Nov. 18–23, 1943: Sangro River, Italy

Nov. 18 – Arrived at Termoli at 9:00 a.m. – harboured under canvas in an olive grove. It is a beautiful day today – much warmer than in the mountains. We are surrounded by armour – Indian, English, and New Zealanders. We don’t know what is coming.

A scout car crew of 6th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers, Indian Armoured Corps, chat with youngsters in San Felice, during the advance towards the River Sangro. © IWM (NA 8592)

A scout car crew of 6th Duke of Connaught’s Own Lancers, Indian Armoured Corps, chat with youngsters in San Felice, during the advance towards the River Sangro. © IWM (NA 8592)

Nov. 19 – Busy today reorganizing the section for the coming battle. Went twelve miles up the coast to the Fld. Amb. today. Could not get much definite information but everywhere there is traffic such as I have never seen before. One steady line of trucks going up and a steady line coming down empty. Guns galore and on the shore of the Adriatic are hundreds of amphibian trucks (Ducks). The hills are not nearly so high here, but the roads are just as winding. Tonight sitting in my tent, which is on the side of the road, I can hear a steady stream of trucks going in both directions. Hundreds of Italians are working on the roads and bridges. Some German Tanks and some Three Rivers Tanks blown out, are still sitting in our grove.

The Sangro River November 1943: A German Mk III Special tank knocked out near San Salvo during the advance to the Sangro. © IWM (NA 8801)

The Sangro River November 1943: A German Mk III Special tank knocked out near San Salvo during the advance to the Sangro.
© IWM (NA 8801)

Nov. 20 – Was into Termoli at the 19 British C.C.S. today. Wonderful bunch of chaps there. Terrible rain storm this a.m. Our tents flooded and all the country soaked in mud. Orders group this afternoon. We are standing to move forward at one hour’s notice after daylight tomorrow. Will proceed about two or three miles north of Vasto, near Casalbordino to an assembly point for an attack over the River Sangro in the general forward advance of the 78th Division on Pescara and the lateral road leading to Rome. It is very doubtful if either ourselves or the 4th Armoured Brigade can cross the River. If this weather continues we will all be bogged down – but the attack will proceed without armour. Rome will be the next big objective. The current rumour is that German will collapse between Xmas and New Years. I certainly hope it is true.

The Sangro River November 1943: View from a British observation point across the Sangro River towards the German positions on the north bank. The remains of a bridge across the river, destroyed by the Germans, can be seen. © IWM (NA 8833)

The Sangro River November 1943: View from a British observation point across the Sangro River towards the German positions on the north bank. The remains of a bridge across the river, destroyed by the Germans, can be seen.
© IWM (NA 8833)

Nov. 22 – All day yesterday it poured and rained and the ground became muddier and muddier. The general attack was cancelled for 48 hours due to the weather. The 78th Div have established a bridge head over the Sangro River. The 8th Indian Div. on the left will attack tomorrow morning. If possible the 4th Armoured Div will cross the Sangro and through with the 78th. They will be relieved by the 1st Can. Tank Bde.; but at present teh 4th Armoured cannot even reach the Sangro – are bogged down at a little river this side of it. One squadron of the Calgary’s are bogged down this side of Vasto and we in turn cannot move until they move. If the weather remains clear for a few days, we may get going, but at present it looks very doubtful. The attack will go on either with or without us. There is a terrific concentration of guns and armour ahead of us – wonderful weather today – see if you luck holds.

The Sangro River November 1943: A mule train carrying ammunition passes a bogged down Sherman tank en route in the forward positions in the Sangro area.  © IWM (NA 8942)

The Sangro River November 1943: A mule train carrying ammunition passes a bogged down Sherman tank en route in the forward positions in the Sangro area.
© IWM (NA 8942)

Nov. 23 – Raining very hard this morning when we woke up, but cleared fairly well during the day. Col. Ralston was here and visited us. I had a short talk with him. Sent. Capt. Sedenburg to hospital, so do not know what I do now. I am acting R.M.O. (regimental medical officer) – but imagine the authorities will soon change that. Would kind of like to take on the Ontario’s for awhile, but probably will not be given the chance. Charcoal brazier burning in here tonight making my tent lovely and warm.

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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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