At 1920 hours on 9th April 1945, Operation ‘Buckland’, the name given to 8th Army’s attack on German defensive positions in Northern Italy, was launched. Over the following 16 days of constant assault, Allied Forces secured a comprehensive victory and were able to cross the mighty Po river. On 2nd May 1945, all German forces in Italy would be forced to surrender.
Over the following pages, we shall be adding various Regimental and personal narratives of this period with particular focus on the Irish Brigade’s part in securing the 8th Army’s advance through the strategically vital Argenta Gap.
By 25th April, the Brigade’s war had largely come to an end, offensive actions had been completed and their role was to support ‘mopping up’ operations before they advanced northwards to take up peacekeeping duties in southern Austria.
Very few men had completed the long journey all the way up to the Po river from Algiers, where the Brigade had landed nearly 900 days previously. CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan was one of those men and would later recall the last few days of war for the London Irish Rifles:
“We had arrived at the Po.
During the last days of the offensive, we had passed a most distressing sight. Beautiful draught horses had been shot dead and lay bloated and stinking. The Germans had killed them rather than let them live and remain for us. Most had been commandeered from the unfortunate Italians, who had lost so much.
Their beautiful country had been destroyed all the way from Sicily to the Po and occupied by aliens from all over the world. The south bank of the River Po was an extraordinary scene.
The Germans, trapped by the river, had abandoned everything. Many had even tried to swim the Po to escape and many died as a result. The carnage of war continued relentlessly as if it were now on a form of autopilot.
The company rested by the side of the Po while the Royal Engineers set about bridging its mile width. I arranged a campfire and some Canadian beer and hot rum toddy. Corporal Howarth was, as usual, master of ceremonies….”
A meticulously researched full account of the final battles of the Italian campaign can be found in the book, ‘Victory in Italy’, written by historian Richard Doherty.
NZ Official History – The Assault on the Senio River.
NZ Official History – Gatecrashing the Santerno Line.
The Tiger Triumphs – Eighth Division Punches the Hole Again.