Operation Fustian - airborne assault to capture Primosole Bridge 13-16 July 1943

Discussion in 'Italy' started by merdiolu, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    This operation intigruied me among Allied airborne operations during the war. I read it in wikipedia. It was Montgomery's idea during Sicily Campaign to capture this bridge on Simeno River and open up to Catania plains quickly. Concept seems similar to Market Garden. 1st British Airborne Brigade would capture the bridge , the heights then 13th Corps headed by veteran 50th Infantry Div. would come up from south as soon as possible , relieve the paratrooperas and cross the bridge to open Catania fields around Mt. Etna. Things went wrong though. Airborne operation on morning of 13th went wrong and British paratropers and giliderborne inf. dispersed due to lack of experience in RAF troops transports and bad weather. Worse they landed just next to 1st German Fallsjmjager (elite parachute) Div. which staged its own landing at the same time. British paratroopers in two weak company strength reached the bridge and hold it for a whole day before German paratrooper and panzer attacks forced them to leave the bridge and retreat to height in south of Primosole. However they did a valuable service and removed demolition charges on the bridge before retreating.

    50th Infantry Div. due to lack of transport could reach paratroopers only on 14th July. It took two more days of heavy fighting to capture the bridge and form a bridgehead. All German attempts to destroy the bridge were unsuccesful and Primosole bridge was captured intact on 15th July. However advance axis and route of 8th Army was clear now so Germans blocked and stalled British advance north to Catania.

    Does anyone know anything about this operation or any living witness ? It seems like a failure for Allies initially since it was not the coup grace as planned , British airborne landed dispersed , lost the bridge and 8th Army couldn't reach Catania fast as planned. But British paratroopers captured the bridge initially prevented its destruction by removing demolition charges so paved way to its recapture by 50th Division two days later. So can it be called as a partial success ?
  2. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    We have already had a couple of discussions on this topic - see Primosole Bridge Sicily 1943.

    From memory I think this is incorrect - seem to remember the transport aircraft were American piloted and a source of recrimination.
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    quite correct - th aircraft were piloted by inexperienced US flyers who dropped their charges on meeting with AA fire and also friendly fire from Royal Navy - 300 British Paratroopers were drowned

    same thing happened further West with the US paras as they were scattered all over the Island and became ineffective...

  4. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member


    I would suggest that you read Glider Pilots in Sicily by Mike Peters. This will correct some of your misconceptions and in explain, in detail, the two British Airborne landings on Sicily on the 9/10th and 13/14th July (Operations Ladbroke and Fustian)

  5. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    Thank you for correcting me. I thought transport pilots were from RAF.

    I will. Thank you again.

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