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1943: Allied troops invade mainland Italy

AUDIO : General Montgomery announces the invasion of Italy

British troops have landed on the Italian mainland four years to the day after war was declared on Germany.

Their arrival in the "toe" of Italy follows two days of heavy bombardment by warships and Flying Fortresses of railways and communication lines.

After crossing the Straits of Messina from Sicily to mainland Italy, British and Canadian troops of the 8th Army met little resistance at the port of Reggio di Calabria.

Amphibian craft known as "ducks" streamed across the narrow straits to the mainland, full of troops still basking in the glory of victory over the Germans in Sicily.


"We landed on the beaches in the early morning of the 9th Sept. Heavy shelling was going over from both sides."


General Sir Bernard Montgomery commanding the British and Commonwealth 8th Army has said the aim is to take over the whole country and eliminate Italy from the war.

Speaking on the BBC he said: "We have a good plan and air support on a greater scale than we have ever had before.

"There can only be one end to this next battle, and that is another success. Forward to victory! Let us knock Italy out of the war."

The Times special correspondent reporting from north of Reggio said the port had been captured without a shot being fired and was virtually deserted.

He said the large number of Italian soldiers taken prisoner were "rejoicing and exuberantly trying to fraternise with their captors".

Local people said the Germans had left three days ago and Italian troops put up little if any resistance.

There were very few mines or any barbed wire on the beaches.

The British have consolidated the bridgehead by taking the high ground near the coast to have a clear view of the beaches and coastal plains as ever more guns and anti-tank guns are being unloaded to support the advance and protect against counter-attacks.

In Context
The same day, Italy secretly signed an armistice with the Allies. After this was officially announced on 8 September German forces immediately replaced Italian garrisons throughout the country.

On 9 September the US 5th Army under Lt-Gen Mark Clark landed at Salerno, and a British fleet placed troops at Taranto.

The Germans put up a fierce battle at Salerno and at one point the US even began preparing to evacuate.

The tide turned just before the arrival of the British 8th Army, and the Germans were forced to retreat to a series of defensive lines, from the Viktor Line north of Naples to the Gothic Line above Florence.

Hitler sent orders to stand firm and every battle in the Italian campaign became one of grinding attrition - the Germans did not surrender in Italy until 2 May 1945.


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