Many thanks go to Doug Banks and his team – the masters of colourisation. The beauty of these colourised images is that colour, allows you to pick out and study the smallest detail. This makes these 100 year old images ‘alive’. Do not click on their Facebook page – you will become addicted to their work It is the research that they do on each image that makes the captions themselves a history lesson.
“Ekins versus Wittmann”
SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann of sSSPzAbt 101/1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler in a Panzer VI ‘Tiger 1’ Nº 007
and – Trooper Joe Ekins of 3 Troop, A Squadron, 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry in a Sherman Vc Firefly Nº12 (‘Velikye Luki’)
8th of August 1944, in a field next to the road of Caen- Cintheaux, near Gaumesnil, Normandy.
The most accepted opinion is that Wittmann and his crew were killed from a shot from a Sherman Vc Firefly, from 3 Troop, A Squadron, Northamptonshire Yeomanry. This Firefly, the ‘Velikye Luki’, under the command of Sergeant Douglas Gordon was operating with three other Fireflies commanded by Captain Thomas Boardman when they encountered three Tigers. They fired on these Tigers which were all three destroyed in a couple of minutes. The first Tiger was destroyed at 12.40 hours and the second, which returned fire, exploded at 12.47 hours. The third Tiger, probably the ‘007’, was put out of action with two shells, fired by gunner Trooper Joe Ekins from the Firefly of Sergeant Gordon. This was written down in the official daily journal of A Squadron.
Michael Wittmann 22nd April 1914 – 8th August 1944 (died aged 30)
Joe Ekins 15th July 1923 – 1st February 2012 (died aged 88)
(Nb. The total score of victories for Wittmann till 8 August, 1944 was 141 tanks and 132 anti-tank guns. Most of these victories were made on the Eastern Front.)
General Feld Marschall Erwin Rommel inspecting the 21.Panzer Division in Normandy on the 30th of May 1944
Rommel believed that the invasion needed to be stopped on the beaches, Gerd von Rundstedt the Commander-in-chief West, along with Geyr von Schweppenburg (Panzer Group West) disagreed. Hitler vacillated and placed the armour in the middle, far enough back to be useless to Rommel, not far enough for von Rundstedt. As a result of this, the 21st Panzer was placed near Caen, in the area of the British /Canadian landings.
If they had been released during the night of the 5th-6th they could have been on the beachhead waiting for the Allies to land. The SS units that were supposed to support the division could not be released as they were under Hitler’s direct command.
For the first day of the Allied landings, 21st Panzer operated alone. Hampered by enemy air attacks, it managed to find and engage British Paratroop forces at Ranville. The division gave the British a hard fight until it received orders to withdraw in the late morning.
Ordered to check the British advance on Caen in the evening, the Germans succeeded in reaching the coast at Lion-sur-Mer and drove a wedge between the British 3rd Infantry and the 3rd Canadian Divisions.
The last major action the 21st Panzer took part in on the Western Front was the stubborn resistance it gave the Guards Armoured Division during Operation Bluecoat, on the 1st of August 1944.
The surviving forces of the 21st Panzer were then almost entirely lost in the Falaise Pocket. The remnants of the unit merged with the 16th Luftwaffe Field Division. Of the 223 tanks of the 21st and other Divisions captured in the area by British forces between 8–31 August, about three quarters were abandoned/destroyed by their crews.
(The vehicle on the left (WH-431715) is believed to be one of the rare Selbstfahrlafette fur 7.5cm PaK40 auf Somua MCG S307(f) — a German self-propelled PaK 40 based on captured French Somua halftracks. A few of these were used by the 21st Panzer Division around Caen in Normandy in 1944.)
King George VI inspects British 1st Airborne troops in training, 16th of March 1944.
To the King’s left wearing the Pegasus patch is Brigadier John ‘Shan’ Hackett, 4th Parachute Brigade and to the King’s right is Lt. Col. Kenneth Smyth, 10th Parachute Battalion.
Having returned to England from Italy in December 1943, the division then prepared for the invasion of France. It was not involved in the Normandy landings, being held in reserve. In September 1944 it took part in Operation Market Garden. The division landed 60 miles (97 km) behind German lines, to capture crossings on the River Rhine, and fought in the Battle of Arnhem. After failing to achieve its objectives, the division was surrounded and took heavy casualties, but held out for nine days before the survivors were evacuated.
Lt.Col K Smyth died of his wounds received at Arnhem on the 26th October 1944
Brigadier ‘Shan’ Hackett survived the war, and died in September 1997.
This is a famous photo taken by the British War Correspondent, George Rodger. It is of a British soldier standing by the grave of an English Flight Lieutenant and the inscription reads;
“Here lies an unknown English Lieutenant who died in Air Battle”.
According to the Imperial War Museum, the partially burnt out aircraft is a Martin Maryland Mk.II of Nº 39 Squadron RAF in the image taken by Lt. Cash of the No 1 Army Film & Photographic Section, Army Film & Photographic Unit (E7297). That image shows the graves of three British airmen, in an area situated south west of Gazala, Libya.
We were unable to establish the identity of these airmen or that of the Maryland with the letter ‘Q’ on the fuselage. (We believe that the soldier in the photo could be George Rodger’s driver)
(Nb. On the 14th of June 1941, a Martin Maryland of Nº 24 Squadron SAAF, was shot down near Ain el Gazala but the Pilot (J.C. Newborn) parachuted to safety and was taken prisoner by the Germans (no record of the other two crew).
(Colourised by Laiz Kuczynski)
An American Mechanic working on the Tail Fuse of a AN-M64 “Carpetbagger” General Purpose 500lb bomb in the Forward bomb bay of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress.(Nb the B-29 could carry 32 x 500lb GP Bombs)
(Colourised by Paul Reynolds.
Historic Military Photo Colourisations)
Two soldiers watch as ‘Cromwell’ tanks of the Guards Armoured Division of the 2nd Armoured Recon Battalion the Welsh Guards cross Nijmegen bridge in the Netherlands, Thursday, the 21st of September 1944.
This bridge was located approximately ten miles from Arnhem and was described by General Eisenhower as a ‘valuable prize’.
It marked the entry point to the flat piece of land that divided the River Waal from the Lower Rhine, which was called ‘the Island’. The exposed single road north often proved to be a bottleneck as vehicles were vulnerable to enemy fire.
Original image © Welsh Guards Archives. Colourised Image © Welsh Guards Archives / Tom Marshall 2014. All rights reserved.
(Colourised by Tom Marshall from the UK)
Two Duxford-based Battle of Britain pilots.
Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, commanding No. 242 (Canadian) Squadron, with Major Alexander ‘Sasha’ Hess, CO of No. 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, outside the Officers Mess building, Duxford, Cambridgeshire. October 1940.
RAF Duxford was a Sector Station in 12 Group, responsible for defending the Midlands and East Anglia in England.(Source – IWM CH1340)
(Nb, Douglas Bader is wearing the Distinguished Service Order, medal ribbon that he was awarded on the 1st of October 1940.)
‘Sacha’ Hess was a Czechoslovakian pilot who, like many others carried on fighting after his country was invaded by Germany. He was born in 1898, and was therefore one of the oldest pilots who flew in the Battle.
The Czechs were fine men and most had suffered terrific hardships in their escape from Czechoslovakia after the German invasion. As one instance, Sasha Hess’ wife and daughter had been taken to a concentration camp and he had been informed they were dead. He could only hope that they died quickly, but he vowed that he would never show any mercy to any German and would never take any prisoners.
On the first occasion the Czechs got into action…Hess had disabled a Dornier …he followed it down with the intention of making certain that no one got out of it alive. He saw three Germans climb out, who held up their hands when they saw Sasha diving on them. To quote his own words: “I hesitate, then it was too late, so I go round again to make sure I kill them – they wave something white, again I did not shoot…’ (disgustedly) ‘I think it is no use, I am becoming too b****y British!”
Douglas Bader died on the 5th of September 1982 aged 72
Alexander Hess died on the 10th of August 1981 aged 83
(Colourised by Doug)