The Liberation of Europe - 3 September 1943

Despite being overshadowed in memory and popular culture by operations in NW Europe some 9 months later, tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the commencement of Op BAYTOWN, the first invasion landing on mainland Europe by Allied forces in WWII.

The Calabria Landings, 3 September 1943

The initial invasion of southern Italy, Operation BAYTOWN, was launched on the 3rd of September 1943 on the fourth anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany and was carried out by the British 13th Corps consisting of the British 5th Inf Div and the Canadian 1st Div. The operation was carried out on a three brigade front with the British 17th Inf Bde Gp (2nd Bn, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 2nd Bn, Northamptonshire Regiment, 6th Bn, Seaforth Highlanders, 156th (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, RA) landing in ‘HOW’ Sector, the 13th British Inf Bde Gp (2nd Bn, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 2nd Bn, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 2nd Bn, Wiltshire Regiment, 13th Inf Bde Special Coy) landing in ‘GEORGE’ Sector and the 3rd Canadian Brigade Group landing in ‘FOX’ Sector.

As the Straits of Messina were relatively narrow the operation was executed as a shore-to-shore landing craft operation. The British and Canadian forces embarked in landing craft from beaches in Sicily near Mili Marina. They then crossed the straits to the coast of Calabria travelling an average of 12,000 yards. The flotillas of Landing Craft Assault (LCA) and Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM) that comprised the initial assault wave being joined by DUKWs and Landing Craft Infantry - Large (LCI(L)) in subsequent waves.

The flotillas of the first wave were led in by Motor Launches and guided by directional tracer from Bofors guns along with four vertical searchlight beams to allow coxswains to keep their bearings. Still, navigation proved difficult as the rapid and irregular currents, whirlpools, and winds in the Straits of Messina hampered navigation and though the night was starlit, with no moon, the Eighth Army artillery barrage accompanying the assault contained a high number of smoke rounds. These smoke rounds were also intended to indicate the location of the beaches but unfortunately instead caused the navigation lights of the guiding Motor Launches, which the LCA coxswains’ were to follow, to be confused with other lights on the opposing shore.

Despite the problems the first wave of landing craft arrived on H-Hour, at 0430, approximately an hour before first light on the 3rd of September 1943.
These troops of the British 5th Division and Canadian 1st Division of the Eighth Army were the first Allied troops to land on enemy held mainland Europe as an invasion force.
 
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Despite being overshadowed in memory and popular culture by operations in NW Europe some 9 months later, tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the commencement of Op BAYTOWN, the first invasion landing on mainland Europe by Allied forces in WWII.

The Calabria Landings, 3 September 1943

The initial invasion of southern Italy, Operation BAYTOWN, was launched on the 3rd of September 1943 on the fourth anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany and was carried out by the British 13th Corps consisting of the British 5th Inf Div and the Canadian 1st Div. The operation was carried out on a three brigade front with the British 17th Inf Bde Gp (2nd Bn, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 2nd Bn, Northamptonshire Regiment, 6th Bn, Seaforth Highlanders, 156th (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, RA) landing in ‘HOW’ Sector, the 13th British Inf Bde Gp (2nd Bn, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 2nd Bn, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 2nd Bn, Wiltshire Regiment, 13th Inf Bde Special Coy) landing in ‘GEORGE’ Sector and the 3rd Canadian Brigade Group landing in ‘FOX’ Sector.

As the Straits of Messina were relatively narrow the operation was executed as a shore-to-shore landing craft operation. The British and Canadian forces embarked in landing craft from beaches in Sicily near Mili Marina. They then crossed the straits to the coast of Calabria travelling an average of 12,000 yards. The flotillas of Landing Craft Assault (LCA) and Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM) that comprised the initial assault wave being joined by DUKWs and Landing Craft Infantry - Large (LCI(L)) in subsequent waves.

The flotillas of the first wave were led in by Motor Launches and guided by directional tracer from Bofors guns along with four vertical searchlight beams to allow coxswains to keep their bearings. Still, navigation proved difficult as the rapid and irregular currents, whirlpools, and winds in the Straits of Messina hampered navigation and though the night was starlit, with no moon, the Eighth Army artillery barrage accompanying the assault contained a high number of smoke rounds. These smoke rounds were also intended to indicate the location of the beaches but unfortunately instead caused the navigation lights of the guiding Motor Launches, which the LCA coxswains’ were to follow, to be confused with other lights on the opposing shore.

Despite the problems the first wave of landing craft arrived on H-Hour, at 0430, approximately an hour before first light on the 3rd of September 1943. These troops of the British 5th Division and Canadian 1st Division of the Eighth Army were the first Allied troops to land on enemy held mainland Europe as an invasion force.
Interesting stuff, Does anyone know anything about 13th Inf Bde Special Coy noted above?
 
BAYTOWN has been somewhat overlooked in favour of AVALANCHE, the Salerno landings, which took place on 9 Sep 44.
In fact, one of the purposes of BAYTOWN was to draw Axis troops away from the Salerno beaches.
 
BAYTOWN has been somewhat overlooked in favour of AVALANCHE, the Salerno landings, which took place on 9 Sep 44.
In fact, one of the purposes of BAYTOWN was to draw Axis troops away from the Salerno beaches.
As was SLAPSTICK, with the UK 1st Airborne Div conducting an amphibious (!) landing to capture the port of Taranto which was coincidentally defended by elements of the German 1st Fallschirmjager Div.

What was noteworthy about BAYTOWN though, was that it was the first landing (rather than raid) on the mainland of Europe since the events of 1940, and resulted in a successful lodgement.
 
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Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
From memory, there wasn't much opposition to landings in the very south of Italy. The Germans knew the terrain was not particularly defensible and didn't intend to make a stand until they'd retreated to the mountainous territory further north.

One of the things that's always intrigued me about the Italian front is how little Hitler interfered with Kesselring. He micromanaged the Russian front (and later the Normandy one), but largely left Kesselring to it. I'd be interested in finding out why.

Wordsmith
 
From memory, there wasn't much opposition to landings in the very south of Italy. The Germans knew the terrain was not particularly defensible and didn't intend to make a stand until they'd retreated to the mountainous territory further north.
Kesselring was saving his strength for the 'main event' at Salerno, while the Italian Government was positioning itself for a change of sides.

One of the things that's always intrigued me about the Italian front is how little Hitler interfered with Kesselring. He micromanaged the Russian front (and later the Normandy one), but largely left Kesselring to it. I'd be interested in finding out why.
Italy '43-'45 was an 'economy of effort' campaign for both sides, so something of a sideshow compared to the Eastern Front where Germany's war would either be won of lost. Not that such an attitude helped for those stuck on the peninsula.

 
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From memory, there wasn't much opposition to landings in the very south of Italy. The Germans knew the terrain was not particularly defensible and didn't intend to make a stand until they'd retreated to the mountainous territory further north.

One of the things that's always intrigued me about the Italian front is how little Hitler interfered with Kesselring. He micromanaged the Russian front (and later the Normandy one), but largely left Kesselring to it. I'd be interested in finding out why.

Wordsmith
Certainly post 8 Sep 44, eve of the Salerno landings, Kesselring found himself in a touch of dwang, with the now-erstwhile Italian allies laying down their arms.
Another point could be, once N Africa and, therefore, the Med , was lost, it was clear the Allies would be coming for Berlin with the major thrust coming via the shortest and most secure logistical route.
The Alps and Appenines were a barrier which would hold up (but nothing more) movement from the south: from east and west the story was somewhat different.
Somewhere there'll be a signal from Berlin to Kesselring saying something along the lines of 'démerde-toi Légionnaire '.
 
Certainly post 8 Sep 43, eve of the Salerno landings, Kesselring found himself in a touch of dwang, with the now-erstwhile Italian allies laying down their arms.
Another point could be, once N Africa and, therefore, the Med , was lost, it was clear the Allies would be coming for Berlin with the major thrust coming via the shortest and most secure logistical route.
The Alps and Appenines were a barrier which would hold up (but nothing more) movement from the south: from east and west the story was somewhat different.
Somewhere there'll be a signal from Berlin to Kesselring saying something along the lines of 'démerde-toi Légionnaire '.
Corrected that for you.

ETA: Removed additional bolded text.
 
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Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
Italy was an 'economy of effort' campaign for both sides, so something of a sideshow compared to the Eastern Front where Germany's war would either be won of lost. Not that such an attitude helped for those stuck on the peninsula.
I've always thought Italy was a ball and chain around the ankle of the German war effort.
  1. When the Italian army invaded the south of France in June 1940, it got its arse handed to it by an already defeated French army.
  2. Mussolini's invasions of Greece and Albania went a similar way - they had to be bailed out by the Germans again.
  3. Ditto North Africa - Hitler had to send the Africa Corps to save the Italian forces from defeat.
  4. As well as military resources, Germany had to send scarce raw materials to Italy. For example without oil - something the Germans were perennially short of - the Italians could not have run supply convoys across the Mediterranean.
When you take into account the number of divisions, aircraft, u-boats and amount of oil the Germans had to divert to support the Italians, I suspect they would have been better off if Mussolini had remained neutral.

It would also have given the UK a major problem. Without North Africa, we could have been limited to tip and run raids on the coast of France and a possible invasion of Norway. Which would not have convinced Stalin were were fighting with might and main against Hitler.

Wordsmith
 
I've always thought Italy was a ball and chain around the ankle of the German war effort.
  1. When the Italian army invaded the south of France in June 1940, it got its arse handed to it by an already defeated French army.
  2. Mussolini's invasions of Greece and Albania went a similar way - they had to be bailed out by the Germans again.
  3. Ditto North Africa - Hitler had to send the Africa Corps to save the Italian forces from defeat.
  4. As well as military resources, Germany had to send scarce raw materials to Italy. For example without oil - something the Germans were perennially short of - the Italians could not have run supply convoys across the Mediterranean.
When you take into account the number of divisions, aircraft, u-boats and amount of oil the Germans had to divert to support the Italians, I suspect they would have been better off if Mussolini had remained neutral.

It would also have given the UK a major problem. Without North Africa, we could have been limited to tip and run raids on the coast of France and a possible invasion of Norway. Which would not have convinced Stalin were were fighting with might and main against Hitler.

Wordsmith
I don't disagree with your points about the military liability of Italian 'help', but remember also there was the Axis' ability to interdict British sea movement through the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. Italy's navy and air force played a major role, both on their own and in providing basing for the Luftwaffe to try to close the Med to Allied shipping. While the Germans expended a lot of resources early on to keep the DAK going, a similar observation could be made with British efforts with Malta.
 
13x was commanded at the time by Brigadier Lorne Campbell VC DSO & Bar, OBE TD, a Territorial Officer from 8th Argylls.
My bold:

Any relation to an übertube of the same name, who's currently in a senior position in one of the Jock regiments?
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
I don't disagree with your points about the military liability of Italian 'help', but remember also there was the Axis' ability to interdict British sea movement through the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. Italy's navy and air force played a major role, both on their own and in providing basing for the Luftwaffe to try to close the Med to Allied shipping. While the Germans expended a lot of resources early on to keep the DAK going, a similar observation could be made with British efforts with Malta.
It took an additional 6 weeks for British shipping to go around the Horn of Africa. I would question whether the extra time and shipping resource required to do that was adequate compensation for the diversion of German resources.

Hitler, despite being a murderous megalomaniac, was clearly quite intelligent. Mussolini always struck me as being slightly lacking in the brain department. A leader better versed in Italian military shortcomings and lack of raw materials might have done better to stay out of WW2. That worked for Spain.

After Abyssinia and Ethiopia, Musso saw further cheap pickings in France. Only to find himself fighting the British Empire (and later on the Septics). And duly ended up hanging upside down by his heels.

Wordsmith
 
It took an additional 6 weeks for British shipping to go around the Horn of Africa. I would question whether the extra time and shipping resource required to do that was adequate compensation for the diversion of German resources.
Without wanting to get into comparing Allied v Axis materiel and bodycounts, there were still significant Allied losses prior to the Italian capitulation, which could have been used elsewhere, particularly in the Pacific post-Dec '41, (carrier support to POW/Repulse, a decent AA screen for Hermes, major surface combatants available for the Java Sea, etc).

From Wiki: Battle of the Mediterranean - Wikipedia

Allied Losses to Sep '43
76 warships of 315,500 tons
48 submarines

This total includes, by my count, 15 cruisers, 1 battleship (Barham) and 2 aircraft carriers (Ark Royal, Eagle), in addition to other capital ships which sustained significant damage in the Med in 1941, such as the carriers HMS Illustrious out of action for 9 months, and for her sistership HMS Formidable 7 months.

ETA: ... and an awful lot of merchantmen.
 
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I've always thought Italy was a ball and chain around the ankle of the German war effort.
  1. When the Italian army invaded the south of France in June 1940, it got its arse handed to it by an already defeated French army.
  2. Mussolini's invasions of Greece and Albania went a similar way - they had to be bailed out by the Germans again.
  3. Ditto North Africa - Hitler had to send the Africa Corps to save the Italian forces from defeat.
  4. As well as military resources, Germany had to send scarce raw materials to Italy. For example without oil - something the Germans were perennially short of - the Italians could not have run supply convoys across the Mediterranean.
When you take into account the number of divisions, aircraft, u-boats and amount of oil the Germans had to divert to support the Italians, I suspect they would have been better off if Mussolini had remained neutral.

It would also have given the UK a major problem. Without North Africa, we could have been limited to tip and run raids on the coast of France and a possible invasion of Norway. Which would not have convinced Stalin were were fighting with might and main against Hitler.

Wordsmith
When Churchill met the then German ambassador von Ribbentrop in 1937. Von Ribbentrop said, "Remember, Mr. Churchill, if there is a war, we will have the Italians on our side this time." To which Churchill reportedly replied, "My dear Ambassador, it's only fair. We had them last time."

The "D-Day Dodgers" have always thought that there war was a forgotten one compared to NW Europe and the Eastern front, but IMHO it was no less valuable in winning the war.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
The "D-Day Dodgers" have always thought that there war was a forgotten one compared to NW Europe and the Eastern front, but IMHO it was no less valuable in winning the war.
I think it very definitely contributed to German overstretch. The Germans had troops in France, the low countries, Norway, Finland, the Balkans and Russia. Even when you take into account their Italian, Hungarian, Finish, Bulgarian and Romanian allies, there were never enough of the Heer to go around.

That said, Hitler seemed to fight a more sensible war in Italy, slowly giving up ground rather than issuing insane orders to hold till the last man as he did elsewhere.

Wordsmith
 

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