• Si Biggs

Battle of '41 Commando Hill' & 'Pimple Hill'

Updated: Sep 30

No. 2 Commando, had taken part in the capture of Sicily and then landed at Salerno with other British troops. He and his men fought for five straight days, grinding through mostly German defenders. They were even lauded for defending a rail and road hub from a determined counterattack at Vietri, Italy, until U.S. armored vehicles arrived to relieve them.

The commandos were granted a short rest and the time for showers and bathing, though they had to avoid enemy mortar fire while enjoying it. Even that rest was short-lived, though. They were serving in reserve for the U.S. 46th Infantry Division, and German forces managed to grab three hills overlooking the division area, imperiling the American forces.

So the British soldiers of No. 41 Commando and No. 2 Commando were sent in to secure two of the three hills in two attacks.

No 2 Commando were first tasked to relieve a company of soldiers from the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Regiment (Ox and Bucks) on the Pimple. This they did on the 15th September in a successful action.

The Commandos were then ordered back down, and German troops moved back onto the Pimple.

Then an order was given for the Commandos to retake the Pimple. Just before dawn , 2 troops of No 2 Commando were involved in the attack on the Pimple, No 2 Commando 1 troop and No 2 Commando 2 troop (sourced from the War Diary for No 2 Commando), the latter being led by Captain the Duke of Wellington who was killed during this action. He is buried at Salerno War Cemetery. They came under withering enemy fire and 2 troop in particular suffered a lot of casualties. They were ordered to withdraw.

Then 41RM Commando who had taken a hill to the right of the pimple under heavy artillery bombardment as night was falling, known by Commandos as 41 Commando Hill,.

They were now ordered to be part of another attempt to take the Pimple. Unfortunately as they approached the start line of the attack on the Pimple artillery fire from our own side landed amongst them causing many casualties, and the attack was called off. (Sourced from the book Operation Avalanche by Des Hickey and Gus Smith).

The total prisoner count for the night between No. 41 and No. 2 Commando was 135, more than the 46th had taken in the five previous days of fighting and two of the hills over the 46th were now clear of potential attackers just hours after German forces had staged there to attack.

No 2 and 41 (RM) Commandos in 10 days had suffered severe casualties  - 13 Officers had been killed , and 15 wounded. 54 O.R.'s were killed and 225 wounded, while 1 Officer (R.M.) and 59 O.R.'s were missing. 

These figures amount to 48% of the strength of the two Commandos when they landed on the 9th September at Marina.

Salerno Landings - Operation Avalanche


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