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Col Strome Galloway Regimental Traditions

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Author Topic: Col Strome Galloway Regimental Traditions  (Read 14921 times)
Mike Blais CD
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« on: April 22, 2009, 08:13:00 pm »

Excerpt From Operation Husky’s Chapter Seven: Call This a Fight?

From Bark West, 1st Canadian Infantry Division’s inland advance in the early morning hours of July 10 proceeded rapidly. On the division’s right flank, Royal Canadian Regiment captain Slim Liddell’s ‘A’ Company made a beeline across country towards Maucini. Although it showed on the maps as a village, the place consisted only of a large house with a few nearby outbuildings. Captain Strome Galloway’s ‘B’ Company was a little slower getting off the mark but was soon headed for the coastal gun battery positioned a little way from Maucini. The advance had gone only about fifty yards when a bullet zipped over Corporal Anson Moore’s head. Moore, a section leader in one of Galloway’s platoons, thought the fire came from a small farmhouse. He had the section’s Bren gunner fire a burst through the open door. Immediately a Sicilian farmer danced out waving a white sheet. Galloway ordered his men to keep moving.

A few minutes later, an “old and gnarled Sicilian accompanied by a youth” ran towards them. “The old man threw his arms about me, and thrust his stubbled cheek against mine, kissed my vigorously.” Galloway pushed the old man gently aside while his men stood around laughing. Ahead, Galloway could see Liddell’s company gaining distance and decided he’d better catch up. Ploughing into a drought-stricken and stunted vineyard, the captain “tripped over some barbed wire and fell flat on my face, gashing my left thigh and bleeding like a stuck pig.” This was not the kind of glorious dash into the face of the enemy that Galloway had been reckoning on.

By the time ‘B’ Company emerged from the vineyard, Liddell’s men had closed on Maucini. “It turned out to be a huge building alright, a lot dirtier than the air photos indicated and garrisoned by a toothless old woman (very dirty) and three small kids (also dirty),” Liddell wrote. “The odd rifle and set of pouches indicated the hurried departure of Italian troops.” ‘A’ Company then “stood grimly by waiting to shed their life’s blood trying to blow a way through the wire if ‘B’ Company should find their job a bit too large and call for help.”

As Galloway’s lead platoon approached the coastal battery, a machine gun ripped off a burst and then fell silent. Seconds later, several 15-inch rounds from Roberts crashed down around the battery. No way was Galloway sending his men forward with the monitor targeting his objective, so he ordered them to ground while a runner dashed back to battalion headquarters. Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Crowe and his headquarters outfit were just starting to move off the beach when the runner arrived with a request that the attached naval gunner officer call off the monitor. Back on the transport, Galloway and every man in the company had studied the plan for taking the battery. He could see now that everyone had remembered his job. Lieutenant Allan “Abe” Pettem and his platoon crawled over a stone wall to a spot of cover from which they would mount the frontal assault. Lieutenant Harry Keene swung out on one flank, so his platoon could cut off any attempt by the Italians to withdraw. The third platoon would provide Pettem’s men with covering fire.

Some of Pettem’s men were packing bangalores to blast a hole in what they expected to be a wire tangle several feet high. The real thing was just eighteen inches tall and consisted of a few strands. The men ditched the heavy explosives and, with Pettem leading the charge, hurdle-jumped the wire. Inside the perimeter, the four guns had been abandoned. There was not an Italian to be found. A lance corporal ducked into a house beside the gun lines and reported it empty. There was food on the table and some bedding was still warm.

Sergeant Jean Bougard, meanwhile, had spotted a nearby dugout and gone to investigate it. Staring into the darkness, he heard faint talking. Shouldering his Lee-Enfield, Bougard fired a shot into the dugout and out poured a herd of Italians babbling, “Buono Italiano,” over and over. One of them had his lower lip torn away and blood was pouring out of the gaping wound. The sergeant had bagged one captain, two lieutenants, and thirty-five artillerymen—the entire battery’s garrison. Near the dugout an abandoned machine-gun emplacement had a pool of blood on its concrete floor. Galloway looked at the blood, then the mouth wound, and decided it was probable that shrapnel from a shell off Roberts had caused it rather than Bougard’s bullet.

A few minutes later, Lieutenant G.N.C. “Geoff” Campbell walked into the battery position with his platoon of pioneers in tow. The men stuffed explosives into the breeches of the four howitzers and blew them. While the pioneers were spiking the guns, Galloway’s men relieved the prisoners of “pistols, other souvenirs, and stacks of Italian bank notes. Italian money, we figured, was going to come in handy.” Sending the prisoners to the beach under the guard of a couple of men, Galloway led the rest of the company towards Pachino airfield.

The advance by ‘C’ Company, which was to lead the airfield attack, “was not carried out in any prescribed military fashion” that its commander, Captain Ian Hodson, recognized. When one lieutenant spotted suspicious movement a thousand yards away from the line of advance, he wandered off alone into the vineyards and olive groves to investigate without bothering to inform Hodson or his platoon sergeant. Once it dawned on the sergeant, whom Hodson considered “not the brightest,” that he was now in charge of the platoon, the man had no idea what to do and stopped moving. Hodson stomped over and used “some strong language to straighten him out.” When the wayward lieutenant reappeared from his solo sortie, Hodson dressed him down as well.

By the time he got this platoon ready to move, the rest of the company had gathered “like flies” around the corpse of an Italian soldier. Some men were “cutting off buttons, epaulettes, belt buckle.” Hodson bellowed at his platoon commanders “to get busy and command their platoons” and, in some semblance of formation, ‘C’ Company finally headed for its objective.

Hodson was hanging back, keeping a watchful eye on the wandering lieutenant and his men. Consequently, he arrived at the airfield a few minutes behind the point platoon. He was “horrified” to see them “sitting in a circle in the middle of the landing strip, having a rest and a cigarette.” Shouting and waving his arms, Hodson got them heading east across the airfield towards the water tower...
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1977-1RCR  Italy PL, B Coy, Mortars
                   Pioneers, Delta Coy
                   CFB London

1979-3RCR  M Coy 12C,  Sigs, Pipes&Drums
                   CFB Baden WG

1982 1RCR  Mortars 51B, Dukes, BBC (Cyp)
                   Mortars, WO-Sgts Mess,
                   CFB London

2008            President. Niagara Branch
                   The Royal Canadian Regiment

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