Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 1943 – Attack on Motta; Second World Journals of Doc Alexander

Sept. 29 – Moved at 2 p.m. to rejoin Unit in Minervino about thirty miles south east of Foggia. Beautiful scenic road east to Gravina. At Tolve the most peculiar bunch of hair pins, about twenty down the mountain, then a steep climb to the Town and hair pin bends down the other side. The far side of the Town consisted of row on row of cave dweller homes. Irsina, the next town was much the same. Turned north at Gravina to Minervino and then to main road six miles north. Prepared for new advanced of Oct. 1/43.

Oct. 1/43 – Jeep – motorcycle and one ambulance moved at 3:45 and travel up Foggia road to join Van Guard of expedition under Col. Fred Adams. 1 Co. P.L.D.G. – “C” Squadron Tanks, 1 Btty Anti-Tank, 1 Bty Field Artillery, 1 Co of RCR. We pass through Foggia at 6 a.m. – a beautiful city but terrifically pounded to pieces. We are on Foggia Plains going west towards mountains. Halfway between Foggia and Motta, we run into German machine gun and artillery. We are held up now and the Tanks are Artillery are bombarding enemy positions in the hill. The Town, which is held by Fritz and giving us so much trouble is Motta, a natural fortress. CO’s conference decides to push A and B Squadrons through C which is holding and seize and hold the Town, until occupied by the R.C.R. The attack goes in at 4 p.m., not proceeded by artillery fire – we establish a forward R.A.P. with Capt. Hunter in charge and Art, Slim and I prepare to go forward with assault wave.

Sherman tank of the Scots Greys carrying troops of the 1/6th Queen's Regiment during mopping up operations in Torre Annunciata, 1 October 1943. © IWM (NA 7347)

Sherman tank of the Scots Greys carrying troops of the 1/6th Queen’s Regiment during mopping up operations in Torre Annunciata, 1 October 1943. © IWM (NA 7347)

Just nicely get started when a D.R. comes for us – direct 88 on a Tank. We rush up to forward Tanks find one Tank out of order, the crew commander killed, and three men badly wounded. At the same spot another Tank is stopped, Bruce Trotter has been killed and his driver slightly wounded, and D.R. wounded. We attend the wounded, evacuate them to forward R.A.P., then evacuate the dead. Another Tank draws up, the Co driver is dead and all the crew is wounded. we secure another drive and send it to the rear and evacuate the casualties. We wait in a shed and examine all the Tanks as they retire. I evacuate the casualties, then return to forward R.A.P. It rains that night and donkeys rush into the stall where Art and I are sleeping.

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Major Bruce Trotter, 14th Canadian Army Tank Regiment, (left with Bob Taylor and John Begg) killed Oct. 1/43 during the attack on the city of Motta, Italy. Alexander family collection.

Oct. 2 – Tanks “C”: advance again and we go straight into Motta – Van Guard action is over – it is now Brigade attack. German resistance is very strong. We pick up six wounded of RCR, who have been trapped in Town all night and return them to forward R.A.P. – then supervise burial of Sgt. Lynch, Major Trotter and Tr. Pellson – then return to Motta. The Town is being shelled and while dressing and loading patients on the Jeep, get a slight head wound. In afternoon go on foot to river 2 1/2 miles forward and evacuate by hand one of our boys and an RCR boy. The Hasty P and 48th are now in terrific divisional artillery barrage. We had three more killed yesterday about five more wounded, also lost five Tanks and still have 15 missing.

17-pdr anti-tank gun of 44/13th Anti-Tank Regiment, 10th Indian Division, in action, 18 October 1944. © IWM (NA 19614)

17-pdr anti-tank gun of 44/13th Anti-Tank Regiment, 10th Indian Division, in action, 18 October 1944. © IWM (NA 19614)

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.

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