Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War
The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945
Lt.-Col. G.W.L. Nicholson
Deputy Director, Historical Section, General StaffMaps drawn by
Major C.C.J. Bond
Published by Authority of the Minister of National Defence
Edmond Cloutier, C.M.G., O.A., D.S.P., Ottawa, 1956
Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery
©Crown Copyrights reserved
In the writing of this volume the author has been given full access to relevant official documents in possession of the Department of National Defence; but the inferences drawn and the opinions expressed are those of the author himself, and the Department is in no way responsible for his reading or presentation of the facts as stated.
From a painting by Major C. F. Comfort
Troops of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade fight forward through a rubble-filled street towards the Church of San Tommaso, December 1943.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter Page Foreword xii Author's Preface xiii I. THE ALLIED DECISION TO INVADE SICILY The Invitation for Canadian Participation in the Mediterranean Theatre 3 The Casablanca Conference 4 Early Planning for Operation "Husky" 9 The Second Outline Plan 15 Further Revision of the Plan 16 The Final Plan of Attack 19 The Background to Canadian Participation 20 II. THE 1st DIVISION GOES TO THE MEDITERRANEAN After Long Waiting 27 The 1st Division "Takes Over" 28 Canadian Planning Begins 29 Training for the Assault 32 Administrative Preparations 34 The Convoy Programme 39 Embarkation and Sailing 41 The Voyage to Sicily 43 In Mediterranean Waters 45 III. THE INVASION OF SICILY, 10 JULY 1943 Sicily and its People 50 The Defences of the Island 53 The German Garrison 58 The Allied Pattern of Assault 62 The Role of the 1st Canadian Division 65 The Canadian Landings and the Capture of the First Objectives 67 How Canada Learned the News 73 Early Allied Successes 75 The Advance Inland 78 IV. THE FIRST FIGHTING IN THE SICILIAN HILLS, 14-22 JULY 1943 Plans for Further Action 85 The First Encounter with the Germans-Grammichele, 15 July 88 Piazza Armerina, 16 July 93 The Fighting at Grottacalda and Valguarnera, 17-18 July 96 The By-Passing of Enna 100 The 1st Brigade Takes Assoro, 20-22 July 103 The Capture of Leonforte by the 2nd Brigade, 21-22 July 107 V. THE BEGINNING OF THE EASTWARD DRIVE, 23-31 JULY 1943 The Conquest of Western Sicily 113 Reinforcing the German Garrison 115 The Eighth Army's Change of Plan 118 The Opening of the Struggle for Agira, 23 July 120 The Reverse at Nissoria, 24-25 July 122 The Winning of "Lion" and "Tiger" Ridges, 26 July 127 The Capture of "Grizzly" and the Entry into Agira, 27-28 July 131 The 3rd Brigade in the Dittaino Valley 137 Preliminaries to Operation "Hardgate"— The Catenanuova Bridgehead, 29-30 July 139 VI. FINAL STAGES OF THE SICILIAN CAMPAIGN, 31 JULY-17 AUGUST 1943 31 JULY-17 AUGUST 1943 The Capture of Regalbuto, 31 July-2 August 146 The Fighting North of the Salso-Hill 736, 2-5 August 153 The Thrust Eastward from the Troina, 5 August 157 Mount Revisotto and Mount Seggio, 5-6 August 162 The Halt at the Simeto 164 The Army Tank Brigade's Part in "Husky" 166 The German Retreat from Sicily 168 A Respite from Combat 176 VII. THE INVASION OF THE ITALIAN MAINLAND, 3 SEPTEMBER 1943 Early Proposals for Post-Sicilian Operations 180 The Decision to Mount Operation "Baytown" 186 Planning for "Baytown" 189 Enemy Dispositions in Italy 192 Prelude to Invasion 198 The Assault Across the Strait, 3 September 202 Over the Aspromonte, 4-8 September 206 VIII. FROM CALABRIA TO THE FOGGIA PLAIN, SEPTEMBER 1943 The Capitulation of Italy 213 The Battle of Salerno, 9-16 September 217 The Canadian Advance up the East Coast 220 The Drive to Potenza, 17-20 September 224 Patrols to the Ofanto 229 IX. THE FORTORE AND BIFERNO RIVERS, OCTOBER 1943 The Canadians Move Westward from Foggia 234 The 1st Brigade's Advance from Motta to the Fortore, 2-6 October 238 The Capture of Gambatesa by the 3rd Brigade, 7-8 October 241 The 2nd Brigade's Fighting on the Left Flank, 6-12 October 244 The Occupation of Campobasso, 13-14 October 247 The Three Rivers Regiment at Termoli, 5-6 October 251 Clearing the Right Bank of the Upper Biferno, 15-24 October 255 The Fighting West of the Biferno 258 The German Plans for the Winter Campaign 264 X. THE UPPER SANGRO DIVERSION AND THE BATTLE OF THE MORO RIVER, NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 1943 MORO RIVER, NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 1943 The Allied Decision to Take Rome 270 The Allied Armies Reach 'the Winter Line 274 The 3rd Brigade's Demonstration on the Upper Sangro, 16-30 November 277 The Fighting for Point 1069, 23-24 November 282 The Eighth Army Breaks the Bernhard Line 288 The 1st Canadian Division at the Moro River 289 The First Crossings and the Capture of Villa Rogatti, 6 December 292 The Battle for San Leonardo, 8-9 December 298 XI. ORTONA, DECEMBER 1943 The Advance from the Moro, 10-11 December 304 The Fight for the Gully 306 Casa Berardi, 13-15 December 310 The Capture of "Cider" Crossroads, 18-19 December 315 The Approach to Ortona, 20 December 321 The 2nd Brigade's Struggle in the Streets 324 Christmas Day-and the End of the Battle 329 Clearing to the Riccio, 22 December-4 January 333 The Offensive is Abandoned 338 XII. THE ORTONA SALIENT, JANUARY-APRIL 1944 The Background of Operation "Timberwolf" 340 Planning for the Movement 344 The 1st Canadian Corps Arrives in Italy 351 Equipping the 5th Armoured Division 355 Vehicles and Guns for the Corps Troops 359 The "Arielli Show", 17 January 362 The Anzio Landings and the German Reaction 372 The Attack Along the Villa Grande-Tollo Road, 30-31 January 375 "The Adriatic Barricade" 379 XIII. THE BATTLE FOR ROME BEGINS, MAY 1944 Allied Plans for the Spring Offensive 387 Outwitting the Enemy 391 The German Defences South of Rome 394 The Assault of the Gustav Line, 11 May 399 The Advance to the Hitler Line, 16-19 May 407 Preliminaries to Operation "Chesterfield" 411 The Launching of the Assault, 23 May 417 The Hitler Line is Breached 420 XIV. THE END OF THE BATTLE FOR ROME, 24 MAY-4 JUNE 1944 The Exploitation by the 5th Canadian Armoured Division 427 The Battle at the Melfa, 24-25 May 430 The Enemy's Plans for Retreat 436 Bridgeheads Over the Liri, 26-28 May 439 Up the Sacco Valley to Frosinone, 29-31 May 442 The Final Phase 447 The First Special Service Force in Italy 453 XV. THE ADVANCE TO FLORENCE, JUNE-AUGUST 1944 Enemy Intentions After the Fall of Rome 458 "Anvil" is Given Priority 462 Canadian Tanks at the Trasimene Line, 21-28 June 465 The Advance to the Arezzo Line, 29 June-16 July 470 The Pursuit to the Arno, 16 July-5 August 473 The Organization of the 12th Brigade 478 The Red Patch at Florence, 5-6 August 481 Canadian Armour Across the Arno 485 XVI. THE BREAKING OF THE GOTHIC LINE, 25 AUGUST-2 SEPTEMBER 1944 25 AUGUST-2 SEPTEMBER 1944 The Enemy Bewildered 487 The Allied Change of Plan 491 The Gothic Line Defences 494 Preparations for the Attack 498 The Enemy Surprised 503 The Advance from the Metauro Bridgehead, 26-27 August 505 The Fighting at the Arzilla River Line, 28-29 August 508 The Assault on the Gothic Line, 30-31 August 510 The Capture of Point 253 and Tomba di Pesaro, 1 September 518 To the Conca and the Sea 521 XVII. THE BATTLE OF THE RIMINI LINE, 3-22 SEPTEMBER 1944 The Offensive is Checked 526 The Capture of Coriano Ridge, 13 September 532 First Crossings Over the Marano, 14 September 537 The 3rd Brigade Takes San Lorenzo in Correggiano, 15 September 540 The Reverse at San Martino in Monte l'Abate, 16-18 September 544 The Fighting at the River Ausa, 17-19 September 546 The Assault of San Fortunato Ridge, 19-20 September 551 Bridgeheads Over the Marecchia 557 The Greeks Occupy Rimini, 21 September 559 "A Great, Hard-Fought Victory" 561 XVIII. INTO THE LOMBARD PLAIN, SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 1944 The 5th Armoured Division's Advance from the Marecchia 565 The German Decision Not to Withdraw 570 The Halt at the Fiumicino, 28 September-10 October 574 The Crossing of the Pisciatello and the Advance to Cesena, 11-19 October 577 Cumberland Force on the Coastal Flank 583 The Savio Bridgeheads, 20-23 October 585 The Pursuit to the Ronco 593 Allied Plans for the Winter Campaign 594 The Armoured Brigade in the Apennines 597 XIX. THE BATTLE OF THE RIVERS, DECEMBER 1944 The Canadian Corps in Reserve 606 The Operations of Porterforce, 28 October-30 November 608 The Planning of Operation "Chuckle" 611 The 1st Division's Repulse at the Lamone, 2-5 December 613 The Capture of Ravenna, 4 December 619 The Corps Assault Across the Lamone, 10-11 December 622 The Naviglio Bridgeheads, 12-15 December 628 The 1st Brigade's Fight South of Bagnacavallo, 16-18 December 633 The Advance to the Senior, 19-21 December 635 The Offensive Abandoned 641 XX. THE END OF THE CAMPAIGN, JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1945 Clearing the Granarolo Salient, 3-5 January 644 The 5th Armoured Division's Advance to the Valli di Comacchio, 2-6 January 646 Holding the Winter Line 651 The Case for Reuniting the First Canadian Army 656 Operation "Goldflake", the Move to North-West Europe 660 The 1st Special Service Battalion on the Riviera 666 The Final Allied Offensive in Italy, 9 April-2 May 671 From Pachino to the Senio-The Balance Sheet 678
"A" Allied Order of Battle-Allied Armies in Italy, 25 August 1944 685 "B" Enemy Order of Battle-Army Group "C", 12 August 1944 686 "C" Canadian Army Units in Italy (19 August 1944) 687 "D" Persons Holding Principal Appointments in the Canadian Army in the Italian Theatre, 1943-1945 690 ABBREVIATIONS 693 THE PRONUNCIATION OF ITALIAN GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES 697 REFERENCES [Footnotes are included with each chapter] 699 INDEX 767
Following page Southern Italy, 10 July 1943 - 9 June 1944 (front end-paper) 1. Sicily, 10 July-17 August 1943 64 2. South-Eastern Sicily, 10-12 July 1943 82 3. Giarratana to Valguarnera, 14-18 July 1943 100 4. The Fighting for Agira, 24-28 July 1943 128 5. Valguarnera to the Simeto, 19 July-7 August 1943 164 6. The Landings in Southern Italy, 3-5 September 1943 190 7. Out of the Aspromonte, 6-8 September 1943 210 8. The Advance to the Foggia Plain, 8 September-1 October 1943 232 9. The Fighting on the Upper Fortore and Biferno, 1 October - 6 November 1943 264 10. The Upper Sangro, 5-26 November 1943 278 11. The Adriatic Sector, 28 November 1943 -4 January 1944 338 12. The Italian Front, 11 May 1944 398 13. The Breaking of the Gustav and Hitler Lines, 11-23 May 1944 424 14. The Breakout from the Hitler Line, 24-28 May 1944 442 15. The Battle for Rome, 11 May - 4 June 1944 450 16. Operations of First Special Service Force, 2 December 1943 - 17 January 1944 454 17. The Advance to the Arno, 21 June-5 August 1944 478 18. The Advance to the Gothic Line, 26-29 August 1944 524 19. The Breaking of the Gothic Line, 30 August - 3 September 1944 524 20. The Advance to Rimini, 3-22 September 1944 560 21. Into the Romagna, 22 September-20 October 1944 584 22. The Crossing of the Savio, 21-28 October 1944 588 23. The Advance Towards Bologna, September 1944-January 1945 598 24. Operations of Porterforce, 28 October-28 November 1944 608 25. From the Montone to the Senio, 2 December 1944 - 5 January 1945 652 Northern Italy, 10 June 1944 - 25 February 1945 (back end-paper)
(in Black and White)
Page 1. Operation "HUSKY", The Progress of Planning 13 2. The Capture of Regalbuto, 30 July-2 August 1943 148 3. The Fighting at Termoli, 6 October 1943 252 4. The Adriatic Front, 26 December 1943 322 5. The Attack Towards the Arielli, 17 January 1944 365 6. Villa Grande-Tollo Road, 30-31 January 1944 377 7. German Dispositions, Hitler Line, 23 May 1944 415 8. Operations, Florence Area, 6 August - 1 September 1944 483 9. Plans for Attack on the Gothic Line 489 10. The Italian Front, 8 October 1944 581 11. 1st Brigade's Attack at the Lamone, 5 December 1944 618 12. The Italian Front, 31 December 1944 642 13. First Special Service Force on the Riviera, 15 August - 9 September 1944 668 14. Final Offensive in Italy, 9 April - 2 May 1945 673
Facing Page Ortona, by Major C. F. Comfort (in colour) Frontispiece Off to Sicily 80 The Pachino Beaches 80 The Approach to Leonforte 80 Canadian Artillery in Sicily 80 Agira from the West 112 Nissoria from the South-West 112 The Ruins of Regalbuto 112 A Mule Train in Sicily 112 The Canadian Army Commander in Sicily 208 Embarkation for Operation "Baytown" 208 Canadian Armour Lands in Italy 208 Canadian Sappers Assist the Advance 208 Potenza from across the Basento Valley 240 Overlooking the Fortore Valley 240 The Approach to Campobasso 240 The Clearing of Campochiaro 256 The Pipes Play in "Maple Leaf City„ 256 The Biferno Valley from Oratino 256 San Pietro, 26 November 1943 272 "Rail-Rooting", November 1943 272 Visit of the Minister of National Defence 272 G.O.C.'s Orders 272 The Moro Valley looking North-West 304 The C.I.G.S. Visits the 1st Canadian Division 304 Ortona 304 Entry into Ortona 336 Fighting in an Ortona Alley 336 Canadian Tanks in Ortona 336 A Hit by German Mortars 336 A Company Headquarters in the Ortona Salient 368 With the Canadian Provost Corps in Italy 368 Tanks in an Artillery Role 368 Change of Command, 1st Canadian Corps 368 Canadian Artillery at Castelfrentano 400 Visit by the Eighth Army Commander 400 Junction of the Liri and the Rapido 400 Canadian Troops Relieve Indians in the Liri Valley 416 Supplies to the Front 416 The Liri Valley from Piedimonte 416 A German Anti-Tank Position in the Hitler Line 416 Canadian Gunners View a German Weapon 416 Pontecorvo, 24 May 1944 416 Patrol in Blackface on the Anzio Beachhead 416 Arrival of C.W.A.C. in Italy 544 San Fortunato Ridge from San Lorenzo in Correggiano 544 Canadian Armour at the Uso 624 Action at Cesena, 20 October 1944 624 German Anti-Tank Defences along the Adriatic 624 The Lamone River 624 Distinguished Visitors at Corps Headquarters 656 Commanders Discuss the Move to France 656 improvised Winter Quarters in the Apennines 656 Operation "Goldflake" 656
THIS volume, written by Lt.-Col. G. W. L. Nicholson, Deputy Director, Historical Section, General Staff, is the second volume of the Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. The first, written by the Director, covered the Army's organization, training and operations in Canada, Britain and the Pacific during the whole period of the war. The third, dealing with the campaign in North-West Europe in 1944-45, is in preparation.
The present volume describes in some detail the Canadian Army's part in the Italian campaign-the operations which began with the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and, developing into an arduous advance up the Italian peninsula, ended with the German capitulation in May 1945. In this campaign soldiers from Canada fought a series of hard and bloody battles over some of the most historic ground in Europe. This account of it is more exhaustive, and based upon more complete investigation, than that included in the preliminary Official Historical Summary, The Canadian Army 1939-1945, which was published in May 1948.
The general principles upon which this History has been planned are stated in the Preface to Volume I. It is directed primarily to the general reader, and particularly to the Canadian reader who wishes to know what the Canadian Army accomplished and why its operations took the course they did. The practice with respect to documentation, and the reasons for it, are likewise described in Volume I. Since many of the documents cited in references are still "classified", the fact that they are so cited does not necessarily imply that they are available for public examination. Officers and men are designated in the text by the ranks they held at the time of the events described. Decorations have not been appended to personal names in the text, but "final" ranks and decorations are given with the names of individuals in the Index.
In the event of readers observing errors or important omissions in this volume, they are asked to write to the Director, Historical Section, General Staff, Army Headquarters, Ottawa.
C. P. STACEY, Colonel,
Director Historical Section.
THIS is the story of the Canadian Army's share in the Allied campaign in Italy during Tthe Second World War. It is primarily an account of field operations and the planning and preparations which preceded them. Questions of organization and administration of the Army as a whole were discussed in Volume I, and in general are only introduced here in so far as they present problems peculiar to the Italian theatre. While the activities of the Canadian forces in Italy form the main theme, these are presented at all times against the background of the whole Allied effort in the campaign. The author has attempted wherever possible to round out his story by showing the enemy side of the picture.
This History is primarily based upon the Canadian contemporary records of the campaign-the war diaries of participating formations and units, planning papers, orders, reports of operations, departmental and headquarters files and a multiplicity of other documents of various kinds. The task of assembling and organizing this voluminous material was begun by the Canadian Army's Historical Section while the war was still in progress. Valuable work in securing and recording first hand information in the, theatre of operations was done by the Field Historical Sections; an Historical Officer served with each Canadian division engaged in the campaign. The author has also consulted British and Allied records extensively.
During and after the Second World War a vast quantity of German military records, written mostly within hours or days of the events, fell into Allied hands. In the preparation of the present volume full use has been made of this fortunate circumstance. While the available source material, which consists in the main of the war diaries of the enemy's army and corps headquarters, is by no means complete-the greatest shortages exist with respect to the Sicilian phase, Ortona, and the period from November 1944 to the termination of the Canadian operations in Italy--it covers well the battles for the Gustav, Hitler and Gothic defence lines. Narratives written after the war by German senior commanders have also proved useful in providing an insight into the background of enemy operations.
In the autumn of 1948 the writer spent ten weeks in Italy studying the ground over which the Canadians fought. He travelled the entire route of the Canadian forces from the Pachino beaches in south-eastern Sicily to the Senio River in Northern Italy, visiting the scene of every action in which Canadian soldiers were engaged, and taking upwards of 2000 photographs.
With the general reader in mind the author has attempted to avoid detailed treatment of such specialized subjects as the activities of the technical arms and the services. The reader will understand that in a history of this scope considerations of space and proportion place restrictions on the amount of attention that can be devoted to operations at the unit level; for fuller treatment of these he must consult the various regimental histories.
The author wishes to acknowledge the generous assistance given by numerous organizations and individuals in making their records available and helping in other ways. He has had unrestricted access to documents in the hands of the Government of Canada, and has had the privilege of consulting the private papers of General A. G. L. McNaughton and General H. D. G. Crerar. As was the case with the preceding volume of the Official History, this book has benefited from the constant and indispensable aid accorded by the Historical Branch of the Cabinet Office in London and by the Air Historical Branch of the Air Ministry and the Historical Section of the Admiralty. Official historians in New Zealand, South Africa and India and Pakistan have given their help freely. The author would especially acknowledge his indebtedness to the Office of the Chief of Military History and to the Captured Records Section in the United States Department of the Army. In Canada grateful acknowledgement is made to the Director of War Service Records, Department of Veterans Affairs, whose office provided most of the Canadian Army statistics included in this volume. Finally the writer would express his sincere thanks to the many participants in the events described who have read the volume in draft, in whole or in part, and have given him the benefit of their comments.
Space does not allow the author to thank adequately all the personnel, past and present, of the Canadian Army's Historical Section who have contributed directly or indirectly to the production of this book. The Director, Colonel C. P. Stacey, has unsparingly given most helpful and sympathetic guidance at all stages. Lt.-Col. C. J. Lynn-Grant, Executive Officer, has assisted greatly with publication arrangements. The writer is indebted to Lt.-Col. W. E. C. Harrison (who served in Italy as Historical Officer, 1st Canadian Corps), Major D. H. Cunningham, Captain F. R. McGuire and Captain J. A. Porter (all veterans of the campaign) for the preliminary drafts of Chapters VII-X and XVI-XIX. These were subsequently revised by the writer, who drafted all the remaining chapters. He takes full responsibility for the entire volume as now presented. The expert assistance given by Mr. A. G. Steiger in his study of German documents has been invaluable. Thanks are due also to Captain J. R. Madden and Captain F. R. McGuire for their work as research assistants. The volume owes much to the maps
drawn by Captain C. C. J. Bond and his staff. Finally, a word of gratitude to Q.M.S. (W.O. 2) M. R. Lemay and Staff Sergeants J. W. Taylor and W. H. Woollam for their patience and efficiency in typing the many successive drafts.
Historical Section (G.S.),