Canadians in Sicily, 1943
Soldier: Royal 22e Régiment in Sicily.
| United States
- Most of the 26,000 strong Canadian contingent waded ashore in Sicily on July 10, 1943.
- In 38 days the island fell.
- Canadians marched 120 miles and fought several small battles.
- Landing in Sicily, July9-12
- Grammichele, July 15
- Piazza Arminera, July 16-17
- Valguarnera, July 15-20
- Assoro, July 20-22
- Leonforte, July 21-22
- Agira, July 24-28
- Adrano, July 29- Aug. 7
- Catenanuova, July 29-30
- Regalbuto, July 29-Aug. 3
- Centuripe, July 31- Aug. 3
- Troina Valley, Aug. 2-6
- Pursuit to Messina, Aug. 2-17
The 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade, under the command of Major-General G.G. Simonds, sailed from Great Britain in late June 1943. En route, 58 Canadians were drowned when enemy submarines sank three ships of the assault convoy, and 500 vehicles and a number of guns were lost. Nevertheless, the Canadians arrived late in the night of July 9 to join the invasion armada of nearly 3,000 Allied ships and landing craft.
Just after dawn on July 10, the assault (preceded by airborne landings) went in. Canadian troops went ashore near Pachino close to the southern tip of Sicily and formed the left flank of the five British landings that spread over 60 kilometres of shoreline. Three more beachheads were established by the Americans over another 60 kilometres of the Sicilian coast. In taking Sicily, the Allies aimed, as well, to trap the German and Italian armies and prevent their retreat across the Strait of Messina into Italy.
From the Pachino beaches, where resistance from Italian coastal troops was light, the Canadians pushed forward through choking dust, over tortuous mine-filled roads. At first all went well, but resistance stiffened as the Canadians were engaged increasingly by determined German troops who fought tough delaying actions from the vantage points of towering villages and almost impregnable hill positions. On July 15, just outside the village of Grammichele, Canadian troops came under fire from Germans of the Hermann Goering Division. The village was taken by the men and tanks of the 1st Infantry Brigade and Three Rivers Regiment.
Piazza Armerina and Valguarnera fell on successive days, after which the Canadians were directed against the hill towns of Leonforte and Assoro. Despite the defensive advantages which mountainous terrain gave to the Germans, after bitter fighting both places fell to the Canadian assault. Even stiffer fighting was required as the Germans made a determined stand on the route to Agira. Three successive attacks were beaten back before a fresh brigade, with overwhelming artillery and air support, succeeded in dislodging the enemy. On July 28, after five days of hard fighting at heavy cost, Agira was taken.
Meanwhile, the Americans were clearing the western part of the island and the British were pressing up the east coast toward Catania. These operations pushed the Germans into a small area around the base of Mount Etna where Catenanuova and Regalbuto were captured by the Canadians.
The final Canadian task was to break through the main enemy position and capture Adrano. Here, they continued to face not only enemy troops, but also the physical barriers of a rugged, almost trackless country. Mortars, guns, ammunition, and other supplies had to be transported by mule trains. Undaunted, the Canadians advanced steadily against the enemy positions, fighting literally from mountain rock to mountain rock.
With the approaches to Adrano cleared, the way was prepared for the closing of the Sicilian campaign. The Canadians did not take part in this final phase, however, as they were withdrawn into reserve on August 7. Eleven days later, British and American troops entered Messina. Sicily had been conquered in 38 days.
The Sicilian campaign was a success. Although many enemy troops had managed to retreat across the strait into Italy, the operation had secured a necessary air base from which to support the liberation of mainland Italy. It also freed the Mediterranean sea lanes and contributed to the downfall of Mussolini, thus allowing a war-wearied Italy to sue for peace.
The Canadians had acquitted themselves well in their first campaign. They had fought through 240 kilometres of mountainous country - farther than any other formation in the Eighth British Army. During their final two weeks, they had borne a large share of the fighting on the Allied front. Canadian casualties throughout the fighting totalled 562 killed, 664 wounded and 84 prisoners of war.
The invasion of the Italian mainland was to be next great operation.
Allies Take Sicily, Video
Pte. Joe Makokis, Edmonton Regiment, looking at the grave of an Italian soldier. 11 July 1943, Pachino Peninsula, Italy.
The initial waves of assault troops were unopposed. The military quickly established a port to bring the rest of the army onto Italian soil.
The landing in Pachino, Sicily, July 10th, 1943
Amid heat and dust, gunners of the 7th Battery, 2nd Field Artillery Regiment firing at enemy positions with a 25-pounder gun, Nissoria, July 28th, 1943.
Régiment de Trois-Rivières tanks entering the ruins of Regalbuto, August 4th, 1943.
Men of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry fighting on a ridge near Valguarnera. In the distance, enemy vehicles are burning.
Troops of The Loyal Edmonton Regiment entered Modica marching in a relaxed manner, but rifles are close to hand and bayonets are fixed, ready for sudden action.
Specialised vessels had been developed to enable tanks to land ready for action.
On the road to Agira, Allied jeeps driving by torched German vehicles, around July 28th, 1943.
H/Captain S.B. East, a chaplain, talking with soldiers of the 48th Highlanders of Canada near Regalbuto. 1943, Regalbuto, Sicily.
Sgt. H.E. Cooper, 48th Highlanders of Canada. August 11, 1943, Sicily.
1st Canadian Infantry Division on the road during advance on Ispica. 12 July 1943, Modica, Sicily (vicinity).
Infantrymen of the 48th Highlanders of Canada advancing towards Adrano. August 18, 1943 , Place of publication: Adrano, Italy.
The Globe and Mail, 12/07/1943
The Hamilton Spectator, 14/07/1943
The Globe and Mail, 21/07/1943
The Globe and Mail, 18/08/1943
Last updated on Oct 11, 2006 22:00. Page viewed 69163 times.