Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Besotten Jenny

Thanks to Madest (EU server) for mentioning this story.

In the early hours of 2nd of May 1945 two gunshots rang out through the darkness at the Castle Itter in Austria. The castle was lit by candles and lanterns due to lack of fuel for the castle's generator. As the Germans searched for the source of the gunshots they found the body of Eduard Weiter, the ex commander of Dachau Concentration Camp. He'd been killed by a bullet to the heart and one to the head. Some suggest he'd committed suicide, and managed to shoot himself a second time after shooting himself in the heart. Others say he was killed by one of his retinue for deserting from his post as commander of Dachau, which had just been liberated by the Allies. When the Germans tried to bury him in the local churchyard the priest refused to sully his graveyard with the body. In the end his retinue dumped the body into hole in the ground, tossed a few handfuls of dirt on top, and they then fled.
This left the commander of Castle Itter, Sebastian Wimmer, feeling a little worried and concerned. The castle had been transformed into a prisoner camp in 1943, previously it had been the home for the German Association for Combating the Dangers of Tobacco. As a camp, for purely administrative purposes it had been in the hierarchy of Dachau. But as it housed political prisoners who were deemed useful by the Nazi's it was a vastly more pleasant incarceration. About twenty of the guest rooms were converted to cells and the rooms held a large number of French politicians, and their wives. The castle also had a small number of guards and some prisoners from the main camp who acted as menials.
French Detainees
Now Wimmer knew the Allies would be arriving shortly, and his boss had just died on his doorstep. Equally he was, without doubt an SS member. Through the previous weeks he'd seen a steady stream of Nazi party officials using his castle as a staging post as they fled the Allied advance. It was at this point Wimmer decided to join the exodus.
As he fled the prisoners grabbed what weapons had been left behind and decided to prepare to defend themselves. The French had a variety of backgrounds and included the French former Prime Ministers Édouard Daladier and Paul Reynaud. Equally former Commander in Chiefs of France's military Maxime Weygand and Maurice Gamelin were held there. Even some ex-Vichy politicians. Needless to say there were bitter differences between the group. However when faced with an imminent threat these elderly gentlemen stepped forward.

The group had sent out a pair of volunteers to seek help from the nearby Americans. One, Zvonimir Čučković had bluffed his way out of the castle claiming to be on an errand for the commander, he had left the day before Wieters death. Unknown to the castle's inhabitants he'd actually made contact with American forces, who'd sent out a force to liberate the castle. However they quickly realised they'd cross a divisional boundary. Even in modern warfare crossing a unit boundary like that is considered a bad idea, as the chain of command is fragmented and it massively increases the likelihood of friendly fire incidents. For that reason the force was recalled.
The second volunteer was a Czech named Andreas Krobot, who approached the village of Wörgl on the 4th of May. There he found a Wehrmacht force that was attempting to defend the area from roving bands of Waffen SS. It was working with the local Austrian resistance. The motley band was under the command of Major Josef Gangl.
Major Josef Gangl
 Maj Gangl had known of Castle Itter and its status as a camp, and had wanted to free it. However, being short of manpower he was unable to assault the place. The news that the castle was now held by friendly forces altered matters. Knowing he'd have to assault through hostile territory he marched out to find the nearest US forces to surrender and propose a joint rescue attempt. He found such a unit eight miles north, the leading element of the US 12th Armoured Division, which was one of the few American combat units that allowed coloured troops to serve in the front line. The unit was led by Captain Jack Lee.
Captain Jack Lee
The confused situation in the area between the front line of the US forces, and the Castle Itter meant that only one Sherman tank, Cpt Lee's "Besotten Jenny", seven coloured US soldiers, Maj. Gangl's Kubelwagen and a German truck with ten German artillery men arrived at Castle Itter to join the fourteen or so prisoners.
While Maj Gangl was unfailingly polite it appears that Cpt Lee got on Paul Reynaud's neves. After the war Reynaud described Cpt Lee as "Crude in both looks and manners, if Lee is a reflection of America’s policies, Europe is in for a hard time."

With the war about to end, at 0800 the next day, what could go wrong?
Part two will be next week.

Image Credits:
www.slate.fr and www.warhistoryonline.com

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Eight East

In the cockpit of the jet bomber only faint luminescence comes from the dials. Outside the cockpit it's pitch black. Every 90 seconds the plane banks to avoid any SAM missiles. The powerful SAMS' that could reach its altitude would be moving so fast they'd not be able to track onto the bomber as it jinks its way across the sky. The vast plane levels out from its final bank, and ahead of it, four miles and 33,000 feet below the lights of a city blink away. The pilot adjusts his course slightly lining up for the target point. Between the wings of the bomber is its payload consisting of a single hydrogen bomb. The crew in the back squint at their radar screens, preparing for their radar bombing sight drop on the city ahead. As they approach the drop point, the pilot presses a button to arm the weapon. Shortly, as they reach the exact point required the navigator-plotter will press the second button of the two stage release. The jet bomber will buck upwards freed of the huge weight of its bomb.
The inhabitants of the city below go about their business, most sleeping, no-one aware of the free-fall Hydrogen bomb plummeting towards the point where its pressure switch would trip, utterly destroying their city. The plane turns away, at 140 degrees and climbing its crew await the blast wave that stands a good chance of pitching their bomber into the ground. Equally they have an uncertain future, what of their home country and their families? Some of the bombers lacked enough fuel to make the return trip, their only hope was to get as close to friendly territory as possible and bail out.

The above of course is a training exercise, a city in the United States was the target of a simulated attack by an Avro Vulcan, one of several such planes taking part in the Strategic Air Command's "Bomb Comp". It was designed to promote accurate bombing and practise the skills required for the V-Bombers. Although later when Soviet SAM's improved the V-Bombers lost their anti-flash white paint job and gained a camouflaged pattern and their flight path changed to low level. During the final approach they would climb to 10-11000 feet to release the bomb. The NATO plan for the bomber attack was coordinated between the RAF and SAC. The V-Bomber force would strike targets across western Russia and the Baltics. The attacks were placed to leave corridors for SAC's force to fly through. If the SAC pilots stuck to their routes they'd be flying between the detonations of the RAF's bombs.
There was no Bomb Comp in 1962, entirely due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. During that time the V-Bomber force was at two minute readiness with the crew sitting in their aircraft, ready to go. They were fed sandwiches by their ground crew.
The pilot and others like him had previously flown many training exercises that had looked like the real thing. Often the bomber crews would be given a go order, taking off and flying their courses, not knowing if bombs were falling on their homes behind them. Longitude 8 East was considered the point of no return, if they crossed that they were at war. Luckily the recall code had come every single time. Sometimes it was instantaneously, other times it had come after half an hour of flying. As one pilot recalls, during the Cuban crisis, just before he left for the airfield he said to his wife "If you see us take off, put the kids in the car and drive to the west of Scotland. I think you'll be safe there."
If World War Three had started, nowhere in the UK would have been safe. There was a great deal of planning for Civil Defence in the UK, but most, if not all of it was simply to give the appearance of survivability to prevent panic. The government produced a series of pamphlets called "Protect and Survive" They can be read online here. While the advice is sound, it misses the point that the vast majority of the UK would be blanketed by nuclear bombs, and none of the country would have been survivable.
A demonstration of Protect and Survive
Despite this there was an effort to keep the government alive in some form, and as every government needs information the Royal Observer Corps was tasked to observe Nuclear explosions and report that back to a central post. Of course it's likely these command centres would have been obliterated in the initial exchange. These ROC posts were dotted across the country and each had three men, a phone line and a number of sensors.
Of course the phone line was only buried for about the first 100 yards. The following quote gives a description of the instruments each post had, it was written by an ROC member who served three years in these tiny positions:

"Above ground you have, from left to right, the entrance shaft, with the Ground Zero Indicator mounted next to it. The GZI was basically a third of an oil drum converted into a pinhole camera. It had four small holes in it and the GZI could only be mounted so that the holes faced exactly north, east, south and west. Inside were four "cassettes" of photographic paper which turned dark when exposed to the light of a nuclear detonation, or the headlights of a passing car, which happened at my second post. In the event of a nuclear explosion you wait sixty seconds after the last bang and then climb the ladder and change the cassettes. Good luck with that one.
You next have the cover for the Fixed Survey Meter, which measures external radioactivity. Next to that is the baffle plate for the Bomb Power Indicator, two metal discs about 6 inches in diameter (I thought twelve inches, but only sixish, which may have explained some of my problems with the ladies) about half an inch apart. When the blast from the bomb passes over the post some of it is captured by this and gives a reading on the BPI."

Image credits:
www.film4.com and Fallout 4

Other Credits.
There's several interesting threads on the subject, the one with ROC veterans accounts is here.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, so as I normally do, I've selected something a bit more thought provoking than my usual fare.
Last year I visited the American cemetery at Madingley for this article. Some of the Photographs I took didn't go into the For the Record Article. They were short pieces on some of the fallen commemorated at the cemetery.

1st Lieutenant Sidney Dunagan
Pilot of a C47

Lieutenant Murray Blum
US Merchant Marine officer

Technical  Sergeant Arizona Harris 
Dorsal turret gunner on a B17

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Reich Strikes back

Part one.

The Coldstreamers then fell back from the position they'd reached to give hill 309 some safety distance because at 1500 a bomber strike was scheduled to prepare the hill. Shortly after vacating their position a pair of FW-190's appeared and launched rocket attacks on the line that the Coldstreamers had previously occupied, the attack did nothing more than plough up some fields.
The Coldstreamers found much the same problem at La Morichesse as the Scots Guards had encountered as Les Loges, they also had to detour. The terrain was particularly bad going and three tanks bogged down, one tank rolled over which set off a grenade inside the tank wounding the turret crew. The troop commander of the three bogged down tanks and one of the unwounded crew from the rolled tank set off to find medical help. However, they were unsuccessful and on their way back they ran into a German infantry platoon, accompanied by a Jagdpanther.
During battles a single Churchill tank was kept as a rear link. Its job was to maintain radio communication between the forward units and the HQ. In this case the rear link tank didn't learn of the detour around La Morichesse and entered the town, only to be destroyed by a point blank shot from a Panther tank. Despite all this by 1600 Hill 309 was occupied.

Meanwhile the Grenadier Guards had collected together the infantry and were trying to transport them to the front, first of all they got snarled up in a traffic jam, and didn't clear that until 1630. Then they ran into the stiffening resistance at La Morichesse, and were unable to bypass with the ease the Coldstreamers had done. Their problems continued to mount as ME-109's would make strafing runs on the column, orders were getting confused in the jumble and then the light began to fade.

At the hill near Les Loges the Scots were still on their own. Just as they tuned into the 1800 BBC Broadcast, they heard the news about the battle they were currently in. With curious timing the Germans then laid an artillery barrage onto the hill, followed shortly after by three high velocity cannon shots. The three rounds each knocked out a Churchill on the left flank, destroying the troop of tanks in that location, and leaving the flank open. Unable to raise anyone on the left flank the Squadron 2nd in command moved his tank over to see what was going on, and met three Jagdpanthers at point blank range.
After knocking out the flank troop the Jagdpanthers had used the cover of a hedge line, and finally a cottage to get into the wooded area on the hill. Their long 88's easily punched a round through the 2IC’s tank and caused its ammunition to detonate, blowing the turret off.
The Jagdpanthers then fell upon the Scots Guards from behind at point blank range, pushing through the line. Their fire knocked out a further seven Churchills. As the Jagdpanthers withdrew over the crest  of a nearby swell in the ground they were taken under fire by the remaining Scots Guards. The Churchills quickly knocked out two of the attackers.

By early evening the Coldstreamers had finally linked up with the infantry support, they had brought their anti-tank guns up by manhandling them as the terrain was to rough for Carriers and other tows. Even resupply was done by transferring supplies to M3 half tracks and then using those to get as close as they could to the front line; the supplies were then manhandled up to the front line.
A quiet if tense night was spent at the front. Then in the morning a Churchill was hit from the flank in the turret, the round had come from the left rear of the Churchill's position from the village of La Ferriere, thankfully it caused no damage. A brief gunfight followed and a single German self propelled gun was seen to withdraw from the position. For the rest of the day regular salvos of artillery fell upon the Coldstreamers position. But that was all that happened that day, apart from the armoured divisions moving forwards along the road to continue the attack.

On the 1st of August the dawn stillness was shattered by a massive German bombardment at 0530. Shortly after that infantry was observed leaving their positions in La Ferriere and from cover to the front. Then above the din of exploding rounds tank engines could be heard. The Germans were attacking the Coldstreamers position from the flank and to their front. The first wave of the infantry attacked at 0645. The Churchills laid down a devastating blanket of fire which stopped the attack dead.
Almost immediately a second attack came in this time with armour support. Again the firepower the Churchills put down forced the attack to retreat. The enemy then started trying to snipe tanks from long range with Jagdpanthers. The Coldstreamers returned the compliment but were aghast to see their shells bounce harmlessly off the thick armour. Even so the Churchills position meant they were difficult targets and the Jagdpanthers scored no further hits.
One thing the Coldstreamers were not short of was artillery support and they liberally applied this to the enemy positions. The quick response and famously rapid rate of fire from the British artillery severely hampered the enemy. One of the Squadron Commanders won a Military Cross for his actions in commanding his squadron and directing the artillery. Soon the Germans began to retire from the battle, one column was badly shot up by the Coldstreamers as it withdrew from La Ferriere. Everything seemed quiet for a while, then four German deserters surrendered in the evening. They warned of a German attack being prepared in an orchard  behind the Coldstreamers position. Quickly every available gun and mortar was directed towards this orchard, along with the direct fire from the Churchills. After a short while of this battering, an infantry battalion and several German Tigers retreated from the orchard.

With this last force withdrawing no more fighting took place, the base of Operation Bluecoat was secure, and later Bluecoat secured the flank of Operation Cobra.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Opening the Blue Coat

There's a famous quote by Bernard Montgomery that he wanted 1/3rd of the Churchill tanks armed with a six pounder gun. This may have had some impact on the 6th Guards Tank Brigade. In the run up to D-Day they rearmed all their tanks to the 75mm gun, including their Churchill MKIII's, but they were never deployed. The Guardsmen preferred the 75mm over the six pounder. Despite this they started rearming the required one third of their tanks back. However this may not have been enough and they still weren't ordered to cross the channel. Eventually the Brigade’s commander went to see the King, whom in turn went to see Prime Minister Churchill; Churchill then ordered the unit deployed. They landed on French soil on the 20th of July. Once in their marshalling area several officers visited tank graveyards to view the effects of German weaponry, their visits prompted a massive up armouring program across the brigade. Most of the time this was just spare track links welded all over the tank and turret but sometimes it was actual plate. There exists a few odd pictures of a Churchill MKIII*, a MKIII tank with extra armour on the front of the turret and armed with a 75mm gun.
On the 25th of July the US forces launched operation Cobra. Their famous drive to the south through the weakened German forces distracted by the British armoured drives to the east. Despite early success the operation began to look a bit shaky. The Germans on the high ground east of the penetration were causing some disruption with their fires into the flank of the advance. This ground was directly in front of the British 2nd Army, and on the 28th the US forces requested that the British deal with this problem.
A hasty plan was formed, and named Operation Bluecoat. It involved the 6th Guards, consisting of the 4th Coldstream Guards, 4th Grenadier Guards and the 3rd Scots Guards.  The orders were to push the front line back to secure a better jumping off point, followed by an armoured force pushing through the Germans to capture the high ground and hence cut off the German 7th Army. The front line at that time was along a feature called Caumont ridge, which was eight miles west of Caen. The countryside was all bocage with a road network forming a rough triangle, with the tip at Caumont ridge in the north. The 6th Guards with the 15th Scottish Infantry Division were to assault into this area and capture it.
Due to the haste required no reconnaissance time was available, and on the 28th at 1900 the order to move out was received, with the first tank moving two hours later. By the afternoon of the 29th the Brigade was in position, and the plan laid out.

The first action of the day, after a pummelling artillery barrage was for the Grenadier Guards with infantry support to assault Lutain wood and Sept Vents, this frontage covered the top of the triangle. As they were the first wave Crocodiles and Sherman Crabs were provided.
The Scots Guards would then drive for a hill and a small settlement called Les Loges roughly in the middle of the Triangle. Meanwhile the Coldstreamers would drive down the west side of the triangle and capture the village of La Morichesse and hill 309 beyond. This would clear the road at the base of the triangle and allow the armoured breakout.
The quickness of the action caught the Germans off guard. The 326th Infantry Division had no warning of the impending attack, having been previously informed that they were only facing a few understrength American units. Then at dawn on July 30th a massive whirlwind of artillery fell on them, followed by a brigade of Churchill's. Almost instantly the officers broke and fled and although the infantry tried their best the wall of armour and Crocodiles brutally shoved them out of their positions. Five of the Grenadier Guards tanks were knocked out by mines, and two tank commanders were killed by sniper fire. One of them was the youngest member of the House of Commons. By 0830 both objectives were secured, it had taken less than 30 minutes.

When I say "Germans" it's not strictly accurate. The haul of prisoners consisted of Poles and "Russians". It is reported that two "Japanese" were also captured, although the former are more likely to be Eastern Europeans.
Next the Scots Guards and Coldstreamers moved out. However the next phase of the operation was dogged by one problem. Whilst the Churchill's could advance, often the Germans would lie low and let them pass. The following infantry were then ambushed and slowed. Add to that German mortar fire was also slowing the infantry down. To maintain the cover from the walking barrage that started at 0930 the Coldstreamers and Scots Guards advanced behind the bombardment, hoping their infantry support could catch up.
The Coldstreamers during their rapid advance captured a dressing station, manned by an Italian, who annoyed the Brigade intelligence officer by continually repeating "Me goes to England, you goes further away!" Despite this some valuable intelligence was gained from the prisoner.

By 1215 the Scots Guards halted and waited for the infantry to catch up. However after an hour there was no sign of the link up, so they decided not to capture Les Loges but instead swing around the position to capture the hill beyond it.

Part two  can be found here.

Image credits:
www.warhistoryonline.com, www.flamesofwar.com and www.kingsownmuseum.plus.com

Sunday, October 18, 2015


A couple of weekends ago my wife mentioned to me that a village called Holme was having a 1940's weekend. So we decided to take a trip down there. Here's some of the pictures I took. In truth it seemed to have a bit of a wider scope than just the 1940's with a large number of classic cars kicking around, and lots of reenactors. The other interesting thing that was the entire village was closed off and everyone in the village got dressed up, including one chap who amusingly was dressed as an undertaker complete with his tape measure!
It is I, Leclerc!
The reenactors and a few of the stalls had a large collection of firearms on display, so I dropped some hints about a SMLE Mk.III and birthdays, I have no idea if the wife was listening though.
No idea what this one is
Due to the quaint rural village feel and the lots of people dressed in period costume, there were quite a few opportunities if you were quick enough to get photographs that could have been taken in the 1940's.
Curse you Phone box for ruining the shot

One lady had a large collection of memorabilia which she'd selected some items from and laid out on a stall. One which caught my eye was this magazine, and the two page spread inside. Ignore what it says though, the Char 2C was never anywhere near the Germans.
As we strolled around the reenactors camp I did hear one German ask "Are we winning or losing today?" which made me chuckle. Later on there was meant to be a battle between the Germans and the Allies. Unfortunately we had been already been invited to a christening later so were unable to stay for the battle. I did suggest to my wife that she go to the christening then come back later to pick me up. This cunning and subtle plan was vetoed by the long haired CO.
As we were heading towards the car park there had been a few outbreaks of firing going on, we spotted this bunch of chaps in a field loosing off a few shots. They must have seen some Germans lurking in the bushes!
The good news is the wife enjoyed the day out. So it's likely we'll get back to another one and get a full day out of it, including the mock battle.

Some other pictures I took through the day:

Needs more armour plate.
Just can't see someone in this BMW driving like a modern one

Needs more armour plate

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Caernarvon Conqueror

Sorry to turn this into another WOT related post, but again we need too. I must also stress this is just me thinking out loud for a few moments, it's not what will be happening, it might not even be the answer, but it's just some ideas I've had following on from the news.

On Rita's blog, including the Q&A several questions have been answered by Storm or SerB regarding the Caernarvon and the Action X turret, which they freely admit is a fantasy made up combo. Two of the quotes are:

 - Storm confirms that the Action X turret on Caernarvon hull is a WG fake, but there was no other way to increase the armor of the turret

- The solution for the Caernarvon (fake top turret) is not good but for now WG sees no other solution

 There are more, however I think you get the gist of it. That's what this post is about.

To put it simply the change from the standard to the HD model for the Centurion turret has not treated it kindly, reducing her armour by quite an appreciable amount. This in turn has had a knock on effect to the heavy tanks that use the turret. As you can see WG don't see a way out, the simple answer is because they are not well read in the field. This is by no means their fault, there's too much research to cover for even a small group.
However there are options, one that would get a premium tank out of it, and would be mostly historically accurate.
Gratuitous Conqueror picture
 At the moment we have three turrets in game, across several vehicles. The Centurion turret, the Conqueror turret and the improved Conqueror turret that I found.
Whilst I'm on that last point, as I discovered that turret I'm sure there's some law from the days of empire that allows me to name it, right? Well I've going to name it after my wife, and a friend has already worked out an acronym to allow me to do it: C.L.A.I.R.E: Conqueror Late Armour Improvement REdesign. The closest it's got to a name in the documents is a description of it, where they call it "unorthodox turret". I should point out that the above naming idea isn't popular amongst all the historians I talk to.

The later turret is currently meant for some "Super Conqueror" at tier 10. Regular readers will know that I've long argued for placing it as the elite turret on the tier nine Conqueror, with the current upgraded turret as the stock one. But doing so leaves us with an issue, as Wargaming want to use that as a tier ten tank. Well there is one other option. The files talk of a 1949 dated two man turret with an improved ballistic shape. This was achieved by removing the gunner, and giving that roll to the commander. With the gunner removed it allowed the current Conqueror turret design to be narrowed, meaning the armour improves quite a lot. As you can't change the number of crew in a tank when changing turrets this later one Wargaming could happily invent as there's no pictures or armour values.

So with the Conqueror solved, we come to the Caernarvon. Here's where we can make a premium. Turn the FV221 into a tier seven heavy tank premium, and replace it with a FV201. Hang on you're all yelling, isn't the FV201 already a tier seven premium? Yes, and no. Wargaming have modelled a very specific variant, which could easily be called the A45 as the premium. Every single document I've seen has the FV201 with a 20 pdr. The in game version has the 17 pdr.
 Now we come onto the advantages of this; Firstly the hull of the FV201 is already modelled and secondly one of the complaints levelled at the Caernarvon is that its fire-power is woeful. Well documents talk of fitting a 4.5 inch gun to the FV201, and it's a high velocity weapon as well. Equally if you still want more than three gun options then there's the FV202 AVRE with its 6.5 inch demolition gun. But what of the turret? Well we know what the FV201's turret looked like, externally very similar to the Centurions. But I've never seen an armour schematic, possibly because it wasn't fully designed. Again this leaves Wargaming leeway to alter the armour values as they deem fit. 
The ideas above are just thoughts I've had, and might not even work under closer scrutiny. But as an idea it bares a closer look, I think.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Better than the Luftwaffe

Last week I wrote about the 340th Bomb Group on Corsica after its capture during Operation Vesuvius. Well since then it has moved across to Italy and is now flying from an airfield near Naples. The airfield is named after a nearby settlement, which goes by the name of Pompeii.
Towering above Pompeii and Naples is the volcano Vesuvius. With a height of about 1260m above sea level this volcano had been mostly quiet since the 5th of July 1913, emitting a small plume of white smoke from a conelet. This plume of smoke was no more than you might see from a factory chimney. The first indication something was happening was when the conelet collapsed on the 13th of March 1944.
At 1630 on the 18th of March a flow of lava burst from the conelet and flowed out of the volcano's crater and down the sides like a fiery waterfall. Where it met trees they burst into flames filling the night sky with a red glow. Advancing at a speed of around 10 miles an hour the lava flow was a wall 30ft high. Two reporters from the Advanced Press Headquarters took a portable transmitter and climbed up the volcano. They arrived at the town of San Sebastiano but the lava had reached this town at about 0100-0200 on the morning of the 21st. The veteran war reporters who later visited the town were shocked by the power and utter destruction which was more complete and effective than all the best of man’s explosives. Walking round the town it was utterly silent except for the crackle of flames and the pop and gurgle as the lava advanced. The black crust with white hot edges sluggishly crawled towards the buildings, radiated heat caused the buildings to catch fire when it approached. When the lava reached a building it would flow treacle like through windows and doors filling the building like a mould, then the pressure and heat would cause the building to collapse into the lava and it is gone for ever.
The lava flow engulfing a village
In the early morning of the 22nd the volcano's rumbling and explosions began to change. At about 0115 it began in the words of one eyewitness to sound like it was panting, followed by a large explosion. This cycle of events carried on with increased ferocity through the rest of the night. The next morning a giant plume of ash reached up into the sky. Slowly it spread over Pompeii airfield, and the planes of the 340th Bomb Group. From the plume hot ash fell much like the occurrence that had buried the famous village in 79AD.
The B-25 bombers on the airfield became weighted down with ash and tipped up on their tails. Elsewhere tents began to collapse. The heat of the ash burnt the fabric of the planes, and crazed and cracked the plexiglass canopies. About 78 to 88 planes were destroyed, more than the number knocked out by the best efforts of the Luftwaffe the previous year.

Most people under the cloud were wearing helmets or other head coverings, some even used saucepans to protect their heads from the larger lumps of falling rock. Some were injured when lava entered a water tank causing it to explode, and some were killed when their houses collapsed under the weight of the ash fall.

Reported casualties included some who died of asphyxia in the smog of ash and rock that formed afterwards, but within the 340th Bomb Group injuries were minimal apart from a few cuts and one man suffered a sprained wrist.

Image credits:
All the images came from this website, and the site owner has gotten together a huge collection from the eruption. If you want to see me then head there. I'd recommend you do.