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Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

Princess Patricia's Canadian
Light Infantry (re-enacted)


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PPCLI in World War 2

The Italian Campaign

Patricia's were mobilized for active service on 1 September, 1939. Recruited in Winnipeg and on Vancouver Island, the Battalion was brought up to strength in October and concentrated in Winnipeg under the command of LCol W.G. (Shorty) Colquhoun, MC. The Regiment sailed from Halifax on 21 December, 1939, in the ORAMA as part of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division.

On arrival in Scotland, the Regiment moved to Aldershot Command and spent New Year's Eve in Cove, England. Immediately upon arrival in England, LCol Colquhoun reported to the Colonel-in-Chief at Bagshot Park. On 10 February, 1940, the Colonel-in-Chief inspected her Regiment for the first time in 21 years.

The Regiment spent three years in the United Kingdom, most of which was spent in coastal defence and training in various parts of the country.

On 10 July, 1943, 1st Canadian Infantry Division landed in Sicily as part of the 8th Army. The Patricia's were re-indoctrinated to war at Leonforte, their first WWII Battle Honour. Following the capture of Sicily by the Allies, the Regiment landed on Italy's Atoel on 4 September 1943. The first two months were spent advancing inland (northward) with the Regiment's progress slowed by demolished bridges and German rear guards. During December 1943, the Patricia's were heavily involved in the operations of Villa Rogatti and the Gully, winning many individual and unit honours in the process, and spent Christmas in Ortona. The next major offensive came at the Hitler Line, west of Monte Cassino, in late May 1944 during the Allied advance to Rome. Towards the end of August, the Regiment moved back to the Adriatic and took part in the assaults on the Gothic Line, San Fortunato and Rimini. The rugged terrain and seemingly never ending river crossings had taken their toll; both in men and equipment.

Over the next five months, the Patricia's campaigned yet further north, in the Romanga, a wide valley crossed by numerous small and medium sized waterways, winning three more Battle Honours in the process. It was during the Italian Campaign that the Regiment renewed its traditions of professionalism, tenacity and aggressiveness that it demonstrated so aptly in WWI. The Italian Battle Honours on the colours show proof of the sacrifices made and victories gained by the rank and file of the Regiment. The Patricia's embarked enroute to North West Europe on 13 March, 1945.

The European Threatre

Travelling on a scenic, non battle scarred route through southern and central France, the Regiment made its way to Boisschot, Belgium. Following eleven days of light activity, the Regiment was again on the move with 1st Canadian Division to liberate Holland, and on April 11th, co-leading the divisional crossing of the Ijssel River, played an important part in the capture of Apeldoorn. The Patricia's, having stood fast in Barneveld, were on hand as security and logistical organizers for the historic Achterveld Conference between the Allies and the Germans on April 30th. Victory in Europe (VE) Day was 5 May 1945, and on 7 May, LCol Clark and his Patricia's were the first Allies in Amsterdam.

The Regiment had fought throughout World War II as part of the 2nd Brigade with its old friends and worthy comrades, The Loyal Edmonton Regiment (formerly 49th Battalion) and the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada from Vancouver, who share many similar Battle Honours.

On 1 June, 1945, a new battalion of the Regiment was authorized to form part of the Canadian Pacific Force in the campaign against Japan. Its official designation was 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, 2nd Canadian Infantry Regiment. The Battalion assembled at Camp Shilo and then moved to Camp MacDonald for training. After the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs and Japan's subsequent surrender on 15 August, 1945, the Pacific Force was disbanded. Until a decision was reached to form a Permanent Force, the holding establishment was named the "Interim Force". Due to this change, the new battalion was redesignated on 2 September, 1945, as 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Canadian Infantry Corps. In the meantime, the Regiment's battalion in Europe, very much under strength, returned to Winnipeg in October, 1945, and was demobilized.

NORTH-WEST EUROPE 1945

The Battle of Ortona - December 1943

The Canadians faced a unit from the German 1st Parachute Division. These soldiers were battle-hardened after years of war, and were ordered by Hitler to defend Ortona at any cost. The Germans had placed various barricades and left rubble strewn throughout the narrow side streets surrounding the Piazza Municipale. The only available route for the Canadian tanks was through the Corso Vittorio, which was booby trapped; traps would serve the Germans with deadly efficiency during the eight days of bitter fighting. The Germans also concealed various machine guns and anti-tank emplacements throughout the town, making virtually any street a death trap to the advancing Canadians.

The house to house fighting was vicious and the Canadians made use of a new tactic: "mouse-holing". This tactic involved using weapons such as the PIAT (or even cumbersome anti-tank guns) to breach the walls of a building. The soldiers would then throw in grenades and assault through the mouse holes, clearing the top floors and making their way down, where both adversaries struggled in brutal close-quarters combat. Mouse-holing was also used to pierce through walls into adjoining rooms, sometimes catching enemy troops by surprise.

The tactic would be used repeatedly as assaulting through the streets meant certain death for the Canadian troops. Later, in a particularly deadly incident, a German demolished an entire house packed with Canadian soldiers; only one soldier survived. The Canadians retaliated by demolishing another building on top of two German platoons, wiping them out. After eight days of fighting, the depleted German troops, who lacked reinforcements, finally withdrew from the town. The Canadians suffered 1,374 dead in the fighting in and around Ortona, almost a quarter of all Canadians killed during the Italian Campaign.

Matthew Halton of the CBC refers to Ortona as the "The courtyard of hell" . The capture of Ortona, or the "Italian Stalingrad" is considered among Canada's greatest achievements during the war.

Battle Honors Received for Service in the Second World War

Landing in Sicily
Rimini Line
Leonforte
San Fortunato
Agira
Savio Brisgehead
Sicily, 1943
Naviglio Canal
The Moro
Fosso Munio
The Gully
Granarola
Liri Valley
Italy, 1943-1945
Hitler Line
Appeldoorn
Gothic Line

637

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