Topic: Canadian Army
Private D.B. MacDonald of The Royal Canadian Regiment, who carries a Bren light machine gun, near Campobasso, Italy, October 1943. Photographer: Jack H. Smith. FRom the Faces of War collection at Library and Archives Canada.
Canadian Infantry in Sicily Produced Goods
Ottawa Citizen, 1 September 1943
By Ross Munro
With the Canadians in Sicily, Aug. 31,—(CP)—Canada's P.B.I. (poor bloody infantry) came through with the goods in the Sicilian victory.
The nine infantry battalions in the 1st Canadian Division lived up to everything that was expected of them and more. In face of German machine guns, under mortar and artillery fire they were as brave as men could be.
They endured the blazing heat of the Mediterranean, the smothering dust of the roads and fields, days and nights of forced marches and fighting and they battled and beat some of the finest troops in the German army.
To Canada's gallant infantry in Sicily goes the lion's share of praise for the brilliant success of the Canadian advance from Pachino to the western slopes of Mount Etna.
Infantrymen themselves will say, however, that they could not have done it without the support of the Royal Canadian Artillery, Canadian tank units, mortar crews, machine gunners and reconnaissance troops which always backed them up.
Ranking with it was the work of the Edmonton Regiment in the mountains northwest of Aderno. The Edmontons' assault on Hill 736 and on Mount Revisotto, while only carried out by comparatively small forces, was classed among the big successes.
To the Seaforth Highlanders goes great credit for fighting before Agira and the attack to the Simeto river valley in front of Aderno when the Highlanders teamed up with tanks and a reconnaissance squadron. The Seaforths also shared in the heavy fighting at Leonforte with the Edmontons and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
Actions the Patricias will always recall are the final attack on Leonforte which led to the capture of the town and the successful breakthrough at Nissoria behind the heaviest artillery concentration in the Canadian campaign.
The Royal Canadian Regiment was engaged over a longer period than any unit, going into action shortly after landing, in skirmishes it captured the Pachino airdrome and cleaned out a strong Italian coast artillery position on a wooded hill northwest of Pachino. Its fiercest fight was at Nissoria on the bloody slopes east of the town.
The 48th Highlanders also rate Nissoria as its roughest battle but will remember Valguarnera and the Leonforte-Assoro ridge when they recall this campaign in their mess years from now.
While not in action as much as other infantry battalions the West Nova Scotias, the Royal 22nd and the Carleton and York fought skilfully in the battle before Enna and at Catenanuova when the bridgehead over the Dittaino river was gained. The daring night crossing by the Royal 22nd over the Simeto river in the final phase of the operation which broke the Etna line will live in that regiment's history.
These are the highlights of the infantry engagements, but to them you add numerous skirmishes fought by platoons and companies which are almost forgotten in the heat of larger battles. There was the landing itself and while it was practically unopposed, it was a nerve-wracking business that tested the spirit of everyone. There were those long marches through hostile country whether the troops never knew when machine guns would open up from the next ridge or turn in the road.
There was the ambush at Grammichele where the Hastings handled themselves so creditably after the Germans had shot up their forward elements. Everywhere the "Red Patch Devils," as the Canucks became known to the enemy, proved themselves terrors in attack. Never during the whole campaign on the Canadian front did the Germans attempt a large scale counter-attack which indicated a hearty respect for their Canadian opponents.
These infantrymen have seen death and tumult of battle but they haven't changed much. Possibly they are a little sterner but they haven't forgotten the humor which helped them so much through four English winters with nothing to spur them on but hope for a campaign like this.
They have learned to soldier like their 8th Army comrades, know angles on bivouacking, on dodging mortar fire and shells, on digging slit trenches and living on all sorts of rations. They have learned to supplement army rations with Sicilian fruit and onions, tomatoes and the harsh "vino" of the country.