Surviving harassing shellfire at Anzio

Anzio Beachhead Area, Italy. Captured German ‘one man submarine’ converted from an ordinary torpedo from which the war head has been removed and a control cockpit substituted. Beneath this is fastened a regulation torpedo which can be released at a target and the ‘one man submarine’ returns. This one landed on Anzio beachhead where the 17 year old Nazi pilot was captured.

Anzio Beachhead Area, Italy. Captured German ‘one man submarine’ converted from an ordinary torpedo from which the war head has been removed and a control cockpit substituted. Beneath this is fastened a regulation torpedo which can be released at a target and the ‘one man submarine’ returns. This one landed on Anzio beachhead where the 17 year old Nazi pilot was captured.

Close up of torpedo war head. Photo by Blau. 163rd Signal Photo Co.” Anzio Beachhead Area, Italy. 21 April 1944

Close up of torpedo war head. Photo by Blau. 163rd Signal Photo Co.” Anzio Beachhead Area, Italy. 21 April 1944

 Fifth Army, Anzio Area, Italy. 101st Ordnance Co. M. M. placing the tube on the carriage of 155 mm rifle, a 10 ton carriage is used to swing the barrel into position while the crew of men guide the barrel into its cradle. Tube weighs 9000 lbs.

Fifth Army, Anzio Area, Italy. 101st Ordnance Co. M. M. placing the tube on the carriage of 155 mm rifle, a 10 ton carriage is used to swing the barrel into position while the crew of men guide the barrel into its cradle. Tube weighs 9000 lbs.

Carrier crew of the 2nd Sherwood Foresters reconstruct an action in the Anzio bridgehead, 2 - 3 April 1944. They are firing a 2-inch mortar from the vehicle.

Carrier crew of the 2nd Sherwood Foresters reconstruct an action in the Anzio bridgehead, 2 – 3 April 1944. They are firing a 2-inch mortar from the vehicle.

The impasse in Italy continued. In the narrow bridgehead at Anzio everyone was effectively on the front line with no ‘rear areas’. The whole of the bridgehead was within range of German artillery which routinely shelled the entire area. The already wounded and nurses in the field hospitals were as likely to be hit as anyone else – and did suffer casualties.

Every position had to be well dug in. It was possible for the majority to survive even sustained artillery barrages in well protected foxholes, even if some would inevitably fall victim to direct hits. It was the sustained nature of such attacks that deprived men of sleep and wore at the nerves.

Major Jago was the second in command of the 2nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. In his diary he was was briefly noting every barrage and their impact:

April 21.

Woken up about 0500 to sound of air raid & shelling of Reg’l area. aircraft made direct attacks on us, & bombed us with anti-personnel & med bombs. Enemy shellfire in area simultaneous, – designed to keep our Bofors [AA gun] quiet. Cowered in my bivvy whilst the stuff dropped all around.

One small piece of A.P. entered/my hole, via the mosquito net. Several fell just outside. Mess dugout hit, RHQ office tent & about four bivvies. 42 Bty had one man killed. RHQ 3 wounded, incl 2 signalmen & Cpl Thorley, the cook. Sloped [?] about in the mist in the valley collecting stretchers & putting them into ambulance.

Meanwhile a U.S. ammo dump nearby had been hit, & was going off continuously until about 0700 hrs, bits of metal whizzing all around. Another raid about 0615, fighter bomber quite low. Our O.P. saw one plane crash, bearing 7 deg about 0615 hrs.

The nightingales in the valley sang hard throughout the whole time, midst bombs and shelling. The old cockerel belonging to the Sig Section also was undismayed.

Had a look around the area during the day, & found hundreds of A.P. bomb holes & also large craters.

22 April.

Awakened after two hours sleep to sound of shells bursting in Reg’l area. Conc of 88’s and 105’s between 0200 & 0230 with one break.

Checked up, & no cas[ualties] returned to bed. Shelling started again. Got up again & checked up. One man from 42 Bty killed, & one broken thigh. Bivvy hit & collapsed. Went to bed again: again shelling started in the area.

Got up & afterwards remained fully dressed to doze fitfully until 0700 hrs.

Altogether Regt shelled 8 times between 0200 &: 0700 hrs. A bad night. Lucky not to have more casualties. Area covered in craters. Vehicle casualties, one m/c. Cookhouse equipment damaged.

Div Comdr (Gen Penney) accompanied by Lt Col Frankie Read (Scottish Horse) acting CRA, visited Regt in the morning & went to every gun pit. RI-IQ spent the morning improving their bivvies protection & digging; in the p.m. all vehs & equipt were further dug in. 1400 hrs C.O. held B.C.’s confce on courses & odd points.

1500 hrs two young malaria officers looked at our marshes, & promised RE help to drain them. During this I sank deep into the mire!

Spent remainder of day, until 2030, rebuilding and deepening my dugout. When all finished found bed did not fit!! More excava- tions required. Went to bed at 2045 hrs, very tired.

Shelling started about 2100 hrs, went on intermittently until 2300 hrs. Could not sleep altho’ very tired & aching after days work. Came on duty at midnight.

This account appears in the Imperial War Museum Book of the War in Italy: A Vital Contribution to Victory in Europe 1943-1945.

The rubble of an oft-bombed town gives a dilapidated air to Anzio, site of the Allied beachhead where many lives have been lost on both sides since the original ‘leap-frog’ landing. In the foreground, a landing craft is docked to unload ammunition for the Allied guns.” Italy. 25 April 1944

The rubble of an oft-bombed town gives a dilapidated air to Anzio, site of the Allied beachhead where many lives have been lost on both sides since the original ‘leap-frog’ landing. In the foreground, a landing craft is docked to unload ammunition for the Allied guns.” Italy. 25 April 1944

Fifth Army, Anzio Area, Italy. 34th AAA camouflage and concealment - 40 MM Bofors anti-aircraft gun dug in.

Fifth Army, Anzio Area, Italy. 34th AAA camouflage and concealment – 40 MM Bofors anti-aircraft gun dug in.

Leave a Comment

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: