- Name: Dennis DONNINI
- D.O.B: 17th Nov, 1925
- D.O.A: 18th Jan, 1945
- D.O.D: 18th Jan, 1945
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Fusilier, 4th/5th Battalion The Royal Scots Fusiliers
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
The Second World War 1945
By the beginning of 1945 the war was in its last stages and at the Yalta Conferencebetween 4 and 11 February 1945 Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin began to map outthe post-war administration of Europe. Victory, however, had still to be achieved.The desperate last German offensive, the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ in the Ardennes, which hadopened on 16 December 1944, was routed in January 1945. It left Hitler with no further militaryreserves and confronted by seven Allied armies along Germany’s West Wall, while theRussians advanced inexorably from the east. However, the German Army, now called on todefend its homeland, was in no mood for surrender.On 20 January 1945 the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, divided theforthcoming campaign into three phases, the destruction of all enemy forces west of theRhine, the establishment of bridgeheads across the Rhine and the advance into Germany.In fact, the first phase had already begun and by 10 March 1945 the Allies had reachedthe Rhine. Despite their losses the Germans had withdrawn in good order, destroying allbridges behind them except those at Remagen and Oppenheim. The Allies now crossed theRhine but a dispute arose between them over priorities. The British were eager to make adash for Berlin. However, by 31 March the nearest western Allies were still 275 miles westof the German capital, while a Russian army, one million strong, was only 40 miles east ofit. Roosevelt supported Eisenhower’s decision that the Russians should be allowed to takeBerlin, while the Americans headed for the River Elbe and Leipzig and the British on theirleft flank aimed for Bremen and Lübeck.Meanwhile, the German army in Northern Italy was being rolled back. Despite the transferof manpower from this theatre, which had precluded a faster conclusion to the campaign,the Allies had maintained pressure on the Germans’ Gothic Line and their winter objectivefor 1944 had been a line from La Spezia on the west, through Bologna to Ravenna in theeast. Given the Germans’ determination to hold on to the North Italian Plain, this had provedoptimistic though Ravenna had been captured on 4 December 1944. The Allied 1945 SpringOffensive in Italy opened on 9 April 1945. In the east Eighth Army crossed the River Senioand by 17 April V Corps had taken Argenta and the Argenta Gap. There were now no furtherrivers between them and the Po. On 21 April American and Polish forces captured Bologna.Two days later, on 23 April, the Allies crossed the River Po. On 25 April, Mantua, Parmaand Verona were liberated. In the west, Fifth Army took La Spezia, with its naval base, on 24April and on the 27th entered Genoa.The complete destruction of the Axis powers in the west had now been accomplished. On29 April in a meeting at Allied Headquarters, Caserta, General Vietinghoff, agreed the surrenderterms for the one million German troops under his command in Italy, to take effectfrom 2 May. The day before Mussolini had been caught by Italian Partisans and shot. By 25April the Russians had encircled Berlin. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April and the cityfell on 2 May. On 4 May 1945, at Montgomery’s headquarters on Luneburg Heath, Germanenvoys signed the unconditional surrender of all forces in Northern Germany. On 7 May, atEisenhower’s Headquarters in Rheims, in the presence of representatives of the USA, GreatBritain, France and the USSR, General Jodl and Admiral Friedeburg signed the surrender ofall German forces. VE Day, Victory in Europe, was celebrated on 8 May.Though victory was now equally certain in South East Asia and the Far East, the wardragged on there for several months. In Burma Arakan had been largely cleared of theenemy. The port of Akyab was recaptured on 4 January 1945 while the Battle of Kangaw atthe end of the month and the actions that followed had aimed with mixed success to preventJapanese forces retreating across the Arakan Yomas into the Irrawaddy valley. However, thesecuring of the forward airfields at Akyab and Ramree helped make possible the advance ofFourteenth Army towards Rangoon. The British crossed to the east bank of the Irrawaddy inFebruary. The attack on Mandalay began on 8 March, while Meiktila eventually fell on 20March 1945. The British now began moving south down both the Irrawaddy and the mainrailway from Meiktila, destroying a Japanese blocking force at Pyawbwe in April. They werenow within striking distance of Rangoon when on 2 May the Monsoon began. Fortunately,fearing that they might be delayed, Mountbatten had already set in train Operation Dracula,an amphibious assault on the city. On 1 May, 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, dropped fromthirty-eight Dakotas, knocked out the Japanese coastal guns protecting Rangoon. Next day,the British made an unopposed seaborne landing and liberated Rangoon. This left 100,000scattered Japanese troops in the country trying to retreat east of the Sittang estuary and withdrawinto Thailand.In the Pacific also the Japanese were being driven back on all fronts. On Bougainville,they were forced into three small pockets on the island. In New Guinea the Australiansadvanced east along the North Coast from Aitape towards Wewak, which fell in May. Theremaining Japanese were penned into the Prince Alexander Mountains. In April 1945, withAmerican help, the Australians began an offensive to recapture the Netherlands East Indies,while the Americans were busy with their own reconquest of The Philippines. On 1 May theAustralians landed in Borneo.At this stage, it was still thought the war might continue to mid-1946 or even 1947. Malayaremained in enemy hands and the conquest of Japan itself presented a formidable challenge.An amphibious assault on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu was planned for November 1945,and on the main island, Honshu, near Tokyo, for spring 1946. Hostilities were, however, dramaticallycut short when the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima on 6 August1945 and on Nagasaki on 9 August. The Japanese agreed to a ceasefire on 15 August, VJDay, though this decision took time to reach all their forces. In Burma some fighting continuedeast of the River Sittang until the signing of the preliminary surrender agreement on28 August 1945. On 2 September, General MacArthur accepted the Japanese unconditionalsurrender aboard the USS Missouri. The Second World War was over. It had lasted six years.
In North-West Europe on 18th January, 1945, a Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers supported by tanks was the leading Battalion in the assault of the German position between the Rivers Roer and Maas. This consisted of a broad belt of minefields and wire on the other side of a stream. As a result of a thaw the armour was unable to cross the stream and the infantry had to continue the assault without the support of the tanks. Fusilier Donnini’s platoon was ordered to attack a small village. As they left their trenches the platoon came under concentrated machine gun and rifle fire from the houses and Fusilier Donnini was hit by a bullet in the head. After a few minutes he recovered consciousness, charged down thirty yards of open road and threw a grenade into the nearest window. The enemy fled through the gardens of four houses, closely pursued by Fusilier Donnini and the survivors of his platoon. Under heavy fire at seventy yards range Fusilier Donnini and two companions crossed an open space and reached the cover of a wooden barn, thirty yards from the enemy trenches. Fusilier Donnini, still bleeding profusely from his wound, went into the open under intense close range fire and carried one of his companions, who had been wounded, into the barn. Taking a Bren gun he again went into the open, firing as he went. He was wounded a second time but recovered and went on firing until a third bullet hit a grenade which he was carrying and killed him. The superb gallantry and self-sacrifice of Fusilier Donnini drew the enemy fire away from his companions on to himself. As the result of this, the platoon were able to capture the position, accounting for thirty Germans and two machine guns. Throughout this action, fought from beginning to end at point blank range, the dash, determination and magnificent courage of Fusilier Donnini enabled his comrades to overcome an enemy more than twice their own number.