Nov. 30 – Dec. 3, 1943: “Dead Germans everywhere. All that I saw were mere boys.”

Nov. 30 – Bde move forward at 7:45 a.m. We brought up the rear of 11th Reg. Passed north west of Termoli, through San Salvo to two miles south of Vasto, then south to Cupello, then north to just south of Scerni. We are now harboured in a field, but expect to move forward today to almost the jct. of the Sangro River with the Adriatic Sea. The guns are very evident from here and we can watch our bombers pounding the German lines. We are about six miles from the German lines here.

Bombs from aircraft of the Tactical Bomber Force showering roads and defended positions at Lanciano, Italy in support of the 8th Army Sangro River bridgehead.

Bombs from aircraft of the Tactical Bomber Force showering roads and defended positions at Lanciano, Italy in support of the 8th Army Sangro River bridgehead.

Dec. 1 – Moved forward at 11 a.m. through Martino – a very beautiful drive and in the distance –a mountain showed up covered in snow – with teh sun shining on it, it reminds me of Banff. The crest overlooking the Sangro River was absolutely covered with medium artillery and in the valley in front were seven regiments of 4.5, 5.5 and regiments of twenty five pounders. En route we were visited by German dive bombers, but no damage was done. In St. Martino were large batches of German prisoners, rather bedraggled looking as a whole. We are now in harbour on the bank of the Sangro on a hilly slope. The Calgarys crossed the bridge and are on the slope facing us. This slope was the first stronghold of the German Winter Line and was taken by the 78th British Div. Apparently yesterday the Germans took an awful beating – for 36 hours a terrific artillery bombardment accompnied by constant air raids. our own guns are now firing over our heads and setting up quite a din. We are sitting here tonight but we don’t know what we do tomorrow. The Sangro River is not very big – but there is a wide marsh on each side of it. The regular bridges are all blown but thee is one of our bridges intact right opposite us now. We are in the corner formed by the mouth of the river and the Adriatic Sea.

Unidentified infantrymen of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade firing a mortar near the Sangro River, Italy, 1 December 1943. Credit: Lieut. Frederick G. Whitcombe / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-153182

Unidentified infantrymen of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade firing a mortar near the Sangro River, Italy, 1 December 1943. Credit: Lieut. Frederick G. Whitcombe / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-153182

The Sangro River November 1943: A 25 pounder gun fires a round during the night barrage which enabled Allied tanks to cross the Sangro River.

The Sangro River November 1943: A 25 pounder gun fires a round during the night barrage which enabled Allied tanks to cross the Sangro River.

Dec. 2 – Pulled out at 6:30 a.m. after a hectic struggle at pulling down tents and packing in the dark. Travelled due west along the Sangro River for about four miles, then the wheels went over on a temporary bridge while the Tanks forded. We then travelled north west to about five miles east of Fossacesia and passed through Santa Maria – where we saw what our artillery barrage had done. The Town is terrible. A couple of miles beyond the Town we got dive bombed – two of our men were wounded and several tanks were slightly damaged. We have been dive bombed five or six times since. We are right in front of Lanciano, which has not been captured yet. His heavy mortars and S.P. guns are dropping a few rounds around. Went through a section of his winter defence line – terribly knocked to pieces and dead Germans everywhere. All that I saw were mere boys. There is a terrific concentration of troops here and the advance is steadily progressing.

Dec. 3 – Nothing unusual – only two air raids today. Had a visit from Tim Cameron and we went exploring the German Winter Line. Deep, deep dug outs. Our artillery has caused tremendous damage – trees cut off etc. – like the Towns we used to see in the last war.

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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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