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

 

Valguarnera

Valguarnera was a Battle Honour granted to Canadian regiments that fought around that town during the Battle of Sicily, a phase of the Italian Campaign during the Second World War.

Background

The previous battles around Piazza Armerina had demonstrated to the Canadians the type of actions the Germans were commited to fighting - sharp holding actions at key pieces of terrain. "But no matter how frustrating the German delaying tactics the Canadians, with equal determination, kept advancing and dislodging the enemy hill by hill and town by town."1 The 3rd Canadian Brigade continued the advance west and north on 17 Jul, proceeding up Route 117 with The Carleton and York Regiment in the lead, supported by Sherman Tanks of The Three Rivers Regiment.

Highway 117

Ten miles north of Piazza Armerina, Highway No. 117 forks, splitting off to Enna to the west and Valguarnera to the east. Soldiers of Panzergrenadier Regiment 104 held the high ground overlooking this fork and the approaches to it.

Skillfully using fire and demolitions, then disappearing when attacked, the Germans turned the Canadians northward drive, in unbearably hot weather, into a frustrating slog. The Royal 22nd Regiment...took over the lead at last light and fought a sharp night time encounter with a German cut-off party.2

The next day, 18 Jul, was the first real divisional level battle the Canadians would fight in the Second World War.

The 18th was a day of confused and expensive fighting on the craggy approaches to Valguarnera; but that night this place too fell into Canadian hands.3

The divisional commander, Major General Guy Simonds, kept his 3rd Brigade engaged frontally against the enemy, while dispatching the 1st Brigade off the east to outflank the town of Valguarnera itself.

The 3rd Brigade sent the Royal 22nd Regiment to secure Portello Crottacalda, a narrow pass, while The Carleton and York Regiment and The West Nova Scotia Regiment moved to the flanks of the dominating high ground, a feature known as Monte Della Forma. The attack on this feature was supported by the divisional artillery, the machine guns and mortars of the Saskatoon Light Infantry, and tanks of The Three Rivers Regiment in extremely hot weather. By late afternoon, both units were on their objectives.

 


General Montgomery, commander of the 8th Army, and Major General Guy Simonds, commander of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, at divisional headquarters on 20 July, near Valguarnera. The battle outside the town was the first real divisional battle of the war for the Canadian Army. LAC Photo.

Valguarnera - Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment

The attack on the town itself required a cross-country march over steep terrain.

..the enemy...occupied an exceedingly strong natural position a few miles past (Grammichele), and six miles south of the town of Valguarnera. Here, at noon, on July 17, Third Brigade crashed into the outposts and recoiled to try again.

With this preliminary failure to crack the German position frontally, First Brigade was given the task of making a wide right hook through the mountains to outflank the town. It was already dusk on the 17th, when the (Hastings and Prince Edward) Regiment received its orders to execute this grandiose manoeuvre.

Superficially the order seemed impossible of execution. Without prior reconnaissance, and in complete darkness, the Regiment was to cross ten miles of trackless mountain terrain, debouch upon a strongly defended town and force the enemy's withdrawal from his positions to the south. There could be no artillery or tank support and the men would only have what weapons and ammunition they could carry on their backs...the plan was daring, but most uncertain.

As night fell, the rifle companies moved off in single file into the dark wilderness and at once encoutnered a maze of nearly impassable mountains and canyons. The maps were useless and Able company, in the lead, advanced by guess-work...The going soon became so bad that the Regiment could not even maintain contace with its component parts. First Able (Company), then Charlie, became detached and disappeared into the gloom. Baker and Dog, with the CO, managed to stay together, but where they were going, or where they were at any given moment, no man could tell. Heavily laden (every man carried at least sixty pounds, and some carried nearly a hundred) they climbed cliff-faces and slithered down cactus-filled gulleys until they were so utterly fatigued that battle would have been welcome..
.4

"B" and "D" Companies drifted to the west during their march, descending a steep slope at dawn to find themselves directly in front of the town. A roadblock was established by "D" while "B" cautiously advanced. An encounter by a small patrol and a German anti-aircraft battery alerted the town, and "B" Company was forced to return to the hills. The Germans in the town, however, were rear area troops and disturbed by the presence of enemy troops. An armoured half-track towing an 88mm gun was destroyed by a PIAT, and additional German vehicles continued to flow down the road in front of "D" Company's position, where it remained until it ran low on ammunition and was finally forced by a German counter-attack to withdraw.

Likewise, "A" and "C" Companies had drifted off to the east during the night, and after a brief separation found each other and near dawn dug in near a road. "A" Company managed to ambush a small German convoy carrying reinforcements. One platoon commander recalled the scene in his memoir:


Modern satellite view, taken on 31 December 2006, showing co-ordinates.


I leapt to my feet to find the road no longer empty. Six immense green-painted trucks were grinding to a halt below us. As I stared, incredulous, the lead truck nosed ponderously into the ditch, canted slowly on its side and spilled out two or three dozen gray-clad soldiers. Now I was screaming at my men, some of whom were still drugged with sleep, wildly urging the Bren gunners into action.

Over a hundred and fifty German infantrymen were packed into those six trucks. They had been driving all night, en route to reinforced their comrades who were holding up Third Brigade's advance, and most of them must have been drowsing or asleep when they were engulfed in gunfire.

For a moment I was distracted by Sharon and Robinson, that pair of usually phlegmatic farm boys, clamoring to know if they should bring our antitank projector into action. Then a furious bellow made me turn to see (company commander) Alex Campbell launching himself down the slope. He was holding a Bren tucked under his one good arm and firing quick bursts as he ran. Although a spare mag was clenched between his teeth, he was still able to roar like a maddened minotaur.

For precious seconds our fire grew ragged as we stared at Alex, appalled and awed by what he was doing. A few of the Germans tried to make use of the respite to bring rifles and Schmeisser machine-pistols into play. Alex was by then only a few yards from the nearest of them and I momentarily expected to see his mighty bulk come crashing to the ground. We all must have shared that fear, for suddenly every man in the two companies began to fire again as fast as he could load. The rattle and roar of small arms and grenades rose to a crescendo...and the stretch of road below us became a slaughterhouse.

Alex concentrated his berserk fury on a single truck...Within that truck twenty or more Germans writhed and died.

Meanwhile, soldiers from the other trucks were desperately trying to bail out through a thickening curtain of bullets, grenades and mortar bombs. Not many reached the dubious shelter of the roadside ditches, and most of those who did were wounded. As they and the few others who survived began making frantic efforts to surrender, the firing petered out and soon little groups of our men began herding prisoners off the road and up the hill.
5

The road that "A" and "C" Company were on was the only eastward exit from Valguarnera, and "quite by accident the town had now been isolated, and the news of this calamity must soon have reached the German staff." The Germans soon began pulling back forces opposite the 3rd Brigade to deal with this situation in what had been their rear area.6

"A" and "C" Companies now came under attack from enemy troops "believed to be the previously uncommitted balance of a battalion." The companies, under threat of artillery fire, caused a withdrawal back into the hills. The battalion reassembled at their starting point on the highway, and found they had lost 20 men killed or wounded, and 7 had been taken prisoner by the Germans. It was later confirmed they had killed from 80 to 90 Germans and wounded many more.7

Valguarnera - Royal Canadian Regiment

The Royal Canadian Regiment had also been ordered to approach the town by overland march from the highway and set off at 05:30 on the 18th. They managed to reach the southern approaches, their first actual enemy contact of the war.

On the hills about Valguarnera the RCR first met the Germans, the skillful soldiers who were to remain their opponents for the remainder of the campaign in Sicily, for eighteen months in Italy, and during the closing days of the war in Holland.

All day long the fighting raged; in mid-afternoon "A" and "B" Companies attacked in the fact of intense mortar and machine-gun fire, suffering numerous casualties but making good considerable high ground on the outskirts of town.
8

The RCR were hampered by "the same series of causes arising from the uncompromising terrain - the immobilization of the unit carriers with their 3-inch mortars and wireless sets, the consequent breakdown of communications with the rest of the brigade, and the resultant loss of artillery support and absence of co-ordination with the flanking infantry battalion."9

The RCR arrived at positions south of Valguarnera after the Hasty P's had left; in fact, they managed to rescue some stragglers of the latter, who had been pinned down by enemy fire. They executed a two-company attack through intense fire with their CO, Lieutenant Colonel Crowe, personally leading the assault. The outnumbered enemy withdrew after "some spirited fighting", leaving the RCR overlooking the entrance to the town, now only half a mile to the north.Three German tanks barred the way into the town, and they opened fire.10

Eight Dog Company men (from the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment), withdrawing under command of S(ergeant) Major Turner, encountered the second-in-command of the RCR coming forward on reconnaissance. This officer, Major Pope, insisted that the Hastings men accompany him and somewhat unwillingly they did so. It was nearly fatal to all of them. Turner was shot through the back by a sniper, but the survivors pushed forward into the inferno of the aroused valley. Reaching the road the came face to face with three (PzKpfw) IV tanks supported by a platoon of German infantry.

With great personal bravery Major Pope attempted to engage the tanks with a PIAT, but the first bomb failed to explode and he was killed before he could reolad.

The seven Hastings privates were now on their own. With their one Bren gun they engaged in a spirited exchange with the tanks and German infantry. The tank commander, foolish enough to thrust his head out of the turret, was shot by a rifleman, and for few precious minutes the German force was disorganized. The eight men ducked quickly into the ditch, through a culvert, and began belly crawling up the hillside through a field of cactus. Tank shells and incendiary machine-gun bullets set the dry hill-side on fire...After lying in the open sun for six hours (as the flaming grass scorched their bare legs and arms) they escaped at last when dusk had fallen.
11

Another history described Pope's action:

No member of The (RCR) had spared himself so little since the landing as had "Billy" Pope and no man died more gallantly. At the head of a light patrol he advanced towards three enemy tanks, and taking a PIAT he personally attacked the monsters, though without success. A few minutes later, calmly smoking a cigarette, and meditating on a renewed effort, he was cut down by Spandau fire from one of the tanks he was seeking to destroy.12

The official history, however, states that "By extreme misfortune three bombs fired from a PIAT failed to explode. A hail of bullets from the tanks' machine-guns forced the patrol to retire; Major Pope was killed."13 The tanks withdrew, a mechanized column was observed leaving the town to the north, and the RCR prepared for a counter-attack. At 14:00 the CO sent a message to the brigade commander by runner (in fact, the regimental padre) stating that he intended to patrol forward, but could not do so until after dark owing to lack of support weapons and tanks.

Valguarnera - 48th Highlanders

As the RCR was settling into their positions, the reserve battalion of the brigade was sent to occupy high ground two miles south of Valguarnera. One company encountered a sizeable German force which was dispatched by a single section at the cost of three men. Corporal Kay, the section commander, earned the DCM for this action. In all, the company killed 35 Germans, by their account, and took 20 prisoners.

The 48th mopped up "nests of snipers" still in the rear of the other two battalions, and after a right flanking march, entered Valguarnera well after dark to find it deserted by the enemy.

After dark, patrols (of the 48th) slipped into the town to find the 10,000 inhabitants hiding behind locked doors and the Germans gone. It was a quiet conclusion to a difficult day...If nothing else, the enemy's high command was aware that it was dealing with a force to be reckoned with. "Near Valguarnera troops trained for fighting in the mountains have been mentioned," Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring reported to Berlin. "They are called 'Mountain Boys' and probably belong to the 1st Canadian Division."15


Lieutentant Colonel R.M. Crowe and Major J.H.W. Pope - Commanding Officer and battalion second-in-command of The Royal Canadian Regiment, checking a map outside of Piazza Armerina on 17 Jul 1943. They were the only two RCR officers killed in action during the Sicillian Campaign. Pope was killed at Valguarnera trying to knock out a German tank with a PIAT. LAC Photo.

Award Citation: Corporal William Frederick Kay


I have the honour to recommend U.1834 Corporal Kay, W.F. for an immediate award (of the Distinguished Conduct Medal) for conspicuous gallantry in action. On 18 July 1943 while "D" Company, 48th Highlanders of Canada were occupying forward positions on a hill, they came under fire from enemy snipers and machine guns.

16 and 17 Platoons were sent out around the right flank to engage them and soon came under heavy concentrated fire from numerous positions on top of a ridge in front of them. An attack was immediately sent in and two sections pinned by fire.

Corporal Kay immediately sized up the situation and led his section of five men around through some dead ground and attacked the highest position. This position contained three machine guns and about seventeen Germans and appeared to be the main position.

The section led by Corporal Kay advanced in the face of machine gun fire and grenades and Corporal Kay, though wounded in the arm, tossed two 36 grenades in the midst of the enemy and followed in with his Tommy gun blazing. He personally accounted for about eight Germans and the section took care of the remainder.

When the enemy position fell, the remainder of the enemy abandoned the rest of the ridge and fled. It is estimated that there was about a full company of Germans along the ridge.14

Kesselring's troops had correctly identified the formation opposite them. It is unclear where the "Mountain Boys" title comes from, but one historian surmises that "the sobriquet must have come from the Germans themselves."16

Aftermath

Given the scale of the action - the first divisional level battle of the war for the Canadians - casualties were also heavier than had been since the landings on 10 Jul. Some 145 men were casualties, 40 of whom had been killed. German losses were estimated at 250 Germans and 30 Italians captured, and from 180 to 240 Germans killed or wounded. Nonetheless, "the actual gains of ground during the day were relatively small, so effectively had the enemy, although heavily outnumbered, capitalized on the advantages of his naturally strong positions. On the hand the Canadians had acquired some much-needed battle experience, which was to serve them well in subsequent encounters with the Germans."17

Battle Honours

 

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

Image:1tankbde.gif 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 12th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Three Rivers 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:1gif3bde.gif 3rd Canadian Brigade

  • Royal 22e Regiment

  • The Carleton and York Regiment

  • The West Nova Scotia Regiment

Notes

  1.  McKay, A. Donald Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 p.54
    Ibid, p.54

  2. Stacey, C.P. The Canadian Army 1939-1945: An Official Historical Summary (King's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1948) p.101

  3. Mowat, Farley. The Regiment (McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, ON, 1955) ISBN 0771066945 (paperback edition) pp.105-107

  4. Mowat, Farley And No Birds Sang (McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, ON, 1979) ISBN 0770416322 pp.80-81

  5. Mowat, The Regiment, Ibid, pp.109-110

  6. Nicholson, Gerald. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. Volume II: The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1957) p.98

  7. Galloway, Strome. A Regiment at War: The Story of The Royal Canadian Regiment 1939-1945 (Strome Galloway, 1979 - originally published in 1946 as "55 Axis") pp.75-76

  8. Nicholson, Ibid, pp.98-99

  9. Ibid, p.99

  10. Mowat, Ibid, pp.110-111

  11. Galloway, Ibid, pp.76-77

  12. Nicholson, Ibid, p.99

  13. Blatherwick, John and Hugh Halliday. Courage & Service: Second World War Awards to Canadians (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON) ISBN 1894581229

  14. Dancocks, Daniel G. D-Day Dodgers: The Canadians in Italy 1943-1945 (McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, ON, 1991) ISBN 0771025440 p.59

  15. McKay, Ibid, pp.54-55

  16. Nicholson, Ibid. p.100


© canadiansoldiers.com 1999-present