1st Battalion, Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment – The Final Offensive in Italy.
The commencement of April found the battalion fully deployed over the Corps front in preparation for the attack on the Senio line. On the left of the front, two Heavy Mortar platoons from ‘C’ Support Group, equipped with the new American Mortar, were in position supporting 2nd New Zealand Division. They had been given the task of neutralising known enemy positions in the area west of Cotignola. In the centre, ‘B’ Support Group was deployed with an additional two MMG Platoons from ‘D’ Group under command. Their job was to help positions on the Divisional front on the north bank of the Senio. On the right, two Heavy Mortar platoons of ‘D’ Support Group were to give left flank protection to 8th Indian Division, paying particular attention to the south east corner of the town of Lugo. A coordinated fire plan was worked out for all three Groups and, by 9th April, the stage was completely set for the beginning of the attack. A Battalion Control Point was established by the Commanding Officer in the central sector, actually at ‘B’ Group’s Tac HQ on the morning of the 9th April. Promptly to time, the first gun attack on the Senio position opened up and, thereafter until late at night, every weapon, the Battalion had deployed, was firing almost continuously. The complete fire plan was shot through.
DF fire from the infantry of all three Divisions came tumbling over each other through the telephone wires. It was the Battalion’s pride to be able to say, after the attack, that every call which was received was speedily and effectively answered.
The breaking of the Senio position, being completed, the Battalion joined in the general surge forward towards the Santerno river. Here, 8th Battalion, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were given the task of enlarging the bridgehead formed by 8th Indian Division over this river. Continuous support was given by ‘C’ Group for this operation and all platoons leapfrogged forward with the infantry until, on the 12th April, a more or less static position was reached, overlooking the bridges on the Sillaro river. From these positions, the first observed mortar fire was put down, previous shoots in this operation, having been predicted.
Following a few days lull, while 56th London Division on our right caught up with 78th Division, the attack on the formidable Argenta bastion developed. 5 Northanptons were directed at the town and were supported by the MMG platoons of ‘B’ Group from positions about 900 yards from the cemetery. A further attack was developed by the 2nd Battalion¸Lancashire Fusiliers in the direction of the Fossa Marina during the evening of the 16th. Here, the Mortar platoons of ‘B’ Group were continuously in action firing DF tasks on areas where the enemy was forming up for a large scale counter attack, the Lancashire Fusiliers afterwards reported that many casualties were inflicted on the enemy by this mortar fire.
The 17th found the infantry still pushing on against bitter resistance, the town of Argenta by now being cleared. Once again, ‘B’ Group MMG platoons were given the job of securing the open flank of the infantry spearhead. A difficult night occupation was carried out by all platoons of ‘C’ Group and, thereafter, the platoons leapfrogged forward with the leading battalions of the Brigade. A surprise counterattack developed from the exposed left flank at Bevignante and the Mortar Platoon. in position there, was able to give valuable assistance to 5th Battalion, Buffs in beating the attack off. The front was now extremely fluid and, until 23 April, all of ‘C’ Group platoons gave effective support to 36 Infantry Brigade in their rapid advance.
The momentum of the attack was now maintained by pressure from 38 (Irish) Brigade and, after a determined stand at Portomaggiore and along the Po di Volano, the enemy had only spasmodic resistance to offer. The whole of ‘D’ Group was continually in support of the Brigade and many first class shoots were carried out. In particular, in the area of Ruina, a column of enemy vehicles was most effectively dealt with by the MMG Platoons. The attack forged steadily ahead and, by 25th April, the flood banks of the river Po had been reached as the Division’s final objective.
Throughout the whole of the operation, all platoons of the Battalion were in continuous action, supporting every Battalion in the Division in turn. Some idea of the weight of fire put down by the Battalion can be gained from the following expenditure figures:
For the period 9th – 26th April 1945.
4.2in Mortar bombs – 12,206 (approx 136 tons of HE).
.303in Mk viii Z – 314,750 rounds.