10 July, 1943
The assault on Sicily was to be the prelude to the invasion of mainland Europe. The invasion was assigned to the Seventh U.S. Army under Lieut.-General George S. Patton, and the Eighth British Army under General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery. The Canadians were to be part of the British Army. The Operation was code-named Operation Husky and was scheduled for 10 July 1943.
The 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade, under the command of Major-General G.G. Simonds, sailed from Great Britain in late June 1943. En route, 58 Canadians were drowned when enemy submarines sank three ships of the assault convoy, and 500 vehicles and a number of guns were lost. Nevertheless, the Canadians arrived late in the night of July 9 to join the invasion armada of nearly 3,000 Allied ships and landing craft. Operation Husky was big. 180,000 Canadian, British and American soldiers landed in Sicily with 15,000 vehicles (including 600 tanks) and 1800 guns.
Just after dawn on July 10, the assault (preceded by airborne landings) went in. Canadian troops went ashore near Pachino close to the southern tip of Sicily and formed the left flank of the five British landings that spread over 60 kilometers of shoreline.
28 June, 1943 The RCR embarked at Gourock Scotland and set sail for an unknown location. While at sea, they were informed that the Battalion's objective was to secure the Pachino airfield at Pachino, Southern Sicily.
0100 hrs - 10 July, 1943 loading commenced into a landing craft.
0530 hrs - 10 July, 1942 The Canadians landed on the Costa dell'Ambra, the sandy shore of a bay on the southeast corner of the island. Their first objective was the airfield at Pachino, about 5 km inland, which had been bombed and shelled for days. The local Italian garrison was small but, if the soldiers located there decided to put up a fight they could inflict heavy casualties. As well as 15 pillboxes and 20 machine gun posts, they had a coastal battery of four 147-mm guns and at Pachino an airfield battery of four six inch howitzers.
When the Royal Canadian Regiment, commanded by LCol Ralf Crowe, finally waded ashore, it was in broad daylight. The Royals encounted very little resistance on the beach and briskly located and destroyed the coastal battery, capturing 38 gunners. They then headed inland to Pachino, which they took with equal dispatch.
1300 - A Coy had the worst fight of the day, under constant shellfire, it advanced across the airfield in extended order. 5 members of the RCR struck terror into the enemy as they forced their way over the wire and destroyed two heavily defended machine gun posts. Despite the constant shelling and the enemies superior strength, A Coy successfully neutralized the enemy, seizing the Coastal defence battery, 130 prisoners and four 6 inch guns. For bravery during this action, Private J.W. Gardner received the Military Medal and Private J. Grigas received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
1400 - While the battalion was reorganizing, D Coy moved to the high ground covering enemy approaches, but to get there they had to run the fiercest machine gun fire of the day and despite suffering casualties they took their objective and 40 prisoners.
1700 - The troops brewed up and the RCR were the first allied unit to capture an airfield in Sicily.
During the course of the day the Regiment took over 500 prisoners and the landing was a major success. The regiment suffered 3 killed and 12 wounded on this day. Our Regiment lost 32 killed in action, close to 100 wounded, and 12 taken prisoner, during the entire Sicily campaign. The actions for this day are remembered in the Battle Honour entitled Landing at Sicily. It is the 27th Battle Honour in order and the first awarded for WWII. Because of the Regiments success, the Regiment celebrates Pachino Day every July 10th by holding a dinner of Spaghetti and Red Wine. This was apparently the meal of the day.
Three Victoria Crosses (VCs) - the Commonwealth's highest decoration for valor in action - were awarded to Canadians who fought in Italy, including one to Sgt. Ernest (Smokey) Smith, Canada's only surviving VC recipient. VCs were also earned by Paul Triquet and John Mahony.
TermsFor most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
Article Excerpts -The Maple Leaf Vol. 4 - 04 July 2001.