NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99

NE99

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Forget-me-not Remembrance Vol.4 72 T he date 10 July is commemorated annually by The Royal Canadian Regiment (The RCR). This day marks the anniversary of the Regiment's amphibious landing in Sicily, on the Pachino Peninsula, on 10 July 1943. Significantly, this was the very first occa- sion during the Second World War that the Regiment had been com- mitted to battle. By 10 July 1943, Canada, as part of the Grand Alliance against Nazi Germany, had officially been at war for nearly four years. The RCR, as well as most of the Canadian Overseas Army, had spent the previous three years in increasingly realistic and rigor- ous training in the United Kingdom. It was now time to send these Canadians into action against the enemy. 1 Germany and Italy, the Axis powers, had just been comprehen- sively defeated in North Africa. The destruction of the last Axis bridge- head in Africa, in northern Tunisia in May 1943, saw the capture of 250,000 German and Italian troops. The Italian navy (Regia Marina) and air force (Regia Aeronautica), as well as the German Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean, had been severely crippled. By mid-1943, not only had 14 Italian army divisions been lost in North Africa, but a further 10 divisions of the Italian Eighth Army had been destroyed on the Russian Front. The Allied assault on Hitler's Fortress Europe (Festung Europa) was now imminent. The island of Sicily, just miles from the toe of Italy, would be the immediate objective of British, American, and Canadian forces operating in the Mediterranean. Their ultimate objec- tive would be the liberation of all occupied Europe. As had been the case throughout most of its history, the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 found The Royal Canadian Regiment dispersed in different garrisons across the country. A Company was stationed at Wellington Barracks, Halifax; B Company was located at the Horse Palace, Canadian National Exhibition Grounds, Toronto; C Company and Headquarters Company were at Wolesley Barracks, London, Ontario; and D Company garrisoned St.-Jean, Quebec. However, unlike the First World War, the Regiment was destined nevertheless to quickly deploy overseas with the first contingent of the Canadian Active Service Force. The Royal Canadian Regiment, as the senior infantry regiment in the Canadian Army, took pride of place in the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, an all Ontario brigade. Alongside The RCR served two proud Ontario militia regiments: the 48th Highlanders from Toronto, known as the "Glamour Boys," and the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, the "Plough Jockeys," from such south-central Ontario communities as Picton, Trenton, Wellington, Bancroft, and Madoc. Within the Brigade, The RCR was nicknamed the "Pukkas." 2 This Brigade was part of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, the "Old Red Patch," at the time of the Sicily campaign commanded by Major-General Guy Granville Simonds, considered by some historians as the ablest Canadian general officer of the war. Field Marshal Montgomery himself referred to Simonds as the "most brilliant Canadian field general." 3 Having commanded 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade during 1942-43, he was well known to his new command. The time has come to carry the war into Italy and into the continent of Europe. The Italian overseas empire has been exterminated. The Italians came into the war to suit themselves and they must take the consequences. They asked for it and now they will get it. General Bernard Montgomery THE LANDING IN SICILY PACHINO DAY, 10 JULY 1943 By Capt RA Appleton, CD, Regimental Ajutant The Royal Canadian Regiment 1 On 23 April 1943, at the War Office, London, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, formally requested from the Canadian government, through Lieutenant-General A.G.L. "Andy" McNaughton, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, First Canadian Army, the participation of a Canadian infantry division and a Canadian tank brigade in a forthcoming large-scale operation in the Mediterranean Theatre. The Canadian government agreed to this request within 48 hours. As a result of this decision, 1st Canadian Infantry Division would replace the veteran 3rd Infantry Division (UK) in XXX Corps of the British Eighth Army for the invasion of Sicily. Known as the "Iron Division" within the British Army, the 3rd Infantry Division would instead become part of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, in 1944. It would be the first division to come ashore on Sword Beach on 06 June 1944. 2 This was an Anglo-Indian term, much used in the British army, that meant reliable, genuine, or of good quality. 3 At the age of just 40 years, Simonds was, at this time, also the youngest General Officer in the Canadian Army. Today one might say, "the real thing."

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