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 Sangro and Moro

The fighting on the Sangro and Moro rivers were a phase of the Italian Campaign highlighted by the first real divisional level actions of the Canadians in that theatre, and the fighting at Ortona at the end of December 1943.

Background

Following the conquest of Sicily in August 1943 and the invasion of the mainland in September (as well as the capitulation of Italy, one of the three main Axis partners in the war against the Allies), the advance up towards Rome had been steady until finally halting in the mountains well short of the ultimate goal, Rome. Canadian forces in Italy - the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade - had spent October fighting along the Adriatic coast and in the approach to Campobasso and the Biferno River. November had been a period largely of rest - October had cost 650 Canadian casualties, about four times the losses of the month of September, when they had first come ashore on the mainland. There were reorganizations as 1500 reinforcements arrived to replace losses, and Major-General Chris Vokes came to the 1st Canadian Infantry Division as its General Officer commanding. Major-General Guy Simonds, the outgoing G.O.C., took over the 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division, which would become operational in theatre in the new year. Brigadier Penhale of the 1st Division's 3rd Brigade was also replaced by Brigadier T. Gibson.1

Notwithstanding the relative differences in size and capabilities, the Germans had twice as many divisions in southern Italy as the Allies at the end of November, and were determined to defend the peninsula as far from the capital as possible. The Allies accepted at the end of October that instead of a fast collapse in the south, the best they could hope for would be a war of attrition, in which German divisions were pinned down, away from what would become the main theatre of war - Northwest Europe. The supreme commander in Italy, General Sir Harold Alexander, wrote as much on 21 October 1943, concluding that if the Allies could occupy the Germans until the spring of 1944, "we shall be certain of retaining in Italy the divisions already there; we might even draw still more into the theatre."2

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily - Southern Italy - The Sangro and Moro -
Battles of the FSSF - Cassino - Liri Valley - Trasimene Line - Advance to Florence - Gothic Line - Winter Lines

"This German decision to stand south of Rome", wrote General Alexander later, "did not affect my general plan of campaign though it was, of course, destined to affect its timing." ...(T)he Allied Armies had embarked on the campaign in Italy with the intention of forcing Italy out of the war and containing the maximum number of German troops. With the surrender of the Badoglio government on 9 September the first part of this mission had been accomplished; the extent to which the second aim was achieved would depend largely on what the enemy might do next. If, in pursuing a policy of shortening his lines around Europe in order to create reserves, he made an orderly withdrawal with a comparatively small force to a selected line either in the Alps or on one of the major rivers in north-eastern Italy, he would be aided all the way by the defensible terrain and by the administrative difficulties which a long pursuit would impose upon the Allies. When the need arose there would be time to install the larger force required to hold such a line, for Allied preparations to assault a defensive position of this type would necessarily be slow. The initiative was clearly with the Germans, to the extent that, as Alexander observed, "had they decided to withdraw altogether ... instead of us containing them, they would be containing us." Hitler's decision to try to hold Rome was therefore welcomed by the C.-in-C. 15th Army Group as a "positive assistance to me in carrying out the Combined Chiefs of Staff directive.... From the moment of that decision the German Army undertook a commitment as damaging and debilitating as Napoleon's Peninsular campaign."3

Historian Terry Copp offers the following analysis of this Allied assessment of the strategy in Italy at this time:

This well-reasoned analysis of strategic imperatives was not communicated to the troops who would have to “retain the initiative” in the cold, rainy conditions of an Italian winter. Their corps and divisional commanders were also in the dark. Originally, Alexander proposed strengthening Gen. Mark Clark’s 5th Army with divisions from 8th Army, allowing for an all-out offensive on Rome to be coupled with an amphibious landing at Anzio, southwest of Rome. This would have left Gen. Bernard Montgomery’s diminished forces with a minor holding role. However, Monty, who had previously argued that he lacked the logistical support and the necessary infantry replacements to mount a major offensive, insisted on retaining all his divisions so his army could “capture the high ground north of Pescara” and outflank the defenders of Rome before 5th Army launched its main attack.4

Considerations for further Allied amphibious operations, notably against the Balkans, were dropped in favour of continued offensive operations in Italy, on the Adriatic coast, with an aim of "containing and manhandling" German divisions that might otherwise be deployed to France and interfere with the upcoming invasion of North-west Europe, scheduled for the spring of 1944.

The capture of Rome was more than just symbolic for the Allies; all-weather airfields for use in the Combined Bomber Offensive could be found there, much closer to Germany than those in use at Foggia. There was an undeniable political appeal to the capital that both Germans and Allies recognized.

The Badoglio government, buttressed by a discredited royalty, had turned up in Brindisi and had offered co-belligerency in exchange for leniency. It was to the Allied interest to invest this shadow rule with some substance. Reinstatement of an Italian government on the banks of the Tiber could present a serious threat to the enemy's security by encouraging the Italians to forsake the new Mussolini regime. The prestige of that German-bolstered Republican Fascist administration would dwindle without Rome in its possession, for (as Mr. Churchill was to put it at the Cairo Conference), "whoever holds Rome holds the title deeds of Italy." Furthermore, if Italy's volte face could be made a reality, other countries, despairing to remain in the German orbit, might follow her example. Above all, the enemy's obvious determination to dispute strongly the possession of Rome presented the Allies with the opportunity which they continually sought -to draw him into battle and destroy his forces.5

Priority of shipping was being given to Operation OVERLORD, the codename for the invasion of western Europe, and Alexander complained later that in practical terms it would mean 80% of the Landing Ships, Tank (LST) and Landing Ships, Infantry (LSI) and about two-thirds of all other landing craft leaving the Mediterranean by early November 1943. Not only would it prevent amphibious operations of the kind that had proved beneficial in the final stages of the Sicily campaign (or indeed at Termoli) but also coastal maintenance made necessary by the enemy's insistence on destroying roads, bridges, rail lines and other infrastructure as he withdrew. The bomber units at Foggia had logistics requirements equivalent to the entire 8th Army, and competed for shipping space.

While Allied ground forces were at a disadvantage numerically in Italy, with only 11 divisions in the line in the last week of October 1943 versus 21 divisions (with 5 more in transit), this worked to the Allies' overall strategic goal of drawing forces south away from France. The German 10th Army, opposite the 15th Army Group, employed only 9 divisions, but formations in the north of Italy had sufficient lines of communication that they could easily and quickly be reinforced well beyond that number.

These two factors-the slowness of the Allied build-up and the superior strength of the enemy-formed the background to a discussion of future operations at a conference between Alexander and his Commanders-in-Chief at La Marsa, near Tunis, on 25 October. Two alternatives were open to the 15th Army Group: either to continue the fight to Rome, or call a halt. Alexander's appreciation pointed to the obvious choice. A stabilized front south of Rome cannot be accepted, for the Capital has a significance far greater than its strategic location and sufficient depth must be gained before the Foggia airfields and the port of Naples can be regarded as secure. This being so, the seizure of a firm defensive base north of Rome becomes imperative.

Yet the fact had to be faced that with the resources then available, the Allies would be committed to "a long and costly advance to Rome, a `slogging match' " which might result in an arrival north of the Italian capital in such a weakened state as to invite a successful counter-attack by the enemy. The Commanders-in-Chief, agreeing that the Allies must keep the initiative, accepted the plan which General Alexander outlined to capture Rome. Briefly, this was for the Eighth Army to launch a heavy attack across the Sangro River, thrust northward to gain control of the Rome-Pescara highway, and then turn south-westward into the mountains towards Avezzano so as to threaten the capital from the east. Timed with the Eighth Army's attack, the Fifth Army on the left would strike northward towards Rome. The operations of both armies would be assisted by amphibious operations on the enemy's exposed flanks: that of the Eighth Army to the extent of a brigade group, that of the Fifth Army by at least an infantry division and some armour.6

After urging by General Eisenhower, commanding Allied Force Headquarters in the Mediterranian, the Combined Chiefs of Staff relented and permitted 68 LSTs to remain in the Mediterranean until mid-December to facilitate a divisional amphibious assault. Still short vehicles, Alexander asked to extend the hold into January. Eisenhower ordered the Allied armies in Italy to capture Rome as quickly as possible on 8 November, and priority in shipping was to be determined by the requirements of that objective, notwithstanding the needs of the strategic air forces. Following the capture of Rome, there would be a strategic pause in operations.

The German defences were known as the Gaeta-Ortona line, or more familiarly to the Germans as the Bernhard Line. This line crossed the narrowest part of Italy, allowing the Germans to concentrate their forces over a distance of only 85 miles. The terrain was easily defensible, including several natural barries such as the Sangro River on the eastern slope of the Appenines, the Garigliano River on the western slope, and the Abruzzi Mountains in the centre.7

Alexander, commanding 15th Army Group, ordered detailed instructions to 5th U.S. Army and British 8th Army the same day. They were to break through the Bernhard Line in three phases; 8th Army to begin the main thrust after 20 November, gain the Rome-Pescara highway between the east coast and Collarmele, and then threaten the enemy rear through Avezzano. The 5th Army in phase two would drive up the Liri and Sacco Valleys to Frosinone, 50 miles south-west of Rome. The third phase was indefinite, due to the shipping problems, and was to be an amphibious landing south of Rome in the Alban Hills. A decision was not reached until the end of November when the LSTs were secured. Originally to be a one-division landing with armour support, it eventually became the full-scale corps landing at Anzio in early February.

The Winter Line

By mid-November, the U.S. 5th Army and British 8th Army were both drawn up to the Bernhard Line, and the Americans had begun attacking defences overlooking Highway 8 through the Mignano gap. Rugged terrain, tough defenders, poor weather, and supply problems all forced Army Group headquarters to call a halt to offensive operations and the 5th Army spent the last half of November in a defensive role. The Germans took advantage of the lull by developing strong defensive positions at Cassino and the Liri Valley.

To the east the British 8th Army reached the Sangro River having fought through the "Barbara" Line defences on the Trigno River, after which the Germans retreated to fresh positions in the Bernhard Line. In the centre, the British 13th Corps took the road junction at Isernia without resistance. The 5th Corps, operating on the coast with the 78th Division and 8th Indian Division, had advanced from the Termoli-Campobasso-Vinchiaturo line and arrived at the Bernhard Line between 8 and 19 November.

While units patrolled and probed forward over the Trigno, the 8th Army's commander, General Montgomery, planned how best to capture Avezzano, which he surmised would be the key to getting through the Bernhard Line and onto the Rome-Pescara road (in ancient times the Via Valeria, later Highway No. 5). Avezzano was surrounded by 9,000 foot peaks in the heart of the Appenine mountains.

On the Eighth Army's left flank two roads led north-westward from Isernia through defiles in the forbidding Abruzzi region to join Highway No. 5 east of Avezzano. Although a division might be put on each route, the hill ranges between would prevent mutual support, nor would either have room to manoeuvre. The approach of winter brought the prospect of roads blocked with snow, and the prevalence of cloud and mist in the mountains promised little opportunity for effective air support. The enemy was known to have constructed defence positions at the entrance to each defile, and even if these were overcome, extensive demolitions could be expected along the mountainous routes to the rear.

The only alternative was to smash the defences in the foothills of the coast region. In this area two roads led to the Via Valeria, one edging along the base of the Maiella mountain range through Guardiagrele to Chieti, the other following the coast through San Vito Chietino and Ortona to Pescara. This corridor-about fifteen miles wide-between the Apennines and the Adriatic, opposed immense obstacles to an advancing army. The coastal plateau, rising abruptly from the water's edge, was deeply scored by a series of streams and rivers which flowed north-eastward from the Apennines into the sea, transforming the intervening terrain into a corrugation of gully and ridge. Once the Eighth Army had overcome these difficulties and reached the Rome-Pescara lateral in the coastland area it would still have to turn south-westward through the defile at Popoli and fight up into the mountains. The plan had one saving feature, however. Should this turn inland be impossible of achievement, the drive to the north could be extended to threaten the port of Ancona-a worthwhile objective in itself.

General Montgomery decided to make his offensive on the right. Of the two available roads on this flank he selected the good coastal route, Highway No. 16, as his main axis. He ordered the 5th Corps, with the 78th and the 8th Indian Divisions, the 4th Armoured Brigade and the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade (which moved over from the 13th Corps on 15 November), to concentrate on a narrow front and deliver the main assault, the target date for which was to be 20 November. Lieut.-General Sir Bernard C. Freyberg's experienced 2nd New Zealand Division, which had been brought from Africa to rejoin the Eighth Army, was to relieve the Indian Division on the 5th Corps' left flank and mount a strong attack to threaten the inland road through Guardiagrele.8

An elaborate deception scheme accompanied the offensive, to give the impression the attack would come through the mountains rather than from 5th Corps on the coast. The concentration on the right of the line had to be concealed, and a strong threat from the 13th Corps in the centre of the line presented, in particular against Castel di Sangro and Alfedena. These towns were located on the upper reaches of the Sangro River, commanding roads leading north-west to Avezzano. False materiel dumps were built in the maintenance area of the 13th Corps and reinforcement troops were moved towards the mountains during daylight hours, and to the coast at night. The arrival of the New Zealanders was masked by active patrolling by the Indian Division, and wireless messages sent in Urdu were intended to convey an impression that the Indian Division was to be a component of 13th Corps. To give the false impression that another landing such as happened at Termoli, the Royal Navy and 1st Airborne Division faked preparations for another landing on the coast, hoping to persuade the Germans to spread their forces to cover such a move and needlessly defend the Pescara region.

The 1st Canadian Division patrolled the 5th Division's flank while the 13th Corps brought its forces level with the Bernhard Line. German engineers had been especially active in the area the 5th Division was operating in, blowing up every bridge, cratering roads and smashing culverts. Heavy rainfall kept rivers high and made diversions on roadways treacherous and hard to maintain. It was a peek at what was to come in the Moro River campaign.

The Sangro

See also main articles on The Sangro and Castel di Sangro

November brought with it the winter rains, and the 1st Division moved to the coast, save the 3rd Brigade. The 3rd Brigade went into action on the Sangro River with the task of providing a deception that the Division was operating in the area. Diversionary actions were fought and in the course of their work, the West Nova Scotia Regiment fought against a well-entrenched platoon of German paratroopers at Castel di Sangro, ensconced behind four-foot thick stone walls. The last inland battles of the Division in 1943 ended at the close of November as the 3rd Brigade returned to the Division at the end of the month, and the division as a whole embarked on the Moro River campaign.

The Moro River

See also main articles on The Moro and San Leonardo

With German forces now entrenched in the Winterstellung, consisting of the Bernhard and Gustav Lines, offensives were aimed at piercing these positions. Both Allied armies in Italy, the U.S. 5th and British 8th, made the attempt with little success. While the 5th Army managed to get across the Volturno River on the western side of the peninsula, the poor weather closed down operations after a month. The 8th Army started its drive soon after, attacking at the Sangro on 20 November while the 5th Army resumed its offensive 10 days later, in addition to preparing for amphibious operations south of Rome that eventually became the landings at Anzio in February.

The British offensive was headed by a new corps, V Corps, and it took only two days for the 78th Division to be thrown back across the Sangro River by German counter-attacks. The heavy rains flooded the Sangro, and it took several days to get another bridgehead, then with heavy artillery support, the Bernhard Line was finally cracked by 1 December. For the Germans in Italy, however, there was always another river or line of mountains to pull back to and defend behind. This time it was the Moro. Despite two more weeks of heavy fighting, the New Zealanders under General Montgomery's command failed to take Orsogna. On the morning of 4 December, the V Corps commander signalled the 1st Canadian Infantry Division's commander to get over Moro as quickly as possible.9

The divisional commander chose to cross the Moro at three points: the coastal road (Highway 16), at San Leonardo, and at Villa Rogatti. The crossings were to be made on a four-mile wide front. The division was then to advance to the intermediate objective of the Orsogna-Ortona road junction, code named CIDER. Highway 16 was assigned to the 1st Brigade and the latter two crossings to the 2nd Brigade, the crossings to be made in silence without preparatory fire on the night of 5-6 December.

The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment managed a shaky bridgehead that was driven back, and The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada suffered the same fate at San Leonardo. Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry managed to get over an unguarded ford at Villa Rogatti, and with help from the 44th Royal Tank Regiment beat off enemy counter-attacks. A second attempt by the Hastings managed a tenuous bridgehead; unable to get tank support over the river, they man-handled two of their 6-pounder anti-tank guns across just in time to thwart an enemy tank attack, and held on through a nervous night of enemy fire.

Engineer reports indicated bridging would not be possible at either site, and he turned the Villa Rogatti bridgehead over to 8th Indian Division. The Canadian engineers had been wrong, a rare display of error, and 8th Division quickly had bridges over the Moro. It was too late for the Canadians to benefit, as the emphasis had shifted to the coast and a two-phase attack, and on the afternoon of 8 December, the RCR attacked out the Hastings' bridgehead towards San Leonardo. The 48th Highlanders attacked across the Moro and took La Torre, and the Seaforths got over the river with the help of Canadian engineers to attack San Leonardo.

The RCR's attack had been a difficult one, in the face of heavy mortar fire and into the teeth of a German battalion, two companies being met by a co-ordinated arms counter-attack. One company was left in a position known as "Slaughterhouse Hill" when the enemy attacked again. Lieutenant Mitch Sterlin's platoon held out against long odds, and the Hastings defended their bridgehead with equal vigour. The German 90th Panzergrenadier Division relinquished the line of the Moro and pulled back to new defensive positions.10

The Gully

See also main articles on The Gully and Casa Berardi

South of, and parallel to, the Ortona-Orsogna lateral road was a deep, narrow ravine that came to be called simply The Gully, supported on its south side by a vine-covered slope known as Vino Ridge. On the morning of 10 December The Loyal Edmonton Regiment launched an attack from San Leonardo as part of the 2nd Brigade's assault on the CEDAR crossroad on the other side of these features. By afternoon, the Eddies were reporting CIDER was in Canadian hands, but they had lost their way in the tangle of vines, and the Patricias were shot up after being ordered to pass through onto the heights of Vino Ridge. The brigade attacked again the next day, and despite assaults by all three battalions, the attack failed.

The 3rd Brigade, weary from its fight on the Sangro, were called in. The West Nova Scotia Regiment was sent at Casa Berardi, a simple 3-story farmhouse to the west of CIDER, but only got to the edge of The Gully before digging in for the night. They were counter-attacked and lost 60 men, including the Commanding Officer. CIDER was in German hands as 12 December drew to a close.

The Carleton and York Regiment attacked on 13 December with heavy artillery support, but were halted with a company on the wrong side of The Gully. They were shot up, and the remnants forced to surrender. A start line was cleared for the Royal 22e Régiment to attack Casa Berardi as the 90th Panzergrenadiers were relieved by the 1st German Parachute Division. The Van Doos went in at dawn on 14 December with tanks of the Ontario Regiment. Despite a lost company and severe losses, the Van Doos pressed the attack and took the objective. Company commander Captain Paul Triquet was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his leadership in the battle.

Several attempts to link up the Canadian battalions and cross the Gully were defeated, and the divisional commander came under intense pressure from V Corps and 8th Army to move onto Ortona. Another plan was drawn up, in two phases, to be executed by the 1st Brigade. MORNING GLORY would see the 48th Highlanders cross The Gully and take Villa Grande, while in ORANGE BLOSSOM the RCR would pass through and finally seize CIDER crossroads. The first phase went ahead on the morning of 18 December, and the 48th Highlanders managed to follow a barrage, with tank support, into Villa Grande in less than 20 minutes at a cost of 25 men.

ORANGE BLOSSOM suffered from being done not with pre-registered artillery fire, as MORNING GLORY had been, but from predicted fire, shooting from maps with a 500-yard error in the grid. Canadian shells rained down on Canadian infantry just before noon and German machine guns added to the carnage in the lead companies, which lost every officer, including Mitch Sterlin. With no time for rest, the RCR went into the attack again the next morning, this time behind pre-registered fire, and on 19 December CIDER was taken by The Royal Canadian Regiment with tanks of The Three Rivers Regiment.11

Ortona

See also main article on Ortona

Ortona in 1943 was a tiny port city dominated by an ancient cathedral and cliff-top castle. The Germans were well-prepared to defend the city, having carried out extensive demolitions. For their part, the Canadians had some practice in urban warfare, having trained with units of the British Home Guard during the long months of training in the United Kingdom. The result was two battalions of German paratroopers facing off against and The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, supported by tanks of The Three Rivers Regiment and reinforced by The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. The battle raged for over a week, often described - in contemporary reports, and in histories ever since - as a Stalingrad in miniature. The Germans pulled out on the night of 27-28 December leaving behind 100 dead in the rubble and the Seaforths and Edmontons thoroughly mauled.

Aftermath

See also main articles on San Nicola-San Tommaso and Point 59/Torre Mucchia

While the fighting raged in Ortona, the 1st Brigade attempted to cut off the Germans in the city with a flanking move to the west. The Hastings and Prince Edward attempted to create a firm base for an attack on San Nicola and San Tommasso on 23 December, were stopped, but managed to surge ahead with tank support, though it took the cover of darkness that night to secure a firm footing for the 48th Highlanders. The RCR, still under-strength, tried to pass through after dawn, but couldn't pass through. Fighting raged over Christmas, and it took several days for the 48th Highlanders to get into San Nicola and San Tommasso. The 3rd Brigade fought through onto the high ground to the north, the Royal 22e Régiment taking three attempts to gain the heights and the Carleton and York engaging in desperate fighting at Point 59. The enemy's withdrawal from Ortona proper left Point 59 in Canadian hands as well.

In all, the division had suffered 2,400 battle casualties and 1,600 more losses to illness. General Montgomery had promised a "Colossal Crack" in November, however, as on historian noted:

Of all five divisions which had launched Montgomery's "colossal crack" in November only the Canadians had succeeded. The 78th stalled on the Sangro, the 2nd New Zealand and 8th Indian failed at Orsogna and the 5th British made only limited gains. The Canadians alone, after a terrible fight, emerged triumphant at Ortona.12

Battle Honours

The following Battle Honours were granted to Canadian units for this phase of the Italian Campaign:

Notes

  1. McKay, Donald A. Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 pp.78-79

  2. Dancocks, Daniel G. D-Day Dodgers: The Canadians in Italy 1943-1945 (McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, ON, 1991) ISBN 0771025440 p.151

  3. Nicholson, Gerald The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1957), p.270

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

  5. Nicholson, Ibid, p.271

  6. Ibid, p.273

  7. Nicholson, G.W.L. The Gunners of Canada: The History of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery Volume II 1919-1967 (Royal Canadian Artillery Association, 1972) p.164

  8. Ibid, pp.275-276

  9. Dancocks, Ibid, p.153

  10. McKay, Ibid, pp.81-82

  11. Ibid, pp.82-84

  12. Ibid, p.86


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