About us

At its height over 1100 members worldwide have acknowledged that its veterans were the first Allied forces to land in Europe since the Second World War began. Currently there are now only five branches in the UK, plus one in New Zealand and we have a resident veteran representative in Italy, Mr Harry Shindler, MBE. Harry was awarded the MBE for his services in promoting public awareness of the part our veterans played in the Italian campaigns.

The Association continues now in a much smaller form. It has been active at events throughout each year of its existence. Every May saw its annual reunion weekend in Sussex. The weekend included its Annual General Meeting, then on Sunday a service of remembrance and thanksgiving was held in Chichester cathedral followed by a parade through its city centre. The weekend was rounded off with a special dinner attended by civic and military guests, representing allied forces from as far afield as Poland, Canada and New Zealand. The Association continues as the only one nationally active in events throughout the year.

Each year on 10th July, a service of dedication and remembrance has been held at the Association’s national memorial in Westgate Gardens, Canterbury, Kent. That date specifically commemorates the anniversary of Allied troops landing in Sicily.
Association representatives attend the annual Field of Remembrance service outside Westminster Abbey, as well as the Remembrance Sunday service and parade at the Cenotaph. The Association has also been privileged on several occasions to have been invited to parade its National standard at the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, in the presence of members of the Royal family. This takes place on the evening before the Cenotaph parade.

Members currently receive a quarterly magazine which keeps them informed of the various key events the Association is involved in, as well as trips that are arranged from time to time. The magazine also contains accounts of campaign experiences and recollections from veteran members, in addition to photographs and humorous anecdotes.

There is a sizeable plot within the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire, which was dedicated to the Association in 2001; it is delineated as the outline of Sicily and mainland Italy, and populated throughout with pine trees, amongst which markers pinpoint the many battle sites of the campaign, so familiar to veterans. Overlooking this maturing plot, being re-dedicated in September 2016, is a beautifully engraved polished granite memorial, together with commemorative benches nearby. Together these are visible reminders of the geographical scope and human cost of the Allies’ gargantuan struggle, from Sicily and Salerno to Trieste.

When the Association reaches a point where it is no longer financially viable to continue, our website will continue into the future. We are uploading as much factual history to enable future generations to read the truths behind our veterans’ hard-fought battles and journeys through Italy.

The Association’s epitaph – “Let us remember our comrades in the air, on the seas, in those valleys and on those mountains. When you walk in peaceful lanes so green, remember us and think what might have been” is powerfully emotive for surviving veterans and families. It is very fitting therefore, that we should seek to take the Association forward as far into the future as we can, never forgetting the reasons why we enjoy the freedoms we have today.

51 Comments

  1. Frank de Planta

    Francis.

    46 Inf Div’s next big task after Salerno was the crossing of the Volturno which was pretty grim. From there, they were involved in the Second Battle of Camino in Dec 43 and the First Battle of Monte Cassino although that only applied to 128 Inf Bde.

    After that, once X (BR) Corps had got across the Garigliano in the First Battle of Cassino, they spent a gruelling few months in the high mountains to the left of Cassino – more grim conditions. They were then withdrawn for rest and refit and did not appear in Italy again until the attack on the Gothic Line in Sep 44.

    At the Gothic Line, they endured some horrors.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply
  2. Ann McGrath

    My Dad, Corporal Thomas Dodd
    served in the 8th Army, with the Cheshire Regiment. He was in North Africa and has the Africa Star. He was with the Allies who landed at Salerno. Again, he was with the landings at Anzio, ending the war in Yugoslavia. I’ve just returned from the 75th Anniversary of the Italian Campaign at Cassino, following in Dad’s footsteps. I’ve learned so much of what happened, visiting the Rapido River and almost at the site of Amazon Bridge (the site itself is on private land). Visited many CWGC’s, so beautifully maintained by local people. Won’t do a battlefield tour again, very tiring. Just been looking at his medals, which includes the Italy Star.

    Reply
  3. Andrew Hillman

    My father was a motor mech on LCTs during the Sicily landings,and the
    north African campaign,he was blown up but survived when the ammunition
    ship blew up in Barrie Harbour,it blew his clothes off,but left him
    unharmed,he trained for the landings with the americans in Scotland,

    Reply
  4. jeff osborne

    Hello all,

    I’m looking for books to read on the Primasole Bridge action by the paras.
    My great uncle, from 1 Para, took part in the operation and got to the bridge. He later wrote to my granddad about his exploits. As a youth I sent the letter to the Battle magazine and they published it in their yearly annual in 1983. Here is a copy of the letter as published by battle:
    29. 7. 43. 6461257. H.Q. Coy. A/T. L/Cpl. Osborne, A. 1st Parachute Battalion. A.A.C. B.N.A.F.
    Dear Bill, We have had permission from General Montgomery himself, that at this date or any time after, we can write of our adventures in North Africa and in Sicily. You can guess that we have had plenty to do in N. Africa. It is a very long story, more than I would attempt to write about, but you would have read most of it in the newspapers, so I will make it brief.
    The paratroopers are the only troops who can honestly say they fought on every front in North Africa, and have the record of killing and capturing more Germans than any other troops in that campaign. After the campaign, we were personally inspected and congratulated for our work by Montgomery-Eisenhower-Anderson-Alexander and a letter came from the King, and all addressed us as ‘Red Devils’, a nickname given to us by the Germans.
    Now for Sicily. Two weeks before the invasion of Sicily, we were told to get ourselves ready for a job. For a fortnight we worked hard, and each man was given his orders just what to do. They wanted no mistakes on this job, it meant so much to a speedy ending.
    The morning of the job we got ready, every man fit and keen. We made up little bundles of our personal belongings and attached a little note – “If I fail to return please forward this to my mother.” These were left behind in our kit bags. Time came when we had to part camp for the airfield. Men who couldn’t go, owing to being wounded in other actions, wished us luck.
    We got to the airfield where we met our crew, and we got the information from the pilot just what he was going to do on the final run-in. Then we got the last boost up by our commander. “Men, you know your jobs and just what you are expected to do. At all costs it will be done. Don’t let anything get in your way. Whatever you encounter you know just how to deal with it. The enemy have seen you in North Africa. He knows you, doesn’t like you, and will do all he can to stop you, but he will not. That is all, gentlemen. Good luck, God’s speed and a safe return.”
    It was 8 p.m. and at 8.30 p.m., we were due to start, and scheduled to arrive in Sicily, behind enemy lines, at 10.30 p.m. So we all assembled and wished each other luck. The 8th Army was to relieve us after 12 hours, although we weren’t worrying about that part, because we could depend on the 8th Army. After a time flying, we saw Malta, “Not far to go, lads. Hook up, forty minutes to go.”
    Just as we approached the cost of Sicily, we got keyed up for a hot reception from enemy flak. We got it okay, more than we expected. Flashes came from all over the place, it was terrifying.
    During this time our aircraft was hit. The port side engine choked up and stopped. From then on the aircraft was bumping, swaying, diving and climbing to dodge the flak. We were tossed from one side of the plane to the other. We knew that any second it would be time for us to jump, so we scrambled to the door the best way we could, and to look down at that sight was no joke. Then on came the Red light (“Action Stations”), in a second on came the Green light (“Go”) and out we went. It was just like jumping into an inferno, the countryside for miles was ablaze, tracer bullets were coming up at us from enemy machine-guns on the ground.
    Floating down by parachute, thinking any time I would be dead before I touched down, it seemed weeks before I hit the deck. Actually, it was only a matter of seconds. It does not take long to get down from a 300 foot drop, but it was terrifying. Then I gave a sigh of relief when I hit the deck. It took me several seconds to pull myself together as I had a rough landing. Then I went to find my detachment, two men.
    I wasn’t sure of my position, but I went forward about 200 yards, took a look round, but couldn’t see anything, but could hear enemy voices. I didn’t fancy that at all, as I had no weapons, just two hand grenades and a fighting knife, but I scrambled through the bush under cover of darkness to my original position and tried another way.
    Then I saw a parachute hanging over the telegraph wires. I stopped and a quivering uncertain voice came from a bush, “Who’s that?” I gave the password. It was one of my men, and he had a hand grenade ready to throw at me if I had been one of the enemy, because he was as scared as I was. We had another look round, and we still could hear enemy voices, even nearer and more of them. Then I looked for some nice cover and said, “Let’s go. It’s dangerous hanging around near parachutes.” So, we went to find the last man. He wasn’t far away, but slightly hurt from a bad landing, although it wasn’t much.
    We still had to get to our containers for our weapons, because until we got our weapons, we couldn’t defend ourselves. My heart went down in my boots as the parachute of the container failed to open and crashed to the ground. The weapons were absolutely unserviceable. All this time we could still hear enemy voices quite near and bullets were flying all over the place, you can guess what we felt like. From the time we jumped from the plane all this happened in 15 minutes. We then made for the objective, a bridge about 1000 yards away, and on our way we came across a reserve supply of weapons, so we soon armed ourselves with one Bren gun and two rifles. We got about 200 yards from the bridge, then the attack started and we let fly with all we had. A small tank, followed by an armoured car and a truck loaded with ammo of the enemy, came down the road.
    There was a Section on my left, and it didn’t take them long to put them out of action. One of the lads fired a paratroop anti-tank gun at the tank, and two cannon [Gammon] bombs were thrown at the other two vehicles. These are deadly weapons and smashed them to bits, killing all the drivers. The taking of the bridge only took us half-an-hour, but it was stiff fighting, as it was well fortified. We took the bridge over and got in position for a counter-attack, because he always came back for more. There were some awful sights on the bridge, mostly enemy, although we didn’t worry about that. Our biggest worry was holding the bridge, that is always the hardest part. So, I said, “Right, lads, get yourselves ready, for the hardest part is coming, holding the bridge, as he’s sure to come back, and when he does, he comes back with plenty.”
    We didn’t know it at the time, but he dropped paratroops of his own near the bridge, with the idea of giving us a surprise attack first thing in the morning, but we were prepared for anything. At first light next morning, he came out of his hiding place and again the fireworks started. But, fortunately he walked slap-bang into a trap, so it didn’t last long, and they were slaughtered. This was not the end though, as he was sure to come again, and we were all by ourselves. The 8th Army was still pushing inwards towards us from the coast, but we didn’t expect as much opposition as we got.
    Paratroops have no transport and can only take as much ammunition as a man can carry. Too many of these attacks and we would have been out of ammo. Then the order came, “If he comes again, hold on to your ammo”. It was nice and quiet for some hours, so we settled down waiting for him to come back, for he meant to get that bridge or blow it up. On the bridge there was a long-range gun of the enemy, and I was asked to man it with my two men, so we did so.
    We were in position with this gun for about half-an-hour, when our officer saw German lorries loaded up with infantry. We loaded up the gun and let them have four shells and it shook them up, and forced them to get off the lorries, so of course they had to come to us by foot. The gun wasn’t much further use, so I returned back with my men to my original position, a pillbox. I took a Bren gun and my two men had rifles. Just before this we got contact by radio, with the leading troops of the 8th Army. They were still ten miles away. We knew then that we had to hold on much longer, because this wasn’t the news we expected. It was bad, as our ammo was almost finished, but we had to do our best. The enemy came closer and closer until he was at a nice range for us to fire, so away we blazed again. We had met these birds before in North Africa, Storm Troops, Herman Goering Regiment. They did their best to get through, but we knocked them off like flies. But the Germans poured on a heavy attack then, forcing us to withdraw.
    Still in danger, fired on by small isolated machine-guns, we eventually got to a deep ditch and stayed the night there. Next morning, we moved on, got to a road and met some men of the 8th Army! They told us the good news that the 8th Army had pushed on through the night, the bridge was okay and still ours! Later, General Montgomery visited the 1st Parachute Battalion and thanked us, saying, “You have done your bit only too well!”
    BATTLE gives its grateful thanks to the Osborne family for helping to compile this article.
    Source:
    Reproduced in BATTLE Annual 1983, supplied by Bob Hilton.

    Reply
  5. Linton Ferrier

    It’s really interesting to discover these threads regarding the Italian Campaign. My late Grandfather Lieutenant Kenneth Straw served with both the 54th Heavy/Super Heavy Regiment RA from the 27.05.44 to 02.09.45. I applied for a copy of his service record a number of years ago but as so many people have mentioned it doesn’t detail the movements of the unit etc. From this thread it looks as though I will have to start a chat http://www.ww2talk.com possibly with Drew5233? I don’t have any personal diaries however I have quite a few photos one of which shows him sat on a Jeep with Sgt Vent in Pessaro 1945. I also have a description of a photo from ‘War’ Magazine which mentions No 1 gun of 14 Battery (155mm Long Tom) in action against Chieti south of Pescara. He mentions No.12 and 14 Batteries were equipped with these American 155mm guns while no.11 and 13 had British 7.2 Howitzers. A few years ago I obtained some photos from eBay of 54th Rgt featuring detachments of REME and Signals. It mentions the locations Foligno, Perugia and Ferrara. Ferrara is also mentioned on the back of one of my Gradfathers photos so this ties in. Unfortunately these photos do don’t appear to feature my Grandfather but do mention the following names whom he may well have known: Dave Howell, Harry Johnson,Jack Gaskell, Jock Muirray, Frank Horsecroft, Stan Jennings Alf Carey, Wally Partridge and Les Neale. I spoke to the seller who is still selling copies of these but he didn’t seem to know any information regarding the photos. Any information relating in particularly relating to my Grandfather Lieutenant Kenneth Straw and the movements of 54th Regiment would be really appreciated. He also served in the (BEF)France before receiving a Commission and being posted to North Africa.

    Reply
    1. Glenys Khan

      On 27-05-1944, the 54th Heavy Regiment was in Action on the Front Line at Frisa. Left Frisa on 10-6-44, went through Farano to Vinchiotura then to Biase for Rest near Campobasso. On 19-7-44 went through Cassino , Rome for the Front Line near Poggibansi. Had a very bad time moving forward on this Front. Went through Arezzo to Forigno on 16-8-44, very heavy shelling.17-9-44 went through Coriano ,town still burning.
      Out of Action on 9-11-44 went through Ferni to Fiuggi for Rest until 13-3-45.Then in Action, staying at Foligno .went through Rimini, stayed at Sant Arcangelo. Went through Forli, stayed at Fabriano. Position at Villa Franca, left there 12-4-45. Went through Bologna on 24-4-45, crossed the Reno on 27-4-45
      Moved back to old Position near Ferrara on 3-5-45 when war in Italy was over.
      Officer’s Garden Party Demob on 5-8-45, next day my father writes of the terrible mess at the Officer’s Mess after the party.
      I hope this will be of interest to you Linton,taken from my father’s war diaries of1944 and 1945

      Reply
  6. Glenys Khan

    My father was L/Cpl David Tudor Owen a signalman with the 54th Heavy Regiment RA ,from May 1943 until the war ended . When he passed away we found his war diaries for 1944 and 1945 . I have sent copies of these diaries to the ISA ,also to Bernard Warden and to Frank La Planta.I would gladly send you by Attachment these diaries , he mentions all the places the Regiment went through . I also have postcards, with comments on the back , of these places.My father mentions the 13 Battery quite a lot.

    Reply
  7. Geraldine

    On reading your About Us page, I came across the Association’s very fitting and moving epitaph ‘“Let us remember our comrades in the air, on the seas, in those valleys and on those mountains. When you walk in peaceful lanes so green, remember us and think what might have been’ and I wondered who wrote it?
    Thanks,
    Geraldine

    Reply
    1. Robin HollambyRobin Hollamby

      I will try and find out for you.

      Robin

      Reply
  8. Andy Brown

    I am trying to find out about my Uncle Joseph “Frank” Jones 312123 Kings Regiment Liverpool. He has the Star of Italy, as well as The Africa Star, and medals recognising his service in Malaya and Kenya . He was awarded the MBE on 31st May 1955
    If anyone has information relating to Frank I would be very grateful to hear from you.
    Andy Brown
    Faringdon
    Oxon

    Reply
  9. Marion Corden

    Looking for information about my Dad Charlie Corden served with R.A.S.C. 1940-1948.He was in Trieste on V.E. Day.He spoke very little about his time in the army.His company was Awarded Fifth Army Plaque and Clasp October 1940 in Italy.
    Often wondered why he did not leave army until 1948.
    Would just like to learn more about him.He died in 2009.

    Reply
  10. Frank de Planta

    Marion.

    You need his Service Record which will give you a detailed breakdown of where and with whom he served during his time in the Army. Go to http://www.gov.uk and find the Search box. In the Search box enter ‘How do I obtain a Service Record?’

    Follow the instructions. Easy.

    When you have the Service Record, I would be happy to decipher it for you.

    Regards

    Frank

    Reply

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