Want to learn more about the Canadians in Italy during World War II? Read on for facts and info on the role that the Canadian Army played during the War in Italy…
The Canadian Army was heavily involved in the fighting that took place in Italy during World War II. They played a fundamental role in supporting the Allied Forces in their fight against the Axis powers. They were particularly noted for their gallantry against the German forces, which paved the way for the victory of the Allied Forces.
Mussolini had been overthrown upon the invasion of Sicily by the Allied Forces. And it did not take long for the newly formed Italian government to surrender. The Allied Forces now had to face off with German troops as they made their way up the Italian peninsula
The Eighth British Army was assigned the task of advancing on Naples. The army consisted of the first Canadian Division as well as the fifth British Division, as well as the first Canadian Army tank brigade. There efforts would be complemented by the supporting forces from the US Army which would be making a seaborne landing with the same objective.
As the assault started on 3 September 1943 the Canadians faced little resistance as the Germans had already withdrawn their defensive line back to the mountainous part of the peninsula. As a result the Canadians were able to capture Reggio. Following this they advanced towards Aspromonte Mountains which they managed to cross and reach the Gulf of Taranto through to Catanzaro. Despite the fact that the Canadians had to bear extremely bad weather conditions along with German rearguard actions they still managed to advance steadily.
On the other hand the US Fifth Army was facing fierce resistance from the German forces on the beaches of Salerno. This made it imperative for the Canadian forces to come to the rescue of the American forces. Keeping this in mind one of the Navy brigades was diverted from the direction of Potenza and sent to assist the Fifth Army. The Canadians managed to achieve a breakout successfully. This fortified the position of the Allied Forces as the Fifth Army proceeded to enter in Naples while the Canadian Infantry Brigade joined the Airborne Division in Taranto and was making its advances inland.
Despite the success of the Allied Forces they were unable to shake the stronghold of the Germans on northern and central Italy. However a very valuable and vast tract of southern Italy had been conquered by the Allied forces. As a result of this the Allied Forces had their armies positioned from sea to sea and the next objective in line was to take over the city of Rome.
In what followed the Canadians engaged in fierce battles with the German forces which led to great loss of life and significant damage on both sides. However the Canadians were able to take over Campobasso, Vinchiaturo and Biferno River. on the other side the Canadian army tank brigade was lending support to the British assault on the Adriatic Coast.
In the events that were to follow the Canadian Army showed unparalleled gallantry on the battlefield and managed to destroy the German forces, which was not an easy task. They were faced with severe opposition, but eventually managed to overcome the forces of Germany’s Third Reich. At peak strength there were a total of 76,000 Canadian troops fighting in Italy.
As the Canadian Army in Italy had reached its peak strength of nearly 76,000, total casualties in the Corps had climbed to 9,934 in all ranks, of which 2,119 were fatal.