History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Razentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

►Flers-Courcelette

.15-22 Sep 16

►Thiepval

.26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

►Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

►Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Ypres, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
►Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
►Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Trasimene Line
►Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

►Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

►Gabbiano

1 Jul 44

►Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

►Tuori

5 Jul 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
►Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

►Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

Potenza
 

Potenza was a Battle Honour granted for participation in fighting near this town in Southern Italy during the Italian Campaign of the Second World War.

Background

Operation BAYTOWN, the Anglo-American invasion of southern Italy, had begun on 3 September. Canadian mobile battle-groups began operating on D+4 (7 September) when X Force, led by the 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Calgary Regiment), advanced up the coastal highway until 9 September when General Montgomery, commanding the British 8th Army, called for an administrative pause, worried that the build-up of Allied forces in the toe of Italy was "very slow." The same day, Operation AVALANCHE was launched - a second invasion at Salerno which put another army, the U.S. 5th, onto the Italian mainland. General Sir Harold Alexander, commanding the 15th Army Group, urged Montgomery to keep his 8th Army moving and pressure the Germans to prevent the enemy from concentrating against the beachhead at Salerno.1

 



Avalanche had been planned in the context of negotiations for an Italian surrender, with 82nd U.S. Airborne seizing Rome and 5th Army advancing swiftly from Salerno to Naples. However, Allied intelligence analysts failed to understand Hitler’s determination to rescue Mussolini and hold onto as much of Italy as possible. The men of 5th Army had cheered the news of the Italian surrender as the convoys approached the beaches, but were shocked by the speed and intensity of the German reaction to the landings. Four of the five German divisions in southern Italy were moved to Salerno to seal off and destroy the bridgehead. The battle hung in the balance for the next six days without any support from 8th Army.2

The Germans had skillfully delayed the 8th Army with demolitions and a fighting withdrawal, though the British still managed an advance of 300 miles in 17 days. The British official history claimed that transport problems and "administrative difficulties" hampered the 8th Army and were the real barrier to a rapid advance. Canadian Historian Terry Copp feels that:

Few observers believe that transport problems were responsible for Montgomery’s failure to press the advance with any sense of urgency. None was communicated to the Canadians who spent four days resting near the beaches of the Adriatic before beginning an unopposed advance along the coast towards Taranto, the scene of the famous torpedo-bomber attack upon the Italian fleet in 1940. Taranto, located on the heel of Italy’s boot, was seized by 1st British Airborne in an unopposed action. The Canadians, therefore, were ordered to turn inland and advance to Potenza, a road and rail junction 50 miles east of Salerno.3

By the middle of September, the rear of the German armies defending the landings at Salerno were nonetheless threatened by the advancing 8th Army. General von Vietinghoff, commanding enemy forces, began to withdraw forces around the Salerno bridgehead. Potenza, a communications hub to both road and rail lines, was a key point in the enemy's line of withdrawal, lying halfway between Salerno and the port city of Taranto. In a directive on 17 September, Potenza was named by General Alexander, as the main objective of the next phase of the Allied advance. The U.S. 5th Army was ordered to seize high ground south-east of the Gulf of Naples, pivot there, and bring its right wing up to a line running overland through Avellino to the head of the Ofanto River. With these objectives secure, the 15th Army Group - effectively, all Allied ground forces in Italy - would be able to make an administrative pause to gather strength for the next phase of operations, chiefly the capture of Naples (and its valuable port) and Foggia (with its airfields vital to the strategic bombing campaign of Germany).4

Enemy Intentions

General von Vietinghoff issued orders a day after Alexander's directive, anticipating the Allied advance, withdrawing his left wing into new positions. The 14th Panzer Corps was left in place to hold against Allied attacks north or north-west, as well as additional landings at Naples. The German left, though, was put in motion as the 76th Panzer Corps wheeled back from Salerno in a delaying action, blasting roads and traffic lines and sowing mines in its wake. Any supplies of military importance were ordered destroyed, including specifically the extensive aqueducts at Apulia.

It was the German intention that by the night of 21-22 September the Corps should have reached a line extending from Salerno through Potenza to Altamura, a communications centre about fifty miles north-west of Taranto. The left wing would then continue to swing back until Herr was holding a defence line passing to the south of Foggia and reaching the Adriatic at Manfredonia, just below the Gargano peninsula. These positions were to be retained until 30 September.Could the Eighth Army accelerate this programme?5

Canadian Orders

General Dempsey, commanding the 13th Corps, directed the 1st Canadian Division to seize Potenza. The Canadian Division was only partly forward, with some units still moving up from Catanzaro, and a road move of 125 miles would be necessary to bring the division into action, with enemy opposition to the move a possibility. The city's importance was obvious, but Allied strategy in this phase has been called into question by more recent historians:

Potenza, the largest city in the region of Basilicata, was founded in pre-Roman times as a village on the slope of a south-facing ridge above the Basento River. The poor agricultural land had led to the depopulation of the rural areas. However, Potenza had developed as a regional centre around its 12th- century cathedral. Beginning on Sept. 13, the Allied air forces began attacks on the city’s railroad yards and road junctions. Potenza, crowded with refugees from the Salerno battle area, was targeted by Allied heavy bombers on six consecutive days and much of the city was destroyed in these attacks with heavy loss of life.

The decision to continue to bomb Potenza is just one example of the lack of overall strategic direction of this phase of the Italian Campaign. Allied intelligence, based on Ultra and other sources, had reported German intentions “to throw the Allies back into the sea” at Salerno. However, by Sept. 14 the crisis in the beachhead was ending and 8th Army was supposed to be on the move north. The first signs of a German withdrawal were noted on Sept. 17, but no one ordered the Allied air forces to cease attacking a town or the railway yards that the Allies would soon need.6

The route selected by 13th Corps presented some problems for the Division, winding along the coast road north from Villapiana for 25 miles then inland on Highway 92 across mountains and rivers of the southern Appenines. The divisional commander, Major-General Guy Simonds, notified the corps commander of his intention not to use the divisional reconnaissance regiment, explaining its only available squadron was in poor mechanical shape and not fit for flanking patrols. The regiment had been unable to concentrate on Sicily after most of its vehicles failed to arrive by convoy on D+42, and while a composite squadron joined "A" Squadron on 18 September - the rest of the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards remained unavailable to its commander until the end of September.

Even before the landings at Reggio, General Simonds had told his brigade commanders he would employ mobile battle groups in the event the Germans and Italians withdrew. (Copp) The 1st Division's commander was faced with such a circumstance as he planned to take Potenza, and proposed a quick strike by a motorized battalion group of the 3rd Brigade, to advance from Villapiana on 17 September, followed up by the remainder of the brigade. The 1st Brigade with artillery and tanks in support was to stand firm at Scanzano on the coast road, ten miles to the north of the Rotondella lateral, guarding the right flank of the division against what was believed to be an enemy division around Altamura. The 2nd Brigade would remain in reserve at Cassano, ready to follow behind the 3rd to Potenza.7

BOFORCE

Simonds had not felt his instructions - "secure Potenza" - had been clear, and he wrote to Dempsey to note that he wasn't sure if the division should move quickly, or lie up until the entire division was ready to advance, but proposed the former unless ordered otherwise. (Copp) A task force was organized around the West Nova Scotia Regiment, and BOFORCE took its name from the commanding officer of that unit, Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Bogert. Under him was added a squadron of the 14th CAR's tanks, a battery of self-propelled artillery from the 1st Field Regiment, RCHA, a platoon of Vickers machine guns from The Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.), and a troop each from the divisional anti-tank and anti-aircraft regiments. A company of the 9th Field Ambulance, RCAMC and engineer platoon of the 1st Field Company, RCE rounded out the task force.8

Today’s traveller can drive on a modern highway, the S407, from the sea to Potenza. In 1943, most of the route was over narrow roads that made their way up into the mountains through a series of spectacular switchbacks. Following the original route gives a much better idea of the achievements of Boforce, but today the bridges and culverts are intact and the only “enemy” is a fast driver headed in the other direction.9


Infantrymen of the West Nova Scotia Regiment ride on ALBERTA, a Sherman tank of "A" Squadron of the Calgary Regiment during the advance from Villapiano to Potenza, Italy, on 18 September 1943. LAC photo

Approach to Battle

The column made good time up the coast road to Nova Siri Station, which serviced the town of Rotondella, then passed through the town and halted ten miles south-east of Sant' Arcangelo, which was the extent of the area the Reconnaissance Squadron had reconnoitred earlier in the day. BOFORCE resumed the advance in the morning, but was halted at Corleto by a blown bridge. The engineers quickly created a diversion, but the tanks found the town strewn with rubble, as Corleto had been bombed by the Royal Air Force. A company of West Novas dismounted to clear debris to make a passage for the vehicles while a second company moved out on foot towards Laurenzana, ten miles further down the highway. They were greeted at Laurenzana by the sight of a bridge blowing up in their faces courtesy of a German demolition party.

It was now dark, and Bogert called a halt for the night while the hard-working sappers prepared a way around this latest obstacle. About the same time the main body of the 3rd Brigade pulled off the road to bivouac at a point a few miles south of Corleto.

Early on the 19th jeeps and motorcycles could pass the blown bridge, and two companies of West Novas moved forward on foot. Beyond Laurenzana they had a brisk exchange of mortar and small-arms fire with the German demolition squad, which had just dealt with a bridge across the all but dry bed of the Camastra--a tributary of the Basento River. The enemy hastily withdrew, leaving one of his lorries burning beside the broken bridge. About midday the West Novas entered Anzi, a village five miles farther north, and seventeen from Potenza.10

The firefight at Laurenzana is described in detail in the War Diary of The West Nova Scotia Regiment:

At 0500 hrs in the early morning of 19 Sep, "A" Company …moved forward to the blown bridge just west of Laurenzana to cover the operations of the engineers who were constructing a diversion. When these were in hand, "A" Company moved forward on foot followed by Lt.-Col. Bogert’s command party and "D" Company. The force was now moving along a steep defile at the confluence of the Fiumara d’Anzi and the Fiumara Camastra, both with dry but substantial river bottoms. Scarcely a mile ahead of the column, German sappers blew a crater in the road and another diversionary operation was necessary.

Shortly afterwards, as "A" Company rounded the bend overlooking the river beds, the bridge carrying the road across their junction was blown and the enemy demolition squad opened fire on the leading troops. Fire from three-inch mortars was immediately brought down, an enemy lorry was hit and the Germans hastily withdrew. Lt.-Col. Bogert placed tanks at the head of the column as soon as they could be brought forward in order to frustrate for the future any similar activity on the part of enemy demolition parties. Just before reaching Anzi, another blown bridge was discovered and "D" Company went forward on foot while the remainder of the battalion closed up in troop-carrying vehicles. Anzi was entered at approximately noon and three German vehicles, which were visible on the road beyond, were engaged by the leading tanks and withdrew hurriedly. In addition to the increasing number of craters and blown bridges and culverts, the road from Anzi onward was studded with Tellermines.11

The advance continued as the infantry and engineers combined their efforts to keep the drive going, and the West Novas once again mounted and let the Shermans lead the column. At 19:30hrs the lead vehicles were on high ground overlooking the Basento valley, with Potenza spread out over the hillside. It was already too dark for the commander of BOFORCE to study the ground, and Lieutenant-Colonel Bogert had to formulate the plan of attack from maps.

Potenza's chief defensive advantage was its commanding position above the wide river flats, which afforded an excellent field of fire. The Basento itself, running along the north side of the valley, like all other mountain rivers at that time of the year was practically dry, and presented no obstacle to infantry. More serious for the attacker was a steep embankment which carried the railway between the river and the town. Reports of enemy strength in Potenza were contradictory. On the 18th some Italian civilian and military sources indicated that the Germans were holding the town strongly with infantry and artillery, while others declared that it had been evacuated on the previous night. Bogert proceeded on the first assumption, deciding to wait until after the moon rose at 11 o'clock before attacking with two companies of The West Nova Scotia Regiment.12

The Battle

Lieutenant-Colonel Bogert, commanding BOFORCE, had wasted no time, and sent in his force at 23:00hrs on the 19th.13

The Canadians occupied high ground south of Potenza, from where Highway No. 92 spiralled off to the west, down into the valley of the Basento River, crossing the main stream and two tributaries over three bridges before reaching the built-up area of the town, climbing once again into the centre of Potenza. The first bridge had been demolished by the Germans, as reconnaissance patrols had already discovered, and mined the nearby river bed. The area was not under enemy observation from the town itself, due to an intervening ridge, and sappers, with "D" Company of the West Novas for protection, went forward to secure a crossing. at 02:00hrs on 20 September the three remaining companies dismounted their vehicles at the blown bridge, losing seven men to an exploding mine. An hour later, an "A" Company patrol drove off German engineers trying to blow the second bridge. "C" and "D" Companies moved up and across the river and then the railway embankment before meeting enemy resistance. At daybreak, the West Novas were in the town's railway yards, fire-fighting against German paratroopers with large numbers of automatic weapons.

Bogert had substantial artillery on call and medium machine gun support directly attached, but "these could do little more than engage targets of opportunity because of the danger of hitting their own troops." Mines and demolitions had successfully kept the Canadian tanks at bay, and German small-arms fire stopped the West Novas from advancing over the open valley. Brigadier Penhale, having brought the other two battalions of the 3rd Brigade (the Royal 22e Regiment and The Carleton and York Regiment) forward during the night attempted to deploy the Royal 22e in a flanking movement east of Potenza to take the high ground behind it, permitting artillery to freely operate in support without endangering the West Novas in the southern part of the town. As this attack got going after mid-day, a troop of Calgary Tanks finally got clear of the last obstacles on the main road and entered into Potenza.14

Historian Lee Windsor, who has studied the battle for Potenza and walked the ground, describes the initial attack by the rifle companies of the West Novas as one that “sacrificed the stealth of a footborne approach for the speed of using trucks.” Unfortunately, mines blocked this approach and sacrificed surprise. Two West Nova companies were pinned down in the dry riverbed and the advance stalled. The Germans had planned to hold Potenza with a regiment of 1st Parachute Div. but orders to withdraw to a new line left Potenza to be defended by a company-sized battlegroup ordered to stage a delaying action. When the Canadians mounted a second attack, using artillery, armour and an additional infantry battalion–the Royal 22nd Regt.–the German paratroopers withdrew. Canadian doctors treated 16 wounded Germans as well as 21 Canadians. However, the real tragedy of Potenza was the number of civilian casualties, estimated at over 2,000, including several hundred dead.15

Despite the punishment the town had received from the Royal Air Force, the Canadian Official History reports that a "wild ovation" from those "bold enough to venture into the streets" met the West Novas, some riding on tanks, as they drove up the long hill into the town after resistance collapsed, a "few snipers" being the only opposition left after the Germans pulled out. The Carleton and York Regiment passed through to secure a road junction two miles north, and patrols to the west established contact with the 5th British Division near Brienza.

Aftermath

BOFORCE was disbanded after Potenza's capture, marking the end of the "most extensive operation that the (1st) Canadian Division had yet carried out on the Italian mainland." The West Nova Scotia Regiment lost six killed and 21 wounded, losses considered "light". Sixteen prisoners of the 3rd Parachute Regiment, a component of the German 1st Parachute Division, were taken. Their battalion had been rushed into the battle area unprepared, with no tanks or artillery, and the Canadian official historian felt it demonstrated the successful rapid advance of BOFORCE.16

Potenza was the second modern city that Canadians experienced in Italy; as was the case with Reggio di Calabria, most of its buildings were new (less than 90 years old) due to reconstruction after an earthquake. Unfortunately for its 30,000 inhabitants, its importance as a communications centre had made it a prime target for air attack, and two air raids on 8 and 12 September had killed as many as 2,000 civilians. BOFORCE arrived to find many corpses still unburied. The 1st Division nonetheless was able to enjoy the sight of the modern buildings, wooded hills, and made use of the sports stadium to hold a divisional track meet before moving north once again.

After 20 September, contacts with the enemy had fallen off, and as the main body of the 1st Division moved forward into Potenza, the British 5th Army pulled abreast to Auletta, 20 miles west. By 21 September, the U.S. 5th Army and the British 8th Army had firmly linked up, and presented a continuous front line to the enemy, from Bari to Salerno.17

For their part, the German 10th Army, responsible for holding the eastern sector of the line in Italy, ordered the 1st Parachute Division to the Foggia-Manfredonia area in an attempt to block further advances along the Adriatic coast, their divisional commander noting the Foggia plains ill-suited in particular for a campaign with the forces at his disposal.18

The Allied failure to agree on a strategic plan for Italy now bore bitter fruit. Hitler's intention at the start of the Allied invasion had been to slowly withdraw von Vietinghoff's 10th Army northward behind a Pisa-Rimini line (later to become the Gothic Line) under Rommel's Army Group "B". However the slow pace of the Allied advance convinced him instead that Kesselring should now hold a winter line from the Garigliano in the west to the Sangro in the east. This decision was to force the Allied armies into a gruelling, miserable and bloody winter campaign which the Canadians were to share front and centre.19
 

ADJUNCT, a Sherman tank of the 14th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Calgary Regiment), observes the advance of The West Nova Scotia Regiment towards Potenza on 20 September 1943 LAC photo.

 

Battle Honours

 

The following Canadian units was awarded the Battle Honour "Monte San Marco" for participation in these actions:

 

Image:1gif3bde.gif 3rd Canadian Brigade

  • Royal 22e Regiment

  • The West Nova Scotia Regiment

Notes

  1. Copp, Terry "Moving Forward With Boforce" (Legion Magazine, May 1, 2006) accessed online at http://legionmagazine.com/en/index.php/2006/05/moving-forward-with-boforce/

  2. Ibid

  3. Ibid

  4. Nicholson, Gerald. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. Volume II: The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1957) pp.224-225

  5. Ibid, p.224

  6. Copp, Ibid

  7. Nicholson, Ibid, pp.225-226

  8. Copp's article does not mention the engineers, and gives a departure of "the morning of Sept.18" while the official history by Nicholson includes the engineers and gives their departure time as "(s)hortly after midday on the 17th". To add mildly to the confusion, Daniel Dancocks lists the departure time as "early afternoon on the 17th." See: Dancocks, Daniel G. D-Day Dodgers: The Canadians in Italy 1943-45 (McLelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto, ON, 1991) ISBN 0-7710-2544-0 p.124

  9. Copp, Ibid

  10. Nicholson, Ibid, p.226

  11. Quoted in Copp, Ibid

  12. Nicholson, Ibid, pp.225-226

  13. McKay, Donald A. Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 p.75

  14. Nicholson, Ibid, p.227

  15. Copp, Ibid

  16. Nicholson, Ibid, p.228

  17. Ibid, p.229

  18. Copp, Ibid

  19. McKay, Ibid, p.76


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