Operation Torso

This was the New Zealand first attack toward Orsogna and the upper reaches of the Moro river in Italy within the context of the Moro river campaign of General Sir Bernard Montgomery’s British 8th Army to break though the German defences at the eastern end of the ‘Bernhardt-Linie’ in Italy, and as such the precursor to 'Florence' (7/8 December 1943).

While the Canadians crossed the Moro river farther downstream and headed toward Ortona, which was taken in 'Morning Glory', Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg’s New Zealand 2nd Division, of Lieutenant General M. C. Dempsey’s British XIII Corps, launched a two-brigade attack on Orsogna at 14.30 on 7 December. The division had Brigadier C. H. V. Pritchard’s British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade under command to anchor its left flank, and was supported by heavy concentrations of artillery and air support. The New Zealanders achieved complete tactical surprise as General Traugott Herr, commander of the LXXVI Panzerkorps within Generaloberst Heinrich-Gottfried von Vietinghoff-Scheel’s 10th Army, had been persuaded that the New Zealanders would not be in a position to launch a major attack until 8 December.

The New Zealand attack at first made good progress, but as the Germans regained their composure the attack started to lost momentum against heavily fortified defensive positions. By 21.00 the New Zealand 24th Battalion of Brigadier G. B. Parkinson’s New Zealand 6th Brigade had fought its way in slow house to house fighting to the centre of the town, but was pinned down and had little prospect of further progress without significant armoured support. A combination of concealed minefields and well dug-in German armour made the task of the Allied tanks impossible, however, and early on 8 December Freyberg ordered a withdrawal from the town with a view to renewing the attack in the ‘Florence’ flanking attack on 15 December after the Germans had been further hit by artillery and air power.