August 31, 1944
Breaching the Gothic Line
The breaching of the Gothic Line on Aug. 31, 1944, was just a continuation of hellish fighting for 1st Canadian Corps in Italy.
The last major German defence in Italy was a heavily-fortified line of thousands of bunkers, machine-gun nests, fortified artillery positions and observation posts protecting Italy’s industrial heartland. It was vital to the German war machine, to be protected at all costs.
The line was meant to put a full stop to the Allies’ advance. Its defences included 2,375 machine-gun posts, 479 anti-tank gun, mortar and assault-gun positions, 3,604 dugouts and shelters, 16,006 rifleman positions, 72,517 teller anti-tank mines and 23,172 anti-personnel mines, four Panther tank turrets and 18 gun turrets, supplemented by 117,370 metres of wire obstacles and 8,944 metres of anti-tank ditch.
The Canadians were given the job of ripping a hole in this supposedly impregnable line. Attacks Aug. 30 by infantry and tank divisions along a line marked by Montecchio on the eastern flank, Osteria Nuova in the centre and fortified defences on the western flank near Borgo Santa Maria, breached the line.
On Sept. 1, the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and two battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment led the advance through the breach. The Gothic Line took a heavy toll on Canadian troops–4,511 casualties including 1,016 killed.
The Germans retreated north, but the fighting got no easier. Crag by crag, ridge by ridge, Canadian troops battled German forces on through the mountains, then across soggy plains.
The war ended in Italy on May 2, 1945, just one week before Germany surrendered, ending the Second World War in Europe.