1942: British troops in Southeast Asia needed to guard their positions against Japanese night attacks. An obvious defence was to rig up perimeter wires that would light signal lamps when breached by enemy soldiers. Less obvious was the correct thickness of the wires. Too thin and they would break accidentally; too thick and they would be spotted by the enemy.
1941: In less than a fortnight, a German airborne assault on Crete overcame the numerically superior British, Commonwealth and Greek defenders. Allied losses were heavy; thousands were killed, more than 10,000 captured and nine warships sunk. The only thing the Allies didn’t lose was their sense of humour. A story went round that a special medal would be awarded to those who had been bundled off the island, inscribed “EX CRETA”.
Source: Antony Beevor, Crete: The Battle and the Resistance (2005), p. 227
1940: The bombing of Buckingham Palace by a lone German aircraft on the morning of 13 September interrupted a moment of royal intimacy: the queen removing an eyelash from the king’s eye.
Source: William Shawcross, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography (2009), pp. 522–3
1939: When John Betjeman unexpectedly brought Cyril Connolly home for dinner, his put-upon wife, Penelope, shouted from the kitchen, “I’m going out in ten minutes. I’m sorry, you can only have hard-boiled eggs.” Undaunted, the two men trooped off to the well-stocked wine cellar. Betjeman surveyed the bottles. “Now, Cyril,” he mused, “I wonder what goes best with hard-boiled eggs.”
Source: Bevis Hillier, John Betjeman: The Biography (2006), p. 195