Operation Crumpet II

This was a US air offensive, developed from the unrealised 'Crumpet I', by Lieutenant General Nathan F. Twining’s 15th AAF against German troop concentrations in the area of Rimini in northern Italy (14 September 1944).

The operation was undertaken in support of Lieutenant General Sir Oliver Leese’s British 8th Army during the Battle of Rimini in 'Olive'.

The Battle of Rimini was fought on 13/21 September within the context of the Allied offensive to breach the German 'Gotisch-Linie' defences between August and September 1944. A city on the Adriatic coast of Italy, Rimi anchored the so-called 'Rimini- Linie', which was the third such line constituting the 'Gotisch-Linie'.

It was on 23 August that the 8th Army began 'Olive', attacking on a three-corps front to the north along the eastern flank of Italy into the 'Gotisch-Linie' defences. By the first week in September the offensive had broken through the forward defences of the 'Gotisch-Linie' and the defensive positions of the 'Grün I-Linie', and Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark’s US 5th Army entered the offensive in central Italy as it attacked toward Bologna.

In the 8th Army’s centre Lieutenant General E. L. M. Burns’s Canadian I Corps had broken through the 'Grün II-Linie' on the right of its front, advancing to pinch out Lieutenant General Władysław Anders’s Polish II Corps on the very right of the army, but farther but inland, in the foothills of the Apennine mountains the corps' advance had been held up by stubborn defence at Coriano and Lieutenant General C. F. Keightley’s British V Corps on the army’s left flank had been halted at Croce and Gemmano. A new attack to clear the 'Grün II-Linie' positions in the foothills and destroy the 'Rimini-Linie extending from the port of Rimini inland to San Marino was scheduled to start on 12 September.

Just to the south of Rimini, attached to Major General G. G. Simonds’s Canadian 1st Division, was Syntagmatárches Thrasyvoulos Tsakalotos’s Greek 3rd Mountain Brigade, and near the village of Cattolica this brigade pushed back two strong German counterattacks on 8 and 10 September. On 13 September the brigade, supported by the combined armour and infantry of B squadron, New Zealand 20th Armoured Regiment and the New Zealand 22nd Motor Battalion of Major General C. E. Weir’s New Zealand 2nd Division, launched a counterattack to take Rimini. Also supporting the brigade were infantry, mortars and machine guns of the Canadian Saskatoon Light Infantry and New Zealand 33rd Anti-Tank Battery fielding 17-pdr guns.

The initial attack on 13 September saw the Greeks attacking the small farm settlements of Monaldini and Monticelli on the road to Marano. The two settlements were held by the 1st Fallschirmjägerregiment and some Osttruppen of Generalleutnant Ralph von Heygendorff’s 162nd Division (turk.) under the command of General Traugott Herr’s LXXVI Panzerkorps of Generaloberst Heinrich-Gottfried von Vietinghoff-Scheel’s 10th Army. The Germans were well prepared, however, and held off the Greeks.

On the next day two troops B Squadron, 20th Armoured Regiment, were added to the attack on Monaldini, while soon after a platoon of the 22nd Motor Battalion aided the attack on Monticelli with the support the two armoured troops' Sherman tanks. By 20.00 the Allies had taken Monaldini, with only light casualties. The focus then turned to Monticelli, where the Greeks and New Zealanders once again attacked. The German defenders now abandoned the position as soon as the attackers approached and the farm was in Allied hands a short time later.

On 15 September the Greeks launched an assault on Rimini airfield. The Greek 1st Battalion crossed the Marano river (little more than a stream) at 10.00 and immediately came under intense fire from German positions around the airfield. The Greeks halted to re-organise. C Squadron, New Zealand 18th Armoured Regiment relieved B Squadron, 20th Armoured Regiment in the line supporting the Greeks. Air support was summoned, and Allied fighter-bombers attacked the western side of the airfield. The Greeks attacked shortly after this.

The Greek 1st Battalion attacked the airfield itself, the Greek 2nd Battalion then attacked up Highway 16, and the Greek 3rd Battalion attacked the small village of Casalecchio. The 1st Battalion once more ran into stiff resistance from the defenders of the airfield, whose fire inflicted heavy casualties on the Greeks, but the support of the New Zealand tanks and infantry was better co-ordinated as one of the New Zealand officers spoke Greek. The tanks fired on each house lining the southern edge of the airfield to ensure that these had not been turned into German defensive positions. Even so, as they approached the German defensive positions the Greeks and New Zealanders came under fire from infantry, Panzerschreck anti-tank rockets, self-propelled guns, and emplaced Panther turrets, and were pinned down just short of the airfield. Meanwhile the tanks edged round a hedgerow to avoid the anti-tank fire, but soon found themselves at the forefront of the attack. A German self-propelled gun knocked out a Sherman, but the New Zealanders pressed ahead and knocked out the German positions with shell fire and grenades, so forcing the Germans to withdraw from their positions.

The 2nd Battalion, on the right of the Greek brigade, attacked up the Highway 16, but became separated from their supporting New Zealand tanks. The Greeks were halted by mines and heavy defensive fire from the eastern side of the airfield and nearby houses.

Supported by New Zealand infantry and armour, the 3rd Battalion attacked the village of Casalecchio, standing on a crossroads, on the left flank. The Greek infantry quickly cleared the houses, but the paratroops in the church proved harder to move. The village’s church was finally cleared when a combined attack by Greek and New Zealand infantry, with New Zealand armoured support, drove out the paratroopers. However, heavy machine-gun and mortar fire from the airfield halted any further advance.

On 16 September the Greeks continued their task of mopping up in the area round the airfield. The Greeks were largely successful, but one emplaced Panther turret was still in operation. The 3rd Battalion advanced up the left through the hedges and ditches beyond Casalecchio until they came level with the 1st Battalion in the centre. Their task was made difficult as they had occasionally to clear minefields and were under constant fire. The 2nd Battalion advanced up the right flank of the airfield. Anti-tank fire was lighter than the previous day.

On the following day the three Greek battalions continued their advance. Several attempts were made to knock out the remaining Panther turret with aircraft and artillery, but success was finally gained by one of the New Zealand Sherman tanks, which worked its way round the turret’s flank. The Sherman fired several anti-tank rounds into the turret before the crew eventually evacuated it.

Once the airfield had been taken, the Greek 3rd Mountain Brigade turned its attention towards Rimini itself. On 18 September the 2nd and 3rd Battalions pushed toward the city’s coastal suburbs, once more encountering heavy resistance from the German paratroopers, but with the aid of New Zealand and Canadian support were finally able to push into the outskirts of the city on 20 September. The Greeks pushed into Rimini from the south, only to find the city abandoned by the Germans, who had been forced to withdraw by the outflanking threat resulting from the Canadian 1st Division’s capture of San Fortunato.

On the morning of 21 September the Greek 2nd Battalion reached the city centre via the Ausa river, and the mayor unconditionally surrendered the city.