Men and True, Moved Fast, Far Along the Italian Front
Was in the Initial Assault on Gustav and Hitler Lines; Worked Part of Time as Unit Under British Command. Kept Constantly on Move During Winter of 1943-44
By Major E.G. King
Commanding “A” Squadron, Elgin Regiment
During the Italian campaign, doing the east coast the first winter and then starting from below Cassino and finishing up in the foothills of the Northern Apennines. And, if I were asked to name one of the busiest men in the Squadron during our Italian interlude I think I would nominate Trooper Doug Keith, the postal clerk. The amount of mail that passed through his hands was large and usually about 90 per cent of it had to be re-addressed, which meant a lot of work for one man – but Doug did a good job of it.
A couple of months after the invasion of the Italian mainland, the original Elgin squadron, working with the 1st Canadian Armored Brigade, was reduced in strength by a change in establishment and another squadron was formed, being “A” Squadron and the original “B” Squadron. This was because a new system was being evolved and the two squadrons were found to be necessary. This was eventually found to be unsound and the original “B” Squadron was broken up early in 1944.
At this time, the 1st Canadian Armored Brigade was under the command of the British 13th Corps, which was Lord Wavell’s original desert corps and now a part of the British 8th Army. Thus, during the greater part of the time they were in Italy, the Elgins, as a unit in the Brigade, were under British command.
The cold, snowy winter or 1943-44 kept the Elgins on the move around Ortona, scene of one of the toughest engagements of the Italian campaign, and Lancieno, on the East coast.
All Part of a Plan
I guess all of the boys who were in Italy will remember the night of May 11, 1944, when the attack started and the Canadian Armored Brigade got into the initial assault. I can assure you that “A” Squadron was kept very busy, getting the tanks forward. That was our concern, and every man in the Squadron really worked hard.
Only a few men from St. Thomas and district were in the Squadron at this time – Lieut. Bill Fellows of St. Thomas; Sergeant Bud Phillips of Aylmer, and Troopers Doug Keith, Henry Johnston and Lloyd Chiverton of St. Thomas making up the representation with myself. However, during the next month, Sergeants Pat Harris, Ted Hayes and Jack Marr arrived to join the Squadron, which increased the St. Thomas showing.
Moved Fast and Far
We didn’t stop there either. The next move was in October when the Elgins went farther north, right to the foothills of the Northern Apennines.
With the coming winter, the front stalemated and our Squadron didn’t move again until the following March when the transfer of the 1st Canadian Corps to France began.
They were good men and true in “A” Squadron, men I am proud to have been associated with during the stubborn campaign when we got so much firsthand information about Italian terrain, climate and people.