Montemaggorie Italy 25 August 1944.
This day and yesterday so many long years ago seemed to never end. So much had taken place. Although Fox troop had remained unscathed, a lot of causalities had occurred amongst the 48th Highlanders and some to other troops in the regiment .
So this valley soon was dubbed death valley and to this day any 17th RCA fellow still call it Death Valley. The day wore on the gunners, officers and command post personnel. We were all extremely busy as H hour of the big barrage was on for 23.59 hours, a minute before midnight. Shells were readied, nose caps off, netting was cleared so the guns would have a clear field of fire. Any personnel off shift tried to get some rest as the amount of shells to be handled and fired would need all the crews.
The fire plan had to be all worked out and timing coordinated for the blast off at 23.59.
The 48th Highlanders at dusk started to move away through the town and down into the other side of the town. They were to make a silent crossing of the Metauro River. After they had crossed the river, we would then fire the barrage. A second or two before 23.59 hours one lone gun fired. It was a split second early and then the whole area erupted in sound .
The flashes of the guns lighted up the sky so you could read a paper it was that bright. What a relief to send some back as being on the receiving end was getting a bit nerve wracking. You never forget the sound and sight of a barrage of a few hundred guns all firing at once. Whether you think so or not, at the time you still have to think of the poor devils that you are shelling. I often thought just give up and go home while you still can. Mind you this thought depended on whether they had just killed one of yours then you thought a little differently. During the barrage I do not remember much if any return fire until some time after the initial barrage. Then towards daylight I think that damn railway gun opened up sending a few rounds into the town. Then all was quiet and word came back from the front that all was going well without too much resistance and none in other areas. Dawn came and with it the order for advance parties went out it looked like we were to start moving to keep up with the infantry.
I do not remember how it came about that I either took a wrong turning or what, but I ended up asking the Colonel of the PPCLI where the forward troops were and he said here have a look through his binoculars and the Pat's were going up a hill about a half mile in front of us. I looked at his map and went to catch up with our advance party. Here I believe the advance party had been a bit too premature and we all returned to Montemaggorie.
We were still within range of the enemy ,also the road traffic was heavy and we were supporting First Canadian Division so they would have had priority. The advance party were all waiting around the Battery command post in a house on the southern edge of the town.
Then this German railway gun open up on the town plus the road leading out of town and some passing over our guns. This massive gun fired a shell weighing in the two or three hundred pound range. When this size of shell passed overhead it was like a freight car in flight. During the shelling a stretcher with a chap on it was carried past where I was. I yelled who was hit and the answer was one of yours. I ran down after the stretcher to our aid post and found out it was Scott Coyle a signaler with us. He had been up in the town just poking around when he was struck in the back of his knee by a large piece of shell which went in one side and out the other........ Continued ..