Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment

The Italy Star

The Italy Star was awarded for one day operational service in Sicily or Italy between 11 June 1943 and 08 May 1945.

Invasion Days of '43

Extracts from the Diary of a Quarter-Bloke in the R.C.R.

The Connecting File, July 1943

July 10. - Hit Sicily south of Pachino. Landing delayed. Thought we'd have a tough time as daylight came before we got to the beach but very quiet, a complete surprise. Sharp fight for airfield. First casualty, Hefford; he stopped one between the eyes - unlucky. 250 prisoners.

July 11. - Busy trying to keep up with the enemy who is in full retreat. A little sniping - very poor shots - we soon ignore it.

July 14. - Still trying to catch up; ran into minefield about noon. Got off trucks and marched through -couldn't wait for the sappers. We spread out 200 yards on each side of the road, 15 yards between men, 100 yards between platoons. Great nervous tension-one wrong step will be the last!

July 15. - Artillery has come up -very noisy. They are shelling everything in sight, including us, but no one is hurt. We are losing the odd man now and then by snipers, and the B&#%?! will get no mercy if they are caught.

July 18. - We have come to Valguarnera, 4 km. from Enna. We are meeting Jerry for the first time, NOT Italians! He pinned us down with mortar fire-very accurate. Jerry likes to drop his first bomb into a Carrier and gets mad if he misses and then sends over several salvos. At 0900 "A" Company was ordered to attack. We started off and I dropped back to help a lad with a twisted knee, thereby losing touch with the Company. After a slight rest we started off for the town together. Arrived at the edge of the town at the bottom of a cliff and were fired on by machine guns and mortars. Dived for cover and got a nauseating pain in the left leg. Thought I was hit, so when the firing let up I rolled over and out of my equipment, but couldn't see any blood. Decided I had only broken my leg; however, after further examination came to the conclusion I had only twisted it. I crawled along the cliff to an old stone shack and lay there. Jerry must have heard us talking, for every so often he dropped a couple of mortar bombs on us. Fortunately the walls were thick and the only harm done was that we were showered with all kinds of insects, which the concussion shook from the roof! Very uncomfortable. I made my way back about two miles under fire; managed to link up with the main body of the Company at about 2010 hrs. No food or water all day. Rations had not come up; I got a drink and a chocolate bar from the C. S. M. The Carriers finally arrived with rations at dusk. Decided to go back to the rear for a rest as I couldn't walk - Company Commander said "O.K." I started off but it was too dark, so decided to wait for morning.

July 19. - Not much sleep last night - very noisy! Found out on returning to Company that the other lad and myself had tried to take the town on our own! The Company had only seized a ridge of ground below the town, and we were away out in front. Guess we were pretty lucky. The Artillery was called up during the night and shelled Jerry out of the town. Went back to B Echelon and ran into 4th Field Ambulance on way, the M.O. looked me over and decided to evacuate me. I put up an argument, but "out I went."

Aug. 7. - The trip from the Front was the worst I have ever made! Went by hospital ship "St. Julien" from Syracusa to Tripoli; then stayed two nights in a hospital which was all very nice with bath, pyjamas, sheets, and NURSES!!! Then once more aboard the "St. Julien" and to a hospital at Sousse - the worst hospital in the world. I was discharged on July 28, and put on a flat-ear for Tunis where we arrived at 0125 hours on the 29th. Had to wait for a train at 2210 hours, so went into town where I had three beers (filthy stuff) and a haircut; then three more beers (still filthy). Walked into the Native Quarter but the smell drove me out, so I had three more beers. Went to a Native Market and bought some melons, which I ate, and then washed down with three more beers. Got back to the station and we pulled out on a train (another flat-car) going through mountains in direction of Pont du Fas. It was very cold, but I dozed off on top of the flat-car. Our train went through the battlefields of Enfidiville, Souk Ahras, etc. Arrived at Phillippeville at noon, August 1st. I was able to "pull some wires" and got on a draft which pulled out on August 3rd. Arrived back at the battalion in Sicily to discover that the Canadians had been taken out of battle to prepare for another job. Glad to see old faces (some missing). Had a "vino party." Moved out to an area south of Cantania next morning.

Sept. 1. - Spent past few weeks getting new stores, reorganizing, etc. "Spit and Polish." Monty visited us and gave us a talk - a great guy. He told us another job was coming up. McNaughton also paid us a visit. The men are going like flies with malaria and dysentery. Sudden move to-night to south of Messina. There are wild rumors about the next landing. We can see Italy across the narrow straits. We have been briefed to-night and IT IS Italy. No cheers or demonstrations, but the boys walk around with that Old Light in their eyes once more. This is going to be good - only disappointment is we aren't going to be first to land this time.

Sept. 2. - "H-hour" is at 0400 tomorrow so we get everything ready and turn in early for some sleep.

Sept. 3. - Got up at 0245 and crawled up the mountain to see 3rd Brigade embark for Reggio, but arrived at the top too late-but what a sight! There is about four times the support for 3rd Brigade as there was for us at Pachino. One Monitor, one Cruiser, five Destroyers and numerous other craft are blazing away, while all the Artillery on this side, strung out for miles, is pouring over hot steel as fast as they can. The Straits are as bright as day, soon the barrage dies down, 3rd Brigade goes in and then the RAF turn on the heat on the other side. . . . We landed on Italian soil at 1415 hours and marched about five miles through the town of Reggio di Calabria to a battalion concentration area. We were bombed and machine-gunned by M.E. 109's as we landed and four times more on the way, but no one appears to be hurt, and only one truck lost! Our Ack-Ack brought down three planes.

Sept. 4. - At 0645 the battalion started off to attack an airdrome at Pellaro, but got word that Jerry had moved out in the direction of San Giovanni, so we cut across the mountains to head him off. Some trip! I went as far as possible with the Company trucks, as did the other CQ's, but we got left behind, as even a motorcycle can't make it over this country. We sent the rations up after nightfall using prisoners to carry them.

Sept. 5. - Sky has been full of planes all morning, but they've all had NOUGHTS on them instead of CROSSES, so it looks as if the RAF has got control of the air. Over 1,000 prisoners were taken in our area yesterday, nearly all "Tonys," they won't fight ! Yesterday 3rd Brigade stormed a hill-top fort. When they got to it the Italian Officer in charge had his men (230 of them) all packed up and ready for the P.O.W. Camp. He just handed over his keys and said they were ready to move off! . . . The natives here are somewhat different from the Sicilians. They seem genuinely glad to see us, and hate Jerry, and don't like their own soldiers, who have stolen all their belongings. There is a lot of "talking with hands" and jabbering; I have plicked out plenty of "Roos-a-velta, Churchilla, buono, Mussolini no buono." The Italians seem anxious to show how friendly they are. They suffer from the same abject poverty as in Sicily, and seem to expect us to take everything we want-are astonished when we offer money or bully beef in exchange . . . We are 1,270 feet above sea level here, though only about three miles from it as the crow flies, 28 miles by road!

Pro Patria

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