Argenta Gap:- 2 Lancs Fus. / 11 Inf Bde

Discussion in 'Italy' started by jamesmurrow, Dec 5, 2018.

  1. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    Looking for diaries extracts of the above for 16/17 April 1945, as I wish to accurately locate where the Lancs forced a crossing of a 'tank obstacle'.
    Different accounts refer to both the Scolo Bruciata and the Fossa Marina.
    Ray in his 78 Div history states '...the waters were streaked with blood, and ugly with corpses.'
    Many thanks, in anticipation.
    James
     
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    P1110863 (2).JPG
    A slight blow up of one of those very badly photographed maps...and a bit of the 11th Brigade narrative

    Using the Coordinates Translator, for the map ref noted on one of the Medal citations below, North Italy Zone wM290610
    you can see that the road patterns in Argenta can be traceable from 1945 to the current day:

    11 Brigade

    "During the 16th, two tenacious strongholds on the Northampton’s front (in the area of Celetta) were summarily dealt with in a perfect example of infantry-aircraft cooperation. Fighter bombers were called in to help and six very bomb happy survivors of their attention were eloquent witnesses of the severely accurate bombing and strafing that resulted. Fifty PW were taken that day. Four or five were from the crack 29 Panzer Grenadier Division: the information they gave was of the highest significance. Their division had recently moved in a great hurry out of the battles north east of Bologna across the Po and had been directed to the Adige river defences farther north. Apparently, a last minute change in plans had resulted in a switch round of the Grenadier battalions to the south with orders to stem the flood at Argenta at all costs. The tanks of the Division were mainly left north of the Po, but the motorised infantry troops (some of the finest the Wehrmacht had produced) were now being recommitted, almost too late, opposite 11 Brigade. This step was a sure indication that the enemy were, at last realising their mistake and appreciating, fully, the significance of our drive through the gap – this was proof positive the battle to come would be a hard and bloody one, with no quarter asked for, or given.

    By last light on the 16th, the stiffening of the front was obvious. The Northamptons on the left were right up to Argenta cemetery on the southern outskirts of the town with patrols probing forward to test the enemy defences – which were proved to be especially strong at the station and surrounding building. On the right, the Surreys were beginning to outflank the town from the north and were moving up to Fossa Marina, the 12 foot high tranverse tank proof obstacle, which the enemy had chosen for his all out stand.

    This was the last and most difficult natural obstacle in the Gap itself, nearly everywhere, we were now through the worst mined areas and, if our advance was not stopped here, it would be the beginning of the end for the enemy. At dusk, forward movement was temporarily halted, as the Brigade Commander made his plan for the attack over the Fossa Marina. That this attack would have to be carried out by fresh troops on a battalion scale was a foregone conclusion and the Lancashire Fusiliers, until then in Brigade reserve, were quickly moved up and concentrated just behind the leading companies of the Surreys from, which position, they would be favourably situated to spring off and penetrate the Marina line.

    The attack over the Fossa Marina and the final stages.
    The line of the canal was held by II and III battalions of 71 Panzer Grenadier Regiment of 29th Panzer Grenadier Division – two of the hardest fighting then at the disposal of the German Commander in Italy. For support, they had approximately twenty to thirty self propelled and tank destroyer equipments and the usual artillery and mortar sub units from Regiment and Divisional resources. To attack them was the single infantry battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, backed up by the supporting arms already enumerated. 2100 hours was set as ‘H’ Hour and, exactly on the dot, the barrage opened with a soul shattering roar that seemed to shake the very atmosphere itself and lit up the flat surrounding farmland as if it were day. The vital consequences of the barrage were only discovered after the battle, when it was proved that the enemy had been surprised in the middle of a relief and many troops, who were moving up to the trenches, were caught in the open without cover and, as a result, suffered disastrous casualties, which affected subsequent operations.

    As the barrage opened, the Surreys’ leading companies moved nearer to the canal banks and, from their firmly established bases, the Lancashire Fusiliers sprang forward at the main defence. Within twenty minutes, the Fusiliers were engaged in fierce hand to hand fighting with the fanatically resisting enemy – the fury of the struggle continued unabated for nearly forty minutes. By 2200 hours, however, it became evident that the terrific vigour of the attack was beginning to take effect and, shortly after, the news came through that one infantry company was across complete and in the process of beating off a series of hastily organised counter attacks. A second company forced its way over the waterway within another hour and soon the familiar signs of disintegration among the enemy ranks began to show themselves. Over forty PW had been taken and more coming in every minute – hundreds of dead were counted on the far banks and floating in the blood soaked waters of the canal itself.

    Three of the Bays tanks had, by this time, also succeeded in crossing the canal by means of superhuman efforts on the part of an ‘Ark’ tank and the supporting Royal Engineers, who had established a serviceable bridge immediately behind the first infantry company to cross the canal, approximately 2 km north east of Argenta town.

    The bridgehead won by midnight then was two companies strong and in depth measured nearly three hundred yards constituting a menacing salient right into the crust of the enemy fortress. Three strong counter attacks had been successfully beaten off and not an inch ceded to the enemy. At this stage, however, the bridgehead troops were pinned to the ground by an accurate and devastating counter barrage, which the enemy kept up for the remainder of that night. The Battalion Commander, Lt Col MC Pulford MC had, unfortunately, been wounded in the initial stages of the attack and Major JAH Saunders 2.i.c. took over for the rest of the battle – fighting the battalion with great courage and skill, which later won for him the award of the DSO.

    When dawn broke, the fatal breach in the enemy line was still there and the road lay open for fresh troops to get at the vital inner defences. The enemy’s flanks, too, were beginning to show signs of wavering and, taking advantage of this, the Surreys quickly moved up a company on the left of the Lancashire Fusiliers to occupy the north eastern outskirts of Argenta itself.

    The town, however, was still held strongly by part of III/71 Panzer Grenadier Regiment, as was proved by patrols from the Northamptons, which had attempted to infiltrate during the night.

    But the main doors had been forced open and, that morning, the Irish Fusiliers and Inniskillings were passed through. At 1700 hours on the 17th, the Northamptons began the unenviable task of clearing up the enemy pockets in Argenta itself and, three hours later, were in full occupation. They found that their worst problem was the disposal of the numerous civilian dead, who lay piled in gruesome masses, mute testimony to the previous artillery and air bombardment and which had reduced the town to heaps of shattered rubble.

    Trapped between the Northamptons in Argenta and the Inniskillings in the north, the Germans put in a counter attack, on the left forward company of the Northamptons. The attack was broken up by sustained fire from our infantry and gunners and the remnants of the attacking forces were taken prisoner. The much vaunted defences of the Gap had been irreparably smashed and the numerically superior enemy so knocked about that the remainder of that regiment of 29th Division was never again able to fight as an effective unit.."
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
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  4. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    IMG_5326.JPG IMG_5327.JPG and a couple of medal citations for LF men which might add "something"
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
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  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Richard

    Thanks for fleshing out my brief response to this thread, James has certainly struck lucky in his wish to know more about the Argenta Gap !

    Best regards

    Ron
     
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  6. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    I'm + 8 hours at the moment so had that advantage today.
     
  7. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    Come up trumps again, many thanks gents. 38 Bde diary's ref of 300605, and Skins of Scolo Co 3060 may refer to forming up points.
    Just have to get it right for 2019 trip, hate knowing I wasn't quite on the right spot!
     
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  8. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Hope to be filming there sometime next year...it's changed.
     
  9. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    Indeed, as most places have Richard, even in the years between my previous visits, upgraded roads and buildings now preside. Comfortably though, one can now access Mount Pieve and Spaduro areas. Best with the filming.
    James
     
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  10. Mark Bradley

    Mark Bradley New Member

    Hi,

    My grandfather was in the 12th Royal Lancers and was the driver of an M8 greyhound. I know that he arrived in italy in Naples and went up into Austria but I’ve been trying to find out what his route was. Do you know if the 12th Royal Lancers were at the Argenta gap?
     
  11. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Mark,

    During the final battles in Italy, 12 Lancers were with 2 New Zealand Div - who struck out towards the west as one of the vital precursors to 78th Div's breakthrough of the Argenta Gap

    Excerpt of NZ history here

    "At the end of 13 April, therefore, the foremost troops of 6 Brigade were approximately the same distance from the Sillaro River north of the railway as were those of 9 Brigade south of the railway.

    The 12th Royal Lancers (Lieutenant-Colonel K. E. Savill), which had come under the command of the New Zealand Division the previous day, was ordered to protect the right flank. Two squadrons of armoured cars set out on the 13th to probe the ground between the New Zealand Division and 78 Division (which of course was heading towards Bastia)....

    Fill your boots with the NZ official history here:


    best wishes
     

    Attached Files:

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  12. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    Richard,

    I'm thinking that the above information that you have given in your post 3, is taken from ( a rare account) of THE 78TH DIVISION IN THE FINAL OFFENSIVE IN ITALY? The maps are rather large. The maps was reprinted by 19th Field Survey Coy R.E. Mar. 1946..

    James,
    if required, I do have a copy of the above book in the form of a PDF document? I'm also in the middle of obtaining another rare copy.

    Regards,
    Stu.
     
  13. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    A few of these are scattered around at the LIR Museum.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Mark Bradley

    Mark Bradley New Member

    Thank you ever so much for your response.

    I had managed to find out that the 12th Lancers had been part of 56 Recce and 78 Division as 56 Recce were allocated 28x M8 Greyhounds but it seems that they were not widely used at all, but I had no idea that they had joined the New Zealanders.

    Would there be any archives that have the vehicle numbers or their markings? For example would they have a 78 division battle axe insignia or something to distinguish the 12th Lancers so that they could move between divisions as necessary (78 Div to 2 NZ Div).

    Many thanks again for your insights.

    Mark
     
  15. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    No definitive answer -but I believe that 12 Lancers were a 5 Corps resource during the various campaigns in Italy..and directed to specific, discrete, divisional command as and when required.
     
  16. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    James, Richard & Ron, you chaps know a lot more about 78 Division than myself (one has to obtain the material in order to learn has to what they got up to.) Richard, apologies if you thought that i was treading on your toes? Its just a case of asking for the source. I should have looked at Ron's link. I've manged to copy five of the eight plates that are in the above book (see the ones below.) They really did take some doing. I would have done the rest, but like a muppet ( I've lost my tool/app) that i used to stitch them together.:banghead:

    rsz_showing_advance_17-19_apr_45.jpg
    rsz_situation_as_at_1800hrs_10_apr_45.jpg

    James, re your PM.. I think this is what you are after, if its not, then please give me some more info.? My offer still stands of what i offered in my earlier post. As long has you reside in the UK, then i can get it to you by some form or another.
    rsz_ccf10122018.jpg
    rsz_ccf10122018_0001.jpg
    rsz_ccf10122018_0002.jpg

    Regards,
    Stu.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018 at 9:05 PM
  17. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    You might like to see the original planning maps that were obviously the basis of the second map posted above by Stu. These are contained within the 56 Recce war diaries kindly reproduced by Recce Mitch. 56 Recce were part of 78th Infantry Division.
    P2250892.JPG
    P2250892

    56th Recce War Diary April 1945 | WW2Talk
    P2250866.JPG
    P2250866

    56th Recce War Diary April 1945 | WW2Talk

    Also of interest may be the 11 Bde Operational instruction No. 9
    P2260044

    56th Recce War Diary April 1945 | WW2Talk

    Perhaps worth browsing through the other pages.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2018 at 5:11 PM
  18. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Stu

    Without wishing to appear too "gung-ho", my abiding memories of being in 78 Div were of our intense pride in being part of a Div that had a reputation for being a well known and much respected fighting unit.

    As I have previously noted, after my Regt's disbandment in December '44 and my transfer to the RAC it was with much joy that I eventually found myself fighting with the battle-axe div once again

    Richard and his family, by virtue of their wish to show respect for their Dad's unit, the London Irish, has revived my interest in the Div and for this I am most grateful.

    Ron
     
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  19. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Stuart,

    Brilliant on the maps - mea culpa for not making the source link more explicit.

    best wishes
     
  20. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Fantastic. Very humbled that you, Ron, should say this - Ron, of course, knows much more than I will ever know so it's always a pleasure and privilege to have the chance to chat to him about those long ago years. The next few months will see the 100th anniversary/birthday of my Dad and his mates who joined up in the autumn of 1939 so another incentive, if one is needed, to continue the "treasuring process".

    Ron,
    As a newsflash, I've been away for a month but hear that we continue to have delays in publishing our Sicily film and will update you over the next few days on my return to the UK.

    best wishes
     
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