THE WAR IN ITALY.
The Final Lap
27.4.45 to 11.5.45


After the Germans evacuated Bologna on 21 Apr., the regiment moved to Castel San
Pietro where the batteries came into action, only to find that once more the enemy was out of range. Attempts were made to recce beyond Bologna on 22 Apr. but were recalled. At 1500 hours the order to "cease fire" was received and the guns were taken out of action. On the same day 453 and 504 Batteries of 75 Heavy Regt. passed from under command.

During the night of 24/25 Apr., the regiment moved to an area south of the river Po,
coming under command of 6 Br. Armd. Div., and sent representatives to the Guards Bde., the Derby Yeomanry, and later to the Rifle Bde. On 26 Apr. the C.0.2 crossed the river Po to recce forward, and the main recce party followed the next day. At 1800 hours that day the regiment received orders to move. However it was not until 0700 hours on 28 Apr. that it finally crossed the Po, having made an abortive attempt the night before when after a very long wait due to damage to the bridge by floating mines, it returned to a harbour area. The regiment came into action at Villafora, south of the river Adige. At 1105 hrs. a "Mike" target north-east ofEste was engaged on the orders ofC.R-A. 6 Armd. Div., and apart from a few harassing rounds, these proved to be the last rounds fired by 66th (Lowland) Medium Regiment R.A. against the Germans. That evening the regiment returned under command 6 A.G.R.A., and at 2330 hrs.orders were received to cease fire.

Since the landing in Sicily on 10 July 1943 the regiment had occupied 246 different Gun positions and fired a total of 162,346 rounds.

During the next few days the bulk of the lorries and the gun tractors were used by 13
Corps R.A.S.C. to carry supplies forward into supply dumps "just in case" of trouble with Jugoslavia. On the night of 5/6 May 'A'Tp. and R.H.Q. moved up to Cervignano, the rest of the regiment moving up on the 7th when 227 Bty. came into action. The next day 228 Bty. and R.H.Q. came into action near Sagrado and were in this position to celebrate VE Day, 11 May 1945. On that day the C.C.R.A. visited the regiment and ordered R.H.Q. and 227 Bty. to "withdraw" west of the river Isonzo and to concentrate with 228 Bty. It was not a quiet night because our "allies" the partigiani decided to shoot off all of their ammunition, so we had to keep our heads down.

It may seem strange that one of the biggest battles of World War II in Italy can be
dismissed in such a comparatively brief fashion. It must be remembered, however, that by the time the 5th Army on the left and the 8th Army on the right had broken out of the Apennines into the Po valley, in north-west Europe the Rhine had been crossed (7.3.45) and the Western Allies had invaded Germany from the west. At the same time the Russians had swept in from the east and had occupied East Germany (as it became), and were heading for Berlin.

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South of the Port the Germans put up some very stout resistance, and only determined
heavy fighting took us to the river. The crossing itself was made without too much trouble, but then not surprisingly much of the heart went out of the German resistance and the advance to the Alps and beyond into Austria was quickly accomplished.
This story, however, is a history of one regiment's part in the campaign, and not of the
war itself. Once across the Po the advance was rapid, and it is easy to see that medium artillery with its big guns and heavy tractors, comparatively slow moving, can be somewhat of an embarrassment in clogging up roads needed for tanks and fast-moving traffic. So - the shooting war was over. Now, how do we keep all the chaps happy until time for their release?

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Copyright © 2003, Chris Dunham . All Rights Reserved