On this day…

Mount Vesuvius in Italy erupted in March, 1944, destroying a number of villages.

North American soldiers were in the area at the time, fighting in the Second World War.

The original caption of the picture reads:

Crew member cleaning the ashes and cinders off the wing of a North American B-25 of the 340th Bomb Group. This was caused by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on 23 March 1944.

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Mt Vesuvius in 1944

Mount Vesuvius, a volcano on the Gulf of Naples in Italy, had one of its more destructive eruptions in March 1944.

The eruption destroyed the villages of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma and Ottaviano. Part of San Giorgio a Cremano was also destroyed.

John Reinhardt, serving in the US Army Air Forces in the Second World War, took this photograph.

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Christmas Day during the war

English children around the Christmas cake in Pinner, Middlesex on Christmas Day, 1944.

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The girl cutting the cake is Jean Devereux, and her father was serving in the war in Italy at the time. The tree is a gift from him, purchased through the “Gifts to Home League” which was operated by the YMCA.

Below is an image of the tree being delivered to the house.

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A Wartime Christmas Celebration

Christmas aboard Australia’s HMAS Benalla in 1944. Father Christmas is played by twenty-four year old telegraphist John Barry of Port Melbourne.

The ship was present at the Japanese surrender of Timor in 1945.

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Christmas carols for the troops

Choirboys from St Margaret’s, Westminster sing Christmas carols for American troops in a flat in London in December, 1944.

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Eve Maxwell Wright sings I Saw Three Ships while Dorothea Aspinall accompanies her on the piano.

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Christmas as a prisoner of war.

The Chungkai Camp was operated by the Japanese during World War Two, and prisoners – including soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth – were made to work on the Burma–Thailand Railway.

This “Christmas card” is in the collection of London’s Imperial War Museum, and was created in either 1943 or 1944. It depicts Father Christmas in a loincloth, carrying a sack of presents through a bamboo fence.

It was very dangerous to make images while a prisoner in the camp. One prisoner, Jack Chalker, reported his sketches of camp life being discovered by a Korean guard. Chalker was beaten for days as punishment.

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