Archiver > NS-CAPE-BRETON > 2002-11 > 1036979968

From: joseph macdonald <>
Date: Sun, 10 Nov 2002 21:59:28 -0400

Dear Listers;

This will be in two parts. Though these men were far from home and loved
ones they are just as much apart of our lives and history. They live on
in our memories and it is only fitting and right that we honour them by
perserving what they fought so valiantly for, Peace and Freedom. This is
from the War Diary of events that took place, January 14, 1944 to
January 20, 1944. The Cape Breton Highlanders met the Germans for the
first time after entering the Front Line north of Ortona, Italy on
Thursday, January 13, 1944 at 1815 hours. It was ten days short of the
3rd anniversary of leaving Sydney, Cape Breton, N.S.

357-N-6 Jan 44
Date 14:
Many enemy positions were spotted today and some of them registered as
arty targets. Enemy appears very nervous tonight and has been shooting
up flares and firing arty, mortar and M.G. quite heavily during night.
One patrol went out under Sgt. Warren at 2230 hrs. Patrol report
included in I log at appendix.
A and B echelon found themselves in the slit trenches for a while today
as enemy arty was landing quite handy the areas.
Date 15
Weather fine and cool.
Heavy shelling was encountered during the day; during which our first
man was killed and first wounded as actual battle casualities. Our own
arty kept botherine him all day and night with harassing fire.
Hour 1105
F 54731 L/Cpl G.H. MacDonald and F 88621 Pte. J. A. MacKinnon were in an
Intelligence O.P. at 310191 about 20 yards from A coy right forward
platoon HQ.
L/Cpl MacDonald spotted enemy fire and was just taking a bearing on it
when a mortar shell landed about 5 feet from their O.P. L/Cpl MacDonald
was mortally wounded by this shell but before he died made a valiant
attempt to pass his information to the platoon behind. He died within
several minutes.
Pte. macKinnon was also badly wounded about the lower legs resulting in
the amputation of one foot. Pte, MacKinnon passed the informaion to the
I.O before going to hospital. Both men showed a defiite devotion to duty
in spite of very severe wounds.
L/Cpl MacDonald was the first C.B.H. casualty (battle) of this war and
was buried on a small plot near the sea, three miles north of Ortona
beside the graves of two fellow Nova Scotians from the W.N.S.R. At 1400
hrs. Major Somerville, 2i/c from each coy and Sgt. Bonnar (Provost Sgt)
made a recce of an area for Bn, which will be moving out of the front
lines B for a days rest. S echelon will supply the guides
to lead the coys into their areas.
Date 16
Hour 0900
Weather cold with showers today.
Coys were all in their areas by 0100 hrs; but on account of the muddy
road into the area, jeeps had to be used to haul the Q trucks material
and rations into

357-N-7 Jan 44
the areas. Quite a number of trips had to be made before all the
equipment was hauled in and it was 0400 hrs when the last rip was made.
It looks as though an attack by us is in the making.
0900 hour
C.O. called an "O" Gp for our first actual attack against the
enemy.Perth will make first attack at 0530 hrs tomorrow to take ridge
297183. After Perth have taken this ridge we will go through from 301185
and sweep across to 303191 and 297191.
"D" coy starts at zero (which will be given later) and go direct from
F.U.P. at 301185 to their objective at 300187. This will also be HQ's
eventual area.
After 10 minutes "C" coy will leave F.U.P. and go direct to their
objective at 297191.
After the smoke of battle clears and C.O. receives sufficient
information to proceed "A" coy will go through to area 303191 followed
10 minutes later by "B" coy to 297185. The whole action will be
supported by an elaborate arty fire plan of about 300 R.P.G. from about
16 arty regts, fd, meduim and heavy.
Our supply route will be track from 317177 to 304186 and on. Sappers
will sweep this route as early as possible. Priority on supply route:- A
Tk guns, 3" mortars, R.A.P., ammunition, food, water, etc. Dress:-battle
order plus 1 pick or 1 shovel per man.
It is not anticipated we will move before 1030 hrs tomorrow so hot meals
will be prepared and served at 1000 hrs.
Comd post will be in Irish area at 303194. Line and wireless will be
available at comd post. Line layers will go with "A" coy and lay line as
they advance. 1 tp tanks will supposrt attack with M.G. and 6 pdr fire.
1 section of carriers will go with sappers as local protection.
Remainder with Bn HQ gp. Pioneers willassist sappers. A Tks will be
pulled across behind tanks and crews and ammuniton will ride on tanks.
Immediately on success, patrols will be sent forward to high ground to
warn of any counter attack by enemy.
On the return of the guide party it was reported that enemy shells had
fallen on our transport area. Everyone survived, but one man got a cut
in the forehead from a piece of sharpnel.
At 0830 hrs more shells drove the men into their slit trenches. Seems
the enemy have their guns ranged on our transport area, but no damage so

357-N-8 Jan 44
Date 17
0430 hour
C.O. (Lt. Col J.B. Weir), Major J.A. Nesbitt, Lt. W.A. MacDonald and two
signallers left for Comd post on Irish front overlooking enemy
positions. Location 303184, sheet 141-11. Major Gilchrist (17 Fd Regt.)
and 2 rear link signallers met them there. C.O., Major Nesbitt and
Gilchrist, one rear link signaller and Lt. MacDonald stayed in forward
O.P. while remainder went back to slit trench 35 yards behind.
Daylight arrived and it was evident no movement of any kind could be
made out of slit trenches. At 0530 hrs our arty began barrage to support
Perth Regt on left.
Enemy M.G.s opened up as soon as arty lifted and seemed to be firing on
fixed lines down all gullies. His arty also opened up and mortar and
arty shells peppered the ridge from 303177 to 303185, including several
shells which landed very close to comd. post, showering the occupants
with rubble but inflicting no casualties. Communications were almost nil
although there were four phones and 3 wireless sets in the positions.
Aerials could not be erected as they were too exposed and this prevented
use of wireless although the Bde rear link set operated well with what
aerial could be erected. The line phone to Bde was operating most of the
time as well. At 1215 orders came from Bde that our attack plan had been
changed becausee of heavy opposition Berth regt are having on that
We were originally going to attack from 300185 across to 302191 and
29193 and 295186. We were to move down to F.U.P. by way of road and
river valley at 300177. We will now attack down gully at 305184. "D" coy
will lead followed by "C" coy. After moderate success by these coys "A"
and "B" coys will go through and spread out our bridgehead. This means
that the present comd poost must be evacuated so C.O. can get over there
to direct the battle.
At 1315 hrs. smole was laid in enemy positions and comd post personnel
dashed back to Irish regt area arriving there with no casualties. Some
of the equipment and wireless sets had to be left in order to get out
quickly. These will be picked up tonight by the Irish regt patrol after
By the time the C.O. arrived back at Bn area the leading coys had bgun
their advance under Major Somerville's orders. Lt Col Weir got in a tank
and took comd from there, going down towards the front in an attempt to
get observation.


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