The Infantry Gunner, by Colonel Toby Sewell
The Infantry Gunner
It was interesting to see in the ‘Obituary Memoriam’ Jack Parker, July edition, that he had served as a Gunner in an Anti-Aircraft Regiment before being transferred to the Infantry in September 1944. Not enough credit maybe is given to the so many gunners, like him, who were transferred from the summer of 1944 onwards. Without them the infantry in Italy could not have kept going.
Infantry reinforcements for Italy was a continued problem, right from the beginning. In my case having joined 1/6th East Surreys in the 4th Division in Algeria, when I arrived in the theatre in July 1943. With that Division not deployed for Salerno drafts from its Battalions started to be sent to Italy from late September to replace the Infantry casualties already incurred. As a result, for me I joined 2/7th Queens in 56th (London) Division at the end of October 1943 – this was lucky as the Queens were the Regiment into which I had been commissioned. The continuing casualties from the winter Battles, Monte Camino, the crossing of the river Garigliamo and finally Anzio reduced all Battalions of the Division to Fairly Skeletal condition, and the Division followed others to Egypt in the early summer of 1944 to reinforce and retrain.
The reinforcements we received were almost entirely surplus Gunners from the no longer required Artillery Regiments, and they in our case had to be trained as infantrymen in the sands and rocks of Egypt. Their acceptance of the situation and the way they fitted in and coped was outstanding. Sadly many became casualties in the intense action of the Gothic Line in September to which we were committed on our return to Italy. They and all the others so transferred earned and deserve acknowledgement and commemoration.
By Colonel Toby Sewell