Coriano Ridge War Cemetery

Coriano Ridge War Cemetery

Coriano Ridge War Cemetery in Italy is a World War II Commonwealth cemetery located in what was a vital strategic site in 1944.

Once Italy had reached an armistice with the Allies in 1943, Allied forces began to engage in fierce battles aimed at removing German forces – particularly the Gothic Line – from Italy, especially in the areas surrounding Rimini.

It was vital for the Allies to take Coriano Ridge in order to allow them to liberate Rimini from German forces. Yet, hampered by severe rain and German resistance, the battle for Coriano Ridge, whilst eventually successful, led to significant casualties.

Today, Coriano Ridge War Cemetery contains the neatly tended graves of 1,939 Commonwealth soldiers from the British and Canadian divisions that fought there, notably the Eighth Army, the 1st British Armoured Division and the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.


Remembering the fallen in Italy

Corrin Fraser and her children Aiden, Liam, and Avery are shown at Coriano Ridge War Cemetery in Coriano, Italy.

It&rsquos been nearly 70 years since Pvt. Metro Seman died in action in the Second World War.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/11/2013 (2783 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It&rsquos been nearly 70 years since Pvt. Metro Seman died in action in the Second World War.

But this coming Remembrance Day, the service of Seman &mdash and other Canadians &mdash will be formally marked at Coriano Ridge War Cemetery in Coriano, Italy, located just east of San Marino, on the country&rsquos east coast.

Seman&rsquos niece, East Kildonan resident Donna Cudmore had posted photos of her uncle to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial website. Out of the blue in September, she was contacted by Corrin Fraser, who grew up in Pinawa but lives about a two-hour drive away from the cemetery.

After finding Cudmore&rsquos posting on the website, Fraser offered to take a photo of the gravesite to help carry on the memory of Seman&rsquos sacrifice.

"It was very emotional," Cudmore recalled. "This is probably the general feeling that a lot of people do have, that have loved ones that are off buried somewhere else from the war.

"It&rsquos come full circle now that she&rsquos actually been able to do something. For some reason, it feels complete now, that my job can be complete through her hands."

Cudmore, who is involved in the North East Winnipeg Historical Society as its publicity chair, also tends the Brookside Cemetery, which has a Field of Honour with over 12,000 veterans, servicemen and servicewomen, and their families interred. However, she hadn&rsquot been able to make it to visit her uncle&rsquos gravesite in Italy.

Cudmore said she has 18 old letters from Seman to her father, and has always felt a connection to him. Though her father didn&rsquot often speak of Seman, she was able to find out about him through her mother, who grew up in the same area.

"He was the strong one and the protector, and I feel like that&rsquos my position within my family, too," Cudmore said. "It&rsquos funny, for someone that you&rsquove never met, it&rsquos just bizarre (to have that kind of connection)."

Cudmore feels indebted to her uncle for the freedom she and other Canadians enjoy.
Fraser has organized a ceremony which will take place at the cemetery on Nov. 10, as the 11th is not a holiday in Italy. The Canadian Forces base in Italy is set to send representatives to the service, while the Mayor of Coriano and the Italian Carabinieri (military police) will be sending three officers in full dress on behalf of the Italian people.

"For me, this Remembrance Day will be extremely important, because I know that someone&rsquos going to be there &mdash officials and this one particular angel person doing things for all these soldiers over there, I think that it&rsquos just unbelievable," Cudmore said.

Fraser originally moved to Italy for work a decade ago, and married an Italian man, with whom she had three children and settled down in Carpi.

After finding out a family member served in the area during the Second World War, Fraser took photos of gravesites and posted them online (see sidebar).

Fraser soon received other photo requests from across Canada, Scotland, and New Zealand. She decided to seek out other families, and has connected with 29 in total, including Cudmore. Fraser will have her car chock full of items to leave by gravesites to help remember the fallen.

"(The families) have all sent photos for me to place on the grave. Some have sent personal letters," Fraser said. "I&rsquom going to the cemetery anyway, so it&rsquos not that big of a deal for me to take them.

"In the beginning, I didn&rsquot realize how much it meant to people."

Other items Fraser will place include provincial flags, and even Montreal Canadiens memorabilia to help remember one soldier who was a Habs fan.

Stay informed

The latest updates on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

Fraser will also take Canadian flags to the site, which was spurred on by a posting she made telling Roney&rsquos story online. She now has enough flags for all Canadian soldiers at eight cemeteries.

"It was originally just posted to my family and friends (on Facebook), and within two months, I had 2,000 flags," Fraser said. "We can&rsquot use the kitchen table anymore."

MP Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul) sent 436 Canadian flags for the project, while the Princess Patricia&rsquos Canadian Light Infantry sent 49 regimental flags. The PPCLI is marking its 100th anniversary, and Fraser will take photos of the flags for its regimental yearbook. As well, schoolchildren from across the country have made their own flags &mdash with a student&rsquos handprint instead of a maple leaf &mdash to place at graves. Seven Manitoban schools participated, while schools from British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and New Brunswick also took part.

Fraser plans to keep the project going in the years to come at other cemeteries in the region, and Cudmore has offered to help Fraser connect with other families in Canada.

For more information, visit the organization&rsquos Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/flagsfromhome

COINCIDENCES LED TO CONNECTIONS

Corrin Fraser said becoming a connection many families who lost loved ones in Italy was a series strange coincidences.
When Fraser was home for a family reunion, she met her grandfather&rsquos cousin, Morley Roney of Wawanesa, who served in the area she lives in during the Second World War. When looking for the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery on Remembrance Day 2011, she got lost and happened upon the Coriano Ridge site. She took photos of the site and sent them home. Roney&rsquos family did some research, and found his friend, James E. Griffiths was buried at the site. Griffiths&rsquo family in London, Ont. had a death certificate for him, but didn&rsquot know where he was buried until finding Fraser&rsquos photos of the gravesite online.
Fraser received requests from other families all over the world, and later began to seek out other families of soldiers bured in the region.

The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.

To submit a letter:
&bull fill out the form on this page, or
&bull email [email protected], or
&bull mail Letters to the Editor, 1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2X 3B6.

Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.


Contents

The Kohima War Cemetery is located in the center of Kohima city, capital of the Indian state of Nagaland, at the location where a decisive battle was won by the Allied Forces during the Second World War, forcing the Japanese army to retreat. [1] This location is on the ridge below and above the tennis court. [5] The cemetery is on the northern side of the Imphal-Dimapur road (State Highway 39) and 200 kilometres (120 mi) from the Indo-Burma border. Kohima is well-connected by air services from Calcutta, Delhi, and Guwahati. On land, the journey from Guwahati is long and arduous. [1]

In March 1944, the Japanese 15th Army attacked the British troops stationed in Kohima and Imphal in northeast India with intent to prevent an attack on Burma. In the first week of April, the Japanese attacked at Kohima and Imphal via Mizoram from the Indo-Burma border, to destroy the supply bases of the British. They laid siege on the Allied forces stationed at Kohima and also at Imphal. [1] [6]

Reaching Kohima during April 1944, the Japanese 15th Army occupied a strategic location on Garrison Hill and continually attacked a small contingent of the Commonwealth forces, which successfully held their ground until reinforcements were brought in. In the battle at the tennis ground (now marked by white concrete lines) of the Deputy Commissioner's bungalow (which was destroyed during the war), which also involved hand-to-hand fighting between the opposing forces, the Commonwealth forces prevailed over the Japanese forces and forced them to retreat in defeat. There were heavy casualties on both sides. [1] This battle was the turning point for the Allied forces. [7]

In 2013, the British National Army Museum voted the Battle of Imphal and Kohima as "Britain's Greatest Battle". [8] [9]

The cemetery is set in peaceful surroundings with well-manicured grassland in which roses bloom in season. The cemetery is sited at the exact location where the battle was fought, and provides a panoramic view of the town of Kohima. [10] It is marked at its two ends by tall, concrete structures engraved with the cross. [11] > Between the two structures, along the sloping ground, a series of terraces of 3–5 metres (9.8–16.4 ft) in height have been created these contain stone markers embedded with bronze plaques carrying the name of each Commonwealth soldier who died on the Kohima battlefield. These markers are made distinctly visible by a white wash. [10]

There are two memorial crosses, one at the upper end and the other at the lower end of the cemetery. [ citation needed ] The upper-end memorial is located at the highest end of the cemetery. It commemorates the names of the Indian and Sikh soldiers (917 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who had been cremated as per their religious rites) who were part of the British Indian Army and died on the battlefield. [3] The epitaph inscribed on this memorial reads:

Here, around the tennis court of the deputy commissioner, lie men who fought in the battle of Kohima in which they and their comrades finally halted the invasion of India by the forces of Japan in April 1944.

The lower-end memorial is dedicated to the 2nd Division. It is a 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, massive stone (similar to the stone used by the Naga tribes to mark the graves of their dead) fixed over a dressed stone platform. This stone was originally located on a spur at Maram, to the south of Kohima, which was then shifted with the help of Naga people to be erected at the 2nd British Division's war cemetery. [4] [11] While the top part of the memorial is marked with a cross, at the lower part lies a bronze plate that carries an epitaph. The epitaph, titled Kohima Epitaph, reads: [ citation needed ]

When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today

The above verse, which became world-famous, is attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875–1958) and is thought to have been inspired by the epitaph written by Simonides to honour the Spartans who fell at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. [11] [12]

Another notable feature at the site is a cherry tree near the tennis court where the battle was fought, where a small brass plaque reads: [10] [13]

For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

The original tree, from which a branch has been used to create the present tree where the plaque is fixed, had been used for target practice by the Japanese forces. It was destroyed during the battle. Hence, Kohima Battle is also known as the "Battle Under the Cherry Tree". [13] [10]

Close to the Garrison Hill, memorials for the 2nd Battalion, the Dorsetshire Regiment, and several other regiments have been established. [1]

In the list of the dead marked by stones at the cemetery, there are 64 names of Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders soldiers the memorial, however, lists 96 names, out of which the graves of 32 personals were located. [5]

On the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in 2005, a memorial service was held at the Kohima War Cemetery attended by 41 members of the Royal British Legion. Brigadier John Farmer, representing the Royal British Legion, and Brigadier RL Sharma of the 2nd Assam Rifles, laid wreaths at the memorial. Reverend Dr Neiliezhü Üsou, officiating chaplain, conducted the memorial service. A notable pilgrim to the memorial was Hildra Martin Smith, aged 84, who came in a wheelchair he had participated in the Kohima battle as a Lieutenant of the British Army. The visit was initiated by the Royal British Legion of the United Kingdom, which regularly sponsors such war grave pilgrimages. [14]

Ten years later another memorial service was held in the cemetery, attended by senior British Army officers, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima. [15]


A Handclasp In Coriano

It is early afternoon and there is a moment of profound silence at Coriano Ridge War Cemetery in northern Italy. Here–among the weeping willows and rows of white headstones–time seems to have come to a full stop as several Canadian war veterans bow their heads in front of the grave of a man they never knew.

This very moment is about remembrance and how it transforms people of all ages. It is also about Canada’s involvement in the Italian Campaign of WW II and how that bloody experience between July 1943 and early spring 1945 produced an exceptional kind of compassion between comrades.

The veterans–all 53 of them, including Victoria Cross recipient Smokey Smith of Vancouver–are nearing the end of an incredible 13-day journey led by Bob Wood, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Veterans Affairs. Coriano Ridge, which contains 1,940 graves–427 of them Canadian–is the last of more than a dozen Commonwealth war cemeteries they will visit on the tour. And so on this day–minutes after the official wreath-placing ceremony–the veterans have gathered to pray for a soldier and to fulfil a small, but important request from a woman back in Canada who only knew her grandfather from stories told to her by her grandmother.

Darlene Halsey of Morinville, Alta., near Edmonton had read about the government’s plan to mark the 55th anniversary of the Italian Campaign. She knew Veterans Affairs Canada would be leading the group of vets, and so on Oct. 5–four days after the delegation left Ottawa–Halsey sent an e-mail to VAC officials in Italy. Her message was read out loud at Coriano and it brought tears to the eyes of several people, including some of the youth representatives.

Here is what she wrote: “To those of you who are taking part in remembering history by travelling back to a place that holds more unpleasant memories than pleasant ones, I wish you all the very best and my thoughts are with you. With the recent adoption of my daughter, I have begun my family tree and one member of my tree that I am most interested in is my grandfather….”

Halsey explained that she had made a promise to her grandmother that one day the two of them would visit the grave in Italy. “My grandmother has since passed away and now more than ever I want to make that trip. Until such time that I am able to do so, I wonder should someone wish to stand two minutes in silence at his grave I would be most grateful.”

The tearful silence for Halsey’s grandfather, Private William R. Berry of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, was measured in minutes, but it was one of the most powerful scenes to unfold during the tour. The poignancy of the little graveside service was found in its simplicity, but also in the knowledge that no one there knew anything about the man they were praying for. All they knew was that he was killed Sept. 20, 1944, the day before the Allies marched into Rimini.

For the veterans, that little bit of knowledge was enough. It was enough to know that the soldier in Grave 3, Row A, Plot 13 was a fellow comrade. The hard part was in realizing that the man died at age 37 and that he left loved ones behind. Why he died and others lived is a question that is difficult to answer. The inscription on his headstone reads:

When your life was brightest

When your years were best

To a home of eternal rest

Seventy-four-year-old Sam Doggart of Sutton, Ont., and 77-year-old Bob Wigmore of Belleville, Ont., led the group through the two minutes of silence. Both lowered their heads and without hesitation did something quite unexpected. Doggart slipped his left arm in behind Wigmore’s right and the two old veterans held hands as tears welled up in their eyes. It was a sad, but beautiful moment that left a lingering impression of the love that exists between the survivors of war and between the survivors and the dead.

These men and women who experienced war looked after each other back then and they are still looking after each other today. It is seen in the way they talk to each other, look at each other– accept each other. It is in the way they stare down at a headstone and see beyond the etched surface to the face of a friend. And it is in the way they kneel down and with trembling hands place poppies or little crosses among the flowers. “Beneath this soil. Beneath this sacred soil lay members of Canadian regiments,” said Doggart, quoting from a wartime prayer. “They marched with us in our struggle to free Europe from tyranny. They were the youth of our generation. They were active. They were noisy in their boisterous enthusiasm. Today they are still. Today they are silent. Then let us by our silence remember them. As you go home from here, tell them about us. Tell them we gave our today so that they could have their tomorrow….”

Wigmore followed Doggart’s lead by reciting the battle prayer of the Hasty Ps. The author of the prayer, Major Alex Campbell, was killed near the Moro River–south of Ortona–on Christmas Day 1943. Doggart, who grew up in an orphanage, said it is nice to know Halsey is interested in her grandfather’s war service. “It gives me a good feeling to know that someday she will be sharing information about him with her adopted daughter.”

The feelings or the unequivocal compassion that exists between war veterans was described a couple of days earlier at Ancona War Cemetery where 161 Canadians are buried among more than a thousand Allied soldiers and airmen. “The interdependency of a unit in action is immense,” said Denis Meade of Vancouver, a former sergeant with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. “You don’t think about loyalty to your country. You don’t think about the flag and the banners and the marching bands and all that kind of stuff. You feel a very, very strong bond and a very strong duty to not let down your own immediate group whether it is a section or a platoon or anything else. Your comrades are your first priority. They are your first loyalty because you know that they are depending on you and you are depending on them. The interdependency, I think, was the prime motivation for most of the so-called acts of heroism and for just getting the job done.”

The job–as it turned out–began with massive preparations in the United Kingdom, but it really got going just after dawn on July 10, 1943. The Canadians landed in Sicily with an Allied invasion armada of nearly 3,000 ships and landing craft. The invasion was a sight to behold for a young Spitfire pilot named Irving Kennedy of Cumberland, Ont. “We had been escorting a Liberator bomber squadron late in the afternoon on July 9,” recalled the 77-year-old who earned his wings in 1941. “The bombers were attacking Gela aerodrome in southern Sicily and we crossed over from starboard to port above them. We were looking for enemy fighters, but we didn’t see any. As it turned out, the Germans had left Gela a day or two earlier. As we headed back to our base in Malta, we could see the armada steaming towards Sicily. We had front-row seats. The amazing thing was that no German aircraft got up and saw it. By next morning, of course, everything was red hot.”

Kennedy is credited with destroying 14 enemy aircraft and sharing in the destruction of three more. By war’s end, his talent in the air earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. He went on to practise medicine for 37 years, and during that time helped raise two daughters and also wrote a book entitled Black Crosses off my Wingtip.

Wigmore was a sergeant in B Company of the Hasty Ps. He remembers being handed a bowl of soup just before he piled into an infantry landing craft. He was 21 years old and the plan called for Baker, Charlie and Dog companies to attack and capture two narrow sections of beach, while Able Company waited offshore in reserve. “We left the mother ship–HMS Glengyle–when she was about 10 miles from shore. It had been wet and rough prior to the launch…. The landing craft held more than 30 men and there were three rows of us. One row along each side and one down the middle. I was the front man in the centre row and was to be the first man out once the ramp dropped.”

The little vessels were tossed around by the waves and many men were ill. Just offshore, Wigmore’s landing craft ran aground on a sandbar. The men staggered out and dropped into water up to their shoulders. “I carried my Tommy gun and a Bangalore torpedo over my head. We waded ashore and there were some who couldn’t swim a stroke. When we reached the beach we spread out and fell to ground. I ran forward and placed the torpedo under the barbed wire and then lit the fuse…. The explosion blew a gap in the wire and we all got up and ran through.”

Ted Griffiths, 77, of Ottawa was a major with the Three Rivers Regt. He recalls the night of July 4-5 when enemy submarines sank three ships carrying approximately 500 vehicles, headquarters’ signal equipment, several artillery guns and half the division’s 17-pounder anti-tank guns. He also remembers the severe storm on the afternoon of the 9th that raged for several hours. “Our tanks had been waterproofed up to a depth of six feet. On approaching the beach, the bow doors on the LSTs, Landing Ship Tanks, opened and the ramp dropped. We went into six feet of water. Fortunately, our driver kept moving and we got out without drowning the vehicle.”

Griffiths said the biggest problem on the island–besides the enemy–was the oppressive heat. He said it was like an oven inside the tanks. Outside, the dust was so thick that men felt they could chew it. Near Leonforte, his tank troop was given the task of moving up on the high ground overlooking the town, which from the enemy’s viewpoint was an obvious place for the Canadians to be. And so the enemy zeroed in on this spot. “It was heavily wooded and we moved up through the trees and got up on the top. My troop leader got out and called me out and we were looking at the town through binoculars and all of a sudden we heard some incoming mortar fire…. We jumped back into the tank. I got in and he was right behind me, but the bomb landed on the back deck.”

The troop leader suffered numerous wounds to his upper torso. He fell in on top of Griffiths and soon died.

Robbie Hancock, 77, of Wolfville, N.S., was a trooper with the Royal Canadian Dragoons. “Two or three days after we landed a big enemy shore gun blew up and seven of my friends were burned to death. Twenty-seven others, including myself, went to hospital. I suffered some awful burns to my face, hands and neck. All we were doing was checking it out to see if there was anybody inside, but it must have been booby trapped.”

At the 1st Cdn. Infantry Division Monument in Marza, Sicily, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Veterans Affairs paid tribute to the men who fought in the first major land campaign the Canadians participated in since the outbreak of the war. “It was a great victory and it came at great cost. More than 93,000 Canadians served in the Italian Campaign and more than a quarter of them became casualties.”

He said the enemy came to recognize the distinctive red patches worn by the men of 1st Div. “Red Devils they called them. And of course the Red Devils fought with distinction in the 38-day fight for Sicily.”

The people of Sicily also remember. There was ample evidence of that at Marza and at ceremonies in Catania and Agira. Ispica Mayor Rosario Gugliotta said “Freedom is our most precious value. For us, this value has a particular significance because in this century we have known the loss of freedom, the deceit of dictatorship and the harshness of Fascism….”

By Aug. 6, 1943, the Canadians had reached the end of their battle duties on the hot, dusty island in the Mediterranean. Soldiers had successfully landed near Pachino, met light resistance from Italian coastal defenders and then advanced 240 kilometres over inhospitable terrain. They moved over mine-filled roads choked with dust and the further inland they got, they met an enemy that fought tough delaying actions from hills that towered over the desert-like valleys. Canadian casualties in Sicily totalled 562 killed, 664 wounded and 84 prisoners of war.

On Sept. 3, 1943, the 8th British Army, which included 1st Cdn. Div, 5th British Div. and the 1st Cdn. Army Tank Div., moved across the Strait of Messina onto the mainland. The Canadians easily took Reggio Calabria because the Germans had withdrawn, but the light resistance there was by no means a precursor of things to come. The fighting was vicious up the boot of Italy as the Canadians fought in four major drives. There was the crossing of the Moro River and the liberation of Ortona on the Adriatic coast there was the Liri Valley and the battles for the Gustav and Hitler lines the Gothic Line and the Rimini Line and the battleground between the Montone River and the Senio River.

Fifty-five years later the immaculate Commonwealth war cemeteries are reminders of the human loss. Veterans on the VAC pilgrimage participated in ceremonies at Beach Head War Cemetery in Anzio, Rome War Cemetery, Cassino War Cemetery and the spectacular Polish War Cemetery on Monte Cassino.

Joe Jamieson, 83, of Guysborough, N.S., served with the First Special Service Force–the Devil’s Brigade. At Anzio he spent a few painful moments in front of a familiar name etched in white stone. “We were out on a patrol one night and he ran into a trip mine,” explained Jamieson. “It was a wire tied between two trees. He was hit in the hip and we patched him up. All he said to me was ‘Joe, don’t let them cut my leg off!’ He was doing fine in the hospital at Anzio, and then they told him he would have to have his leg off. Well, he died before he got to the operating table.”

The VAC delegates travelled to Ortona for ceremonies at the Ortona Civilian Cemetery, the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery and Casa Berardi where Major Paul Triquet of the Royal 22nd Regt. earned his Victoria Cross. The cemetery at Moro River has 1,615 graves, including 1,375 Canadian. “Aging headstones stand in silent witness to their courage,” said Wood. “But they reveal little of the sound and fury of the fighting in December 1943.”

The parliamentary secretary said the crossing of the Moro and the taking of Ortona rank among Canada’s greatest military achievements. The enemy tried desperately to hold the Canadians back and for a time they were successful. “It was a scary time,” explained Wigmore. “I was frightened and scared. I had confidence in my men, but I don’t think I was that confident…. There were times when you went ahead and did things automatically. There were other times when you would stop and think about it….”

This was Wigmore’s first trip back in 55 years. Every night since the war he has had nightmares. Ironically, his bad dreams ended on his first night back in Italy. He says he felt depressed when he walked into the cemetery. It was as if something was closing in on him. “When I walked in further and saw how beautiful the place was I felt that my fellows have got a good home here.”

He said the ceremony was wonderful and he especially appreciated the involvement of students from the nearby Canadian Academy and a local primary school. Wigmore and the other vets were also proud of the Canadian Forces personnel who had attended from Kosovo and Bosnia. “That was a big lift to us. I looked at them and said to myself, Hey, that’s the way we were. We were just like those guys. And you know, they are facing the same terrible things over in Kosovo.”

Captain George Boyuk, 31, of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Cdn. Light Inf., placed a wreath on behalf of the Canadian Forces. Afterwards, he called it a very humbling experience. “These veterans who are with us know the people whose names are on the headstones I have just looked at. I never expected to have this opportunity. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet.”

Wood said the battle for Ortona personified every soldier’s worst nightmare, and it was up to the Canadian infantry to dislodge the enemy house by house with a technique known as mouseholing. Maurice White of Edmonton was there in 1943. As a young lance corporal he was a member of A Company of the Loyal Edmonton Regt. “We entered Ortona on Dec. 20. We fought from house to house and from room to room. We had to blow holes through one room to another, and then we’d throw a grenade in to make sure there were no Germans inside…. That was the only way we could make any progress.”

It took eight days of bitter fighting to clear the town, but White said those eight days seemed like eight months.

The highlight for the VAC delegation and for the citizens of Ortona last fall was the unveiling in the Piazza Plebiscito of the Price of Peace monument by Ottawa artist Robert Surette. “It’s not just for the men who fought in Ortona,” said the artist immediately after the unveiling. “It is for all men who fought for our country.”

From Ortona, the VAC pilgrimage moved north up the Adriatic coast and held ceremonies at several war cemeteries, including Gradara, Cesena, Montecchio and the Canadian War Cemetery at Villanova before holding its last one at Coriano. The four youth reps and six reps from various cadet organizations found themselves fighting back tears as they learned about the price of freedom. “I can’t describe the feeling of standing on soil where so much blood was shed,” said Cathy Kaizer of Bickerton West, N.S.

Dominion President Chuck Murphy said he was impressed by the trip and by the people it brought together. “We must never forget what these people did for us back then. Their courage is an example for all Canadians.”


Bargoed and Gilfach war memorial

Bargoed and Gilfach war memorial

This memorial was unveiled in 1923 to honour the local people who died in the First World War. It was moved here from its original site in 2002.

The names of the war dead were not inscribed on the memorial until 2005. The lists on the memorial present the names of people who died in the First and Second World Wars in combined alphabetical order. We have included details of some men who had connections with Bargoed but are not named on the memorial.

Choose a category below to read details of most of those named on the memorial. We have separated them by conflict, where that is known. Some of the people in the First World War list who have not yet been identified in the war records may have died in the Second World War.

There is detailed information about many of the individuals on the website of Gelligaer Historial Society.

With thanks to Gelligaer Historical Society and to Byron Jones and Tudor James

Gelligaer Historical Society website: more about Bargoed and Gilfach war memorial and war dead

First World War (and people not yet identified in records)


Coriano

Harmony and lightheartedness are the sensations this countryside offers, with its back to the coast of Rimini, Riccione, Misano Adriatico and Cattolica, it is crossed by the Marano stream.

The aromas of this fertile and rich land characterise some valuable products, first and foremost wine and oil to which two lively autumn fairs are dedicated. A land inhabited and exploited for millennia, which has seen the domination of Rome as early as the third century BC, of the Church of Ravenna in 120 and of the Malatesta family who rebuilt the Castle in 1440.

Slightly more than a hundred years later the Sassatelli from Imola arrived, whose coat of arms is still visible on the sixteenth-century entrance door of the fortification, as well as on the outer walls, polygonal towers and the double system of doors. The Antiquarium, a permanent exhibition of artefacts found in the area, is on display in a house inside the Castle.

Contemporary history has also left eloquent traces here, first and foremost the English War Cemetery which houses the remains of over 1,500 war dead of the Eighth Army. Managed directly by Commonwealth authorities, it is one of the largest foreign cemeteries in Italy and is considered a garden cemetery, due to the variety of flowers and plants that adorn it. Its presence is the dramatic result of a clash between allied forces and German troops in 1944 for the breakthrough of the Gothic Line which marked the end of World War II.

Coriano is excellently equipped for a stay in the sign of outdoor activities, including cycling, mountain biking, walking and horseback riding, especially in the Marano Park, which offers a luxuriant green island, equipped for many outdoor activities, aimed at exercising or resting. There is also a lake, popular for sportfishing, and several equestrian centres.

In the historical walk around the Marano in the territory of Coriano, the remains of seven medieval castles are visible: the most important one is the castle of Coriano, which has been extensively restored the others are Cerasolo, Passano, Mulazzano, Besanigo, Monte Tauro and Vecciano.


Slaughter on Cemetery Ridge

Not until 2:30 p.m. on July 3, 1863, did the ear-splitting bombardment finally slacken on the rolling farmland of southern Pennsylvania. Nothing like it had ever been experienced before in America, or would be again. “The very ground shook and trembled,” wrote a witness, “and the smoke of the guns rolled out of the valley as tho there were thousands of acres of timber on fire.” For close to 90 minutes, 163 Confederate cannon had blanketed the Union battleline in a bedlam thick with smoke and deadly iron fragments. The Union guns replied at a more measured pace, saving ammunition for what was to come, but still added their measure to the unendurable din.

Then, as the thunder died away, it appeared that a god of battles was stage-managing the scene: a breeze sprang up to part the thick curtains of smoke and reveal ordered lines of Confederate troops in their thousands striding out of the woods across the open fields toward Cemetery Ridge. Up on the ridgeline the ranked Union soldiers took in the sight and involuntarily cried out, “Here they come! Here comes the infantry!”

“None on that crest now need be told that the enemy is advancing,” wrote Union Lt. Frank Haskell. “Every eye could see his legions, an overwhelming resistless tide of an ocean of armed men sweeping upon us!” What history records as Pickett’s Charge would climax the great three-day struggle ominously north of Washington and make or break Robert E. Lee’s attempt to gain a decisive victory on northern soil. On the first day Lee had won the initial round of fighting on the second day his attacks on both Union flanks only narrowly failed now, after an unprecedented bombardment intended to pulverize the defenses, he thrust 13,000 infantrymen against the Union center.

But the management and direction of the bombardment had been faulty—even the ammunition was deficient—leaving the defenders’ lines largely intact. Union Gen. George G. Meade, only days in command of the Army of the Potomac, had prepared well to meet the charge, especially with his own massed artillery. Meade and his artillery chief, Henry J. Hunt, ordered their guns to cease fire to lull the Confederates into thinking that the way was clear for their infantry. And then Hunt’s guns—more than 100 of them—did open, slaughtering the stunned infantry: “They were at once enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke and dust. Arms, heads, blankets, guns and knapsacks were thrown and tossed into the clear air. . . . A moan went up from the field, distinctly to be heard amid the storm of battle.”

Soon both the attackers’ flanks had been savagely beaten in by the Union batteries, wrecking Pickett’s Charge beyond recall even before the Union infantry finished the fight. The 20th Massachusetts, for example, took careful aim at the Confederate regiment advancing upon it “& then bowled them over like nine pins, picking out the colors first,” wrote Maj. Henry Livermore Abbott. “In two minutes there were only groups of two or three men running round wildly, like chickens with their heads off. We were cheering like mad.” In a final desperate lunge a few hundred attackers breached the Union center, only to be crushed by a counterattack. Abruptly it was over. Those attackers who had survived the terrible cannon and rifle fire drifted back toward the sheltering woods. What General Lee termed “the grand charge” was a grand failure, dashing his—and his new country’s—hopes for victory in Pennsylvania.

That same July 3, indeed that same midafternoon, almost a thousand miles south by southwest of Gettysburg, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant met with Confederate Gen. John C. Pemberton to arrange for the surrender of the latter’s besieged army in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The next day—four score and seven after the signing of the Declaration—bore witness to the two great Union victories. Pemberton officially surrendered Vicksburg, and Robert E. Lee started his beaten Army of Northern Virginia back to whence it had so recently set off with such high hopes. The Civil War would rage on for two more bloody years, but July 3, 1863, marked out at last the path to eventual Union triumph.

Stephen W. Sears, three-time winner of the Fletcher Pratt Award for Gettysburg (Mariner Books 2004), Chancellorsville (Houghton Mifflin 1996), and Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam (Houghton Mifflin 1983), is a former editor of American Heritage Magazine.


Block Reason: Access from your area has been temporarily limited for security reasons.
Time: Wed, 16 Jun 2021 20:36:14 GMT

About Wordfence

Wordfence is a security plugin installed on over 3 million WordPress sites. The owner of this site is using Wordfence to manage access to their site.

You can also read the documentation to learn about Wordfence's blocking tools, or visit wordfence.com to learn more about Wordfence.

Generated by Wordfence at Wed, 16 Jun 2021 20:36:14 GMT.
Your computer's time: .


Story

If you have any information about or photographs of this person please contact us here

War Grave - Ronald Richard CARR Morval War Memorial Morval War Memorial - Face Royal Air Force Memorial London

Contents

After the nearly concurrent breakthroughs at Cassino and Anzio in spring 1944, the 11 nations representing the Allies in Italy finally had a chance to trap the Germans in a pincer movement and to realize some of the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's strategic goals for the long, costly campaign against the Axis "underbelly". This would have required the U.S. Fifth Army under Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark to commit most of his Anzio forces to the drive east from Cisterna, and to execute the envelopment envisioned in the original planning for the Anzio landing (i.e., flank the German 10th Army, and sever its northbound line of retreat from Cassino). Instead, fearing that the British Eighth Army, under Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese, might beat him to the Italian capital of Rome, Clark diverted a large part of his Anzio force in that direction in an attempt to ensure that he and the Fifth Army would have the honour of liberating the city.

As a result, most of Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring's forces slipped the noose and fell back north fighting delaying actions, notably in late June on the Trasimene Line (running from just south of Ancona on the east coast, past the southern shores of Lake Trasimeno near Perugia and on to the west coast south of Grosseto) and in July on the Arno Line (running from the west coast along the line of the Arno River and into the Apennine Mountains north of Arezzo). This gave time to consolidate the Gothic Line, a 10 miles (16 km) deep belt of fortifications extending from south of La Spezia (on the west coast) to the Foglia Valley, through the natural defensive wall of the Apennines (which ran unbroken nearly from coast to coast, 50 miles (80 km) deep and with high crests and peaks rising to 7,000 feet (2,100 m)), to the Adriatic Sea between Pesaro and Ravenna, on the east coast. The emplacements included numerous concrete-reinforced gun pits and trenches and 2,376 machine-gun nests with interlocking fire, 479 anti-tank, mortar and assault gun positions, 120,000 metres (130,000 yd) of barbed wire and many miles of anti-tank ditches. [4] This last redoubt proved the Germans' determination to continue fighting.

Nevertheless, it was fortunate for the Allies that at this stage of the war the Italian partisan forces had become highly effective in disrupting the German preparations in the high mountains. By September 1944, German generals were no longer able to move freely in the area behind their main lines because of partisan activity. Generalleutnant Frido von Senger und Etterlin—commanding XIV Panzer Corps (XIV Panzerkorps)—later wrote that he had taken to travelling in a little Volkswagen "(displaying) no general's insignia of rank—no peaked cap, no gold or red flags. ". One of his colleagues who ignored this caution—Wilhelm Crisolli (commanding the 20th Luftwaffe Field Division)—was caught and killed by partisans as he returned from a conference at corps headquarters. [5]

Construction of the defences was also hampered by the deliberately poor quality concrete provided by local Italian mills whilst captured partisans forced into the construction gangs supplemented the natural lethargy of forced labour with clever sabotage. Nevertheless, prior to the Allies' attack, Kesselring had declared himself satisfied with the work done, especially on the Adriatic side where he ". contemplated an assault on the left wing. with a certain confidence". [6]

Allied strategy Edit

The Italian Front was seen by the Allies to be of secondary importance to the offensives through France, and this was underlined by the withdrawal during the summer of 1944 of seven divisions from the U.S. Fifth Army to take part in the landings in southern France, Operation Dragoon. By 5 August, the strength of the Fifth Army had fallen from 249,000 to 153,000, [7] and they had only 18 divisions to confront the combined German 10th and 14th Armies′ strength of 14 divisions plus four to seven reserve divisions.

Nevertheless, Winston Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff were keen to break through the German defences to open up the route to the northeast through the "Ljubljana Gap" into Austria and Hungary. Whilst this would threaten Germany from the rear, Churchill was more concerned to forestall the Russians advancing into central Europe. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff had strongly opposed this strategy as diluting the Allied focus in France. However, following the Allied successes in France during the summer, the U.S. Chiefs relented, and there was complete agreement amongst the Combined Chiefs of Staff at the Second Quebec Conference on 12 September. [8]

Allied plan of attack Edit

The original plan of General Sir Harold Alexander, the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Allied Armies in Italy (AAI)—as formulated by his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Sir John Harding—was to storm the Gothic Line in the centre, where most of his forces were already concentrated. It was the shortest route to his objective, the plains of Lombardy, and could be mounted quickly. He mounted a deception operation to convince the Germans that the main blow would come on the Adriatic front.

On 4 August, Alexander met Lieutenant-General Leese, the British Eighth Army commander, to find that Leese did not favour the plan. [9] He argued that the Allies had lost their specialist French mountain troops to Operation Dragoon and that the Eighth Army's strength lay in tactics combining infantry, armour and guns which could not be employed in the high mountains of the central Apennines.

It has also been suggested that Leese disliked working in league with Clark after the Fifth Army's controversial move on Rome at the end of May and early June and wished for the Eighth Army to win the battle on its own. [10] He suggested a surprise attack along the Adriatic coast. Although Harding did not share Leese's view and Eighth Army planning staff had already rejected the idea of an Adriatic offensive (because it would be difficult to bring the necessary concentration of forces to bear), General Alexander was not prepared to force Leese to adopt a plan which was against his inclination and judgement [11] and Harding was persuaded to change his mind.

Operation Olive—as the new offensive was christened—called for Leese's Eighth Army to attack up the Adriatic coast toward Pesaro and Rimini and draw in the German reserves from the centre of the country. Clark's Fifth Army would then attack in the weakened central Apennines north of Florence toward Bologna with British XIII Corps on the right wing of the attack fanning toward the coast to create a pincer with the Eighth Army advance. This meant that as a preparatory move, the bulk of the Eighth Army had to be transferred from the centre of Italy to the Adriatic coast, taking two valuable weeks, while a new intelligence deception plan (Operation Ulster) [12] was commenced to convince Kesselring that the main attack would be in the centre.

Eighth Army dispositions for Operation Olive Edit

On the coast, Leese had Polish II Corps with 5th Kresowa Division in the front line and the 3rd Carpathian Division in reserve. To the left of the Poles was Canadian I Corps which had the Canadian 1st Infantry Division (with the British 21st Tank Brigade under command) in the front line and the Canadian 5th Armoured Division in reserve.

For the opening phase the corps artillery was strengthened with the addition of the British 4th Infantry Division's artillery. West of the Canadians was British V Corps with the British 46th Infantry Division manning the right of the corps front line and 4th Indian Infantry Division its left. In reserve were the British 56th Infantry and 1st Armoured Divisions and the British 7th Armoured and 25th Tank Brigades.

Further to the rear was the British 4th Division, waiting to be called forward to join the corps. The left flank of the Eighth Army front was guarded by British X Corps employing the 10th Indian Infantry Division and two armoured car regiments, 12th and 27th Lancers. Prior to the attack the I Canadian Corps' front was covered by patrolling Polish cavalry units and V Corps by patrolling elements of the Italian Liberation Corps. In army reserve, also waiting to be called forward, was the 2nd New Zealand Division. [13]

German 10th Army dispositions Edit

Facing the Eighth Army was the German 10th Army's LXXVI Panzer Corps (LXXVI Panzerkorps). Initially, this had only three divisions: 1st Parachute Division facing the Poles, 71st Infantry Division (71. Infantriedivision) inland on the parachute division's right and 278th Division (278. Infantriedivision) on the Corps right flank in the hills which was in the process of relieving 5th Mountain Division. The 10th Army had a further five divisions in 51st Mountain Corps covering 80 mi (130 km) of front line on the right of LXVI Panzer Corps and a further two divisions—162nd Infantry Division (162. (Turkoman) Infantriedivision) and 98th Infantry Division (98. Infantriedivision) (replaced by 29th Panzer Grenadier Division (29. Panzergrenadierdivision) from 25 August)—covering the Adriatic coast behind LXVI Corps. In addition, Kesselring had in his Army Group Reserve the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division (90. Panzergrenadierdivision) and 26th Panzer Division (26. Panzerdivision). [14]

Eighth Army attack Edit

The British Eighth Army crossed the Metauro river and launched its attack against the Gothic Line outposts on 25 August. As Polish II Corps, on the coast and I Canadian Corps, on the coastal plain on the Poles' left, advanced towards Pesaro the coastal plain narrowed and it was planned that the Polish Corps, weakened by losses and lack of replacements, would go into Army reserve and the front on the coastal plain would become the responsibility of the Canadian Corps alone. The Germans were taken by surprise, to the extent that both von Vietinghoff, and the parachute division's commander—Generalmajor Richard Heidrich—were away on leave. [15]

They were in the process of pulling back their forward units to the Green I fortifications of the Gothic Line proper and Kesselring was uncertain whether this was the start of a major offensive or just Eighth Army advancing to occupy vacated ground whilst the main Allied attack would come on the U.S. Fifth Army front towards Bologna. On 27 August, he was still expressing the view that the attack was a diversion and so would not commit reserves to the front. [15] It was not until 28 August—when he saw a captured copy of Leese's order of the day to his army prior to the attack—that Kesselring realised that a major offensive was in progress, [16] and three divisions of reinforcements were ordered from Bologna to the Adriatic front, still needing at least two days to get into position.

By 30 August, the Canadian and British Corps had reached the Green I main defensive positions running along the ridges on the far side of the Foglia river. Taking advantage of the Germans' lack of manpower, the Canadians punched through and by 3 September had advanced a further 15 mi (24 km) to the Green II line of defences running from the coast near Riccione. The Allies were close to breaking through to Rimini and the Romagna plain. However, LXXVI Panzer Corps on the German 10th Army's left wing had withdrawn in good order behind the line of the Conca river. [17] Fierce resistance from the Corps′ 1st Parachute Division—commanded by Heidrich (supported by intense artillery fire from the Coriano ridge in the hills on the Canadians' left)—brought their advance to a halt.

Meanwhile, British V Corps was finding progress in the more difficult hill terrain with its poor roads tough going. On 3–4 September, while the Canadians once again attacked along the coastal plain, V Corps made an armoured thrust to dislodge the Coriano Ridge defences and reach the Marano river. This was to open the gate to the plain beyond which could be rapidly exploited by the tanks of British 1st Armoured Division, poised for this purpose. However, after two days of gruesome fighting with heavy losses on both sides, the Allies were obliged to call off their assault and reassess their strategy. Leese decided to outflank the Coriano ridge positions by driving westwards toward Croce and Gemmano to reach the Marano valley which curved behind the Coriano positions to the coast some 2 mi (3.2 km) north of Riccione.

Battles for Gemmano and Croce Edit

The Battle of Gemmano has been nicknamed by some historians as the "Cassino of the Adriatic". After 11 assaults between 4 and 13 September (first by British 56th Division and then British 46th Division), it was the turn of Indian 4th Division who after a heavy bombardment made the 12th attack at 03:00 on 15 September and finally carried and secured the German defensive positions. [18] In the meantime, to the north, on the other side of the Conca valley a similarly bloody engagement was being ground out at Croce. The German 98th Division held their positions with great tenacity, and it took five days of constant fighting, often door to door and hand to hand before the British 56th Division captured Croce.

Coriano taken and the advance to Rimini and San Marino Edit

With progress slow at Gemmano, Leese decided to renew the attack on Coriano. After a paralyzing bombardment from 700 artillery pieces [19] and bombers, the Canadian 5th Armoured Division and the British 1st Armoured Division launched their attack on the night of 12 September. The Coriano positions were finally taken on 14 September.

Once again, the way was open to Rimini. Kesselring's forces had taken heavy losses, and three divisions of reinforcements ordered to the Adriatic front would not be available for at least a day. Now, the weather intervened: torrential rain turned the rivers into torrents and halted air support operations. Once again movement ground to a crawl, and the German defenders had the opportunity to reorganise and reinforce their positions on the Marano river, and the salient to the Lombardy plain closed. Once more, the Eighth Army was confronted by an organised line of defence, the Rimini Line.

Meanwhile, with Croce and beyond it Montescudo secured, the left wing of the Eighth Army advanced to the Marano river and the frontier of San Marino. The Germans had occupied neutral San Marino over a week previously to take advantage of the heights on which the city-state stood. By 19 September, the city was isolated and fell to the Allies with relatively little cost. [20] 3 miles (4.8 km) beyond San Marino lay the Marecchia valley running across the Eighth Army line of advance and running to the sea at Rimini.

During the night of 19/20 September, Brigadier Richard W. Goodbody, commanding the 2nd Armoured Brigade, ordered (with many doubts) the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays) to attack Pt 153 at 10.50. The German antitank gunners, using the renowned 88mm guns, had a field day. All but three Sherman tanks of the two squadrons that took part in the attack were destroyed. The Bays lost 24 tanks and, more important, 64 highly skilled tank crewmen. Fortunately for the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers, who had been ordered to pass through the Bays, their attack was postponed after strong representations had been made to higher HQ. [21]

On the right the I Canadian Corps on 20 September broke the German positions on the Ausa river and into the Lombardy Plain and 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade entered Rimini on the morning of 21 September as the Germans withdrew from their positions on the Rimini Line behind the Ausa to new positions on the Marecchia. [22] However, Kesselring's defence had won him time until the onset of the autumn rains. Progress for the Eighth Army became very slow with mud slides caused by the torrential rain making it difficult to keep roads and tracks open, creating a logistical nightmare. Although they were out of the hills, the plains were waterlogged and the Eighth Army found themselves confronted, as they had the previous autumn, by a succession of swollen rivers running across their line of advance. [23] Once again, the conditions prevented Eighth Army's armour from exploiting the breakthrough, and the infantry of British V Corps and I Canadian Corps (joined by the 2nd New Zealand Division) had to grind their way forward while von Vietinghoff withdrew his forces behind the next river beyond the Marecchia, the Uso, a few miles beyond Rimini. The positions on the Uso were forced on 26 September, and Eighth Army reached the next river, the Fiumicino, on 29 September. Four days of heavy rain forced a halt, and by this time V Corps was fought out and required major reorganization.

Since the start of Operation Olive, Eighth Army had suffered 14,000 casualties. [nb 1] As a result, British battalions had to be reduced from four to three rifle companies due to a severe shortage of manpower. Facing the Eighth Army LXXVI Panzer Corps had suffered 16,000 casualties. [25] As the Eighth Army paused at the end of September to reorganise Leese was reassigned to command the Allied land forces in South-East Asia and Lieutenant-General Richard L. McCreery was moved from commanding British X Corps to take over the army command. [26]

U.S. Fifth Army formation Edit

Clark's U.S. Fifth Army comprised three corps: U.S. IV Corps, under Major General Willis D. Crittenberger, on the left formed by the U.S. 1st Armored Division, the 6th South African Armoured Division and two regimental combat teams ("RCT"), one of the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division the other the Brazilian 6th RCT (the first land forces contingent of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force) in the centre was U.S. II Corps, under Major General Geoffrey Keyes, (with the U.S. 34th, 85th, 88th and 91st Infantry Divisions supported by three tank battalions under command) and on the right British XIII Corps, under Lieutenant-General Sidney Kirkman, (composed of the British 1st Infantry and 6th Armoured Divisions, the 8th Indian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade). Like the Eighth Army, the Fifth Army was considered to be strong in armour and short on infantry considering the terrain they were attacking. [27]

German formation in the central Apennines Edit

In the front line facing Clark's forces were five divisions of Joachim Lemelsen's German 14th Army (20th Luftwaffe Field Division, 16th SS Panzer Grenadier Division (16. Panzergrenadierdivision), 65th and 362nd Infantry Divisions and the 4th Parachute Division) and two divisions on the western end of von Vietinghoff's German 10th Army (356th and 715th Infantry Divisions). By the end of the first week in September, the Luftwaffe Field Division and the 356th Infantry Division had been moved to the Adriatic front along with (from army reserve) the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division and the armoured reserve of 26th Panzer Division. The 14th Army was not of the same quality as the 10th Army: it had been badly mauled in the retreat from Anzio and some of its replacements had been hastily and inadequately trained. [28]

Allied plan Edit

Clark's plan was for II Corps to strike along the road from Florence to Firenzuola and Imola through the Il Giogo pass to outflank the formidable defences of the Futa pass (on the main Florence–Bologna road) while on their right British XIII Corps would advance through the Gothic Line to cut Route 9 (and therefore Kesselring's lateral communications) at Faenza. The transfer of 356th Infantry Division to the Adriatic weakened the defences around the Il Giogo pass which was already potentially an area of weakness, being on the boundary between 10th and 14th Armies. [29]

Battle Edit

During the last week in August, U.S. II Corps and British XIII Corps started to move into the mountains to take up positions for the main assault on the main Gothic Line defences. Some fierce resistance was met from outposts but at the end of the first week in September, once reorganisation had taken place following the withdrawal of three divisions to reinforce the pressured Adriatic front, the Germans withdrew to the main Gothic Line defences. After an artillery bombardment, the Fifth Army's main assault began at dusk on 12 September. Keyes tried to flank the II Giogo Pass by attacking both the peaks of Monticello and Monte Altuzzo using the 91st Infantry Division in a bold attempt to bounce the Germans off the positions, but this failed. [30]

Progress at the II Giogo Pass was slow, but on II Corps' right British XIII Corps were making better progress. Clark grasped this opportunity to divert part of II Corps reserve (the 337th Infantry Regiment, part of the 85th Infantry Division) to exploit XIII Corps success. Attacking on 17 September, supported by both American and British artillery, the infantry fought their way onto Monte Pratone, some 2–3 mi (3.2–4.8 km) east of the Il Giogo pass and a key position on the Gothic Line. [31] Meanwhile, U.S. II Corps renewed their assault on Monte Altuzzo, dominating the east side of the Il Giogo Pass. The Altuzzo positions fell on the morning of 17 September, after five days of fighting. The capture of Altuzzo and Pratone as well as Monte Verruca between them caused the formidable Futa Pass defences to be outflanked, and Lemelsen was forced to pull back, leaving the pass to be taken after only light fighting on 22 September.

On the left, IV Corps had fought their way to the main Gothic Line: notably the U.S. 370th Regimental Combat Team, which pushed the Axis troops on its sector to the north beyond the Highway 12 towards Gallicano and the Brazilian 6th RCT, which took Massarosa, Camaiore and other small towns on its own way north. By the end of the month, the Brazilian unit had conquered Monte Prano and controlled the Serchio valley region without suffering any major casualties. In October, it also took Fornaci with its munitions factory, and Barga while the 370th received reinforcements from other units (365th and 371st), to ensure the Fifth Army left wing sector at the Ligurian Sea. [32] [33]

On Fifth Army's far right wing, on the right of the British XIII Corps front, 8th Indian Infantry Division fighting across trackless ground had captured the heights of Femina Morta and British 6th Armoured Division had taken the San Godenzo Pass on Route 67 to Forlì, both on 18 September.

At this stage, with the slow progress on the Adriatic front, Clark decided that Bologna would be too far west along Route 9 to trap the German 10th Army. He decided therefore to make the main II Corps thrust further east towards Imola whilst XIII Corps would continue to push on the right toward Faenza. Although they were through the Gothic Line, Fifth Army—just like the Eighth Army before them—found the terrain beyond and its defenders even more difficult. Between 21 September and 3 October, U.S. 88th Division had fought its way to a standstill on the route to Imola suffering 2,105 men killed and wounded — roughly the same as the whole of the rest of II Corps during the actual breaching of the Gothic Line. [34]

The fighting toward Imola had drawn German troops from the defence of Bologna, and Clark decided to switch his main thrust back toward the Bologna axis. U.S. II Corps pushed steadily through the Raticosa Pass and by 2 October, it had reached Monghidoro some 20 mi (32 km) from Bologna. However, as it had on the Adriatic coast, the weather had broken and rain and low cloud prevented air support while the roads back to the ever more distant supply dumps near Florence became morasses. [35]

On 5 October, U.S. II Corps renewed its offensive along a 14-mile (23 km) front straddling Route 65 to Bologna. They were supported on their right flank by British XIII Corps including British 78th Infantry Division, newly returned to Italy after a three-month re-fit in Egypt. Gradual progress was made against stiffening opposition as German 14th Army moved troops from the quieter sector opposite U.S. IV Corps. By 9 October, they were attacking the massive 1,500 feet (460 m) high sheer escarpment behind Livergnano which appeared insuperable. However, the weather cleared on the morning of 10 October to allow artillery and air support to be brought to bear. Nevertheless, it took until the end of 15 October before the escarpment was secured. [36] On the right of U.S. II Corps British XIII Corps was experiencing equally determined fighting on terrain just as difficult.

By the second half of October, it was becoming increasingly clear to Alexander that despite the dogged fighting in the waterlogged plain of Romagna and the streaming mountains of the central Apennines, with the autumn well advanced and exhaustion and combat losses increasingly affecting his forces' capabilities, no breakthrough was going to occur before the winter weather returned.

On the Adriatic front, the British Eighth Army's advance resumed on its left wing through the Apennine foothills toward Forlì on Route 9. On 5 October the 10th Indian Infantry Division—switched from British X Corps to British V Corps—had crossed the Fiumicino river high in the hills and turned the German defensive line on the river forcing the German 10th Army units downstream to pull back towards Bologna. Paradoxically, in one sense, this helped Kesselring because it shortened the front he had to defend and shortened the distance between his two armies, providing him with greater flexibility to switch units between the two fronts. Continuing their push up Route 9, on 21 October British V Corps crossed the Savio river which runs north eastward through Cesena to the Adriatic and by 25 October were closing on the Ronco river, some 10 mi (16 km) beyond the Savio, behind which the Germans had withdrawn. By the end of the month, the advance had reached Forlì, halfway between Rimini and Bologna.

Cutting the German Armies' lateral communications remained a key objective. Indeed, later Kesselring was to say that if in mid-October the front south of Bologna could not be held, then all the German positions east of Bologna "were automatically gone." [37] Alexander and Clark had decided therefore to make a last push for Bologna before winter gripped the front.

On 16 October, the U.S. Fifth Army had gathered itself for one last effort to take Bologna. The Allies were short of artillery ammunition because of a global reduction in Allied ammunition production in anticipation of the final defeat of Germany. The Fifth Army's batteries were rationed to such an extent that the total rounds fired in the last week of October were less than the amount fired during one eight-hour period on 2 October. [38] Nevertheless, U.S. II Corps and British XIII Corps pounded away for the next 11 days. Little progress was made in the centre along the main road to Bologna. On the right, there was better progress, and on 20 October the U.S. 88th Division seized Monte Grande, only 4 mi (6.4 km) from Route 9, and three days later British 78th Division stormed Monte Spaduro. However, the remaining 4 miles (6.4 km) were over difficult terrain and were reinforced by three of the best German divisions in Italy—the 29th Panzergrenadier Division, 90th Panzergrenadier Division and the 1st Parachute Division]—which Kesselring had been able to withdraw from the Romagna as a result of his shortened front. By late October, the Brazilian 6th RCT had pushed the Axis forces through province of Lucca to Barga, where its advance was halted. [39]

In early November, the buildup to full strength of the 1st Brazilian Division and some reinforcement of the U.S. 92nd Division had not nearly compensated the U.S. Fifth Army for the formations diverted to France. The situation in the British Eighth Army was even worse: Replacement cadres were being diverted to northern Europe and I Canadian Corps was ordered to prepare to ship to the Netherlands in February of the following year. [40] Also, while they remained held in the mountains, the armies continued to have an over-preponderance of armour relative to infantry. [41]

During November and December, Fifth Army concentrated on dislodging the Germans from their well-placed artillery positions which had been key in preventing the Allied advance towards Bologna and the Po Valley. Using small and medium Brazilian and American forces, the U.S. Fifth Army attacked these points one by one but with no positive outcome. By the end of the year, the defence compound formed by the Germans around Monte Castello, (Lizano in) Belvedere, Della Toraccia, Castelnuovo (di Vergato), Torre di Nerone, La Serra, Soprassasso and Castel D'Aiano had proved extremely resilient. [42] [43]

Meanwhile, the British Eighth Army—held on Route 9 at Forlì—continued a subsidiary drive up the Adriatic coast and captured Ravenna on 5 November. In early November, the push up Route 9 resumed, and the river Montone, just beyond Forlì, was crossed on 9 November. However, the going continued to be very tough with the river Cosina, some 3 mi (4.8 km) further along Route 9 being crossed only on 23 November. By 17 December, the river Lamone had been assaulted and Faenza cleared. [44] The German 10th Army established itself on the raised banks of the river Senio (rising at least 20 ft (6.1 m) above the surrounding plain) which ran across the line of the Eighth Army advance just beyond Faenza down to the Adriatic north of Ravenna. With snows falling and winter firmly established, any attempt to cross the Senio was out of the question and the Eighth Army's 1944 campaign came to an end. [45]


Watch the video: German Military Cemetery at La Cambe, Normandy