Driving through Rome, we carried
on up the Via Flaminia to Civita Castellano, near Field Marshal Kessdring's
HQ Soon after noon on 12 June a position was prepared for 228 Bty at
Basanello, where D Tp Transport received casualties and damage, and
another one for 227 Bty at Celleno. At this position there was a considerable
number of German dead, knocked out guns and vehicles. First thing next
morning a position was prepared for 228 Bty to come in beside 227, but
it was never used as another position was prepared for the whole regiment
near a former German Ordnance Depot at Civitdla.
This pattern continued with positions occupied south ofCastiglione,
then north of the
same town on the 14th, Orvieto and Ficulle on the 15th Vicinova on the
16th, Colle on the 17th Biagio on the 19th Piegaro on the 20th and Strada
on June 21. Here we were held up by greatly increased German resistance
around Lake Trasimeno which brought the advance to a temporary halt.
During the early morning at Strada the recce party came under fee from
German mortars and Nebelwerfers.
Near Citta delta Pieve, BC 228 Bty was wounded and his jeep captured.
who was with his party, showed great courage and initiative as a result
of which it was
possible to rescue the BC. He also attempted to recover the jeep. For
this action he was subsequently awarded the MM. In the severe fighting
which followed, the regimental and troop OPs were almost continuously
committed, often under the most difficult conditions. Great assistance
was rendered in neutralising German artillery and mortar fire, which
proved unusually heavy. Here "C" Tp lost their Signal NCO,
L/Sgt.Graham, who was captured when the house in which he was sheltering
was taken in a surprise night attack.
When 78 Div. pulled out of the line, the regiment went over to the support
of 4 Br Div
and 8 Ind Div. in the battle for Arezzo. Here the tale was one of slow
and steady progress with few outstanding incidents. On one occasion
'D'Tp was shelled, and 'C'Tp .OP party ran into a number of Germans
and had to lie up all day with two of the party wounded. They finally
extricated themselves after dark.
We found the area around Lake Trasimeno to be most attractive, and the
lake itself was very pleasant. While in the area some of us found it
possible to visit the university town of Perugia, and also the town
of Assist, forever associated with St.Francis, founder of the Franciscan
Order. Accustomed as we were to visits from various VIPs, here we had
a rather unusual one. This was the Very Rev. Dr. Stephen Woods, Bishop
of Lichfield. In the nearby spa town ofChianciano Terme, housed the
ballroom at one of the Hydro hotels to confirm over 50 young soldiers
of the 8th Army, a most impressive service.
Next 227 Bty were able to move up to Santatucchio. Nearby was Castillo
small town perched on a hill which may well have been the setting for
the well-known story of the Italians hiding their wine in a cave on
the hillside and so saving it from the Germans - we also failed to find
iti. That evening, 29 June the recce party was off again to Ranciano,
a longish trip. The positions were prepared, and two troops of Heavy
AA guns were surveyed in, and in fact that same night we were subjected
to an enemy air raid.
The evening found the recce party surveying a position at Piano. Having
they got back to R.H.Q. just before midnight to be told that the position
would not be used, and to be ready at 0400 hours for another recce.
Even these few hours were interrupted by another air raid! The next
recce proved to be a long one. It was to be in the Pozzuola valley but
even the best positions available were badly overlooked by the enemy,
on top of which the terrain was bad and even a jeep got stuck in one
stream and later one of the AEC gun tractors was stranded. Then, that
same afternoon, off to Puracci for another position for 227 Bty. and
to Paraga for 228.
These positions were occupied for a week and gave us a little respite
from some strenuous days on the move. Stiff opposition was being met
and it was not until 9 July that we were able to move the guns up to
Oliveto, where they were again in action for seven days.
On 19 July we were able to carry out gun calibrations. Trigonomical
data on some datum points were obtained from 3rd Survey Regt., and from
the O.P. it was possible to observe 228 Bty. standard guns firing on
Capo di Monte.
The following night a big attack went in and the regiment fired heavy
concentrations on enemy positions. The Germans replied but the attack
was successful, and on 16 July the regiment moved forward to Tuori,
thus bypassing Arezzo to the west. On 21 July the recce went to Montevarchi,
and on the next day to Montaia. This position was occupied for several
days, and once our regiment surveyed in the H.A.A. and provided them
with bearing points. More datum point shooting went on on the 27th,
and 'C' Tp. pivot gun was found to be a long way off target and it took
25 rounds to range on to a house in the valley. This proved the importance
of the C.O.'s insistence on frequent calibration. It should be explained
here that a considerable amount of gunfire is controlled from an O.P.,
observing the fall of shot and directing the guns, by telephone or wireless,
on to the target. However, the major part of artillery action in counter-battery
work and support for attacks with concentrations and barrages is carried
out by predicted fire; that is to say that the range and direction required
is computed trigonometrically from the known position of the guns and
the calculated or believed position of the target.
228 Bty's next position was alongside 227 Bty. in the position they
had moved to at
Meleto on 30 July. The next couple of days were relatively quiet. On
5 Aug. we made a long move to the N.W. to an area overlooking Florence.
We were met by handshaking Italians at Belvedere and eventually moved
into a regimental position at Pellice, where we remained for eleven
Throughout the last battles through Arezzo and beyond the regiment operated
as part of 6 A.G.R.A., and in support of 1 Br.Div. Now 453 and 504 Heavy
Batteries came under command of the regiment and were surveyed into
positions nearby. The next day, 227 Bty. and the two heavy batteries
moved forward to Grassino, east of Florence and just south of the Amo
river. Here 227 Bty. and 504 Heavy Bty. were subjected to a certain
amount of heavy shelling and Gnr.Bland was killed. The next day 228
Bty. moved in to Ruballa.
Sunday 20 Aug. started with the fixing of targets for
demonstration shoots for a visit that day from the Prime Minister, the
Rt.Hon. Winston Churchill, accompanied by Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander
and the 13 Corps Commander. They visited 'A' Tp. position where the
Prime Minister autographed a shell which was fired at the enemy.
and then went up to the O.P., and on
arrival there the C.A.G.R.A. told Churchill that we had 100 guns ready
to fire. He then took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, lit a large
cigar and said, "Now this is like sending a rude postcard and being
there when it arrives. FIRE!."
Two days later we had another visit,
this time by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal
Sir Alan Brooke and Field Marshal Alexander. They came to R.H.Q., later
going to the O.P.
The enemy put up stiff resistance on
the line of the river Amo and the Fiesole ridge
beyond. The regiment remained in action in the Ruballa/Grassina positions
for two weeks. In the meantime Florence was occupied by our troops and
on 31 Aug. the recce party crossed the Amo and a position was prepared
for 228 Bty. at Terranzano. Next morning 227 Bty's position was prepared
and the regiment went into action that day.
The following day the regiment moved forward to Poggio, on top of the
ridge, north of
the Amo and east of Fiesole. R.H.Q. was sited in a wood of fir trees,
and the effects of the battle for this ridge were much in evidence.
After a certain amount of firing from this position, the battle passed
out of range, and the regiment concentrated in the area for two weeks.
The opportunity was taken for maintenance and relaxation, and a number
of visits into Florence became possible.
While we were here naturally many of us wanted to see something of the
city of Florence, which we found to be relatively undamaged and very
interesting. In addition an hotel at Fiesole, a few miles to the north
was taken over as a leave camp for O.Rs. and many of us had the chance
of a little luxury, and, of course, hot baths and real beds to sleep
in. But all good things must come to an end, and on 15 Aug. it was back
to the battle.