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

 

Casa Berardi

The Gully was a Battle Honour granted to Canadian units participating in actions fought in the area of the Moro River known as "The Gully" during December 1943 as part of the fighting of the Italian Campaign during the Second World War.

Background

See also main article on The Gully

The overall strategic and operational context of the battle at Casa Berardi is explained in the article on The Gully. In brief, Allied grand strategy in Italy i December 1943 was a co-ordinated offensive on Rome by the two armies in Italy (U.S. 5th and British 8th). The 1st Canadian Division's ultimate goal was Pescara.1

See also main article on The Moro

The immediate goal of the 1st Division in December 1943 was to cross three rivers: The Feltrino, the Moro, and the Arielli. By December 10th, the Division was across the Moro after a difficult attempt to cross in three separate locations, and had managed to bridge it for vehicular traffic, but it found an equally troublesome obstacle in its way. The feature would come to be known only as "The Gully":

The enemy had chosen well. The Gully ... bears, and needs, no other designation to distinguish it from a thousand other ravines which lay athwart the Canadians' path in Italy formed a complete tank obstacle, and German weapon-pits constructed in its steep bank were practically immune from damage by our shellfire, which fell harmlessly on the level ground to the front and rear. Experience was to show that the mortar was the only weapon with which the Canadian attackers could successfully reach into this narrow cleft.2

The Gully was not the only challenging terrain in the region. A prime objective of the division was a crossroads code-named CIDER, at with the Orsogna-Ortona lateral connected with a secondary road from San Leonardo. The terrain in the area has been described as follows:

Two main routes lead to Ortona from the south. The most direct is the coastal Highway 16. Inland a secondary road via San Leonardo links with the Orsogna-Ortona lateral. Between the Moro and Ortona four 500 foot high east-west ridges intersect the approaches. The region is studded with hamlets, farms, olive groves and wire-laced vineyards interspersed with sunken farm roads and blind switches - a difficult place for a weekend hike let alone an advance into the teeth of a skilled and determined enemy.3

On 10 December the 2nd Brigade was ordered to secure CIDER, but a battlegroup of tanks, infantry, artillery and machine-guns was driven back by heavy fire. The 90th Panzergrenadier Division, defeated on the Moro along the coast road, had redeployed into the gully, paralleling the Orsogna-Ortona lateral road.

The battlegroup of Loyal Edmonton Regiment infantry and Calgary Tanks was counter-attacked on the afternoon of 10 December, forcing them to consolidate; in the meantime the PPCLI fought an indecisive action to the east that cost them three company commanders. The Seaforths, moving up on the left flank of the Loyal Edmontons, lost their commanding officer to shellfire.

The Canadian Division was now entering upon the third stage of the battle which had opened with the successive struggles for Villa Rogatti and San Leonardo. The tactical significance of the obstacle blocking the path to Ortona became increasingly apparent. Near the sea the Gully widened considerably, so that an approach by the coast road would be under direct observation from the high promontory on which Ortona stood. Two alternatives were left to the advancing troops--either they must force a passage along the central route, or circumvent the whole feature by a drive westward to the lateral road, followed by an assault on the crossroads from the south-west. The G.O.C. decided to take the former course, and on the evening of 10 December he ordered the 2nd Brigade to persist in its effort against its original objective in the centre, and also test the enemy's position on the coast road to determine whether any weakness in the defence existed below Ortona. At the same time he began moving his reserve brigade forward to the Moro River.4

All three of battalions of the 2nd Brigade were heavily engaed on 11 December, but any attempt to advance was met with heavy fire. The PPCLI reached the edge of the Gully and settled into a position knows as Vino Ridge, within hand grenade range of German positions in the Gully. Heavy rain hindered an attempt by the Seaforths to move on the left flank, and though about 45 of the Highlanders were able to secure a ridge on the near side of the Gully, they were forced to withdraw. The brigade ended the day firmly in contact with the enemy, and the 1st Brigade had moved its positions on the coast road abreast of the 2nd, advancing to within 2500 yards of Ortona proper. La Torre had also fallen to the 48th Highlanders without a shot.

Operations of the entire corps to which the 1st Division was attached were stalled until Major-General Vokes' 1st Canadian Division could secure CIDER and Highway 16. Vokes made the decision that with his 1st and 2nd Brigades not making the desired progress, he would commit his reserve - the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade.


The battered stone farmhouse that entered Canadian military history - Casa Berardi

Attacks on Casa Berardi

The West Nova Scotia Regiment was sent through the positions of the Seaforths, across the Gully, and ordered to capture the lateral road in the vicinity of a prominent farmhouse known as Casa Berardi, lying three-quarters of a mile south of CIDER. They were instructed to cut the road from CIDER west to Villa Grande. One company of the West Novas was to take "B" Squadron of the Ontario Regiment and move west from San Leonard on a narrow trail (nicknamed Lager track by the Canadians) to skirt around the head of the Gully in hopes it would be a less precarious route for the tanks.5

At 6:00 p.m. the three companies left San Leonardo for their start line, which was 500 yards north of the town. The attack failed completely. Little artillery support was possible, for fear of endangering the attackers, and what was given did not greatly disturb the enemy, well dug in below the near edge of the Gully. The confusion increased when the battalion lost its wireless sets and the artillery F.O.O. was killed. Early morning found the enemy-members of the 1st Battalion of the 200th Grenadier Regiment-still secure on their reverse slope. At eight o'clock Brigadier Gibson ordered the West Novas to renew the attack towards Berardi, and the fight continued in driving rain. Again wireless communication was destroyed as rapidly as it could be repaired or replaced. Four times the Grenadiers launched counter-attacks, but the Canadian battalion held its ground. In repulsing one of these thrusts forward elements of the West Novas, eager to close with the enemy, left their slit-trenches and were drawn forward to the crest, where intense
machine-gun fire from across the Gully added to an already long casualty list. During the morning the C.O., Lt.-Col. M.P. Bogert, was wounded, but he continued to direct the fight until relieved in the afternoon. The deadlock could not be broken. The West Novas, having lost more than 60 killed and wounded, dug in and awaited another plan
.6

The divisional front had been witness to equally profitless operations elsewhere; the PPCLI had beaten back two minor counter-attacks but not managed to contact the bridgehead of the Hastings. On 12 December, the 3rd Brigade was ordered to try again to attack CIDER and on the morning of the 13th, The Carleton and York Regiment, West Nova Scotia Regiment and PPCLI moved forward behind a heavy creeping barrage and the mortars of the 2nd and 3rd Brigades, but despite early success, the Carleton and Yorks, leading the advance, were overwhelmed by fire.7

The attack had managed to clear three machine-guns from the Canadian side of the Gully and net 21 German prisoners, but as soon as the Carletons revealed themselves over the crest, the enemy fire bore in and anyone not hit immediately was forced back to pull back to the Canadian side of the ridge.

Within an hour the attack was spent; the artillery barrage had far outdistanced the infantry, allowing the German defenders to fight back vigorously with machine-guns and small arms. A threat by two Mark IV tanks on the left flank of the Carleton and Yorks resulted in a troop of the Calgaries' "C" Squadron being committed-at the cost of one of its Shermans. Casualties mounted; by the end of the day Lt.-Col. Pangman had lost 81 officers and men-including 28 taken prisoner when a company headquarters and one of its platoons were surrounded. Low cloud had prevented fighter-bombers of the Desert Air Force from giving their usual effective support. Pilots were compelled to bomb alternative targets farther north or return to base with their full load. The attacks on the flanks were scarcely more fruitful than the Carleton and York effort: neither the Patricias nor the weakened companies of the West Novas gained the edge of the Gully. The latter unit's fighting strength had been reduced to about 150 men, and these numbers were still further depleted in a heroic but futile late afternoon sally against a German outlying position near Casa Berardi. On the coast road the Hastings pushed two companies forward a few yards under heavy fire.

The gloomy picture of the day's events was momentarily brightened by a temporary success, upon which we unfortunately failed to capitalize. It will be recalled that for the past two days Gibson had been holding at San Leonardo an infantry-tank combat team, made up of "B" Company of the West Novas and "B" Squadron of The Ontario Regiment, augmented by some engineers and the self-propelled guns of the 98th Army Field Regiment R.A. An infantry patrol from this force reconnoitring "Lager" track on the night of 12-13 December discovered a number of German tanks near the shallow head of the Gully, apparently guarding the approach to the main Ortona road. At seven next morning, while the Carleton and Yorks were making their abortive attack opposite Berardi, three of the Ontario Shermans, carrying a West Nova platoon, drove into the enemy laager. The startled Germans had time to get away only one shot; armour-piercing shells fired at a range of less than 50 yards knocked out two of their tanks, while eager infantrymen closed in and captured the remaining two. The destruction of an anti-tank gun completed a satisfactory job. If this prompt action, which was initiated and controlled by the West Nova platoon commander, Lieutenant J.H. Jones-and which won him the M.C.--did not itself open the door to the main lateral road, it at least unbarred it. By 10:30 a.m. the remainder of "B" Company and its supporting squadron arrived with orders to turn north-east and drive towards Casa Berardi. The combat team advanced between the lateral road and the Gully, but less than 1000 yards from the "Cider" crossroads a ravine, lying at right angles to the main Gully, stopped the tanks. Efforts of the infantry to cross by themselves were unsuccessful; for the enemy, already concerned with the attack on his front by the main body of the West Novas, reacted quickly and vigorously to this new threat to his flank.8

Earlier on 13 December, "A" Company of the Seaforths, reduced to just 40 men, had also set out on Lager track with the four Sherman tanks remaining in "C" Squadron of the Ontario Regiment. This force, organized by Brigadier Wyman of the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, set out in a wider arc around the Gully's head than the earlier force from the West Novas, crossed over a culvert inexplicably left standing by the Germans, and attacked up a lateral road into the enemy's rear. The small force induced 78 Germans (including a battalion headquarters) to surrender, knocked out two German tanks, and advanced almost to Casa Berardi.

But unfortunately this brilliant achievement, which was to point the way to the eventual capture of Casa Berardi, could not immediately be followed up. Towards dusk the Ontario squadron commander, Acting Major H.A. Smith, who had been in constant touch by radio with Brigadier Wyman, reported that his ammunition was expended and that he was very low on petrol. With no reserve immediately available for reinforcement Wyman instructed the force to withdraw and to hold the entrance to the main road secure throughout the night. The vulnerability which the enemy had betrayed on this flank changed the Canadian plan of battle, and Vokes now ordered an attack to be made the following morning by the Royal 22e, the only battalion of the Division yet uncommitted west of the Moro. During the night, however, the Germans restored their right flank positions, as troops of the 1st Parachute Division replaced the battered Grenadier units defending the Gully.9

On the afternoon of 13 December, Major-General Vokes announced a plan to turn the German flank. The Royal 22e Regiment would attack northeast from the Lager track at 07:00hrs on 14 December along the Ortona road towards CIDER. "C" Squadron of the 11th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Ontario Regiment) would be in support with its Sherman tanks. To assist the combat team, a barrage 1,500 yards wide would be fired by corps and divisional artillery, to move up the road, covering the fight flank from the Gully. Simultaneously, PPCLI would try to cross the Gully and cut the lateral while the Hastings and Prince Edward kept up pressure on the coast.

Wet ground had been a constant issue during the Gully fighting, and in preparation for the assault, recovery teams had to work through the night to try and unbog "C" Squadron tanks from the mire along Lager track. Seven Shermans were retrieved from deep mud, and moved off at 03:00hrs for the start line, at a place where Lager intersected the shallow terminus of the Gully. The start time was postponed until 07:30hrs at the request of the 3rd Brigade.

At 06:50hrs, an enemy counter-attack struck the junction of Lager and the Ortona road. The new threat was able handled by the 48th Highlanders, still on the left flank of the division, and who had been tasked with providing support to the Royal 22e combat team; they were in defensive positions astride the track, and executed a successful ambush on the Germans, holding fire until the last possible moment, killing nine enemy soldiers and capturing 31 more, the remainder fleeing.

The commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Bernatchez, intended to advance up the main road with two companies of the Royal 22e Regiment. "C" Company, on the left, was obligated to securing a bridghead across the road before both companies made a right-hand turn toward the final objective.

Just after 07:00hrs, "C" Company approached the start line and came under fire from a German tank hidden behind a house near the junction of the road and the track.

The situation looked serious, for at the time the supporting Shermans were lumbering over the muddy track some distance behind the infantry. Skilful manoeuvre and determined action by one of the platoons saved the day. While the rest of the company, applying the battle-drill tactics so diligently rehearsed on training fields in southern England, worked forward by sections to divert the attention of the German tank crew and of enemy infantry across the highway, the platoon commander led his PIAT group through the partial cover of an olive grove into a position from which the tank could be engaged. During the approach the officer was wounded, and the PIAT's mechanism damaged, but the platoon sergeant, Sergeant J. P. Rousseau, taking his commander's place, secured another weapon from a following platoon. With this he dashed across the open ground to within 35 yards of his target, and fired. The bomb struck between turret and engine casing and must have detonated the ammunition; later 35 pieces of the Mark IV Special were counted scattered over the ground. By his courage and initiative this plucky N.C.O. won the Military Medal.

To the crouching men of "C" Company the explosion was a success signal which heralded the capture of the road junction; but the bomb which blew that tank to pieces exploded too the long controversy on the effectiveness of the PIAT, which after numerous failures had lost the confidence of many of the troops. Now, as a training memorandum issued by the 1st Canadian Division pointed out, "this quick, resolute and well thought out action demonstrated clearly that enemy tanks can be dealt with effectively by infantry men who have confidence in their weapons and the ability to use them."10

This short action took until 10:30hrs, and the company commander, Captain Paul Triquet, now signalled up the Shermans of the Ontario Regiment who had been waiting in the shallow head of the Gully. They arrived on scene in time to destroy a second German tank that had arrived at the junction of the track and road. The infantry moved forward, and the tanks moved up on the right, to the rear of the Gully.


Infantrymen of the Royal 22e Regiment firing on a Bren gun range near Cattolica, Italy, ca. 24-25 November 1944. (L-R): Private L. Naspie, unknown, Privates R. Dodier, L. Richard, R. Lalancette, A. Belleg. LAC photo

Halfway to the Gully, the light resistance became heavy. "D" Company had become lost in confusing terrain, and they later arrived in the area of the West Nova Scotia Regiment, having become disoriented.

It was evident that the enemy had appreciated the danger to his flank and had taken full measures to meet it. After a week's air and artillery bombardment, the approach to the crossroads was a wasteland of trees with split limbs, burnt out vehicles, dead animals and cracked shells of houses. Now every skeleton tree and building was defended by machine-gunners backed by tanks and self-propelled guns, and paratroop snipers lurked in every fold of the ground. Against this formidable resistance our armour and infantry co-operated well. The Shermans blasted the stronger positions, while the Royal 22e cleaned out what remained. Two more German tanks were knocked out and a third put to flight. A heavy barrage caught the infantry company and reduced its strength to only 50; Triquet was the sole surviving officer. He reorganized the remnants of his force into two platoons under the two remaining sergeants, and spurred them forward. "There are enemy in front of us, behind us and on our flanks," he warned. "There is only one safe place that is on the objective."

The attack continued. Ammunition was short; there was none following, and no one who could be sent for it. The wounded were treated hurriedly, and left where they had fallen. A Mark IV approaching along the road was first blinded by smoke laid down by one of Smith's Shermans, and then destroyed by tank fire through the smoke. In the late afternoon Casa Berardi was taken, and the indomitable few fought on almost to the crossroads. Finally the enemy's mortar fire stopped them, and the survivors, less than fifteen, drew back to the big house. A count revealed five Bren guns and five Thompson submachine guns on hand, and a woefully small supply of ammunition. "C" Squadron had four tanks left. With these slender resources Triquet organized his defences against counter-attack, and issued the order, "Ils ne passeront pas!"11

Brigadier Gibson at 3rd Brigade Headquarters received news of the success and impressed upon Lieutenant-Colonel Bernatchez the importance of Casa Berardi, west of the Gully, and the need to hold and reinforce it. As night fell, "B" Company of the Royal 22e arrived to join the small group of tanks and infantry. No further attacks were possible in the failing light, and two PzKpfw IV tanks, the last German traffic on the lateral road, moved past and back towards Ortona. The German's right flank was effectively sealed off, and under cover of darkness, the commanding officer led the two remaining companies of the Royal 22e Regiment through the empty Gully in front of the West Nova Scotia Regiment's positions, arriving at Casa Berardi at 03:00hrs on 15 December.

All three Canadian brigades had seen action on 14 December: the Carleton and Yorks beat off a heavy counter-attack on their own position in the late afternoon, and on the right of the Canadian line PPCLI and the Hastings attempted to advance again, and again were stopped by heavy fire. Major-General Vokes was convinced by the day's events that any key to success lay in exploiting the gains at Casa Berardi.

The probability of such a move was already unpleasantly realized at 76th Panzer Corps Headquarters, whose war diary recorded on the 14th, "Enemy will bring up further forces and tanks and, in the exploitation of today's success, will presumably take Ortona." German accounts did not conceal the extreme concern at the break-through south-west of Berardi. Characterizing 14 December as "a day of major action", Tenth Army Headquarters admitted that Canadian exploitation had been stopped only "by sacrificing the last resources". The prolonged telephone conversations of the day showed that the Germans were exhausting every possible source of quick reserves. "The situation is very tense . . ." Wentzell told the 76th Corps Chief of Staff. "Either the Corps receives something tangible [in reinforcements] or it will have to adopt another method of fighting." A hint as to what this might be was provided by the commander of the 3rd Parachute Regiment. "Heilmann thinks that even now one ought to change tactics and withdraw to the mountains", Herr suggested to the Army Commander, General Lemelsen. "If reserves arrive tomorrow it will be possible to hold, otherwise only a delaying action is possible."

With neither Corps nor Army able to provide replacements, Kesselring ordered his Army Group Reserve-Regiment Liebach*--to be committed in the Ortona sector. He gave instructions that everything had "to be thrown in" and that the 76th Corps was to be "held responsible for the sealing off of the enemy penetration." "It was a serious decision to make Liebach available", commented Lemelsen to Herr.

This conclusive German testimony to the significance of the blow delivered along the Ortona road on 14 December by the hard-fighting force under Captain Triquet strikingly endorses the recognition which this gallant officer received for his achievement. He was awarded the Victoria Cross--the first of three won by Canadians in the Italian campaign. Major Smith, under whose intrepid leadership the Ontario tanks had so effectively supported the successive thrusts of the Seaforth and the Royal 22e along the lateral road, received the Military Cross.12


Paul Triquet, VC. LAC photo


Major Paul Triquet in Quebec City in April 1944 with his newly awarded promotion, and his VC. LAC photo

Aftermath

A major thrust immediately up the Ortona road did not occur, as Major-General Vokes felt that a strong build up of armour, at Case Berardi, would shake the enemy and cause an early collapse. Late on 14 December an additional squadron of tanks was ordered to Berardi, and further attacks by the 3rd Brigade were ordered across the Gully.

The successful defence of Casa Berardi did not mean the end of the battle for The Gully. The enemy continued to use this natural obstacle to block the advance of 1st and 2nd brigades. Unfortunately, Vokes was an exceptionally stubborn man and he ordered the Carleton and York Regt. to make yet another frontal assault on Cider Crossroads. According to his own account–written well after the battle–”the attack was not pressed home and again failed in the face of determined opposition.”13

Battle Honours

 

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

 

Image:1tankbde.gif 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 11th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Ontario Regiment)

Image:1gif3bde.gif 3rd Canadian Brigade

  • The Royal 22e Regiment

Notes

  1. Copp, Terry "The Advance To The Moro: Army, Part 66" Legion Magazine (published online September 1, 2006 and accessed at http://legionmagazine.com/en/index.php/2006/09/the-advance-to-the-moro/)

  2. 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)

  3. McKay, A. Donald Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 p.79

  4. Nicholson, Ibid

  5. The Army's official history notes that: "This code name, which was suggested by a familiar beverage, has appeared erroneously in some accounts as 'laager'--the designation given to a park for armoured vehicles."

  6. Nicholson, Ibid

  7. Copp, Terry "Clearing The Gully: Army, Part 68" Legion Magazine (published online January 1, 2007 and accessed at(http://legionmagazine.com/en/index.php/2007/01/clearing-the-gully/)

  8. Nicholson, Ibid

  9. Ibid

  10. Ibid

  11. Ibid. The Army historian notes that Triquet's admonition that they were surrounded was not just hyperbole: "This is corroborated by the Tenth Army war diary, which describes the German counter-measures as "a concentric attack on the enemy who had broken through"."

  12. Ibid

  13. Copp, Ibid


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