Italian Campaign: Canada and the Battle of Ortona


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  • Pass around cap badges
  • Nursery Tale: General Chris Vokes - 1 Cdn Div Commander
  • Loyal Eddies advance with Shermans of the Regiment Trois Riviers
  • German S-mine ( Schrapnellmine in German), also known as the "Bouncing Betty” German Teller Mine + a series of mines boobie trapped to a tree.
  • Tac symbol of 1 st Cdn Armoured Brigade
  • Grave of Eddies killed at Ortona
  • Italian Campaign: Canada and the Battle of Ortona

    1. 1. & Canada’s D-Day Dodgers 1943 - 1944 The Italian Campaign J. Marshall 2007
    2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Training in England </li></ul><ul><li>Sicily </li></ul><ul><li>ORTONA </li></ul><ul><li>North-West Europe </li></ul>
    3. 3. 1) Training in England <ul><li>Defense of Britain - attack never came </li></ul><ul><li>Long months of fitness/drills/training </li></ul><ul><li>Itching for a chance to prove themselves (Hong Hong, 1941 and Dieppe, 1942) </li></ul><ul><li>8th Army victory over Afrika Korps </li></ul><ul><li>Appease Stalin/delay 2nd front </li></ul><ul><li>(Soft under-belly of Europe) </li></ul>
    4. 4. 2) Sicily: July 10, 1943
    5. 6. 3) Ortona, Italy Dec 20 -28, 1943 <ul><li>1st Cdn Division (Brit 8th Army) fighting crack German 1st Paratroop Division at the end of the Adriatic front for a non-strategic town </li></ul><ul><li>Deadliest close-quarter fighting of the war - Cdns invent “mouse holing” </li></ul><ul><li>Bloody December, Little Stalingrad </li></ul><ul><li>In one week: 1375 Cdn dead; almost 25% of all Canadians killed in the whole Italian campaign! </li></ul><ul><li>Everything before Ortona was a “nursery tale” </li></ul>
    6. 7. 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Cdn Infantry Division <ul><li>P.P.C.L.I., Seaforth Highlanders of Cda, </li></ul><ul><li>49th Loyal Edmonton Regiment </li></ul><ul><li>Eddies and Seaforths up; Patricias in reserve </li></ul>Brigade of the WEST
    7. 8. <ul><li>The Seaforth Highlanders from Vancouver move along a mined path towards the fishing town. The Cdns hit the paratroops’ “winter line.” </li></ul>The Approach: Dec 21, 1943
    8. 9. Tactics: <ul><li>Streets and alleys became killing zones </li></ul>Every window is a possible risk for the attackers. In towns, the defenders have a HUGE advantage.
    9. 10. KILLING ZONE Command-detonated Booby Traps Note : interlocking arcs of fire
    10. 11. The Infantry <ul><li>Steel helmet </li></ul><ul><li>Web belt and harness </li></ul><ul><li>Ammo pouch (120 rounds) </li></ul><ul><li>Gas cape </li></ul><ul><li>Water bottle </li></ul><ul><li>Mills bomb </li></ul><ul><li>Bayonet </li></ul><ul><li>Entrenching tool </li></ul><ul><li>Wool battledress </li></ul><ul><li>Web gaiters </li></ul><ul><li>Steel-shod boots </li></ul>WW2 soldiers were even more encumbered than those in WW1, even though the battles were far more mobile!
    11. 12. Evidence: What do you see?
    12. 13. Prep for Battle: <ul><li>Putting fuses in grenades </li></ul><ul><li>(Mills Bombs) </li></ul>
    13. 14. The Threats: <ul><li>Collapse </li></ul><ul><li>Booby traps </li></ul><ul><li>Snipers </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy weapons </li></ul><ul><li>Mines </li></ul><ul><li>Blocked tank support </li></ul>Ortona, 1943
    14. 15. Pte Boyd: 49 L Edm R <ul><li>Rescued after being buried 3 1/2 days in rubble at Ortona (sole survivor in his platoon) </li></ul>
    15. 16. Tactics: armour support <ul><li>Paratroops are generally lightly armed with machine guns, rifles, light mortars and grenades. </li></ul>
    16. 17. Close Support of the Infantry <ul><li>The Sherman’s 75 mm gun could be used to knock out paratroop strong points </li></ul>
    17. 18. Using the 6 lb Anti-tank Gun <ul><li>The Canadians employed all heavy weapons available to breach buildings that concealed the paratroops </li></ul>
    18. 19. <ul><li>Range 90 yds </li></ul><ul><li>75 mm armour </li></ul><ul><li>Awkward to load </li></ul><ul><li>Intense recoil </li></ul>PIAT: Projector Infantry Anti-Tank
    19. 20. Canadians inspect a captured belt fed MG 34 - at 900 rpm/15 rps its rate of fire was superior to the magazine fed British Bren Gun. mouse holes?
    20. 21. Many civilians did not leave prior to the attack <ul><li>This German paratrooper had dressed in civilian clothing to escape detection as he entered Ortona, Dec 13, 1943 </li></ul>
    21. 22. Evidence: what do you see?
    22. 23. Lead-up to Christmas Eve <ul><li>Field Marshal Kesselring ordered Ortona reinforced - the Allies had made “Ortona as important at Rome” </li></ul><ul><li>The paratroops staged an intense counterattack on Dec 24. The Cdns held on. </li></ul>
    23. 24. C h r i s t m a s, 1943 <ul><li>First Christmas in battle - Captain Cameron QM of the Seaforths - scrounged roast pork, 2 beer and chocolate served to each company in turn. </li></ul><ul><li>Sergeant “Smokey” Smith VC- </li></ul><ul><li>a dinner ain’t worth dyin’ for. </li></ul>
    24. 25. Church of Santa Maria di Constantinopoli <ul><li>Followed Dec 24 German counter-attack </li></ul><ul><li>LCol Syd Thomson </li></ul><ul><li>Padre Roy Durnford </li></ul><ul><li>Pork dinner and carols under wet skies and a “hole”y roof </li></ul>
    25. 26. Mopping Up: Dec 28, 1943
    26. 27. Utter Destruction Canadian soldiers experienced a high rate of “battle shock” during this operation and morale suffered due to the high casualty rate. “ Everything before Ortona was a fairy tale”: General Chris Volkes
    27. 28. After Ortona: the road to Rome
    28. 29. 4. North-West Europe <ul><li>The Italian campaign ended in February, 1945. </li></ul><ul><li>The British 8th Army, with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, moved to NW Europe after the D-Day landings and fought in the Netherlands. </li></ul>
    29. 30. Ortona Conclusions = Must Knows: <ul><li>Fought by 1st Div - “ D-Day Dodgers ” </li></ul><ul><li>Ortona is remembered as “ Little Stalingrad ,” Christmas, 1943 </li></ul><ul><li>Vicious street fighting with many threats </li></ul><ul><li>Mouse-holing invented </li></ul><ul><li>Almost 1/4 of all Cdn casualties in Italy </li></ul>