Strangle German-prepared defensive lines south of Rome. The primary Gustav Line ran across Italy from just north of where the Garigliano River flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, through the Apennine Mountains to the mouth of the Sangro River on the Adriatic coast in the east. The centre of the line, where it crossed the main route north to Rome Highway 6 which followed the Liri Valley, was anchored around the mountains behind the town of Cassino including Monte Cassino , on which was situated an old abbey that dominated the entrance to the Liri Valley a main route to Rome , and Monte Cairo which gave the defenders clear observation of potential attackers advancing towards the mouth of the Liri valley. On the western side of the Apennines there were two subsidiary lines: the Bernhardt Line in front of the main Gustav positions and the Hitler Line some 5 miles to the rear. The Winter line was fortified with gun pits, concrete bunkers, turreted machine-gun emplacements, barbed-wire and minefields.

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Background[ edit ] Following the Allied invasion of Italy in September , the Italian government had surrendered, but the German Army continued to fight. The Allied 15th Army Group , commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander , in conquering the southern part of Italy but by early October had come up against the Volturno Line , the first of two lines the next being the Barbara Line used to delay the Allied advance to buy time to prepare the most formidable defensive positions which formed the Winter Line.

Alexander had three possible alternatives to reach the Italian capital of Rome. On the Adriatic front he could advance to Pescara and then use Route 5 the old Roman Via Valeria which traversed the country to Rome on the other coast. Alternatively, on the other side of the Apennines, highway 7 the old Roman Appian Way followed along the west coast but south of Rome ran into the Pontine Marshes which the Germans had flooded.

Finally, highway 6 ran in the same direction, but further inland, through the Liri valley. The defence of the Winter Line was the task of the German 10th Army Eisenhower who had moved to command of the Allied forces preparing for Operation Overlord , the Allied invasion of Normandy. Under his command were two field armies : to the left, on the western side of Italy, was the U. Two Commando battalions landed from the sea north of the river at Termoli , and a fiercely contested battle ensued which had hung in the balance when a ford became unusable after heavy rains and prevented Allied armour from moving forward.

However, the British infantry — reinforced from the sea by two brigades — had held out long enough against the tanks of 16th Panzer Division Panzerdivision for a Bailey bridge to be laid across the river, and the crisis passed with the arrival of elements of 1st Canadian Armoured Brigades.

Port and transport capacity had also been affected by the logistic requirements of the Allied air force, which was establishing strategic bomber bases around Foggia. By the next day, the German position had been turned and the Germans commenced a fighting withdrawal to the forward Winter-Line positions they were preparing on the ridges behind the Sangro River.

Alexander had planned for Montgomery to strike across the river on its coastal plain on 20 November with the V Corps Indian 8th Infantry and 78th Infantry Divisions. In secrecy, Montgomery shifted the Indian division to the right to narrow the V Corps front and concentrate its power, bringing the newly arrived 2nd New Zealand Division into the gap.

This made three divisions on the coastal plain opposing V Corps: 65th Infantry Division Infantriedivision , 90th Panzergrenadier Division Panzergrenadierdivision and 26th Panzer Division In the early hours of 28 November, the Eighth Army attack went in supported by heavy artillery concentrations. Elements of 65th Infantry Division supported by an armoured battle group held tenaciously on to Mezzagrogna [10] and the town was eventually taken on 29 November after tough, often hand to hand, fighting.

On the morning of 29 November, 78th Infantry Division had joined the attack on the right of the Indian Division and had forced their way to Santa Maria by the evening, creating a base for their main attack the following day towards Fossacesia. However, Herr was able to introduce 90th Panzergrenadier Division into the line from his reserve and transferred reinforcements from the quieter sector inland in the form of elements of 1st Parachute Division.

The complications of these manoeuvres introduced considerable confusion within the German alignment but they were nevertheless able to manage a fighting withdrawal to the ridge on the far side of the Moro river. Unaware of the disorganisation in the German ranks, the New Zealanders failed on 2 December to exploit an opportunity to capture Orsogna, a key position near the headwaters of the Moro, which on that day was still only lightly held. It was only on the morning of 3 December that the New Zealand Division disputed possession of Orsogna, but 26th Panzer had had just enough breathing space to organise and were able to repel them.

The 26th Panzer then proceeded to create a formidable defensive complex around the town and along the ridge towards Ortona on the coast [14] and Orsogna was not occupied by the Allies—despite a further two determined attempts during December—until the Germans withdrew after the Allied breakthrough at Cassino in May The Canadians, with the 8th Indian Infantry Division on their left, led the main thrust across the Moro on 8 December aiming for Ortona.

By 20 December, after a stubborn resistance, first from elements of the German 90th Panzergrenadier Division [15] and then elements of the 1st Parachute Division which had relieved the panzergrenadiers , they had patrols on the outerskirts of the town. But the battle for Ortona took another week of fierce house to house fighting as the German 3rd Parachute Regiment tenaciously held on before withdrawing to the other side of the Riccio river on 28 December.

As the New Year approached, it became clear that with no prospect of better weather until the spring, the Eighth Army did not have the strength to force its way to Pescara. In the centre of the Fifth Army front lay the Mignano Gap, which, because of the marshy conditions on the coastal plain, represented the only realistic path to the mouth of the Liri valley, the route to Rome.

Area of the Fifth Army offensive in the autumn of Panzergrenadierdivision , with some losses to the st Guards Brigade. By mid-November, it was clear that, after having sustained 10, combat casualties, since the Volturno Line offensive, the Fifth Army needed to pause, reorganise and re-gather its strength. The first attack— Operation Raincoat —was delivered, after an intensive artillery and air bombardment, by the British X Corps on the left comprising the 46th and 56th Infantry Divisions and elements of the U.

Frederick , on the right against the formidable Camino hill mass. The dominating peak on Monte Camino, Hill , is crowned by a monastery. Two slightly lower peaks, Monte la Defensa, Monte la Difensa Hill as it appeared on the military maps during the war, and Monte la Remetanea Hill , lie less than 2 miles 3.

At the upper end of the Camino feature are the numerous peaks of Monte Maggiore. The entire hill mass is about 6 miles 9. On the east and northeast the slopes rise steeply to the heights, then fall away gradually to the west toward the Garigliano river. It took until 9 December before the Camino mass was secured from the 15th Panzergrenadier Division.

Lucas and composed of the 34th and 45th Infantry Divisions , had attacked into the mountains but made little progress until reinforced by the mountain troops of the French Expeditionary Corps CEF , recently arrived in Italy; [21] they attacked again on 15 December. On 8 December the U. By the night of 10 December, the peaks were taken, threatening the German positions in the gap.

However, the German positions at San Pietro in the valley held firm until 16 December, when an attack launched from the Camino mass took Monte Lungo. Under the cover of a counterattack German forces withdrew to positions about 1 mile 1. Several attacks were made in the next few days, and Morello Hill—overlooking the San Vittore positions from the north—was captured on 26 December.

On the U. VI Corps front, progress was made but proved very difficult over the mountainous terrain as the weather deteriorated further with the onset of winter. During the month of December, the Fifth Army suffered 5, wounded but total admissions to hospital totaled 22, with jaundice , fevers and trench foot prevalent.

The U. VI Corps was taken into reserve to train and prepare for the Anzio landings codenamed Operation Shingle with the French troops, by this time at corps strength, taking over their front.

On the south side, the attack was made from Monte Lungo and captured Monte Porchia. Meanwhile, on their left, the British X Corps had attacked from positions on the Camino mass to take on 8 January the Cedro hill which with Monte Chiaia and Monte Porchia had formed a strong defensive line in front of Monte Trocchio.

Cervaro was taken on 12 January and the overlooking hills to the north on 13 January. This opened up the northern flank of Monte Trocchio, and a heavy assault was planned for 15 January. When the II Corps moved forward on 15 January, they encountered no resistance.


Winter Line

This crossing of the Volturno opened the second phase of the Allied campaign in Italy. Five weeks earlier the Fifth Army had landed on the hostile beaches of the Gulf of Salerno. Now it was attacking a well-defended river line. Along the Volturno the Germans had entrenched themselves in the first good defensive position north of Naples.


Volturno Line

History Nonfiction Illustrated with 30 maps and 36 Illustrations. This crossing of the Volturno opened the second phase of the Allied campaign in Italy. Five weeks earlier the Fifth Army had landed on the hostile beaches of the Gulf of Salerno. Now it was attacking a well-defended river line. Along the Volturno the Germans had entrenched themselves in the first good defensive position north of Naples.


From the Volturno to the Winter Line

Water-soaked and chilled to the bone, our troops fought their way through enemy machine-gun pits and fox holes to establish a firm bridgehead. This crossing of the Volturno opened the second phase of the Allied campaign in Italy. Five weeks earlier the Fifth Army had landed on the hostile beaches of the Gulf of Salerno. Now it was attacking a well-defended river line. Along the Volturno the Germans had entrenched themselves in the first good defensive position north of Naples Map No. At Salerno they had fought for each foot of sand and counterattacked repeatedly, but after our beachhead was secure, they had carried out an orderly withdrawal.


Bernhardt Line

However, logistical problems had prevented the Allies building a heavy duty bridge across the Biferno and when the bulldozed fords were washed away by heavy rains that evening there remained no way to get tanks across the river to support the infantry. On hearing of the landings at Termoli, the German supreme commander in Italy— Generalfeldmarshall Albert Kesselring —ordered the 16th Panzer Division to switch to the Adriatic front, presenting a major threat to the unsupported Allied infantry. By the afternoon of 5 October, they had been squeezed back to within. By late morning on 6 October, the Allies were on the attack and by late afternoon the Germans had started to fall back to the next prepared defences on the River Trigno , the Barbara Line. Bibliography Edit Clark, LLoyd Anzio: The Friction of War.

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