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

 

Southern France

 

 

The campaign in Southern France was a not uncontroversial phase of the North-west Europe campaign. Canadian participation was minimal, and only one unit (the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion, the nation national component of the bi-national First Special Service Force) received a battle honour for fighting there. 

Background

The failure of the 15th Army Group (that is to say, all Allied forces in Italy, consisting of the British 8th Army and U.S. 5th Army) to evict the Germans from their Winter Line by 1 January 1944 caused concern not only in the Mediterranean, but interfered with the grand strategy of the war as planned by the major powers at conferences in Casablanca (January 1943), Quebec (August 1943) and Cairo (November 1943).At Quebec, the Combined Chiefs of Staff proposed that Allied Forces in the Mediterranean could best support the landings in France (Operation OVERLORD) by initiating offensive operations against southern France. At Cairo, a major assault of no less than two divisions was agreed to, in the same timeframe as OVERLORD, to be designated Operation ANVIL.

At the Tehran Conference (November-December 1943), the decision was agreed to in consultation with the Soviet Union. Priority was to be given to ANVIL and OVERLORD, with target dates of May 1944. Planning began for the invasion of Southern France on 6 December 1943 and General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson assumed control of the planning in January, succeeding General Eisenhower as Allied Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Theatre (redesignated on 9 March 1944 Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theatre). The U.S. 7th Army, inactive since the conclusion of the Sicily campaign, took over detailed planning.1

A major assumption of the planning for ANVIL was that the Germans would have withdrawn or been forced back to the line of prepared defences running from Pisa-Rimini, where only moderate Allied forces might be used to hold the Germans in place, freeing resources for use elsewhere. Fighting on the Adriatic (such as at Orsogna and Ortona) and south of Cassino were testimony to the unlikeliness of this condition being fulfilled. The amphibious assault at Anzio was planned at Christmas, 1943 in the belief that the capture of Rome would spur German retirement northward.

It was hoped that such an operation would turn the enemy's flank and enforce his withdrawal north of Rome, for, as Mr. Churchill cabled to Mr. Attlee from the meeting: "We cannot leave the Rome situation to stagnate and fester for three months without crippling amalgamation of `Anvil' and thus hampering `Overlord'. We cannot go to other tasks and leave this unfinished job behind us." As we have seen, the Anzio landings produced unexpectedly strong German reaction. "None of us", writes General Wilson, "had sufficiently realized the strength of political and prestige considerations which would induce the enemy to reinforce his front south of Rome up to seventeen divisions to seal off the bridgehead and even to expend much of his fighting strength in counter-attacks to drive us into the sea. These bold and desperate measures stopped the Fifth Army's advance on both its fronts, and brought a reconsideration of the "Anvil" proposal. On 18 February, at a meeting of General Wilson with his Commanders-in-Chief at Caserta, it was agreed that overriding priority must be given to linking up the bridgehead with the main effort and subsequently capturing Rome; the projected operation against Southern France (which would eventually build up to ten divisions) should be cancelled. The Supreme Commander communicated these recommendations to the Combined Chiefs of Staff on 22 February, and asked for a fresh directive "to conduct operations with the object of containing the maximum number of German troops in South Europe", using the forces earmarked for "Anvil". The request was promptly met. On the 26th General Wilson received a new directive, approved by the President and the Prime Minister, which granted the Italian campaign "overriding priority over all existing and future operations in the Mediterranean" and gave it "first call on all resources, land, sea and air" within the theatre. The whole situation would be reviewed in a month's time."Anvil" was postponed. The Combined Chiefs considered that to cancel the operation altogether would be strategically unsound and contrary to the decisions reached at Teheran. On 22 March, after receiving from General Wilson a further appreciation of the Italian situation, the British Chiefs of Staff proposed that the assault landing in Southern France "should be cancelled as an operation but retained as a threat." The American Chiefs of Staff concurred on 19 April.

Planning for an all-out spring offensive in Italy was conducted in Italy at the end of February 1944, with the bulk of the Allied force to be concentrated west of the Appenines. The 5th Army was to be reduced to a sector on the seaward flank, as far inland as the Liri River and including the Anzio bridgehead, while the 8th Army’s main force transferred inland from the Adriatic coast to a narrow sector opposite Cassino and the entrance to the Liri Valley. The two armies maintained a national character to ease logistical burdens, with U.S. and U.S.-equipped French formations retained by the 5th Army and British-equipped divisions (including Canadian, Indian, and Polish forces) returning to the 8th Army.

The intention of the Army Group commander was to secure the Anzio bridgehead, secure the Cassino spur and a crossing over the Rapido River, then regroup for a major assault through the Liri Valley in order to link up with the forces in the Anzio bridgehead and precipitate the capture of Rome. On 15 March 1944 the New Zealand Corps therefore attempted once again to take Cassino, lying in ruins at the foot of Monte Cassino. Unsuccessful attacks ended on 25 March, bringing the First Battle of Cassino to a close. The battle had raged since the II U.S. Corps first tried to take Cassino on 2 February, followed by an attempt by the New Zealand Corps on 16 February, the period when the famous Abbey on the crest of the mountain was levelled by artillery and aerial bombardment. At the same time, the third major German attack on the Anzio beachhead ran out of steam on 3 March 1944 and conditions along the front of the bridgehead passed into one of active defence.

The change in the boundary between the Fifth and Eighth Armies came into effect on 26 March, and thereafter regrouping went steadily forward. The vast undertaking could not be unduly hurried, for the troops in both armies, exhausted with the winter campaign, had to be rested, re-equipped and reinforced. The tentative date for the offensive was 10 May, a timing calculated to ensure the best support being given to the Normandy invasion. The schedule of reliefs and moves was completed as planned and the eve of the attack found all formations ready in their new positions. The Fifth Army was holding a sixteen-mile front from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Liri River with two corps-the United. States 2nd Corps (Major General Geoffrey T. Keyes) on the coastal flank and the Corps Expeditionnaire Francais (General of the Army Alphonse Juin) in the mountainous region on the right. The Eighth Army's sector extended for 55 miles from the American right boundary to the Maiella Mountains, but its centre of gravity was well to the left. From the Liri to the southern edge of Cassino was the 13th Corps, with four divisions and an armoured brigade (the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade); on its immediate right, ready for the attack on Cassino, was the 2nd Polish Corps, with two divisions and an armoured brigade. In reserve behind the 13th Corps the 1st Canadian Corps, comprising the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, the 5th Canadian Armoured Division and the British 25th Tank Brigade, brought to a total of eight divisions and three brigades the striking force concentrated on a short ten-mile front. The Eighth Army's right flank in the mountainous centre of the peninsula was held by the 10th Corps, and in the dormant Adriatic sector was the 5th Corps, placed directly under the command of General Alexander's headquarters.2

Operation ANVIL Approved

After the Allied successes in the Liri Valley and the breakout from Anzio, culminating in the capture of Rome on 4 June 1944, General Alexander (commanding the 15th Army Group) was empowered to set distant objectives for the forces in Italy, setting sights as far north as Florence-Bibbiena-Arezzo for the 8th Army and Pisa-Lucca-Pistoia for the 5th Army, approving "extreme risks" for the securing of the areas in the region of the middle and upper Arno and Tuscany, deemed vital, with all speed before the Germans could reorganize or reinforce. Reorganization of both armies followed, and Allied pressure on the Germans produced some measure of success. Strategically, however, the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean (General Wilson) and the Commander-in-Chief of forces in theatre lost the battle to retain forces just when they were needed most. Despite given an overriding priority on resources in February, and the cancellation of ANVIL in April in order not to interfere with the offensive operations in Italy, plans began to change.

On 22 May, General Wilson warned Alexander of his intention to mount an amphibious operation no later than mid-September, either in direct support of the ongoing struggle north up the Italian mainland, in southern France, or even elsewhere.

He gave Alexander a tentative schedule of dates for the release to A.F.H.Q. of the necessary formations for this undertaking. For the next six weeks, while the Combined Chiefs strove to reconcile British and American views on "Anvil", the C.-in-C. had to carry on without knowing whether he was to lose four French and three American divisions. "This uncertainty", he writes, "was a very great handicap to our planning, and its psychological effect on the troops expecting to be withdrawn, especially the French, was undoubtedly serious." In an appreciation to General Wilson on 7 June Alexander pointed out two alternative courses that he might take. After breaking the Pisa-Rimini line, he could either bring his offensive to a halt and so free resources for operations elsewhere, or if permitted to retain all the forces which he then had in Italy, he could carry the offensive into the Po Valley and form there a base for an advance into either France or Austria. He warmly recommended the second as the course likely to achieve his object of completing the destruction of the German armed forces in Italy and rendering the greatest possible assistance to the invasion of North-West Europe. "I have now two highly organised and skilful Armies, capable of carrying out large scale attacks and mobile operations in the closest co-operation . . . ", he wrote. "Neither the Apennines nor even the Alps should prove a serious obstacle to their enthusiasm and skill."

On 14 June the Combined Chiefs of Staff notified General Wilson of their decision that an amphibious operation on the scale planned for "Anvil" would be launched-either against Southern France, Western France or at the head of the Adriatic; General Alexander was immediately instructed to begin withdrawing from action the 6th U.S. Corps Headquarters and the divisions already earmarked for inclusion in the Seventh Army. Wilson strongly urged adoption of the third alternative proposed by the Combined Chiefs. He contended that an advance across the Po Valley and through the Ljubljana Gap into Austria, with the assistance of an amphibious operation against Trieste, would make the best contribution to the success of General Eisenhower's operations in the west. The claims of "Anvil", however, were not to be denied. General Marshall had already pointed out to General Wilson that the capture of Marseilles would provide an additional major port through which some 40 or 50 divisions from the United States, all of them ready for action, might be introduced into France. General Eisenhower was firm in his desire for the operation against Southern France, and on 2 July Wilson received a directive from the Combined Chiefs of Staff that the assault was to be made on 15 August.3

The British desire to retain the amphibious resources in Italy was in the end over-ruled; Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who attempted at the eleventh hour to move the landings to Brittany having no apparent military planning to back the suggestion) personally observed the landings east of Toulon in Southern France and wrote to His Majesty King George V:

There is no doubt that Eisenhower's operations made a great diversion. The fact that this is the precise opposite of what was intended need not be stressed at the present time.4

The landings were a success, given that much German strength in southern France had long before been redeployed to combat the Allied landings in Normandy. Nonetheless, the operations there were given priority over those in Italy, with a build-up of 10 divisions, simultaneous to Alexander's mission, unchanged, of the destruction of German forces on the Italian mainland. The Allied Combined Chiefs had hoped that continued pressure in Italy combined with the ANVIL landings would precipitate German withdrawals to north-west Italy and eliminate the need for further costly offensives.

"Whatever value the invasion of Southern France may have had as a contribution to operations in North-western Europe", Alexander was later to declare, "its effect on the Italian campaign was disastrous. The Allied Armies in full pursuit of a beaten enemy were called off from the chase, Kesselring was given a breathing space to reorganize his scattered forces and I was left with insufficient strength to break through the barrier of the Apennines." Almost a full year after the landings in Sicily the Italian campaign had reached its climax. "From the beginning", observed the C.-in-C., "both Germans and Allies regarded Italy as a secondary theatre and looked for the main decision to be given on either the Eastern or Western front." Henceforth Allied commanders in Italy were to feel increasingly the effects of this subordination. But the main intention, to bring to battle the maximum number of German troops, never varied, and in the ten months of fighting that remained this object was relentlessly pursued.5

The 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion in Southern France

After the capture of Rome, the First Special Service Force left the U.S. 5th Army to prepare for its role in Operation ANVIL - which in early July was renamed Operation DRAGOON to provide greater security. Resting 12 miles southeast of Rome on the shore of Lake Albano only briefly, the Force then trained for six weeks at the south end of the Gulf of Salerno in preparation for its role in DRAGOON, culminating in a rehearsal combined with French commandos on the Pontine Islands, 60 miles off of Naples. On 11 August 1944 the Force departed Italy for staging areas in Corsica.

DRAGOON had been in the detailed planning phase since early March. Under the code-name "Force 163", the U.S. 7th Army Headquarters designed an assault landing east of Marseilles by the U.S. 6th Corps, comprising the American 3rd, 36th and 45th Divisions). French Commandos, naval and air support would support the landings, and the French 2nd Corps (whose divisions formerly made up the Corps Expeditionnaire Francais) was to immediately follow up the landings, then build up once ashore to comprise "Army B" (renamed in September to become the 1st French Army).

Prior to the 6th Corps' landings the First Special Service Force, operating directly under the Seventh Army, was to remove a threat to the left flank by capturing the German-held islands of Levant and Port Cros, the two easternmost of the Iles d'Hyeres, seven miles off the French coast The main amphibious assault was delivered at 8:00 a.m. on 15 August by the three American divisions on a fifteen-mile front between Toulon and Cannes, the landings being watched by Mr. Churchill from the deck of a British destroyer. Earlier that morning more than 5000 troops of a combined British-American Airborne Task Force had dropped by parachute some ten miles inland to block the enemy's reinforcement routes from the interior. Extensive glider-landings followed; in all 9000 airborne personnel were carried over from the Rome airfields into the bridgehead.


The Airborne Task Force was commanded by Major-General Robert T. Frederick, newly promoted out of his command of the First Special Service Force. The FSSF was not idle on 15 August, having sailed from Corsica just before noon on 14 August aboard H.M.C.S. Prince Henry, H.M.S. Prince Baudouin and five transport destroyers, with an escort of five U.S. Navy torpedo boats. They reached station just before midnight, close to three miles south of the Hyeres. The 15th of August was the first anniversary of the FSSF's first operation in the Aleutians, and they paddled ashore in rubber dinghies in the early hours, finding only light resistance on Levant. The 2nd and 3rd Regiments beached on the east shore, scaled 80-foot cliffs, then overran five-mile long island, finding a battery on the eastern shore made of wooden guns and manned by dummies. Force Headquarters landed on the island before the end of the day.

A mile west, the 1st Regiment (two of the Force's three Regiments were commanded in this period by Canadians, the 1st and the 3rd) resistance was harder to overcome on the smaller island of Port Cros. The eastern half of the island was easily occupied, but a group of fortifications in the port area, including a Napoleonic emplacement known as Fort de l'Eminence, proved formidable. Salvoes of 8-inch naval gunfire and rockets from air support were unable to neutralize the fort. With no heavy bomber support, it was not until afternoon on 17 August when H.M.S. Ramillies was able to take station and turn her 15-inch guns onto the fort. Canadian casualties at Levant and Port Cros had totalled 10 killed and 32 wounded.

After relief by French garrison troops, the FSSF was transported to the French mainland to re-enter operations to the west of Cannes, replacing the 2nd Parachute Brigade (the British component of the 1st Airborne Task Force). The main French and American forces (on 16 September officially becoming the 6th Army Group) were by now driving the German 19th Army north through the Rhone valley while the three Regiments of the FSSF embarked on a series of rapid movements up the Riviera coast, covering a distance of 45 miles in a period of three weeks and arriving almost on the Italian border.

The advance was conducted on foot, facing light opposition on a ten-mile wide front, "each day bringing its quota of two or three towns liberated, a number of machine-gun positions destroyed, and a score or so of prisoners captured." The toughest action occurred on 25 August at Villeneuve Loubet on the Loup River, 10 miles east of Cannes, and a hot pursuit continued the Force crossing the Val on the 30th without incident after seizing an inn east of the Loup that had housed the G.O.C. of the enemy's 148th Division and staff. Once across the Val, the coastal plain gave way to mountains on the other side of Nice, and resistance again stiffened. Flanking units from the First Airborne Task Force, to whom the FSSF reported, were relieved. On 3 September the 2nd Regiment replaced the 509th Parachute Infantry west of Monaco (the principality itself was placed out of bounds) and the coastal sector became the responsibility of Colonel Walker's FSSF. On 6 September, Force patrols, just two miles from the Italian border, found Menton empty, and the Force moved into positions on 9 September from which they would not move for seven weeks.

The German Nineteenth Army succeeded in withdrawing in comparatively good order up the Rhone Valley. On 11 September Patch's troops met Patton's, and the two fronts were merged. On 15 September General Eisenhower took the force from the Mediterranean under his command, and the 6th Army Group (General Devers) became operational, taking over the southern front. General de Lattre de Tassigny's First French Army (so designated from 25 September) operated in this army group. On 15 September also the harbour of Marseilles was opened to large ships and became available for the function for which Eisenhower had required it. 205 But by that time his most urgent need was port facilities in the north.6

The German 34th Division, replacing the 148th, was well-entrenched in what was known as the Little Maginot Line, a series of fortifications that had served France well against the Italian invasion in 1940. The FSSF reduced the forts one by one with the aid of naval gunfire from American destroyers and the French battleship Lorraine. Fort Castillon put up an especially prolonged fight, holding out to the end of October until the garrison was able to withdraw into Italy.

By the time the Little Maginot forts were reduced, the 6th Army Group had advanced well to the north and the Vosges Mountains, preparing to break into the Belfort Gap and move on the Rhine River. The forces left behind on the Mediterranean coast found themselves with little to do, exposed in mountainous terrain in cool, wet weather unlike their notions of the "sunny Riviera." On 28 November the Force was relieved by the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Major-General Frederick's 1st Airborne Task Force had been disbanded, its paratroops broken up to reinforce other formations within the 1st Allied Airborne Army. There was little requirement for highly trained specialists, and while General Marshall, the U.S. Army's Chief of Staff, had pointed out the FSSF's winter training at the Quebec Conference, no further missions materialized for the Force in that role.

As its name indicates, the Force was a highly specialized assault team, even though, as we have seen, it had fought for considerable periods as normal infantry. That it should continue to be employed in a general role was inevitably regarded by many as a military waste. As early as January 1944, when the provision of suitably trained reinforcements was creating a difficult problem in Ottawa, the withdrawal of the Canadian component had been seriously considered on- both sides of the Atlantic. The Canadian viewpoint was that the special type of training which the Canadian personnel had received could "be used to better advantage for the common cause in prospective operations being planned for the forces in the United Kingdom." A Canadian withdrawal, however, would have meant breaking up the Force, which was then fighting in the Anzio bridgehead. Neither the Combined Chiefs of Staff nor the Commanders in the Mediterranean favoured such a course. Accordingly arrangements were made to reinforce both the Canadian and United States elements with non-parachutists. By October, however, the feeling in Ottawa had grown that "the continued employment of this Special Force on operations detached from those upon which the main forces of the Canadian Army were employed constituted a dispersion of our forces for which there is no special necessity." When, therefore, the Department of National Defence learned from Washington that SHAEF recommended the disbandment of the First Special Service Force, it immediately gave its approval.7

The Canadian members of the Force participated in a final parade on 5 December and thereafter departed Marseilles for Italy having served on operations in France for 107 days. In that time, 30 Canadians had been killed, 156 wounded, and 4 taken prisoner. The surviving Forcemen were accepted back into the Canadian Army at Avellino, either as infantry reinforcements for 1st Canadian Corps, or, if parachute trained (about two-thirds of the officers and 50% of the other ranks), sailing immediately for the United Kingdom to join the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

Battle Honours

 

The following Canadian unit was awarded the Battle Honour "Southern France" for participation in these actions:

  • 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion (First Special Service Force)

Notes

  1. Nicholson, Gerald Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume II: The Canadians in Italy (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1957) p.387

  2. Ibid, pp.389-390

  3. Ibid, pp.463-464

  4. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume III: The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-west Europe 1944-45 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1960) p.141

  5. Nicholson, Ibid, pp.464-465

  6. Stacey, Ibid, p.269

  7. Nicholson, Ibid, pp.670-671


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