieg in Albania. Another Italian attack followed from the Ionian Sea. The Albanians provided the Italian and Axis forces with a fierce resistance.

The high surrender rate of Ottoman forces to the invading Germans led Abdulmejid II to pass an imperial decree, declaring that all Ottomans soldiers who surrendered as weak cowardly traitors, who were to be executed by firing squad or suicide. This resulted in the execution of over 245 Ottoman officers and 73,052 soldiers, the majority being Europeans serving in the Ottoman forces due to the racial discrimination of non-Turks in the Ottoman forces. Despite the Ottoman failures, one city that the Germans were unable to conquer was Constantinople, where despite being in the brunt of the German blitzkrieg from the west, the Ottoman resistance was stiff and stubborn as the Ottomans were able to pull in reinforcements from the south via the Sea of Marmara, allowing the Ottomans enough time to hold off the German invasion until the Russians reached the city in 1943. The other city that he Germans had trouble conquering was Ankara, which was home to Turkey's strongest defenses. The Ottomans fought in a similar fashion, having enough forces to at least hold off the German and Axis forces until the Russians arrived.

Ottoman POWs in eastern Ottoman Bulgaria

After the Germans conquered southern Turkey, they launched the blitzkrieg offensive south into Ottoman Egypt, capturing Alexandria, Cairo and Suez. The Germans severed Ottoman water transportation. After establishing bases and puppet armies in Egypt.

Despite failing to conquer Ankara and Constantinople, the Germans and Axis were in close proximity of the border with Syria and Palestine, but never actually got to the two countries. At this point, Hitler had pretty much most of the Ottoman Empire conquered, and the Ottman Empire's last free-standing cities and their defenses, were in grave danger of being pincered, as the encirclement was complete. Hitler sent representatives to Syria to discuss an alliance, and ask for permission to station German troops in Syria to use it as a base to continue the final offensive, which would pincer the entire defenses in and around Ankara. However, it was too late, the Russians had begun their invasion south, quickly conquering Romania and Bulgaria. Hitler's messangers were captured by the Imperial Russian forces and executed. Hitler was unaware of the incident until it was too late, and his field marshalls in Turkey had pleaded with him to continue the pincering offensive, rather than wait for Syrian approval, which they had believed would be rejected even if Syrian leaders had received it. However, Hitler continued with his plan, believing that the Ottoman will to fight would soon end. Because of this decision to wait, in addition to the four-day time delay in receiving news of the Russian capturing of his diplomats, the time had allowed Turkey's central and western defenses to regroup and overwhelm the German forces there into retreating.

Because of the Wehrmacht's inability to conquer Ankara, Constantinople and Bursa, Hitler pulled most of his reserves and divisions, into an effort to conquer the cities. However by that time, the Russian Empire and the Soviet states had begun to end Hitler's conquest of Europe and in late 1943, Imperial Russian Forces from the Grand Duchy of Armenia, Grand Duchy of Azerbaijan and Grand Duchy of Georgia had crossed the border into Turkey in the east and via their newly occupied Romanian and Bulgarian territories in west and knocked the Germans out of Turkey. The Imperial Russians faced resistance from both the Axis and the Ottomans, making it a three-way war. 

The Russian forces captured Ankara and Constantinople. The Imperial Russians supplied pro-Russian Turkish fighters.

The Russians afterwards established the Grand Duchy of Constantinople. The Imperial Russian court employed military histriographers to study and observe Antioch's Christian past, Tsar Solomon I enacted a pogrom to restore Antioch's Christian and even its Arab culture. Afterwards, Tsar Solomon I decided to separate Antioch into its own Grand Duchy. The Russians installed a Syrian Christian by the name of Michel Aflaq to be the duchy's Governer-General. 

The Russian involvement had initially made it Europe's biggest empire, matched only in size and strength by the Soviet Union. Russia was able to gain and annex Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria, creating principalities out of Bulgaria and Romania, and two grand duchies out of Turkey.

Prisoner of War Camps in Canada

Group of German, Italian and Japanese prisoners of war in prison camp, Sherbrooke, Québec (courtesy CP).

Canada operated prison camps for interned civilians during the First and Second World Wars , and for 34,000 combatant German prisoners of war (POWs) during the Second World War. The POW camps at Lethbridge and Medicine Hat , Alberta, were the largest in North America.

Camps for Civilians

First World War

The first camp for civilians interned during the First World War opened on 18 August 1914. In the previous decades, many immigrants had come to Canada seeking land, freedom and exemption from military service. After the outbreak of war, many civilians with links to Germany, Turkey and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (including Ukraine and other parts of central Europe) were arrested and vetted as possible threats to Canadian security. Males of military age were often placed in work camp facilities on the Prairies, or in internment sites such as Fort Henry, in Kingston, Ontario.

The largest camp in the West was located in Alberta — in summertime, at the base of Castle Mountain, and in wintertime at Banff , AB. A similar, smaller site was located in Jasper , AB. Internees at these Rocky Mountain camps laboured for 25 cents a day, improving national park facilities or clearing brush to prevent fires from steam locomotive sparks along the railway. Other smaller camps existed in British Columbia and Ontario. Two camps — in Vernon , BC, and Spirit Lake, Québec , even held several dozen families. Although women and children were not directly interned, in many cases they had no choice but to accompany husbands and fathers who were forced into the camps. Women and children were not expected to work.

Of 8,579 men at 24 camps across Canada, 5,954 were of Austro-Hungarian origin including 5,000 Ukrainians 2,009 were German 205 were Turks and 99 were Bulgarians. By the end of 1917 most of the civilian camps were closed, largely because of the labour shortage in Canada. With much of the country's male workforce serving in the military, the country was desperate for men who could work in industry and agriculture (see also Internment).

Second World War

From the mid-1930s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) kept many so-called "suspicious" civilians under surveillance. With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the War Measures Act was passed, and several thousand civilians were interned in holding camps in New Brunswick, Québec, Ontario and Alberta. Those interned included Germans and Italians suspected of spying, subversion — or of simply having fascist sympathies.

The first camp opened on 29 September 1939 in the Kananaskis area of Alberta at the base of Barrier Mountain. Eventually, three different facilities were built in Kananaskis including one for conscientious objectors — Canadians who refused government orders to go to war — located near the Seebe power plant at the junction of the Bow and Kananaskis Rivers.

Mountain meadow (courtesy Alberta Parks/D. Traweek).

As German forces swept across western Europe in 1940, thousands of refugees sought safety in Britain. The British government, worried about its own survival, vetted both refugees and British residents in an effort to protect Britain against saboteurs. Some of these persons were shipped to Canada for internment at a civilian camp in Ripples, New Brunswick, near Fredericton. In 1942, Ripples received more male civilians transferred from the Kananaskis-Seebe camp in Alberta.

More than 20,000 Japanese Canadians — including whole families — were also either interned during the war, or removed from their homes on the Pacific coast and housed in rudimentary settlements in more isolated areas, with their activities restricted ( see also Japanese Internment ).

Image: Jack Long / National Film Board of Canada/Library and Archives Canada/PA-142853.

Military Camps

Second World War

In 1942, after the Allied defeat of German forces in North Africa, 10,000 German POWs were shipped from Cairo, Egypt, to New York, transferred to the Canadian Pacific Railway and moved to Ozada camp on the Alberta prairie. Prisoners were sheltered temporarily under canvas until two large camps were built at Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. In time, these two camps held 12,500 prisoners each. Smaller camps housed POWs in other provinces.

All POWs were legally protected under the terms of the Geneva Convention, and were adequately provisioned and housed as required by the Convention. Canadians living near the camps believed the POWs received better food than they themselves enjoyed under wartime rationing. Veterans Guards, and later, the Canadian Army soldiers who guarded the camps, had the same provisions but said the POWs had better cooks and more time to prepare meals.

The Veterans Guards were mainly veterans from the First World War who were considered too old to serve overseas in the Second World War. The camp guards had only rifles, no machine guns. They served not only at the POW camps, but at a variety of military installations and factories across the country considered important to the war effort.

Most of the prisoners were far younger and in better physical condition than their guards. Escapes were attempted, often as a “game” to help relieve boredom. A few prisoners succeeded in escaping for a time — but all were recaptured except one.

In January 1941, POW Franz von Werra — a celebrated German fighter pilot ace captured by the British in 1940 — jumped from a train carrying him and other POWs in Ontario. Von Werra crossed the St. Lawrence River into New York State and managed to return to Germany via Mexico and South America. Upon his return, von Werra was decorated by Hitler personally. He rejoined the Luftwaffe and died in October 1941, when his plane crashed into the North Sea off the Netherlands.

Hard-core Nazi POWs were usually selected out from the general POW population in the camps and sent to the Medicine Hat camp. In 1943 and 1944, two POWs were murdered by fellow prisoners, on orders from the prisoners' internal Nazi "leadership." Investigations by the RCMP resulted in the eventual arrests of several German prisoners, who were subsequently transferred to Northern Ontario lumber camps. Six prisoners were returned to the Medicine Hat civilian courthouse for trial, and in due course five were hanged in the Lethbridge provincial jail in 1946.

At least 137 combatant prisoners died in Canadian custody between 1939 and 1946, including the five who were hanged. Most died of natural causes such as cancer. However, a suspicious number of deaths were the result of falling trees in timber operations being worked by POWs in Ontario. In 1971, all remains of the POWs who died in Canada were moved — at the request of the German War Graves Commission — to the German War Graves Section in a Kitchener , Ontario, cemetery. The remains were buried with appropriate ceremony, two-to-a-grave with a suitable granite headstone. The site was chosen because it was considered easily accessible to German relatives living in Europe, who might want to visit the graves of loved ones in Canada. Kitchener also has a large population with German ancestry.

Return to Canada

More than 34,000 combatant German POWs were held in Canada during the Second World War. The camps in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge were the largest in North America, vastly outstripping the largest camp in the United States, which held 15,000 POWs by comparison.

Once captured, all combatant prisoners were held in Canada under the supervision of the British government. Most were returned to partitioned Germany following the war. However, over the years many immigrated back to Canada — the former prisoners returning with their families to show their relatives how well they were treated by their Canadian captors in their temporary home away from home.

The Axis in Iraq 1941 II

Frank Wootton’s painting “The Battle of Habbaniya, May 1941” shows Hawker Audaxes and Airspeed Oxfords bombing Iraqi artillery along a high plateau within firing range of the Royal Air Force’s No. 4 Service Flying Training School. (Wealdown Limited Editions, UK)

Fallujah was strategically important because the main Baghdad–Habbaniya road, 4 miles west of Fallujah, had been flooded over a stretch of 2 miles, presenting an impassable obstacle. The British needed, therefore, to approach Baghdad by way of Fallujah’s bridge over the Euphrates, a steel-girder structure of five spans’ width, 177 feet in length. The British troops assaulting it were divided into five small columns of about 100 each with supporting weapons, one being a section of RAF armoured cars and another including captured artillery. One was to move up along Hammond’s Bund, wading through the waters of the breach, three to cross the Sin al-Dhibban ferry with guns and armoured cars, the fifth to be landed by four Bombays and two Valentias at dawn in a position astride the road, to cover the main Fallujah–Baghdad artery with fire. This would seal all roads from Fallujah bar the track leading south-east to the Abu Ghuraib regulator, and this track was to be covered by a Kingcol troop of 25-pounders.

Once the columns were in position around Fallujah, air attacks commenced at 0500 on 19 May. During the day an RAF aircraft cut all telephone communications with the town, the crew landing, chopping down poles with hatchets and using wire clippers to cut the lines. Pamphlets calling for surrender were then dropped after an hour’s bombing, though they failed to induce the Iraqis to give up. Thus it was decided to try to capture the bridge using the column facing it from the west. The town was subjected to dive-bomb attacks, 134 sorties dropping 10 tons of bombs. The position was secured after it was bombed, machine-gunned and shelled by 25-pounders and the town was captured, together with 300 prisoners of war.

The British propaganda machine set to work immediately: ‘The rebel Iraq Army fled in disorder from Fallujah yesterday when they were attacked from three sides by British and loyal Arab troops,’ the British-controlled Basrah Times declared. ‘There were no British casualties. The inhabitants of Fallujah welcomed the troops and the restoration of law and order.’ ‘Things were beginning to look a lot more promising,’ wrote Freya Stark: at four o’clock on 20 May, news was received in the embassy compound that ‘Fallujah is taken, bridge, town and all. Thank God.’

But the Iraqis were not done yet. As the British cleared over 1,500 civilians from key parts of the town, on 22 May they launched a counterattack with the 6th Iraqi Brigade supported by Fiat tanks. Their main purpose was to blow the bridge to prevent the British advancing on the capital. Imperial forces in the town had been reduced since its capture and some intense combat followed, including house-to-house fighting, in which the King’s Own Royal Regiment suffered fifty casualties. A lorry containing gun cotton intended for the destruction of the bridge was hit and ‘blown to minute fragments’. The RAF Iraq Levies were to the fore in this engagement, with the role of the Assyrian soldiers particularly noted by their commander. D’Albiac told the British ambassador that the ‘determination of the Assyrians at FALLUJAH when a weak company defied an ‘Iraqi Brigade, supported by tanks, and one platoon counter-attacked and cleared the town when full of ‘Iraqi soldiers was one of the most important factors in breaking the morale of the ‘Iraqi army which certainly was broken at Fallujah’. The fighting had been hard. ‘In daylight,’ wrote de Chair, ‘the damage to the town, after consistent shelling by both sides, was an impressive sight and recalled pictures from youthful memory of the battered towns of Flanders in the Great War’.

Victory at Fallujah was a campaign turning point. Demonstrating the disconnect between German grand strategy and operations on the ground, it was not until the fourth week of the conflict that Hitler articulated his ambitions for Iraq. Directive 30, issued on 23 May, stated that:

The Arab Freedom Movement is, in the Middle East, our natural ally against England. In this context, the uprising in Iraq is of special importance. This strengthens the forces which are hostile to England in the Middle East, interrupts the British lines of communication, and ties down both English troops and English shipping space at the expense of other theatres of war. For these reasons I have decided to push the development of operations in the Middle East through the medium of going to the support of Iraq. Whether and in what way it may later be possible to wreck finally the English position between the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, in conjunction with an offensive against the Suez Canal, is still in the lap of the gods.

The directive promised to help support the Iraqis with an air contingent, a military mission and arms deliveries. In addition, a German-led Arab Brigade would be formed using volunteers from Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Saudi Arabia. This was an extension of Sonderstab F (Special Staff F – ‘F’ standing for its commander, Hellmuth Felmy), a German–Arab unit for deployment in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world in conjunction with invading German armies, with a prospective strength of 6,000.

But ideas and plans for the future were one thing. What the Iraqis needed was immediate military assistance. The problem for the Germans was that they were too confident of eventual success in the war to invest properly in this operation. And, like the British, they were also hampered by distance, terrain and the demands upon resources. The Luftwaffe had strafed Fallujah on 23 May, but to little effect, and the Iraqis were mounting little more than nuisance raids and employing delaying tactics. On 21 and 22 May, for instance, they made an attempt, ‘frustrated by our patrols, to breach the bunds protecting Ashar [the business district of Basra] and Shuaiba aerodrome’. An operation on 25 May by a British battalion with Royal Navy and RAF support was successfully mounted against enemy troops 6 miles up the Tigris from Basra as efforts continued to push Iraqi forces back from the port. All of this ground activity was accompanied by ceaseless RAF sorties, recorded in the daily operational summaries. On 25 May Habbaniya-based aircraft flew 82 sorties, dropping 8 tons of bombs in the Ramadi area and bombing Mosul aerodrome. On the same day, 94 Squadron mounted standing patrols over Habbaniya and fighter escorts over Ramadi, and machine-gunned Iraqi vehicles discovered on the Baghdad road. Four enemy aircraft were machine-gunned at Mosul, and two of the five seen at Baqubah set on fire in a low attack. Habbaniya itself, meanwhile was bombed on that day by two Heinkel He 111s and three Messerschmitt Bf 110s. A successful attack on the Iraqi army and air force reserve petrol dump at Cassels Post destroyed a million gallons of fuel.

On 29 May Kingstone’s troops were engaging Iraqi positions in front of Baghdad.55 Fortunately, Iraqi opposition was only slight and by nightfall on 30 May the column had reached a point only 3 miles from the iron bridge over the Washash Channel on the outskirts of Baghdad West. It had been assisted by constant air reconnaissance and occasional close support bombing, and on 30 May very heavy bombing attacks with screaming bombs were launched on the Washash and Rashid camps, and on Iraqi troop positions in the vicinity of the Kadhimain railway station.

Air power remained a decisive factor. The RAF’s close air support had been vital in the campaign so far, and had had a devastating effect on morale as Iraqi resistance weakened. On 29 May there was some air combat and enemy transports north-west of Ramadi were machine-gunned, along with boats observed on Lake Habbaniya. On the following day RAF Habbaniya flew forty-two sorties, bombing troop concentrations and transports around Kadhimain in support of forward British formations on Baghdad’s outskirts. There was a mass leaflet drop over the capital, and a large fire was started at the motor transport depot at Rashid airbase. On 30 May Habbaniya’s aircrew flew twenty-nine sorties concentrating on a heavy bombing attack on Rashid and Washash, attacks made with screaming bombs ‘which proved most effective’, with aircraft of 94 Squadron escorting the bombers. 84 Squadron, meanwhile, performed reconnaissance flights over Ramadi, Hit, Mahmudiya, Musayyib and Karbala, and conducted a photo reconnaissance of Mosul and the K2 pumping station.

As British forces approached the capital, the rebel Iraqi regime disintegrated. With the city seemingly surrounded, Rashid Ali, the Grand Mufti, Grobba and the officers of the Golden Square scattered. It was left to the Mayor of Baghdad to sue for peace, and wireless sets were returned to the embassy. ‘After this,’ wrote Freya Stark, ‘in a sort of golden mist of sunset our bombers and fighters came sailing: they came in troops and societies, their outline sharp in the luminous sky: they separated and circled and dived, going vertically down at dreadful speed, like swordfish of the air’. A message was received at RAF Habbaniya from the British Embassy, just reconnected, requesting that an Iraqi flag of truce accompanied by an embassy representative should be received as soon as possible at the iron bridge. ‘As soon as we got this message,’ wrote Smart, ‘both the GOC [General Clark] and I decided to go ourselves to the Iron Bridge to meet the Iraqi Envoys’, the commanding officers keen to be in at the kill. A signal was sent to the ambassador fixing a time of 0400 on 31 May for the car with the flag of truce to be at the rendezvous. It was in this vehicle that de Chair entered the capital and pulled up at the embassy. Cornwallis, stirred from sleep, greeted him in his dressing gown and cummerbund, but he was soon kitted out in a white drill suit topped with solar topee and they were speeding back to the iron bridge.

The Mayor of Baghdad led the Iraqi delegation, accompanied by Cornwallis. In the cold light of dawn, the terms of the armistice were agreed. The Iraqi army was permitted to retain its weapons though was to return forthwith to its normal peacetime stations, and Ramadi was to be evacuated. All POWs and civilian internees were to be released, and all German and Italian personnel and equipment were to be detained by the Iraqi government. Fighting ceased at 0430, and the armistice was signed. Prince Regent Abdulillah and his entourage had already returned to Iraq in a procession of vehicles purchased in Palestine with the intention of drumming up support for his return to Baghdad, and were waiting in the wings at RAF Habbaniya, where the party was billeted in the Imperial Airways building that had been smashed up by the Iraqi army. Now, Abdulillah returned to Baghdad and resumed the regency. The Iraqi army was allowed to retire, ‘many of them deceived by their leader and not in fact disloyal’. This was a wise move, and made ensuing relations better than they might otherwise have been.

Knabesnhue reported on events to Washington. At 1430 on 30 May the Mayor of Baghdad ‘telephoned to inform me Rashid Ali and Axis group had left Iraq and that he headed a temporary Government to bring [the] conflict to an end’. He invited foreign diplomatic chiefs to his office. ‘I went first accompanied by Commandant Police to see the British Ambassador and thence with his Counsellor to the Mayor’s office.’ At the British Embassy, the armistice led to an ‘absolute orgy of activity all over the Chancery with typists flying in and out’. The embassy resembled ‘a railway station: officers from Habbaniya, colonels from Basra, Cawthorn from Cairo, Iraqis, people here leaving, cars scrunching, cawasses returning’. Members of the embassy community were told to wear their solar topees, presumably in an attempt to bolster British prestige rather than as a precaution against sunstroke.

Captain Sowerby of the 2nd Battalion the Essex Regiment, part of Habforce, had what he termed an ‘exciting night’ on the day the armistice was signed. In a letter to a friend he boasted that he ‘had had the satisfaction of being blooded in this war, though against the Iraqi rebels and not the Hun’. Arriving in Iraq his battalion had marched 50 miles in three days in full service marching order. ‘Then we had a few weeks of civilization and when the Iraqi show burst forth we were the first Company away and left barracks within an hour of receiving notice and were front line troops until after Rutbah and again later on . . . We had several scraps with very few casualties.’ On the eve of the armistice, Sowerby:

had to get a message to the Hq outside Baghdad, with the instructions for the reception of the envoys. I had two hours to do 25 miles of desert and 8 miles of flooded tarmac and then find the Hq which I was given to understand would probably be near the road and somewhere near Baghdad! Just as I got into the floods an outpost sentry told me that the road had been under heavy shell and MG fire all day, to cheer me up I suppose! I nearly overshot our front line but luckily spotted an Ambulance in time.

Finally locating the headquarters, Sowerby ‘panted in to the Brigadier’, Joe Kingstone, only to discover that his message had already been received as wireless communications had been re-established. ‘I managed to scrounge some tea though!’ he wrote.

Sowerby’s cheery tone reflected the fact that imperial ground forces had had a relatively easy campaign and suffered minimal losses. ‘For us it was but another campaign along the eastern marches of our Empire,’ wrote de Chair ‘for them it was a war against the whole distracted might of Britain.’ British land and air forces had carried the day through resolute action, speed and deception. The armistice was finally forced by the small British contingent of approximately 1,400 men that had come from Habbaniya to Baghdad, with very little artillery or armour. As Freya Stark wrote, ‘we have done this with only two battalions’: the battle had been won by a ‘colossal bluff’.

Though Baghdad had been taken by legerdemain, the British had fought an excellent campaign and many factors accounted for the final result. The campaign’s most striking feature was the remarkable stand of the RAF’s No. 4 Flying Training School at Habbaniya. Using obsolete aircraft, a handful of experienced pilots and their inexperienced pupils lifted a siege by about 9,000 Iraqi troops, crippled German aircraft sent to the country and destroyed most Iraqi air assets before taking the fight to Baghdad via Fallujah. By holding out and then going over to the offensive, RAF Habbaniya bought crucial time for imperial relief forces from Palestine and India to concentrate and then deploy. In achieving this, Habbaniya was ably assisted by the air assets based at RAF Shaibah: the RAF had flown 1,600 sorties. Special forces had also played a role, with agents from the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and Special Operations Executive (SOE), and even Palestinian Jews recruited by SOE from the Irgun, undertaking sabotage missions: fuel dumps were targeted and sixteen newly arrived, American-built Northrop aircraft belonging to the Iraqi air force were destroyed on the ground. The Arab Legion played an unobtrusive but important role:

Glubb’s desert patrol was a talisman among the bedouin [sic], who would otherwise have molested our straggling supply column, thin-drawn out across the blinding desert, and have raided our solitary outposts along the route. In the event, we had no trouble from the tribes, who remained amicable with so many cousins under our flag, while the town dwellers of Iraq were loathing us with deadly passion.

To stand any chance of winning, the Iraqis needed to have eliminated the British at Habbaniya. As it was, though the airbase’s Assyrian and British churches were damaged along with messes and billets, the all-important water tower and power generator escaped unscathed and RAF aircraft never ceased using its runways for offensive purposes. Perhaps more importantly, if the Iraqis could have removed the British from Basra and blocked the Shatt al-Arab, they could have prevented British reinforcement by sea. Mahmood al-Durrah, a member of Rashid Ali’s government, ascribed defeat to a range of interconnected factors. The four members of the Golden Square, each in command of a major army unit or air force group, had pursued their own political ambitions and tribal interests. ‘As there was no overall command and control of Iraqi forces,’ he wrote, ‘their military fate was sealed.’ There was then the fact that no clear objectives had been provided to army group commanders except to be prepared to defend their regions. In contrast ‘the British had clear objectives that included securing Basra first and secondarily the airfield at Habbaniya’. There were other reasons for defeat, stemming in part from ministerial indecision at the beginning of May, which enabled the British to break out of Habbaniya before the Germans arrived. The Germans had warned Ali that they could not act to full effect before they had wound up their occupation of Crete and built up their air force and associated supply lines to Iraq. This indecision was caused by a split in the Iraqi ruling clique and also within the army. Essentially, the Iraqis went to war a month too early, and thus had to do without the German assistance that they were depending upon. Al-Durrah also highlighted the quality of British intelligence about the Iraqi forces, particularly as British officers had been employed in the army and air force as advisers and instructors until only weeks before fighting broke out.

A mordant critic of the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty, Rashid Ali was later to write that he saw German battlefield success as a golden opportunity. ‘Believe me, I was ready for an alliance with the devil to get hold of the weapons I needed for the army to fight British troops.’ But he blamed failure on the lack of Axis support, and ‘bitterly concluded that as a puppet in Germany’s game he was not even of sufficient importance to receive her whole-hearted support’.

World War II POWs poured through Hampton Roads

Few things gave the people of Hampton Roads a more vivid picture of the struggle to win World War II than the spectacle of captured enemy troops stepping off transport ships onto the Newport News piers.

Beginning with the unloading of the HMT Mauretania from North Africa on Sept. 16, 1942, and continuing almost through the conflict's end, nearly 135,000 German and Italian prisoners of war poured through the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, where they were searched, deloused, fingerprinted and interrogated before boarding trains for detention camps in the nation's interior.

More than 50,000 spilled back across the region starting in 1943, when a critical manpower shortage led the government to establish a series of camps that brought thousands to work at high-priority farms and fertilizer factories on the Peninsula, Southside and Eastern Shore as well as such labor-hungry military installations as the port, Naval Station Norfolk, Fort Monroe, Fort Eustis and Camp Patrick Henry.

That made direct, face-to-face encounters with the enemy a regular experience in Hampton Roads, and — especially in the dark early days of the war — the formidable military bearing of the crack Afrika Korps troops filing off the transport ships left little doubt about what they believed would be the final outcome.


The 6th South African Armoured Division was the second armoured division of the South African Army and was formed during World War II. Established in early 1943, it was based on a nucleus of men from the former 1st SA Infantry Division who had returned to South Africa after the Second Battle of El Alamein in late 1942. The division was initially transferred to Egypt for training, after which it served in the Allied campaign in Italy during 1944 and 1945. In Italy, the Division was initially deployed as part of the British Eighth Army, under command of Lieutenant-General Oliver Leese, and was then transferred to the U.S. Fifth Army, under Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, for the remainder of the Italian Campaign. The Division operated as a strongly reinforced division and was frequently used to spearhead the advance of the Corps and Army to which it was attached. They returned home after the end of the war in Italy and were disbanded in 1946.

After the Second Battle of El Alamein, the 1st SA Infantry Division was withdrawn to Quassasin with the understanding that its 1st Brigade would return to South Africa to regroup with the 7th Infantry Brigade (at this time the 7th Infantry Brigade was in Madagascar) to form the 1st SA Armoured Division. 1st SA Infantry Division's 2nd & 3rd Brigades would remain in Egypt to form the 6th South African Armoured Division which would replace the 2nd Infantry Division which had been captured at Tobruk in June 1942. Plans for a 1st SA Armoured Division were later abandoned, with only the 6th Division being considered viable. All of the 1st South African Infantry Division brigades were returned to South Africa for re-training and amalgamation with other units to form the nucleus of the armoured division. The division was officially formed in South Africa on 1 February 1943 with Maj.Gen. William Henry Evered Poole as commander and sailed for Port Tewfik in Suez on 30 April 1943 as a two brigade division, comprising 11th Armoured Brigade and 12th Motorised Brigade.


Training (in Egypt) began in the desert at Khataba, north west of Cairo, and was focused on tank operations and integrating the Rhodesian elements into the Division. On 23 January 1944 the Division moved to Helwan. By now, the Division had been in Egypt for months due to indecision related to its role. On 3 March 1944 the Division was instructed to move to Palestine, and the advance parties left on 7 March. On 12 March this movement order was countermanded, and the Division was instructed to move to ITALY. One year after arriving in the Middle East, the Division embarked from Alexandria to arrive in Taranto, ITALY on 20 & 21 April 1944.

Detachment of 12th Motorised Brigade: The 12th Motorised Brigade with artillery & support elements was ordered to move to the area of Isernia to prepare to relive the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade in the Cassino area and to come under command of the 2nd New Zealand Division in the British X Corps. These were the first Division troops to enter combat in Italy. The SA Brigade held these positions until after the Fall of Monte Cassino and the breakout from the Anzio beachhead, when they were withdrawn and reunited with the Division.

Order of Battle on arrival in Italy, 21/4/1944 Commander: Maj.Gen. William Henry Evered Poole.

Division Troops: Royal Durban Light Infantry (SA Infantry Corps). Reconnaissance: Natal Mounted Rifles (SA Armoured Corps). Division Artillery: Commanded by Col. Jacobus Nicolaas "Nick" Bierman. - Lt.-Gen. Nick Bierman (Wikipedia page) . 1st/6th Field Regiment (Cape Field Artillery), 4/22 Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 7th/23rd Medium Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 1st/11th Anti-Tank Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 1st/12th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (SA Artillery Corps). Engineers: 17th Field Park Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 12th Field Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 8th Field Squadron (SA Engineering Corps). Signals: 6th SA Division Signal Squadron (SA Corps of Signals), 6th SA Division Artillery Signal Squadron (SA Artillery Corps), 14th Motorised Brigade Signals Squadron (SA Corps of Signals). Medical: 19th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps), 20th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps).

Armour: Prince Alice's Own Pretoria Regiment (PR), Prince Alfred's Guard (PAG), Special Service Battalion (SSB). Infantry: Imperial Light Horse / Kimberley Regiment (ILH/KimR).

Infantry: First City / Cape Town Highlanders (FC/CTH), Royal Natal Carbineers (RNC), Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment / Regiment de la Rey (WR/DLR).

Infantry: 1st Battalion (The Scots Guards), 3rd Battalion (The Coldstream Guards), 5th Battalion (Grenadier Guards). Engineers: 42nd Field Company (Royal Engineers), 24th Independent Brigade Group (Guards) Workshop. Medical: 137th Field Ambulance (Royal Army Medical Corps). Signals: 550th Company (Royal Corps of Signals).

Order of Battle at the end of hostilities, 2/5/1945 Commander: Maj.Gen. William Henry Evered Poole.

Division Troops: Support Battalion DSR. Division Artillery: Commanded by Brig. Jacobus Nicolaas "Nick" Bierman. - Lt.-Gen. Nick Bierman (Wikipedia page) . 1st/6th Field Regiment (Cape Field Artillery), 4/22 Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 166th (Newfoundland) Field Regiment (Royal Artillery), 7th/23rd Medium Regiment (SA Artillery Corps), 1st/11th Anti-Tank Regiment (SA Artillery Corps). Engineers: 17th Field Park Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 12th Field Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 8th Field Squadron (SA Engineering Corps), 622nd Field Squadron (Royal Engineers). Signals: 6th SA Division Signal Squadron (SA Corps of Signals), 6th SA Division Artillery Signal Squadron (SA Artillery Corps), 14th Motorised Brigade Signals Squadron (SA Corps of Signals). Medical: 19th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps), 20th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps).

Armour: Prince Alice's Own Pretoria Regiment (PR), Prince Alfred's Guard (PAG), Special Service Battalion (SSB). Infantry: Imperial Light Horse / Kimberley Regiment (ILH/KimR), 4th/13th Frontier Force Rifles.

Brigade Troops: Regiment Botha / Regiment President Steyn (RB/RPS). Infantry: First City / Cape Town Highlanders (FC/CTH), Royal Natal Carbineers (RNC), Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment / Regiment de la Rey (WR/DLR).

Infantry: Imperial Light Horse / Kimberley Regiment (ILH/KimR), Natal Mounted Rifles / SA Air Force Regiment, Royal Durban Light Infantry (RDLI). Artillery: 15th Field Regiment (SA Artillery Corps). Engineers: 5th Field Company (SA Engineering Corps). Medical: 19th Field Ambulance (SA Medical Corps). Signals: 18th Motorised Brigade Signals.