The Canadians have now made seven separate attempts to capture “Cider,” the crossroads where Old Highway 16 meets the lateral Ortona-Orsogna road. Casualties to both 1st Canadian Division and 90th Grenadier Division have been heavy with a growing number of cases of combat stress, battle exhaustion, are being reported.
The War Diary of 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade describes the situation:
All units in 3 Canadian Infantry Brigade were tired, under strength, and nervous from the days very heavy fighting and shelling they had been through. Reinforcements disappeared as rate of casualties was twice as high as number of reinforcements.
The Brigade Intelligence Summary for 15 December notes that:
…After as tough a battle as could take place, both the W.N.S.R and the Carlt & York Regt were pretty shaken. There was a definite minority in both battalions which couldn’t take it much longer. One officer in the W.N.S.R marched his platoon right back and a general loss of confidence was now experienced. By contrast the R. 22e Regt, who were similarly shaken had all the confidence in the world. They were now in a more favourable position for killing he enemy than ever before held, whereas the Carlt & York Regt were still pinned by machine-gun fire from their front and left flank. In general, reinforcements which were brought up were thoroughly scared by the stories they were told before they began to fight. Little care was displayed for the consort of the troops. No rum or dry clothes were available and the men were unable to wash or shave. The forward companies bore the full brunt, and altogether battle administration had broken down.
Read what the Canadian Press reported on the Canadian’s advance on 15 December:
“Fighting Canadians Win Fresh Honours at Front,” Globe and Mail 1943/12/15.
“Fighting Canadians Help Take Caldari,” Hamilton Spectator, 1943/12/15.
“Canadians Hold Firm; Strafe Hun,” Globe and Mail, 1943/12/15.
“Battle for Ortona,” Hamilton Spectator, 1943/12/15.
(All newspapers available through the Canadian War Museum, Democracy at War Collection).
This article was made possible by the hard work of our staff and especially our student-volunteers. Please consider supporting our work by clicking here.