At 1030 hours on 10th July 1943,
227 Bty landed on "G" beach between Avola and
Siracusa. As the landing craft touched bottom, they were unsuccessfully
dive-bombed by three ME 109's. All ranks marched to the assembly area
and there they dug in; they sustained three more dive-bombing attacks,
with one casualty. Guns and vehicles had not been landed as planned,
due to a difficult beach, congestion and sinkings.
Our troops were doing well, the infantry had pushed inland quickly,
and armour was in action. The next morning the regiment's first vehicles
came ashore. The guns were more trouble but were ashore by midday.
At 1300 hours 11th July the B.C. set off to contact C.R.A. 5 Div at
Floridia. The battery was given an area NW of Siracusa, which was still
in no-mans-land, the area being reconnoitred in an AEC just before dark.
Four guns occupied this position at 0700 hours 12 July, the other four
moving up from the beaches as they came off during the morning. Wireless
sets had been assembled and fitted during the night.
The regiment's first O.P. was established between Siracusa and Augusta
with 13 Bde and at 1000 hours 227 Bty fired its first 'murder' of the
war and the first medium shells (4.5") landed in Europe. 'A' Tp.
occupied three fresh positions on the 12th, and by nightfall 'B' Tp.
moved up to the battery position just south of the bay from Augusta
On the evening of the 12th the battery was subjected to strafing from
a squadron of
ME 109's at zero feet, and were later dive-bombed. Three Spitfires shot
down seven out of ten JUS 8's which approached the gun position.
'A' Tp's O.P. truck entered the outskirts of Augusta (held by German
PGR's) with 17
Bde who took 30 prisoners. They then withdrew from the town for a naval
bombardment. The attack on the town went in on the morning of the 13th,
and Augusta fell at 0900 hours. 'A' Tp moved up with 15 Bde of 5 Div
over hilly country to attack VUlasmundo.
The battery fired 'stonks' and 'murders' all day as 13 Bde pushed up
the road. One 10
rpg 'stonk' was fired on a commanding ridge after two ranging salvos
and then repeated, the three field regiments joining in. This enabled
the Green Howards to take the strongly held position with few casualties
and to count many German dead. The following day the gunners were able
to see the telling effect of this fire.
Meanwhile, the second half of the invasion fleet had arrived off Siracusa
on D+3 and were shuttled ashore in landing craft. However Siracusa was
now firmly in our hands and we were able to land at the quayside of
the town where we were surprised to find smiling Italians helping to
tie up the boats. We marched to an assembly area two miles west of the
port without incident other than some occasional strafing from the air.
Later in the afternoon the M.T. ships with the vehicles and guns pulled
into the beaches at Avola, where for several days and nights they were
harassed by dive-bombers, and during this time two ships were sunk.
The regiment, however, sustained no loss. 228 Battery then moved up
to a hide area, and were then ordered into action by the C.R.A., but
were delayed by a mistake in loading which caused ammunition and 'Q'
vehicles to come off before the guns. 228 Bty then moved up to another
hide area on the Mellili-Carlentini road for the night of 15/16th July.
227 Battery had fired throughout the night of 13/14111 and were again
unsuccessfully dive- bombed and shelled. At 0600 hours orders were received
to move halfway up the main axis to Villasmundo.
The ammunition vehicles were still coming off the beaches about 50 miles
back. As they came off they were loaded with ammo or rations, and were
formed into a shuttle service. All vehicles eventually turned up with
the exception of six motor-cycles.
'A' Tp O.P. went out again on the 14th with 13 Bde to pass through 15
Bde to attack
Villasmundo. 227 Bty moved into a new position at 1000 hours and the
town was taken at 1300 hours. The battery then had a short breather,
the first in four days, and some of the men were able to get their clothes
off for the first time and bathed in a mill stream. All up the road
there was ample evidence of the bloody battle that had raged the previous
night and during the morning. Many German and Italian dead and knocked-out
guns, pill-boxes, tanks and vehicles were seen, and the sickly smell
of death was experienced for the first time.
The breather was short-lived as at 1800 hours the signal "Foster
forward" (Lt. Col. Foster was then C.O. of the regiment) came.
This meant that 5 Div had taken Villasmundo and halted on a line south
ofCarlentini. 50 Div advancing inland pushed on to Carlentini, and then
along the common axis to Lentini. 227 Bty passed from under command
5 Div to under command 50 Div. C.R.A. 50 Div at Carlentini now instructed
the B.C. to move the battery to a rendezvous south ofCarlentini on the
Villasmundo/Carlentini axis. The route for recce was Villasmundo/Carlentini/Lentini.
This route was checked by the B.C. as there were none of our troops
between just north of Villasmundo and Carlentini. The route was confirmed.
The main bridge south ofCarlentini was blown and 5 Div halted six miles
short of it astride the axis. The recce party turned back and met elements
of the Recce Regiment with a squadron of tanks, who were making a long
detour, and joined the column.
The three leading Sherman tanks were knocked out by two 88mm guns, blocking
narrow track. The two 88s were in turn knocked out, the remaining tanks
pushed on, and the column entered Carlentini about 2300 hours and met
50 Div who had taken the town during the afternoon. There was no sign
of the C.R.A. and information was received that he might be on the road
to Lentini. The tanks went off across country to the right of the axis;
our recce party went down a track to the right and at midnight met a
company of 50 Div infantry and found out that the H.Q.R.A. was still
30 miles back on the divisional axis. They carried on down the track
towards the main road, and to get back had to enter Lentini to find
it still in the hands of the enemy. After driving up two cul-de-sacs,
being waved on by an Italian troop-carrier and saluted by a German sentry,
and then having given some cigarettes to two Italian policemen, they
were directed out of the town on the road back to Carlentini At 0300
hours the recce party met the C.R.A. 50 Div who informed them that Capt.Hussey
and Sig.Turnbull had been killed that afternoon during a dive-bombing
attack; the other two of his O.P. party were seriously wounded. The
C.R.A. gave the battery an area near Carlentini.
Meanwhile the B.C. had led 227 Battery to a rendezvous,
and finding the bridge to Carlentini blown, turned round, and going
back 20 miles crossed the mountains by a precipitous track certainly
not meant for medium guns at night. They reached 50 Div axis without
mishap and went into troop hides in the area of Carlentini, as Lentini
had been taken about 0900 hours. The B.C. went in search of the C.R.A..
An area was given and another recce set off to the area which turned
out to be held by elements of the 1st German Para Div. They had been
dropped during the nights of 14715th and 15716th to hold the approaches
to the Catania plain. The recce party decided to look for another area.
At 1300 hours the original recce party rejoined the battery having traced
their steps over the hills from the rendezvous. At 1530 hours an officer
went out on a motor-cycle to get some information as nothing had been
heard from the recce. He met the B.M.R.A. who gave him a new and definite
area just through Lentini 'B' Troop's four guns moved off into the area
and got off the road as by now armour was streaming down it from the
beach-head, heading for the high ground overlooking the Catania plain.
At 2000 hours the B.C., with the C.O. who had just come up from the
Tac RHQ, met one recce party on the road, and a few minutes later the
other recce vehicles turned up, and the battery got into action at 2130
hours. At 2145 hours a big four and a half hour counter battery programme
was received starting at 2200 hours. That assisted 50 Div to capture
Primasole Ridge overlooking the Catania plain. 150 German paratroops
were dropped behind the battery. The B Echelon was attacked, but the
Durham Light Infantry drove off the paratroops and eventually rounded
them up the next day. On the 17 , 'A' Troop commander established an
O.P. on high ground overlooking the plain.
On the 17th 228 Battery also moved up into action forward of Lentini,
and with the arrival of Tac R.H.Q. the Regiment was in action together
for the first time. 228 Battery's first evening in action was enlivened
by dive-bombing and strafing. Gunners of the LAA Regiment of 5 Div provided
a thrill by bringing down four out of six ME 109's within half a mile
of the battery position. During the night Gunner Denholm electrified
228 Battery Command Post by bringing in five German paratroopers from
the 'C' Troop area.
On the evening of 18th July, the regiment moved by batteries to Primasole
Ridge and took up positions for the battle of Catania. Up to this time
both batteries had operated
independently, fixing their positions by map reference and co-ordinating
their guns by
compass. At Tac R.H.Q. the survey section came into action for the first
time in preparing these positions and providing them with accurate fixes
and bearings on the South Italian Grid. They were uncomfortably exposed
and proved to be bad positions as no flash cover was available. The
enemy had sited considerable artillery in the foothills at the northern
side of the Catania Plain, one battery of Italian 305/17 naval guns
(made by Vickers before WW1) being particularly troublesome. We received
several near misses during the course of our recce and survey as later
did the batteries themselves.
On arrival in their position (which came to be known 'Happy Valley'
because of its
vulnerability to enemy fire) 228 Battery discovered two similar 305/17
12" guns. They were surveyed in, and after much hard work by the
Royal Marines as they were concrete-mounted, they were turned around
to fire inland and took part in the shelling of Catania.
On 23rd July "A" Tp and 'C' Tp were heavily shelled, sustaining
three and four casualties respectively. On the morning of the 24th 'C'
Tp moved to an alternative position. Later that day 'A' Tp was again
subjected to heavy shelling, and No1 gun received a direct hit; JL/Bdr
Oable was killed and three men seriously wounded. After this 'A'Tp also
moved to an alternative position, and in view of the shelling and their
proximity to the captured 305/17, 'D'Tp and 228 Command Post moved,
the latter to the "House on the Hill" which later proved invaluable
as an OP for datum point shooting, the targets being surveyed in by
the regiment's section. On the 25th 'D'Tp was heavily shelled; Sig Mercer
was kilted and three others seriously wounded. In consequence the troop
moved on the night of26tfa/27 and were back in action at 0240 hours
on the 27111. The new position was to the west of the main road and
was said to be "blissfully peaceful". The next day 228 Bty's
old Command Post was demolished by a direct hit from a 305 shell.
A long-range duel now started between 227 Bty mid the enemy's 305's
known as "Dog-Charlie"). In this they were assisted by 40
South African Air Force
Squadron. Later it was noted that both of the guns received hits. The
regiment remained in the Primasole Ridge area until the 3rd August,
firing continuously in support of the hard fighting for the approaches
to the city and port of Catania. During this period, roving sections
of guns were sent out each night in positions on the banks of the Simeto
river for special tasks. Each of these positions had been previously
surveyed by RHQs own section during daylight hours - somewhat hair-raising
tasks as these positions were wide open to enemy observation. Here too
the regiment supported 51 Highland Div who were advancing to the west
of Catania, and for a time the regiment's line communications were the
only means of contact between 13 and 30 Corps.
On 5th August the battle again became mobile and the regiment moved
forward in support of the Yorks and Lanes Bn of 5 Div. The attack went
well, the objective was taken and Bejpasso, about 5 miles NW of Catania,
fell on the 6th; after BeJpasso the battalion pushed on and was subjected
to heavy mortaring, suffering severe casualties. 'D'Tp engaged and silenced
the mortars, one of them being destroyed. On 5th August Catania ten
to the Durham Light Infantry of 50 Div.
From then on the campaign moved rapidly to its dose. To hastes the retreat
of a fleeing enemy maximum effort was called for, and at one time the
regiment had 5 OP's deployed. The last position occupied by the regiment
was at the beautiful sea-side resort ofPuzzHIo, where welcome relief
in the intervals was enjoyed m sea-bathing. This was most appreciated
by those of us employed on the gun positions around Mount Etna as every
round fired produced incredible clouds of black volcanic dust.
On 14th August the regiment was withdrawn from battle, and went to rest
and carry out much-needed maintenance at Patagonia. While we were there
"The Sicilian Times", which later became "The
Lowland Gazette " saw the light of day for the first time (see
Appendix B)- We were also making preparations for the invasion of mainland