From the declaration of war in 1939 until that fateful day in 1943, the second world war had been relatively quiet for the Canadian army. Aside from the disaster that was the defense of Hong Kong in 1941, that left all 2,000 Canadians dead or captured, and the disastrous attack on Dieppe, only 2,000 of the 5,000 Canadian men returned. But aside from that, the Canadian army saw no action. They spent the majority of the war in England training and preparing for a battle many thought wasn’t going to come.
But that day did come, on July 1st 1943 26,000 Canadian were loaded onto transports in England and shipped off to capture Sicily and break the back of the Italians in an operation codenamed “Husky”. As the Allies landed in Sicily they were met with very minimal resistance because the Italians had lost their taste for war. The First day of landings for the Canadians (July 9th) was a success, having taken only 75 casualties. Throughout July Canada and the rest of the allies continued to put pressure on the Axis forces and by the 17th of August the allies had pushed out the Axis, with the Germans taking 15,000 casualties, the Italians taking 139,000 casualties (137,000 of them were prisoners) while the allies only took 19’000 killed and wounded. But the campaign was not entirely a victory, 97,000 Italian and German troops had been evacuated, the Sicilian campaign was over, but the Italian one was just about to begin.
The plan had been decided before the Sicilian campaign had even begun, Italy would be invaded. As the end of the Sicilian campaign dawned it became apparent that an invasion of Italy would come soon after the fall of Sicily, before the Germans could reinforce the Italians with anymore troops. By the middle of July the invasion had been planed down to the finest details and it was decided that the invasion would be on the third of September 1943. The Canadians would land at the town of Reggio Calabria , capture the town and then push forwards into Italy.
There was no resistance that day when the Canadians landed on the Italian beaches. By just after 8AM that day the Canadians were in Reggio, what was left of it, the bombing runs that had been launched since the middle of august had done their jobs well. The landing was a staggering success about three thousand prisoners had been taken with only nine wounded on the Canadian side. The British had met the same measure of success on their landings. The allied liberation of Europe was off to a good start, but the allies had a concern; Where were the Germans? The Canadians and the British continues to push back the members of the European Axis, but on the 8th of September the course of the war changed forever, the Italians had surrendered, but this came as no surprise to the Germans and in response they moved thousands of troops into Italy.
After Reggio the Canadians won many victories, pushing back the German lines, but they were stalled at Ortona. Three Canadian regiments were sent to cross the Moro River, the men were not sure what was waiting for them on the other side but as soon as they had crossed they realized that the German were waiting for them. By the morning all three of the Canadian Regiments were pinned down, but all attempts by the Germans to storm these positions were repulsed, no matter how hard the Germans tried the Canadians were dug in too well and not just that but the Canadian were beginning to push the Germans back. After the Canadians took San Leonardo and Casa Berardi the Canadians moved onto the city of Ortona it would prove to be the hardest battle that the Canadians would fight in the Italian Campaign. After three days (from December 20th to December 23th) the Canadians stopped fighting their way through the streets, instead they developed a technique called “mouse-holing”. “Mouse-holing” is where the Canadian troops put small explosive devices up against the wall at the top of a building, when the device exploded the Canadians would throw grenades through the hole and enter the adjacent room through the hole in the wall guns firing killing the survivors, clearing the building. Using this technique the Canadians were able to capture the rest of Ortona by the 27th of December. This marked the end of the battle of Ortona, giving the Canadian their Hard-Won Victory.