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

 

Liri Valley
 
 

Liri Valley was a Battle Honour granted to Canadian regiments that fought in battles of that region of Italy during the Italian Campaign during the Second World War.

The British and Indian XIII Corps failed to break the Hitler Line as planners of the Cassino battle had hoped, and I Canadian Corps was moved up in the middle of May to take on the task. The line was heavily wired and mined and studded with concrete emplacements and armoured gun turrets. Nonetheless, at the cost of 1,000 casualties, the Canadians breached the line in a day, inflicting almost as many casualties. Other offensive actions were equally successful; the Americans crossed the Garigliano and advanced along the coast; the French Expeditionary Corps also broke through German defences, and the forces at Anzio managed to breakout as the Poles were finalizing their capture of Monte Cassino. After the Hitler Line came the Melfa Crossing, garnering a Victoria Cross for Major John K. Mahoney of The Westminster Regiment (Motor). On 4 June 1944, Rome fell to the Allies. The battle marked the first divisional level operations of the war for the 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division.

Liri Valley

Liri Valley – Hitler Line – Aquino – Melfa Crossing –Ceprano – Torrice Crossroads

 

Background

When the Allied offensive actions in the Liri Valley began on 11 May 1944, their troops were engaged on the Garigliano River 60 miles from Rome. The headquarters of I Canadian Corps, along with 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division had proceeded to Italy in the autumn of 1943 and occupied positions on the Adriatic front during the winter of 1943-44, but the first true corps-level operations were those conducted in the Liri Valley. Likewise, the 5th Armoured had not operated in action as a division prior to these operations. The 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade was involved in operations, but under British command.

Bad weather and strong enemy defences had prevented Allied entrance to the Liri Valley, protected also by mountainous terrain at Cassino and Monastery Hill where heavy fighting by French and American troops failed to create a breakthrough. Several attacks by Commonwealth forces also failed to take the heights and throughout April and May 1944 little change in positions along the entire Italian front could be effected. The massive landings at Anzio in January had failed to progress past far beyond the beaches, and American and British troops (including the American-Canadian 1st Special Service Force) were penned into a small bridgehead. Plans were made for a large-scale offensive using formations from the relatively dormant northern sector of the 8th Army's line, and both I Canadian Corps and 1 Canadian Armoured Brigade (under control of 13th British Corps) were assigned to take part. The effort was designed to crack German barriers known as the Hitler Line and Gustav Line.1

The operation, code-named "Diadem", was scheduled for 10 May 1944 to preclude the withdrawal of German forces to face the coming invasion of Northwest Europe. The Canadian Corps would initially be held in reserve to exploit the expected breakthrough - in a role somewhat analogous to that of X Corps at Alamein.2

The 1st Canadian Infantry Division ended its period of duty on the Adriatic as part of the British 5th Corps on 21 April 1944, and moved south to the Campobasso area for rest, refitting, and special training in tank-infantry co-operation. Changes in command were rife in this period:

Formation Commander During Winter 1943-44 Incumbent in May 1944
Allied Force Headquarters General Dwight Eisenhower General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson
British 8th Army General Bernard Montgomery General Sir Oliver Leese
I Canadian Corps Lieutenant-General H.D.G. Crerar Lieutenant-General E.L.M. Burns
5th Canadian (Armoured) Division Major-General Guy Simonds Major-General Bert Hoffmeister
1st Canadian Armoured Brigade Brigadier Robert Wyman Brigadier W. Murphy

German Defences

The Liri Valley itself is between three and five miles wide, running south-east to north-west, nestled between parallel mountain ranges on which rest a number of villages. The north-eastern range terminates at Monte Cassino, which dominates the western range. Cassino , 1500 feet above sea level, is due west of the town of Cassino while 5000-foot Mount Cairo lies six miles to the north-west.

The LIRI River, which runs eastwards along the Southern side of the Valley,joins the GARI (RAPIDO) some six miles South of CASSINO, and then turning South becomes the GARIGLIANO. North-West from the GARI River the LIRI Valley is very flat and open for the first few miles gradually becoming more rolling and fairly heavily wooded. Six or seven miles from the beginning of the Valley a series of transverse gulleys run South-West towards the LIRI River. The Whole area was under intense cultivation and there was considerable standing grain.3

The Gustav Line was the zone running south from Cassino along the west bank of the Rapido (as the Gari is called in its course near Cassino) while the Adolf Hitler Line was built with even more formidable defences, pivoting on Mount Cairo. The Hitler Line was developed over the course of five months, but fortifications were not completed before the battle commenced. The Hitler Line ran more or less north to south in a line Piedimonte-Aquino-Pontecorvo-S.Oliva to a depth of 700 to 900 yards. An after action report by 1st Canadian Infantry Division noted:

In front of the line was a 1000 yds of flat ground with thick abundant crops, which limited observation from both the nigh ground of the HITLER LINE and our own (positions). Although the enemy, because of time and dlsorganization, had failed, to establish any outposts on this flat, any movement on it was subjected to intense mortaring, (artillery) and nebelwerfer fire.

The only natural (infantry) obstacle was along our right flank - the FORME D'AQUINO. Wire was continuous across the front with small 10 foot gaps covered by fire. A few anti-personel mines were scattered among the wire behind. Tank going across the whole front was gpod in certain places, only there being an anti-tank ditch 2000 yds long cutting off the approach to PONTECORVO on the main road PIGNATARO - PONTECORVO. Teller mines had been hurriedly laid in front of this ditch and within range of Anti-Tank gun fire; Also laid among the Tellers were wooden box mines.

The main def of the HITLER LINE was (anti-tank) and these defs had received priority in construction. Nine Mark V tank turrets on well-built concrete bases with living quarters below ground, were the A Tk nodal points. Grouped around these in every case were two to three towed 75 and 50 mm A Tk guns; these guns were however not dug in. (Infantry positions) were divided between two-man LMG pillboxes and the conventional slitl trench. The majority of the (positions) were in simple earthworks. A few (infantry positions) at the back of the line were found in uncompleted concrete bases prepared for the Mk V turrets, and TOBRUK STELLUNGS; most demolished houses hid MGs...4

Initial Attacks

The main attacks went forward on 11 May 1944, and though the Canadian Corps was in reserve, the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade was very active in support of the 8th Indian Division from the outset. The brigade crossed the Gari River, assisted in the capture of Sant' Angelo in Teodice, Panaccioni and Pignataro. The French expeditionary corps, in the meantime, had made such success that I Canadian Corps and 13th British Corps moved up to begin their part in the battle.

British Preparations and the Canadian Role

The order for DIADEM had come from General Harold Alexander, commanding 15th Army Group - the formation to which the two Allied armies in Italy (U.S. 5th and British 8th) belonged. The orders to the 5th Army to drive north and link up with the Anzio bridgehead, supporting the "main assault" of the 8th Army into the Liri Valley, did not specify which of the two armies was to be responsible for Rome. Both army commanders independently advised their subordinates that their own ultimate goals included the Eternal City. The U.S. 5th Army and therefore reduced the power of its thrust towards Valmontone in order to focus on the liberation of Rome, an action that resulted in the escape of a sizeable number of German formations, a matter of considerable controversy. The matter, however, was emblematic of a pattern of conflicting operational goals that characterized Allied conduct of the campaign, and which had an effect on Canadian operations as well.

Leese’s detailed orders for Operation Diadem called for co-ordinated advances by the Polish Corps against Monte Cassino, and the 13th British Corps across the Gari River. Ideally, the Germans would be forced to abandon the Cassino heights and withdraw to the Hitler Line to the west. In this optimistic scenario, the Poles would outflank the Hitler Line from the north, assisting a breakthrough by the 13th Corps. The Canadian Corps would be held in reserve to exploit a breakthrough or to assist 13th Corps.

The terrain and determined enemy resistance prevented the Poles and the British from achieving their goals, but 8th Indian Division and 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade did succeed in establishing a shallow bridgehead across the Gari River before the exhausted, depleted infantry battalions ran out of steam. Leese decided to restore momentum by committing 78th British Infantry Div. and 1st Cdn. Inf. Div. to the struggle. Normally, these two fresh divisions–each operating with an armoured brigade and a considerable amount of artillery support–would have been part of a single corps to optimize command, control, and communication, not to mention co-ordinating intelligence on the enemy.

Since most of 13th Corps was to withdraw into reserve, the obvious solution was to place 78th British Div. under Lieutenant-General E.L.M Burns and 1st Cdn. Corps headquarters. Unfortunately, Leese, who in common with other senior British officers had opposed the creation of 1st Cdn. Corps, was not willing to allow Burns and his staff the opportunity to direct the battle. With two corps, each deploying a division in the narrow Liri Valley, and the Poles, part of yet another corps only a few kilometres away, radio channels were soon jammed, further jeopardizing co-ordinated action.5

The 1st and 3rd Brigades fought a confused action in the approach to the Hitler Line, beginning on May 16. Battalion actions lasted until May 18, when after command and control in the 1st Brigade had broken down, it was finally regained and both brigades had completed their advance. "It was, however, evident that the enemy had bought sufficient time to occupy these defences in strength." The British 78th Division, with Canadian tanks in support, tried its own attack south of Aquino, meeting heavy opposition while the Royal 22e Regiment put in a failed attack on the 19th. "And so a well-organized, set-piece attack on a wide front would be necessary to crack the Hitler Line." 6

The Hitler Line
See also articles: Hitler Line and Aquino

The directive for Operation CHESTERFIELD, the smashing of the Hitler Line, was issued on 20 May by 8th Army headquarters. It directed an attack on 23 May 1944 by XIII Corps between Aquino and Piedmonte on the right, and on the left an attack by I Canadian Corps centred on Pontecorvo an intended to exploit towards the Melfa River. As the corps made their plans, the Germans finally pulled out of the Cassino massif and French troops approached Pontecorvo, offering the hope of flanking pressure. An attempt on the 22nd to "bounce" the line with the 48th Highlanders and 142nd Royal Tank Regiment penetrated the Hitler Line but was stopped by extensive minefields slowing the tank support.

The attack was made on a two-brigade front behind a creeping barrage at 06:00hrs on 23 May; the Canadian plan had been for a much smaller attack on a narrow frontage. The 2nd Brigade assaulted on the right, with The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and PPCLI supported by Churchill tanks of The North Irish Horse. To the left the 3rd Brigade attacked with The Carleton and York Regiment with the 51st Royal Tank Regiment in support.

The 2nd Brigade attack started out well but a thick forest of oak trees separated the Patricias and Seaforths from their barrage, and the infantry lost direction in the woods. The 78th Division, on the right flank, failed to neutralize German positions in Aquino, on the flank of the Canadians, and they were able to bring down effective fire. Their tank support ran into a minefield which exposed them to the deadly panzerturms - dug-in tank turrets. The support battalion, The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, also followed too close behind, and suffered casualties with the leading companies, including the C.O. of the Edmontons. One company of Seaforths did manage to reach the Pontecorvo-Aquino road and knock out a number of positions before being cut off.

The 3rd Brigade assault was more successful. While the PPCLI had been committed in haste after the failed attempt to bounce the Line the day before, the Carletons had conducted numerous reconnaissance missions into the enemy defences and had a thorough understanding of them. Despite the loss of their tank support, they were able to penetrate the line by "leaning on" their barrage and in 75 minutes were on the Pontecorvo-Aquino road, having killed a number of Germans and captured 200 for the cost of 62 of their own killed and wounded.

The main effort then moved to the left, as artillery neutralized Aquino, The West Nova Scotia Regiment, Royal 22e Régiment and tanks of the Three Rivers Regiment widened the breach in the Hitler Line and took the final divisional objective, the Pontecorvo-Route 6 road. Despite the tanks being held up by the San Martino gully, this was done by last light, and enemy counter-attacks were satisfactorily dealt with.

Simultaneous to these 3rd Brigade actions, the 1st Brigade relieved the 2nd inside the Hitler Line defences near Pontecorvo. The divisional reconnaissance regiment, the IV Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, opened a lane through a minefield to the 48th Highlanders for tanks of the 142nd Royal Tank Regiment. The 48th, now with tank support, attacked Point 106 but were repulsed. The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment launched their own attack, relieved the 48th and took the position.

The single day of fighting was the worst in terms of casualties for the Canadian Army in the Italian Campaign, a day in which 890 Canadians were killed or wounded. The 2nd Brigade alone suffered 543 casualties, and supporting British armour lost 44 tanks. As these events occurred, the Allies were finally breaking out of the Anzio beachhead, threatening to cut the Germans off from the rear, making an exploitation of the Hitler Line penetration a priority.

The Melfa
See also articles:
Melfa Crossing, Ceprano and Torrice Crossroads

The first divisional action of the 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division was to be the exploitation of the penetration of the Hitler Line. The plan originally called for the division to follow up the 2nd Brigade's assault, but when the 3rd Brigade successfully broke through to their left instead, the 5th Division shifted their forces accordingly. This shift required the use of Assembly Areas, Forming Up Places and Start Lines that had not been properly scouted; the division - inexperienced - had not planned for this eventuality. The actual redeployment was also hampered by heavy rain, making movement of the vehicles in the 5th Armoured Brigade, as well as the trucks and carriers of the 11th Infantry Brigade, difficult.

The inexperience of the I Canadian Corps staff was also an issue in the Melfa battle, as traffic control was poor, and units of the 5th Division became entangled on the small road net with British tanks also trying to relocate after the Hitler Line battle. Canadian commanders also suggested later that trying to operate two separate corps in the narrow confines of the Liri Valley had been a mistake, and three armoured and four infantry divisions were operating some 20,000 combat and support vehicles in a 25 square mile area. The Canadians were forced to operate on secondary tracks of dubious value while XIII Corps was allocated Route 6, the only decent graded road in the valley. This problem was "rectified" by an edict from the 8th Army commander that corps could use roads allocated to other corps if need be, in some cases worsening the issue.

Into this confusion went the 5th Division, divided into two battle groups, on 24 May. The British Columbia Dragoons and The Irish Regiment of Canada were led by Lieutenant-Colonel Fred Vokes (brother of Major-General Chris Vokes, commanding 1st Division), and therefore known as VOKES Force. GRIFFIN Force consisted of Lieutenant-Colonel P.G. Griffin's Lord Strathcona's Horse tanks and The Westminster Regiment (Motor), which was to meet VOKES Force halfway to the Melfa. The Governor General's Horse Guards, the divisional armoured reconnaissance regiment, was to operate on the flanks with its Sherman tanks.

In its first clash, VOKES Force took on German Panther tanks and destroyed three, as well as a self-propelled gun, capturing 90 enemy paratroops as well, for the loss of 33 men and four of its Sherman tanks. GRIFFIN Force first met the enemy with the recce troop of the Strathconas, operating turretless Stuart tanks, who fought a short action and located a crossing on the river. A larger tank battle with the main force ensued, and 11 German tanks and 9 self-propelled guns were knocked out, with 25 prisoners and 36 dead, for a loss of 55 Canadians and 17 tanks. During fighting for the bridgehead across the Melfa, Major John K. Mahoney of the Westminsters distinguished himself and was later awarded the Victoria Cross.

The 11th Brigade took over the advance on 26 May with tank support from the 8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars. They faced determined opposition in extremely difficult terrain, but managed to reach Ceprano in a day. Traffic congestion caused to fuel shortages among the tank support and a bridge collapse delayed further advance until 28 May - when the new bridge was allocated to XIII Corps. The 5th Division shifted to the 1st Canadian Division front and continued to advance through poor terrain, wrestling their vehicles forward, this time with the British Columbia Dragoons and Westminsters in the lead. Five BCD tanks were lost to enemy action at Pofi (twenty more bogged down in the poor terrain conditions), while the 11th Brigade moved on Ceccano.

The Strathconas engaged elements of the 26th Panzer Division at Torrice Crossroads, as the enemy fought a rearguard action for their entire corps. Four German tanks and a self-propelled gun were knocked out in exchange for five Canadian Shermans. On 30 May, the 1st Canadian Infantry Division was ordered into the advance in place of the 5th, the 2nd Brigade taking Frosinone, Ferentini was captured by the RCR on 1 June, and Anagni fell on 3 June, the same day Americans breaking out from Anzio made contact near Valmontone. Rome fell to the Allies the next day.7

Battle Honours

 

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

Image:1corpgif.gif I Canadian Corps

  • 1st Armoured Car Regiment (Royal Canadian Dragoons)

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

  • 4th Reconnaissance Regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards)

  • The Saskatoon Light Infantry (MG)

Image:1gif1bde.gif 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Royal Canadian Regiment

  • The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment

  • The 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

  • Royal 22e Regiment

  • The Carleton and York Regiment

  • The West Nova Scotia Regiment

Image:5gif.gif 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division

  • 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (The Governor General's Horse Guards)

  • The Princess Louise Fusiliers

Image:5gif.gif 5th Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 2nd Armoured Regiment (Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians))

  • 5th Armoured Regiment (8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars)

  • 9th Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons)

  • The Westminster Regiment (Motor)

Image:5gif.gif 11th Canadian Brigade

  • The Perth Regiment

  • The Cape Breton Highlanders

  • The Irish Regiment of Canada

Notes

  1. Canadian Military Headquarters Report No. 121

  2. McKay, A. Donald Gaudeamus Igitur (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) p.89

  3. CMHQ Report No. 121, which references "1 Cdn Inf Bde In the Liri Valley Battle" by Comd 1 Cdn lnf Bde

  4. CMHQ Report No. 121, which references "Report HITLER LINE Defences" by G.S. 1 Can Inf Div, Italy, June 1944, p.1 1 Can Corps Intelligence Summaries. 1 May - 24 May 44

  5. Copp, Terry "Advancing on the Hitler Line: Army Part 74" Legion Magazine Published online 9 January 2008

  6. Ibid

  7. McKay, Ibid, pp.91-96


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