Today will be sunny with cloudy periods then becoming cloudy this afternoon with a 60% chance of freezing rain or flurries late this afternoon. The wind becoming south at 20 km/h (12 mph) near noon. A high of 0C(32F) is expected.
Tonight will be cloudy with a 60% chance of freezing rain or flurries early this evening. An overnight low od -2C(28F) is predicted.
My father was shot in the stomach in the battle at the Gully on December 13, 1943 while serving with the Princess Patrica's Canadian Light Infantry.
He never returned to battle but was shipped back to England to recover.
On 10 July, 1943, 1st Canadian Infantry Division landed in Sicily as part of the 8th Army. The Patricia's were re-indoctrinated to war at Leonforte, their first WWII Battle Honour. Following the capture of Sicily by the Allies, the Regiment landed on Italy's Atoel on 4 September 1943. The first two months were spent advancing inland (northward) with the Regiment's progress slowed by demolished bridges and German rear guards. During December 1943, the Patricia's were heavily involved in the operations of
Villa Rogatti and the Gully, winning many individual and unit honours in the process, and spent Christmas in Ortona. The next major offensive came at the Hitler Line, west of Monte Cassino, in late May 1944 during the Allied advance to Rome. Towards the end of August, the Regiment moved back to the Adriatic and took part in the assaults on the Gothic Line, San Fortunato and Rimini. The rugged terrain and seemingly never ending river crossings had taken their toll; both in men and equipment
The Gully (Battle for Ortona, Italy)
The stubborn fighting withdrawal was bought for the Germans to create a heavily fortified system of defensive lines intended to check the Allies well south of Rome and hold them in place through the winter of 1943-44.
Dubbed the Gustav Line, it hinged on Monte Cassino, a
1,700-foot-high mountain looming over the town of Cassino, in the west and the Sangro River in the east. On Nov. 28, the British began forcing a crossing of the Sangro River. Casualties were high; the Germans withdrew only grudgingly to a new line behind the Moro River. The Canadians took over the night of Dec. 5-6.
Heavy rains had turned the landscape into a boggy quagmire and the rugged terrain, thick olive groves, and vineyard wires rendered support of infantry by tanks virtually impossible. The Canadians kicked off on Dec. 6 with an assault across the Moro River on three fronts. Only the PPCLI made any headway, capturing Villa Rogatti. This attack, however, was supposed to have been a diversionary effort and, when the Royal Cdn. Engineers determined
it would be impossible to construct a bridge across the river below Villa Rogatti, the battalion was withdrawn. A firm bridgehead was finally established across the river at San Leonardo by Dec. 9. A quick advance to the Ortona-Orsogna lateral road, forcing a withdrawal from Ortona, was expected, but 1st Cdn. Div. found itself bogged down in front of a deep, narrow defile they respectfully nicknamed The Gully.
Repeated frontal assaults by one battalion after another were cut to pieces. Then on the night of Dec. 14-15, the Royal 22nd Regiment (Van Doos) managed to outflank The Gully to the west.
The 81 men of Captain Paul Triquet’s C Company and seven tanks of the Ontario Regt. fought their way down the road behind The Gully toward a farmhouse called Casa Berardi. At one point the tiny force was driven to ground by stiff resistance based around a Mark IV tank. Sergeant J.P. Rousseau grabbed a PIAT (Projector Infantry Anti-Tank) gun, crept up close to the tank, and fired an anti-tank bomb that pierced the tank’s armour and detonated its
ammunition. He earned a Military Medal.
Still the battle raged and when the rapidly dwindling ranks of C Co. wavered, Triquet urged them on. “The safest place for us is the objective,” he declared. At 1430 hours the Van Doos cleared the house. Triquet had just 14 men left and only four tanks remained operational. But The Gully was turned and Triquet was the first Canadian in Italy to earn a Victoria Cross. It took another four days, however, for the badly depleted Canadian battalions to finally seize the vital Cider Crossroads junction, after which the Germans withdrew from The Gully into the streets of Ortona.
Finally, on Dec. 20, the Loyal Edmonton Regt. and the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada fought their way into the outskirts of Ortona and became locked in a vicious house-to-house battle the German 1st Parachute Division refused to break off. The Canadians passed a grim Christmas in and around Ortona with no pause in the fighting. Somehow in the midst of the carnage, the Seaforth’s quartermaster and headquarters staff organized a sumptuous dinner for the line troops that was served in a church on the town’s
southern edge. One by one the companies were withdrawn to the church, served dinner, and then returned to the battle lines. The Edmontons had no such reprieve. Private Melville McPhee did receive two bottles of beer and a few slices of cold pork. He drank the beer slowly, not knowing when another such pleasure might be his.
Not until the night of Dec. 28 did the fight for Ortona end when the Germans quietly slipped away. The December fighting cost 2,605 Canadian casualties, including 502 killed. There were also 3,956 evacuations for battle exhaustion and 1,617 for sickness, out of a total Canadian strength at the beginning of December of about 20,000. First Cdn. Inf. Div. required a long period of rebuilding after Ortona. It had, however, mauled two German divisions–90th Panzer Grenadiers and 1st Parachute Div.–and achieved its objective.
Updated: 2:52 PM GMT on November 12, 2008
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