Sicily

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Rav4, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. Rav4

    Rav4 Senior Member

    Interesting comment in the National Post today ref. the Sicily landings 70 years ago today.


    Remembering a great Canadian battle
    Robert Engen, National Post | 13/07/10

    Cresting a hilltop outside the town of Agira in Sicily, overlooking a small lake with the great volcanic Mount Etna in the distance, sits a cemetery in which 490 Canadians are buried. These Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen fought and died in the summer of 1943 as part of Operation HUSKY, the Allied battle to seize control of the island of Sicily during the Second World War.
    More than 26,000 Canadians were part of HUSKY, which began with the largest amphibious landing in history on July 10 1943 — 70 years ago today — followed by 30 days of fierce fighting against the German and Italian defenders. The Canadians fought their way through the centre of the island and were pivotal in breaking the enemy defensive line.
    Today, seven decades later, most Canadians probably know about Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach. Some probably even know about the Canadian landing at Dieppe. But the Canadian public knows little about what happened in Sicily. Sicily was more than simply another Canadian battlefield in a war that spanned the globe. The success of HUSKY had ramifications for the entire Second World War. Canadians should take pride in the feat and pay tribute to the soldiers and planners who made it happen.
    The invasion of Sicily, and later of mainland Italy, was driven by the particular strategic circumstances that faced the Allies in 1943. During the First World War, the Allied Powers held secure bases of operations on the European continent — particularly France — and yet still barely managed to contain and later defeat Germany. In the Second World War, by 1940 the Nazi armies had been staggeringly successful and the western Allies lost every foothold in Europe. Those Allied units that survived the German blitzkrieg into France and the Low Countries were forced to retreat to Britain. No matter where the Allies wanted to fight after the fall of France, they would have to cross bodies of water and carry out extremely complicated, extraordinarily dangerous amphibious landing operations to do it.
    To land a large army on a coastline held by strong enemy forces is one of the most difficult tasks possible (Canada learned this, at great cost, at Dieppe). In order to win the war, Germany’s armies had to be defeated on the ground; but simply getting at them became a hundred times more difficult in 1943 than it had been in the First World War. The Germans knew this too, and awaited in force an Allied amphibious landing.
    In 1943 the Allies were beginning to plan the next year’s landings in Normandy. The key consideration was that enemy forces would have to be diverted away from the area first. If the defenders were too strong, the landings would fail. A new Allied campaign was required which could draw the Germans away from both the Soviet front and from northern France.
    Invading Axis-controlled Sicily was a cunning choice. HUSKY took advantage of the fact that the government of Italy was collapsing 1943. Victory in Sicily toppled dictator Benito Mussolini and eliminated a major enemy nation from the war. The Germans gained nothing from fighting in Italy, but HUSKY forced them to deploy hundreds of thousands of soldiers to occupy Italy anyway, to guard their empire’s southern flank. HUSKY was a trap the Germans were forced to walk into.
    Sicily was an operational triumph, but its strategic success was in how thinly it forced the Germans to spread their strength on other fronts. The subsequent Allied attempts to land in Europe owed much to the strategic ramifications of their victory in Sicily.
    The 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings is next June and it will receive greater fanfare than HUSKY has. But it will be important to recognize that the D-Day successes did not happen in a vacuum, and that the seeds of those victories were planted a year earlier during the battle for Sicily. And the Canadians who remain in the ground on that peaceful hillside outside Agira stand as silent testament to the enormity of the challenge faced, and the scale of their accomplishment.
    National Post

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/07/10/robert-engen-remembering-a-great-canadian-battle/
     
  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Rav
    Whilst there is great truth in the National's article of the Canadian input to the final Victory over the enemy in Sicily - it cannot be said that it was that campaign which lay down the seeds of victory as since 1940 the British and many other

    Commonwealth forces had battled with not too much success in the desert - apart from Beda Fomm -until Alanbrooke and Montgomery took their commands in late '41 and Monty in August '42 - then we had a plan to win- and that started to

    become effective at Wadi El Halfa in the September of '42 - then El Alamein - Tripoli - Tunisia - THEN SICILY and Italy as I served alongside and in support of the Cdn 1st Div and as well as the 490 at Agira there are a further 6000 in Italy before

    the 1st and 5th divs as well as 1st Ab left for Belgium of Feb of '45 to leave more Canadians in that land as well as neighbouring Holland and finally in Germany itself...

    Cheers
     
  3. Rav4

    Rav4 Senior Member

    I thought that it is encouraging to see an article about Sicily in one of our newspapers. I wasn't aware that it was the anniversary of the landing. I have always remembered June 6th. because I remember well that day as a child of 13 seeing the gliders flying over us in North Wales.
     
  4. colinhotham

    colinhotham Senior Member

    That's the trouble, HUSKY has been mostly forgotten by all the main players. As far as I can see, like all 'small wars' they go unrecognised. It's a shame HUSKY didn't get the acclaim that will be rewarded to June 6th next year. There is no difference in death in battle, wherever it is fought!!
    Colin.
    (Ex RAF Salalah/Oman 1970/71)
     
  5. Rav4

    Rav4 Senior Member

    Not exactly a small operation I believe it was the largest ever up until then. Even the Normandy landing were virtually ignored until Afghanistan, with hardly a mention in the papers.
     
  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Rav

    you must be very young as you have the Sicily landings being the biggest until Normandy quite correct - BUT - to say that Normandy Landings were virtually ignored until Afghanistan tells me you didn't read too many newspapers or watch TV

    since June 6th 1944 - that's right two days AFTER we captured ROME - the Italian and Burma Campaigns were ignored by all correspondents apart from one or two - it was ALL about Normandy - and has been ever since - read back to the

    hundreds of threads on this forum even since I joined in 2004 proclaiming how the war was won in Normandy et al ..in my view the war started to be won finally at Wadi El Halpha in September 1942 when Rommel got a black eye - then

    in October he was given a bloody nose..and thumped at Tunis..then again at Sicily.....BY THE SAME PEOPLE WHO WERE IN THE FOREFRONT OF D Day - and I do mean XXX corps of 50th - 51st and 7th Armoured divisions and V111

    Armoured Bde - then the bitching started that they were not very good in battle - which didn't surprise me as they had been fighting for TWO YEARS......without too many leaves..especially HOME leaves - no wonder we called the BLA - the

    BRITISH LEAVE ARMY.....so my advice would be to check a good history book on what went on in WW2....might surprise you

    Cheers
     
  7. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Rav

    just noted that you are now 81 and live in B.C. so my apologies for thinking you are young - but you must live in a remote area of B.c.not to be aware of what went on during the war- ever heard of "Smokey " Smith of New Westminster ...?

    Cheers
     
  8. tron333

    tron333 Member

    Note Today 70 years ago Patton decides to encamp to his new shore CP now that the shooting has died down on the beach. Canadians push into Ragusa and Monty flys towards Messina and meets The Italian Arditi and shore defense which clog the roads slowing progress. Germans remass their forces for another counter attack this afternoon. Group Schmaltz retires to the SOrtino Villasmundo line causing the Italians to look at each other and grumble about being abandoned. They will bolt from their gun emplacements by early afternoon as 44RTR arrive with 50 Corps.
     
  9. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    My father in law was there with you too and would have agreed (sadly he died age 60 in1977 as he had started to put his WW2 photos together in an album)
    His diaries are a wonderful insight into the daily tedium and then hard graft of war in N Africa.... as BQMS he did a lot of driving and often complains about problems with B Ech and then the challenge of finding where his men had got too. Unfortunately the diaries and photos stop in June 1943 ... looking at daily Regimental Orders in war diaries it seems there was a general tightening up of regulations about personal documents/photos

    He was with 4th Durham Survey Regiment and as BQMS got left in Sousse until late July so missed the 'best' of Husky. The regiment was split into several smaller units and attached to RA and CRA in different areas with 'B' Troop (FS) of B4 Battery landing at on the 19th 0700 on Red Beach "C.O. landed on foot" They seem to have been in support of 51 Div.
    R Troop landed on 11th July and sent up with the Canadians all the way through to Agira. 'O' Party of A Troop B4 Battery landed on 14th and were at Vizzini the next day and by 19 July were with HQ RA 1st Canadian Div at Valguarnera.

    Meanwhile Uncle Tom whod started the war withthe 4th Survey then posted to 6th Survey and left on coastal work for 2 years was out of OCTU (Alton Towers ) joining his battery to land a few weeks later at Anzio .. always talked about his Anzio ear.

    Awaiting Tom's service record to find out which units he was with in Italy


    Robin
     
  10. Rav4

    Rav4 Senior Member

    My apologies Tom! After reading my post I can see why you responded as you did. :) I intended to say that there was very little acknowledgement of the WW2 until Afghanistan, and the media woke up to the fact that there had been a war. Some remembrance days past with there being no mention of it.

    Your right in thinking that I live in a remote part of B.C. It's called Chilliwack and the last time I heard the ferry to Agassiz only ran once every hour. :)
     
  11. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Rav

    So I am right that you live in a remote part of B.C. - that ferry was discontinued years ago......and I am sure it was mentioned in the Times or Progress as was the WW2

    Cheers
     
  12. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    This topic is a revelation for me too - ie how the invasion from the south was as important as that from the north. My Dad, in the Royal Navy, took part in the Med. campaign, but never talked about it.
    What I don't understand is, why was the control of North Africa so tactically important?
     
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Tricia

    After Dunkirk Britain was in a very bad way and was liable to be invaded by the Germans - it didn't happen - then Italy joined the war hoping for some easy pickings like the Suez canal - and the Oil fields of the Mid East - and at that time we had avery large base in Egypt - which was threatened so - we reinforced the force in Egypt - then Italy made their moves - and we clobbered them - especially at a place called Bed Fomm - then a chap called Rommel joined in with his Afrika Corps- and he clobbered us - a couple of times - so we fired a few people - lost a lot more - BUT - eventually we had the right men in the right positions with the right plan - then we clobbered Rommel at a place called Tunisia -
    so now we have about a million men just south of Sicily - just laying around on the beaches - so lets all just sail across the Med and really finish off Italy - then let Germany take over in looking after the whole of Southern Europe while we go ahead in killing them off - which we did and when the others landed in France - with our best lads in the front - they had many less Germans to kill to bring peace once more to the world.....

    So hope this clears your thinking in what we had to do with the stuff we had to do it with - mind you it took five years - and many of us were just 18 y.o. until we were nearly 23 ....

    Cheers
     
  14. CL1

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

  15. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Tom: thanks for the explanation, seems that then as now one of the main causes of trouble was oil.
    And I'm in no doubt that we owe the young men of your generation so much - unimaginable really.
     
  16. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Tricia

    Didn't start off about oil - more like EGO's - LARGE ones by Hitler who needed room to expand so picked on Czechoslovakia - then Poland and finally the breadbasket of Russia's Soviet Union - Mussolini to expand his Empire in Lybia and

    Abyssinia / Somalia and the Canal would be nice - and Stalin who wanted the whole world - and virtually managed it with much help from - as Lenin called them - "Useful Idiots" - and there were many of those around - and still are when I look

    at the EU frolics where you can't deport hardened illegal immigrant criminals who are destroying the very lifestyle we fought to retain....so it didn't take the" Useful Idiots" long....and it's getting late to change anything...

    Cheers
     
  17. tron333

    tron333 Member

    Mount Campanelli north of agira ( Cemetery is underneath the drone) looking west towards Nicosia. Bebop2_20160627154000+0200.jpg
     
  18. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    " We were to experience the fluttering feeling inside knowing we were to be landed in Sicily. Originally we were supposed to land D+2 or 3, but owing to the rapid arrival of other convoys our landing was deferred a little, and we did not get there until a week later. The timing of those convoys was superb and without mishap.
    So one day we were whisked off with weights, heights and sizes of our vehicles and equipment plastered on large labels on our windscreens. We had to wait a day down near the docks (Sousse) and commenced loading about midday. When we arrived at the dockside the sight was most inspiring with the long line of L.S.T.s facing up to the quay with their deep black mouths awaiting their cargo. Huge deep things that appeared with long lines of lights in the high roofs disappearing into the distance. Inside trucks were being run straight from the quayside up the sloping ramps into the spacious hulk, which smelt of new paint, diesel, and tanned rope, and that pungent smell of sweating metal. Large notices screamed “No smoking” in thick red letters. Guns, equipment, and vehicles were run tight in together so that they appeared to touch. The lower deck full I wondered how they got the stuff to the top deck. On the next boat I saw how it was done. A huge hydraulic lift took vehicles up to that level and they were then driven to their appointed place where they were securely lashed amongst ventilators and deckhouses. The whole system was wonderful, and I stood watching awe inspired. Taking a look around I found the ship was larger than I’d expected, heavily armed with Ack-Ack and anti-sub guns mounted in steel guarded turrets. Above the “vehicle well” in the sides of the ship were galley ways fitted with tiers of bunks where we were to sleep. It was so hot that I just dripped all over. How those men endured life in the engine room I do not know. The weather being fine many men slept on deck. I slept in the forward part on a lower bunk, but spent most of the time on deck at night. It was so hot below. As we pulled out of the harbour I felt a faintly odd feeling of being cast adrift into something over which I had no control to stop – a feeling of uncertainty and almost fear of the unknown future. All we knew was from the news of the B.B.C. I stood on deck as we pulled out with Ken Lovell. I remember how we both felt the same and how we talked long into the night of our wives, and me of my addition to the family that was well on the way.
    As we pulled out one of the large doors that swing to on these craft failed to close. The inner compartment was shut, but it took quite a while to repair the other one. I had nasty fears of a watery bed or being left by the rest of the convoy, but these fears were wasted effort.
    The trip lasted 48 hours and was quite uneventful, with a very calm sea, some heavenly sunsets, and was really quite enjoyable. We passed Pantelleria, and Malta at about 18.00hrs on the last night. With the sun behind us it stood out yellow and pink against the parting day. It looked such a solid little island, but even so it was a wonderful effort we were able to hold it out against the Hun.
    Sicily looked like a long grey line on the horizon shimmering in the heat. As we got nearer we could make out clusters of white faced houses against the brown and olive of the countryside. Syracuse loomed with its appearance as a fortified port standing serenely above the clear bluey grey of our smooth sea. The quayside was colourful with a line of orange trees and coloured clothes. The quay was busy. Heavy vehicles darting too and fro loaded with wooden crates or crammed with troops. We had to wait our turn and we stood looking at this activity, so like Algiers in its earnestness and bustle, yet so different. There were many of the Eighth Army there too, the people we’d always wanted to meet. Their dress seemed so different somehow, and their manner too, very hail fellow well met. We had come from England but a short while before, straight from a period of intense training – so it seemed compared with them. Our training was still fresh in our souls, and as part of it only issue clothing was worn. With the 8th we saw many variations never before dreamed of by us. Coloured silk scarves, shirts of blue, grey, and all shades of khaki – tailored trousers and tropical jackets and sun faded peak caps. The old desert boots caught our eyes, a bright ginger suede affair turning down at the ankles. We were impressed because it seemed so naughty and daring to us. Rather as if we were witnessing a fashion parade. We’d seen nothing like this before, and we secretly hoped we’d be allowed to “get away with it”. One or two tried but had their knuckles rapped and we were told that we’d not to go “gor blimey” till we’d been blooded. As Col Tom Smith said, we had to set an example to the population of how smart the British Tommy was. I have wondered if he too would have like to branch out as the 8th did. He loved his red and blue “fore and aft” hat, and carried brightly coloured silk handkerchiefs always, though he did not wear them.
    When we disembarked I had to wait on the quayside until all the stuff was off, and was accosted several times by Italians selling oranges, grapes, nuts, and many odds and ends they pedal. Their language to me was completely foreign, and sounded awful. I did find myself replying in French, but of course they did not “capito”.
    I did not feel impressed with the place when I got off. It was dirty, smelled evilly, and the people in need of a good meal. We passed the ancient Grecian temple and the wrecked radio station to a large field surrounded by a stone wall about 3-4ft high in which were enclosed many tall almond trees. It was a scorcher of a place, stiff with swarms of persistent and troublesome flies that nearly drove us all mad. We swatted and flapped our flappers at them all day. We had again to resort to camouflage for visits from Jerry aircraft were frequent as he tried to strafe the shipping in the harbour. From a little knoll above the camp we could look out over Augusta and Syracuse, and we had some perfect views of the raids with the many coloured tracers of our own guns and captured equipment.
    Our next abode was right beside the sea just south of Augusta. The shell fragments used to come whistling down on us at night when the sky was lit up by thousands of star like shell bursts, long fingers of searchlights, and tracer.
    After Augusta we had one or two short stays passing through many very old towns, all filthy and insanitary, and humming with flies and disease. From our positions we could look right out over the plains of Catania behind which loomed Etna. Towards the latter days of the Sicilian campaign you could easily see tanks and vehicles burning down there by the great columns of black oily smoke belching out all over the place, while white cotton wool puffs indicated shells. It was hell for the infantry on that plain, the heat and flies by day, and mosquitoes by night. Sicily is very malarious, and we encountered our first batches of malaria there."

    Extract from "Ever your own, Johnnie, Sicily and Italy"
    ISBN 978-1-326-59892-1
     
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  19. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Illustrated London News 24 July 1943
    Illustrated London News 24 July 1943.jpg
     

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  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Illustrated London News 24 July 1943
    Illustrated London News 24 July 1943.jpg
     

    Attached Files:

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