Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Articles: Invasion of Italy. Sept. 8 - 17, 1943 - Pt. 2

News Clippings From The Charlottetown Guardian

A half-track and 6-pounder anti-tank gun coming ashore from landing craft
at Reggio, 3 September 1943. Photo Credit - Sgt. Loughlin, No. 2 Army
Film & Photographic Unit, NA6204, Imperial War Museum (IWM) 


News articles gleaned from The Charlottetown Guardian (digitized; as found at - Island Newspapers) about the invasion of Italy provide some details about the role of Canadians in Combined Operations related to the manning of various landing crafts - used to transport Allied troops and the materials of war to Italian shores beginning at Reggio Calabria, on the toe of the Italian boot.

The articles, clippings, photographs and product ads, along with other details of battle also provide a good deal of context for the work being done on landing crafts.

Some information will be similar to that featured in earlier posts from The Winnipeg Tribune, and some will be new.

Also featured will be a few sentences and paragraphs from the memoirs of those who worked aboard landing craft and had, as a result, a first-hand view of invasion day action and subsequent events, some during times of simply 'standing easy.'

Questions, concerns and comments are welcome and can be directed to the Editor of 1,000 MEN, 1,000 STORIES in the comment section below each post.

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The top photo, NA6204 from the IWM, shows landing craft (some manned by Canadians) at Reggio di Calabria on D-Day Italy.

(Many other IWM photographs, films, audio files, etc., (high quality, authentic, informative) can be found by visiting Search Our Collections.)

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Clippings now follow from The Charlottetown Guardian, issues from Sept. 8 - 17:

By September 8, 1943 a large supply of troops and materials of war had already been landed on the toe of Italy's boot. The bridgehead, born on September 3rd, grew steadily for good reasons: The invasion at Reggio had been unopposed; large landing crafts shuttled materials from Messina, Sicily to Reggio like clockwork, hour after hour; and well-trained Canadians were involved in every service pulling duty in that region.

Edward Kennedy, an Associated Press War Correspondent, both famous and infamous, writes the following:

Much has been written by and about War Correspondent Edward Kennedy. For example:

Edward Kennedy (c. 1905 – November 29, 1963)[1] was a journalist best known for being the first Allied newsman to report the German surrender at the end of World War II, getting the word to the Associated Press in London before an official announcement was made. This angered Allied commanders who, for political reasons, had imposed a news embargo until the official surrender announcement. After being forced stateside, Kennedy was fired by the AP for his actions.[2] In 2012, the Associated Press apologized for the incident, saying "It was handled in the worst possible way."[3] (As found at Wikipedia)

Readers may find, as I do, the story 'about' Mr. Kennedy to be quite interesting. For example, a modern day news article states the following:

Edward Kennedy, a correspondent for Associated Press news agency, was furiously denounced and then expelled from liberated France after being first with the news of Germany's surrender in 1945.

Tom Curley, chief executive of AP, acknowledged: "It was a terrible day for the AP. It was handled in the worst possible way."

Kennedy's problem was that he broke an embargo on the news. Then a 40-year-old correspondent with US forces in Europe, he was hastily flown in a C-47 transport plane to witness the formal surrender of German forces facing the Western Allies at 2.41am on May 7, 1945. (As found at The Telegraph, May 2012)

More details can be found at Wikipedia, The Telegraph and other sites online.

A well-known scientist also made the news on Sept. 8 1943:

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Booby traps left behind in Sicily by German troops are mentioned in Doug Harrison's navy memoirs memoirs (re the invasion of Sicily) and in The Charlottetown Guardian. Firstly, Doug writes (in 1975):

I had 27 days at Sicily living on tomatoes and Bully Beef. I swore I would kick the first bull I saw in Canada - right in the posterior - if I got back. Everywhere I looked there were anti-personal hand-sized grenades that needed only to be touched to go off. They were built to maim and not kill because it takes men to look after the wounded, but if you’re dead, you’re dead. We threw tomatoes at a lot and exploded them in that manner. (Page 33, "DAD, WELL DONE")

In a later article for his hometown newspaper (The Norwich Gazette, early 1990s) Doug tells about life at The Savoy, a limestone cave near Avola, Sicily (during the bridgehead buildup in Operation HUSKY, i.e., Sicily, July 1943). Booby traps are again mentioned briefly:

The cauldron (rudimentary cooking stove) was raised on stones and heated by pouring gasoline on the limestone underneath. This worked out quite well. The cook scrounged tomatoes (pomadori) which were plentiful and we managed (to find) some bully beef (the same way as we had earlier found some rum, a barrage balloon and the cauldron). This was all stirred up together and one night we had tomatoes and bully beef, and the next night we had bully beef and tomatoes. Once in a while we threw in a sea boot to add a little flavour.

Although we were like a bunch of orphans, spirits always remained high. There were hundreds of cleverly contrived anti-personnel bombs about, but we and the cook were well-schooled on these.
(Page 105-106, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Though Italy surrendered the war on its mainland continued for many long months in order to defeat the Germans there or their forces north and off the peninsula. Stubborn battles between Allied and German troops would rage into June, 1944 with many lives lost for every mile of Allied advance.

Canadians in Combined Ops would work aboard their landing crafts into the first week of October 1943, living in remnants of houses in Messina (Sicily), about a seven-mile distance across the Messina Strait to Reggio.

About that time Doug Harrison writes:

How long we worked across the straits I cannot really recall, but perhaps into October. One of our stokers set up a medical tent for the civilians at Messina and treated them for sores and rashes. We fed them too but when pregnant women came we had to close up shop.

After a time we were sleeping in casas or houses and I had a helper, a little Sicilian boy named Pietro. First of all I scrubbed him, gave him toothpaste, soap and food. He was cute, about 13 or 14 years of age, but very small because of malnutrition. His mother did my washing and mending for a can of peas or whatever I could scrounge. I was all set up.

When Italy caved in there was a big celebration on the beach, but I had changed my abode and was sleeping with my hammock, covered with mosquito netting, slung between two orange trees. I didn’t join in the celebration because I’d had enough vino, and you not only fought Germans and Italians under its influence, you fought your best friend.
(Page 35, "DAD, WELL DONE")

In July and September 2018, the invasions of Sicily and Italy (respectively) will reach their 75th anniversaries. And Libby's Beans will be 150 years old and still taste AOK - better than tomatoes and bully beef!

While Allied progress appeared positive on the toe of the boot, farther north on the Italian peninsula every inch was hard-gained and not without several close calls.

The accommodation that Canadians in Combined Ops found for themselves while in Messina was mentioned briefly by Doug Harrison earlier in this post. More details - beginning on D-Day September 3, 1943 - are provided by an anonymous landing craft mechanical engineer in a story found in a book entitled Combined Operations:

On the beach, while the troops were unloading, gay banter could be heard from the boats' crews. And so easy was the first permanent invasion of Europe! How true Churchill's words proved, "We shall strike the soft under-belly of Europe!"

Nowhere on the toe were the landings opposed by a single shot, nor was a single enemy plane in sight overhead. But there were planes, ah yes, the faithful Spitfires droned reassuringly as dawn broke.

This was but the initial landing in Italy. Our next job was to act as ferry service across the Straits to keep a steady stream of vehicles and supplies to Monty's Men. This was first done from Teressa and later from beaches north of the Messina harbour.

In the latter place we were able to billet the (80th Canadian) Flotilla in houses close to the beaches. The various crews each had their own Italian boys to clean up after meals and tend to their dhobie (laundering, mending). Pay for this service consisted of 'biscottis'. (
Page 100. By Clayton Marks of London Ontario)

Editor: I believe "Miss Canada" was the name of a Canadian landing craft,
perhaps an LCI(L) that landed in France in June, 1944.

The next photo with detailed description gives some evidence that landing craft were being produced in Canada and transported by rail. The landing craft may have been built on the West Coast and transported to the East Coast.

Help Wanted: Editor would love better photos of landing crafts
on Canadian soil, or waterways!

I only have a few. For example:

As found in St. Nazaire to Singapore. Wooden LCM at Givenchy III,
Comox, BC. Circa 1944 - 45.

As found in St. Nazaire to Singapore. Wooden LCM parked in the
Courtenay Slough, near Lewis (baseball) Park. Circa 1944 - 45

Photos and details as found in Canada's War at Sea
By Stephen Leacock and Leslie Roberts

More to follow from The Charlottetown Guardian.

Please link to Articles: Invasion of Italy. Sept. 2 - 7, 1943 - Pt. 1

Unattributed Photos GH.

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