Oct. 2, 1943: Doc Alexander’s detailed account of the Italian Campaign

The following morning Oct. 2 – at dawn, Ralph, Slim, Art and I go forward again, right into Motta, behind “C” Squadron tanks. The Town is a mess and is being heavily shelled. We set up a R.A.P. in the square and prepare to follow the Tanks out the other side.

As “C” Squadron Tanks leave the Town, not over half a mile they run into a withering fire – five are knocked out and burst into flames – some soldiers escape, but from Town we cannot tell how many. I attempt to go forward, but am not allowed to leave the Town. Nobody is allowed forward. We discover five Infantry who were wounded last night and have not been evacuated. We attend to them and take them back to our reception station and while there arrange for the graves of our three dead, and personally place all three in their last resting place and pay them my last respects. The Padre conducts the service, the three graves look lonely and still as we start once more for the front.

Have just reached Motta – Al Mann and Frank Underwood both Tank Commanders caught in the fire ahead are waiting for me. The details are horrible, but all are not lost. There are four or five wounded but they tell me it is impossible to reach them. I go to the Brig. and ask permission to go forward, but he will not allow it. He says they are much safer there than they would be if I attempt to remove them. It is horrible to know that my own boys are lying wounded and I can do nothing for them.

The Town is still being shelled – one shell lands in a side street and there is a call for help – we rush in and put the wounded on the jeep – will dress them in our R.A.P. (Regimental Aid Post) just around the corner. One patient goes raving mad, and while trying to load him on the jeep another shell comes in, makes him almost impossible to handle, and a piece of shrapnel hits me a glancing blow on the head. It knocks me down and hurts terribly– which makes me think I know that it must be superficial and of no consequence. Thank goodness it was a glancing blow, as a direct hit with a slug the size of that would have been curtains.

We carried these boys down the hill, then we stopped and bandaged them and gave them Morphine, then carried them to the Reception Station and again returned to Motta. On our arrival back in Motta, a boy reported to me, that one of our boys was badly wounded in the river bed, two miles north east of the Town, but you could not reach him by car. Slim, Art – three tank boys and myself made an attempt to get there. Could not make it by car, but reached the river bed – three of us went searching for him. After travelling for an hour or so, we met him being helped out by an Infantry man – he said he could but that there was an Infantry chap was back there in very bad condition. We left him and went on for the Infantry chap and found him with a broken back and terribly wounded. I attended his wounds and gave him plenty of Morphine and then with other Infantry chaps who were around, we began the long climb – about two miles up to Motta. It was rough in the riverbed but so muddy on dry land – we are all exhausted when we reach Motta at dark.

Private W.G. Turner, Royal Canadian Regiment, eating a meal during rest period, Motta, Italy, 2 October 1943. Credit: Lieut. Jack H. Smith / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-129778

Private W.G. Turner, Royal Canadian Regiment, eating a meal during rest period, Motta, Italy, 2 October 1943. Credit: Lieut. Jack H. Smith / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-129778

During our journey up the river bed, at one point we get behind a German machine gun nest, but they don’t see us. We then pass in front of another one – who do see us, but we have seen them first so are hugging the ground pretty well. We run afoul of our own barrage for a short time, and then walk right into German mortar fire – but not awfully close. In the meantime, Art, Slim and Ralph are absolutely sure we have either been killed or taken prisoner as we have been gone so long. It is very dark now and raining heavily – I requisition a wine shop and we throw our blankets on the floor prepared to spend the night.

Bob Donaby bunks down with us – his wounded have been brought in, most of them by themselves, but one or two by the Infantry, who have swept that district since dark. All we know so far of our casualties in today’s action are – three killed, five wounded and fifteen missing. Five tanks were destroyed today. Tomorrow morning we will advance again. The Hasty P and 48th are now in.

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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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