January 31. The Battle of Stalingrad ended with a crushing
defeat for the Nazis. Hitler had ordered Field Marshal von Paulus
to fight to the last man and Goering promised to supply the cut-off
German forces from the air. But the supplies failed to arrived
and Paulus's men, reduced to eating dead cavalry horses, perished
by the thousands in the bitter winter.
About 300,000 Germans died in the desperate attempt to capture
the city that bore the name of the Soviet leader, Stalin. Like
Napoleon before him, Hitler had gone to war with Russia and come
up against "General Winter." Yet there was more to this crushing
defeat than mere weather. Some ordinary Russians had at first
welcomed the Nazis as liberators from communism. But the Germans
regarded Slavs as sub-humans, to be moved or or eliminated to
providing "living room" for the German people.
German troops killed civilians and laid towns and villages waste.
Any opposition was met with public hangings and firing squads.
For Russia this became the Great Patriotic War. The entire nation
became a war-machine. Women fought alongside men. Whole factories
were moved hundreds of miles to the east, producing tanks that
rolled straight off the production line and off to battle. As
they steadily pushed the invaders back and found evidence of wholesale
Nazi brutality, the Red Army vowed revenge.
July 31. The full fury of total war arrived in the heart
of Hitler's Third Reich as allied bombers tore the heart out of
Hamburg. In Operation Gomorrah, more than 7,000 tons of high explosives
and incendiaries were dropped on the city. RAF Lancaster bombers
did the damage by night with US Flying Fortresses taking over
Hamburg was experiencing what the next two years held in store
for dozens of German towns and cities. Unready to launch their
Second Front in the form of a ground invasion, the US and Britain
took the war to the skies. Although German bombers had laid waste
Warsaw and Rotterdam and cities all over Europe, hitler could
never hope to match the Anglo-American production of heavy bombers.
Germany had sowed the wind and was reaping the whirlwind.
16. RAF bombers attacked a top-secret German base on Peenemunde
Island in the Baltic. It was believed - correctly, as events proved
- to be a centre for the production of secret weapons to be known
as "flying bombs". Despite the best efforts of the RAF, the V-1s
were soon in production and London faced an anxious end to the
war as the cheap but devastating "doodlebugs" homed in on the
May 24. It was the day when the Allies revealed they were
finally getting on top of the U-boat scourge. The previous year
had seen millions of tons of Allied shipping sent to the bottom
as the German submarines, hunting in packs, enjoyed the so-called
"happy days". Hitler knew that if his men could sink 800,000 tons
of shipping a month, Britain would be crippled.
But things changed dramatically in 1943. Improved convoys, long-range
patrol aircraft and a new range of anti-sub weapons resulted in
17 U-boats being sunk in April. In a single attack off Greenland,
once a safe area for U-boats, no fewer than eight were sunk in
a single attack. Morale among U-boat crews fell sharply. And in
Berlin Hitler knew that his last real chance of forcing the Allies
to negotiate was slipping away.
September 3. Italy surrendered to the Allies. Driven
by their dictator, Mussolini, most Italians had been only luke-warm
about the war. To the astonishment, and dismay, of their former
German allies, the Italians threw in the towel but kept the declaration
secret for five days. As the British and Americans moved steadily
up the length of Italy from their invasion beaches in Sicily,
they were greeted as friends. On October 13, Italy formally declared
war on Germany. Within weeks, Italian partisans were hunting down
December 2. Minister of Labour Ernest Bevin announced
the creation of the "Bevin Boys." Lads whose call-up number matched
a national lottery would be conscripted not into the armed forces
but sent down the mines. The scheme had mixed success. Seventeen-year-olds
were no substitute for the experienced miners who had deserted
the pits in droves to join up and miners' leaders had little faith
in the scheme. Some Bevin Boys had a chilly reception from close-knit
mining communities. And after the war, Bevin Boys felt their contribution
to the war was overlooked. It was not until 1998 that they were
allowed to parade at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day.
January 31. German forces surrendered
February 6. Actor Errol Flynn was
acquitted on three rape charges.
March 2. The RAF dropped 900 tons
of bombs on Berlin in 30 minutes.
April 3. Free Church members and
Salvationists were invited to the installation of the new
Vicar of Cannock, the Rev S F Linsley, as a symbol of church
April 26. Mass grave of 4,000 Polish
officers was discovered at Katyn, near Smolensk.
April 30. Wolverhampton bottle exchange,
set up to deal with a wartime shortage, reported it was washing
and recycling at least 1,000 bottles per week.
May 17. RAF Lancasters fitted with
bouncing bombs attacked two German dams in the Dambuster
June 12. Tipton passed its £250,000
Wings for Victory target.
June 24. Engineering union leaders
called for pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) taxation to be introduced.
June 30. Mr A.J.W. Kiff, in charge
at Wolverhampton High Level Station, retired, claiming to
be Britain's most-travelled stationmaster.
July 10. First Allied troops went
ashore in Sicily.
November 11. In the biggest case
of its kind brought by the Fuel Ministry, a Walsall firm
was fined £1,400 for failing to keep proper records
of coal supplies.
August 17. Whole of Sicily in Allied
September 12. German commando squad
snatched Mussolini from prison in Italy
August 25. The Allies named Lord
Louis Mountbatten as Supreme Commander, South East Asia.
September 2. Reports from Poland
indicated that concentration-camp inmates were being used
for medical experiments.
October 19. Church leaders warn
of moral laxity following a wartime epidemic of VD.
October 20. The Allies agreed to
set up a war-crimes commission.
November 22. US tennis star Billie
Jean King was born.
December 24. General Dwight D.
Eisenhower was appointed supreme Allied commander for the
invasion of Europe.