Operation Chesterfield (ii)

This was a Canadian offensive by Lieutenant General E. L. M. Burns’s I Corps (Major General C. Vokes’s 1st Division and Major General B. M. Hoffmeister’s 5th Armoured Division) of Lieutenant General Sir Oliver Leese’s British 8th Army to breach the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ defences at Pontecorvo just to the west of Monte Cassino within the overall context of ‘Diadem’ (23 May 1944).

The ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ was a two-part series of fortifications. Its northern element, blocking the Liri river valley, was complete and would therefore be difficult to break if fully occupied, while the southern element, otherwise known as the ‘Dora’ extension, at this time comprised little more than a planning line on staff maps and a few primitive defences. The ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ therefore extended in reality from the village of Piedmonte on the slopes of Monte Cairo through Pontecorvo to Santa Olivia on the southern side of the Liri river, while the ‘Dora’ extension was intended to continue the line through the Monti Aurunci to the coast.

Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, the Oberbefehlshaber ‘Süd’ and commander of Heeresgruppe ‘C’, did not become fully aware until 17 May of the defeat, four days earlier, of General Fridolin Ritter und Edler von Senger und Etterlin’s XIV Panzerkorps, within Generaloberst Heinrich-Gottfried von Vietinghoff-Scheel’s 10th Army, by Général de Corps d’Armée Alphonse Pierre Juin’s Corps Expéditionaire Français (French Expeditionary Corps) 1.

At about that time a German radio interception unit identified the Canadian I Corps, which had been believed to be embarking at Naples and Salerno for an amphibious left-hook to the north of Rome behind the German flank, in the Liri valley. Kesselring could not be certain that the amphibious threat was over, but he was sure that, if he did not block the French advance round the southern end of the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ defences, the greater part of the 10th Army would be cut off. Kesselring therefore instructed Generalleutnant Smilo Freiherr von Lüttwitz’s 26th Panzerdivision to move as quickly as it could from its blocking position in the Alban hills, which it was holding in anticipation of a descent on Major General Lucian K. Truscott ’s US VI Corps as it broke out of its Anzio lodgement in ‘Buffalo’, to the area of Pico and Pontecorvo. Kesselring also instructed Generalleutnant Friedrich-Wilhelm Hauck’s 305th Division and Generalleutnant Hellmuth Böhlke’s 334th Division to move to the west from the Adriatic coast, where they were replaced by Oberst Karl Falkner’s 237th Division from Istria. The 305th Division was expected to arrive first and would join the 26th Panzerdivision in an attempt to halt the French.

When the battle for the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ defences started on 18 May, three out of the five German mobile divisions had been committed. Reluctant to accept that the Allied offensive on the ‘Gustav-Linie’ was anything more than an attack to pin the German forces holding the line’s defences, Kesselring had not sought to implement the type of co-ordinated counterattack otherwise typical of German defensive operations in World War II. These key divisions now entered the battle on a piecemeal basis as and when they became available, and were effectively decimated as they sought in vain to halt the fresh divisions which the Allies were sending forward.

First to be used was Generalmajor Ernst Günther Baade’s 15th Panzergrenadierdivision, which was deployed in small Kampfgruppen in an effort to bolster two other divisions, namely Generalleutnant Wilhelm Raapke’s 71st Division and Generalleutnant Bernhard Steinmetz’s 94th Division. Generalleutnant Gerhard Graf von Schwerin-Krosigk’s 90th Panzergrenadierdivision entered the fray next and was committed to the maelstrom of the Liri river valley and its desperate German attempt to prevent the French Expeditionary Corps from breaking through the Esperia defile. Next the 26th Panzerdivision and the 305th Division were drawn into the battle in the same way, while Generalmajor Walter Fries’s 29th Panzergrenadierdivision and Generalleutnant Wilhelm Schmalz’s 1st Fallschirmpanzerdivision ‘Hermann Göring’ remained on watch over Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea coast to the north of Rome against the possibility of an Allied amphibious landing.

Nowhere could there have been more striking evidence of the utility of an effective deception plan, in this case the ‘Nunton’ scheme created by the Allies for ‘Diadem’.

As soon as Cassino fell, Lieutenant General Władysław Anders’s Polish II Corps moved out along the southern spurs of Monte Cairo to outflank and if possible take the village of Piedmonte, which was the northern pivot of the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’. General the Hon. Sir Harold Alexander, heading the Allied Armies in Italy command, instructed Juin to drive to the north in the direction of Pico and thus outflank the fortified section of the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ from the south. In the centre, the 8th Army sent Lieutenant General S. C. Kirkman’s British XIII Corps and I Corps toward Aquino and Pontecorvo respectively. Both corps tried to drive through the German defences before they were fully occupied, but did not move fast enough to achieve this, and were in any event unaware that the defences had been further strengthened by the emplacement of many PzKpfw V Panther battle tank turrets in the line’s strongpoints.

It was clear that a prepared assault would now have to be launched, and responsibility for this ‘Chesterfield’ (ii) operation was allocated to the I Corps, which had not hitherto been used as a single entity during the battle and was now to attack to the north-west up the Liri river valley. The main effort was to be made by Vokes’s Canadian 1st Division, which was to break through the German defences and thus open the way for an exploitation by Hoffmeister’s Canadian 5th Armoured Division.

The XIII Corps was to maintain its pressure on Aquino as the I Corps tried to break through the German defences at Pontecorvo. As the I Corps was preparing its operation, which was scheduled for implementation on 23 May, the French Expeditionary Corps was closing in on Pico, although it was then slowed by the arrival of the 26th Panzerdivision and 305th Division. The French Expeditionary Corps took Monte Leucio, a feature effectively controlling the area of Pico and Pontecorvo, but was then driven back off it by a German counterattack. It took two more days of very strenuous combat before Pico was finally taken on 22 May.

The broken nature of the ground had provided the German engineers with many excellent sites for field works, and a ridge just behind the line provided good observation posts. An anti-tank ditch, with occasional gaps, extended across the front, and this had been created by blowing a string of craters, each some 14 ft 9 in to 29 ft 6 in (4.5 to 9 m) wide, but the sides of these craters had not been scarped and the ditch was this more of a hindrance than a complete obstacle to tanks. A single double-apron barbed wire fence, also with gaps, extended right across the front, and at some places the fence had been doubled or tripled and low trip-wires had been fixed. Within the wire, anti-tank mines had been scattered rather than laid. Apart from these mines in the wire, patches of mines, scarcely amounting to minefields, had also been laid, and in many places anti-personnel mines had been thrown down. The fact that large dumps of mines were discovered after the battle suggested that minelaying had been a last-minute and uncompleted effort.

The fixed defences were of three main kinds. The first, and something that was new to the Allies, was the dismounted turret of a PzKpfw V Panther battle tank located on a plinth of brickwork and connected to a dug-out. The turret carried a 75-mm (2.95-in) L/70 gun, a 0.312-in (7.92-mm) machine gun and a rocket projector, and was manned by three men from a specially trained ‘turret company’ established in Generalleutnant Rudolf Sperrl’s 15th Panzergrenadierdivision. There were eight of these turrets in the sector which the Canadians attacked, and each was supported by a pair of 75- or 88-mm (2.95- or 3.465-in) self-propelled anti-tank guns. The second kind of fixed defence was a steel and concrete bunker. Each of these was manned by 20 men, and was connected with one or two covered emplacements, each mounting a machine gun. These bunkers were sited in depth at lateral intervals of between 150 and 200 yards (140 and 185 m). The third kind of fixed defence was the ‘portable’ machine gun nest, which was a dome-shaped steel unit, some 6 ft (1.8 m) high, of which half appeared above the ground. The front armour was from 90 to 140 mm (5.46 to 3.51 to 5.46 in) thick, and that on the top, sides and rear was 40 m (1.56 in) thick. Each nest mounted one machine gun, and there were probably 10 such nests on the Canadian front.

Besides these defensive works in concrete and steel, there was the standard assortment of earth field works, some strengthened with concrete or balks of timber, as well as dug-outs, foxholes, observation posts, crawl trenches, etc.

As General Valentin’s Feurstein’s LI Gebirgskorps, on the right of the I Corps’ proposed axis of advance, also had to watch its northern wing against the possible advances of Lieutenant General Władisław Anders’s Polish II Corps and Lieutenant General Sir Richard McCreery’s British X Corps of Lieutenant General Sir Oliver Leese’s British 8th Army on the western slopes of the Apennine mountains, it could not send fresh troops into the defences. On the morning of 23 May the line, from Piedimonte in the north to Pontecorvo in the south, was held by five Kampfgruppen, most of them already much reduced by casualties 2. As well as these mixed-arm Kampfgruppen, there were also several miscellaneous single-arm units and detachments, most of them from supporting arms.

The German position was supported by about 150 pieces of artillery, most of them of 105-mm (4.13-in) calibre, although there were also smaller numbers of 150-mm (5.91-in) weapons. The German were also well equipped with mortars.

Canadian estimates put the German infantry strength at about 1,085 men, but this was probably an underestimate. The LI Gebirgskorps had suffered many casualties since 11 May, but had received three battalions of Generalleutnant Alexander Bourquin’s (from 19 May Generalleutnant Dr Hans Bölsen’s) 114th Jägerdivision and five infantry companies of Generalleutnant Max Shrank’s 5th Gebirgsdivision. The corps had also been reinforced by two engineer battalions, one engineer construction battalion, two tank companies and one Nebelwerfer regiment.

Since 15 May Vokes had known that his division would very probably be used to break the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ defences and thereby open the way for the 5th Armoured Division, and had already begin to plan his division’s assault even before he received the orders of Leese and Burns on 20 May. Given the type of terrain needed by the armour, Vokes thought that the best ground for an attack was that extending from a point on the Forme d’Aquino, about 1,500 yards (1370 m) to the south-west of Aquino in a line about south to another point 2,000 yards (1830 m) distant. Hoffmeister agreed that a breach of this size and this piece of ground would suit his armour. Vokes therefore decided to attack on this front, and planned a two-phase undertaking: in the first part of the road linking Pontecorvo and Aquino was to be taken, and in the second part of the road linking Pontecorvo and Highway 6 parallel with the road in the first phase but between 1,000 and 2,000 yards (915 and 1830 m) to the west of it. These two pieces of road in effect marked the forward and rear edges of the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’, so their capture by the 1st Division would represent a breach in the German defences for the passage of the armour.

Vokes made a breach for Hoffmeister’s armour. He intended to use Brigadier T. G. Gibson’s 2nd Brigade to attack, two battalions abreast, behind a heavy barrage, and supported by the Churchill and Sherman tanks of Brigadier J. H. Tetley’s British 25th Army Tank Brigade. Brigadier D. C. Spry’s 1st Brigade and Brigadier J. P. E. Bernatchez’s 3rd Brigade were to provide support by the deliver of feint attacks, and Vokes could commit these two brigades to the main battle if they were needed.

When he heard Vokes’s plan, Leese advised the Canadian commanders to use more infantry in the main attack. Vokes then decided to use the 3rd Brigade, with one battalion up, on the left of the 2nd Infantry, and withdrew the Royal 22nd Regiment from the 3rd Brigade to join the Three Rivers Regiment in divisional reserve. Thus the Canadian final disposition for ‘Chesterfield’ (ii) was the 2nd Brigade on the right with two battalions and most of the 51st Royal Tank Regiment up, and one down; and on the left the the 3rd Brigade with one battalion and two squadrons of the 51st Royal Tank Regiment up, and two battalions down.

‘Chesterfield’ (ii) was to start at 06.00 on 23 May.

There was to be a large preparatory artillery programme in which 786 guns and howitzers were to be employed. As well as the divisional artillery, these included weapons of the Canadian I Corps, British XIII Corps, Polish II Corps and French Expeditionary Corps, and ammunition was provided on a scale of between 50 and 600 rounds per weapon. Of the guns available, 76 medium and heavy pieces were reserved for counter-battery work, and 28 of other types were reserved for counter-mortar work, so the 1st Division was supported by 682 guns and howitzers of all types in calibres ranging between 75 and 240 mm (2.95 and 9.45 in), though the majority (400 pieces) were 25-pdr gun/howitzers.

The main artillery programme in support of the infantry included a barrage and a series of concentrations upon chosen strongpoints. The barrage covered a front of 3,200 yards (2925 m) to a depth of 3,000 yards (2745 m), and was to be fired by nine field regiments, three medium regiments and six batteries of 155-mm (6.1-in) howitzers. The infantry were to advance at a pace of 100 yards (91 m) in five minutes during the first phase of the attack and 100 yards (91 m) in three minutes during the second phase. As well as the barrage, 32 concentrations were to be fired on known strongpoints both inside and outside the area of the barrage.

While the 1st Division was preparing ‘Chesterfield’ (ii), Vokes began a subsidiary operation. On 20 May the French Expeditionary Corps captured Mt Leucio and entered the part of Pontecorvo on the western bank of the Liri river. On the same morning the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards were probing at the defences of Pontecorvo to the east of the Liri river and captured some prisoners of the 44th Feldersatzbataillon. These men was immediately seen to have very low morale, and in combination with the success of the French Expeditionary Corps led Vokes to see an opportunity. He sent Spry to the French to discuss the possibility of passing the Royal Canadian Regiment across the Liri river in assault boats to an attack on Pontecorvo from the north-west in conjunction with an attack by the French. Spry discussed the matter with French commanders and decided that it would not be possible to cross the river because the Germans had dug in a large number of machine guns on the far bank, and reported his opinion to Vokes late in the afternoon of 21 May. Vokes seems to have convinced himself that the defences of Pontecorvo were thinly manned by low-grade troops, however, and thus ordered Spry to attack with his brigade at 10.00 on 22 May.

If the 1st Brigade managed to penetrate the German defences, Vokes intended to seek the authorisation of Burns to attack northwards from the breach with his 2nd Brigade, thus rolling up the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ defences from the south. Vokes believed that this might yield results which were quicker and better than those expected of ‘Chesterfield’ (ii), and therefore postponed the 2nd Brigade’s final deployment for ‘Chesterfield’ (ii) until 17.00 on 22 May. When the details of this new plan reached him, however, Leese warned Burns ‘against getting too involved in this subsidiary operation’. But Burns did not restrain Vokes who, early on 22 May, committed more troops to his new plan by ordering the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards and two squadrons 142nd Royal Armoured Corps to attack along the road linking Pignataro and Pontecorvo as a prelude to the 1st Brigade’s attack. The 2nd Brigade remained in doubt about its task, which might be either to roll up the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ from the south, or to make a frontal attack upon it alongside the 3rd Brigade.

At 07.00 on 22 May the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards and the squadrons of 142nd Royal Armoured Corps penetrated the German defences to a depth of about 400 yards (365 m) until they were checked by a minefield. About 60 men of the 44th Feldersatzbataillon were taken, but the British armour lost three of its tanks. At 10.30 the 48th Highlanders of Canada and one squadron of the 142nd Royal Armoured Corps attacked to capture Point 106, a slight rise in the ground about 1,500 yards (1370 m) to the north-east of Pontecorvo and some 500 yards (460 m) inside the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’, but all hope of a quick success against low-grade troops were soon dashed. The tanks tanks were stopped among craters and groups of mines covered by anti-tank fire, and the 48th Highlanders, supported by heavy concentrations from the guns, had to fight their way slowly toward their objective. They had almost reached this at the end of a battle which had lasted for most of the day, but by 17.30 it had become evident that there was nothing to be gained by the commitment of Spry’s remaining two battalions. The 48th Highlanders were therefore instructed to consolidate where they stood, and Vokes confirmed that ‘Chesterfield’ (ii) would begin at 06.00 on the following day.

The 1st Brigade dented the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’, but this limited success was offset by the disadvantages resulting from the curtailment of the 2nd Brigade’s preparations for ‘Chesterfield’ (ii). As this brigade had been required to be ready at any moment to exploit the success it was believed would be gained by the 1st Brigade, exploratory patrolling of the ‘Chesterfield’ (ii) area had been halted at 02.00 on 22 May, and leaders of various ranks had been refused permission to leave their units on daylight reconnaissances during 22 May. The 2nd Brigade therefore embarked on ‘Chesterfield’ (ii) without the invaluable terrain and tactical information which complete patrolling and reconnaissance would have yielded.

At 06.00 on 23 May the artillery barrage began, and the infantry began to move forward. In the 2nd Brigade, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and A Squadron of the North Irish Horse were on the right, and the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and B and C Squadrons of the North Irish Horse on the left. The Loyal Edmonton Regiment and one squadron of the 51st Royal Tank Regiment were in reserve and waiting for the second phase.

The first objective for the PPCLI and Seaforths was the road between Pontecorvo and Aquino, about 1,500 yards (1370 m) ahead of the start line, itself a well-marked track running to the north-east from Campo Vincenzo toward Ponte di Ripa. Just ahead of the start line lay a patch of woodland about 1,000 yards (915 m) deep, which then gave way to fields under standing corn. This close cover hid the German defences, and gave the advancing infantry only intermittent glances of each other. Quite often the supporting tanks could not find their infantrymen when these for one reason or another had gone temporarily to ground, and this had a number of adverse results almost from the start on 23 May.

The timetable for ‘Chesterfield’ (ii) called for the capture of the first objectives by 07.15, and the start of the second phase at 08.15, but this rate of progress was not even approached. In the second phase the Loyal Edmonton Regiment on the right and the Seaforths on the left, each battalion supported by tanks, were to capture the final objectives, which were Point 115 on the right and Point 107 on the left, on the road between Pontecorvo and Highway 6.

Soon after the PPCLI and Seaforths had crossed the start line, the German artillery and mortars brought down a deluge of observed fire, and the German machine guns added the weight of their fire when targets could be discerned, and on pre-registered lines when they could not.

The Canadian infantrymen and their supporting British tanks drove forward, and after about one hour were reported to be near the German wire. But difficulties were appearing, mainly because so little could be seen and because communication was intermittent or lost. Lieutenant Colonel C. B. Ware of the PPCLI was desperate to see what was happening and took his headquarters right forward into the woodland and then lost contact by sight or signal with all his companies. Runners sent to find them did not return. The North Irish Horse was also in trouble, for the dust kicked up by the barrage not infrequently reduced the visibility to as little s 30 yards (27.5 m). Tank commanders stood in their open turret hatches in an effort to see, and some were hit by sniper fire. Patches of anti-tank mines were found in the wire and in the woods, and flank moves to avoid them were defeated by deep gullies emerging from the Forme d’Aquino. A mine-lifting detachment of the Canadian 3rd Field Company was destroyed and replaced, but the gapping and marking of mine fields along the brigade’s front was slow and costly. Radio communication between the infantry and the armour often failed.

The Seaforths suffered under the same destructive fire as the PPCLI. At about 08..40 Major Allan of B Company reported that he had collected all the men of the companies whom he could find, totalling about 100 men, and had consolidated on the first objective. The Seaforths had now to wait for the start of the second phase, and this wait turned into an ordeal. The supporting North Irish Horse was hampered by mines and suffered constantly from anti-tank fire, but stubbornly fought to help the infantry. Indeed by 12.00 the North Irish Horse reported that 11 of its tanks had broken through the German defences and were close to the second objective. Anti-tank fire then forced these tanks to withdraw but only four reached the PPCLI’s positions.

Lieutenant Colonel R. Coleman, commanding the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, received no reliable information of the battle’s progress and therefore followed the timetable. He led his battalion forward through murderous fire and across a minefield, all communications within the battalion failed, but it reached the PPCLI’s positions at about 09.00. Mines and anti-tank fire held up the accompanying squadron of the 51st Royal Tank Regiment.

The 2nd Brigade’s three battalions were all now engaged. The plan had clearly broken down, and no one knew when or how the second phase would begin.

In the 3rd Brigade, the Carleton and York Regiment was more successful. Unlike those of the 2nd Brigade, the battalion had been free to patrol thoroughly at night and to study the ground by day, and had collected much valuable information about the German positions, lines of approach and obstacles. Alterations in the divisional plan had been slow to reach the 51st Royal Tank Regiment, however, and this did not share the Carleton and York Regiment’s good fortune. To reach their forming-up place, which they had not been able to scout, the tanks wandered in a circle for six hours during the night of 22/23 May because the infantryman who guided them lost his way. Thus it was 03.00 on 23 May before the tank commanders received their final orders.

At 06.00 the Carleton and York Regiment moved forward and, though hammered by shells and mortar bombs, maintained its impetus and cohesion and reached the first objective. The 51st Royal Tank Regiment kept close to the infantry and halted with them. At about 10.00 the West Nova Scotia Regiment prepared to pass through the Carleton and York Regiment, but the start of the planned second phase was postponed possibly 12 times up to 02.00 on 24 May. The reason was, inevitably, the fact that Vokes was receiving very little information from his subordinate commanders because these themselves were unable form any clear picture of the battle. Vokes was determined that his 2nd and 3rd Brigades should begin the second phase together, but could not judge from the reports that reached him the time at which both could be ready. Then at about 12.00 Gibson, commander of the 2nd Brigade, reported that his situation was not firm enough for him to be able to launch the second phase. Vokes waited for an hour for things to improve and then decided that Bernatchez’s 3rd Brigade alone would attack the second objective, the road linking Pontecorvo with Highway 6.

Burns approved the revised plan, and Vokes then ordered Bernatchez to mount the attack. For this task the 3rd Brigade regained the Royal 22nd Regiment from divisional reserve, and also the Three Rivers Regiment less one squadron as the 51st Royal Tank Regiment was fast running out of fuel and ammunition.

At 13.00 the 8th Army’s artillery carried out a significant shoot. During the morning Brigadier W. S. Ziegler, the Canadian division’s artillery commander, had received constant reports of the damaged inflicted by the Germans’ enfilade fire from Aquino. Fire brought down on Aquino by the artillery of Major General C. F. Keightley’s British 78th Division of Lieutenant General S. C. Kirkman’s British XIII Corps failed to divert the Germans’ attention, and at 13.27 Ziegler requested permission to make Aquino a ‘William’ target, that is to bombard it with every gun of the 8th Army which was within range and not engaged upon a more important task. Permission was given, and experienced and capable were the 8th Army’s gunners that only 33 minutes later 668 guns opened fire on Aquino: 3,509 shells struck the target in just a few minutes, effectively destroying Aquino.

At 16.10 the 3rd Brigade and its supporting armour and artillery were ready to renew the main attack, and Vokes fixed the start time as 16.50.

Meanwhile, on the 1st Division’s left flank, Spry’s 1st Brigade had played an important, if less spectacular, part in the day’s operation. Continuing the uncompleted task of the previous day, the 48th Highlanders, supported by a fresh squadron of the 142nd Royal Armoured Corps struck out from its bridgehead and fought bitterly throughout the morning to reach Point 106. At 14.00, when the remnants of one company of the 48th Highlanders had gained the top of the hill and a second was pinned down on its slopes, Spry ordered the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment to relieve the situation by attacking on the right. Lieutenant Colonel D. C. Cameron skilfully committed his companies in successive tasks, and by 17.00 Point 106 had been secured and the two battalions were busily engaged in mopping up the disorganised Germans. Early in the morning of the following day the Royal Canadian Regiment entered the ruins of Pontecorvo.

While Bernatchez was preparing his attack, the 2nd Brigade endured a severe trial. The PPCLI described its situation as critical: two companies ‘temporarily written off’, many casualties in a third, and the fourth under heavy fire. The remnants of the Seaforth Highlanders had consolidated by 16.45, when an artillery and armour counterattack descended on the battalion. The German armour moved along the road from Aquino, unscathed because the Canadian had been unable to bring forward any anti-tank guns, and now poured fire into the Seaforth Highlanders holding the roadside ditches. The Seaforths gave no ground. The men of the Edmonton Regiment likewise remained pinned by the worst fire the battalion had ever experienced.

Unknown to these hard-hit infantrymen, however, the 1st Division was winning the ‘Chesterfield’ (ii) battle. At 16.50 the West Nova Scotia Regiment and its supporting tanks swept forward in a sudden rainstorm and close behind the shells of a heavy barrage, and these were followed about quarter of an hour later by the Royal 22nd Regiment. The Canadian troops could not be stopped, and shortly after 18.00 the West Nova Scotia Regiment reported that it had taken its final objective, part of a tongue of high ground between the lateral roads. The Royal 22nd Regiment had a longer fight. Following the West Nova Scotia Regiment for some distance, the battalion inclined to the north and widened the gap that was now appearing in the German line. The German resistance stiffened for a time, but then gave way. By 21.15 the Royal 22nd Regiment was consolidating about 1,200 yards (1095 m) to the north of the West Nova Scotia Regiment on the same tongue of high ground.

The 1st Division had broken its sector of the ‘Führer-Senger-Linie’ in a battle which cost the Canadians 879 casualties, 543 of them in the 2nd Brigade. The North Irish Horse lost 25 tanks, the 51st Royal Tank Regiment seven tanks, and the 142nd Royal Armoured Corps perhaps 12 tanks, a total of 44 of the 150 with which the 25th Army Tank Brigade had started the battle.

The Canadians took prisoner 585 Germans up to 12.00 on 24 May, but the number of German dead and wounded is not known.

The 8th Army could once more progress along the line of Highway 6. All this effort was rendered somewhat nugatory, however, by the fact that the US VI Corps had meanwhile broken out of the Anzio lodgement on the same day and rendered untenable the German positions to the south of this beach-head. This opening in the right flank of Heeresgruppe ‘C’ was then rendered at least partially purposeless by the decision of Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, commanding the US 5th Army, to opt for the political coup of capturing Rome over the military advantage of possibly trapping the bulk of the 10th Army against the advance of the 8th Army.

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This corps comprised Général de Division Diego Brosset’s 1st Free French Division, Général de Division Andre Marie François Dody’s 2nd Division d’Infanterie Marocaine, Général de Division Joseph de Goislard de Monsabert’s 3rd Division d’Infanterie Algérienne, Général de Division François Sevez’s 4th Division Marocaine de Montagne, and Général de Division Augustin Léon Guillaume’s Commandement de Goumiers Marocaines.
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From north to south the Kampfgruppen were Oberst Ludwig Schulz’s Kampfgruppe ‘Schulz’, Oberstleutnant Ludwig Heilmann’s Kampfgruppe ‘Heilmann’, Hauptmann Fabian’s Kampfgruppe ‘Fabian’, Hauptmann Straffner’s Kampfgruppe ‘Straffner’ and Oberst Bode’s Kampfgruppe ‘Bode’.