Battle of Ortona

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Post by Forcell on Mon Dec 17, 2018 1:30 pm

Battle of Ortona veterans raise a glass to celebrate 75th anniversary of Canadian victory in Second World War

By BRENDAN KENNEDY / Investigative Reporter
Mon., Dec. 17, 2018

Donald Stewart, who turned 94 this month, recalled the moment 75 years ago when he learned his compatriots in the Canadian army had won the Battle of Ortona.

Stewart, then still a teenager, was at the Canadian headquarters in the Italian coastal town after delivering supplies from the port. As news of the victory arrived, so too did word that two of his brothers had been killed in the fighting.

Battle of Ortona _1_rpjbattlewine013

“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “In those days you had to take the good with the bad.”

Stewart was among the Second World War veterans who gathered at Sunnybrook hospital Sunday afternoon for a small event to mark the 75th anniversary of the Canadian victory in the Battle of Ortona, regarded as one of the toughest battles of the Canadian campaign in Italy.

A.E. “Al” Stapleton and Ed Stafford, 99 and 97 years old, respectively, were also in attendance. Like Stewart, Stapleton and Stafford were at the Canadian headquarters during the battle and not involved in the actual fighting. “Which is, of course, one of the reasons why I’m still here,” Stapleton said.

As part of Sunday’s commemoration, the veterans drank from a bottle of red wine given to them five years ago by the mayor of Ortona to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Canadian victory and the town’s liberation.

The battle took place over eight days from Dec. 20 to 28, 1943, pitting the Canadian 1st Infantry Division against two battalions of elite German paratroopers.

Ortona’s position overlooking the Adriatic Sea was of strategic importance because it was one of the few deep-water ports on the east coast. German troops had been ordered to “fight for every last house and tree,” according to historian Mark Zuehlke.

Canadian casualties in Ortona totalled 650, including more than 200 killed. Since the town had not been evacuated before the fighting started, it’s estimated that more than 1,300 civilians were killed. The battle was fought in close quarters in the town’s rubble-filled streets, amid booby-trapped houses and the constant threat of exploding landmines.

The street fighting was so intense that the battle earned the nickname “Little Stalingrad” or “Italian Stalingrad” among those who fought in it.

In order to avoid walking through the streets, where they would be vulnerable to German fire, Canadian troops in Ortona developed a technique called “mouse-holing,” in which they would blast holes through adjoining houses in order to advance on German troops.

“The Battle of Ortona was an eight-day nightmare,” said Larry Rose, author of two books on Canada’s role in the Second World War. “It was one of the grimmest and most brutal battles of the war for the Canadian army.”

Rose, who also spoke at Sunday’s event, said Ortona was not one of the biggest battles of the war for Canadians and it did not shift the strategic balance of power. But the conditions in which it was fought made it remarkable.

“It’s remembered for the iron determination, the resolute will power and the shining character of the Canadian soldiers in the battle,” he said. “They simply would not quit in the face of dire adversity.”

In June 2016, a charity representing the Italian-Canadian community donated to the City of Toronto a bronze sculpture depicting a 3D topographical map of Ortona, illustrating the destruction of the town following the battle.

The sculpture, titled “Peace Through Valour,” commemorates all of the Canadian soldiers who fought in Italy in the Second World War. It is located outside City Hall, near the statue of Winston Churchill.


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Post by Hammercore on Fri Dec 21, 2018 6:39 am

Ministers of Veterans Affairs and National Defence mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Ortona


Veterans Affairs Canada
Dec 20, 2018

OTTAWA, Dec. 20, 2018 /CNW/ - The Honourable Seamus O'Regan, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, issued the following statement today on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Ortona:

"For nine days over the Christmas of 1943, Canadian soldiers bravely fought to liberate the Italian seaside town of Ortona, as the Allies continued their struggle against the German forces that were occupying Italy during the Second World War.

"The Battle of Ortona was one of the most difficult battles for Canadian troops during the Italian Campaign. Filled with old stone buildings, Ortona had been reduced to rubble which limited the Allies' ability to use artillery and tanks, while also providing many potential fortified positions for enemy defenders.

"After more than a week of fighting through the ruined town, Canadians liberated Ortona on December 28, 1943.

"The 1st Canadian Corps would fight its way north through Italy until February of 1945 when it joined the rest of the First Canadian Army in Northwest Europe and began the final push through the Netherlands and into Germany in the closing chapters of the Second World War. Nearly 6,000 Canadians died as they helped restore freedom to the Italian people.

"The courage and valour of those who served in the first half of the 20th century—Canadians who fought for freedom and human rights—is reflected in the continued tradition of service by today's Canadian Armed Forces.

"Lest we forget."

SOURCE Veterans Affairs Canada


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Post by Zodiac on Wed Dec 26, 2018 1:34 pm

WORLD WAR II - December 25, 2018

Canadian soldiers ate Christmas dinner in a port Hitler wanted ‘at all costs.’ They took it 2 days later

By Jesse Ferreras and Sean O’Shea Global News

Back in 1943, Canadian troops were deployed in Italy, to a place called Ortona. It was the height of the Second World War. On Christmas Day 75 years ago, the soldiers there had a different kind of meal. As Seán O'Shea reports, dinner that night was a respite from fierce fighting.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marked an important anniversary when he visited Canadian soldiers on a peacekeeping mission in Mali last weekend.

This wasn’t just a visit for the holidays. It was also the 75th anniversary of the Christmas dinner that Canadians ate in Ortona, as they fought to take a town that Adolf Hitler wanted held at “all costs.”

WATCH: Memories of D-Day still clear in the mind of WWII veteran

In December 1943, Allied forces had reached Ortona, a historic Italian port on the Adriatic Sea.

Forces had invaded Italy five months earlier, and Canadian troops including the Seaforth Highlanders and the Loyal Edmonton Regiment found themselves facing down the Nazis’ elite paratroopers, according to an account by Veterans Affairs.

Canadians hoped they would only have to spend a day taking the town; it lasted a whole month.

Battle of Ortona 18479684
B Company, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, is forced to follow a narrow footpath for two miles along the hilly Adriatic coast during the Allied advance through Italy in the Second World War.

Canadians first encountered Germans at the Moro River, in a month that would prove to be its wettest.

The river’s banks rose by eight feet, forcing soldiers to trudge through fields of mud as they dodged enemy fire.

They arrived in Ortona on Dec. 20, coming upon a town of narrow streets where the Nazis had only left room for them to travel down a single highway that could accommodate tanks.

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And there they fought — Canadian tanks were blown up in the street, while snipers and machine gun operators rained fire down on troops from strategic positions in buildings reduced to rubble.

The Canadians would innovate a tactic known as “mouseholing,” which involved placing a charge against the wall of a house so they could blow it up and walk straight through and avoid the streets.

They used this tactic to put down the enemy.

WATCH: ‘Dam Busters’ takes a look at the role of Canadians in WWII

Christmas came five days later, and soldiers with the Seaforth Highlanders spent it in Santa Maria di Constantinopoli, a church that had been bombed out.

There, they ate a homemade meal of roast pork, mashed potatoes, cauliflowers, nuts, gravy and applesauce.

Servicemen returned from the front lines, laid down their weapons, ate and sang Christmas Carols.

Other soldiers couldn’t leave the front.

The fighting resumed shortly, and the Germans withdrew from Ortona two days later.

The battle of Ortona left 213 Canadians dead during Christmas week, in what would come to be known as “Bloody December.”

The anniversary left Trudeau in a reflective mood as he spoke with peacekeepers, now on the front lines of a conflict in Mali.

“That idea of coming together and pausing, and remembering or reflecting on why we serve and our families back home is a really important thing,” he said.


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