Dec. 15, 1943: Doc Alexander and The Calgary Tanks

Note: Doc Alexander is will soon return to England where he’ll be promoted to major and given command of the 6th Field Dressing Station and then, with the 6th FDS, he’ll be sent to Normandy on D-Day plus-21. For now, he’s still in Italy, convalescing in a Canadian hospital following the sharpnel wound to his ankle. As part of this project is as much about The Calgary Regiment as it is about my grandfather (even though he had been with the 2nd Field Ambulance through Italy), I’m going to keep telling both stories even though they have diverged. Even though my grandfather has been separated from his beloved Calgary Tanks, it is never far from his mind.

Doc Alexander:
X ray negative on ankle, so guess it is ligaments. Bob and Ralph are back, will be leaving for Unit tomorrow. Saw Nurse McDonald from Calgary today – we had a long talk, she will be in later.

 A casualty being loaded into a DUKW on the beach at Fossacesia, 15 December 1943. © IWM (NA 9891)


A casualty being loaded into a DUKW on the beach at Fossacesia, 15 December 1943. © IWM (NA 9891)

Meanwhile, the Canadians had taken The Gully, the what

The Calgary Tanks war diary:
Dec. 14
San Leonardo

Throughout the day, the combined A and C Squadrons remained in positions on Vino Ridge with infantry. A small scale enemy counter attack during the afternoon was repulsed with few casualties. On the B Sqn sector, the position remained unchanged. The enemy made strong bids several times during the day to throw back the force, and tanks were called forward to repel these attacks. All attempts by the enemy to take the position were repulsed, but infantry casualties were high. No tanks were used by the enemy in these attempts and the enemy infantry suffered heavily. Scattered shelling of A1 Echelon areas continued throughout the day.

Dec. 15
San Leonardo
Again, no change in the combined A and C Sqn position was reported. Tanks remained on their positions all day to give support to the infantry should it be required. Supplies on the B Sqn sector were running short due to the fact that the roads to this position were under constant shellfire, and cross country routes were impossible for the wheeled or tracked vehicles owing to the deep ravine to the rear of the position. Accordingly it was decided to bring up a mule train consisting of 40 mules. This was organized by Major F. Schmidlin, 2nd in Command Regiment, and S.S.M. C.R. H Alstead of B Sqn was entrusted with the task of getting the mules through.

Under cover of darkness, the train left the A echelon area and proceeded across country to the B Sqn area. Out of the 40 mules that started, only 18 arrived at the Sqn area which was reached at approximately 2100 hours. However these relieved the immediate shortage.

The day had been rather hectic for B Sqn, who, with supplies of ammunition running out, were called upon several times to assist in the repelling of the counter attacks by the enemy. Ammunition was shifted from tank to tank during the day, and all attempts were successfully repulsed.

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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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