Here you go mate. A nice and long cover of the battle at Chiusi. Ive got the first part done. The second will follow shortly.
Chiusi – The Hilltop Town
The Plan and the Weather
While the 12th S.A Motorized Infantry Brigade had been battling forward through the mud, with Pretoria Regiment, SAAC tanks in support, the rest of the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade had been concentrated west of Orvieto, resting and doing maintenance. The 11th S.A Armoured Brigade was thus in good shape when it was placed on standby on June 17th, 1944, with the roads impassable owing to foul weather. The enemy, it was suspected, would now hold in the Lake Trasimene and further south than previously thought. His new line apparently ran from the southern end of the lake through Chiusi and Sarteano to the northern slopes of Monte Cetona, and aerial photographs confirmed to the 6th S.A Armoured Division that clearing Chiusi would be a tough proposition. A Divisional “I” Summary issued on June 19th, 1944 said that Partisans reported that there were a number of catacombs and cellars in Chiusi.
If the German Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1 “Hermann Göring” was in its usual form, the Summary concluded, some 24 hours of determined enemy resistance was most likely. Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole’s intentions for the night of June 19th/20th, 1944, stated that a patrol of Company strength from the ILH/KimR with two anti-tank guns would cover an Engineer reconnaissance of Brigades in the area which lay around the railway junction south of the actual town of Chiusi. In fact, it was the area of Stazione di Chiusi in terms of the North Italy, or Brown, grid. The route which was to be used was Route 71 through Citta della Pieve. On June 20th, 1944, the 12th S.A Motorized Infantry Brigade of which the ILH/KimR were not a part would concentrate astride the road east of Cetona which forked to both Chiusi town and to Stazione di Chiusi. The 12th S.A Motorized Infantry Brigade was to be prepared to take the town of Chiusi itself. The 6th S.A Armoured Division’s advance would then continue along both Red & Green routes (Red Route to Chiusi & Green Route through Cetona and Sarteano), covered by the NMR with the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade using the road through Chiusi and the 24th Guards Infantry Brigade that through Cetona. The use of Route 71, which would greatly alleviate problems created by the heavy rains, had been temporarily lent by the British 78th Infantry Division.
After experiencing some difficulty in getting their vehicles out of sodden field’s north-west of Orvieto on June 19th, 1944, the ILH/KimR accordingly moved up. For 24 miles, the soldiers squelched through mud towards the front line that had passed them by three days ago. The massive convoy wound across a high range of hills covered with thick woods on top of which was perched the village of Allerona. That evening, June 19th, 1944, the ILH/KimR arrived in the Divisional concentration area below the village of Fabro at 20:30. At 21:00 Maj. A.H. Rocyn-Jones of 8th Field Squadron, SAEC, attended an order group by Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg of the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade, and Lt. M.P. Pearse was ordered to proceed up Route 71 on Engineer reconnaissance from Citta della Pieve to Chiusi with ILH/KimR, while Troop 1 stood by to support him.
While others listened to the invasion news on the radio, “A” Company, ILH/KimR, set off at 21:15 for a reconnaissance up Route 71, the Via Cassia running through Citta della Pieve, past Lake Transimene and on to Arezzo. About 6km north of Citta della Pieve, the tarred road to Siena branched off to the left, to cross the railway line about a kilometre further on at Stazione di Chiusi and then continue to Chiusi itself, about 2km to the north-west and well above the station area. The Highway swinging round a double-storeyed block of farm buildings south of the railway, descended into a shallow basin, in which the rains had softened the fields on either side considerably. Past another big farmhouse, the route then flattened out into an almost dead level grassy plain, dotted with only occasional trees and cut by two or three little drainage and irrigation canals, over which the road ran almost straight for a mile or more before crossing the railway line. “A” Company, ILH/KimR, was directed to secure the road junction and the railway crossing.
Lt. M.P. Pearse’s Engineers, an Artillery forward observation Officer and a Troop of anti-tank guns went with “A” Company, ILH/KimR, and at 03:00 on June 20th, 1944, the reconnaissance was held up by two demolitions north of Citta della Pieve. The Sappers reported one bridge blown, leaving a 20 metre gap and six craters needing bulldozing and repair. Patrols went forward at 03:30 to reconnoitre the road ahead and encountered no enemy.
By 09:30 on the morning of June 20th, 1944, Capt. C.E. Hall (2iC) of “A” Company, ILH/KimR, with two platoons had reconnoitred the station area and its village about 2000 metres south of the actual town of Chiusi. Beyond the village the patrol carried on for 1830 metres without encountering any enemy bar two snipers and four deserters who gave themselves up. The latter being two Czechs from 362. Infantrie-Division & two Alsatians from 3. Panzer-Grenadier-Division and under interrogation one of the unwilling conscripts divulged that he had seen 30 Panzer IV’s north of Chiusi the previous day and two Companies of the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1 “Hermann Göring” in the area.
At 10:00 Troop 1 of 8th Field Squadron, SAEC, moved forward under Lt. M.P. Pearse to clear the road. The instructions to “A” Company, ILH/KimR, made it clear that its task was to secure the bridges and railway crossing on the road to Chiusi, and this it had done. 11th S.A Armoured Brigade HQ reported distinctly to Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole’s HQ that “A” Company, ILH/KimR, had reached Stazione di Chiusi.
The information was passed on to British XIII Corps as received. No mention was made of Chiusi and the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade had already signalled Divisional HQ that no report had been received as to whether it was held or not. During the day, the British XIII Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. S.C. Kirkman, visited Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole and discussed their intentions for the immediate future. Written orders went out later.
Meanwhile, Lt. G.A. Hosking of 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA, had entered Chiusi itself as forward observation Officer for the artillery at 12:00 on June 20th, 1944, but after a number of targets had been engaged the “raiding party” had been withdrawn leaving a standing patrol in the town which as things still stood, was to be taken by the 12th S.A Motorized Infantry Brigade which was concentrating on the road east of Cetona, which forked in such a manner as to offer access to both Stazione di Chuisi and to the main road running out of Chiusi to the north.
Inexplicably within the next few hours, the precision which had hitherto marked reports about the situation was released. At 16:45 the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade HQ reported to Divisional HQ that there was a Platoon in Chiusi (Right Information), but 16:50 the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade HQ reported to Divisional HQ that there was a Company of ILH/KimR in Chiusi (Wrong Information). Shortly afterwards Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole left his HQ to visit the 12th S.A Motorized Infantry Brigade.
At 17:00 unaware of the exact wording of information passed to Divisional HQ, “B” Company, ILH/KimR was ordered by the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade to go forward to join “A” Company, ILH/KimR. 5km short of Chiusi Station area the Company had to debus owing to the demolitions and it continued its advance on foot. Maj. A.S. Arlington left one platoon at the first 5 demolitions for local protection and pushed on with the other two, who partly filled in one blow over a canal themselves, so that they could jump across it. The station are they found was like a ghost village, but a few civilians hiding in the basements told them that the enemy had pulled back to the high ground further on.
Pushing on, with one of Lt. R. Metelerkamp’s mortar sections in support on either side of the road, Maj. A.S. Arlington’s company found two more demolitions between the station and Chiusi. Maj. A.S. Arlington’s company took up position about 550 metres short of Chiusi and sent a patrol up the road which climbs up to the town. They got right up to a big arch which marks the entrance to the town and there they were challenged by a German sentry.
As they withdrew from the arch, the patrol heard the sentry running down the street to give the alarm and they heard vehicles starting up. When Maj. A.S. Arlington got the report of this development, he decided not to feel into Chiusi itself but to go around it, so he sent patrols to left and right to reconnoitre and report enemy movement.
The patrol on the left infiltrated between two German posts, which must have heard the other patrol, on whom they opened fire, watched by the ILH/KimR men who had gone round on the left and now opened fire and threw some grenades at the Germans to create confusion before pulling back. Making a wide detour, they reported to Maj. A.S. Arlington, who soon also learned that the other patrol had lost one man killed. It was clear that the town was occupied.
The information was passed back, and Maj. A.S. Arlington was then asked by Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore to scout round the back of Chiusi to discover whether the bridge 2750 metres beyond it had been blown. However, it was getting light and as Maj. A.S. Arlington reckoned there was already about a company of the Germans in Chiusi, the patrol was only sent to take up position to observe any German movement and report back. Through the mist they observed quite a lot of movement in Chiusi itself, but saw nothing go out. Listening posts were sent forward from the position Maj. A.S. Arlington had selected on the outskirts of Chiusi, but as the mist lifted he realized that they were completely overlooked from the Church tower to the right front and the castle to the left front. And as day broke “B” Company, ILH/KimR pulled back to the station area. The gunner forward observation officer, Lt. G.A. Hosking, had managed to get through with a jeep and wireless set, and the artillery started registering on German vehicles known to be in Chiusi, while the platoon covering the withdrawal stumbled into a minefield and had 11 men wounded.
The Germans now brought up Nebelwerfers, but Lt. G.A. Hosking at 11:00 began firing on Chiusi itself and directed the fire of the South African guns all day, though under almost continuous concentrated mortar bombardment. Maj. A.S. Arlington established his own company HQ at the station, with his platoon on the outskirts of the station village so as to get observation up to the town itself. No indication was given that anyone would attack Chiusi.
At 07:00 that morning of June 21st, 1944, the rest of the ILH/KimR with whom wireless communication had been bad during the night, began to move forward with a Squadron of SSB Tanks, a Battery of 4/22 Field Regiment, SAA and a troop from 3/24 Battery of 1/11 Anti-Tank Regiment, SAA under Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore as advance guard of the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade who would pass through Chiusi after it had been taken by the 12th S.A Motorized Infantry Brigade. They were preceded by a Squadron of NMR Tanks under Divisional control and with “C” Company, FC/CTH under command.
The NMR less “B” Squadron had moved through Citta della Pieve with “A” Squadron leading, to make contact with the enemy. They received a very hot reception and by 07:25 on June 21st, 1944, could make no further progress against enemy small arms fire and extremely heavy artillery, mortar and anti-tank fire thickened by Nebelwerfers, which prevented them crossing the low ground south and south-east of Chiusi. In the area close to where the road climbed up into the town, it was reported to Divisional HQ, no fewer than 17 Spandau MG’s and Nebelwerfes had been observed, and the enemy appeared to have infiltrated into the northern part of Chiusi.
Beyond simply making contact, such was the Germans reaction that Lt. P. Haupt of the NMR, reckoned they had become involved in an initial frontal attack on the town, and by 07:45 the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade was reporting some 200-250 enemy north, north-west and in Chiusi. Divisional HQ issued a midday situation report which the Germans had infiltrated back into the northern outskirts of the town and were also north and north-west of it. By 09:00 Troop 1 could do no further work on the road owing to intense mortar and “88” fire.
At 11:27 Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole left his own HQ and went forward with a small Tactical HQ to consult with Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg. Divisional HQ left Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg to control the action which was developing. Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg ordered the SSB (less one Squadron) forward but later instructed them to clear the road and allow passage of the 4/22 Field Regiment, SAA and 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA.
Arriving in the situation area at 12:00, Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore quickly realized that Chiusi was strongly held and a flanking movement was tried in spite of the going being very bad owing to the rain. “A” Company & “C” Company, ILH/KimR, made for the high ground to the west, with “B” Company, ILH/KimR, holding the station area whilst also moving round towards the west. German anti-tank guns opened fire on the South African Armour, and Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore’s own M3 Honey Stuart narrowly escaped being hit. Maj. A.H. Rocyn-Jones moved more of his Sapper Squadron forward, and by 16:00, “A” Company, ILH/KimR was being engaged by German MG’s and Nebelwerfers.
At 16:30 the SSB was ordered to secure a high feature to the west of Chiusi. In spite of terribly bad terrain the Tanks with “A” & “B” Squadrons in the lead managed to reach high ground some 3000 metres south-west of the town in the face of concentrated anti-tank fire. This placed them virtually at the junction of the roads from Sarteano and Cetona, leading to the tarred road north-west of Chiusi.
Darkness descended over what the SSB, described as a pitched battle, with intense Spandau, Nebelwerfer & 15cm sFH 18 howitzer fire. “A” Company, ILH/KimR was meanwhile heavily engaged by German MG’s and Nebelwerfers, but outposts were established.
Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore’s Companies occupied the area round Pozzo Tosoni, about 3000 metres south-west of Chiusi, and were heavily shelled. “B” Company, ILH/KimR had come under very heavy fire all the time it had been in the area of Stazione di Chiusi, and one of its jeeps went up on a mine in the village. By now there could not be the slightest doubt that Chiusi was strongly held by at the same time the layout of the roads did seem to prevent the possibility of bypassing it and thus threatening to cut off the Germans.
The Tanks of “A” Squadron, NMR had moved out to the right flank along narrow tracks till further advances was rendered impossible by canals and extensive demolitions. By last light on June 21st, 1944, they had two Shermans from Lt. B.E. Rightford’s Troop knocked out and one damaged. Their “C” Squadron in trying to reconnoitre a route through to the left, had two Shermans bogged down in the soggy ground. The NMR’s only consolation was the arrival of men from the 1/12 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, SAAF, as infantry component, for which the NMR had felt a pressing need during recent operations, to counter the efforts of German Panzerjäger teams and anti-tank posts lying in ambush for Tanks on reconnaissance.
Meanwhile, FC/CTH had moved to Citta della Pieve and come under command of the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade, who didn’t pass on to Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer any detailed information about the state of affairs before Chiusi, about which the newcomers knew nothing.
FC/CTH get their Orders
That FC/CTH were given no details about Chiusi on reporting to the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade could hardly be wondered at. The intention almost up to that stage was for the town to be taken by the 12th S.A Motorized Infantry Brigade, and the situation in front of Chiusi itself was not clear except to those on the spot. At 08:30 on June 21st, 1944, some 3 ½ hours before Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore reached Chiusi station area with the advance Guard of the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade, Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer of FC/CTH was told that his Battalion was to be ready to relieve the ILH/KimR at Chiusi.
The CRE at 09:20 informed the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade that the road was clear to all traffic as far as the station – still a good 2000 metres as the crow flies from the town and more than that by way of the road which climbed up to it. About half a kilometre beyond the station there was a 18 metre gap where a bridge had been blown and Sappers were making a further reconnaissance in a effort to find a diversion. The information had barely been transmitted before Divisional HQ asked the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade whether it has advanced, and at 09:55 the NMR reported the position of leading elements still 2000 metres short of the town. From the bridge came the report that as far as the “position in Chiusi” was concerned, fighting was going on there. Whether this referred to Chiusi or to Stazione di Chiusi was left for the recipients to divine.
At 10:30 Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer was called forward to the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade TAC HQ. There he learned at a Brigade Order Group that FC/CTH might possibly be used in a “Left or Right Hook” attack on the town of Chiusi, where the enemy was opposing further advance. There was no mention of any frontal attack on the maze of medieval alleyways which made up Chiusi. The SSB & ILH/KimR were at this stage reported to be on flat ground west of Chuisi and the NMR and some Infantry were said to be on the east of the town. There was no information about any German Panzers being in Chiusi.
Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer set off to examine the terrain and select possible debussing points while his Battalion – less “C” Company commanded by Maj. L. Murray already forward with the NMR – halted on the road Le Piazze-Citta della Pieve, with the head of the column at the latter place, for which Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole was already heading to consult with Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg, who had also been told by Divisional HQ to liaise with the British Division on the right, as it would assist him in any attack on Chiusi.
At 12:00 after seeing Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole, Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg indicated to Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer that in all probability FC/CTH would not be required and this ceased the Battalion Commander’s reconnaissance. British XIII Corps was impatient to have Chiusi free of the Germans so as to open the main road for further advance. The SSB was ordered forward immediately, followed by the 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA. At 13:45 Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg was still trying to get the BL 5.5” Medium Guns forward and appealing to Divisional HQ to help by clearing the road. At 14:25 the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade was still asking for help to get the guns up.
A signal from Maj. A.B. Theunissen, the GSO II who accompanied Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole, had just informed Divisional HQ of the actual situation – the NMR with “C” Company, FC/CTH under command were on the left, there was a Company in the station area and a Company moving forward. But clearly the delay in getting the 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA, guns forward was upsetting any programme of action for Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg.
That night the ILH/KimR returned to their advanced positions in the station area, with two of Maj. A.S. Arlington’s platoons covering the road out of Chiusi to guard against any surprise by the Germans. The rest of the Battalion was on high ground south-west of the town and on the road which led west and north-west from Chiusi. Such was the position when the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade TAC HQ at 19:00 on June 21st, 1944, moved forward and arrived at Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg’s command post. Something was on the go, but neither Maj. A.S. Arlington nor the Artillery forward observation Officer with him had been contacted by anyone seeking first-hand information for an attack.
Suddenly the full weight of the guns of both 4/22 Field Regiment, SAA & 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA hit the town, and the ILH/KimR men at Stazione di Chiusi were surprised to find South African Sappers wandering through their lines. In reply to queries about what was going on, they learned to their amazement that FC/CTH were attacking Chiusi. Lt. J.H. Smallwood with four Bren Carriers of his ILH/KimR Platoon, had pulled off the road on a hillside overlooking the railway station, and had no clear idea of what was happening ahead of his position and recorded “As darkness fell, the guns opened up. It seemed that they were in full support of Infantry activities inside the town, from where we could hear the sound of small arms fire”
The Ill-Fated Attack
At 16:00, on June 21st, 1944, four hours after being told that his Battalion would probably no be required, Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer had suddenly been instructed by Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg to attack and capture Chiusi that night, a most formidable undertaking if any faith were placed in the Divisional “I” Summary which let it be known that from ground observation, POW’s and civilian sources, it appeared that the enemy in Chiusi had a Battalion of the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1 “Hermann Göring” with two Companies forward, supported by artillery and Neberwerfers, and with Panzers & self-propelled guns probably in the vicinity. If any doubt existed at all about how strongly the town was held, both the NMR & Maj. A.S. Arlington’s Company of the ILH/KimR could have provided valuable information on the subject as the ILH/KimR had already been through the village which was not strongly held.
Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole had decided not to return to Divisional HQ and Col. E.O.C Maggs, the GSO I, had been informed accordingly at the very moment that Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer was being told to attack the town of Chiusi. Lt. Col. W.H. lawrance, who was with Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg all day, remained convinced that Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole had ordered the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade to take the town, as the Germans commanded the road and had to be subdued.
The Divisional Commander established his TAC HQ east of Chiusi. Together Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg and Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer examined the approaches from a house giving a good view of the town from the main road, which swung round a block of double-storied farm buildings before descending into the rain-sodden station area.
The start line was to be the railway line nearest Chiusi and about 2000 meters south-east of the town. The first object was to clear the area on either side of what was described as “The Castle” which appeared to be in the centre of the objective as seen from the position from which Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg and Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer issued their orders. With Chiusi cleared, FC/CTH were to consolidate on high ground about 800 metres to the north of it.
H-Hour for the attack was to be the time at which the first shells were fired by both 4/22 Field Regiment, SAA & 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA, both of which were in action off the main road. The artillery would concentrate on the general line of the foremost building along the southern outskirts of Chiusi including the cemetery, the block offlats and the Red House on the left, and then the Tower for 20 min. The fire would lift 500 metres across the town for 2 min before being concentrated on the final objective indicated as the Poplars, about 800 yards north of Chiusi. A further lift beyond this would be treated as a defensive fire task of the two Companies on the objective, and forward observation Officers were to report to Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer at first light. With his own “C’ Company still with the NMR, Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer’s task of driving back a whole Battalion of the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1 “Hermann Göring” was not an enviable one. Before Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer stood a hilltop town about which he knew virtually nothing, a labyrinth of twisting alleys which needed careful investigation by patrols for which there was no time now, as Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole, who had visited by the British XIII Corps Commander only the previous day, must have known it was Lt. Gen. S.C. Kirkman’s intention to continue the advance, and had decided on a night attack. “B” Company, ILH/KimR was still in the station area, and armoured support for the attack was promised as soon as a deviation or bridge could be completed to clear the demolition holding up the Tanks.
Rather vaguely, it was hoped that this would be by first light. The 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA, after long delay, had got into position and instructed Lt. T.R.H. Gafney to relieve Lt. J. Goode as FOO with FC/CTH that evening, and M10’s were also promised as anti-tank support for the Infantry, who provided guides for the tank destroyers. Forward Observation Officers from the supporting artillery Regiments were only to report to Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer and no provision were made for any Gunner Officers to accompany the actual assault troops so as to provide immediate artillery support with observed fire if necessary. Sometime after 18:00 with the stage being set, the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade reported to Divisional HQ that Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg’s small party was moving up on the road and PAG were waiting to go forwards as soon as the road was clear. Capt. F. Waller was having a tough time trying to speed up traffic on the road from Citta della Pieve.
At 18:30 on that evening of June 21st, 1944, Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer, who had made no contact with Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore of ILH/KimR or with anyone else in a position to know exactly what was going on in Stazione di Chiusi and beyond it, issued orders to his Company Commanders at the Battalion Order Group. Within ½ hour “A”, “B” & “D” Companies were moving up on foot after an advance from Citta della Pieve had been delayed owing to a water-tanker from another Unit becoming jammed on a sharp bend in the road. Though information passed to 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA, indicated that the Germans already had two or three Companies in Chiusi, FC/CTH were left with the impression that ILH/KimR had been through the village the previous night and found it to be not strongly held – an ambiguous pieces of information which could have applied to Stazione di Chuisi or to the town itself. There was no suggestion of any German Panzers in Chiusi, but Divisional HQ had informed the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade of their probable presence in the neighbourhood.
At 20:45 Divisional HQ reported to British XIII Corps that the SSB was attacking Chiusi from the south-west and was on high ground in the area just off the road from Cetona, FC/CTH would attack from the east at 23:00. In fact, the SSB had to make firm on the ground it held and German patrols got within 15 metres of its Tanks in the darkness. By 21:10 the Operations Staff at Divisional HQ were displaying some anxiety by telling the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade that it was imperative that they should have information about the attack. As if to oblige, the NMR at 21:30 reported that their squadron 2300 metres south-east of the town had three of its Tanks knocked out, but there was an ominous lack of news about developments in the sector for the next four hours.
Only at 23:10 did Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer’s TAC HQ, which was in a white scout car, reach the station area – to the surprise of Maj. A.S. Arlington and his Company, who were not consulted and had not even been told that the FC/CTH would pass through them. The FC/CTH Companies had to struggle forward on foot debussed a good 3 miles short of their start line which, owing to the muddiness of the ground, they had to reach up the road and then across country cut by ditches and little canals draining sodden terrain like the marshes. “A” Company, FC/CTH, (Maj. F. Bartlett) had scant information but was ordered into the lead to clear the town. It had never been reconnoitred nor even seen the place from a distance in daylight, and crossed the start line only at 23:45. “D” Company, FC/CTH, which was to move on close touch with “A” Company, FC/CTH, before passing through to consolidate on the left flank of the second objective – known as “The Poplars” feature – was ready to advance 5 min later, by which time “B” Company, FC/CTH, was also on the start line ready to move behind “D” Company, FC/CTH, and to hold the right of the Poplars feature after establishing a firm base. A Composite Platoon from Support Company screened 8th Field Squadron, SAEC, reconnaissance along the road, and support weapons had been ordered forward to near the start line for consolidation at first light.
Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer had seen the fairly consistent shelling of Route 71 and other places during the day, but still believed that a patrol of the ILH.KimR had already been through the village of Chiusi, which he had been given to understand was “Not Strongly Held”. But they did not realize that the ILH/KimR had been through only the station area, as Maj. A.S. Arlington had clearly indicated. The leading Platoon of FC/CTH under Lt. L. Wylie met an ILH/KimR carrier section near the railway yard and gathered that Chiusi was held by light rearguard elements, as was German custom. There was no indication that the FC/CTH spoke to any of the men who had actually tried to enter Chiusi.
With the opening of the South African Artillery bombardment, whatever chance of surprise there may have been was blasted away. Completely mistaken or mislead as to the magnitude of the task with which they had been charged, the FC/CTH boldly set out on the long climb towards a most unhappy encounter.
By 00:00 “A” Company, FC/CTH, was reported to be going well, though slowed down by terrain which it found difficult beyond expectations. Up steep slopes lined with terraces and dotted with gauntly twisted olive trees momentarily silhouetted against flash of shells and mortar bombs, the infantrymen groped tensely forward. Troop 1 of 8th Field Squadron, SAEC, began work on a blow in the road behind them. It was after 01:00 on June 22nd, 1944, when “A” Company, FC/CTH, contacted the enemy and deployed. A fusillade rang out along the Company front before a prisoner was taken and introduced a warning note saying that the town was held by 300 Infantry.
At 01:45 Divisional HQ got its first report of progress through the CRA, whose information placed the FC/CTH about 300 metres short of the town, with Sappers busy clearing the road. The SSB, it was stated, was in position. Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole was informed accordingly.
“A” Company, FC/CTH, was advancing up the winding road which climbs terraces surrounding the town, when Lt. L. Wylie’s Platoon was brought to a sudden halt by the familiar German challenge “Wer da?” Dropping to the ground, the FC/CTH were almost immediately lit up by flares and came under fire while grenades were lobbed down on them from the terraces above. Intense MG and grenade fire was directed on to the whole Battalion from 3 sides.
As flares burned out and darkness returned Lt. E.P. Hardy’s Platoon moved forward from reserve to relieve Lt. L. Wylie’s men. They found movement severely restricted by a 4 metre terrace, and knew the road to be well covered by the enemy, but when firing unaccountably died down, Lt. E.P. Hardy’s platoon climbed on one another’s back till Pte. H. Clarke succeeded in heaving himself on to the terrace, where he was joined by the rest of the platoon. The FC/CTH fired bursts from their Bren guns in to two shelters dug into the next terrace, and soon the Germans who had been throwing grenades surrendered.
The encounter had unfortunately betrayed the platoon’s position to enemy MG gunners elsewhere and a burst of fire killed Cpl. A.J. Hooper and wounded Cpl. Swan who dropped one on either side of Lt. E.P. Hardy, whose own head was shaved by searing bullets. Once more lights tuned night into day and the South Africans were pinned down. As the garish light faded, two strangers joined Lt. E.P. Hardy’s men and some time passed before anyone realized that the newcomers were Germans. Struck by the same thought, they vanished so rapidly that no one had time to fire on them.
Pushing on determinedly, Lt. E.P. Hardy’s men scaled up yet another of the high steps on the long climb to Chiusi. Clambering up on to the third terrace, they rightly estimated their position to be on the right of the town, which was still hidden in darkness. The platoon was some distance from the rest of “A” Company, FC/CTH and Lt. L. Wylie decided he should try to clear the road ahead to help the Company enter the town from the left of his platoon. So as not to slow themselves down, the platoon left its PIAT behind and pressed on while the rest of “A” Company charged the slopes determinedly. With supporting artillery fire falling very close to its left flank, it was pinned down when the Germans developed a counter-attack in that sector.
Lt. E.P. Hardy’s Platoon meanwhile continued its cautious advance through gardens on the outskirts of the town and came upon the road leading into Chiusi, near a small square at the lower edge of which stood the Teatro Comunale, which was used as a cinema and stood across the road from a double storied winery with large cellar and vats below ground. Working their way up a road on the right of the cinema, the FC/CTH made out a bulky shape blocking the entrance to the building. As they crept closer towards it the sound of voices reached them, and when they realised that the shape was a German Panzerkampfwagen VI “Tiger” Ausf. E which must have been responsible for their earlier casualties caused from MG fire.
Having left their PIAT behind, Lt. E.P. Hardy’s men rolled hand grenades under the Panzer but the explosions had little effect other than to cause the crew to move the Panzers rumbling bulk out of the square. It was enough to enable Lt. E.P. Hardy to send off a runner to contact the rest of the Company and tell them the road was clear. Shortly afterwards under the impression that the Germans had been taken by surprise, the whole “A” Company was in the vicinity of the theatre.
As yet, there was no clear indication that the operation would be anything but successful, and at 02:00, “A” Company, FC/CTH, sent back a message to the effect that no support would be required from “D” Company, FC/CTH, until its own position had been consolidated. Immediately afterwards Maj. F. Bartlett received a signal to tell him that Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg insisted that FC/CTH should push on with all speed. 3 min later with “A” Company aware of enemy transport moving at the crossroads ahead of it, “D” Company, FC/CTH, was ordered to push through “A” Company and continue the advance.
So far, “A” Company, FC/CTH, had only suffered six casualties, and at 02:07 a prisoner was taken from the Sturm Battalion, 3rd Regiment, Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1 “Hermann Göring” who divulged that the town was held by three Companies, the centre one of which had been struck by FC/CTH. Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer had two Companies forward and only three available altogether, so the situation was not quite as rosy as 11th S.A Armoured Brigade HQ or even FC/CTH had thought. By 02:30 an Engineer Officer reported the road into town clear, thought his working parties were badly sniped. All seemed to be going well and 02:57 “A” Company reported having consolidated its position in the theatre and two adjoining houses, with one Platoon already at the Castle.
A Turn for the Worse
At 03:15, events took an ominous turn when a German Panzer began milling about in front of the theatre which “A” Company, FC/CTH, had entered by a flight of steps at the back of the building, with Company HQ, Lt. L. Wylie & No. 1 Platoon consolidating inside, while Lt. E.P. Hardy and No. 2 Platoon occupied the winery on the right of the theatre and No. 3 Platoon took up position in a building across the road, to the left of the theatre, and the men waited confidently for the rest of the Battalion to pass through.
One Platoon actually patrolled as far as the Castle – well to the left – and the South African guns were shelling the town itself and some rounds were dangerously close to the theatre, and the rest of FC/CTH could make no progress. Both “B” & “D” Companies, FC/CTH, were pinned down outside the town by extremely heavy fire.
Understandably after a lapse of 2 hours since hearing from the CRA that FC/CTH were near Chiusi, Divisional HQ was eager for further news. At 03:35 they asked the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade if it had any information yet. Though the Brigade Commander had already insisted that FC/CTH should push on, Divisional HQ was told that there was no information as yet. The Engineers of Troop 3 of 8th Field Squadron, on the other hand, reported to their Squadron HQ that they could not get into the town owing to enemy shellfire which was holding the infantry. It was obvious that Chiusi was much more strongly held than had been thought and Maj. A.H. Rocyn-Jones withdrew his sappers to cover.
Over to the west the SSB at 04:30 managed to drive the Germans back from their high ground in front of the South African Tanks, and “A” & “B” Squadrons, SSB, could move to strong positions dominating the exits from the town on that side, but this had no effect on the situation inside Chiusi. Outside the town, ideas about what was happening were quite naturally befogged, but a message from the 4/22 Field Regiment, SAA, at 04:40 indicated the one sub-unit of FC/CTH was in the “Village” and the remainder following up, with the Germans resisting. Regardless of the hour, the news was passed to Col. E.O.C Maggs at once and, after waiting 40 min in vain for further reports, the information was relayed to Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole, who within 5 min phoned from his TAC HQ to say that he was leaving for the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade.
Lt. E.P. Hardy didn’t initially place his men inside the building allotted to his Platoon, but posted them in positions from which they could see what was going on. As a cold, misty dawn was breaking, and in the eerie murk German movement could be discerned within and around the square where FC/CTH especially Pte. Collins & Pte. H. Clarke picked off a number of Germans before enemy Panzers appeared moving into the square. The South Africans behind the sturdy walls of the Teatro Comunale watched as one of the Panzers rumbled towards the entrance to the building. With casualties rising, it was becoming increasingly clear that the attack was running into serious trouble. Cpl. Strydom of the SAEC, who had accompanied FC/CTH was among the wounded.
At 05:22 “A” Company, FC/CTH, could report that it’s HQ and two Platoons were only 50 metres to the right of the tower – a prominent landmark – with one platoon 100 metres behind them. “D” Company HQ, FC/CTH, had now reached a house next to a high wall on the right of the road leading into the town. Barely 10 min later the Panzer in the square was firing point blank at the walls of the buildings affording cover to “A” Company, FC/CTH, who required assistance quickly. Within 12 min “A” Company, FC/CTH, had suffered a dozen further casualties and was helplessly watching missiles from a PIAT bouncing off the Panzers front armour plating.
Pte. F.W. Touzel unhesitatingly volunteered when Lt. E.P. Hardy called for someone to fetch the Platoon’s own PIAT, but he was wounded and reported missing for some time until he returned to the Battalion and had to be evacuated. With his own three available Companies engaged, Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer would have been hard put to find any means of offering relief to “A” Company, FC/CTH, and no orders were given to Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore to assist FC/CTH in any way from the station area.
The British XIII Corps was becoming impatient, and at 05:40 they signalled the 6th South African Armoured Division: “Please, give us some news of Chiusi”. 10 min later the Germans were infiltrating all around “A” Company, FC/CTH and battering the theatre building with the Panzers and at 06:00, Divisional HQ learned from the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade that two sub-units of FC/CTH were in the village. The Germans had two or three Companies there, with anti-tank guns, and a liaison Officer would convey further information which could not be sent in the normal way for security reasons. The slightly mysterious news was passed to Col. E.O.C Maggs, Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole, British XIII Corps HQ and to both of the other Brigades under the 6th South African Armoured Division command.
At 06:20 “D” Company, FC/CTH, reported a Panzer Panzer III & Panzer IV identified and at 06:35 spotted yet another Panzer IV “Special”. Attempts were made to bring down artillery fire on the German Panzers, but without success. Still full of determination but with German Infantry now crossing the tops of the buildings about 150 meters away in broad daylight, “A” Company, FC/CTH, at 08:15 reported some success at sniping with Bren’s and rifles from the round windows down the side of the dress circle, and shortly afterwards the Panzers across the road fire on the first storey building occupied by No. 2 Platoon across the road. Lt. E.P. Hardy’s men firing from there and from the room immediately below, had also accounted for a number of the Germans in the square, and as the shells burst, Pte. J. Jarman – who was killed not long afterwards – and L/Cpl. R. McGregor got out of the room by jumping from the first floor to the ground, through shocked and temporarily blinded by the explosion and the dust it created. In the ground floor room, Pte. Bartie & Pte. G.D. Willis were also forced to withdraw, as the Panzer was using both its 75mm and MGs on the building.
Failing to dislodge the rest of the Platoon, the Panzer turned its attention back to the theatre, pouring shells at the building. Meanwhile, however, German Infantry with rifles and Spandaus moved to cover every window and it was becoming impossible for the South Africans to retaliate. Turning Panzerfausts onto the theatre to bash the walls in, the enemy created clouds of choking smoke and dust.
The Panzers tried backing into the stonework to smash the walls down, but failed, whilst another Panzer tried similar tactics on the neighboring buildings were small groups of South Africans still held out. Lt. E.P. Hardy’s Platoon, with the Germans pounding one side of their hide-out, no longer had the Company HQ in sight, but they could see Germans on the roof of the Teatro Comunale throwing grenades, till they brought two of them down.
There was a brief lull in the fighting and then two sections of Germans dashed down the road separating No. 2 Platoon from the theatre, apparently to cut off the South Africans retreat and open up on them from the rear. Anticipating such a move, Lt. E.P. Hardy had placed one man behind the theatre and three on the same side of the building as No. 2 Platoon, in a field and protected by a low wall about two feet high. They immediately opened fire with telling effect, but unfortunately several of the Germans got through and occupied a building on the left flank of No. 2 Platoon, who then withdrew back to the shelter of their own building.
The Panzer which had been firing on the theatre now moved down the road also, stopping immediately beneath a window of the theatre, in full view of No. 2 Platoon. Several Fallschirmjäger were on the back of the Panzer and one clambered onto the turret and shouted in English in the direction of the theatre: “Come out, well show you how to fight!”, but L/Cpl. R. McGregor who had now rejoined Lt. E.P. Hardy, opened fire on him with his Bren, through a crack in the door and others on the back of the Panzer with good effect.
Fallschirmjäger, some prone and some kneeling, were immediately outside the door of the building housing No. 2 Platoon, but concentrated on a position to the rear of the Platoon. The Panzer, barely 8 paces from the door, began swinging its 75mm gun onto No. 2 Platoon, but then it rumbled slowly away, with the Fallschirmjäger accompanying it. No. 2 Platoon were soon getting out of their two rooms commanding the square, so as to escape the shelling.
At 09:18 “A” Company, FC/CTH reported that the enemy were creeping into their last defences. Across the road from No. 2 Platoon, some Germans managed to break into the theatre and made for the stairs leading to the circle, but quick action killed two of them and all the rest were wounded. That resistance against this sort of attack could not be maintained indefinitely.
Blasting a gap in the walls with guns and MG’s, the Germans brought the roof of the theatre collapsing onto the South Africans, and it became impossible to see through the dense dust and smoke. Fire broke out within the building itself, all the Officers and many others were wounded and the situation was desperate. Sgt. Campbell ordered all who were not wounded to follow him down the stairs. Fighting their way into the street they ran almost straight into a Panzer, with its gun pointing at them from less than 10 yards. There was no possibility of escape, and was forced to surrender. Battalion HQ had lost all contact with “A” Company, FC/CTH.
Now there was a lull in the fighting, Italian civilians acting as stretcher-bearers under cover of the Red Cross flag, could be seen by the survivors of No. 2 Platoon picking up the dead and wounded in the road. They had withdrawn by the time the South African guns opened up on the town.
With a considerable weight of shells falling all over the area of the theatre, the Germans kept under cover and would certainly not hazard their lives to bring in anyone still left behind. Capt. E.S. Rivett-Carnac, though himself already quite seriously wounded before being forced out of the theatre building into German hands sheltering in the basement of a nearby building, was deeply concerned about the number of men still left there, too seriously hurt to get out by themselves. With sufficient knowledge of German to make himself understood, he persuaded a German Officer to allow him to return to the building with one or two of the others who had already been captured. He managed to bring out those who had been left helplessly behind, and they were carried to a small Italian hospital working under a German Medical Officer. Capt. E.S. Rivett-Carnac himself spent some time in hospital further north before being sent off to Moosburg POW camp in Bavaria, but his bravery had not gone unnoticed by others and was later rewarded the Military Cross.
“D” Company, FC/CTH, advancing in single file after having had to call up Sappers to clear anti-personnel mines, had also come under grenades lobbed at it from close range as it climbed towards Chiusi, and Capt. D. Lloyd was seriously wounded. A number of men had become casualties before they struck German Panzers and Infantry in the town itself. Having accounted for “A” Company, FC/CTH, the enemy turned on Lt. A.M. Caro’s Platoon, who had taken up position in the grounds of a house in the main street.
Having been beaten off at first, the Germans then tried to encircle Lt. A.M. Caro’s Platoon with Panzers, one of which the South Africans stopped with their PIAT. When a Panzer came up on the Platoon’s left and a Panzerkampfwagen VI “Tiger” Ausf. E on the right flank, firing armour-piercing shells and calling on the South Africans to surrender, Lt. A.M. Caro decided to fight his way out, Cpl. J. Ferguson volunteered to remain with the wounded. Lt. A.M. Caro led the rest of his Platoon as they fought their way through the southern edge of town and back down the slopes towards Stazione Chiusi in a tough fight with only Lt. A.M. Caro and two others, all three wounded, got back to Battalion HQ. Cpl. Knight, who had gone in with them from 8th Field Squadron, SAEC, was missing.
The 11th S.A Armoured Brigade, with “A” Company, FC/CTH, on the point of being overwhelmed reported confused fighting at 09:25, but “B” Company, FC/CTH – Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer’s only reserve – was also falling back by 10:00 and Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer was calling for the promised armoured support which Brigade HQ had hoped to provide at first light. No Tanks arrived to ease the strain on the decimated Infantry, but “D” Company HQ, FC/CTH, and one Platoon managed to withdraw, out of touch with the rest of the Company, which was now in contact with “B” Company, FC/CTH. Meanwhile, ILH/KimR were being heavily shelled and harassed by Neberwerfer fire.
Only at this stage – more than 4 hours after first light – did “B” Squadron, PAG, leave the armoured Regiments harbour area, where it had been since 04:00. The leading Troop of Sherman V’s under Lt. P. Melck was to climb the slopes to relieve “A” Company, FC/CTH, whilst covered by the rest of the Squadron, but the road selected as the best approach turned out to be nothing more than a goat track, quite unnegotiable by the Tanks. They had to halt in dead ground while the Troop Commander set off on foot to search for a more suitable route. There had been no previous reconnaissance of any approach for Tanks.
The British XIII Corps being worried was obvious, for at 11:40 it signalled the 6th S.A. Armoured Division that Lt. Gen. S.C. Kirkman was on his way to see Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole, who had himself, already gone to see Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg. What little hope there may have remained for aiding “A” Company, FC/CTH, dissolved in a peal of thunder heralding pelting rain that almost immediately immobilized the Sherman V’s. The Val di Chiana resumed its ancient character as a morass of mud.
In Chiusi itself it was obvious to the survivors of “A” Company, FC/CTH that they were surrounded. As the shelling died down, a lone German crept up to the door of the cellar in which No. 2 Platoon had now taken cover. Lt. E.P. Hardy winged him with his .38 revolver and he withdrew. Lt. E.P. Hardy realising that the position had become hopeless, told the members of his Platoon that it was now: “Each man for himself” and Pte. Bartie scrambled into one of the vats and lay low.
Shortly afterwards, a German Panzer again appeared. Several Fallschirmjäger dismounted and rushed into the winery. Resistance was useless, Lt. E.P. Hardy was relieved of his revolver and
L/Cpl. R. McGregor, who was hiding behind a wine vat, was discovered and also disarmed. A German Officer, Luger in hand, scrutinised the vats suspiciously but luckily accepted Lt. E.P. Hardy’s assurance that they were unoccupied. The other survivors of the Platoon were rounded up in an adjoining cellar, and they were all marched off, Lt. E.P. Hardy’s ears ringing with the remark of the Austrian Feldwebel who had taken his revolver: “For you the war is over, you go to the finest country in the world!” Soon they met up with the other remnants of “A” Company HQ, FC/CTH, and Lt. L. Wylie’s Platoon, who had been captured earlier.
Lt. R.G. Metelerkamp of ILH/KimR, whose mortars had supported Maj. A.S. Arlington’s Company in the initial approach to Chiusi and could have given the FC/CTH a very good idea of what to expect, met Lt. Col. O.N. Flemmer and found him deeply depressed at what had happened.
At 13:00 on June 22nd, 1944, arrangements were made for hot meals and ammunition to be sent up to “B” & “D” Companies. FC/CTH with the support weapons carried in jeeps. Two Platoons of “B” Company, FC/CTH, supported by the stationary Sherman V’s, never got beyond high ground 1000 metres south of the town, and at 13:25 the Tanks were ordered to stay in position for the night. At 13:35 the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade told Divisional HQ it was still trying to drive the Germans out of Chiusi. The attack had been a failure, and the South Africans suffered their first reverse in Italy.
“B” & “D” Companies, FC/CTH, stayed with PAG’s forward Tanks that night, together with part of “C” Company and a Company of the ILH/KimR in reserve round the station. The weather remained atrocious, and it was a most unpleasant experience, with German 150mm sFH18 howitzers shelling the area and eventually wounding 5 members of PAG, including Lt. P. Melck.
That evening the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade learned from wireless intercept that the Germans in Chiusi reported the town to be clear, but admitting that their own casualties being heavy. They added that they had about 50 prisoners. The news was little consolation to the FC/CTH. Chiusi, a town dating back to before the birth of Christ, was the kind of objective which demanded thorough reconnaissance, detailed preparation and adequate support for its capture even in daylight. The continued advance of British XIII Corps required the town to be quickly cleared so as to open Route 71 and the road to Sina, and the original intention had been for the 12th S.A Motorized Infantry Brigade to take Chiusi.
FC/CTH lost 17 killed, 27 wounded & 75 missing in the ill-fated attack on Chiusi, leaving the Battalion altogether 12 Officers & 134 other ranks under strength.
Sgt. J.E.S. Ervine
Sgt. O.M. Sangster
Cpl. A.J. Hooper
Cpl. D.M. Mackenzine
L/Cpl. F.J. Ritchie
L/Cpl. S. Lakati (Cape Corps)
Pte. D.R. Abrahamson
Pte. M.G. Golden
Pte. G.H. Gush
Pte. R.G. Gush
Pte. J. Jarman
Pte. F.H.J. Klose
Pte. J. McNaught-Davis
Pte. L.G. Nash
Pte. S.B. Page
Pte. A.T. Parkes
Pte. T.W. Tobin
Pte. W. Tosen
This episode was not forgotten by the Italians of Chiusi, who on June 26th, 1959, set up a plaque in the Teatro Communale, carrying the inscription:
“In memory of the sacrifice of blood and ruins which occurred in this threatre during the night of June 21st/22nd, 1944 in the bitter encounter between an Allied patrol of liberating South African Troops and the occupying Germans, the Comune of Chiusi has placed this epigraph in devoted recognition for the fallen and with renewed homage to the ideals which guided and sustained the struggle for liberation”
Chiusi, June 26th, 1959
After the Surrender & Captivity
With a slight wound sustained in the early stages, Lt. E.P. Hardy asked for medical attention and was taken to a medical aid post where his wound was dressed and he saw many German dead before he was escorted to a German HQ in a dugout for interrogation. Upon completion of the interrogation Lt. E.P. Hardy was dismissed and rejoined his men, with whom he was sent some 5 miles back and locked up in a chemical factory, where they were affected by the fumes till the guards improved the ventilation. Being an Officer, Lt. E.P. Hardy was soon separated from his men and placed in a room, but not before Sgt. Campbell told him of his intention to escape.
They were escorted back to Montepulciano are where they were imprisoned in the high-walled yard of a factory. The South African prisoners were watched over by 6 German guards, but Sgt. Campbell noticed that 3 of them were escorting prisoners to the latrines, 2 were preparing a meal and the remaining 1 had few thoughts except for 3 pretty Italian girls at the factory. Snatching at a momentary chance, Sgt. Campbell scaled the wall and dropped to the ground, only to find himself beside a German soldier.
“So – you’ve got a prisoner’s clothes!”, the startled German seemed to remark, “Ja, ja!” Sgt. Campbell, and walked off as if there was nothing odd in such a situation at all and the German sentry chose not to follow. Inside the factory, a rather agitated German Officer demanded from Lt. E.P. Hardy the number of POW’s confined in the building. The South African, guessing what had happened, quickly cut the total by one before replying and the German Officer seemed quite relieved. Sgt. Campbell was sheltered and directed by Italians, who provided him with clothes and food.
At one stage, Sgt. Campbell almost ran into the crew of a Panzerkampfwagen VI “Tiger” Ausf. E whilst they were having a meal. Spotting them too late to get away without attracting unwelcome attention, he begged some food, which was provided in return for his washing their mess tins. By good fortune, borrowed clothes, an unshaven face and general unkeptness proved sufficient to disguise Sgt. Campbell’s identity until he was picked up by a patrol of the 24th Guards Infantry Brigade and sent back to battalion HQ.
A dozen other men of “A” Company, FC/CTh, some of whom were wounded, managed to hide in a wine cellar and were later released.
ILH/KimR – Imperial Light Horse/Kimberley Regiment
FC/CTH – First City/Cape Town Highlanders
NMR – Natal Mounted Rifles
SSB – Special Service Battalion
PAG – Prince Alfred’s Guard
SAA – South African Artillery
SAHA – South African Heavy Artillery
SAAF – South African Air Force
SAEC – South African Engineers Corps