07 november 2012

Veteran's week Nov 5-11: Remembering the battle for Sicily


(DND/Library and Archives Canada/PA-151748)
Amid heat and dust, gunners of the 7th Battery, 2nd Field Artillery Regiment firing at enemy positions with a 25-pounder gun, Nissoria, July 28th, 1943. Canada built hundreds of these amazing artillery pieces at Sorel industries Quebec, which were used by our allies and empire forces around the world..

At the time it was the biggest seaborne invasion force in history, requiring incredible coordination and logistics planning, and all in secret. 
Over 2,500 ships, leaving from three different and distant locations, along with tens of thousands of Allied soldiers and airmen were involved.

Some 25-thousand Canadians took part in some of the heaviest fighting during the month-lylong battle for the island. They later continued throughout the subsequent bitterly contested battle for Italy.  In spite of this, the Sicilian campaign, and the critical Canadian participation, is generally little remembered.

The invasion-which began on July 9-10, 1943, was known as Operation Husky and continued until mid-August. Now, a Canadian businessman wants to commemorate that vital Canadian participation with an organized return to Sicily in the summer of 2013. 

Steve Gregory, is the president and CEO of Isaix, a management systems consultancy company.  He has invited Veterans, currently serving Canadian forces members, officials, and interested Canadian citizens to take part as the tour revisits important battle sites, war cemetaries, and re-enact a famous concert in 1943 when the CBC broadcast the Pipes and Drums of Canada’s Seaforth Highlanders from the piazza in Agira.
The idea for this memorial 70th anniversary trip, " Op Husky 2013",  came about as a result of stories told to Mr Gregory’s family by a veteran of the 2nd Field Reg’t, about the battles in Sicily. Subsequently helping to research his young son’s school project about the Sicilian campaign, Mr Gregory realized the hugely vital role Canadian soldiers played in the victory, and that very little acknowledgement had been made of their efforts and sacrifices.

Tanks of the 3 Rivers Reg't entering the ruins of Regalbuto, August 4th, 1943.
Photo by Jack H. Smith, Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-170290.

Matthew Halton, CBC senior war correspondent, with a mobile recording unit in the vicinity of Ortona, Italy. The CBC outfitted several of these 4x4 vehicles for recording purposes for the European theatre, and were either HU-P or HU-W (heavy utility personal, or wireless. The 8cwt CMP (Cdn Military Pattern) vehicle was built in Oshawa Ontario by GM Canada, and was one of almost a million military vehicles built by GM Canada, Ford Canada, and locomotive shops, including light medium and heavy trucks, and several types of armoured wheeled and tracked vehicles and tanks. Canada also supplied fighter planes, trainers, bombers. artillery, ships from torpedo boats to armed merchant-men, to destroyers, and millions of weapons, bullets and shells. Canada was also a high-tech leader in medicine, radar, optics, radio, and where work on the atom bomb was carried out before moving to the US.
(CBC Still Photo Collection)

For that incredibly hot, dusty month of July and early August in 1943, the Canadians were engaged in some of the most bitter fighting with many dead, and many more wounded, as they pushed both Italian and German forces back, and played a major role in capturing the island.  The invasion taught many valuable lessons which helped in the success of the invasion of Normany the next year, including how to move vast numbers of men and material in secret,  conducting sea-borne landings, the need for good intelligence on defences, and the vital coordination of air, sea and land forces. These facts too seem to have been forgotten by the general public.

For the past couple of years, Montreal businessman Steve Gregory has been organizing and fund raising to bring 562 Canadians on a trip of commemoration, one person for each of the Canadians killed in that campaign.

During Op Husky 2013, the 70th anniversary of the campaign, the group will visit important battle sites, visit the Canadian war graves, and re-enact a famous concert on July 30 1943 broadcast on the CBC even as the deadly fighting continued


FRONTLINE article on Op Husky 2013

UNIVERSITY of WATERLOO Paper on Canadians in Sicily

Steve Gregory ISAIX

RCI’s Marc Montgomery spoke to Steve Gregory, organizer of Op Husky 2013,
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