As Summer draws to a close (where did it go?) we look to our Programme of both Commemoration and Remembrance for the month of September.
We announced some months ago that we would meet on Sunday, September 13th and that plan has not been amended. We will therefore hold a short service at the Cenotaph which will commence at 14:30 hours. All who feel safe gathering in an outdoor environment are welcome to attend, bearing in mind Social Distancing and the need to have a mask available. Depending on weather, dress may be full uniform, summer dress (white shirt, beret but no tie etc) or civilian attire.
The official anniversary date of the The Battle of Britain Commemoration is September 15th., although it lasted way beyond that day in 1940. However, that day saw the heaviest and most prolonged daylight raids of the Nazi campaign for air superiority. After that, the majority of raids were at night. Canadian contributions and losses during and after “The Blitz” were significant. (See our earlier post from July 10, 2020)
We will also focus on that longest engagement of the entire war for Canadians, the Italian Campaign, often referred to as “The Forgotten War.” From the landings in Sicily in July of 1943 through the September landings on the Italian Mainland to the final surrender of German Forces on May 3rd 1945, Canadians were engaged in some of the toughest battles of the entire war as they fought their way north through the most difficult terrain in the country. Many of those same men were transferred to France for th Normandy and Netherlands campaigns.
During these two years in the push to what Churchill described as the “Soft Underbelly” of the Reich, there were some 26 000 Canadian casualties of which almost 6000 died and are buried there. Sadly, we note the still inexplicable actions of a US General who flouted Allied battle orders that allowed the German army to escape north from Cassino while he pushed on to Rome. That action extended the campaign beyond what should have been a much earlier conclusion.
(This also happened again during Montgomery’s “Operation Market Garden” when US troops were diverted by their field commanders from their assigned role. This action completely jeopardised the entire operation and led to its ultimate failure).
One of the most ludicrous things to emerge from the Italian Campaign was the words attributed to a “lady” member of the English upper classes who referred to those who had fought for two years as “D-Day Dodgers.”
I discovered the “lady” referred to by Malcolm was none other than the Vicountess Nancy Astor. Lady Astor allegedly made the comment implying the troops in Italy were avoiding the ‘real’ battle in France. Many of the “D-Day Dodgers”, instead of being angry, embraced the moniker.
One such soldier, Lance-Sergeant Harry Pynn of the Tank Rescue Section, 19 Army Fire Brigade, penned the lyrics to a song sarcastically describing how leisurely the troops had it during the Italian Campaign.
I’ve included a Youtube video that includes a slideshow of wartime pictures of the Italian Campaign with the song as accompaniment . **Note** there are a couple of instances of course language within the lyrics.
I should also note there was no official record of Lady Astor making the comment and she officially denied it.