• Si Biggs

Salerno Landings - Operation Avalanche

Updated: Sep 30

Unit/ Formation: 41 Cdo RM

Location: Italy

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1943

Date/s: 9 September 1943

The Italian front opens at Salerno But owing to sound basic training and countless instances of personal bravery the assault forces not only held on, but slowly advanced inland. Men squirmed through barbed wire, round mines, and behind enemy machine—guns and the tanks that soon made their appearance, working their way inland and knocking our German strongpoints wherever possible as they headed for their assembly-point on a railway that ran roughly parallel to the beach about two miles away.

It had been debatable whether the landings at Reggio would achieve much. The landings further up the coast at Salerno were thought very much more likely to provoke German opposition.

This time it was a combined operation with British and U.S. forces. The British went in under the cover of strong bombardment from the offshore battleships and cruisers. The US forces, landing on beaches further south, attempted an element of surprise and did without the preliminary bombardment.

41 Cdo in particular suffered heavy casualties The Unit's Chaplain, the Revd John Wallis RN, was awarded the DSC for "outstanding courage and devotion to duty shown ... in tending the wounded and bringing in casualties under heavy fire from the Enemy". The Medical Officer, Surg Lt Ernest Davies was also awarded the DSC for bravery and devotion to the wounded.

(Operation Avalanche): A landing craft ablaze offshore after receiving a direct hit. In the foreground on the beach are troops and casualties from the boat.

It was a bloody business for all too many that day. Here is just one of the official post action reports from amongst thousands :

Report of Action in the Gulf of Salerno 9/9/43 from O.C.R.M H.M.L.C.G. (L) 8
[Officer Commanding Royal Marines, His Majesty’s Landing Craft Gun (Large)]
In the absence of the Commanding Officer who was injured, I am rendering a provisional report on the above action. At 03.24 hours on the 9th September 1943, fire was opened on the beaches and ceased at 03.25, five rounds being fired. It was impossible to open fire at the pre-arranged time of 03.20 owing to destroyers masking fire. We then proceeded to patrol the coast to the South of Beach 29. At 06.45 fire was opened at the C/D Battery 788130, eight rounds being fired, six for effect. There was however, no counter-fire.
We continued to patrol the coast and at 10.30 observing LCG 2 closing the beach we followed at approx 1 mile on her port quarter.
Fire was opened on the two craft from a coastal position at approx 78815 at 11.05 with heavy M.G’s and what is believed to be 76mm D/P guns. A direct hit on the Bridge of this craft was scored by the enemy almost immediately, with an A/P shell of about 76mm calibre, killing instantaneously the R.A. Officer attached to the craft and causing seven other casualties including the C.O. and the 1st Lieut.
Both 4.7 guns counter-fired at once, being controlled from the Bridge direct by telephone. Hits were observed in the target area after the third salvo and fire continued until 11.14, 67 rounds having been fired, of which 64 were for effect. The initial range was 2200+ and enemy fire heavy until it finally ceased.
Shortly after, the Minesweeper J230 was contacted, which took off all casualties and subsequently transferred them all to H.M.H.S. St David. Until transferred to J230 the C.O. maintained command of his ship in spite of his injury. I then proceeded to close H.M.S. Hilary in order to obtain instructions and relief Naval Officers for the C.O. and 1st Lieut. For the majority of the crew it was the first time they had been under heavy enemy fire and their conduct throughout the whole of the action and subsequently was exemplary. R C Lane Lt. R.M.

No. 40 Commando Roll of Honour


Lieutenant Richard Sydney Chiverell, who died on the 8th September 1943

Marine Geoffrey Robert Hubbard, who died on the 8th September 1943

Marine Peter Jaggard, age 19, who died on the 9th September 1943

No.41 RM Commando

Remembered on the Portsmouth Memorial

Marine Harry Brotton, age 22, was died on the 9 September 1943

Marine Alexander Kennedy, age 21, who died on the 10 September 1943

Marine Robert Felstead, age 22, who died on the 10 September 1943

Lance Corporal Henry Smith, age 22, who died on the 11 September 1943.

Lance Corporal Ernest Finch, age 21, who died on the 12 September 1943

Sergeant Major Norman Tierney, Mentioned in Despatches, age 35, who died on the 13 September 1943.

Marine Andrew Harris, age 41, who died on the 17 September 1943 - 18 September 1943.

Marine Peter Toner who died between 17 and 18 September 1943.

Remembered on the Plymouth Memorial

Lance Corporal George Bowering, age 24, who died on the 10 September 1943

Captain, Ronald Stott, age 22, who died on the 10 September 1943

Colour Serjeant, James Twigger, Mentioned in Despatches, age 30, who died on the 10 September 1943

Marine George Wassall who died on the 17 September 1943

Remembered on the Chatham Memorial

Marine Robert Ball, aged 19, who died on the 10th September 1943

Marine Joseph Betts who died on the 13th September 1943

Sergeant Donald Charles Bullock DCM MM, who died on the 13th September 1943

Marine Patrick Joseph Cuff, who died on the 10th September 1943

Marine Arthur Stiles, who died on the 18th September 1943.

Find out more here; Commando Veterans Archive


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