Imola Bridge

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Paul Johnson, Feb 25, 2004.

  1. Paul Johnson

    Paul Johnson Member

    George William CHAMBERS - 974483 - Lance Bombardier
    75th Medium (Shropshire Yeomanry) Regiment. Royal Artillery
    Killed In Action on the 12th April 1945 aged 29
    Buried in the Faenza War Cemetery, Italy. (3.C.10.)

    On the day of his death the unit was in action in the area near the Imola Bridge in Italy. No details are given in the Unit War Diary as to what happened but the SDCD states that the Regiment only lost 3 men throughout the whole of 1945.

    Could his loss been as the result of an accident, or action?

    Can anyone please tell me what was happening in the area at this closing stage of the war.


    PAUL JOHNSON :ph34r:
  2. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Hello Paul, the spring of 1945 was the final push to take North Italy after the advanced stalled over the previous winter. On the Adriatic side the British 8th Army were to clear north up the coast and inland up Highway 9 past Imola to Bologna. They started their offensive on 1 April by having 2 Commando Brigade assault and clear the spit of land on the east flank which separated the Comacchio lagoon from the sea.

    The full attack of the 8th started on 9 April along the whole front, with the American 5th Army (who were in the mountains in central Italy) to start their offensive on the 12th. For them the offensive of the 8th should have drawn German forces south and east, making it easier for the 5th to come out of the mountains and attack Bologna. In practice the Partisans liberated Bologna and the first in were the Polish, but that’s another story.

    The map below is a modern version and the blue motorways should be discounted as they didn’t exist in 1945.

    Highway 9 was what is now termed SS9, an A class road. The Germans defended Italy in successive lines of defence making use of natural features such as rivers. In this location, the Genghis Khan Line, was a flat comparatively narrow sector which could be defended in depth. On the east was the Adriatic, the Comacchio lagoon and a large expanse of marshland which could be and was flooded by the Germans (indicated on the map next to the lagoon with blue lines). On the west were the Apennine mountains, where the 5th Army sought to breakout from.

    The 8th Army were successful in fostering the idea among the Germans that an amphibious landing was going to be made further up the Adriatic coast around the River Po basin supported with a drive along the coast from the south. Actually, once they secured their east flank, which 2 Commando Brigade did, they were to concentrate inland through the Argenta Gap and up Highway 9.

    The Poles were given the task of advancing up Highway 9 and presumably the person you’re looking into was part of the artillery supporting that advance?

    Below is a good military map at the site below (too large to link to) which shows the line the Allies held over winter from which they launched their spring offensive, the units used and their lines of progression.

    The chap at the site below has put some useful data together, and a map, which will give more insight to overall operations.

  3. Paul Johnson

    Paul Johnson Member

    Thank You No.9,

    Another detailed and very helpful response. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to look at this for me.

    My guess is that Chambers may have have been killed accidentally. I am pretty certain that if the Regiment were engaged in any sort of action with German troops that they would have suffered more than 1 casualty (although I could be wrong!!).

    Regimental diary was, to say the least, very vauge, hence my request. However, I am sure will establish what happened.

    Thank You again for your help.


    PAUL JOHNSON :ph34r:
  4. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Have to say I’ve found Battle Accidents often hard to get details on. Two I resolved in one unit’s history was through speaking with Veterans. In the case of a road accident I hit upon a man who was travelling in the same vehicle. How’s that for luck!

    Re Imola Bridge, perhaps a request to the Gunners Association for inclusion in their newsletter may get a response? Equally, if that unit was supporting the Poles, maybe the Polish Diary might reveal something about their artillery support?

  5. Paul Johnson

    Paul Johnson Member


    Seems I am always thanking you for information you have given me. Perhaps I can return the favour at some point! I do hope so.

    I will see what I can dig up on the Poles and the Imola battle area. It just seems odd that the casualty list for the Regiment was so low throughout 1945 (just 3 men).

    Would you expect an Artillery regiment to have a much higher casualty rate, or is it reflective of the "stalemate" that had gone on in Italy throughout the winter of 1944/45?

    Thank You Once Again,


    PAUL JOHNSON :ph34r:
  6. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    Again you’re very welcome Paul and I’m sure your research will help me and others as it has done already. Posing a question makes people think and consider or reconsider, it does me anyway. I never knew RA casualties in that area were so light, thanks to you, I now do.

    Regarding, is it amazing RA casualties were so light, I don’t know? If everything ran ‘by the book’, artillery should have been following up the rear and deploying to provide bombardment at various stages. I don’t think the enemy had the luxury of much (if any) air support at that stage, and/or artillery to engage in artillery battles. I would imagine if I were a German commander I tend to throw whatever I had at the advancing infantry and armour?

    The possibilities however, are anything is possibly. Perhaps an accident like a breech explosion or a transport incident, or perhaps he stood on an undetected mine or was unlucky enough to have been the only man hit by shrapnel from an odd enemy shell? What about Blue Fire?

    I was looking into a Battle Accident in Greece. A Commando Medical Orderly’s’ name on the Athens Memorial, meaning no grave? His date of death I establish was not at a time when any action was taking place, including behind lines reconnaissance. My supposition was leaning towards some kind of explosion or perhaps a sea or mountain accident where the body could not be recovered?

    No one I asked of that Commando knew anything about the matter and the Medical Corps couldn’t even find a record for the man by his name and number! Then, speaking with a Veteran I hadn’t met before, he mentioned Greece and I asked about an accident involving a Medic. On that small prompt he came out confirming the name and approximate date of death. Turns out his Troop were moving from island to island and were ordered to make emplacements on one of them. As the island was virtually all rock, they elected to blast rather than dig them. While this was going on, the Medic announced he was going down the escarpment, which they were blasting on top of, to bring up some water. Several told him to wait till the blasting was over, but he replied he’d take a wide berth and be well away from the blasting. Part of the way down a blast went off and a shard of rock or whatever, flew off at a weird angle and struck him on the head, killing him outright.

    I asked if he was buried on the island, to be told it wasn’t possible as it was all rock and equally it wasn’t feasibly to attempt to transport a body with them, especially in that heat. When moving between islands he was buried at sea.

    Without all that information, how could I possibly have guessed?

  7. Paul Johnson

    Paul Johnson Member


    I had a similar issue with a Lieutenant in the Raiding Support Regiment. Killed in Jan 1945.

    LT Peter John Keane 4 QUEENS OWN HUSSARS 226354. 04/01/45 aged 23.
    He joined the Royal Corps of Signals stright from school and later transfered to the Queens Own Hussars after taking a commission. He was attached to the Raiding Support Regiment, part of the Special Forces operation and is buried in the Phaleron War Cemetery, Greece. (19.C.3)

    Couldn't find anything on him at the PRO but managed to get in touch with someone who told me that he was killed whilst in support of Partisan operations. Seems he was killed in a petrol bomb attack, probably by Communist Terrorists.

    Seems somewhat Ironic that a man fighting in Greece to help them rid the country of Nazi oppression is killed by the very people he went there to help (the political issues aside).

    Life's Strange.

    Thanks again for all you help.

    PAUL JOHNSON :ph34r:
  8. No.9

    No.9 Senior Member

    He seems and interesting person Paul, the CWGC legend sites him as also of the Small Scale Raiding Force?

    The SSRF was initially the SOE’s own small commando unit, (Maid Honour Force), which was ‘commandeered’ by Louis Mountbatten after he took command of Combined Operations, and, basically wanted his own commando unit to instruct without consent of The Commandos, who were also part of Combined Operations. The SSRF (also known as Station 62 to the SOE and No.62 Commando to Combined Ops), was first formed around Gus March-Phillips and Geoffrey Appleyard from No.7 Commando. Around the time of Operation Aquatint, where March-Phillips was killed and the raiders mostly killed or captured, men of No.12 were attached to boost numbers.

    There would have been a few routes he could have joined the SSRF, including, I suppose, through a bit of an ‘old boys’ connection?

    January to April 1943 the SSRF was being broken up and most went to North Africa joining mainly 2 SAS or the SBS. Formed-up in 1942 out there was the Raiding Support Regiment to provide heavy machinegun and light artillery support for guerrillas and raiders. I would say that Keane gravitated to the RSR after going to Africa at the end of the SSRF?

    Certainly the RSR was part of 2 SS Brigade and served in detachments where the Commandos served, including Greece. Often forgotten aspects of W.W.II are the Civil War in Greece, Yugoslavia, and the reality of the Civil War in Italy. In respect of Greece, their Civil War tied up several Commandos and Paratroop Units in attempts to stop them killing each other. Success varied but, as you say, it seems stupidity to kill those there to help you. :(


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