Gemmano

Discussion in 'North Irish Horse' started by Gerry Chester, Sep 17, 2004.

  1. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The Battle for Gemmano and the Coriano Ridge
    A Tragic Decision

    By 4th September 1944 only the lightly defended village of San Savino stood in the way of 46th Infantry Division, supported by Churchills of the North Irish Horse, and the capture of the vacated Coriano Ridge - it was not to be. The Regiment's War Diary for the day reads:
    "Plans are made for an attack on SAN SAVINO but the CO receives orders to form a Churchill firm base for 1st Armd Div to pass through. A Sqn form this base from Pt.151 to Pt.174." A surprise decision, ignoring the report by 46th Division that the ridge had been abandoned by the Germans!

    The Adriatic sector of the Gothic Line comprised four defensive lines based on rivers. From south to north: Red Line - River Metauro. Green Line 1 - River Foglia. Green Line 2 - River Conca. Yellow Line - River Marecchia.

    Launched on Saturday, 26th August, Operation Olive took the Germans completely by surprise, the Red Line was crossed the same day, Green Line 1 for days later and, by month's end Green Line 2 also breached. By this time, such were considerable number of casualties and loss of matériel suffered by the Wehrmacht, the Germans were facing a serious crisis, so much so that General Traugott Herr, commander LXXVI Panzerkorps, had ordered the withdrawal up to the Yellow Line north of Rimini.

    The original plan, once the Coriuno Ridge had been captured, was that 1st Armoured Division, led by the Queen's Bays, would sweep forward far to the north, it was not to be. Whatever the reason for forming a "firm base" was, prior to occupying the Ridge, it was a major error - the Shermans of 1st Armoured, due to the difficult terrain, had not been able to keep up - over twenty-four hours elapsed before they were ready to advance.

    The delay did nor escape the notice of General Fritz Wenzell, Chief of Staff of the 10th Armèe. Acting on his own responsibility and without informing either of his superiors, Kesselring and Von Vietinghoff, he gave orders for units to set up defensive positions on the hill upon which Gemmano sits and the Coriano ridge.

    These two decisions sealed the fate of thousands of soldiers on both sides and of several hundred civilians. The headstones in Gradara and Coriano Ridge War Cemeteries, bearing the names of all but a few of the 3,130 Allied troops who rest there forever, stand in mute testimony of the fiercest battle fought during the Italian Campaign. 1st Armoured ceased to be an effective fighting force, later being disbanded. Gemmano became known as the "Cassino of the Adriatic".

    [​IMG]

    Copyright photograph reproduced courtesy Imperial War Museum
     
  2. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Thanks Gerry - when I visited Gemmano a couple of years ago I was even more amazed that anyone could possibly fight over that sort of ground; he was a hard enough slogg in good walking books, let alone under fire from mortars and MG42s.

    This is a modern view of Gemmano:
    [​IMG]
     
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Couldn't resist adding another gem from the IWM.
    NA 18394
    Description: Platoon commanders of 7th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment are briefed for an attack on German forces in the village of Gemmano, 6 September 1944.
     

    Attached Files:

  4. ourbill

    ourbill Senior Member

  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    There is a site that has some history of the action, maps and photos. Site constructed in an english translation of a book originally written in Italian by locals of the area.

    http://members.tripod.com/aries46/gemmoliv.htm
    Nice one. A really good read.
    Cheers,
    Adam.
     
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    [​IMG]
    Vickers machine-gunners of 6th Bn Cheshires in action at Monte Gemmano - 7th September 1944

    From Pocket History 3
     
  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Seems the Italian campaign has slipped of the forum of late so I'll bump this thread as the battle was raging 70 years ago this month.
     
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  8. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Owen et al

    What always brings a very wry grin to my face is the statement that the Battle for Coriano Ridge was finished off by Cdnd

    5th AD on Sept 14 - wish we had known that at the time we had seven day break at Cattolica interrupted at two days to have another go
    at the defences of San Martino which was held by our old friends the 4th German Paras who were a stubborn bunch..this was late on the
    15th - early 16th saw the Arty having a go at an alleged 88mm hotspot - they didn't worry them and so the Royal Navy sent up two

    destroyers to blow him into oblivion - they also failed and it was then the turn of the DAF - who also blew it but promised to return
    in the a.m. to finish him off - sure enough three spitfires strafed us having breakfast which didn't help but we were assured that

    they had done the job and so we set off up the hill with our six Churchills and two small companies of Seaforths of Canada …

    Ten minutes later our Troop commander was dead and had fallen over his gunner and so they withdrew - we were knocked out - Tank

    Commander died that evening - the other four Churchills also knocked out with casualties etc….

    What I learned much later was that the Vandoos on the 15th thought we weren't coming so baled out - the Gerry paras moved back in

    with THREE 88mm's which caused all the trouble, on the 17th September...

    The main trouble with that whole Coriano battle was the 1st Armoured were unfit for battle having been sat in Tunisia for nearly a

    year with NO battle practice in Italy - so they were thrown in - took a bad beating and were disbanded and Gen. Leese sent off to

    Burma…to cause more trouble out there…

    Cheers

    The long list of casualties for the Gothic Line was 14,000 KIA - too many at the Ridge
     
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  9. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    My Grandad was wounded by grenade on the 12/13th September at Gemmano, with the 6th York & Lancs.

    The war diary for the time relates that Coy's of the 6th Y&L had just cleared a village and moved on through. When the HQ Coy (that were following up) reached the same village, a number of grenades were thrown from a house (that they thought was clear) into the company causing numerous casualties.

    My grandad said that when he eventually returned from hospital, the battalion was practically unrecognizable due to the amount of casualties taken at Gemmano.
     
    Owen likes this.
  10. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    1st Bn London Irish Rifles (1 LIR) rejoined the 8th Army front, with 168 Brigade (56th Division) in early Sept 1944:

    An excerpt from the LIR history below - accounting for 1 LIR's part in the fighting on 5th/6th September...the battalion's casualties over the following two weeks totalled 85 killed + 245 wounded (slightly higher than their casualties on 25th Sept 1915 at Loos).
    "Orders were received from Brigade that an attack was to be put in on San Sevino cemetery and Point 168, which was five hundred yards along the ridge to the south and in the direction of Croce. The Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Colonel Baucher, had just time enough to make his reconnaissance in fading light, and was forced to point out the objectives to ‘B’ and ‘D’ Company Commanders in light so bad that the tasks were given from the map and by the aid of a compass bearing on a burning haystack. The platoon commanders, of course, had no chance at all of seeing anything but the fire, their objectives were a matter of some hazard. It was a lamentable and noticeable feature of the conduct of the campaign at that period that time for reconnaissance was rarely given by higher authority, the mistaken impression still persisting that the Germans were on the run in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary.‘D’ Company set off, followed by ‘B’ Company.

    The route lay over the ridge upon which the battalion was dug in, across a valley, and up to the San Sevino Ridge. The advance of ‘D’ Company began with 18 Platoon, closely followed by the Company Commander and Tactical Headquarters. Everything was unusually quiet as the company deployed in readiness for the attack. In the stillness of the evening the surrounding countryside sprang suddenly into life. From positions very carefully concealed on their left flank, the enemy opened up machine-gun fire and pinned the entire company down. The situation was awkward, and after several fruitless attempts to go forward there was no alternative but to wait until total darkness. Supported by the gunners the company resumed its advance at 2100 hours, and when they succeeded in reaching their objective they discovered that some of the enemy had withdrawn. As 18 Platoon in the centre got almost to the top of the ridge they were fired on heavily from a house only fifty yards away. Lieutenant M Spiller, with 16 Platoon on the right, made a quick appreciation of the situation and ordered two sections to attack with grenades and Bren guns. The Germans in the house were taken completely by surprise. In a few minutes the house was more or less surrounded and all exits covered. About two hundred yards away, 17 Platoon were having a stiff fight with strong groups of Germans still holding out in houses on the outskirts of Croce. A fire plan was scarcely completed when the enemy counter-attacked, but thanks to the vigilance of the section commanders they were beaten back.

    Shortly afterwards there was a stronger attack, the enemy being obviously determined to sweep the London Irish from the ridge.The company fought back magnificently in the darkness, but enemy superiority in numbers and automatic weapons gradually made itself felt and the London Irish had to fall back a hundred yards or so. In covering the withdrawal, 18 Platoon, under Sergeant S Henry and Corporal LJ Martini, fought the Germans to a standstill. For their outstanding leadership and courage they were each awarded the MM. Their platoon, also, had ultimately to move back to new defensive positions. There was hardly time for the company to recover from the two previous shocks when the Germans attacked in greater strength and for the third time.

    By now the London Irishmen were weary and almost exhausted, having had not a moment's respite since launching their original attack. The Germans closed in, but every man in the company stood aggressively in his position. For fifteen minutes there was a tense struggle and suddenly, in spite of their strength, the enemy withdrew. There was a brief silence, and then a German officer shouted out that he and some of his men wanted to surrender. Major T. Sweeney went forward to accept the surrender, but they.. then challenged him and without hesitation shot him down.

    To avenge the death of their leader, to whom all ‘D’ Company were devoted, the men charged from their defences and although ammunition was running short shot up all the Germans in sight. After about half an hour, encirclement was threatened by German reinforcements and the company withdrew from Point 168 entirely. Seventeen enemy dead were left behind. Throughout the engagement CSM McDaid acted with conspicuous gallantry in rallying and holding his men together. He was awarded the DCM.
    Fine work, too, was done by the company stretcher-bearers, and another award was the MM to Rifleman WJ McDonald, of the regimental aid-post, for outstanding courage in tending the wounded. The fighting quality of each member of the company was splendid and individual praise would perhaps be unfair, but mention should be made of Rifleman Warren, of 18 Platoon, who although wounded and unable to walk covered the company's retirement with his Bren gun and helped to ward off the enemy."

    A fuller Regimental write up can be found here:

    http://www.londonirishrifles.com/second-world-war/second-world-war-70th-anniversary-events/gothic-line-september-1944
     
  11. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    Bexley

    It seems these 'sham' surrenders by the Germans was a common ploy. A similar thing happened to Major Marsh of the 6 York & Lancs (see attached 12th September entry)


    [sharedmedia=gallery:images:25422]
     
  12. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    similar indeed.
     
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Clanky / Bexley

    We had the feeling at times that the Enemy watched too many Hollywood Cowboy movies as they tended to kill the Injun Chiefs

    and the injuns would run away - didn't happen that way and only made us determined to kill them - fortunately for them we took
    prisoners…..they still got our leaders though out of nine officers we had three Kia - three Wia and three promoted - one Major

    Ingram was on his way to take over "B" squadron when he was KIA…some had a short life in command another Major Christopher

    Newton- Thompson was promoted to "C" was Wia but recovered to win the M.C. - we dried up our spare Officers and had to import

    them from other units and by December we were disbanded…I joined the 16/5th lancers for the finish…

    Cheers
     

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