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

 

The Gully

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 Moro

The offensive actions on the Adriatic coast were part of the Allied grand strategy of 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

Planning

The Valerian Way, a lateral from Pescara to Rome, was the goal of the 8th Army as it planned operations in late November 1943. The most direct route to this route, from Isernia, faced the potential hazard of snow-blocked passes in the Appenines, so the decision was made to attack along the Adriatic coast. Meteorologists knew of the typical overcast and rainy winter weather in Italy, and the Army realized those conditions would mean limited air support and treacherous supply routes. Nonetheless, 8th Army paused while two brigades of the 1st Canadian Division relieved the battered British 78th, with the immediate objective being the Ortona-Orsogna lateral, the first step before a co-ordinated offensive aimed at the Valerian Way.2

After the 1st Canadian Division moved to the Adriatic sector following its actions on the Sangro River, they faced a series of gullies and ridges across their new axis of advance, breaking up the coastal plateau east of the Maiella. Three rivers also barred easy movement, in turn the Feltrino, the Moro and the Arielli, entering the sea some 7, 9, and 14 miles from the mouth of the Sangro respectively. Farms, olive-groves and vineyards laced the terrain, with scattered villages and hamlets connected only by narrow, poorly surfaced roads. A newer stretch of highway ran from San Vito, overlooking the mouth of the Feltrino, following the coast north over the Moro.

The old road (the only one shown on available maps) climbed the plateau again after crossing the Feltrino, and turned inland to Sant' Apollinare, a farming village overlooking the Moro two miles from the sea. Bending sharply to the north it made a long, gradual descent into the river valley here about 500 yards across (the Moro itself was a mere trickle)-and mounted the far bank into San Leonardo. Thence it struck north-westward, on gently rising ground, and traversed a pronounced gully just before it joined the lateral road running north-eastward from Guardiagrele through Orsogna to Ortona. The newer road (which subsequently became Highway No. 16) kept to the beach until about half a mile from Ortona, where it mounted the high ground to join the Orsogna lateral. The road through Sant' Apollinare and San Leonardo had been selected as the Canadian main axis.3

By the night of 4 December British troops were on the ridge between the Feltrino and Moro Rivers. To their left, troops of the 8th Indian Division captured Lanciano on 3 December and had reached Frisa, three miles inland from Sant' Apollinare. These operations were being supported by tanks of the 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Calgary Regiment), under control of the 8th Indian division from 1 December. The Calgary Tanks continued with their duties their while the 3rd Canadian Brigade moved up to join the 1st Canadian Division from positions south of the Sangro.

Canadian Logistics

Fair weather, to that point permitting air cover to operate in favour of the Allies, also began to melt the snow in the mountains, deepening and widening rivers and adding to the logistical burdens. On the night of 4 December the Sangro River rose six feet, and every bridge serving the 5th Corps (to which the 1st Canadian Division was subordinate) was either washed away or submerged. Engineers struggled to complete an all-weather bridge as traffic came to a standstill; luckily a supply dump had been established near Fossacesia and DUKWs (amphibious trucks) were able to ferry supplies around the river's mouth. The Royal Canadian Army Service Corps was able to effectively re-establish a supply line with these vehicles; on 7 December, for example, orders for supplies included 50,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, 10,000 gallons of petrol and 40,000 rations. The 3rd Brigade, however, was unable to fulfill its orders to rejoin the division for two days, and even as it moved again on 6 December, had to leave 200 heavy vehicles south of the Sangro.

German Intentions

Allied intelligence staffs correctly assessed the enemy's intention to stop further Allied advances on the Moro, after having been evicted from the Bernhard Line. The 76th Panzer Corps determined on 1 December that it would hold a line as far as Melone (two miles east of Guardiagrele) and develop also a new line Melone-Ortona, and stop any attacks in the area of their outposts by "obstinate delaying actions." The German 65th Division had been smashed during the Bernhard Line fighting, its remnants ordered north to join the 14th Army, and the 90th Panzergrenadier Division moved south hastily from the Venice area, taking over the coastal sector on 3 December. To its right, the 26th Panzer Division had relieved the 16th Panzer Division, the latter urgently needed on the Eastern Front.

The inter-divisional boundary paralleling the coast, ran through Lanciano, about seven miles inland. Although the 5th Corps Intelligence Summary of 4 December reported that "recent air photographs reveal no large-scale preparation south of Pescara", it soon became known that the enemy was busy digging in on the reverse slopes of the gullies. They had good reason. Recorded telephone conversations between the German commanders disclose the crushing blow which air attacks had dealt to enemy morale during the few good flying days at the end of November. Colonel Baade (whose efficient command of the defences of the Strait of Messina will be recalled) was temporarily replacing the wounded commander of the 65th Division,and he had declared that not even in Africa had he seen anything like the Allied air offensive. "With Montgomery you could count on that", commented Kesselring. The enemy might well expect a repetition of the concentrated air and artillery bombardment which had hit him on the Sangro ridge, and in ordering the preparation of a new defence line in front of the Ortona-Orsogna lateral road the commander of the 76th Corps gave as the "watchword for one and all: `Into the Ground'." Thus as Canadians and Irish looked across the Moro at the patchwork of vineyard and olive grove which rose gradually to the horizon from the top of the far bank, they saw nothing to indicate the presence of a division of fresh troops warily lying in wait for the next Allied blow.4

Crossing The Moro

See also main article on San Leonardo

With Highway 16, the main route along the coast, exposed to aimed enemy fire, the divisional commander of the 1st Canadian Division, Major-General Chris Vokes, opted to try and cross the Moro at three different points on a four mile wide front - along Highway 16, at San Leonardo, and at a village that maps referred to as Villa Rogatti. The Orsogna-Ortona road junction, code-named CIDER, was the division's intermediate objective. On the night of 5-6 December, the 1st Brigade attacked San Leonardo and Villa Rogatti, and the 2nd Brigade assaulted up the coast road.

The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment managed a precarious foothold across the river, but the Seaforth Highlanders were thrown back from San Leonardo. The Patricias captured Villa Rogatti, and held the next day through German counter-attacks with the assistance of tank support of the 44th Royal Tank Regiment. The Hastings fought a confused battle in their own bridgehead but managed to hang on throughout the day, manhandling 6-pounder anti-tank guns over the river to fight off German tanks.

Canadian engineers, in a rare failure, declared the Moro impossible to bridge at Villa Rogatti, and the bridgehead was turned over to 8th Indian Division, whose engineers quickly erected a Bailey Bridge on the site. New plans were drawn up for San Leonardo: a two-phase attack by the RCR and 48th Highlanders. On 8 December, the 48th captured the village of La Torre while The Royal Canadian Regiment ran into heavy fire in its attack on San Leonardo. The town was finally taken by a battle group of Seaforth Highlanders and Calgary Tanks.

The 90th Panzer Grenadiers, suffering heavy casualties in counter-attacks against the Hastings and Prince Edward bridgehead, withdrew to a new defensive line.5


Infantrymen of The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada carry a comrade who was killed by shellfire while escorting German prisoners, San Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, 10 December 1943. LAC photo

The Gully

Canadian engineers had managed to bridge the Moro, and on 10 December, Brigadier Hoffmeister of the 2nd Brigade order The Loyal Edmonton Regiment to secure first an intermediate objective half-way across the San Leonardo plateau, then press on to the CIDER crossroads, where Highway 16 met with the Orsogna-Ortona lateral.6

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.7

December 10

December 10 was wet, and the ground, according to the Army's official history, was "boggy" as the Loyal Edmontons moved out at 09:00hrs with "C" Squadron of the 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment ("Calgary Tanks") in support, along with a platoon of machine guns of The Saskatoon Light Infantry, the divisional machine gun battalion. Two companies of the 48th Highlanders, temporarily under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Jefferson, C.O. of the Edmontons, also helped provide a firm base for the advance. Also included in the group were two Forward Observation Officers (FOO) from the 3rd Field Regiment and a third FOO from a corps medium artillery regiment.8 Progress was rapid, so well in fact, that at 10:00hrs Jefferson signalled that they were proceeding to the final objective, and air strikes on CIDER were cancelled. It seemed that PPCLI might even be able to exploit towards the city of Ortona. At 13:30hrs, an optimistic message was sent back reporting three companies on the objective, but the message had been in error, and in fact, heavy fire had driven back the Canadian force.

The new defensive line that the 90th Panzergrenadier Division had selected after their defeat on the coast road was a deep gully that paralleled the Orsogna-Ortona lateral, keeping a distance of 200 to 300 yards. It cut into the plateau at the sea, and was bridged by Highway No. 16 at the bottom of a long hairpin turn, then continued in from the water for 1,000 yards before levelling off.

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.9

The 200th Panzergrenadier Regiment sent a company supported by self-propelled guns to counter-attack the Edmontons' right flank in the late afternoon of 10 December; they managed to knock out three Shermans of the Calgary Tanks before being driven back. The Edmontons consolidated positions on the San Leonardo side of the Gully, having lost 27 men killed and wounded, including during an incident in which German machine guns opened fire on a platoon that had exposed themselves to accept the surrender of Grenadiers who had come forward with their hands up.

Confirmation of the failure to take CIDER did not reach the appropriate channels in time to stop PPCLI from attempting to exploit what was believed to be a success at the crossroads. What happened next was an indecisive action in the wake of the Edmontons' assault east of the Gully, and the Patricias were caught in a heavy German barrage brought down as support for their own counter-attack. Three Patricia company commanders were casualties, and they withdrew and dug-in behind the Edmontons. Supported by "A" Squadron of the Calgary Tanks, the Seaforth Highlanders had managed to occupy high ground west of San Leonardo during the day, and they moved into positions on the left flank of the Edmontons, their commanding officer being wounded by shellfire in the process.

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.10


Private G.C. Butcher, 48th Highlanders of Canada, examines the wreckage of a German PzKpfw III tank destroyed by the Calgary Regiment, San Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, 10 December 1943. LAC photo

December 11

All three of Brigadier Hoffmeister's battalions were heavily engaged on 11 December, but there was little to show for their efforts. Patrols revealed the Germans were entrenching down the full length of the Gully, and enemy tanks patrolled the lateral road behind it. Attempts by The Loyal Edmonton Regiment to advance met heavy machine-gun and mortar fire. In the afternoon, PPCLI tried to move towards the coast road with the support of the Calgary Tanks, fighting through olive groves and vineyards laced with anti-tank mines and booby-traps, and managed to reach the edge of the Gully. A platoon-sized counter-attack of 40 Panzergrenadiers was thrown back, and they settled in on the right flank of the Edmontons, their position becoming known as "Vino Ridge." The position was a precarious one, within hand grenade range of German slit trenches in the Gully itself.

On the left flank of the Edmontons, the Seaforth Highlanders moved forward through deeply ploughed and muddy olive groves to try and secure a ridge on the near side of the Gully half a mile south of the point that the road crossed it. Unfortunately, heavy rain the night before made the ground boggy and difficult for supporting tanks of the Ontario Regiment. About 45 Seaforths scrambled up the slope to the objective, but a threatened counterattack forced a withdrawal to the start line.

The 2nd Brigade was firmly closed up against the enemy, and during the day, the 1st Brigade managed to draw even with it, as The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment moved up the coast road with tanks of The Ontario Regiment in support, reaching a spot on the right flank of PPCLI within 2500 yards of the city of Ortona itself. On the far left flank, the 48th Highlanders managed to occupy La Torre the previous night without encountering the enemy.11

Committing the Reserve

The 8th Army Commander, General Montgomery, had proposed Operation SEMBLANCE, a corps operation, to begin on December 15th, but the corps commander, Lieutenant-General Allfrey and Major-General Vokes wanted to secure CIDER Crossroads and Highway 16 before commencing.12 At noon on 11 December, with progress well short of that desired, and realizing that the 2nd Brigade would be too exhausted to exploit any gains it managed to make, even if CIDER could be captured, he committed his reserve, the 3rd Brigade.

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.13

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.
14

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.

12-13 December

On the afternoon of 12 December the 3rd Brigade was ordered to try again to attack CIDER, and The Carleton and York Regiment was selected for the task. The attack was to proceed on the morning of 13 December, with a "thick creeping barrage, augmented by the mortars of the 2nd and 3rd Brigades", to be preceded by a heavy artillery concentration down the length of the Gully, and with tank fire from the Calgary Tanks, and both PPCLI and the West Novas moving on the right and left, respectively, moving under the same barrage, with a company of the Royal 22e Regiment detailed to follow along behind to mop-up.15

The next morning, the West Nova Scotia Regt. was ordered to try again, despite a driving rain. When this attack failed, Vokes employed all available three-inch and 4.2-inch mortars with their high-trajectory fire on the reverse slope, while the artillery suppressed other enemy positions. The Carleton and York Regt. led the new advance supported by flank attacks. After some early success, “murderous machine-gun and mortar fire” from within and beyond The Gully overwhelmed the battalion, which suffered 52 casualties as well as the loss of 28 men who were taken prisoner when a platoon was cut off.16

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.17

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.18

As these probes on the Canadian left went on, the 8th Indian Division renewed its efforts on its shared flank with the Canadians, and a tank-infantry battle group was committed to a night attack at Villa Grande. "The Germans were forced to send local reserves to seal off this penetration, helping the Canadians to exploit a temporary seam in the enemy defences."19 The Germans were paying heavily for their defensive stand, however, and on 13 December, their situation maps indicated that both regiments of the 90th Panzergrenadier Division were heavily depleted. After counter-attacks conducted in a "reckless and extravagant manner", the division's manpower had been "drained...beyond immediate reinforcement." During two weeks of contact, 500 prisoners had been lost to the 1st Canadian and 8th Indian Divisions, and the war diary of the German 76th Corps admitted on 13 December that "A great fighting value can no longer be ascribed to the 90th Panzergrenadier Division. The units have become badly mixed and the troops are exhausted. The fighting value of at least two battalions has been used up. The present positions can only be held by bringing in new battalions..."20

New battalions were on the way, transferred from the upper Sangro in the guise of the 3rd Parachute Regiment. The 2nd Battalion was deployed opposite the centre of the Canadian line just prior to the attack of The Carleton and York Regiment, and the 3rd Battalion moved into the Casa Berardi area, leaving only what remained of the 1st Battalion of the 200th Panzergrenadier Regiment in the coastal sector, under the command of the 3rd Parachute Regiment.21


Interrogation of a German soldier who entered San Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, in civilian clothes, 13 December 1943. (Canadians, L-R): Private J.A. Eastman, 48th Highlanders of Canada; Lieutenants W.F. McLellan and A.V. Soley, both of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. LAC photo

Casa Berardi, 13-15 December

See also main article on Casa Berardi

In the late afternoon of 13 December, the divisional commander announced a new plan by which he hoped to turn the enemy flank. The only uncommitted battalion in the division, The Royal 22e Regiment, would move down Lager track at 07:00hrs on 14 December with the support of "C" Squadron of the Ontarios to attack to the northeast along the Ortona road. Moving towards CIDER, the corps and divisional artillery would protect the right flank from the Gully with a barrage 1500 yards wide. Simultaneously, PPCLI would try and cross the Gully to cut the lateral road while the Hastings kept the pressure on along the coast. During the night of 13 December, seven Shermans of "C" Squadron were unbogged by recovery teams; pulled from the mud of Lager track, they were returned to Major Smith and moved off to the start line at 03:00hrs.

An enemy-counterattack on the junction of Lager and the Ortona road was beaten off by a company of 48th Highlanders, send to guard the left flank of the division the previous night. Sitting tight in ambush, they had killed 9 Germans and captured 31 in the brief firefight.

The road junction was captured by "C" Company after a skirmish with an enemy tank right at the start line; the Ontarios had not yet arrived to link up and the PzKpfw IV had to be despatched by Sergeant J.P. Rousseau with a PIAT. Three hours had elapsed since H-Hour, and the company commander, Captain Paul Triquet, signalled the supporting tanks up from the Gully, in time to destroy a second German tank. Meeting heavy resistance as they moved towards Casa Berardi, "D" Company became lost in confusing terrain and more enemy tanks appeared. "C" Company was reduced to 50 men and Triquet was soon the only officer standing. He reorganized into two platoons, and told his men the only safe place was on the objective. With no way to secure more ammunition, they nonetheless managed to take Casa Berardi late in the afternoon, then continued to the crossroads, but had to fall back to the house when only fifteen survivors remained. "C" Squadron had only four tanks left.

With these slender resources Triquet organized his defences against counter-attack, and issued the order, "Ils ne passeront pas!" When news of the success reached Brigade Headquarters, Brigadier Gibson impressed upon Bernatchez the importance of holding and reinforcing the  position which had been -so gallantly won on the west side of the Gully. At nightfall "B" Company of the Royal 22e joined the small group of tanks and infantry clustered about Casa Berardi. The failing light made any renewed attack with armoured support impossible, and the force took up an alert defence for the night. In the dark two Mark IV tanks, the last enemy traffic on that part of the lateral road, slipped by towards Ortona. The German flank was sealed. Under cover of night Bernatchez led his two remaining companies across the empty Gully in front of the West Nova Scotia area, reaching the Casa at 3:00 a.m.22

 The artillery was struggling to assist; for the attack on Casa Berardi, new procedures had been put in place:

Brigadier Bruce Matthews–the divisional artillery commander–was determined to improve the effectiveness of his guns. The base maps used to plan the unobserved or predicted fire in previous attacks had proven to be quite inaccurate so the artillery FOOs had worked hard to register the guns on a series of target areas that were given code names. And so rather than relying on a moving barrage, the hope was that FOOs with the forward troops could call for concentrations of fire on specific positions.23

December 14th had seen all three Canadian brigades exert maximum pressure on the Germans, but without making any real gains. In the centre, the Carleton and Yorks had been counter-attacked in the late afternoon, and on the right the PPCLI and Hastings had been unable to advance due to heavy enemy fire. Major-General Vokes saw Casa Berardi as the key to any hope of success in breaking through. German commanders were extremely concerned about the breakthrough at Casa Berardi as well, and demanded reinforcement as well as considered withdrawing to the mountains where more defensible terrain was located.

...(C)onclusive 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.24


Paul Triquet, VC

However, despite the Germans expecting a major thrust up the Ortona road, Major-General Vokes did not undertake such an action. Instead, he chose to build up armour in the area of Casa Berardi, and launch a deliberate attack by the Carleton and Yorks across the Gully, or alternately, the 1st Brigade to envelop the CIDER crossroad with a deep left-flanking movement. At 07:30hrs on 15 December, the Carleton and York moved off in a frontal attack that lasted less than an hour. Artillery fire failed to neutralize German positions and the battalion moved only 200 yards before the order to consolidate was given, 12 men being killed (including 3 officers) and 28 men being wounded. The last attempt to force a crossing of the Gully from the east had been made, and emphasis was placed on the Berardi area and the Orsogna-Ortona road axis.

The Royal 22e also had a difficult time on 15 December, and though they had been intended to move forward along the lateral road simultaneously with the Carleton and York attack, "B" Company was hit by its own artillery support. Without communications, they were unable to contact the batteries to lift the fire. The Germans manoeuvred tanks into position to cover the ground held by the battalion and the remaining companies were machine-gunned and shelled at the start line. In the early afternoon, 200 German paratroopers counter-attacked with tank support. The Royal 22e had to contract in its positions, both to withstand the attack and to permit a safety zone for Allied artillery. Within 15 minutes, the 98th Field Regiment was able to put 105mm shells from its self-propelled guns onto the enemy, firing 1400 rounds and routing the enemy.

As night descended, the infantry companies drew into tight defensive positions with the armour. Orders came from Brigade Headquarters to hold at any price for 48 hours-the time which Vokes considered would be needed to prepare for the 1st Brigade attack. By daylight on the 16th the force at Berardi had received welcome reinforcements and much needed ammunition for the tanks. About 100 "left out of battle" personnel from the Royal 22e Regiment's Support and Headquarters Companies came forward with a well laden pack train of mules. Seven Ontario tanks filled with 75-millimetre ammunition (to provide more space each co-driver was left behind) set out along "Lager" track at midnight and groped their way safely through the darkness to solve the most vital problem confronting the hard-pressed "C" Squadron.

Thus fortified, the Royal 22e continued during the 16th and 17th to dominate the area about Casa Berardi and thereby frustrate any attempt by the enemy to restore his flank. Intense artillery activity on both sides persisted all along the front, and each Canadian battalion along the edge of the Gully suffered an average of a score of casualties daily. A small probing attack by the West Novas on the 17th immediately to the left of the main bridge over the Gully confirmed patrol reports that the enemy was thinning out south of the "Cider" crossroads. This news was received without undue optimism: intelligence staffs correctly appreciated that defence of the sector was being placed in the safer hands of Heidrich's parachutists.25

Capture of CIDER - 18-19 December

Post-war memoirs by the participants give differing accounts of the planning of various stages of the Gully fighting:

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.”

Allfrey was later to claim that “he had a long talk with Vokes… and told him he was tiring out his division and producing nothing because of the lack of co-ordination.” Since Allfrey’s “diary” was written after the event, it is difficult to rely upon but if the “long talk” occurred on Dec. 14 it did not persuade Vokes to cancel the Carleton and York attack.

Finally, on the afternoon of Dec.15, Vokes decided on a 48-hour pause to organize a proper set-piece attack from the Casa Berardi position. The 48th Highlanders of Canada and the Royal Canadian Regt. were to move in behind the Van Doos and prepare to follow an extensive artillery program designed to shoot them onto objectives around Cider Crossroads.
26

The code-name for the barrage, MORNING GLORY, has come to be applied to the attack of the 1st Brigade on 18 December as well, something that the Army's official historian feels is "fitting".

Not only was it the heaviest fire yet employed by the 1st Division, but in its initial stages "Morning Glory" set a standard of almost faultless co-operation between artillery, infantry and armour, not previously attained by Canadians in the Italian campaign. The complex details of the plan for the set-piece assault were painstakingly worked out by the headquarters staffs of the 1st Canadian Division, the 1st Infantry Brigade and the 1st Armoured Brigade. Final responsibility for carrying out the operation rested with Lt.-Col. Spry, of the R.C.R., who took over the 1st Brigade on 16 December when illness forced Brigadier Graham to relinquish command. "Morning Glory" was designed to drive a deep salient into the German defence line south-west of Ortona, from which an attack might be mounted against the town itself. The three phases in which the operation was planned would successively bring into action all the battalions in the 1st Brigade. From a forming-up area on "Lager" track at the head of the Gully the 48th Highlanders were to attack due north behind a creeping barrage to cut the Villa Grande road at a point about 2000 yards from "Cider". With this achieved, after a minimum pause of one hour the second phase would begin with a new barrage ("Orange Blossom") running at an angle to the original one. Behind this the R.C.R. (commanded now by Major W. W. Mathers), forming up in the wake of the 48th Highlanders, would attack north-eastward along the railway track, which closely paralleled the Ortona lateral; on reaching the Villa Grande road it would assault, the isolated enemy garrison at the "Cider" crossroads. In the final phase the 2nd Brigade would exploit to capture Ortona, while the Hastings and Prince Edwards, brought over from the coastal sector, would extend the salient northward towards San Tommaso and San Nicola, villages each about two miles inland from Ortona. Phases I and II were to be supported by all the artillery of the 5th Corps, consisting of three medium and nine field regiments and a heavy anti-aircraft battery. The "Morning Glory" barrage, 1000 yards wide, would advance to a depth of 2200 yards, moving forward 100 yards every five minutes. At the same time, the whole area over which the infantry was advancing would be curtained by protective walls of intermittent bursts designed to stop any counterattack from the flanks. "Orange Blossom" followed a similar pattern; in effect, each battalion attack was to be supported by 250 guns.27

As mentioned above, the large-scale Italian mapsheets with British grid super-imposed were not accurate, and some had errors of up to 500 metres. Observed registration was preferred, but map shooting was often done due to the "pressure of battle."

Up to the crossing of the Moro the gunners when developing their fire plans had usually been able to carry out preliminary shooting in order to register by observed fall of shot the salient points of the barrage. In the battle in which the Canadians were now engaged, however, the number and variety of the demands for artillery support meant that sometimes two or three fire plans were under preparation at once, and the guns frequently had to switch from one side of the divisional front to the other in a matter of minutes. In these circumstances adequate artillery registration was not possible, and fire plans had to be developed from the map. The risk accompanying this method was recognized, and all infantry commanders were warned down to the platoon level.

...Nor did the weather help the gunners. Rapidly changing conditions which produced an overnight variation of several degrees in the temperature of the gun charges and sudden high winds which blew off the Adriatic with unpredictable velocity further complicated the problem of providing effective artillery support.28

The Three Rivers Regiment, which had rested since November near Vinchiaturo, was deployed as armoured support, and the 44th Royal Tank Regiment was released from command of the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, though in reality it had spent its time since crossing the Moro in support of 8th Indian Division. "B" Squadron of the Three Rivers went to support the 48th Highlanders, "A" Squadron to the RCR and "C" stayed in reserve, each squadron commander moving with a battalion commander, a troop of tanks paired with a rifle company. Infantry officers rode in the tanks of each squadron commander, with wireless sets tuned to battalion frequencies. In the words of the Army historian, "More meticulous attention was paid to ensuring close infantry-tank co-operation than in any previous Canadian operation in Italy."

Officers of the squadron and of the battalion met to discuss the coming action together, so that (as a divisional account records) "when they went into battle it was not merely three tanks supporting a company, but is was `Bill Stevenson's' troop working with `Pete Smith's' company-and it made a lot of difference."29

At 08:00hrs on 18 December, MORNING GLORY began, and the 48th Highlanders set out.

The first phase of the operation proceeded with the precision of a well-rehearsed exercise. Behind a wall of bursting high explosive 300 yards thick "A" and "D" Companies of the 48th Highlanders. advanced resolutely through the broken orchards and tattered vineyards that encumbered their path. (The battalion was using the "Y" formation, in which the two leading companies were directed to follow the barrage on to the objective without becoming involved in any fighting enroute, while the company immediately behind them mopped up any, enemy who might appear after the barrage had passed-the fourth company being held in reserve to exploit the success of either of the leading companies.) Dust and smoke reduced visibility to about 200 yards, and some platoons maintained their direction only by using the compass. Enemy reaction was at first limited to some small-arms fire, but soon mortar and artillery shells began to fall behind the barrage-a German manoeuvre calculated to destroy our troops' faith in the efficiency of their own gunners. The Three Rivers tanks found a target in every building and haystack, and when soft ground forced them to select routes which separated them from their infantry, the arrangements made in advance to ensure good intercommunication proved their worth. German self-propelled guns opened fire from the flanks, but the presence at Berardi of the Royal 22e Regiment (which had come temporarily under Spry's command) reduced the effect of interference from the right, while the tanks successfully dealt with the opposition on the left. At 10:30 the forward companies reported that they were on the objective, and the remainder of the battalion moved up rapidly to consolidate. The first phase was over. Casualties for the 48th Highlanders numbered only four killed and twenty wounded; half of these losses were caused either by shells of the supporting barrage falling short, or by enemy fire designed, as we have noted, to create just such a false impression.30

MORNING GLORY was a success, however, ORANGE BLOSSOM was to be a hideous failure.

For reasons that have not been explained, a large number of short rounds fell among Canadian troops, and Matthews cancelled or changed much of the fire plan. The RCRs ran into a number of untouched enemy positions and suffered heavy losses in what they described as a “death trap.”31

ORANGE BLOSSOM began on receiving the success signal from the 48th, and at 11:45hrs, the guns of 5th Corps opened up. Two companies of the RCR moved astride the railway track from their forming up places near the junction of Lager track and the lateral road. The Carleton and York, to the right, sent an urgent message that shells were falling on their forward positions, even though they had pulled back 300 yards from the edge of the Gully. The 48th Highlanders were now reporting that mopping-up companies were coming under friendly fire as well. Allied artillery had been unable to carry out registration by observed fire for this second phase, and were dependent on the faulty maps to find targets in the treacherous ground, marked by embankments, deep gullies and uneven terrain. The Commander, Royal Artillery of the division, Brigadier Matthews, lifted the barrage 400 yards and cancelled the right-hand "wall" of protective fire.

The effects were immediate and disastrous. The advancing R.C.R. suddenly found themselves face to face with a strong group of paratroopers whom the lifting of the barrage had left unscathed. From these and from the east side of the Gully, where the modification of the artillery plan had also given the enemy unexpected freedom of action, a murderous cross-fire laced the Canadians. Men dropped like flies. The two leading companies were smashed to pieces, all officers becoming casualties. "Never before", wrote a surviving officer, "during either the Sicilian or Italian campaign had the Regiment run into such a death trap." After an hour of bitter and confused fighting, Major Mathers, himself wounded, decided that since the barrage had been lost it would be futile to commit his reserves, and ordered a consolidation. Two artillery officers who had gone forward with the infantry brought back the remnants of the assault companies-a dozen or fifteen men each. These carried on the fight from some buildings 100 yards ahead of the start line.

Throughout the ensuing night The Royal Canadian Regiment, its strength reduced to 19 officers and 159 other ranks, held its position under mortar fire and sniping, and prepared to return to the attack. Fully aware of the predicament of his own battalion, Spry had ordered that for the sake of morale as well as from tactical considerations the R.C.R. must make another effort to take its objective. Every man that could be spared from the Support and Headquarters Companies came forward, and with these and the remnants of the rifle companies, three companies were organized of 65 men each.

The attack started at 2:15 p.m. on 19 December, after a shortage of petrol and ammunition for the tanks had caused a delay of four hours. This time all went well. Communications were excellent, and "A" and "B" Companies with their accompanying tanks advanced unwaveringly behind an intense barrage. The relatively light enemy resistance in contrast to the deadly opposition of the previous day indicated that Heidrich* had accepted the loss of the Gully. Shortly before nightfall "Cider" crossroads, which had remained the objective of the 1st Division during two weeks of bitter fighting, was captured with surprising ease. In the final advance to their goal the R.C.R. had suffered only three casualties. With "Cider" in Canadian hands, the Carleton and Yorks crossed the Gully and spent an unpleasant night mopping up enemy pockets among the bodies and booby traps which littered the area of the fateful road junction.32

Aftermath

The fight to take a 2500 yard stretch from San Leonardo to the Ortona road had involved each brigade of the 1st Canadian Division, as well as the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigde. on 19 December, the Seaforths relieved the Hastings and Prince Edwards on the coast road while the PPCLI remained on Vino Ridge, and the Edmontons remained in reserve north of San Leonardo. The 2nd Brigade was in position to exploit the capture of CIDER - the stage was set for the advance on Ortona.

However, historian Terry Copp reminds us to keep the battle for "The Gully" in its true perspective:

Historians have tended to treat the battle for the Moro River – fought in Italy between Dec. 6 and 10, 1943 – as a prelude to the better known struggle in the streets of Ortona. However, at the time, the battle for the Moro was seen as an important victory opening the way to 8th Army’s real objective: Pescara.33

Battle Honours

 

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

 

Image:1tankbde.gif 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 11th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Ontario Regiment)

  • 12th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Three Rivers Regiment)

  • 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Calgary Regiment)

Image:1gif.gif 1st Canadian Division

  • The Saskatoon Light Infantry (MG)

Image:1gif1bde.gif 1st Canadian Brigade

  • The Royal Canadian Regiment

  • The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment

  • 48th Highlanders of Canada

Image:1gif2bde.gif 2nd Canadian Brigade

  • Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

  • The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada

  • The Loyal Edmonton Regiment

Image:1gif3bde.gif 3rd Canadian Brigade

  • The Carleton and York Regiment

  • The West Nova Scotia 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. Copp, Terry "Overcoming The Moro: Army, Part 67" Legion Magazine (published online November 1, 2006 and accessed at http://legionmagazine.com/en/index.php/2006/11/overcoming-the-moro/)

  3. 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)

  4. Ibid

  5. McKay, A. Donald Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 pp.80-82

  6. Nicholson, Ibid

  7. McKay, Ibid, p.79

  8. 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/)

  9. Nicholson, Ibid

  10. Ibid

  11. Ibid

  12. Copp, Ibid

  13. 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.

  14. Nicholson, Ibid

  15. Ibid

  16. Copp, Ibid

  17. Nicholson, Ibid

  18. Ibid

  19. Copp, Ibid

  20. Nicholson, Ibid

  21. Ibid

  22. Ibid

  23. Copp, Ibid

  24. Nicholson, Ibid

  25. Ibid

  26. Copp, Ibid

  27. Nicholson, Ibid. The historian notes that: In selecting code names for these fire plans Headquarters R.C.A. 1st Canadian Division was allotted for the week names of flowers having the initial letter "M" to "0". The choice of "Morning Glory" came from a flower on the C.R.A.'s family crest; "Orange Blossom" was picked not so much for the flower as for .the cocktail of that name, which someone suggested "carried a tremendous wallop".

  28. Ibid

  29. Ibid

  30. Ibid

  31. Copp, Ibid

  32. Nicholson, Ibid

  33. Copp, Ibid


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