History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Assoro

Assoro was a Battle Honour granted to two infantry regiments that fought at that town during the Battle of Sicily, a phase of the Italian Campaign during the Second World War.

As the 1st Brigade was fighting this difficult action, a similar action was fought for the town of Leonforte by the 2nd Canadian Brigade.

Background

The first 10 days of the Battle of Sicily had been relatively easy for the Canadians; resistance by German and Italian soldiers generally consisted of rear-guard actions. The 1st Division continued its advance on 19 Jul by having the 2nd Brigade pass through recently taken Valguarnera. Progress was slow, owing to extensive enemy demolition of bridges and cratering of roads, and the advance was largely done on foot. Enemy snipers, machine guns and mortar fire all were used to harass the Canadians. Their immediate objective - a crossroads 5 miles to the north of Valguarnera - was not taken until late afternoon.

The countryside was growing more forbidding. Hills were now giving way to mountains; in the distance the troops could for the first time see Etna, the majestic, snow-capped volcano, forty miles to the northeast. None of these footsore Canadians could know that seventeen days of bitter fighting lay ahead.1



Post-war view of Assoro. Ken Scott Photo.
 

On the afternoon of the 19th, the commander of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division set the next objectives: Leonforte and Assoro. Assoro was the highest point for miles in any direction, and Leonforte sat astride Route 121, the main east-west highway on the island linking Palermo and Catania. The 1st Brigade was tasked with Assoro while the 2nd Brigade was ordered to take Leonforte. The two attacks began at midnight and into the early hours of 20 Jul.

A large battle ensued as the 1st Brigade attempted to cross the Dittaino River. The river itself was dry, but the dry river bed was an obstacle to vehicles, and the river valley was under observation from Germans on the heights opposite. "The First Brigade soon encountered trouble which culminated in its biggest battle to date." The 48th Highlanders managed to secure a crossing, but when the Royal Canadian Regiment passed through with Sherman tanks of the Three Rivers Regiment, nine vehicles were lost to mines, and accurate fire from the heights of Assoro four miles away stopped the advance cold. "In these circumstances, movement during daylight was impossible."2

Defences

The bulk of Panzergrenadier Regiment 104, under Oberstleutnant Ens, held Leonforte, with a small detachment at Assoro numbering about 100 men of a company-sized detachment, supported by 5 tanks.3

The Attack

Like the Seaforths at Leonforte, casualties to the battalion headquarters group of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment were suffered on the 20th. In the case of the "Hasty P's", it was the Commanding Officer and the Intelligence Officer who were killed by a shell as they studied Assoro from a slit trench too small for them.


Brigadier Howard Graham's assessment of the terrain had been unfavourable; a cliff 1000 feet high with an ancient castle overlooked the countryside, with the only road to the town (founded in 1000 BC and clinging to the western slopes of the hill, below the summit) rising in hairpin turns; the loss of nine tanks to mines suggested the road would not be an inviting route. Instead, Graham planned to try a cliff on the southeast face of the hill Assoro was situated on.

(Major) Alex Campbell was ordered to form a special assault force, a volunteer unit, consisting of one platoon from each of the regular rifle companies. The men in this special group were stripped of all their gear except for essential arms and ammunition, for it was to be their task to lead the Regiment; to scale the cliffs, and before dawn broke clearly, to occupy the mountain crest.

The approach march began at dusk and it was the most difficult forced march the Regiment ever attempted, in training or in war. The going was foul; through a maze of sheer-sided gullys, knife-edge ridges and boulder-strewn water courses. There was the constant expectation of discovery, for it seemed certain that the enemy would at least have listening posts on his open flank. Absolute silence was each man's hope of survival - but silence on that nightmare march was almost impossible to maintain...

There was a desperate urgency in that march for there were long miles to go, and at the end, the cliff to scale before the dawn light could reveal the Regiment to the enemy above. A donkey, laden with a wireless set, was literally dragged forward by its escort until it collapsed and died. The men went on.

By 0400 hours the assault company had scaled the last preliminary ridge and was appalled to find that the base of the mountain, looming through the pre-dawn greyness, was still separated from it by a gully a hundred feet deep, and nearly as sheer as an ancient moat. It was too late to turn back. Men scrambled down into the great natural ditch, crossed the bottom, and paused to draw breath. First light was just an hour away. Under the soldiers' hands were the cliff rocks towering a thousand feet into the dark skies.

Each man who made that climb performed his own private miracle. From ledge to ledge the dark figures made their way, hauling each other up, passing along their weapons and ammunition from hand to hand. A signaller made that climb with a heavy wireless set strapped to his back - a thing that in daylight was seen to be impossible. Yet no man slipped, no man dropped so much as a clip of ammunition. It was just as well, for any sound by one would have been fatal to all
.4

The battalion was divided into two groups; the assault company and one rifle company were to scale the left shoulder of the hill, and the new Commanding Officer Lord Tweedsmuir (son of the former Governor-General) took the remainder of the battalion to the north-east - finding a goat track and passage to the top.

The assault company crested the hill and managed to take the summit from unsuspecting sentries without losing a single man. Commanding high ground above the town, the Germans were placed in an untenable position, with Canadian fire also knocking out eight vehicles of an approaching Axis convoy. German artillery fire lifted from Leonforte to drop on Assoro.

Unlike the case in other actions, radio communication managed to hold, and accurate artillery support (aided by a former artilleryman among the Hasty P's as well as a captured 20-power German scissors binocular) was played against German batteries.

For several hours thereafter the Hastings, clinging to their exposed position on the mountain top, the rocky nature of which prevented the digging of effective slit trenches, were subjected to intermittent mortar and artillery fire. Enemy snipers in Assoro were also a constant hazard; nevertheless, casualties were surprisingly light.5

An enemy counterattack from the town in the late afternoon advanced almost to the top of the hill, but was beaten back with accurate artillery fire. The Canadians received their first exposure to fire from the German Nebelwerfer, a rocket launcher whose projectiles made such a demoralizing shriek while in flight that they were known as "Moaning Minnies".

The regiment held on during the night, but no food other than emergency rations had been brought up. An emergency carrying party of 100 men from the Royal Canadian Regiment brought food and supplies on the morning of 22 Jul. The regiment's support weapons were another story, and "F" Echelon vehicles of the Hasty P's had been ambushed in the early morning of 21 Jul when both they and the Germans realized they had stopped for the night in too close to each other for comfort.

As the RCR carrying party brought logistic relief to the Hasty P's on the morning of 22 Jul, the 48th Highlanders brought tactical relief by attacking from the west of Assoro, driving the enemy from the south-western approach to the town and allowing the 1st Field Company, RCE (and 100 POWs) to fill craters and allow the passage of tanks of the Three Rivers Regiment. A link-up between the Highlanders and Hasty P's was effected by noon of Jul 22.

Canadian War Museum painting of troops entering Assoro after the battle


Aftermath

No decorations were awarded for Assoro, but the Canadians earned praise from friend and foe alike. An often quoted German after action report praised the Canadians for their fieldcraft.

Good soldier material. English and Canadians harder in the attack than the Americans. In general fair ways of fighting. In fieldcraft (Indianerkrieg) superior to our own troops. Very mobile at night, surprise break-ins, clever infiltrations at night with small groups between our strong points.

The entire report is available in the German After Action Reports - Sicily article.

While the battle is often described in superlative terms by Canadian historians; Farley Mowat's assessment in his history of the Hasty P's seems the most balanced.

While it was no great victory in terms of casualties inflicted on the enemy, Assoro was nevertheless a spectacular triumph of endurance and initiative, and the spirit of the men, subdued temporarily by their first baptism of heavy shell-fire, now rose to unprecedented heights.6

The next objectives for the Division lay 20 miles to the east, on the Salso River, however, the RCR were bloodily stopped at Nissoria just 5 miles from Assoro, along with the loss of several supporting tanks. The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment was thrown in next without tank or artillery support; the cover of darkness did not make up for the lack of reconnaissance and this attack was also stopped. The Hasty P's left the field with 69 dead and wounded inflicted on them. A third attack by the 48th Highlanders did no better, and it was not until a co-ordinated attack by the 2nd Brigade with artillery support was launched that Nissoria fell.

Battle Honours

 

The following Canadian units were awarded the Battle Honour "Assoro" for participation in these actions:


Image:1gif1bde.gif
1st Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The 48th Highlanders of Canada

  • The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment

 

Notes

  1. Dancocks, Daniel G. D-Day Dodgers: The Canadians in Italy 1943-1945 (McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, ON, 1991) ISBN 0771025440 pp.60-61

  2. Ibid, p.61

  3. Mitcham, Samuel and Friedrich von Stauffenberg The Battle of Sicily: How the Allies Lost Their Chance for Total Victory (Orion Books, New York, NY, 1991), p.192

  4. Mowat, Farley. The Regiment (McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, ON, 1955) ISBN 0771066945 p.116-117 (paperback edition)

  5. Nicholson, Gerald. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. Volume II: The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1957) p.105

  6. Mowat, Ibid, p.125


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