Hello from Italy

Discussion in 'User Introductions' started by italian Patriot, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. Hi to all, I'm Marco from Pofi, Italy, approximately 40 Km north of Cassino. I'm a researcher in military history, on May 29, 1944, my little town was liberated by Canadian troops, and I am very interested at this historical period.
  2. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    Welcome to the site.


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  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Welcome to the forum
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  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Welcome aboard Marco.
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  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Benvenuto Marco !

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  6. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Hello and welcome to the forum.
    My late Father was in the 4th Reconnaissance Corps in the 4th British Infantry Division.
    I retraced some of his footsteps on route North to Florence a couple of years ago when I stopped in Rome and Tuscany.
    I very much enjoyed my time in Italy.
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  7. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Welcome Marco.

    My father and his battalion comrades were fighting nearby in San Giovanni on 30th May 1944.

    best wishes
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  8. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Ciao Marco,

    Welcome from Castiglioncello (LI).

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  9. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Welcome, Marco.

    I'm afraid to say that the only context in which I've seen the name Pofi is that relating to atrocities by French colonial troops, but Google shows me that it's a very nice-looking place.
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  10. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    Hello and welcome to the forum.

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  11. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Patron Patron

    Welcome to the forum, Marco.

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  12. I am happy that you liked Italy ... it is unfortunately a country underestimated, we could really be the pearl of art, history, culture ... we are going through a negative historical phase...
  13. it is a very pretty little town, it has very ancient origins, in pofi in the 50s found human finds among the oldest in all of Europe, during the Second World War it was liberated by Canadians, but there were incursions by French colonial troops unruly, killed and raped ... evidence of civilians and Canadian troops speak of some acts of true heroism by Canadians who saved civilians from these barbarians.
  14. many places here have that same name, can you specify better?
  15. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    on SP84 3km south-east of Ripi.

    P1040935 (4).JPG
  16. Wow...I live about a mile from there !!!! what was the regiment?
  17. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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  18. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    John Horsfall, CO of 2nd Bn London Irish Rifles, would later write about that day in San Giovanni.. (from 'Fling Your Banner to the Wind')

    "The operation in front of us was a straightforward encounter battle as we did not know exactly where the enemy was posted, only that he was present in strength. We would, therefore, have to probe forward until we hit them and then deal with events as they happened. At least the delay enabled us to get the entire battalion fed and that counted for much during operations that one could not see the end of.

    Zero hour was at noon and, five minutes later, the leading tank went up on a mine. This blocked the only track of a wall sided defile leading down to the Ripi road and the next hour was spent by our pioneers in clearing it. They had to lift out the mines, at which they were expert, and finished in no time, but excavating the diversion round the wrecked tank was an anxious and arduous business.

    F Company then went ahead as the probing force, with E Company, full of their yesterday’s experience, not far behind them. But the hour long delay lying up behind the Ripi road, after they had already once started, had been testing enough even for veterans and I think we were glad to be on the move again. Mike Everleigh was immediately behind Mervyn (Davies OC E Coy) with two of his tank troops and these would work forward from one rise to the next, progressively covering each other from hull down positions.

    I stayed with one of the troops myself, with Ian (Lawrie) in the tank with me, and we never went far from the road in the whole of the day’s operations. There are serious space restrictions in a Sherman and, owing to my BC’s presence, it had been necessary to dispense with the services of the hussar gunner, who normally manned the 75. This was no worry to Mike, who was short of men anyway, but it was just as well that he gave both of us a run over the handling of the weapon at the outset.

    The remaining tanks and the rest of the battalion stayed out of sight behind us, following also up the line of the road and ready for immediate use as soon as the situation required it.

    For a short space nothing happened, as the long extended line of F Company spread themselves over the broken ground ahead. But we had not covered the first mile before machine gun bullets were whipping across the road from both sides of us. The long sustained blasts of the spandaus were then thickened up by shelling as one SP after another joined in, firing down the road – with every shell bouncing and fragmenting tarmac and gravel exploding in all directions. Faithful to all their latest instructions, several of their machine gun posts were firing off very long bursts one after the other and the road became alive as the banks dissolved and flying earth showered all over it.

    Mike did not have to be told what to do and, in a few minutes his tanks were engaging from their covering positions and firing in to one house after another on the assumption that most of them were occupied. The others edged up while they did so.

    There was little difficulty in locating at least some of our targets as we studied the battlefield ahead through our glasses and the 17th Field were in action almost as rapidly as the tanks were. After a while, the small arms fire started to fade and I noticed thin streaks of oil smoke rising in to the sky near the village – one of Mike’s gunners had just clobbered an SP, or thought he had, and shouted his delight back over the air to his squadron commander.

    Radioing to E Company to stop and the other companies to deploy, we then put in a full scale attack on the village, while the 17th Field Regiment swung all their three batteries on to the place. They began by saturating it with HE and then added smoke as our men broke in across the rubble in front of it.

    G Company went in to the south of the road, F continued on the centre line and H across the north side of the village. With only E Company up my sleeve, this was hardly the best practice; launching one’s whole force, or most of it, simultaneously, wore a faint look of Dettingen and the results that followed were rather similar to King George’s robust action.

    The ensuing street fighting set the pattern for future events – though the method would not be repeated. As San Giovanni possessed only its three quarter mile length of high street, with a few minor side alleys, the main part of the battle flowed along its length and F’s role was the decisive one.

    On either flank, the other companies found themselves mixed up in the gardens and outbuildings and, with one obstacle after another to contend with, they were soon left behind. Also, with no central axis and most of the town smothered in its smoke cloud, they rapidly lost touch with their own men as well as with each other.

    In no time at all, I had half the battalion out of control and all that could be said in favour of the technique was the flank companies’ undoubted success in pulling in prisoners – bolting sideways from our spear thrust down the centre.

    In the case of F Company, the forward movement never stopped and the combination with the tanks was irresistible. B Squadron’s forward troop worked up each side of the main street, putting a round or two from their cannon through doorways or windows with our rifleman racing in from behind them with grenades. It was a slow job but a thorough one. It was also a very messy man, and, long before it was over, nearly three hours later, most of the tanks had run out of ammunition.

    The scenes, while it was in progress, beggared description, with the dense swirling fog from the smoke shells split by the long flashes of the 75s and the colossal explosions as their shells impacted.

    Occasionally, some stout hearted jager let rip with a schmeisser but, otherwise, there was not much last ditch resistance – though stick grenades came sailing over the walls often enough.

    Colin (Gibbs, OC F Coy) became quite enthusiastic over the radio as these events unfolded and he and the troop commander reported continued progress. A little later, they had reached the centre of the village and, at that stage, I drove on into it with Ian to join them.

    Forward visibility at the same time was almost nil, with brick dust and artillery smoke following across the street – so thick that one could hardly breathe in it. I must say that we did perhaps push on a bit too far and, emerging through on the other side of this witch’s cauldron, I stopped for a space to talk to the companies.

    Sitting in the turret top with the headphones on, one certainly hears very little of other noises but, while talking on the radio to Colin Gibbs, I noticed several of the enemy dart round the corner of one of the buildings a few yards in front of us. They then dived over a nearby wall and the next thing I knew was a hideous explosion as one of their anti-tank rockets brought down part of the house behind the tank. Luckily, Ian was in the gunner’s seat and, as we hurriedly backed off into the smoke, he lowered sights and traversed on to our assailants without a word said between us. He then proceeded to blow the wall to pieces with two or three deft shots from the 75 and, after the rubble had stopped sliding, there was no further sign of life. Some of F Company’s riflemen were on the scene shortly afterwards and found one or two of the enemy lying there frightened. The others had evidently run for it.

    At this stage, I pulled E Company into the battle again and sent them up the other side of the street in harness with F.

    Almost two hours later, San Giovanni was in our hands. Part of it was burning due to Mervyn’s zeal with 77 grenades – smoke bombs, which his exuberant riflemen had tossed gaily in to one house after another as they came to them. There had been several instances of the enemy jumping out of windows after being attacked in this horrible manner. I expect they were half asphyxiated but none could see to engage them effectively as they ran or hobbled off blindly into the smoke.

    With the fall of the town at dusk, the Irish Rifles were in total disarray and it took over an hour to sort out the battalion. No one had the slightest idea where they were after the turmoil had ended. And, as the whole place was thick with smoke, with visibility virtually nil, they could not see where anyone else was either. As the murk deepened, I gradually realised that night was falling. Our riflemen had been fighting for nearly nine hours.

    Eventually, Desmond (Woods OC, H Coy) appeared out of the gloom, with H Company filing cheerfully behind them. They were indescribably dirty but, keyed up by their experiences, there was little sign of fatigue. There were just a few rueful grins as I indicated Ripi to Desmond. Then, they shouldered their rifles and were off again into the gloaming.

    For the next hour or two, the starry night was punctuated by rifle shots and intermittent explosions as nearby mortars searched after us but, eventually, even this petered out and it was clear that organised opposition had ended. Desmond’s fighting patrol entered and scoured Ripi and they found it abandoned. With that news, I brought the other companies forward and we concentrated the battalion among the scattered houses on the south west fringe of the town.

    By the time we had done this, it was about 0100 and I was able to signal our brigadier that we had carried out his instructions. And the enemy had carried out theirs too – it had taken us twelve long hours to overpower them.

    Twenty of our men had been hit in the course of the battle. About half of them were grenade casualties and several were only slightly wounded but I do not think that many of the defenders got away from San Giovanni. There were quite a number of German dead lying up and down the street, mostly shot down by the tanks’ besas and F Company found a whole section killed in one house, apparently by a shell bursting inside it. We estimated eighty or more enemy casualties at the time but this was probably exaggerated. Mike’s men had destroyed two SPs near the entry of the village, both burned out and they winged another. We also picked up fifteen panzergrenadier prisoners and a large assortment of machine guns and other weapons.

    This German rearguard was a strong one and seems to have been under orders to hold its positions for as long as possible – in other words, to the end. Otherwise, the scrimmage in the village was pointless and achieved nothing save its own destruction. I never learned what it consisted of but as it was well above company strength and backed by a full retinue of support weapons, I expect we were fighting a battalion – if only the skeletal remains of one. The number of weapons captured indicated that but, whatever the composition of the kampfgruppe, it was clearly regarded as expendable by its iron fisted army commander.

    I talked to some of the prisoners later. They were quite a nice lot, smart and respectful. We may have caught the enemy on the wrong foot at San Giovanni but it would be a grave error to assume that this would happen next time. The German army was never more dangerous that on the recoil and, after an action like this, had been the exhilaration of victory and pursuit could end in disaster if we dropped our guard for an instant...."
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  19. gpo son

    gpo son Senior Member

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