Glasgow Yeomen try out their new SPs.
64th Anti Tank Regiment entered the final offensive in Italy in an adventurous spirit. It was felt that, with the newly acquired SP guns, the Regiment would be able to play a more pugnacious role in the battle than hitherto.
These expectations were fully justified. By the end of the three week campaign, each of the new M10 Troops, as well as the ready made SP Battery (209 Battery), which had come to the Regiment, had a crop of exciting actions to their credit.
256 Battery’s ‘H’ Troop was one of the first to be involved when, in the very early stages of the offensive, they were largely responsible for the defence of a vital canal bridge against determined counter attacks.
On April 13th, the Troop was supporting 36 Brigade’s drive on Conselice and was teamed up with the troops of the Recce Regiment to exploit a footing, which the Argylls had secured over one of the numerous canals in the district.
Having advanced some thousand yards, this force reached a junction from which roads branched north and west. A strongpoint was established here, with ‘H’ Troop’s two M10s and a number of armoured cars, while one troop of Recce probed up the road northwards towards a cluster of four houses, some eight hundred yards away. Everything went without incident until the armoured cars were well up to the houses when they came under heavy Spandau fire from all round and were forced to pull back to a farmhouse about four hundred yards away.
Answering a call for help, one of the M10s made its way across country up to this farmhouse and nosed into a fire position from which it could engage the troublesome casas. They did not remain troublesome much longer. A bit of particularly good shooting effectively obliterated all four houses – and surely most of the occupants – in turn from the right. The last two were set on fire.
Hard on this success, however, came reports from the Recce, that an enemy tank (alleged as usual to be a Tiger) was coming down the road. This was quickly followed by further reports of tanks on either flank with accompanying infantry. Accordingly, it was decided to pull back to the original strong point. The M10 found itself a cosy little hull down a hollow and everyone sat tight waiting for developments.
There was not long to wait. German infantry, apparently a strong patrol, appeared coming through an orchard to the west of the position and, in the middle of this excitement, an enemy SP gun suddenly opened up from some incredibly short range to pump four random shots into the area of the strongpoint. The infantry were effectively repulsed but the SP gun fared better, one of its shots having luckily made contact with one of the tow M10s and destroyed the eight bracket.
Report of more tanks in the vicinity coincided with orders from Brigade that the position would be held at all costs.
The expected attack obviously came in from the west in something like two company strength. They came down the ditches on either side of the road, and in open order, through the orchard. DF was out of the question owing to the close proximity of the enemy and so the defenders had to rely entirely on their own resources. They opened up with everything they had – rifles, Brens, 50 cal Brownings and all the assorted musketry of the Recce. After a tough tussle, the enemy withdrew, in considerably less strength than he had set out.
Orders had been carried out. The position had been held. At dusk, a two battalion attack passed through to bring relief to the gallant defenders.